Tag Archives: r rated comedies

The Predator

In light of recent events, I feel obligated to point out that the title of this film refers to the fictional species of intergalactic trophy hunters, not director Shane Black’s real-life registered sex offender pal who was somehow cast in a bit role here (whose scene was then removed from the final cut when his sex offender status came to light).  With that major misstep remedied, though not forgotten, the latest entry in the Predator franchise arrives with the theme of evolution underlying the on-screen battles between humans and giant fang-faced aliens.

thepredator_02The ever-evolving Predator crash lands on earth and interrupts a U.S. sniper’s top secret Mexican mission. After ejecting from its ship, the Predator kills the sniper’s support team but the sniper (Boyd Holbrook) manages to escape, mailing a few pieces of the Predator’s gear home as evidence of the encounter. The gear finds its way to the sniper’s son (Room‘s Jacob Tremblay), who figures out how to activate it and in doing so becomes the Predator’s target. The army is no help in containing the Predator so the only ones standing between the Predator and the rest of the world are the sniper, a biologist (Olivia Munn) and a misfit group of soldiers. And the fight is on!

In addition to being a key plot point, the concept of evolution looms large for me as I reflect on this film, because the Predator series has definitely evolved. It’s so much different than the cheesy action/horror nostalgia trip I expected to see. The Predator is a gleeful, self-referential comedy that takes more pleasure in delivering quick, clever banter than it does in splattering the screen with gore.

Make no mistake, though. The Predator is an exceedingly gory film. Faces will be ripped off. Bodies will be sliced into pieces. Internal organs will ooze out of gaping wounds. That, more than anything, illustrates how consistently funny the Predator manages to be, because comedy is the film’s dominant element even in the presence of buckets and buckets of gore.

Black is known for his action-comedies, and his script for Lethal Weapon is rightly recognized as a standout in the genre. An evolution, even. Thirty years later, Black is still rolling along. A bit player in the original Predator (his character lasted all of seven minutes), Black now directs and co-writes (with Fred Dekker) the 2018 version, which is not a reboot of the original. Instead, it revisits what has come before to tell a new story and, by the end, sets a whole new course for the franchise that is as intriguing as it is ridiculous.

thepredator_04Of course, ridiculousness is a Black staple and while Predator does not quite measure up to Black’s best (namely, the amazing Lethal Weapon), it is a wonderfully entertaining film thanks to Black and the extremely solid cast. The standouts of the teriffic ensemble are Tremblay as the protagonist’s code-cracking son and This Is Us’s Sterling K. Brown as a scenery-devouring special agent whose motives are never clear but always nefarious. The Predator keeps up a steady stream of action and laughs from start to finish, and as a result, I’m now waiting eagerly for the even-more-ridiculous sequel that the Predator blatantly and shamelessly promises.

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Extract

Chances are, every pantry has a little bottle of pricey vanilla extract on its shelves. It’s practically ubiquitous in baking. Just try to make a cookie without it. But have you ever wondered where it comes from? No. And neither have I. But that’s not going to stop Jason Bateman from trying to tell us.

Joel (Bateman) is one of those classically sad, back-boneless middle aged men who aren’t particularly effective at home or at work. He owns the extract company, but it’s barely profitable and the employees bully him. At home, his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) dons her sweatpants in a nightly ritual to thwart his bedtime advances. They’re going through a dry spell. So when Cindy (Mila Kunis), an alluring young woman, comes looking for a job at the factory, can we blame Joel for wanting to give her something else? I mean, yes. We absolutely can. And even Joel is a bit wishy-washy on the whole thing, so it takes the bad influence of his best friend (Ben extract-02.jpgAffleck) to come up with this convoluted plan: they’ll hire a teenage gigolo to seduce Suzie, leaving Joel free to have an affair guilt-free. That’s a legit loophole in the vows, right?

Anyway, turns out Cindy’s a conwoman who’s trying to influence a former employee (Clifton Collins Jr.) to sue Joel for the loss of his testicle. So who, exactly is going to get a happily ever after?

From the mind of writer-director Mike Judge, I expected a lot better from Extract, and I probably shouldn’t have. I mean, it’s funny. And there are a lot of great cast members really selling their parts (David Koechner is a scene-stealer in a part that will infuriate you). None of these things add up to anything significant, but if you can live with some ridiculous, and often ridiculously funny, bits and pieces, you might be able to make this work for you. It’s no Office Space; like the extract itself, a little goes a long way, but if you’ve got a hankering for some ethical flavouring, Extract has the essence.

The Happytime Murders

It’s not a total bag of shit. But it is a mixed bag, and I suppose we must allow that there is some shit in that mix.

I have a certain admiration, and perhaps a higher tolerance, for movies that take risks and push buttons. But a movie like this is going to test even my boundaries, flimsy as they are.

It’s set in a Los Angeles where humans and puppets live together, though not exactly peacefully. The puppets are treated like second-class citizens. And despite the fact that they’re called puppets, there’s no acknowledgement that traditionally that word has referred to an object animated by a human hand up the puppet’s bum. These puppets are people, and their plight is a very interesting allegory for the African American experience. Unfortunately, the film makers keep up that thread for maybe 10 minutes before they drop it in favour of shock-factor antics.

And I get it. Who can resist making puppets do rude things? I LOVE Avenue Q, but MV5BMjEyMjg5NDMwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQ4OTMwNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Avenue Q has a message and a point. It’s well-written and cleverly delivered. The Happytime Murders derails itself with its lewd antics, and if they get a laugh, they also take away from the plot, which is thin to begin with.

The gist: The Happytime Gang was a TV show, and now someone’s murdering its cast one by one. Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and her ex-partner, puppet Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) have to overcome their history and a massive grudge to work together to save their friends.

But then: porn! So much puppet porn. And not the tasteful or vanilla, either. Puppets are in to some crazy stuff. Not to judge. But there were buckets of jizz, and puppet pubes, depraved bunnies, thirsty cows, and literal horn dogs. The murders are so much more sedate in comparison, puddles of stuffing rather than blood. It’s amazing, though, that something that sets out to be so shocking can so quickly become rather dull. One Sharon Stone-inspired puppet pussy shot is brilliant; repeating it can only reveal your lack of material.

The saddest thing, though, is the movie’s complete waste of funny ladies Melissa McCarthy and Elizabeth Banks. The script asks very little of them. McCarthy is relegated to sidekick status, and though she seems at ease among puppet costars, she doesn’t really get a chance to shine. If anyone, it’s Maya Rudolph who kind of steals the show as Philips’ long-suffering secretary, Bubbles, although it must be said that the puppetry is top-notch, and between you and I, I think I would have 100% enjoyed a documentary about the making of this movie better than the actual movie.

The Happytimes Murders is frequently disgusting, and often crude, but it’s not always bad. It’s not meant for everyone, but there was one woman in my screening who laughed like a hyena for the entire 91 minutes, so it does have its audience, it just may not be you. Or me. It goes out of its way to be ludicrous. If director Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) could hide in the theatre and poke you with a big puppet penis, he probably would. The movie was clearly made with glee and abandon, even if it isn’t always received that way by audiences. Personally, I just think it confuses lewd and dirty with entertaining a little too often, and for me that joke wore thin. But I won’t pretend I didn’t laugh occasionally – it was just usually the kind of laugh where you hide your own eyes in shame and hope that Grandpa isn’t watching from Heaven.

 

Hurricane Bianca: From Russia With Hate

Bianca Del Rio is the drag name and alter ego of Roy Haylock, who won the 6th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Acerbically funny, Bianca went on to star in her own movie where her razor-sharp barbs cut up a classroom. If you missed my review of Hurricane Bianca, high school teacher Richard (Haylock) is fired in small-town Texas for being gay. Richard returns to the school as Bianca, and becomes teacher of the year. But Principal Deborah (Rachel Dratch) is suspicious, and with grudges against both Richard AND Bianca, she sets out to destroy either one. Of course, with some skeletons in her own closet, she probably shouldn’t go poking at the wigs and padding in someone else’s. Let’s just say the movie ends with Deborah being sent to jail.

Cut to: Hurricane Bianca the sequel. Deborah’s out of jail and mad as hell. Richard has MV5BODE0YmU3ODctOThjMC00ODJkLWIwNTEtNzFkNTM3ODQ2MDA1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTUwNDQ4NQ@@._V1_retired Bianca but is still teaching in Texas. He should probably be a lot more suspicious when he gets a letter in the mail saying he won a contest he never entered – a contest whose cash prize only Bianca can pick up. In Russia. Deborah of course has heard it’s illegal to be gay in Russia and figures the Russians will just do the dirty work for her, and she’s probably not wrong.

Hurricane Bianca: From Russian With Hate is peppered with cameos from faces you’ll recognize and drag queens you’ll love (including D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, back again, and actually quite a natural). And Bianca gets a new sidekick named Rex (Doug Plaut, a scene-stealing weirdo).

If you liked the first, this one’s as deliciously snarky. When jokes land, they land like death drops. This is dark comedy realness, a Russian whore extravaganza eleganza, and if you don’t love it I don’t know how in the hell you’re gonna love yourself.

 

The Spy Who Dumped Me

As its title would suggest, The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t exactly the most original, or, frankly, funny. The jokes, like the bullets, are hit or miss. They don’t all hit their targets. Director and co-writer Susanna Fogel is perhaps too inexperienced to spin this uninventive fare with a twist of creativity, but she gets at least one thing absolutely right: Kate McKinnon.

Kate McKinnon is a luminescent show pony who just trots across the screen pooping comedy gold. Even her facial contortions are helping to sell mediocre material. She’s worth the price of admission. She works harder here than I wish she had to, but on MV5BYjkzNWZmMDgtODM2NS00MTM4LThlMTgtMGM4Yjg3OTc3YTE5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1442,1000_AL_the whole the movie still worked for me, as a light and breezy r-rated comedy. I came to laugh and I did – mostly at her, granted, but she’s so fantastic and so talented and if the movie doesn’t quite measure up, I think this is her best role to date. I could have watcher her and her cat earrings fangirl over Gillian Anderson for hours.

The movie probably doesn’t need a lot of illumination in terms of plot: Audrey (Mila Kunis) was recently dumped via text by bad boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). Best friend and roommate Morgan (McKinnon) is nursing through heartache when they’re rudely interrupted by men claiming to be CIA – they’re after Drew, who turns out to be a spy and not just a podcaster as Audrey had always believed. This immediately turns into raging gunfire and a dead ex-boyfriend whose dying wish is for Audrey to deliver a “package” to Vienna. And being very obliging girls, Audrey and Morgan jet off to Europe and are immediately in wayyyy over their heads.

The sweet thing about this movie is the friendship between Audrey and Morgan. Morgan is the kind of supportive cheerleader we all deserve to have in our lives. She thinks Audrey is kicking ass as an amateur spy, and she’s not wrong. It’s completely implausible that they survive even the first 10 seconds of this adventure (the movie’s got surprisingly intense action sequences), but if Daniel Craig can do it, so can they. I just wish the friendship felt as good as it was described; the chemistry just wasn’t there. I love McKinnon and have no particular objection to Kunis (though I think she probably over-relies on those big doe eyes of hers), but all the glowy, wonderful vibes seemed to flow in one direction. Kunis is a very pretty receptacle for other people’s good acting, but I’m not sure she gives back very much as a costar. The CIA guys (Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj) are a bit on the bland side too (Heughan is Tom Brady with a British accent, if that helps) but there are lots of other supporting cast that I was quite pleased with – not least of all Jane Curtin (!!!) and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s incredibly understanding parents (I would watch a sequel involving just this family), and the aforementioned Gillian Anderson as the big boss lady. Being a Lady Dynamite fan (that’s Maria Bamford’s amazing show), I was particularly glad to see both Fred Melamed and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson pop up. I was less enthusiastic about Ivanna Sakhno as the Ukrainian model\gymnast assassin. The first glimpse we get of her is half nude and totally emaciated, which just felt off in a movie that’s got two fantastic, strong female leads and is directed and co-written by a woman. We can do better. 

Which is perhaps a good way to sum up this review: we can do better. And with Kate McKinnon on board, there really is no excuse.

Tag

Tag is a movie about grown men playing tag. They’ve played every month of May for the past 30 years, since they were kids. They’re crazy competitive about it, and it rankles that Jerry (Jeremy Renner) is the only one who’s never EVER been tagged. Not once. In 30 years. But this May Jerry’s getting married, and that seems to the rest of the gang (Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm) like the perfect opportunity to finally make him IT.

This movie is based on a true story, which sounds absurd except I knew a couple of brothers who did something similar – they played a game they dubbed Touch You Last (you can probably extrapolate what it involves) throughout their adulthood. In MV5BMjNjYzVkNmMtY2VhNC00ZDg2LTlkNmItMzYzOTI4NzIwYTQ5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjMxMjkwMDg@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_the movie, the guys find it a good excuse to get together and stay close well past the time that most friendships fall to the way side. Wives and girlfriends (Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Isla Fisher) are not allowed to play because they made the rules when they were 9 (no girls allowed) but over the years the game has been mythic and this year a reporter from The Wall Street Journal is following them around so the stakes are extra extra high and nothing, believe me NOTHING, is sacred.

The film is a mashup between comedy (hit or miss) and absurd and insane stunts that no grown, sane man should attempt in the name of a game of tag, or ever, unless a bear is chasing you AND you owe that bear money AND that bear has ties to organized crime AND your hair is on fire.

The script isn’t overly strong but there’s a lot of funny people in this (I might give the win to Hannibal Buress, who delivers a straight-faced one-liner like nobody’s business) so it does have its moments. It’s just not in danger for being mistaken for a classic, or, you know, an actual good movie. Which is not to say it’s bad. It’s just pretty content to be a medium-funny diversion which you may or may not wait to see as a rental rather than in theatres, where you damn well better make me laugh out loud.

The Clapper

Have you ever watched an infomercial? You can’t help but notice the overtanned, overenthusiastic, overcoked host who can’t wait to repeatedly demonstrate the practically-miraculous assets of their product, available for a limited time only for 3 easy payments of just $29.99. But have you ever noticed the audience? The host is always playing to a crowd, a crowd that’s just a little too into it. They’re hooting and hollering and applauding every third word. They ask deliciously leading questions like “Are you telling ME that for NO MONEY DOWN I could take that chamois home with me TODAY?” Those people are called clappers, and they’re paid to be there.

Eddie Krumble is a clapper; in fact he’s the clapper of this film, and if there’s anyone better in the whole wide world than Ed Helms to play him, I don’t know it and I can’t even imagine it. Eddie’s been through a bit of a rough time recently so he figured a move to Hollywood would provide the shake up he needs. But clapping doesn’t pay super well, and his only relationship outside of fellow clappers is with a gas station attendant, Judy (Amanda Seyfried), to whom he only speaks through a bullet-proof glass partition. Eddie’s mother calls him regularly after seeing one of this “shows” to critique his performance, and perhaps his product, but she’s the only one really paying attention MV5BMTEwNjQ3NjQyMDheQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDcwNzk1MDIy._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_until he catches the eye of a shameless late night talk show host who creates a nation-wide manhunt to find The Clapper. This little bit of notoriety embarrasses Eddie until it downright starts to ruin his life. When Judy suddenly disappears from the gas station, he agrees to ride his 15 minutes of fame, but only in order to find her. But he’s going to discover that late night television doesn’t exist to make love connections: this is going to be a shit show.

I loved Ed Helms in this. Eddie is a quirky character, a guy that would be easy to make fun of and yet director Dito Montiel stops short. I’m not sure Montiel knows exactly what to do with him aside from that, but casting Helms sort of lets him off the hook. And I love that the film is set in the dark, dirty corners of Hollywood, it’s seedy and scruffy and not remotely glamorous. And the film quietly exposes television, even the “reality” stuff, to be blatant manipulation. This is not the side of Hollywood we’re used to being presented, but this one is far more interesting, and actually kind of refreshing.

In all honesty, this is not a great film by any stretch, but I was tickled by Helms’ honest performance (and even by Tracy Morgan as his devoted clapper sidekick) and if Montiel didn’t always hit the target with jokes or satire, he landed closely enough to entertain me for 89 minutes. I like offbeat stuff, and this movie had a scuzziness to it that I found oddly attractive.