Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

490. 30 Minutes or Less

In Comedy on April 3, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Dir. Ruben Fleischer

Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else.

MY TAKE

An unwilling suicide bomber hardly sounds like fodder for comedy, but Ruben Fleischer’s terribly titled 30 Minutes or Less diffuses that political landmine pretty quickly. By never venturing into taboo Four Feathers social commentary, the story is far safer than it could have been, and the laughs suffer as a result. Instead we rely on Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari all playing versions of the same characters they always play. Again, these risk free decisions mean for some light laughs, but nothing you’ll split a gut over – even with a bomb strapped to your chest.

 

486. State and Main

In Comedy on February 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Dir. David Mamet

A movie crew invades a small town whose residents are all too ready to give up their values for showbiz glitz.

MY TAKE

At the intersection of American ideals, a small town gets swallowed up by Hollywood big shots in David Mamet’s State and Main. A colourful cast of (mostly white) characters portray film crew personalities the actors themselves are probably all too familiar with. Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin are the “big three” of writer/director/actor (respectively) each with varying degrees of depression, delusions and debauchery (again, respectively). The on-set machinations aren’t as rewarding as the actual relationships, which take a while to build, but eventually provide comfort and pleasure beyond stereotypical familiarity and industry in-jokes. The humour is also headier than just a succession of gags, which means the comedy usually evokes more smirks than laughs.

484. The Sitter

In Comedy on February 17, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Dir. David Gordon Green

An unprepared and reluctant college student is coaxed into babysitting the kids next door.

MY TAKE

I actually had a “Goodbye Fat Jonah Hill” party, gorging on poutine and beer, before going to see The Sitter. The man who perfected tubby buddy roles recently shed his own rolls, but not before filming David Gordron Green’s version of Adventures in Babysitting meets, well, Jonah Hill. Adult humour helps the film be more than a pleasant family outing, and all three child actors give you something to remember.  The script, however, leans on the performers a bit too hard for laughs, while the story often feels lazy and recycled from equally unoriginal films like Date Night.  Certainly not one of his best comedies, but I still look forward to seeing more of Jonah Hill (literally – he looks really weird being skinny).

483. Bad Santa

In Comedy on February 14, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Dir. Terry Zwigoff

A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve.

MY TAKE

Fresh off the heels of an Oscar nomination for Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff didn’t waste any time spending his capital on the risqué Christmas comedy Bad Santa. The bold move has probably had a long-term payoff, as the film has earned an unorthodox place among the holiday classics. Billy Bob Thornton debauches his way through some gleefully unpleasant behaviour, and makes his cantankerous conduct pay off with the perfect pairing of young Brett Kelly. The ending goes for broke, and the film respects the crime genre in addition to the requisite of  inciting at least some festive cheer. Not something you’ll ever be able to watch the whole the whole family, but it could be the perfect tonic to your holiday hangover.

473. Choke

In Comedy on February 3, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Dir. Clark Gregg

A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother’s hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.

MY TAKE

Sam Rockwell has a ball during every step of his sex rehab in Clark Gregg’s Choke. Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, the film has fun with its subject matter and takes glee going over the deep end into holy water and taboos. Perversion might be at the heart of the story, but there’s a lightness to the narrative and brightness to the dirction that never allow things to get too seedy. Angelica Houston brings the film some necessary heart and drama, while Kelly Macdonald handles her turns as the love interest with a sly grace. I’d love to see more of best friend, played by Brad William Henke, but at least got to see more than I could have hoped for from Community’s Gillian Jacobs.

 

468. Flirting with Disaster

In Comedy on February 2, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Dir. David O. Russell

A young man, his wife, and his incompetent case worker travel across country to find his birth parents.

MY TAKE

David O. Russell toys with dark humour in the bumpy journey to self-discovery Flirting with Disaster. Ben Stiller is the one driving this dysfunction family road trip, playing the first of his many similar “how did I get into this mess?” leading straight man roles in a comedy. Outstanding support work by Patricia Arquette and Mary Tyler Moore, however, make this one worth checking out. The best part, however, may have gone to Josh Brolin as the bisexual Casanova who has at least one disgusting trick up his sleeve to seduce the ladies. The film may have flirted with disaster, but it stays married to a winning formula for big laughs while teasing us with discomfort.

457. The Guard

In Comedy on January 27, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Dir. John Michael McDonagh

An unorthodox Irish policeman is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.

MY TAKE

Lest you be put off by U.K. slang like I was, it’s worth noting that The Guard is not about wannabe security guards like Paul Blart: Mall Cop or Observe and Report. Writer and director John Michael Mcdonagh has crafted delightfully daft characters in a picture that’s more like Ireland’s simultaneous answer to Bad Lieutenant and Lethal Weapon. Brendan Gleeson finally gets to shine as the central hero who bumbles and stumbles his way through cracking a big drug case and many cases of beer. Don Cheadle plays the straight man in the clashing duo, while Mark Strong gives a memorable performance as an adrenaline junkie drug runner. Funny, clever, and even touching, The Guard isn’t afraid to “go there”, no matter the consequences.

441. Our Idiot Brother

In Comedy on January 12, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Dir. Jesse Peretz

A comedy centered on an idealist who barges into the lives of his three sisters.

MY TAKE

One of the only knocks I would give against writer and director Jesse Peretz’s Our Idiot Brother is the title. The film has so much more heart and brains than you would expect from its slapstick namesake, with Paul Rudd emanating almost unrelenting sweetness. The supporting cast of sisters in Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer give us the Sex and the City range of female stereotypes, but for the purposes of a comedy, it’s forgivable. The best performance, however, is probably from a small supporting role by T.J. Miller, who would be the perfect Harry to Rudd’s Lloyd in a spin off called Sweet and Sweeter.

429. Henry Fool

In Comedy on January 5, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Dir. Hal Hartley

Socially inept garbage man Simon is befriended by Henry Fool, a witty roguish, but talent-less novelist.

MY TAKE

Henry Fool is the best and worst kind of friend imaginable. He’ll fuel your dreams, then screw your sister. Make you millions, then make you feel worthless. Hal Hartley’s bizarre odyssey of a simpleton rising the literary ranks is itself an allegorical and nonsensical tale that is nothing if not original. It may be a bit long in the tooth, and light on substance for James Urbaniak as the protagonist, but Thomas Jane Ryan as the agent of chaos in the titular role gives the film a pulse, albeit to an unorthodox beat. Avid cinema-goes will find the film refreshing, but the often inaccessible characters will hold most others at a distance.


425. Life During Wartime

In Comedy on January 4, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Dir. Todd Solondz

Friends, family, and lovers struggle to find love, forgiveness, and meaning in a war-torn world riddled with comedy and pathos.

MY TAKE

Writer and director Todd Solondz is easily one of my favourite “finds” of Film500. I’m not sure how I managed to miss his work for so long, but now that I’ve come around, there’s no going back. Life During Wartime didn’t level me with the same emotional impact of Welcome to the Dollhouse or Happiness, but the straight faced moments of black comedy still managed to often catch me by surprise with unflinching humour and earnestness. Shirley Henderson is a special kind of precious, and I know you’re happy to see Paul Reubens in a film again (and so am I).