Tag Archives: shits and/or giggles

Paul

There’s just something right to me about a Nick Frost – Simon Pegg pairing. And this movie celebrates their inherent dweebitude. Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are just a couple of nerds visiting the U.S. for comic con and then an alien-themed road trip, you know, Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico, all those popular conspiracy theorist tourist traps. Only this road trip just happens to bring them a real alien, and his name is Paul (voiced\motion captured by Seth Rogen).

MV5BMTQxODA4NDc2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQzMDQ2NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpgPaul crash-landed here decades ago and has put up amiably with interrogation and testing, but he’s making his escape now that the only thing left is to slice and dice him. Is the government simply going to let him get away? Of course not. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio are all hot on his tail (he doesn’t have a tail). Graeme and Clive have an RV and a religious one-eyed woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and that’s about it: not ideal fleeing-the-government provisions, but it’ll have to do.

Paul is a love letter to science fiction fans. Pegg and Frost made the film’s pilgrimage in real life, and based the script on some of their odd encounters. The idea first came to them on a rainy night on the set of Shaun of the Dead, where they quickly sketched the character. Cameos and references to pop (science) fiction abound – how many can you spot? Paul is a real tribute to the genre but also just genuinely funny, even for those of us without an intrinsic love of extraterrestrials. This isn’t an excellent movie, but it’s a good enough movie, and frankly, it’s funnier than anything presently in theatres.

Rough Night

Rought Night is a rough watch. It’s aiming for somewhere between Bridesmaids and The Hangover, but winds up just a shade north of unwatchable. The cast is nimble enough (though I have no love to spare for Scarlett Johansson), but the script treats them abominably.

The premise, as you might have deduced from a trailer that’s not doing it any favours: ScarJo is getting married, and her friends treat her to a bachelorette party in Miami. But MV5BMjI4ODU0MTM3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjgzMzA2MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1404,1000_AL_the fun gets spoiled when the stripper gets accidentally murdered, and the hen party suddenly has to hide the dead rooster. The situation is wildly implausible and uncomfortably phony. Some have complained that the script focuses more on comedy than on story, and while I agree that story was largely absent, so were the jokes. I don’t think I laughed once, and I love me some Kate McKinnon.

The thing is, the film tries to do this interesting gender swap, where the ladies are at some wild, drunken weekend of debauchery and the bachelor party is having a sweet and sensitive wine tasting, chaste and polite. And the poor groom is left behind, wondering if his honey is cheating on him, stressing about unreturned phone calls and unrequited love. But in actuality, all it really means is that both the plot and the subplot are disturbingly trite, pathetic, and thoughtless. Basically, it’s twice the suck. Suck squared. And my life just doesn’t need that much disappointment, ya know?

It’s not much of a feminist comedy if only 2 of the 5 main characters matter. It’s not much of a comedy period if the 2 characters who do matter are one-dimensional at best, and there aren’t enough laughs to make these cardboard cutouts any thicker. I didn’t have the time of day for this movie. I mean, it literally stole 101 minutes from me, and left a big empty hole where some belly laughs belonged.

Table 19

I sort of wonder if this is an oddball comedy or just a comedy filled with oddballs. It IS filled with oddballs, that’s the premise. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) is the ex-maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding. Having recently been broken up with the bride’s brother\best man, she knows she shouldn’t be there but to prove a point she RSVPs yes, and as a reward for her bravery, she gets seated at dreaded table 19 with all the other losers and rejects who should have known better.

MV5BYThmOTM1OTktODc4Mi00NzU4LWI5MzItYzc0ZDY1YWJhZjVlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg0ODEwMjU@._V1_The table 19 crew: Bina & Jerry Kemp (Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson) who are diner owners who don’t know the bride or groom personally, and barely know each other anymore; Renzo (Tony Revolori), a young kid who’s mother told him he stood a better chance of picking up at this wedding than at his junior prom; cousin Walter (Stephen Merchant), newly out of prison for having embezzled from the bride’s father; and Nanny Jo (June Squibb) who was basically a retaliation invite.

They’re a gang of misfits and the wedding is doomed for them. The critics have doomed Table 19 entirely, but I thought it had its charms. There’s certainly a lot of sympathy for the odd ducks of the world, and the performances are pretty winning (Squibb and Merchant being favourites). Some of the gags are tired but it’s kind of nice to see the weirdos normally relegated to the background have a moment in the spotlight. A Mumblecore film more concerned with characters and dialogue than plot, this movie isn’t going to light the world on fire. But like any wedding, it can be made tolerable with an open bar.

Guess Who

Matt was excited to watch Ellen last week, a particular episode celebrating the 20th anniversary of her sitcom’s coming out episode. He and I reminisced on the episode and how very 90s it was in its approach to homosexuality. Last year we saw a movie at an LGBTQ film festival that felt very 90s in its approach, which really disappointed us. You would hope by this day in age that we no longer have to assure people that gay isn’t something you can catch, and that it doesn’t make you queer to support someone who is, and “tolerating” someone else’s sexuality is really pretty basic.

I just watched the equivalent in a movie about race, a film that feels miles out of date beyond its 2005 release. Guess Who is the inverse remake of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, but without any of the thought or the grace.

Theresa (Zoe Saldana) brings her boyfriend home to meet the parents. She hasn’t told them that Simon (Ashton Kutcher) is white – and that turns out to be a bad gamble when 536_m1225688364dad Percy (Bernie Mac) goes ballistic. Not to say that there’s not friction about interracial relationships anymore; that’s clearly not the case. Jordan Peele had a thing or two to say about them in this year’s Get Out. But Guess Who is a dinosaur, an anachronistic way of looking at the world that’s cringe-worthy in its assumptions (it also manages to be misogynist and homophobic in its first 10 minutes). The only good thing to come out of it was Zoe Saldana, who has had a successful (and redeeming) career – and no one who’s seen this would say she hasn’t paid her dues. She’s paid in full.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is a lot to live up to, and you don’t begin to do it with the likes of Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, whose red kabbalah bracelet had to be digitally edited out of the movie to the tune of $100K. Starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner struck a nerve in America. Miscegenation laws were literally just being struck down (thanks to Loving!), and the film was still being shown in theatres when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated (which necessitated a quick edit of the film – one scene mentions him by name).

Compared to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was groundbreaking in its time, Guess Who lacks social relevance. It’s a dead fish. And it’s not even funny.

Joshy

Joshy has planned a fun bachelor-party weekend away in Ojai, just him and his buddies celebrating his upcoming marriage with as much booze and drugs and strippers as time and space allows. Except Joshy’s fiancee commits suicide, and the weekend’s now been downgraded to just a “hangout” among friends.

Only a few brave friends arrive, besides Joshy (Thomas Middleditch): stable Ari (Adam Pally), determined to keep things light, neurotic Adam (Alex Ross Perry) whose default mode is wet blanket, and Eric (Nick Kroll), the friend with coke and bad ideas. They pick 2f03a127a57d72e5de9a6d7fb71e9cf5up some hangers-on (Jenny Slate among them) and proceed to have a very weird weekend.

How do men mourn and commiserate with their grieving friend? They mostly don’t. They mostly tamp down their feelings in favour of whatever self-destruction’s close by. The film is largely improvised, making use of all the comedic chops, so the chemistry is crackling even if it feels like the plot goes absolutely nowhere. It’s really about the presumption of our perceptions, and maybe the unknowability of people. The characters disclose things to each other, and expose themselves to us, but we don’t come away really understanding them any better for it.

Joshy has a really ephemeral quality to it, a sense that nothing can last, good or otherwise, and things will inevitably be left unsettled. This may be a comment on closure and its real-life attainability, and that’s exactly when the movie feels the most honest.

This was a humbly entertaining watch for me because I like these guys, but it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering goodness. It’s kind of a cross between a raunchy comedy and mumblecore, so take that admonition with the grain of salt it deserves.

Sandy Wexler

Sandy Wexler is the latest Adam Sandler comedy to hit Netflix; it’s the third in his ground-breaking four-movie deal with them, and in fact, it has just been announced that he’s re-upped his contract for four more: eight movies total. Like him or not, Adam Sandler’s movies have been consistent money makers. His first two tries on Netflix were absolute garbage so it’s weird to me that Netflix was so eager to extend him. It can only mean one thing: people are watching.

sandy-wexler-teaser-still-510x0And here’s the thing: Sandy Wexler isn’t awful. It’s not great, but it’s way more watchable than his previous Netflix efforts. He plays a 1990s-era show business talent who has a bunch of misfits for clients: a vantriloquist, a contortionist, an actress who never gets hired, a third-rate stand-up comedian who only got one star on Star Search. But then he discovers a woman singing her heart out as the ugly duckling\beautiful swan in a children’s play. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson plays Courtney, a singer so talented that even her weirdo manager Sandy can’t hamper her rocket to stardom.

Sandler does an annoying Sandler voice for Sandy, but he’s otherwise an interesting character. Socially awkward? Too mild: more like socially clueless. Socially backwards. Adam Sandler has a LOT of famous friends in Hollywood, and they all gather in this movie to say crap things about Sandy Wexler, and it’s kind of hilarious. But as we get to know him, we understand that it’s all true. We laugh at his misfires, and we laugh at the easy, time-period-related jokes (example: Arsenio Hall pops up, quite confident that he’ll be famous forever). There are fantastic 90s-era cameos in this film, and if you have any love for the decade, you’ll no doubt have some appreciate for this. The comedy is cheap though. Bargain bin. If you aren’t a fan of Adam, this is NOT the movie that’s going to change your mind. But if you have a soft spot for his trademark juvenile humour, this is a step in the right direction.

 

Yoga Hosers

If you thought the nepotism in Donald Trump’s White House was bad, you haven’t seen Yoga Hosers. Kevin Smith’s daughter met Johnny Depp’s daughter in Hollywood Schoolhouse kindergarten, and now we’re all paying for it.

They play “the Colleens” in Yoga Hosers, two Winnipeg high school sophomores obsessed with Instagram and yoga. After school they work at the “Eh to Zed”, a convenience store they often close to hold band practice with their 35 year old drummer Ichabod (Adam Brody), hanging a sign on the door telling customers “Urinary tract infection – back in 10.”

yoga-hosers-johnny-deppThe two Colleens, reprising roles from Tusk, the first film in Smith’s True North trilogy, played by Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp (their real names, honest to god, as only celebrity parents could name them), are pursued by a couple of cool high school seniors…who turn out to be serial-killing satanists. So we don’t feel too bad when little killer wieners go up their bums and kill them first.

Okay, yes, that sentence was confusing. Everything about this review is confusing FAQQSFbbecause the movie makes NO sense. I’m doing my best. So the wieners are called Bratzis because they’re foot-tall Nazis dressed as Mounties (Canada’s Royal Mounted (on horses) Police) made from bratwurst stuffed with sauerkraut. They’re tiny little people-sausages, motion captured by Smith himself because everyone else had the good sense to refuse. It’s the reason we all saw Kevin Smith’s naked face for the first time in…ever?

Anyway. Both of Lily-Rose’s parents appear in the film. Both of Harley Quinn’s parents appear in the film. Some of their siblings as well. Plus some Kevin Smith mainstays like Jason Mewes and Justin Long who literally have nothing better to do. The film is improved by none of these things.

Apparently some Hitler-sympathizer cryo-froze himself 70 years ago and has been asleep underneath the Eh To Zed all this time until accidentally awoken by the Colleens, and now the little Bratzis are on the loose and killing everyone, even though they’re supposed to be targeting only art critics, who hurt this guy’s feelings over half a decade ago. Or something like that.

Yoga Hosers, as you may have guessed, is terrible. I mean: it’s bad even for Kevin Smith, post-2000. He may be trying to revive some Clerks nostalgia, but he’s failing. This is pretty much unwatchable. And, because I must: as a Canadian, this is just annoying. Not a single Canadian I have ever met across this vast country of ours talks like that. The only people I have ever heard say “aboot” are Americans pretending to be Canadian. I can’t even imagine where that stereotype comes from but it’s time to retire it. And while Lily-Rose Depp and her mother Vanessa Paradis speak flawless French, it’s the wrong freaking French! It would be like an Australian passing for a southern American: they’re both technically speaking English but holy mother of god it’s not the same. If this movie had been mocking, say, Japan, the same way it mocks Canada, there would have been an uproar: laughing at our accents, our culture, our history. And “white-washing” us to boot – not a single actual Canadian among the cast. Don’t try to tell me Martin Short wasn’t available! In fact, it’s possible that the lack of uproar was only due to no one seeing this movie. Kevin Smith shot it entirely in California, so it’s possible Canada hasn’t even heard of this monstrosity, and if you have any feeling for Canadians at all, you’ll keep this dirty secret.

Don’t see this. Not even out of morbid curiosity. It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just SO BAD.

Why Him?

Ned is a sweet, hard-working family man who loves to bowl. His wife, Barb, is a supportive and involved mother of two, an art professor and photographer on the side. They have a 15 year old son who makes loving slide shows and a daughter at college who is dearly missed. Imagine their surprise when a Face Time with her reveals the unadorned ass of her secret lover.

Rendywhy-him-01-trlr-9204Cut to: Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mullally) fly to California to meet their daughter’s new boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). He’s a “free spirit” which is code for guy who makes worst possible impression on parents so they immediately hate him, which is unfortunate because he’s terribly in love with their daughter. It’s always awkward when someone tries too hard to be liked. It’s a thousand times more awkward when that someone is a tech millionaire who has unlimited means to make all his awkward dreams come true.

I was pretty sure I could write this review without even seeing the movie, and I was half right: this movie has very little to add to the overprotective dad vs odd duck fiance trope. We get it, dads: you hate your daughter’s boyfriends. But I have to admit that a charming cast goes a long way with this movie. Franco continues to endear himself to me. Cranston makes the implausible feel plausible. And Mullally has space to shine. The truth is, this dumb movie did make me laugh.

If you’ve seen Why Him? then you know that Bryan Cranston plays a not-very-hip dad who doesn’t relate to new technology in any meaningful way, which has already alienated him from his kids, but opens a wide chasm between himself and his daughter’s Silicon Valley boyfriend. Laird’s mansion is “paperless” and Ned learns the hard way that WhyHim_.0this includes toilet paper. Laird has the latest in toilet innovation but since its instruction manual has not yet been translated from Japanese, his weird assistant (Keegan-Michael Key) gets to show Ned live and in person how to properly “wipe” his ass. In order to celebrate the release of this movie, Why Him? brought a suitably fancy porta potty to SXSW. This, ladies and gentlemen, is officially the weirdest way I’ve ever seen a movie promoted and it worked. How could I not find out what’s up with that? I did, however, resist the temptation to stick my arm through a hole that would apparently provide me with a James-Franco-inspired temporary tattoo.

David Brent: Life on the Road

David Brent is the same sad-sack you knew from The Office all those years ago. He works in a different office now, barely, and he’s still possessed of this illusions of grandeur that made him so pathetically lovable. He’s decided to fund a rock star tour to live out his David-Brent-Life-on-the-Road-1wildest fantasy in the hopes that he’ll find his sound, and his audience (and presumably some talent).

Ricky Gervais reprises his beloved The Office character, but David Brent is the only familiar face in this new film, so fans hoping the rekindle the magic will be disappointed. The good news is, so will everyone else. The truth is, it just doesn’t work. David Brent is a tired joke and Gervais doesn’t have anything new for the character, despite the 15 year interval. And without the proper context (and the necessary supporting characters, who humanize him), David Brent feels a lot more annoyingly contemptible rather than the lovable loser we need him to be.

It’s raining right now in Ottawa. It’s just a notch above freezing, which means the rain is 46169fb95db6c57995e32557d972456d.jpgwashing away some of our snow, and the flooded streets are gray and sickly-looking, the disappearing snow uncovering all the gross things hidden over the winter: cigarette butts, McDonald’s wrappers, and a sad collection of lost gloves.

David Brent: Life on the Road is like a lost glove. On its own, it’s useless. It’s sad and forlorn and frankly, it’s only fit for the garbage.

 

SXSW: Lemon

At some point we started to wonder if South By SouthWest wasn’t a little incestuous. Yesterday I wrote about a movie called Win It All, which was directed by Joe Swanberg, who has a bit of a creative flirtation going with Jake Johnson. Joe Swanberg also happens to write for the Netflix series Easy. Meanwhile, the writers and director of Lemon also make appearances on another Netflix series, Love. Is Netflix the meeting ground for mumblecore indie spirits?

Anyway. Lemon was written by husband-wife team Janicza Bravo and Brett Gelman. Gelman has the unenviable task of starring in a film that was called Lemon because Isaac, the lead character, is a complete dud. If he was a car, you’d return him directly to the lot and tear your hair out while screaming at the manager. If you’re his girlfriend of a decade, well, you start creating distance, and then you cut and run. That’s what Ramona (Judy Greer) does; she’s only stayed as long as she has because she’s blind, and while her sight hasn’t improved, her self respect has.

The film feels like it has chapters to it. In the first chapter, we see Isaac at work.  He’s a theatre lemon-movie-sundanceteacher, where he over-praises one student, Alex,(Michael Cera) while simultaneously ripping apart another (Gillian Jacobs). Whether he identifies with Alex or is simply jealous of him I can’t divine, but we know that Isaac’s own acting career is in the toilet, almost literally (just about the only thing he’s up for is an incontinence ad). But bonus: Michael Cera, inexplicably bad hair and all, does earn some serious laughs as a super pretentious thespian who’s always “doing some animal work” or some other crazy-obnoxious thing.

The second chapter shows him among his immediate family, which is rife with drama. He’s practically the normal one there, navigating rough waters between his siblings (Martin Starr is his brother) and half-heartedly joining in when his mother (Rhea Perlman) decides it’s sing-along time (a rousing chorus of “A Million Matzoh Balls” is as memorable as it is ridiculous). This is the weirdest family dinner I’ve ever witnessed and was uncomfortably effective at making me feel vicariously bad about myself.

The third chapter focuses more on his post-break-up love life. Despite being a complete loser, he seems to have attracted the attention (or at least the pity) of the beautiful Cleo (Nia Long), whose family is nothing like his. The film makers admitted that the two families represent their own in-law struggles, though I can’t imagine having the courage to put that kind of dirty laundry up on a big screen.

Do you delight in the suffering of others? Isaac is not a redeeming character. He’s thoroughly unlikeable. But the movie itself is almost aggressively odd, from the very first shot. What kind of enjoyment can you derive from schadenfreude? And are you in the mood for something obsessively quirky, something unapologetically, erm, esoteric? These are the questions you must ask yourself before settling in to Lemon.