Archives for posts with tag: comedy

Do you think that Chris Evans is cute and charming enough that you want to watch a version of Before Sunrise that he directed and in which he stars? Because then you should watch this, but probably for no other reason.

Brooke (Alice Eve) is an art dealer in Manhattan possibly cheating on her husband, and her handbag is stolen, so all she has is her phone and a train ticket. She misses the last train. Nick (Evans) is in town for a band audition, but is busking in Grand Central to avoid running into an ex at a party. He is bad at paying credit card bills. They spend all night having various misadventures trying to get Brooke back to Boston.

They’re both attractive, but they talk about their feelings a lot and it’s irritating. And, frankly, it’s evident that the facet of this movie that involved the most thought was stranding them. In 2014, it’s tricky to be truly stranded, between phones and credit cards, MV5BOTMxNzE0NjY4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIxNjIzNjE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_and the film does a lot of work to make sure you know they’ve tried everything. If only the writing had involved that much effort.

And I hope it doesn’t bother you that we are asked to believe that somebody spends a night in a hotel with Chris Evans and doesn’t sleep with him.

Director: Chris Evans
Rating: PG-13
Length: 95 minutes
Score: 2/5

Sometimes you’re in the mood for bad romantic comedies. It’s like bad Chinese food. You know there is good Chinese food, and you could eat that, but what you want is greasy General Tso’s and an extremely dodgy egg roll. These movies are that, but for the eyes and brain.

MV5BNmRjYWE3OTQtYzEwOC00OWM4LTk3MzktZTUyZTgzNjY4NDc0L2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Ostensibly, the premise–four young women who are best friends forever, share a magical pair of jeans, and support each other through all of life’s vicissitudes–is charming. Bridget (Blake Lively) has lost her troubled mother, Carmen (America Ferrera) discovers that her father is about to remarry into a perfect family in the Carolinas, Lena (Alexis Bledel) puts her foot into unexplained family nonsense in Santorini, and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is an irritating so-called rebel with terrible dress sense. She makes films, obviously. Some of these are real problems, and some of these deserve sympathy, and every single one of these people acts like a total dickhead.

It doesn’t help that only America Ferrera, of the four, is able to deliver her lines with any hint of conviction. At least we’re mostly used to that. She, however, is saddled with the worst nonsense. Her parents are long-divorced, and her dad (Bradley Whitford) has failed to tell her that he’s going to get married to a lady with two kids of her own. Which isn’t great, but, honestly, what can you expect of Bradley Whitford? So she goes to visit, and the new family is a little dippy and clueless, but Carmen’s self-involvement borders on the solipsistic. Because the new family is skinny and blond, Carmen decides that their lives are perfect and that her dad is trying to pretend she doesn’t exist. And this, after she learns that the son goes to visit his dad in a rehab facility every month. She throws a hissy fit and then a rock at their window.

Elsewhere, Bridget works out her daddy issues in the most hackneyed way possible, Tibby has to deal with mortality (but finds a very cute boyfriend in the person of Leonardo Nam’s Brian), and Lena makes out with Kostos (Michael Rady).

MV5BMTMwNDYyMTY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzAwMjY2MQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_In the second movie, they’re all at fancy colleges (two Ivies, RISD, and NYU for Tibby because rebellion; she also works in a video store). This has not lessened their gyroscopic tendencies. They all have increasing secret pains which they don’t talk about and then scream at each other for not knowing about, and it is tiresome to a degree.

And then, movie-style, unearned rewards are thrust upon them.

Director: Ken Kwapis (1) & Sanaa Hamri (2)
Rating: PG & PG-13
Length: 119 minutes & 119 minutes (for reals)
Score: 2/5

MV5BNjM1M2Y3NWUtOWM1MS00YjUzLThiNmEtNjdiMTZmMzg3NTY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UY268_CR1,0,182,268_AL_An ancestral curse gives Penelope (Christina Ricci) a pig face, and she therefore struggles to find love. Especially because, by the terms of the curse, it is assumed (particularly by her mother, played by the inimitable Catherine O’Hara) that she must marry a rich man. So she needs someone from old money, still rich, who doesn’t mind the pig face. Tricky.

People are bigger assholes than you’d expect, though. The deformity is pretty mild (especially on Christina Ricci, where it’s a bit…on the nose*), and she comes with a lot of money. You’d figure someone would be happy to cope, even if Penelope weren’t fairly interesting and nice, which, of course, she is. Also Richard E. Grant is her dad, which is a 10/10, dad-wise. But Edward Vanderman (Simon Woods) is cartoonishly appalled by her face, and he runs off to a reporter (Peter Dinklage) who’s been trying to get a glimpse of Penelope for years.  The usual shenanigans lead to a mistaken identity gambit in which Edward and the reporter hire Max (James McAvoy) to pretend to court Penelope.

It’s cute. It’s not careful, or especially clever, or particularly original, but it’s cute.

Stray observations:

  • Nigel Havers is in this movie.
  • Reese Witherspoon is also there, to teach Penelope a little sass.
  • Ostensibly, Penelope takes place in the States. But it is very obviously filmed in England, and nearly everyone in it is British.

Director: Mark Palansky
Rating: PG or so
Length: 104 minutes
Score: 3/5

* I am so, so sorry.

There are at least three movies called Sparkle, and this is almost certainly the least well known. And justifiably so. For one thing, there’s absolutely no reason to call it “Sparkle.” For another, it is tripe.

Well, that’s not entirely fair. It’s actually often rather sweet, and it’s quiet enough that you’re not too fussed about the improbabilities. But it is also essentially a light take on The Graduate, and that’s hard to do for a range of excellent reasons.

Sam (Shaun Evans) is a waiter somewhere in the north of England. He has a terrible haircut and prominent ribs. His mother, Jill (Lesley Manville), is a slightly delusional singer of the never-was variety. She’s close enough to real that it’s touchingly sad. Sam does not have a father. One night, Vince (Bob Hoskins) comes into the restaurant where Sam works, and MV5BMTQ5NDg2MDI2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQ0NzkwMzE@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_perhaps because Jill notices his father having a stroke before anyone else does, Jill and Sam end up moving to London and putting up in a flat Vince owns.

So Sam gets to be a waiter in London! And that’s the end.

Haha, no, obviously not. He’s passing out cocktails at some party run by Sheila (Stockard Channing), and sleeps his way into being her personal assistant. Her hair is glorious; her accent is execrable. She has no edibles in her flat besides Cheerios and Moët. Her parties are apparently good, though, and at the next one, Sam meets a politically active young woman whose name is Kate (Amanda Ryan, who slots into this part just as well as she did as Holly Dartie in The Forsyte Saga, which is impressive).

Now, because you’ve seen a movie, you know that Kate is Sheila’s daughter, but Sam doesn’t know he’s in a movie, so he doesn’t realize this. There will be bumps on this road, but on the way you meet Kate’s uncle Tony (Anthony Head) and his boyfriend, Jill finds love, and Sam steals a stuffed dolphin.

Could be worse, and you get to see Anthony Head do dolphin impressions, so.

Director: Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter
Rating: M? ish?
Length: 100 minutes
Score: 2/5

You know how New York in movies now is always clean and, even if people aren’t rich, everything is nice? This was not always the case. New York used to be gross, and housewives from Fort Lee might get amnesia and be mistaken for prostitutes.

Our titular Susan (Madonna) is the sort of person who keeps all her possessions in a hatbox and mooches shamelessly off her friends. They find this charming. In fairness, it is the early 80s and everyone has a completely fake job (magician’s assistant, cinema operator) but a giant apartment, so maybe that’s just how things were. Through a completely absurd sequence of events, another small blonde ends up with Susan’s distinctive jacket, and then gets hit in the head, so everyone thinks she’s Susan and she doesn’t know any better. This small blonde, Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), is married to a jacuzzi salesman, Gary Glass (Mark Blum), and he is the worst. His sister Leslie (Laurie Metcalf) is gloriously insane in the Joan Cusack mold. In a crisis, when everyone is stress-eating, she yells, “Take a Valium like a normal person!” They get involved in mix-ups but are largely off-stage.

mv5bmtizmza5njizof5bml5banbnxkftztywota2nti5-_v1_uy268_cr20182268_al_So: Roberta has no memories, Susan’s clothes, and only her own common sense. That is not much. She is like a polite woodland animal, caught in 80s New York and surrounded by people who think she’s a wild free spirit. Fortunately, both onstage and sympathetic is Dez (Aidan Quinn), who lives an enormous loft in Tribeca and works in the projection room at the Bleecker Street Cinema.

It is delightful nonsense. There is both antiquities theft and a murderer on the loose, but that doesn’t detract from how surprisingly appealing Roberta’s cluelessness is. The movie is well encapsulated when Dez asks Roberta if she wants a drink, and she says Diet Coke or Perrier would be fine.

“There’s Miller Lite, or Heineken,” he deadpans.

Director: Susan Seidelman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 104 minutes
Score: 4/5

PS OMG SO EIGHTIES

It’s that time of year, when it’s too cold to go out and it’s dark all the time, and people like me find favorite movies as comforting as soup or cocoa. And Moonstruck is funny, clever, and hopeful.

Loretta Castorini (Cher) is 37, and a bookkeeper. She was once married, but he got hit by a bus, so now she lives with her parents and accepts the proposal of a total schlemiel, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). He has to go to Sicily to look after his mother, so he asks Loretta to repair the bad blood with his brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage), a one-handed baker, opera buff, and lunatic. Meanwhile, Loretta’s father Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia) is running around on her mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis) with some trash.mv5bmjiwmdy0nzyymf5bml5banbnxkftztcwote5ndk0na-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ But then Rose gets to tell Frasier’s dad (as an NYU prof) what he’s doing wrong with his life, and she is masterful.

So Loretta ends up going to the opera with Ronny, and she gets a makeover, a really fabulous dress, and the last word in the excellent exchange: “You waited for the right man the first time, why didn’t you wait for the right man again?”/”He didn’t come.”/”I’m here!”/”You’re late!” And in fact that’s why you watch the movie. Sure, everything Olympia Dukakis says is pure gold, but the conversational sparks between Ronny and Loretta flash amazingly. There’s some implausible 80s nonsense, but you laugh and you feel, and that’s really all you can ask.

Also, this is probably Nicolas Cage’s greatest rôle. (Yes, I’ve seen Raising ArizonaLeaving Las Vegas, and Adaptation. I have seen The Rock and National Treasure as well, which are solid candidates, too, even if they’re not serious.) He’s young and thin and intense–borderline crazy, but it’s on purpose and it works. His hair is terrible but plausible, and he really works some black jeans.

Stray observations:

  • Yes, of course I’m listening to La Bohème now.
  • Loretta has the greatest walk of shame: she’s not ashamed, she looks glorious, and both the soundtrack and the view are tops.
  • I ain’t no freaking monument to justice!

Director: Norman Jewison
Rating: PG
Length: 102 minutes
Score: 5/5

Undrafted is a feel-good movie about a rag-tag bunch of losers who care too much about something that doesn’t matter. In this case: baseball. Baseball in adult amateur leagues on Long Island.

Maz (Aaron Tveit) is the titular undrafted ballplayer, and the plot consists of his realizing over the course of seven innings that he loves baseball after all, and doesn’t want to stew in bitterness for the rest of his life. That’s not really much of a plot, and given the rest of the ingredients it shouldn’t be much of a movie. And, to be fair, The Natural this ain’t. It’s not even Bull Durham.

This movie, however, suffers from very few of the usual problems of similar, small productions–the writing isn’t painful, and the pacing is surprisingly good. The boys on the team have compelling chemistry, perhaps because the team is made up of Aaron Tveit and dudes who have been in TV shows with Aaron Tveit (Chace Crawford as Barone, Manny Montana as Zapata). And, either because or although it is based on a true story, which is often the kiss of death, the quirks of the various players are both specific and touching. Attempted verisimilitude about human foibles is generally dreadful, but not here. Vinnie (Jay Hayden) bugs the living hell out of me, but I know guys like that, so I let it go.

It gets a little heavy-handed and cheesy, of course. I mean, the guy who wrote it about his brother is in the movie. Maz has an at-bat that lasts about half an hour because it has to rehearse his entire life and devotion to the game. Almost everyone gets a little speech about how great baseball is. Somehow, though, it mostly comes off as genuine.

Oh, but if you don’t like baseball…I hope you have a really big crush on Nate Archibald, because there’s not much else here for you.

Stray observations:

  • Cute baseball socks.
  • They sing the League of Their Own song. It is mesmerizing.
  • Full disclosure: I had to turn off the trailer in the middle out of embarrassment (it doesn’t matter why I was watching it). And then I mentioned to a friend that Tony Romo was an executive producer, and she made me buy it. Ten minutes later I was going to demand the price of it in reparations, but eighty minutes after that I decided that wouldn’t be necessary.

Director: Joseph Mazzello
Rating: ? Quite sweary.
Length: 90 minutes
Score: bats awful, but has an OBP of .379

If you were to tell me that a movie in which Ricky Gervais learned to be a better person both existed and was not terrible, I would laugh in your face. But apparently I am not always right.

Frank (Greg Kinnear) is cheating on his wife, Gwen (Téa Leoni), but then gets hit by a bus and killed. Dr. Pincus (Gervais) is a dentist, and he is awful. Being a dentist insulates him from human contact, because people hate dentists and dentists get to stuff cotton in people’s mouths when people become irritating. Dr. Pincus has to go into the hospital for an operation, and a comically young Aaron Tveit as the anaesthesiologist (which is a completely awful word but apparently the correct one for status reasons) manages to kill him for seven minutes.

Now Pincus can see a bunch of dead people, and they want his help. Frank in particular wants help in keeping Gwen from marrying again. Naturally, Pincus has no desire to help anyone at all, at least until he meets Gwen.

The rest of the film is largely predictable, if appealing. It is not one of cinema’s great triumphs, but it manages to harness Gervais’s bedrock ghastliness while also having you root for him. Which, I think we can all agree, is a major achievement.

Stray observations:

  • Gwen works at the Met, and apparently the Met has big, open, brightly-lit storerooms full of random, picturesque antiquities where anyone can go and poke around. And mummies just lie around for passing dentists to inspect.
  • Pincus’s dental colleague, Dr. Prashar (Aasif Mandvi) is exactly the kind of generous eye-roller I love.

Director: David Koepp
Rating: PG-13
Length: 102 minutes
Score: 3/5

Presumably this is based on the 60s series I haven’t seen, so it should have been a stylish and refreshing sundae of Cold War nonsense. Unfortunately this was made when we were trying to make Armie Hammer happen, and neither he nor Henry Cavill can elevate a mediocre script.

Napoleon Solo (Cavill) is a CIA agent, Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) is a KGB agent. They fight with each other and then learn that they must work together to thwart a plot involving a rogue nuke. Gaby (Alicia Vikander) must be spirited out of East Berlin to help them. She is an auto mechanic but also looks very cute in mod smocks! Of course.

The film has charming bits. The scenery is mostly gorgeous, and East Berlin is appropriately depressing. Cavill wears good suits (and seems not to have the terrifying bulk of Superman), and Vikander’s clothes after she leaves East Berlin are great. Wonderful statement jewelry and fantastic hats. Hugh Grant’s British intelligence chappie is fine, as well. In a pleasing reversal played for good comic effect, the KGB gadgets are better than the American ones.

But there’s nothing new about the plot, and Solo and Kuryakin are both completely hollow. I expect they are supposed to be, but it doesn’t make for a watchable movie, because they’re don’t quite go enough for the gusto on the Bakelite vacuity.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Rating: PG-13
Length: 116 minutes
Score: 2/5

This is one of those movies where bad things happen to a mild-mannered man because women are crazy and dishonest, and yet, I did not mind as much as usual, because Jemaine Clement is a genius.

No, honestly. Will (Clement) is a graphic novelist, and the film begins at his twin daughters’ fifth birthday party. He’s looking for matches, and he walks in on his girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) having sex. She moves in with that guy (who is a monologuist, helpfully glossed as “stand-up comedy without the jokes”), starts taking improv, and then decides she believes in marriage after all. Because she’s that woman from the movies, who is the worst. Meanwhile, of course, Will is just trying to be a good dad, and teach his class on graphic novels, and not jerk around a woman he meets (Regina Hall’s Diane). He is very put-upon and can’t even throw his cup in anger without getting his drink all over himself.

I hate these sorts of things, as a rule, but it is impossible not to root for Clement as Will, even though you probably think that unshaven graphic novelists deserve most of the nonsense that comes their way. His gentle brand of satire and occasional flashes of anger are very effective, and his daughters are adorable. He is evidently trying to be a grown-up, which is a pleasant change from all characters in films ever.

Also, if you enjoy that now largely standard low-key slightly arty New York vibe, you’ll love this.

Stray observations:

  • When I typed “she believes in marriage after all” above, I first typed “magic” instead of “marriage.” So.
  • Will and Diane have sex in her office. She is a college professor. So am I, and that is not a call I would make.

Director: James C. Strouse
Rating: R
Length: 85 minutes
Score: 4/5