Tag Archives: comedy

22 Jump Street (2014)

15 Jun

Coming strong off their last collaboration The Lego Moviedirectors Phil Lord and Chris Miller usher in one of this summer’s most anticipated sequels. Thier first attempt at rebooting the cult 80’s TV show was a terrific success, and proved  smart enough to win over critics and silly enough to win over the masses.

It seems like Lord and Miller have somehow caught lightning in a bottle a second time with their followup 22 Jump StreetOur two undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back, only this time – they are going to college.  Specifically, as undercover students on a mission to locate the dealer of a new synthetic drug that is connected to the deaths of several students. If this just sounds like a repeat of 21 Jump Streetit’s because it is. It reminds me a bit of Tod Phillip’s sequel The Hangover pt II, in that many of the same jokes and plot points from the first film are presented to us in the form of a sequel.

The second installment of Jump Street is clever enough however, in that it knows it’s repeating itself, and many of the best jokes are inside references to the film’s franchise, production, cast, and concept. Best of all, the film is genuinely hilarious; i don’t I have laughed harder in a theatre all year. Comedic elements aside, the film also contains a healthy dose of conflict, dressed up as a three-way bromance between Schmidt, Jenko, and Zook (Wyatt Russel), a football jock who is suspected of being the campus drug dealer. It’s great stuff to watch, and eventually it becomes hard to tell where the overtly homosexual farce ends and where it begins.

Watching the film is like watching your high school class clown in math class, while sitting with the wisecracking kids the back of the class making snide remarks at everybody. Somehow, the film pulls this feat off perfectly, and you end up laughing both at and with the film.

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, Anchorman 

Neighbors (2014)

1 Jun

We have seen a surprisingly good amount of high quality cinema for 2014, but the genre that has so far been lacking is the raunchy R-rated comedy.  Neighbors, starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zach Efron, is the year’s first real foray into this genre and, for the most part, the hits all the tropes and cliches we have come to expect. Penis jokes? Check. Boob jokes? Check. Crazy college party with weed and booze? Double check.  Neighbors lifts so much from other kingpins of the genre (Superbad and 21 Jump Street come to mind) that there isn’t much in the film that hasn’t been done before. However, there does manage to be some original heart to film, lurking just beneath the surface, but it isn’t quite enough to make the film stand out much among its contemporaries.

The film takes place in your typical college-town suburb where newlyweds Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) are raising their cute toddler. Soon, a college fraternity house moves in next door, and the couple is introduced to the frat’s leader Teddy (Efron). All is well until Efron repeatedly refuses to turn the music down and thus a neighborly feud between two conflicting lifestyles ensues. Cops are called, weed is smoked, and things quickly escalate to an all-out war between the two sets of – wait for it – neighbors. 

While the film definitely has its great moments, (mostly by way of the on-screen chemistry from its actors and visual humor that takes the place of action) many of the jokes simply didn’t resonate, and the film lacks any real sense of drama. There are hints at underlying tension within certain characters (Mac’s unwillingness to be a family man, Teddy’s uncertainty about life after college, etc..) but these never get explored and get tossed by the wayside.  Neighbors ultimately is your typical bro-comedy, and – even when it grows a bit tired of itself in the third act – still a mostly enjoyable watch.

 

 

Rating – 6/10 

Similar to: Superbad (2007), Accepted (2006), Role Models (2008)

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The Way Way Back (2013)

7 Jul

Water parks and fireworks have long been staple of every American kid’s typical summertime, and these two elements provide the background for this rather typical indie drama. The Way Way Back tells the story of one introverted boy named Duncan and his eventual coming to terms with others around him, especially his mother’s divorce.

The film marks the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the writing duo known for their Oscar-winning screenplay to 2012’s The Descendants, and the similarities are evident between the two films. Both are character-driven dramas about parental figures who are out-of-touch with their children, both films display instances of awkward youth romances, both films are shot on these exotic sea-side locations that upper-class white families can afford.  Overall, it seemed to me that this was just a copy+paste of the exact formula that won these directors an Academy Award. Which is all fine and dandy, except I didn’t really enjoy The Descendants that much in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, The Way Way Back is a very enjoyable, family-friendly movie.  The ensemble cast, (featuring Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janey, and the ever-entertaining Sam Rockwell) is great and the story, while predictable and irrational, is fast-paced and heartfelt. Most impressively, the film wraps things up at a neat and clean 103 minutes. It’s even got a good amount of smart, witty humor.

The main issue here is that the characters (with the exception of Rockwell’s and Rudolph’s) felt fake and overused, playing off of cliche’s we have all seen a billion times before. The film was made by two amateur directors, and boy – it shows, especially with the children.  Acting heavyweights like Carrell and Janey can hold their own and create bearable chemistry, but the scenes featuring two children flirting with each other (and there was by far too much of that) felt so awkward and forced into a trope that I literally had to close my eyes.

The one bright beam of light here that makes the film enjoyable was Sam Rockwell, who delivers his lines so well that even at their cheesiest (“You need to learn how to create your own path”) are a welcoming relief to the lackluster script.

What Faxon and Rash need to realize is that in a character-driven film like this, characters must take priority over everything else and should be developed into authentic and memorable individuals (think Little Miss Sunshine, The Squid and the Whale, The Ice Storm, or any David O. Russel or P.T. Anderson film) and not simply used as cookie-cutter plot devices.

 

Rating 5/10

Similar to: The Descendants, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Moneyball

 

This Is the End (2013)

2 Jun

So this is what you get when you take the comedic gang from Freaks and Geeks and lock them all in a room for 24 hours. Oh, and also throw in Emma Watson and the black guy from The Office. And of course you can’t forget Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. And because it’s a post-Superbad comedy Danny McBride has to make an appearance somewhere. Also there is Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, and Rihanna because – hey why not?

If they would have taken half the effort in writing the story as they did in the casting, then this film would be amazing. But the randomness and senseless progression of the scenes make it feel like you are watching a bunch of strewn-together YouTube videos. Which is OK, because This Is the End actually is kinda funny, and the film works in an unpredictably offensive way.

I was hoping for something a bit more self-aware and smart in a film where actors play themselves, but instead what I got was some half-baked morality tale about humanity and religion. It is an interesting mix, and the film definitely strayed into territory I wasn’t expecting, but I was satisfied by the time the credits rolled up. If you are a fan of the genre, then this is a must-see.

6/10 stars.

Similar to: Superbad, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder

Prince Avalanche (2013)

26 Jan

If Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get stuck in the woods, does it make for a good movie?

This is the question Prince Avalanche asks of us, and the answer is a resounding yes.  The film is a low-budget bromance that focuses on the relationship of two road workers revamping Texas roads after a forest fire wipes them out.

Spending weeks at a time isolated from society, our two protagonists get to know each other very well, and talk about everything and anything together – but mostly women.  Alvin, (Paul Rudd) is dating Lance’s (Emile Hirsch) older sister Madison, while Lance is constantly looking forward to the day when he can leave the forest and head back into the city where all the girls are.

The pair of actors are wonderful together, and it’s their comical and engaging interactions that provide the framework for this movie.  Director David Gordon Greene (The Sitter, Pineapple Express) is no stranger to comedy, and there are some brilliantly funny moments in Prince Avalanche, but the humor never takes full focus.  There are long, meditative shots of nature mixed in with some great dramatic events that make this film a more reflective piece than a funny one.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of empty space, and some scenes drag on longer than they should. There is also this sub-plot involving an older alcoholic character that never really goes anywhere.  Despite it’s flaws, the highs and lows in Alvin and Lance’s relationship make for a charming and inspirational story.  Prince Avalanche is whole-heartedly an entertaining film that finds that rare sweet spot between the heart and funny bone.

prince-avalanche

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Ghost World, Up in the Air, Lars and the Real Girl

Amelie (2001)

30 Nov

Amelie tells the story of a French twenty-something year-old girl.  She fantasizes about many things including dipping her hands into a bag of grain and cracking fresh creme’ brûlée’ with a spoon. Trapped somewhere between a naive childhood fantasy and the impending responsibility of adulthood, Amelie’s life takes a turn when she (though rather unknowingly) falls in love.

Amelie, as a film, is a montage of sorts about the small pleasures of life. Like watching a laughing baby or a litter of puppies, the film is an enchanting delight that is easy to get immersed into.  There is something universally charming about Amelie, both her character and the world in which she lives.  The colorful characters and remarkable production design give the film an animated vibrance that was unlike anything I have ever seen.

Some say this is a romance film done in the style of Woody Allen, others will point to the dark comedies reminiscent of Wes Anderson, or John Hughes.

I liked this film best for it’s wonderful use of music, story, cinematography and performances which really leave a lasting impression.  Technically, Amelie is flawless, but it’s the emotions and vibrance of the film which make it a mesmerizing and overall enchanting piece of cinema.  One of my all time favorite French films.

rating 10/10 

Dark Shadows (2012)

27 Sep

Dark Shadows is a bit of an embarrassment. In the film, Johnny Depp takes on another role where he is cursed with the gift of immortal life.  I have always wondered what it would be like to never die, and about halfway into this film, I knew what that feeling must be.

I was staring at the screen thinking to myself “oh please just kill me now”, but nope – I was forced to live on and see one embarrassing scene after the next.

What was Tim Burton thinking when he did this film? He knows how to put a story together, but lately it is as if Tim Burton has become the new M. Night Shyamalan – a director who favors style and visuals over story content.

With Dark Shadows, all you really get is a collection of stale jokes that are not very funny.

It’s not funny, it’s not dramatic, It’s not thought provoking, it’s not scary, it’s not really anything worth watching; Dark Shadows is just 2 hours of blah. Sure, there are a few entertaining parts, but they become overshadowed by the preposterous story events that don’t make any sense at all.  The film tries to make some sort of story about a family in financial trouble who need a bit of a hand from (cue vampire) “an old family friend.”  But even this  excuse for a story becomes tainted by tasteless jokes and a nostalgia for the 70’s.

The story is so very badly written; there are too many random events that happen with no overall theme to connect them. During the last twenty minutes you find out the young girl was really a werewolf for example, but it has nothing to do with anything. It was as if halfway through through filming someone pitched the idea to put a werewolf into a film about a vampires as a joke and Tim Burton said “eh why not!!?? it’s just a movie to please the kids anyway right?? lets make one of the main characters a werewolf -who cares if it will make sense?! people are going to pay money to see this anyway because of the Deppster right???”

 

Next time I will have allot more empathy when I see that a character has been cursed to live forever – especially if they are working on a future Tim Burton movie.

Rating 3/10