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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

poster_volunteersWhen I ever say that a movie has no plot, I usually mean in the sense that it follows no identifiable structure. I mean, every movie has a plot obviously, even the worse ones have some mode of plot. Example: douchebag A attempts to sleep with librarian girl B but has to drive to C before she flies to Italy for college. That’s a plot as simple as it is, but the sequences, scenes, themes and beats which tell that story are what really make up a movie’s plot.

Here is another example: A spoiled Yale grad is forced to join the Peace Corps to avoid a deadly gambling debt and ends up in Thailand where he attempts to sleep with the only two attractive women of the region. That’s pretty much the plot of this 1995’s screwball comedy of Tom Hanks’ career, Volunteers.

Hanks (Inferno) stars as the spoiled Ivy leaguer Lawrence who trades identities with his Peace Corps volunteer college roommate to avoid his gambling debt. On his way to Thailand, he meets fellow volunteer Beth, played by Rita Wilson (Tom Hanks’ real life wife), and civil engineer Tom Tuttle, played by John Candy (Uncle Buck). Once in Thailand, the team is stationed in a small village where they are tasked to build a bridge over the region’s main river, even though it’s never clearly stated why the village needed it. Of course, once he’s there, he’s a total jackass and the villagers for some reason love him. He learns this bridge is a point of interest for both the region’s communist regime and its gangland warlord to expand their efforts and power and is offered the chance to sleep with the warlord’s mistress if he can make sure the bridge gets built. And of course his efforts to sleep with Beth turns into a genuine romance.

So basically, a bridge is built and a bridge is blown up. And sex was the only real motivation provided for our main character to do both.

This mess of a story had no direction once it hit Thailand. The writing was so weak and underdeveloped it was like watching a squirrel take a sedative. You know it should have been entertaining but simply wasn’t. I can’t say enough bad things about how piss poor this screenplay was. It would have been so much better if building the bridge was the main goal the entire time and the warlord and communists DIDN’T want it to be built. Then Lawrence would be trying to sabotage the project to sleep with aforementioned warlord mistress and have much more room for a substantial character arc when he falls for Beth. Instead, there was hardly any decent conflict and no story threads were followed through to the point of satisfaction.

The character of Lawrence was also weak. Sex and avoiding responsibility were his only motivations. He was a little witty but mostly he came off pompous. He just wasn’t likable for me, and for a role being played by Tom Hanks, it’s hard to accept.

Also, the movie simply wasn’t funny. At no time did I ever laugh out loud. Actually…I take that back. The only points which made me giggle was when Gedde Watanabe (Gung Ho!), playing the only English speaker in the villager At Toon, kept calling Lawrence by the nickname Asshole. Even after At Toon started to care about the protagonist, he still continued to call him Asshole. For some reason, that bit of funny never got old. But that was all that was funny about the film, period.

The last thing I’ll say is, this is maybe the worst role and performance I’ve seen from John Candy, and that makes me sad to see. It’s a terrible thing to have this as the last role I’ve seen of the late Second City alumn comedian. I will probably have to go rent Uncle Buck to or The Great Outdoors to get this vomit of an over-acted excuse for funny–or even acting–out of my head. There was nothing believable about Tom Tuttle except being a bit of an egoist and an inability to stop talking. Yet another character we aren’t allowed to like.

Overall, this movie was painful once it got to Thailand. It is maybe one of the worst Tom Hanks movies I’ve ever seen and now it is no wonder I’ve managed to have never seen it before.

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poster_ghostbustersEvery so often, your childhood memories and innocence is crushed for whatever reason. This time, the reason was a revamp of the 1984 comedic classic Ghostbusters. Despite not having any expectations going into this viewing, I was pleasantly surprised to find the first 30 minutes of the film decently funny. But after a while, things got stale and I just didn’t care for the movie by its end.

Not related to the original Ghostbusters storyline at all, four women start a paranormal investigation and removal business after a series of adverse spirits are released upon the city but an unknown mastermind.

You would think would think with Melissa McCarthy (Spy), and Tv’s Saturday Night Live talents like Kristen Wiig (The Martian), Kate McKinnon (Finding Dory) and Leslie Jones (Trainwreck) this movie would have been hilarious from beginning to end. But that’s about all this film had going for it; comedic star power. The script itself and material needs to be funny. Actors need a foundation to work with, and the foundation for this one was weak.

Strangely, I liked Kate McKinnon. She seemed to have to most fully developed character performance of the principal four. I looked up her career high points, and she’s done mostly vocal work for animated films, but I am eager to see what she can do showing her face down the road. Her character was overdone, but at least it was consistent and developed.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) also provided a couple of laughs as the group’s dimwitted assistant, but once his character was possessed, the laughs pretty much ended for me. In fact, that’s the point the laughs ended for the entire movie.

I hated the presence of the Department of Homeland Security’s involvement as a subplot. It served no comedic purpose and didn’t propel anything. It was the true definition of a red herring. I also feel any Ghostbusters movie needs a strong villain. Even the sequel to the original Ghostbusters, which was total crap also, had at least a strong villain in Vigo.

What I found most annoying than the creation of a Ghostbusters revamp in the first place what the little tributes to the original film; involving actors from the original cast like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver in walk on roles only annoyed me further. The appearance of the Stuff Puff Marshmellow Man and having iconic green ghost Slimer also make appearances didn’t help the film a bit. I also hated the revised versions–yes, there were more than one–of the original 80’s hit song to the first movie from Ray Parker Jr. Basically, any link this movie attempted to make to that of the original Ghostbusters didn’t sit well with me. If producers are going to make this revamp their own, they need to make it their own, period.

Lastly, I had a problem with the big throw down in Times Square where these paranormal scientists are fighting and capturing ghosts and spirits. The film showed the foursome go through a minimal amount of training with their equipment. These are scientists. Nerds, basically. They possibly don’t even possess any real self defense training, let alone combat training. However, when the fight comes to them, they turn into this set of sick-ass ninja level ghost fighters which I found EXTREMELY hard to swallow. Even in the original Ghostbusters, Venkman and company never fought anything. They captured and vanquished with their gear, but hand to hand combat was never an option. I would have had the same complaint of that film too if it did the same thing. Firefighters are trained to be firefighters. Scientists are not trained to be Jackie Chan.

The movie was terrible. McCarthy and Wiig did what we usually see them do. the screenplay lacked motivation and development, and the whole production went stale about an hour into it. I may have to say the movie went stale the moment it got the green light for production.

To read the review of this movie from my Movie Corner co-hort Brian G. Felts, click here.

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poster_dirtygrandpaToo much.

Although there were a handful of very funny scenes and humorous moments, this movie more than tended to take its comedy just one, two, sometimes three steps too far. In fact, I’d say that was the theme. Finding I funny moment and taking it too far so it’s not as funny anymore.

Dirty Grandpa follows a small road trip between Jason Kelly, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors), and his grandfather Dick, played by Robert De Niro (The Intern), just one day after Dick’s wife passed from a 10-year bout with cancer. The trip becomes torture to Jason, an uptight corporate lawyer one week away from his wedding to a controlling fiancee, who does his best to keep things from getting too out of hand when he sees a side of his grandfather not seen before. Dick’s only ambition on the trip is to have sex with as many college gals as possible and get Jason’s ass unpuckered.

My biggest problem is the consistency of the main characters, or lack thereof. Dick, I can understand is going through a sort of re-emergence in his winter years now that his wife has passed. I get that and found that part of his character believable. Even his constant dick jokes I could by. During my theater days, we knew a combat veteran who was also a thespian. He was older and probably the most foul mouthed old man I’ve ever met. So again, I can believe Dick’s character and all the dick and vagina jokes which come out of his mouth. HOWEVER, his knowledge of young people’s vernacular and pop culture references simply didn’t fit. The writing attempted to make him more hip than his grandson Jason. Dick didn’t need to be hip, just more socially aware and relaxed than Jason. That would have been enough. Giving him all these pop culture references I find hard for an ex-special forces during Vietnam and Iraq wars in his 70s.

Jason, I can understand he took an easy boring path in life to make his father and his girlfriend happy. I get that as well. I find that totally believable; done before, but believable. But why the change? Why did the kid go from artists aspirations to a life as a corporate lawyer. It was never really made clear even though Dick even asked him point blank. We never know if there was some sort of catalyst for that shift in his life, which may have made his character and subplot writing stronger. However, Jason is portrayed as this uptight attorney who fears his girlfriend’s wrath. However, when they get on the road, his responses were met with more “harsh” language than what I would believe from someone in his social position.

Basically, if Jason was a bit more socially stiff and Dick was a little more his age, I would find them more believable and the comedy may have stayed in check and not go off the rails.

The writing DID establish why Dick had a terrible relationship with his son David, played by Durmot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding), and why he tried to make things up to David’s son Jason during Jason’s childhood. I found that dynamic very well thought out, especially for a screenwriter with his first major screen credit, John Phillips.

From a directing standpoint, it’s Florida during Spring break. Show a bunch of bikini’s and slutty college girls, a bunch of frat fucks with shit written on their bodies, and shoot on location at a bunch of motel outdoor pools and BOOM you’ve directed a movie in that setting. Director Dan Mazar got his start as a director on the Ali G Show with Sacha Baron Cohen, so this brand of dirty sexual insult humor was right in his wheelhouse.

Lastly, I’m utter surprised De Niro even agreed to do this movie. I had no idea he was willing to subject his talents to this level of juvenile raunch comedy. And at the same time, I have to commend him for doing something I’ve never seen him do before at any age, let alone in his 70s.

Overall, Dirty Grandpa takes things to a much lower level than what I’m accustomed to. Is it good? No. Is it funny? In spots yes. Is it worth seeing? Not really.

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This was actually quite fun. The acting was as to be expected from something released in 1937 but the writing was pretty solid and the humor at least made an attempt to transcend from the movie’s dated shortcomings.

The Awful Truth is about a married couple named Jerry, played by Carey Grant (Once Upon a Honeymoon), and Lucy, played by Irene Dunn (Love Story), who suspect each other of being unfaithful. They divorce and during the 60 days it takes for the decree to be concrete, the pair attempt to ruin each others’ every chance of finding happiness.

Grant was pretty damn funny I must say. Some of his slapstick scenes were beneath him, but he had a few chuckle worthy lines of dialogue and a couple little bits of business which gave his character cocktail a smidgen of douchbag; not even a mean douchbag but rather a humorous douchbag. I hadn’t seen Grant play a character like that before–not that I’ve seen a ton of his films.

Of course after doing some research, I learned most of the scenes were improvised and probably why Grant was so amusing in my favorite bits. It also explains why so many scenes seemed to feel like they had no purpose but to not let 10 minutes go by without something funny happening.

Dunne was also fun and had a couple of very laughable moments in hopes of embarrassing Grant’s character. She was given an Academy Award nomination for this film as best actress.

The cinematography was spot on one of the reasons I hate these elderly films. The lighting was more suited for a stage play rather than a movie. Back then, the concept was to over light a scene and bring the aperture down. However, it always makes the movie look more staged than anything else.

As for directing, at least there were medium and close shots as coverage to help with the awkward scenes within the material. It helped overcome the staged appearance of movie from its era. Director Leo McCarey (1957’s An Affair to Remember, 1944’s Going My Way) won the Academy Award for bet director for this film. Now I won’t say he deserved that recognition, but I’ll leave compliment to he kept the movie interesting for me. The trick with the cuckoo clock at the end was an amusing choice as well.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was seeing Ralph Bellamy at age 33 in a supporting role which had him dancing a jig of sorts with Dunne. For those of you who don’t know the veteran actor, Bellamy played Randolph Duke in Trading Places (1983) across from Don Ameche who played his brother. Bellamy actually earned an Academy Award for his supporting role in The Awful Truth.

Once Bellamy’s okie from Oklahoma character leaves the plot, the film begins to go off the rails. The story gets unfocused and I started to not care with about 15 minutes of screen time remaining.

Overall, this movie wasn’t as painful as some others from the same decade. It had a few laughs, but I wouldn’t say it was a best picture Oscar nomination like it was that year. If that’s the case, I’d be scared to see what else was nominated in 1938.

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poster_theinternThe first movie written-directed by Nancy Meyers I’ve ever saw was Father of the Bride 2. I love it even today. Very funny. Great dialogue. Not too overly romantic. That’s how Nancy Myers films have been throughout her entire catalogue. The Intern was no different.

The Intern is about a 70-year old widower named Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino), who applies for a senior intern outreach program with a fledgling but exponentially successful Internet business called About the Fit, hoping to find something to do with himself. Being accepted, he is assigned as the personal intern for Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Interstellar), a difficult workaholic and founder of the company. Although she doesn’t care for the new intern at first, Ben soon becomes the close friend Jules needed to get her through an unusual time of her business and marriage and his wisdom helps her realize what is truly important to her.

Nancy Myers. That is the No. 1 reason this movie is so enjoyable. It’s very well written and humbly funny. The characters have plenty room for growth and are vulnerable in all the right ways Myers usually presents in one of her scripts.

After digging a little, I was surprised to see Myers has one been nominated for one Academy Award as a writer. It was for Private Benjamin, a 1980 comedy with Goldie Hawn, which I had seen when I was way young but never realized Myers had a hand in it. I then went through the woman’s resume and there has not been a movie she wrote which I thought wasn’t worth seeing or owning.

If there was fault in The Intern, it was two things. The first was the computer break in scene where Ben and the other interns break into Jules’ mothers’ home to delete a nasty email Jules accidentally sent. The scene was overzealous and the crew of interns probably would not have gotten away with it. But I understand its purpose to the developing story between Ben and Jules.

The other blemish was I felt Jules’ character, given all her stresses, needed a breakdown moment. She sort of had one in the San Francisco hotel room confessing personal issues to Ben, but for the most part, I thought more needed to be done to show Jules admitted she couldn’t handle everything on her own.

That’s about it. The rest of the script was pretty tight.

Two-time Academy Award winner De Niro is what he is. His experience in film acting transposed to his experience as a character. Hathaway stood out since she had the most room to grow as a character. She had several moments which showed complexity. Something the Academy Award winner handled easily, or at least she made it look easy.

The office personnel offers a nice complimentary ensemble as the supporting cast.

Ultimately, my favorite aspect of this movie was the dialogue. It was sharp and witty and just up my alley. It was the same reasons I loved Myers’ script for Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday and Irreconcilable Differences.

It was also a New York City story. Not so much that it looked like a Woody Allen movie, but as far as the Brooklyn borough goes, this story clinched the area in its own way.

Let me come back to Anne Hathaway. In the end there was one thing about De Niro’s performance which I loved. Every response he had made it seem like his character expected everything to happen that way. There were no surprises for Ben. He’d seen it all. Al least that’s how he came across. Hathaway however had so many layers, this was maybe my favorite performance from her. And this coming from a “guy” who loved The Dark Knight Rises where she ran around in a matte-leather suit and bent over a motorcycle half the time as Catwoman. This movie, for her, had such a subtle approach to what we could learn from her character, only someone with her chops could sell it. Really, the movie’s sell-ability rests with her. She dropped it like it was nothing. Impressive.

Overall, I really liked The Intern and I will own it when I find it for the right price. Guys, if your woman suggests it as a RedBox or Netflix rental, she could suggest you sit through way worse. Remember that movie Boyhood in 2014 which was almost three hours long and shot over like 13 years? Yeah, that is a WAY worse suggestion to rent than this one.

Pick your battles, guys. At least THIS is funny.

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NBR_31_5_Promo_4C_5F.inddThis film was demented. And I laughed my ass off in spots, but it had one huge surprise I didn’t see coming.

Neighbors is about young couple Mac and Kelly, played by Seth Rogan (Knocked Up) and Tose Byrne (The Internship), with an infant who find themselves living next door to a nightmare when a fraternity buys and moves into the house next door. Hellbent on returning their neighborhood to its quiet demeanor, Mac and Kelly wage war on the fraternity, lead by president Teddy, played by Zach Efron (Charlie St. Cloud).

First off, let me say I don’t care for Rose Byrne’s face. There is just something about it that aggravates me. Don’t ask me what. I just think she is better suited for villainous rolls like across Melissa McCarthy in Spy.

Seth Roger was funny as usual especially when half his comedy was related to drugs. It’s his wheelhouse.

However the surprise of the movie for me was Zac Efron. Here is a character who’s main goal was to throw such a legendary party that a memorable photo of it would be added to the fraternity’s wall of legends. However, it’s the most unlike-Efron performance I’ve ever seen especially in scenes across from Dave Franco (Unfinished Business) after Franco’s character slept with Teddy’s girlfriend. Teddy was struggling with a lot of inner conflict and Efron rolled out the carpet on the character nicely. I was very impressed.

I hated the big fight between Mac and Kelly which almost broke them up. I know they were stressed out but they said some very venomous things to each other which according to the writing we had no indication either of them felt that way about their life together or each other.

In fact, writing was not this movie’s strong point. Some situational comedy was hilarious and much of the improvised scenes were laugh-out-loud for me. Also, most of the laughs which come examining Mac and Kelly as new parents were hilarious, especially dealing with trying to have sex without leaving the baby Stella by herself. Being parents ourselves, we could identify and maybe found ourselves emotionally invested in those characters at the start of the film.

If the writing ha a strength, it was in character inner conflict but the rest of them weren’t as rich and full as they could be. Watching them left me hungry for something more substantial.

Overall, this film was too tepid in story and character to say it’s worth seeing. I doubt anyone my age who saw it will even remember it. I laughed a lot but when it was over my frame of mind was ‘All right, HBO, what else ya’ got?

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poster_thewatchRecently, I saw this movie for a second time while at a conference for work and in the hotel room with my brother in law. He laughed his ass off as did I, and afterwards I remembered what an utter pile of stupidity this movie was…but it sure was funny.

The Watch follows Evan, played by Ben Stiller (Zoolander 2), a manager of a small town Costco and is neck deep in the community who decides to start a neighborhood watch program in hopes of discovering who murdered the night security guard at his store. With this, he meets Bob, played by Vince Vaughn (The Internship), Franklin, played by Jonah Hill (Hail, Caesar!), and Jamarcus, played by British actor Richard Ayoade (BBC’s The IT Crowd), and the comedic foursome together uncover what becomes a killing spree in their community is actually the work of aliens planning a global take over one town at a time; starting with theirs.

Stiller is the straight man in this picture and Vaughn is the funny man. Hill is the breakout wacko character while Ayoade’s character is a means for reflection and a handful of jokes. The group together provides a ton of laughs, many through improvisation scenes which I read is right in Vaughn’s wheelhouse. These situational comedy moments and a handful of pretty hilarious one liners are the only real reason to see this movie. There is so much to laugh at and its from the very beginning. The film established itself as being outlandish and ridiculous, so when we see the extent of how far it’s ridiculousness goes we are very accepting.

Another reason why this film may be so funny, Jared Stern wrote the original screenplay in 2008 with a teen audience in mind. However, writing team Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (She’s Out of My League) got a hold of the script and boom, Rated-R. I don’t think I would have even bothered watching it without Rogan and Goldberg’s influence.

The plot is weak. It’s aliens. Aliens are the worst plot vehicle Hollywood has ever devised, especially for a comedy. However my brother in law did cite 2001’s Evolution as an example to the contrary. I agree. That one was pretty funny with a decent plot.

But I digress. The use of aliens in this story for The Watch was beyond stupid. It’s one of those movies you watch to laugh and not think. That being said, with that being the purpose, than there is no reason for humanizing subplots like Evan’s inability to get his wife pregnant and avoiding telling her. Why would we care about that situation when all we want to see are these four funny actors have more hilarious scenes together beating up aliens? We don’t. There is decent character development to some degree but it doesn’t make or break the film.

Ultimately, I hate simply saying this movie is good for a laugh, but truly that is all it is good for. I’ll own it for that reason.

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