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Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

Mermaid

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

tn_mermaidMERMAID is the story of a dumb but not intentionally evil super-super-rich businessman playboy named Liu Xuan (Deng Chao, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME), a sort of Pretty Decent Gatsby with lots of shiny suits, a John Waters mustache, whole teams of security guards, lackeys and sexy dancers kissing his ass at all times. He has a weakness for the ladies, giving the time of day to every female from his seductive business partner Ruolan (Zhang Yuqi, CJ7) to a youngster in a sloppy mermaid costume who gets suplexed by security after crashing his pool party to give him her phone number.

One thing he doesn’t know: the fake mermaid Shan (Lin Yun) is actually a real mermaid sent to assassinate him to avenge his sonar devices massacring and trapping a society of merpeople in the Green Gulf wildlife reserve that he recently purchased for billions of dollars. But they kinda fall for each other. It’s like THE LITTLE MERMAID if it took place in the modern day and Ariel was trying to kill Prince Eric.

It’s directed and co-written by Stephen Chow, but he’s not in it as an actor and it’s not a martial arts movie. It is, however, full of his kinetic Looney Tunes style slapstick action. Hopefully the people who have a problem with wire tricks and digital FX assists already saw SHAOLIN SOCCER and KUNG FU HUSTLE and know to stay far away from Chow. This is a movie with a skateboarding mermaid, an out of control jetpack, a half man/half octopus who’s often hanging upside down or crawling around on the ceiling, a mermaid matriarch who splashes water into animated shapes to tell stories. And of course some cartoon violence, including poisoned sea urchin throwing stars. (read the rest of this shit…)

Deadpool

Monday, February 29th, 2016

tn_deadpoolDEADPOOL is a smart-ass, hard-R super hero revenge movie for the 14 year old boy in every man, woman and child. The feature directing debut of FX artist Tim Miller (who designed the opening credits for Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) has show-offy digital camera moves, fourth-wall-breaking narration, meta and self-referential humor, frequent jokes about dildos and other things going up butts, gun fetishism, jerking off, juvenile homophobic name-calling like “cockgobbler,” and is convinced that it’s hilarious to know the names of different gross sex acts and talk about doing them with old ladies. Sounds exactly like a Neveldine/Taylor style headache. But I really enjoyed it.

I saw commenters here predicting I would hate DEADPOOL like I did KICK-ASS. I understand the comparison, but here’s why I think it’s different: it has a different personality. Both are trying to push buttons with foul-mouthed costumed characters going overboard with the violence and seeming real proud of themselves for it, but to me KICK-ASS seems like it’s trying to shock and outrage some hypothetical prudes and squares that would never watch the movie anyway, while DEADPOOL seems like it’s trying to win everybody over with its obnoxious charm. There are tons of childish jokes in the movie that didn’t make me laugh, but they felt less like jokes failing and more like me smiling and shaking my head at a dipshit friend trying to make me uncomfortable to amuse himself. And the X-Men seem to feel kind of the same. He’s basically a bad guy but they keep going easy on him because they want him to be a good guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Big Short

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

tn_bigshortbestpictureDo you remember the Will Ferrell movie THE OTHER GUYS, how the end credits were a big animated info graphic about the banking crisis? It connected to the scheme by the villains in the movie but seemed jarringly serious at the end of a cop movie parody from the director of ANCHORMAN where Ferrell carries a wooden gun, has an evil pimp alter ego and has a chief played by Michael Keaton who quotes TLC all the time and works a second job at Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s why it’s not completely out of the blue that its director Adam McKay has made his first non-comedy, THE BIG SHORT, which has been nominated for many awards including Oscars for best picture, director and adapted screenplay. This is not the classic funny-man-yearning-for-respectability-with-corny-Oscar-bait-movie gambit. This is a rage that’s been fighting to get out.

Based on the non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Moneyball author Michael Lewis, the movie tells the stories of several small-timers and outsiders in the financial world who had the foresight to see that the housing market was built on fraud and was destined to collapse. They figured out a way to basically bet against the banks, who gladly accepted the offers because they believed their own lies. They thought these people were crazy and giving them free money. (read the rest of this shit…)

Radioland Murders

Monday, February 8th, 2016

tn_radiolandlucasminusstarwarsRADIOLAND MURDERS is a retro comedy, a madcap murder mystery taking place in 1939 as a Chicago radio station has a gala live broadcast performed in front of an audience and a room full of big shot affiliates waiting to be impressed. There’s a big band and actors doing adventure shows and commercials while the writers, directors and sound engineers scramble to have something on the air after the boss just tossed out all of their scripts. Meanwhile, writer Roger (Brian Benben, I COME IN PEACE) is pathetically trying to woo back his wife Penny (Mary Stuart Masterson, GARDENS OF STONE), who thinks he cheated on her. It was a misunderstanding, but he’s too much of a doofus to make her understand.

And then he becomes the #1 suspect when people in the station start turning up dead. So he has to avoid the police, solve the mystery, convince his wife and finish some scripts. Kind of a rough day for him.

The DVD cover brags about an “All star cast!,” which is stretching it, but the huge ensemble cast does include an impressive lineup of character actors, some of them better known now than they were then. You also got Ned Beatty, Brion James (BLADE RUNNER, 48 HOURS), Michael Lerner (MANIAC COP 2), Michael McKean, Jeffrey Tambor, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christopher Lloyd, Larry Miller (FOODFIGHT!), Corbin Bernsen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dylan Baker, Robert Klein and Harvey Korman (The Star Wars Holiday Special). Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins of the AMERICAN GRAFFITI saga show up together. Since there’s sort of a variety show going on at the center of it there are appearances by Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, Joey Lawrence (as a dreamy crooner) and even Billy Barty (WILLOW). Also Gary Anthony Williams, the voice of Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, made his first movie appearance. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ricki and the Flash

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

tn_rickiBefore we get back into the Lucas-Minus-Star-Wars series I wanted to play a little catch up. Here’s one of my favorite movies of last year, and I bet most of you haven’t considered seeing it.

In RICKI AND THE FLASH Meryl Streep (BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY) plays the broke-ass leader of a California bar band who’s on an unlikely mission to Indianapolis to cheer up her daughter Julie (Streep’s real daughter Mamie Gummer), because her husband left her. One thing is, Ricki abandoned the family years ago to follow her rock and/or roll dream, and they never forgave her for it and rarely talk to her. But Julie’s gotten so bad that her dad Pete (Kevin Kline) gets desperate enough to break that emergency glass. It’s a fish-out-of-water story where the fish has no money and has to stay in your guest room and you don’t want her there but you try to be polite and also you have to pay for her cab.

Ricki is a rare and precious thing, a lead role for an actress – an older actress, even – that gets to be complex and flawed and also funny (not to mention sing and play guitar!). She’s a strong personality and also a mess and possibly racist and hates Obama and also it turns out she knows how to be a good mother and friend. I mean, now she does, but where the hell was she before? With this cause healing, or only increase resentment? Streep, not surprisingly, goes to town with the role and seems to be having a great time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chi-Raq

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

tn_chiraqCHI-RAQ (Chicago + Iraq, pronounced shy-rack) is the Spikiest Spike Lee Joint achieved so far. It seems like whatever itch Lee was trying to scratch with those musical numbers in SCHOOL DAZE has been building up for all these years until it exploded onto the screen like that inflating dude in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Lee must’ve woke up one morning and said fuck it, I’m gonna make a movie that’s so Spike Lee it turns into Baz Luhrmann.

Let me tell you a few things about how heightened and crazy this is. It has musical numbers. It has dance numbers. It has a rap number that breaks into a gun fight precipitated by an argument depicted in onscreen text messages. It has an army of women in chastity belts performing a sexy choreographed group lip-synch to “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites (maybe my favorite scene). The two rival gangs wear purple and orange, and are called the Trojans and the Cyclops Spartans, whose leader is Cyclops (Wesley Snipes wearing a red-sequined eyepatch). There’s an explicit reference to THE WARRIORS so you know Spike knows what this reminds us of. (Also Luther himself, David Patrick Kelly, is in it.) All of this is presided over by a fourth-wall-breaking narrator played by Samuel L. Jackson wearing fly suits, spinning a cane and reciting toasts and dirty jokes like Dolemite. That’s not just me reading into it, because he’s called Dolmedes and he references Shine and the Signifying Monkey.

Oh, by the way: all of the other characters speak in rhyme also. So that’s pretty different from most movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

More American Graffiti

Monday, December 7th, 2015

tn_moreamericangraffitilucasminusstarwars1977 saw the release of George Lucas’s third film, STAR WARS. It did well. But the experience of making it was troubling enough to make Lucas rethink his dream of directing films. He decided to redirect his energy toward producing for other directors, and in fact he didn’t direct again for 22 years. But in 1979, as an executive producer, he brought back the characters from his second film.

I’m not gonna try to convince you that it was a good idea to make a sequel to AMERICAN GRAFFITI six years after the first one, but this is a much better sequel than I was figuring on. Definitely more interesting and ambitious than you would guess. I bet what happened was they wanted to do MORE THX-1138 but when the first one wasn’t a hit they rewrote the script for these characters.

While REGULAR AMOUNT OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI dealt with the cultural shifts of the ’60s by nostalgifying the times right before the a changin’, this one actually dives straight into the muck. The first thing you see is army helicopters over Vietnam, and there are more hippies and protests in this one than cars cruising the strip. It still doesn’t deal directly with the civil rights movement, but there are hints.

The impressive part is the structure. We find the gang back together on New Year’s Eve, 1964. Laurie (Cindy Williams) is now pregnant with twins, married to Steve (“special appearance by Ron Howard,” but it seems like a genuine role to me, not a cameo). Debbie (Candy Clark) and Terry the Toad (Charles Martin Smith) are still together, but he’s shipping out to ‘Nam tomorrow to “Kick ass, take names and eat Cong for breakfast.” They all come visit their cool drag racer friend John Milner (Paul Le Mat) at the track, where he’s trying to win races, attract a sponsorship and build a legit driving career. So it seems like it will be another day-in-the-life with this group of friends as they’re all on the verge of major life changes. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Graffiti

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

tn_americangraffitilucasminusstarwarsI honestly had never seen this movie until now. So this will likely be the last George Lucas directed movie for me, unless he ever goes through with making those inaccessible art movies he always says he wants to make. AMERICAN GRAFFITI is different from the other ones he directed  because it’s the only one that’s not in space or in a futuristic dystopian worker colony under the earth. At least as far as is revealed in the text. Also it’s his only directorial work that has, like, wall-to-wall jams by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and The Platters and people like that. Maybe he shoulda done that trick on ATTACK OF THE CLONES to make the young love go down easier.

Yeah, it’s weird that this is a really distinctive, personal and hugely influential film that was Lucas’s big breakthrough in Hollywood, and then he never did anything much like it again. He just let other people make Happy Days and shit while he was tinkering in the FX lab.

I’m not sure what the title means exactly, but it’s kinda too bad they used it for this because it would’ve made WILD STYLE seem more epic and important. This is the story of a bunch of Los Angelenos Modestenos graduating high school in 1962, and having one last night out together before some of them leave to begin their adult lives. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss playing a teenager just two years before JAWS!) is supposed to leave for college on the East Coast the next day, but he’s getting cold feet. Steve (Ronny Howard, later star of Happy Days) is also leaving and wants to convince his younger girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams, later star of Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley) that they should still technically be together but also see other people. Terry (Charles Martin Smith, later in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY) is a huge nerd who borrows Steve’s awesome car to drive around and impress people. And John Milner (Paul Le Mat) isn’t going to college, so to him it’s another night as the tough guy cruising for girls in the area’s most badass yellow drag racer. But then he gets tricked into picking up somebody’s little sister Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), cramping his style. (read the rest of this shit…)

Magic Mike XXL

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

tn_mmxxlMAGIC MIKE XXL is a movie about a group of musclebound dudes going on a road trip together to enter a big competition. Along the way they pick up girls, get drunk, get high, meet new friends, reunite with old ones, repair old wounds, learn lessons, fall in love, get laid, confess vulnerabilities, get in a wreck, go to a hospital, all the things you would expect. And yet it feels one-of-a-kind in its attitude.

Like the first MAGIC MIKE this stars and was produced by Channing Tatum, inspired by his past as a “male entertainer,” or stripper, and written by his friend Reid Carolin. People don’t seem to remember this, but Tatum was kind of the co-lead of that first movie, trying to get out of the game while showing the ropes to The Kid (Alex Pettyfur), who ends up becoming a drug addict, turning the fun times into a cautionary bummer. I liked the movie but the sequel is significantly better for ditching The Kid and focusing on Mike taking a vacation from his designer furniture company to get in a food truck with the boys and take One Last Ride to Myrtle Beach.

The team is no longer led by Matthew McConaughey as Dallas. That sounded like a problem when the news first got out, but it’s actually an asset. With his character no longer there to absorb all your attention the movie gives way more shine to the other dancers, especially Joe Manganiello (SABOTAGE) as the towering, abrasive but large-hearted doofus Big Dick Richie, and Matt Bomer as the eyebrow plucking pretty boy Ken, who reveals a funny New Agey side. Like all of their eccentricities they tease him about it but also accept it. True friendship. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Return of the Living Dead

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

tn_rotldThere are a bunch of movies that I consider among my very favorites, that I refer to all the time, and then when I try to make a link to them in another review I realize what in God’s name, how have I not officially reviewed the greatest zombie movie ever made by somebody who is not named George Romero? And what does this say about me as a person?

Not being made by Romero was actually kind of the whole point of this one. Romero and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD co-writer (and infamous 30th Anniversary Edition maker) John Russo disagreed with Romero about how to do a sequel. Romero thought it should be one of the best movies of all time and Russo wanted to go a different direction. So Romero made DAWN OF THE DEAD and Russo wrote a book called THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD which apparently starts with a bus crash in a small town where the locals aren’t able to impale the brains of the dead like they usually do. (The book is very rare and pricey so I haven’t read it for myself).

The film rights ended up with Tobe Hooper with DARK STAR star/Jodorowsky’s DUNE would-be effects guy/ALIEN writer Dan O’Bannon working on the script. When Hooper left to do LIFEFORCE instead O’Bannon took over as director and rewrote the whole thing to be more humorous and have nothing to do with the book. (Russo got a story credit along with Rudy Ricci, another Romero buddy who wrote THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and was one of the bikers in DAWN OF THE DEAD. In the end Russo wrote the novelization of the movie that came out of the book that he wrote in order to make into a movie.) (read the rest of this shit…)