Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

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.

 

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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.

 

472. Happiness

In Drama on February 3, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Dir. Todd Solondz

The lives of many individuals connected by the desire for happiness, often from sources usually considered dark or evil.

MY TAKE

Happiness is likely the most disturbingly watchable film of all-time. With uncomfortable ease, Todd Solondz, a master at dissecting raw human impulses, is able to take us into the depths of sexual deprivation with an unparalleled balance of humour, understanding and dispassion. The storyline of a suburban father pedophile is certainly the most shocking, but there are so many incredible performances here that it’s hard to isolate what makes this film such a masterpiece. Suffice to say, incest, murder, rape, divorce, isolation and general misery have never been so pleasantly combined and packed such a unexpected emotional punch.


469. A Beginners Guide to Endings

In Canadian on February 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Dir. Jonathan Sobol

Upon learning they only have a few days left to live, three brothers set off to reverse a lifetime of mistakes.

MY TAKE

Jonathan Sobol’s funny, lively and well-made first feature is a perfect example of why Canadian film is often referred to as “invisible cinema”. Despite having well-known American actors, like Harvey Keitel, and a Canuck bombshell like Tricia Helfer, A Beginners Guide to Endings is unlikely to never be known by general Canadian audiences. I follow this stuff very closely, and only discovered the film buried in the Canadian section of Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment. There’s plenty of wit on display here, as Scott Caan, Jason Jones and me-look-alike Paul Costanzo navigate their way around Niagara Falls in search of fulfillment, while drop-ins from actors like J.K. Simmons keep the humour and energy rolling. I’d like to know who’s to blame for ending this film’s life before it even got started.

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.

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.

440. Greg & Gentillion

In Canadian on January 12, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Dir. Matthiew Klinck

Two small-time comics set their sights on the big city with a plan to become the next stand-up sensation.

MY TAKE

It’s painful when a funny concept falls flat from amateurish execution. Greg & Gentillion is set up to be a Borat-style fish-out-of-water comedy between cultures clashing and two friends testing the limits of their talent. Failure can be hilarious if done properly, but the two Quebecois comedians never feel fully committed to their characters and are always on the cusp of laughing themselves.  They would be alone, as I don’t expect either French or English audiences would find themselves particularly taken by their half-hearted adventure to the Big Smoke. Go watch the Fubar or Elvis Gratton movies instead.