“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

Dead Man On Campus

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

August 21, 1998

is when BLADE came out and changed both cinema and humanity forever. But I already wrote the definitive review of that so here I am reviewing DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS.

It turns out maybe the comedies that come out in August are not essential to a summer movie retrospective. That’s a lesson I’m learning. I actually saw DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS at the time, but I realize now that I was conflating my memory of it with IDLE HANDS. I knew it was a different movie, but I thought it was another supernatural teen horror comedy. It was about half an hour in before I realized oh shit, he’s not gonna turn into a zombie. This is that movie where they find out their college has an obscure rule that if your roommate commits suicide then they have to give you straight As (just go with it) so they try to find an unstable roommate and push him to the brink. The kind of movie that should just have a disclaimer and a 1-800 number running across the screen throughout like a watermark on a critic’s screener. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Baseketball

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Okay, I’m not gonna look up who it was, and I forgive you, but somebody asked me to include BASEKETBALL in this series, and I’m a people pleaser, so I watched it. I hope you’re happy.

You see, the idea of BASEKETBALL is that it’s like baseball, and yet also it’s like basketball. That’s why it’s called baseketball. The first syllable is the first syllable of the word “baseball” and the second and third syllables are the second and third syllables of the word “basketball.” But the thing is those are usually two totally different sports. That’s why combining them into one is silly silly laughs for everyone. It makes no sense!

Okay, to be fair, this was not originally intended as a topic for a movie. Apparently director David Zucker and friends made up the sport and played it for ten years and it became a big thing in their neighborhood (“inspired by a true story” say the production notes), and maybe he looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back at him so he thought it was acceptable as an idea for a movie. Or maybe he just wanted a movie for his friends to watch. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

There’s Something About Mary

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

I forgot to mention in the SMALL SOLDIERS and PI reviews that LETHAL WEAPON 4 also came out that week. Then…

July 15, 1998

We all know the studios can be pretty cynical and obvious in the summer time. When you’re dumping millions upon millions of dollars into these cinematic behemoths that are gonna battle it out for supremacy of Blockbuster Island, you’re usually gonna lean toward easier bets – an old TV show or character people recognize, an easy to explain spectacle. Industrial light and mayhem. Disaster movies seemed like the thing after INDEPENDENCE DAY and TITANIC, so in Summer of ’98 we got the comet and the asteroid and the name brand giant monster, and it’s not that surprising that ARMAGEDDON would be the #1 grossing movie worldwide, or that GODZILLA would be #3. (That a war drama would be in between them was a little less predictable, but then again it was Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks.)

When an original comedy comes in at #4, though, that means something. That’s one that has to be earned. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, the Farrelly Brothers’ followup to KINGPIN, was an R-rated comedy with dick and semen jokes that somehow seemed a little elevated by their audaciousness, and it fucked up the zeitgeist way harder than Godzilla did New York. Laughs do matter.

Ben Stiller (HIGHWAY TO HELL) plays the hapless male lead Ted Stroehmann, and I mean he is completely devoid of hap. Sure, in the 1985 prologue (adult Stiller playing a 16 year old with a wig and braces is a treat) he does hap into a prom date with radiant babe Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz [THE COUNSELOR], previously seen in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS), but before they even leave her house a series of mishaps mishappen, and he misses the actual prom on account of public penis injury. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Eighth Grade

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

EIGHTH GRADE is a beautifully true high definition close-up on the most awkward of ages. You don’t feel like a kid anymore, but the high schoolers you’re about to be tossed in with seem like adults, and you haven’t even caught up with the kids your own age. If you’re Kayla (Elsie Fisher, a voice in the DESPICABLE ME film saga) you pride yourself on knowing how to conquer life – in fact your hobby is creating Youtube videos giving friendly, positive advice – but really you feel like every single other person knows what they’re doing and you don’t.

The movie isn’t in first person, like I’m describing it here, but it’s almost that intimate. So much of it stays close on her face, the kids around her a little out of focus. From her terrified expressions you can feel her chest about to implode with tension, but you can also tell that nobody notices. They’re off in their own world. They don’t even look at her.

For my money this is an improved grade of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. It captures the nightmare of social awkwardness without having to exaggerate the ugliness of the world. It’s not mean. It’s real. Sure, there’s cringing, but it’s organic cringing, not pushed-to-the-limit cringing like we enjoy in Curb Your Enthusiasm and stuff. The events are mostly mundane – a birthday party where she doesn’t fit in, a trip to the mall with older kids – but they feel as heavy and monumental as they would at that age. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sorry To Bother You

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is an absurd, inventive new comedy that’s so playful and funny that its acidic satire of soul-crushing capitalism comes across a little more like an inspirational rallying cry than blind fury at a seemingly insurmountable wall of corporate greed and dehumanization. Though it’s that too.

If I was required by law to describe it in terms of movies that already exist, I’d say “low-wage OFFICE SPACE by way of Michel Gondry.” But fuck the law, because it feels like something very new, distinctive and of the moment, from the cast headed by Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson to the soundtrack to even the cool fonts and logos by children’s book illustrator J. Otto Seibold. Stanfield plays Cassius Green (yes, it’s a pun), who lives in his uncle (Terry Crews, STREET KINGS)’s garage until he finds his calling (oh shit, another pun) at a new telemarketing job. I mean, the place is a hellhole on the verge of a strike led by Squeeze (Steven Yeun, formerly of The Walking Dead), but he turns out to be really good at it after co-worker Langston (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) teaches him the secret of the “white voice.” It’s not mere code-switching, but a near supernatural channeling of a voice with no worries that he manifests by being dubbed by David Cross (ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS). It’s a broad and hacky joke made almost profound by its layers of subtext and power to creep out his friends and loved ones. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Dr. Dolittle

Monday, July 16th, 2018

June 26, 1998

DR. DOLITTLE starts the same way DIRTY WORK did: with Norm MacDonald narrating a wacky story about the main character when he was a kid. But instead of being the main character himself and talking about a dog getting violated by another dog, MacDonald turns out to be voicing a dog named Lucky who later gets violated Jeffrey Tambor. The main character is a live action human played by the voice of the dragon in MULAN, Eddie Murphy.

John Dolittle is a medical doctor with a gorgeous wife named Lisa (Kristen Wilson, who played Robin Givens in TYSON) and cute daughters Maya (Kyla Pratt, LOVE & BASKETBALL) and Charisse (Raven-Symone of later-Cosby-Show fame) and he’s kind of a self-absorbed dick who’s in such denial about having been able to talk to animals when he was a kid that he refuses to even learn what type of animal his daughter’s guinea pig is. It says right there in the title that he’s a doctor, but they still give him the standard issue Workaholic Dad Neglects His Family storyline. His office is working on a Big Merger that would make him rich, and his partner Dr. Weller (Oliver Platt, EXECUTIVE DECISION, also in BULWORTH that summer) is always hassling him because they have to impress Mr. Calloway (Peter Boyle, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, had been in SPECIES II in April) into signing The Big Contract after The Big Presentation. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Henry Fool

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

June 19,1998

Here’s another last minute addition to the ’98 series in acknowledgment of the summer’s abundance of significant indie movies. I suddenly realized that HENRY FOOL being a Cannes-Film-Festival-best-screenplay-award-winning film from lauded (once lauded?) auteur Hal Hartley meant it fit right in with the other stuff I was writing about, and shouldn’t be skipped. All I really know about Hartley is my vague memories of liking THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH, TRUST and SIMPLE MEN when I saw them almost 30 years ago. I never saw this one until now, but I’ve read that it is his biggest box office success.

That’s surprising. HENRY FOOL is a very dry, often ponderous two hour seventeen minute sort-of-comedy that takes its sweet time getting to what it seems to be about before abruptly switching to something else for the last part. It’s raw, seems to be intentionally lacking in style or energy, at times slightly amateurish, even feeling in moments like a parody of indie movie pretension. Its two leads are an obnoxious prick with a sort of reverse charisma and a passive, inscrutable peon who barely talks, except to occasionally parrot some dumb bullshit that the other guy said that he should know better than to believe.

I kind of liked it though. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ocean’s 8

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Before seing INCREDIBLES 2 and JURASSIC’S 5 I wanted to catch up with OCEAN’S 8. It’s that all star ensemble heist movie that came out in theaters a month ago. I know whatever conversation there was has already died off, but I wanted to see it.

Debbie Ocean, who kind of looks like Michael Jackson and is played by Sandra Bullock (SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL), gets out on parole with nothing but forty-some dollars, a glittery party dress and a master plan for stealing millions of dollars worth of jewelry. So she’s in good spirits. Plying her trade of theft and scams she gets herself a fancy hotel room and amenities (the fancy lady’s version of Porter building himself back up from nothing at the beginning of PAYBACK) and then goes to find her old partner Lou (Cate Blanchett, HANNA). Lou claims to have not known she was in prison, just thought she changed her number, and she says it so dryly I didn’t know at first if she was joking. I like these two.

Much like OCEAN’S ELEVEN, we get to meet the Mission: Impossible team of heisters in their regular lives as the two go around recruiting them. They rescue jewelry expert Amita (Mindy Kaling, A WRINKLE IN TIME) from working for her mom and Tammy (Sarah Paulson, THE SPIRIT) from suburban boredom. They hire hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, BRING IT ON: ALL OR NOTHING) and three-card-monty hustler/pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina, CRAZY RICH ASIANS). Most crucially they trick movie star and soon-to-be Met Gala host Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway, HOODWINKED!) into hiring past-her-prime former fashion design legend Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter, PLANET OF THE APES) who they’ve gotten in on a scheme to get Kluger to wear a ridiculously valuable Cartier necklace that would otherwise be in a vault. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Last Days of Disco

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018
AFTER 2 WEEKS IN LIMITED
RELEASE, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
EXPANDED TO 168 SCREENS…

June 12, 1998

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO is a category of movie that arguably had its heyday in the late ’90s: the beloved indie auteurs given the money to do their thing with more production value. In this case it’s the third film of writer-director Whit Stillman, whose $250,000-budgeted debut METROPOLITAN (1990) received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay and an Independent Spirit Award for best first feature. His second one BARCELONA (1994) cost under $3 million, but for this one he got $8 million to work with, more than either of his movies had grossed.

It’s still a movie mostly about people talking, but it costs money to have a huge club set, period costuming and a soundtrack of disco hits (just ask the producers of PROM NIGHT about that last one). The movie chronicles Alice (Chloe Sevigny, KIDS, GUMMO) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale, VAN HELSING, PEARL HARBOR) – both readers at a New York City book publisher – and some of the other people who hang out at the same unnamed disco as them over a period of maybe a year or two in “the very early 1980s.” They fall in and out of relationships, fuck things up, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Dirty Work

Monday, June 25th, 2018

June 12, 1998

DIRTY WORK doesn’t look like it comes from the same era as these other movies in this series. I remember noticing that at the time, too. It’s not that it’s visually simple and unadorned, it’s more that Norm Macdonald, with his loose fitting plaid shirts over plain t-shirts, looks like a schlub from a low budget ’80s frat comedy or the cover of an old Home Improvement DVD. (I’m not sure what I thought of Artie Lange’s more late ’70s/early ’80s style polos, which play as kind of stylized now, like SUPERBAD.)

I remember wondering, has this thing been sitting on the shelf for several years? Or do things just look different in Toronto, where it was filmed? Or is it because it’s directed by Bob Saget? Yeah, I know, even back then, pre-THE ARISTOCRATS, he made sure everybody knew he was actually real edgy, man, he told jokes about penises and buttholes and you name it, everything. Nevertheless he was still the dude from Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos. That is an incontrovertible fact. It’s the same guy. He did those things. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.