"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

Jennifer’s Body (revisited)

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

Seeing LISA FRANKENSTEIN pushed me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years – rewatch JENNIFER’S BODY (2009). Uncharacteristically, I came right home from the theater and put it on. It made a good double feature.

In a way it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in other ways it seems like ancient history. It was Diablo Cody’s second movie, coming two years after JUNO, which won her the best original screenplay Oscar. Director Karyn Kusama was on her third movie, trying to make a comeback after AEON FLUX (2005), her one studio project after the indie smash GIRLFIGHT (2000). Since then she’s done THE INVITATION (2015) and DESTROYER (2018) and lots of acclaimed television. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lisa Frankenstein

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

I’m a fan of the Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody. I enjoyed JUNO and TULLY and her directorial debut PARADISE, but it was YOUNG ADULT and its more friendly cousin RICKI AND THE FLASH that made me a die hard. Two movies about women who are assholes. My life is so different from either of theirs, but somehow Mavis Gary and Ricki Rendazzo are two characters I relate to deeply.

Of course she’s also got a foot in horror world – she wrote JENNIFER’S BODY for Karyn Kusama and even did some script revisions on the EVIL DEAD remake. She’s said she didn’t have to do much on that, but I still wonder if she was the one who named the dog Grandpa. Now she’s returned to the genre, sort of, with LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a teen movie with a zombie and some murders, directed by Zelda Williams (KAPPA KAPPA DIE). (read the rest of this shit…)

They Cloned Tyrone

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

I feel a little guilty for reviewing more Netflix movies than usual lately. But I’ve been catching up on some stuff and I think THEY CLONED TYRONE (2023), if not the best of them, is still the kind of thing that sinister corporation owes us as a civilization and culture. They gotta balance out their ills a little by spending money on movies by new directors, that have interesting ideas. Give them a name cast and some production value but let them make something that’s not necessarily very commercial, at least not enough that they would’ve made it if they were in the movie business, looking for paying customers.

This one they actually promoted more than most of their stuff and they still didn’t give a fuck, they released it on the same day as BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER! It’s distinct from the typical Netflix joint both structurally and stylistically – structurally because it has the confidence to let you be confused for a while before it starts to reveal what’s going on, or even that there is something going on; stylistically because it avoids that modern digital cleanness, instead having a beautifully grainy 16mm sort of texture to it. I assume they shot it digitally and did that in post (would it really have cigarette burns on the reel changes if it was never meant for projection?) but it works just the same. (read the rest of this shit…)

Throw Down

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

Man, what am I doing leaving all these Johnnie To movies unseen? Whenever I watch one I seem to fall in love. Case in point, THROW DOWN (2004). As far as I knew it wasn’t even one of his more popular ones when Criterion released it in 2021, at least not in the U.S. It was just a forgotten Tai Seng DVD from the aughts. But now it is the recipient of the prestigious The Best Thing I’ve Seen Lately award.

Most of To’s movies I’ve seen have been crime movies. They have good action but they’re more notable for their visual beauty and operatic emotion. They usually feel more poetic than badass, though they can be both. THROW DOWN technically has some crime in it, but that’s not the main topic, and to my surprise this is largely a comedy. Not the broad type of humor I associate with Hong Kong cinema, but a very dry, offbeat sort of humor of different characters matter-of-factly following their idiosyncratic pursuits into strange situations and never making a big deal out of it. Never mugging, never underlining. (read the rest of this shit…)

Poor Things

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

After THE FAVOURITE gave Yorgos Lanthimos success, acclaim and a game lead actress on a bigger budget than his earlier films, the director aimed those resources at a project he’d been trying to do since 2009: an adaptation of the 1992 novel Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D., Scottish Public Health Officer by Alasdair Gray. While I’ve read that the novel is set in a realistic Victorian London, Lanthimos has turned it into a colorful (and sometimes black-and-white) gothic cartoon world, with shades of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, maybe a little BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, while retaining his cock-eyed view, dark humor and fascination with chaotic people upending social mores. POOR THINGS was nominated for Oscars for best picture, director, adapted screenplay, actress, supporting actor, makeup, music, costume design, cinematography, editing and production design this morning because they heard I was posting my review today and wanted to try to capitalize on that. I’ll allow it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Anatomy of a Fall/American Fiction

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

Awards Season Catchup Double Feature: ANATOMY OF A FALL and AMERICAN FICTION

There’s a specialized little genre of music I love – modern funk bands doing covers of classic hip hop songs. It’s just a best of both worlds kind of situation, combining my two favorite types of music, and bringing things full circle in a way. So much of hip hop comes from curating and collaging the best parts of old funk songs, and now we’ve got new funk bands curating the best hip hop songs and filtering the sound through their instruments. Many of them also have a working knowledge of the sampled works, covering them as well or mixing them with a song that sampled them. That happens on the two albums of Wu-Tang Clan covers by El Michels Affair, as well as Brownout’s Public Enemy tribute Fear of a Brown Planet. I also have this record called Expansions by the German group Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band where they cover Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” but also “Space,” Galt MacDermot’s song famously sampled in “Woo Ha” by Busta Rhymes. And they play them with steel drums! So I immediately recognized their cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” when it started playing at the beginning of the Palme d’or winning French legal drama ANATOMY OF A FALL (Anatomie d’une chute), and I was surprised. I was even more surprised when it turned out to be an important part of the story, played about as much as “Fight the Power” is in DO THE RIGHT THING. Wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years, even with hints. I hope they play it every time it’s up for anything at the Oscars or any of those. (read the rest of this shit…)

May December

Monday, December 18th, 2023

I swear for weeks I knew Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore were getting acclaim for a movie called MAY DECEMBER, and I assumed it was about them falling in love. I was pretty thrown off when I learned it was in fact a story inspired by Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who in the late ‘90s went to prison for second-degree child rape of one of her sixth grade students, insisted he was her soulmate, gave birth to two of his daughters while incarcerated, then got out and had a 14 year marriage with him. It’s an infamous story worldwide, but especially in the Seattle area, since it happened here. It brings out all the dumb radio call-in show takes about “heh heh, that’s what most boys want ‘Hot For Teacher,’ right?” but of course it is complicated by his choice to stay with her after he became an adult.

In this film directed by Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN, CAROL) from a screenplay by Samy Burch (COYOTE VS. ACME), story by Burch and her husband Alex Mechanik, something similar happened in Savannah, Georgia. Moore (NEXT) plays Gracie Atherton-Yoo, ex-convict and tabloid mainstay, now married to grown up Joe (Charles Melton, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE). She has a baking business and lots of friends, their oldest daughter Honor (Piper Curda, THE WRETCHED) is away at college, twins Charlie (Gabriel Chung) and Mary (Elizabeth Yu) are about to graduate high school. Portman (PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES [producer only]) plays Elizabeth Berry, a famous TV actress in town to spend time with the family as preparation for playing Gracie in a movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Baby Assassins

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023

BABY ASSASSINS is a 2021 Japanese film that I really enjoyed on Hi-Yah! a while ago and it has a sequel coming out soon (it already played at Fantastic Fest), so I figured I better get off my ass and finish writing the review. This is a movie that has some really well-executed fighting and bloody violence, but it’s really not focused on action. It’s mostly a very dry comedy about the lives of two freshly-graduated-from-high-school roommates, Mahiro (Saori Izawa, stunt double in the last two RUROUNI KENSHINs and SNAKE EYES) and Chisato (Akari Takaishi, MY HAPPY MARRIAGE), whose “main job is killing.”

The movie opens in the back room of a convenience store, where Mahiro is badly interviewing for a job, which turns out to be an undercover mission to kill the manager. She shoots him and fights the rest of the staff on her way out, until Chisato shows up to help finish them off and joke about how annoying the manager was. Just a couple of friends getting through life together.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Murder Party (2007)

Monday, October 30th, 2023

I enjoy the work of director Jeremy Saulnier. He did the bleak, regular-dude-sloppily-getting-revenge movie BLUE RUIN in 2013, followed by the punks vs. bigots favorite GREEN ROOM in 2015, and then he kind of went off the radar because HOLD THE DARK (2018) only exists in the mists of Netflix, but I liked that one too.

Those three movies paint a certain picture of what kind of filmmaker Saulnier might be. They may have moments of humor, but they’re all very grim and dry, the emphasis on their unblinking look into the dark fringes of life, with a particular fascination for people not too cool to step into enormous fuck ups and messes that movie characters usually don’t. In BLUE RUIN, for example, the protagonist steals a gun to use in a murder, but it has a lock on it, so he tries to break it off with a rock, and breaks the gun. In HOLD THE DARK a guy shoots at cops from a barn with a high powered rifle and they just scurry around helplessly for several minutes until our protagonist gets a gun and takes careful aim… and then he can’t hit him either.

What I think is fairly unknown or forgotten about Saulnier is that his first film, a whole six years before the wide acclaim of BLUE RUIN, presents that view of life in the context of a straight-up horror comedy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spontaneous

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Yesterday when I reviewed LOVE AND MONSTERS I mentioned how much I enjoy the work of screenwriter Brian Duffield (JANE GOT A GUN, THE BABYSITTER, UNDERWATER), but I strategically avoided mentioning his directorial debut that came out just two weeks before LOVE AND MONSTERS, because I wanted to save that topic for today. SPONTANEOUS (2020) is another one that combines young romance and coming-of-age with a genre premise, and has some accidental pandemic parallels. It’s more of a teen movie than a sci-fi one, but it’s R-rated for “bloody images throughout.” Adapted from a 2016 book by Aaron Starmer, it follows its witty, acerbic protagonist Mara (Katherine Langford, KNIVES OUT) as she navigates a senior year punctuated by dozens of her classmates randomly exploding.

“What? Like a bomb?” asks her best friend Tess (Hayley Law, Riverdale) after the first one, Katelyn Ogden.

“No. Like… a balloon?” (read the rest of this shit…)