Tag Archives: shits and/or giggles

Donald Cried

Peter returns to his hometown for the first time in a long time when his Nona dies. It’s supposed to be a quick, in-and-out trip, but Peter loses his wallet, which complicates things. He asks an old buddy, Donald, for a favour, a favour that turns into A WHOLE THING.

Donald is the kind of friend that makes you question what the hell you were thinking in high school. And he hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still a moron, and there’s nothing he loves better than reliving the glory days, days that deeply embarrass Peter now.

03DONALD-master768Kris Avedisian stars as moronic Donald, while also writing and directing. He’s made a film, with help from Kickstarter, that is relatable. Awkwardly, hopelessly relatable. Who among us does not have That Friend?

You can never go home again. Know why? It’s because the things you imagine you’ve left behind are still there, lurking beneath the thinnest little scab.

Donald is unbearable. Peter, it turns out, has always treated him less than kindly. Now he’s tolerating him with condescension, and only because he needs something from him. Ever oblivious, Donald is ingratiating to his old buddy, desperate to keep him around. His attitude and actions induce the heaviest of cringes, and yet the genius of Avedisian’s script is that the balance of sympathy shifts. The past is a clingy bitch, and no matter what Peter believes, he hasn’t quite broken up with her yet. And we, the viewers, feel just as suffocated as he does in the situation, we feel his intense urge to flee.

Donald Cried is uncomfortable to watch because it’s achingly authentic. Jesse Wakeman as Peter and Avedisian have believably thorny chemistry. But it’s Donald we’ve come to see, tears or no tears. It’s pathetic Donald who inspires pity and revulsion in unequal, guilt-inducing measure. It’s a smart little movie that will subtly worm its way into your popcorn-eating gut.

 

 

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The Five Year Engagement

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) met at a New Year’s Eve make-up-your-own-superhero party one year ago. On their anniversary, he gets down on one knee and proposes. It’s romantic and sweet and perfect in a way that only movies can pull off. The article-0-12D1557A000005DC-855_306x444.jpgengagement is easy and wonderful, and their engagement party is infuriatingly better than most people’s weddings. But then things get messy. Her sister (Alison Brie) hooks up with his best friend (Chris Pratt), and then Violet gets accepted at her dream school and a move is on the horizon. The wedding gets postponed.

What was your engagement like? When Sean proposed, he got down on his knee on a beach in the Bahamas on our 6 month anniversary. It was lovely. But until this week, I’d assumed that though he did the asking, I’d done the initiating. Hadn’t we decided to marry months before that? And hadn’t I been voicing some impatience? Turns out, Sean didn’t remember it like that at all. He didn’t even remember that I knew the proposal was likely – that we’d ring-shopped together, in fact. He was still worried I’d say no! We were engaged for a year, which is longer than Ms. Impetuous (that would be me) would have liked, but I had a sister and he had a brother that already had save-the-dates in the calendar year. So we waited our turn and spent the time planning the perfect wedding and attending some close runners-up. We also almost broke up (the birth of his first niece had Sean questioning whether my no-baby stance was right for him) and then almost couldn’t marry whether we wanted to or not (did I mention I was still technically married to someone else at the time? Divorcing crazy people is hard!) but in the end we got to legalize this bitch and recently celebrated 6 years of matrimonial togetherness.

Violet and Tom had a bumpy time too. Life doesn’t always make it easy on us. Jason Segel The-Five-Year-Engagementhad to lose 35lbs to even pretend to be good enough for Emily Blunt. They have great chemistry together, and you believe in their imperfect relationship. The jokes land, but so do the more sobering moments, the ones that remind us that when relationships work, they’re transformative, and when they don’t, they’re soul crushing.

Unfortunately, The Five Year Engagement is overlong and occasionally falls back on some pretty tired cliches. But I’d still consider it worth a watch, despite its flaws, even if it had me wondering what this movie would be like with Chris Pratt in the lead rather than playing second banana. The astounding supporting cast probably contributes to this movie’s bloat, but also adds to its charm: Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Mimi Kennedy, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Jim Piddock, Rhys Ifans, Kumail Nanjiani, and Chris Pratt all steal scenes. Not everything in this film is brilliant, but it does manage to find some truths along the way, which I suppose is not unlike a marriage: it could be improved with some editing, but isn’t that life?

Girlfriend’s Day

Bob Odenkirk is a poet.

Well, poet is the word he uses for the ladies.

By poet he means greeting card writer. And by greeting card writer, I mean ex greeting card writer. He’s just been fired, a dinosaur in a dying industry. Once the “Bill https-%2f%2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f382405%2fac0a1e1b-8957-4c65-8491-fe26b36c8841Shakespeare” of greeting cards, he lost his mojo when his wife left him. It’s kind of too bad because the mayor has just proposed a new holiday that could revitalize the greeting card industry and and get ole Bob the redemption he’s after.

It’s not going to be easy though. Competition’s going to be tough: there’s a lot of old hacks who’d like another shot at glory. And the greeting card industry’s about to get surprisingly bloody.

This is light fare, but fun. An oddball cast including Amber Tamblyn, Stacy Keach, Alex Karpovsky, Andy Richter, and Natasha Lyonne casts a quirky golden hue over the whole thing, which stitches together the nonsensical in the simplest way. This is by no means a workout for your cerebellum. Odenkirk is the man when it comes to laughs, and there are plenty here. Not a whole lot more, but late at night, surfing Netflix, sometimes that’s enough.

Fist Fight

The first mistake Fist Fight makes, and it makes it before it even starts, is assuming everyone in the audience is high. Not just assuming, but requiring. Requiring it, necessitating it with its very premise, yet rudely NOT passing out joints before the opening credits roll. There is nothing about this movie that will make sense unless you are largely mentally incapacitated. Let me be clear: there is no amount of marijuana that will help this movie to make any sense in the strictest definition of the word. There may, however, be a sweet spot where you just don’t care, and if you find it, let me know.

Charlie Day is a mild-mannered English teacher and Ice Cube is an intimidating history teacher at the same “rough” high school where it’s the last day of school, students are fistfight0003wild, and everyone’s job is on the chopping block. Before first period is even over, Ice Cube takes the chopping a little too literally, taking an actual fire ax to a student’s desk. Mean principal Tyler (Dean Norris) insists on firing one of them on the spot, and since Charlie Day’s got a baby due any minute (and is in fact NOT the one to threaten students with an ax), he lets Tyler know that Ice Cube is perhaps the obvious choice. This enrages Ice Cube, and instead of taking his anger out on the student who pissed him off, or the principal who just fired him, or the superintendent who made him interview for his own job, he for no apparent reason zeroes in on the innocent and oblivious Charlie Day, who we’ve already established as a “coward” for no particular reason, but he’s wearing khakis and a nubby sports coat, so let’s go with it.

Charlie Day spends the rest of his day in a total panic, trying to avoid this #teacherfight. Will he stoop to black mailing students? Planting drugs on fellow teachers? Lying to his pregnant wife and disappointing his young daughter? Of course he will. And most egregiously, he will go to Tracy Morgan for advice. I mean, I can suspend my disbelief enough to allow for a horse amped up on homemade meth. Sure. But someone seeking out Tracy Morgan for advice? Come on.

I have an enormous crush on Ice Cube, and he’s very Ice Cube-y in this. And Charlie Day is fistfightquite Charlie Day. It’s too bad nobody wrote for them. Or really wrote at all, period. The run up to the #teacherfight is so standard you’ll wonder where you’ve seen it before and realize the answer is: everywhere. This movie borrows heavily from all kinds of mediocre movies and doesn’t even bother to steal the best stuff. It’s lazy. And absurd. And when the fight occurs, it’ll require exceptions to the rules of time and space that your brain won’t even be able to handle, nor will it want to because this movie just doesn’t deserve that kind of effort.

Fist Fight has all the makings of a mid-February comedy. It’s like it didn’t even try to be anything more.

Mystery Team

The Mystery Team was a trio of childhood friends who biked around their neighbourhood to find mysteries to solve – a missing diary, a marble down a drain, a windowsill pie tampering. They communicated via walkie talkie and charged their clients just a dime. The Mystery Team is in fact still the same trio, only now they’re high school seniors and if they have no idea how creepy and childish and inappropriate their behaviour has become, everyone else certainly does.

mysteryteam2_lgThey manage to still get clients though, usually referred by Jamie (Ellie Kemper) but a new family on the block leads to their first ‘adult’ case – a double homicide with a side of stolen jewels. Again, everyone else knows that Jason (Donald Glover) aka The Master of Disguise, Duncan (D.C. Pierson) aka The Boy Genius, and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) aka The Strongest Kid in the Neighbourhood are in way over their heads, but they’re gung-ho – especially Jason, who might feel his first ‘adult’ stirrings for the new girl next door (Aubrey Plaza).

Is this a good movie? Bottom line: no. There’s definitely humour in just how pathetic these guys are, how clueless, and in some ways, how sweet. But it’s really the only fish in the barrel, so they stretch it out of necessity, and it inevitably wears quite thin. They bumble around foolishly, stumbling upon clues apparently faster than the cops due. Suspicious? About as suspicious as a stripper’s cesarean scar, and yes, that will come up.

I suppose if you have some sort of Scooby Doo fetish, this might be up your alley (sorry, no dog). I enjoy Donald Glover (no relation to Danny) so I tolerated this. I’m not sure that everyone will be able to say the same, and I wouldn’t blame them for a second if they couldn’t.

Take The 10

Chester is having quite a day. He’s finally found a buyer for his “vintage” 1997 Toyota Corolla which means he can take off for greener pastures in Brazil, leave behind his lame Whole(some) Foods job, and all that learning Portuguese won’t have been for nothing. His drug dealing best friend Chris is a little less excited about Brazil. He just wants to go to some concert, to which he can’t stop scalping tickets. But wait, you know there’s going to be a hitch: the Corolla buyer turns out to be in the market for a free drive-by and that puts Chester (Tony Revolori) in a very awkward position. Chris (Josh Peck) keeps making things worse, of course, and things were already pretty bad.

I have such positive feelings for Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel that I want to like this take-the-10-770x353movie immediately, and for a while, I do. But this Chris guy just keeps getting into such dumb situations and I suppose his character is less sympathetic so I’m just annoyed. My tolerance for dumb shit is not as high as is required to enjoy this movie. I may have laughed a couple of times but mostly I just thought things like: I wonder if any aps on my phone need updating? and Is this the perfect time to finally hook up all my single socks? and Holy mother of pearl, why are there still 20 agonizing minutes left?

So I guess that means I don’t recommend it. You know, unless you’re feeling super mellow and time-wastey and prone to generous laughter. Writer-director Chester Tam believes he is creating some unconventional characters, but he’s really only got caricatures with no depth or development. It’s a buddy-hijinks comedy that reminded me a bit of Go but only suffered from that comparison. It’s new on Netflix, but it’s barely worth the energy it takes to scroll past.

 

Other People

Cancer is what happens to other people. It just so happens that right now, the Mulcahey family are those other people. It’s happening to them. Technically, it’s happening to matriarch Joanne (Molly Shannon) but her last year is having quite an effect on the whole family – on her husband, Norman (Bradley Whitford), on her son David (Jesse Plemmons), on her two daughters, her colleagues, her friends, her extended family, on a whole bushel 960of people who are grieving even as she still lives, dealing with a loss that is still happening before their very eyes.

David has moved home to care for and spend time with his mother. He lives in New York City, and is trying to be a writer, but the pilot he was working on didn’t get picked up and he hasn’t had much other luck. His return is complicated by his religious family’s refusal to accept his sexuality. Ten years after he came out to them, his mother is trying to make amends but his father is still unable to come to terms with it.

The movie avoids most of the cancer cliches and rewards us with a more subtle look at loss. Plemmons is really great, and I like Zach Woods in a small role as his boyfriend. But I’ve been holding onto a dirty secret for two whole paragraphs now and it’s time to air it: I really dislike  Molly Shannon. I disliked her on SNL and I’ve disliked her in every thing since. She just bothers me, but for some reason I feel like a bad feminist admitting it. In this century, all of the greatest SNL talent has been female, but in the 90s, that wasn’t true. With the exception of the truly great – Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Jan Hooks – female cast members were tokenish, ill-used, mistreated up until Tina Fey and Amy Poehler landscape-1473341376-other-people-leadstarted turning things around. But Molly Shannon was a break-out, and some of her characters even got movie deals. I just didn’t like them. I thought she was brash, over the top, and obnoxious. I still do. But in this movie, as they dying mother, she’s none of those things. I still don’t like her, but she was easier to stomach when he’s mostly occupied evacuating hers. Is that a terrible thing to say? Yes it is. But it’s the truth.

This movie blends comedy and drama successfully, with a touch of cynicism and just enough compassion. Cancer isn’t exactly new ground to break in an indie film, but you’ll find that writer-director Chris Kelly finds truth in small things, and those add up to a pretty satisfactory whole.

Don’t Think Twice

Don’t Think Twice is a comedy about an improv troupe, written and directed by a very talented stand-up comic named Mike Birbiglia. His previous film, Sleepwalk With Me, was ripped right from a popular stand-up routine of his, but Don’t Think Twice is really its own story, and while Birbiglia plays a role, he also shares screen time with a talented cast.

The improv troupe, who call themselves The Commune, consists of Matt (Birbiglia), Sam (Gillian Jacobs), Allison (Kate Micucci), Lindsay (Tami Sagher), Bill (Chris Gethard) , and DON'T THINK TWICE, back, from left: Tami Sagher, Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, 2016.Jack (Keegan-Michael Key). They’re a really solid group who perform really well together, but their NYC theatre is struggling to stay open, and everyone’s chasing their own dream of performing on Weekend Live (an exact replica of SNL).

The movie is quite smartly written. Sam and Jack, a couple, are chosen by Weekend Live’s people to come in for an audition. Their friends, filled with achy jealousy, do their best to support and congratulate their luck. But how long can that tenuous brave face hold, especially if one of them is actually cast, and realizes the one thing that every one of them has been yearning for?  Don’t Think Twice is bittersweet. It’s about pursuing your dreams, but also about the cost of actually having them come true.

The cast really sells this stuff. They trained in improv together (Gillian Jacobs was a complete noob) for weeks in order to then be filmed in front of audiences. The result is spontaneous and often quite funny. But the movie itself is not full of “jokes” but finds it laughs in the webbing of the characters.

Chris Gethard is an improv junkie, a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade since 2000, and as an offshoot of that, the host of his own show, aptly named The Chris Gethard Show, which is wildly chaotic and fun. He was a guest writer on SNL for one episode.

After performing with legendary improv troupe Second City (Chicago), Keegan-Michael Key appeared on MADtv, cast against Jordan Peele with the intention that FOX would choose between them and only have one (token) black cast member. Both were riotous and proved their worth, and so they both stayed on, creating a lasting partnership. They produced Key & Peele sketches for Comedy  Central for 5 seasons, and wrote a movie together this year, called Keanu.

Tami Sagher was also a member of Chicago’s Second City. She’s been nominated for 4 dont-think-twice-99ddb592-9a20-4056-aa36-ced9ae9ea4dfWriters Guild of America Awards; 3 for MADtv, and 1 for 30 Rock. She’s also written for Psych, How I Met Your Mother, and Inside Amy Schumer, and produced for Bored to Death, Girls, and The Michael J. Fox Show.

Kate Micucci you  may recognize as one half of the musical-comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates (she’s Oates, if that’s not obvious). They perform everywhere, including regularly on your television (and on Netflix!), and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in L.A. (beginning to see a theme here?). She’s been on Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory.

Gillian Jacobs is along for the ride. You may have a softer spot for her if you watched her on Community, but I know her from the Netflix original series Love, where she played the world’s most obnoxious character (or possibly the second most – the guy she plays opposite is just as bad and I could never decide who was worse), and I continue to hate her for it to this day.

Together though, they coalesce into a strong unit that makes this movie feel real. Birbiglia is showing aptitude in his direction, and the writing backs up a talented cast. There’s an intimacy here that can’t be faked, and a truth that elevates this film from just laugh-out-loud funny to heartfelt honesty at times, and biting satire at others. Don’t Think Twice currently enjoys a 99% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, which makes this movie higher rated than La La Land (93%), Fences (95%),  Manchester by the Sea (97%), or Moonlight (98%). Is it actually better than those movies? No. But it’s well done, funnier than most big-release comedies this year, and it’s made with a clear love of a uniquely American art form.

 

Toni Erdmann

Ines Conradi is a successful businesswoman currently stationed in Bucharest but poised for promotion and transfer to Singapore when this next deal goes well. Winfried Conradi is her father, a lonely man, socially handicapped and prone to the dumbest, most trying “pranks” on the planet. There is no such person as Toni Erdmann. Toni Erdmann is just what Winfriend calls himself when he’s wearing ludicrous false teeth and an even worse wig, which is his go-to costume for “pranking.” His pranks, by the way, consist mainly of toni-erdmann-5-rcm0x1920ujust showing up and being this weird alternate personality. He more or less stalks his daughter and endangers her career by showing up at her office and various work functions. If he was your father, you’d either die of embarrassment, or you’d kill him. No two people should survive a relationship like this.

Nothing happens in Toni Erdmann. It’s dull as shit. It’s 2h40min of fumbling through “comedy” that didn’t even induce me to crack a half-smile. What am I missing? This film has been a hit at festivals, including Cannes and TIFF, and was just nominated for a Golden Globe (best foreign film). But I didn’t get it. Sure Ines needed some unbuttoning, poor corporate stick i the mud that she’d become, but I don’t see the humour in a father constantly humiliating his daughter. I didn’t get the public nudity, or the unironic belting out of a Whitney Houston song. The whole thing missed me completely. What the father accomplishes, to my eyes, is not the unburdening of his daughter but rather her undoing – some of her choices seem unhinged and nervous-breakdownish, especially since they’re so often done at work or in front of colleagues. And it feels anti-feminist to say that because this woman is business-minded she’s also cold and in need of saving.

Toni Erdmann was agony for me, maybe more so because I’d actually been looking forward to it. But it was a chore, one that felt interminable for a time, a long time, a period of time that felt even longer than the nearly-three hour runtime.

 

Christmas Trade

“You stand a better chance of winning the lottery and getting hit by lightning on the same day than you do of getting a new puppy” – said dad, to his motherless son, days before Christmas.

Anyone want to take a bet on this kid getting a puppy before this movie’s over?

Billy Baldwin plays the “hot widow guy” (not MY words, believe me) that all the other school moms covet. He’s a big fancy lawyer who works too hard, spends too little time with his son, and keeps his secret new girlfriend (Denise imagesRichards) at a distance. A weird teddy bear mysteriously shows up on his doorstep and is activated during a fight with this son. Before you can change the channel, the bear Freaky-Fridays them. Just a few short days before Christmas, “dad” has to go to school and confront the bullies and his nerves about starring in the big pageant and “son” has to take a witness’s deposition, throw the office Christmas party, and get tongued by more than one woman.

I haven’t even gotten to the best part: Tom Arnold plays the teddy bear’s “repair man,” the guy who orders the “sprocket” from Amazon in order to save Christmas or what have you (I may not have been paying the best attention).

I likely don’t have to tell you that this movie offers very little in the way of entertainment of even diversion. It milks the one joke it thinks it has until the joke’s teats are raw and bleeding. But it is kind of comforting to know how far the man who once gave me quite a thrill (Backdraft had my favourite sex scene for quite a long while running) can fall. Tom Arnold, however, has had a career that has operated AT BEST right in this very comfort zone. And Denise Richards may be trading up. Maybe that’s the only Christmas miracle we’re getting here folks. Hope it’s enough to keep you warm.