Archives for posts with tag: comedy

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

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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

This movie is really unattractive in a lot of ways, which I’m going to enumerate for you, because I don’t want to you to think I haven’t noticed.

  1. We are supposed to believe that good girl Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), who has busted her ass through law school, would be best friends with party girl Darcy (Kate Hudson), who is shallow, self-obsessed, trampy, vain, money-grubbing, lying, and literally stupid. We spend time on how dumb and what a liar she is.
  2. This is so that Rachel can steal Darcy’s fiancé Dex (Colin Egglesfield), and we won’t be mad about it. That’s right, we have two women–soi-disant best friends–and we start off with Darcy steamrolling Rachel’s birthday party and drunkenly insulting her shoes, only to have Rachel make out with Dex in a cab about five minutes later.
  3. Dex has a jellyfish for a spine. A lazy, indifferent jellyfish.
  4. Outside the three main figures, no effort is put into drawing character. John Krasinski does his absolute best as Rachel’s friend Ethan, who is trying to keep her from getting hurt, but the others, a silly tone-deaf moron obsessed with Ethan (Victoria from “How I Met Your Mother”) and a skateboarding pothead himbo (Steve Howey), are just dregs from the barrel of default secondary characters.
  5. And then it goes to a weird, differently misogynist, asinine earth-mother place.

But I keep watching it, because I think Ginnifer Goodwin does a really good job at being plausibly insecure. She was also the only watchable part of He’s Just Not That into You, in a very similar rôle. Sure, the situation’s a little melodramatic, but I bet being 30 and watching the one that got away marry someone else is kind of rough. Everyone should be less crappy and childish about it than in this movie, but oh well.

Stray Observations:

  • Kate Hudson is great as Darcy. You hate her. She is the worst.
  • An excellent and surprisingly wise exchange between Rachel and Ethan, after Ethan tries to precipitate a situation in which someone, anyone dares to be honest:
    • Rachel:”You’re an asshole!”
    • Ethan: “Maybe I am, but I’m the only asshole here who gives a shit about you!”

Director: Luke Greenfield
Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes
Score: Unrateable.

This is a time travel movie, so the plot is tricky and sort of irrelevant. Three friends (Chris O’Dowd, Dean Lennox Kelly, and Marc Wootton) work at a sad theme park; two of them are very keen on science fiction; they are drinking in a pub and get caught in some sort of temporal anomaly. Anna Faris is Thursday Next, but for time, not books.

It’s distinctly average. O’Dowd is his usual late 2000s self–schlubby and directionless but nevertheless charming. His mates are guys who would be mates with that guy. Their combination of curiosity and cowardice is plausible and fine.

Would this movie be better if it were Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which it rather seems like it’s trying to be? Almost certainly. Or if it had a shorter title? Very much. Will watching it make you feel like you’ve wasted 83 minutes? Probably not.

Director: Gareth Carrivick
Rating: TV-14
Length: 83 minutes
Score: 3/5

You are probably thinking, “What possessed you to watch a rom-com, starring Katherine Heigl, about a lesbian wedding?”

I’m not sure, and I regret it.

It’s not a complicated story: Jenny (Heigl) wants to marry Kitty (Alexis Bledel), but her family (Tom Wilkinson, Linda Emond, Grace Gummer) doesn’t know she’s gay. There are some bumps.

And you probably have some other questions, like:

  • Why is Tom Wilkinson in this movie?
  • Why doesn’t Kitty have a personality?
  • Why does everybody’s character jag wildly between ludicrous bigotry and tearful humanity?
  • Why is everyone in this movie with the possible exception of Jenny’s brother (Matthew Metzger, probably) just the biggest dillweed?
  • Why can’t Grace Gummer water a lawn without having a heavy-handed epiphany?

I counted zero laughs.

Director: Mary Agnes Donoghue
Rating: PG-13
Length: 94 minutes
Score: 1/5

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely hated the excrescence that was Bridesmaids. It was a hideous waste of a large number of very funny women (not to mention Chris O’Dowd), and it left an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. And there are bits of Spy that remind me of Bridesmaids, which in isolation would be merely annoying, but which, by recalling its predecessor, make me crazy.

That said: Spy is tremendous. Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) works for the CIA as support staff for Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a dishy, wise-cracking, champagne-swilling secret agent in the James Bond mold. When he botches a mission and manages to get himself killed, Susan must go into the field to keep a dirty nuke off the terrorist market. Her boss Elaine (Allison Janney) has no faith in her; her best friend Nancy (Miranda Hart, and I hope this represents the thin end of the wedge in my getting to watch her in everything) is naïvely supportive; the other field agent on her team, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), is…well, he’s a Jason Statham send-up, and he’s hilariously loud, badly costumed, and dismissive of Susan. Don’t worry, he gets his comeuppance, and is a howl the entire time.

Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) are the terrorists trying to orchestrate the sale of the nuke. Byrne is gloriously sweary and awful, although she never quite manages to sell me on being the type of person who would actually hand over a weapon of mass destruction to someone who would use it. She seems more comfortable telling Susan that her clothes are terrible. The shenanigans that ensue when Susan and Nancy start dealing with Rayna directly, however, are more than funny enough make up for it.

Spy is stylish and clever, and much closer to the kind of female empowerment vehicle that some insane people think Bridesmaids is. It’s great to see McCarthy in a rôle that works against people’s tendency to assume she’s a sad sack (watching her tell Jude Law that, no, she doesn’t have any cats is really well done). Hart and Janney are also a joy to watch, although they don’t play at all against type–when you’re that good, you don’t have to. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you get Peter Serafinowicz irresponsibly driving an Alfa Romeo!

Stray observations:

  • I also want to chase a hot dude across Paris, but I’d prefer it if he weren’t a terrorist.
  • Jason Statham is wearing a beautiful Aquascutum raincoat for most of the film; his cap, however, prompts Nancy to say that he looks like he’s in the cast of Newsies, and I laughed so hard.
  • There’s a hiccup when McCarthy is driving a moped–she gets on it in heels and gets off it in heels, but she rounds a corner in flats.

Director: Paul Feig
Rating:R
Length:119 minutes
Score: 4/5