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

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Can’t Hardly Wait

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

June 12, 1998

CAN’T HARDLY WAIT is a summer of ’98 teen comedy that seems to mean something to people who were the right age then. I’m too old, but for some reason I saw it back then and it didn’t work on me. And now I gave it another shot.

It’s a one-day-right-after-graduation story in the tradition of AMERICAN GRAFFITI or DAZED AND CONFUSED or BLADE [citation needed], centering around a party where Preston (Ethan Embry, LATE PHASES) is trying to get up the guts to talk to his secret crush Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, GARFIELD) because he heard she broke up with her jock asshole boyfriend Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli, TWILIGHT). Preston thinks he can win her over by giving her a love letter he’s been revising for four years. Good luck with that one, pal. He drags along his cynical best friend Denise (Lauren Ambrose, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), who I was relieved to realize does not have an unrequited crush on him (in fact they laugh about having briefly dated in middle school). She’s very unhappy and ignored at the party, which obviously means she’ll have her rocky heart softened by an unexpected love connection or some shit, but she’s the most charming and relatable character, the one who seems like she probly wouldn’t like this movie, and I’m sure the main reason why some people do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mr. Jealousy

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

also June 5, 1998

This review series has swerved off in an unexpected direction. Usually I do these summer movie retrospectives to experience/revisit the big expensive blockbusters of past eras, and I throw in some of the other stuff for variety and historical context. But with the early part of summer ’98 dominated by big movies as bad as LOST IN SPACE and GODZILLA, but given personality by smaller ones as good as WILD THINGS, HE GOT GAME and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, I caught on that it was in my own best interest to be a little more completist than usual. So I went back to my list and added THE OPPOSITE OF SEX and a few other more modest comedy and arthouse type movies that are coming up, and then I realized that this MR. JEALOUSY that I had assumed was some generic studio comedy was actually the second feature by writer/director Noah Baumbach. So here we are.

This is the story of Lester (Eric Stoltz, ANACONDA) and Ramona (Annabella Sciorra, FIND ME GUILTY) during some months they spend together as a tenuous New York City couple. Lester is Mr. Jealousy because, as we learn from narration, he caught his first ever girlfriend cheating on him, and then in college he spied on one and saw her getting it on with a previous boyfriend, so now he’s extremely suspicious of anyone he dates and lives his life cripplingly paranoid about their exes. Some kids have an experience that makes them grow up to be Batman, some have this. (read the rest of this shit…)

I Got the Hook-Up

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

May 27, 1998

I have to admit I’ve never paid much attention to rapper turned filmmaker (I guess?) Master P. I say “I guess” because I GOT THE HOOK-UP is credited as “A MASTER P film,” but it’s directed by Michael Martin, a guy who directed some Outkast videos and the nearly unwatchable Snoop Dogg DTV movie EASTSIDAZ. P did write it though, along with Leroy Douglas and Carrie Mungo (who don’t have any other IMDb credits).

P grew up in the projects in New Orleans, studied business administration at a college in Oakland, and used money from a malpractice settlement related to the death of his grandfather to open a store called No Limit Records, which eventually turned into a record label of the same name. He released his first tape in 1990 and had five albums by the time he moved back to New Orleans in 1995 and built an empire with other rappers including Mystikal (currently on trial for rape) and his brothers C-Murder (now serving a life sentence for murder) and Silkk the Shocker (not accused of anything).

P’s mainstream breakthrough was the 1997 album Ghetto D, which went triple-platinum partly on the strength of the song “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”, which is about making ’em say “Uhh!” Thanks to the success of the label and smart investing, at the time of I GOT THE HOOK-UP, P was #10 on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s highest paid entertainers. He had starred in and co-directed the straight to video I’M BOUT IT, with another one called MP DA LAST DON coming in December of ’98. I’ve never really looked into any of these things, but summer of ’98 hosted his first theatrical release, I GOT THE HOOK-UP, so I decided this would be a good time to try to figure out what was up with that. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Opposite of Sex

Monday, June 11th, 2018

also on May 22, 1998

I remember THE OPPOSITE OF SEX being a big deal indie movie at the time, but it seems mostly forgotten now, mentioned even less often than its widely hated box office competitor GODZILLA ’98. Maybe more than LOST IN SPACE? I had kinda forgotten it too, at least what it was about, but I’m glad I decided to get a refresher on this really funny and kinda sweet dark comedy about a… well, kind of a wild thing, I guess.

Christina Ricci, in her second best movie released on this day, plays Dedee Truitt, a mean and grouchy sixteen year old who runs away from her home in Louisiana to find her grown up, gay half-brother Bill (Martin Donovan, SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D) in suburban Indiana. She manages to seduce Bill’s younger boyfriend Matt (Ivan Sergei, DANGEROUS MINDS, the tv show of John Woo’s ONCE A THIEF) and uses pregnancy to convince him to steal ten thousand dollars from a safe deposit box and run off with her.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

May 19, 1998

Fresh off of the hard-hitting journalism of Tea Leoni in DEEP IMPACT and Maria Pitillo in GODZILLA, summer of ’98 offered an alternative approach. Johnny Depp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) plays Raoul Duke and/or Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Thompson’s 1971 Rolling-Stone-two-parter-turned-book about covering the Mint 400 desert motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated. You do see a glimpse of dirt bikes (well, mostly dirt), but the real story is his crazed debauchery while “searching for the American Dream” with his lawyer (who we never once see doing legal work) Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro, SICARIO), ingesting much of the contents of a briefcase containing “a serious drug collection,” turning hotel rooms into Vietnam War movies and barely avoiding death or prison like some silent film clown accidentally dodging a series of falling objects.

And the movie itself keeps ducking dangers with miraculous precision. This is 118 minutes of what mostly feels like aimless madness, depraved variations on bad behavior and hallucinations, but to me it never gets old. I actually feel more exhausted at the end of Gilliam’s more polite movies like BRAZIL, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN or TWELVE MONKEYS. Somehow I’m endlessly amused by Duke and Gonzo’s deadpan craziness as they live out the type of lifestyle where you’d only be a little surprised to wake up with an alligator tail growing out of you, a microphone taped to your face and a giant smoking hole in your hotel bed. (read the rest of this shit…)