Tag Archives: Comedy

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Smart: From Analyst to Super-Spy by Sheldon Wiebe

Get Smart could have gone wrong in oh so many ways. Fortunately, rather than parrot the ‘60s hit spy spoof, writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember choose to give us the story of how super-analyst Maxwell Smart [Steve Carell] made the shift from computer jockey to field agent. Mixing clever gags with action is tricky, and while the ratio isn’t quite right, the film manages to maintain its entertainment quotient by keeping Max from being hopelessly incompetent. Instead, Max passes the field agent test with flying colors but is only sent into the field when the identities of all Control’s agents are compromised.

Only Smart and Agent 99 [Anne Hathaway, sexy in a Disney-cute way and deadly in a Modesty Blaise way] can find and destroy KAOS’s stockpile of nuclear weapons – cleverly hidden in a Moscow bakery [well, it would be cleverly hidden if the bakery wasn’t a huge building with an enormous sign bearing its name]. If they fail, it could be curtains for Los Angeles and the visiting President of the United States.

86 & 99

Staples of the series [Max’s love of little British sports cars; Agent 13, the master of disguise; certain trademark phrases] make appearances – including one that is so utterly perfect that I won’t mention the character or the actor. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for fans of the original series. Besides the homages to the original series, there are things about this movie that work because they are different.

Max is not incompetent – his bumbling usually occurs because his focus is too narrow and everything outside his focus gets past him – watch him deal with a hulking Russian assassin, for instance. He also cuts a mean rug in a party scene – where he gives an unlikely dance partner an incredible ego boost [which refers back to Max’s past].

Get Smart’s supporting cast is excellent, but underused. Since some of the action sequences run a bit long, it might have been a good idea to give more time Dwayne Johnson’s suave Agent 23 – or Terrance Stamp’s Siegfried. Another cool change is Alan Arkin’s Chief – instead of being put upon like the character originated by the late Edward Platt, here the Chief is very much a player.

Overall, then, Get Smart is a smart, if slightly overlong movie that reintroduces the characters from the TV series in a fresh way that does not negate the originals. For the most part, it is great fun – and the moments where it tries too hard can be forgiven. Peter Segal directs the film with good energy and if the action threatens to overwhelm the comedy occasionally, it never quite does. The result is an entertainment that should tickle fans of the series as well as those who’ve never heard of it.

Final Grade: B

MOVIE REVIEW: The Love Guru: Crickets… by Sheldon Wiebe

Imagine the sound of one hand clapping. Not in the Zen koan way, but in the actual one hand impacting on nothing but air way. This was the sound that accompanied eighty-five of The Love Guru’s ninety-one minutes at the screening I attended – and another four minutes were closing credits.

In a nutshell: Toronto Maple Leafs owner Jane Bullard [Jessica Alba] hires the number two self-help guru in the world, Guru Pitka [Mike Myers] to help her team’s superstar, Darren Roanoke [Romany Malco] get his mojo back after his girlfriend leaves him for the Jacque Grande [Justin Timberlake], goalie of the Leafs’ Stanley Cup opponents, the Los Angeles King.

Grande Parties With Pitka

Myers performance is smarmy and self-indulgent; Alba is her usual wooden self and virtually no is funny. In the course of the film, I laughed six times – two because of actual humor and four because if the sheer awfulness of the attempts at humor. That was four more times than the group of fifteen-year olds [allegedly the film’s targeted audience]. Otherwise, the theater was silent.

Writing, acting, cinematography, directing – all pretty much suck. The only things preventing The Love Guru from being the worst movie I’ve seen in the last few years would be Norbit and Delta Farce. The Love Guru makes The Cat in the Hat look like Shakespeare. You have been warned.

Final Grade: D-

MOVIE REVIEW: Sex and the City: Sex Still Sells by Sheldon Wiebe

It’s an odd thing to realize that you’re one of three straight men in a theater auditorium. It’s another thing entirely to realize that, properly presented, women will laugh at a poop joke as heartily as any man – and laugh just as hard when the incident is referred to later in the movie. Sex and the City: The Movie brings the fab four, Carrie Bradshaw [Sarah Jessica Parker], Charlotte York [Kristin Davis], Miranda Hobbes [Cynthia Nixon] and Samantha Jones [Kim Cattrall] back is style [well a lot of styles – all more interesting [or horrific, depending on one’s point of view] than the last.

The Fab Four

As in the series, there are break-ups and make-ups; sexy clothes, sexy foods and sexy sex. None of these things come as a surprise. The surprise is that, as the film opens, Samantha has been in a genuinely monogamous relationship for five years – with an actor, Jerry “Smith” Jarrod [Jason Lewis], whose career she is also managing. There’s a perfectly reasonable proposal between Big [Chris North] and Carrie that’s mature and, again, reasonable – but not magical – which is probably the biggest reason they break up for [if you believe her friends] the sixteenth time. Relationship woes also plague Miranda and Steve [David Fienberg] – which leads to a fateful conversation between her and Big at the rehearsal dinner.

The Big/Carrie break-up leads to one of the brightest spots in the film. Following an unhoneymoon with the four, Carrie hires an assistant to help get her life back on track. She hires Louise, from St. Louis [Jennifer Hudson], who turns her onto rented fashions. Hudson’s natural brightness takes what could have been a stereotypical servant role and elevates into a real friendship.

While Sex and the City: The Movie hits all the best beats from the series – and thus is not the most surprising of movies – it does a great job of presenting the unique friendship that exists between the four lead characters and, hey! Poop jokes! Who knew?

The film was written and directed by one of the series’ most consistently good writers, Michael Patrick King, and you can tell. There’s no groundbreaking cinematography; no raising of the stakes beyond what we’ve seen before. Just a smart [and trust me, even the poop joke is smart], witty film that celebrates one of the most entertaining quartets of characters we’ve ever met. If you’re looking for angst or profundity, this is not that movie. What it is, is fun – enough fun that guys who are dragged to the theater to see it will probably enjoy it almost as much as their significant others. Works for me.

Final Grade: B

$%#% Me Gently With a Chainsaw! 20 Years Later Heathers is Still So Very!

Heather Dies

It’s been twenty years since Heathers was released by a dying New World to critical acclaim and some box office success. Now, Anchor Bay has released the dark high school comedy as part of its Cult Classic Film Series. The film’s indictment of kids who will do anything to be popular – and become the ultimate jerks once they achieve it – is as grotesquely funny today as it was when it was first released.

Veronika [Wynona Ryder] is one of the Heathers – the most popular girls in school [the other three are all named Heather] – and the least ruthless. About the same time as she reaches her limit with her so-called friends, she meets a charismatic new guy in school, J.D. [Christian Slater] and becomes in embroiled in a series of murders that the two stage as suicides.

First-time director Michael Lehman and first-time writer Daniel Waters produced a terrific film with its own peculiarly daring sense of humor – and its own slang. With its budget constraints, what propels Heathers is the energy of its performances. Ryder and Slater have, frankly, never been better – And Shannen Doherty stands out as the shyest of the Heathers.

Features include: Audio Commentary by Lehman, Waters and Producer Denise DiNovi; Swatch Dogs and Diet-Coke Heads [a 30-minute of reminiscences by the cast, director, writer, producer and editor]; Trialer; Screenply Excerpt; Original Ending, and Talent Bios.

Grade: Heathers – A

Grade: Features – A-

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Reviewing Forgetting Sarah Marshall In 300 Words or Less

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall is doomed to be remembered as “that naked break-up movie” though it’s considerably more. For one thing, the naked break-up is a simultaneously funny and poignant scene and Jason Segel’s performance as Peter [the breakee] is staggeringly vulnerable. For another, that vulnerability continues to come into play when Peter tries to get away from it all at the same Hawaiian resort where Sarah [Kristin Bell] is staying with her rock god boyfriend. In turn, Peter’s heartbreak is tempered by Rachel [Mila Kunis], a pretty, intelligent hotel employee who has also had a miserable heartbreak.

Segel‘s script meanders a bit, but those wanderings lead to emotional payoffs that make sense – especially when news that the TV series that stars Sarah, and for which he composes the “dark, ominous tones,” has been cancelled. A comment from Rachel leads Peter to finish his dream project [a rock opera for puppets – about Dracula and his search for True Love], while Aldous’ [the rock god, played by Russell Brand] behavior has Sarah rethinking leaving Peter.

Director Nicholas Stoller keeps the wandering script focused and gets terrific performances from his entire cast. Check out supporting work by the reliable Paul Rudd [as a goofy surfing guru] and Jonah Hill as Aldous’ number one fan. Stoller understands the necessity for an extra beat in a quiet moment and how to set up a gag without being obvious. As a result, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of the best films to come out of the Judd Apatow crude-with-a-heart comedy factory. I may not have laughed as often as the lady behind me, but I did laugh and smile and chuckle enough to recommend Forgetting Sarah Marshall as more than your daily recommended dose of fun.

Final Grade: B+

Drillbit Taylor: Low-Budget Bodyguard Ekes Out Just Enough Laughs!

Drillbit Taylor Review EclipseMagazine.com Movies

This small effort from the Jud Apatow funny factory skips the f-bombs but still manages to be funnier than at least one of his R-rated efforts.

What can you do when you’re corpulent, skeletal or really, really short and are facing your first day of high school? Apparently, you can expect to get thumped on a regular basis; crammed into lockers, trophy displays and such; and get kicked when you’re down.

How can you avoid these problems? Well, there’s always Drillbit Taylor: Budget Bodyguard. As played by Owen Wilson, Drillbit is a homeless deserter who stumbles into a great scam – charging three kids of the aforementioned general builds for teaching them to keep the school bully and his equally malevolent sidekick from using them as punching bags.

The three are the corpulent Ryan [Troy Gentile], the really, really short Emmit [David Dorfman] and the skeletal Wade [Nate Hartley. The bullies are Filkins [Alex Frost, apparently taking his bully role from Elephant and making him a complete psycho] and his sidekick, Ronnie [Josh Peck] – and they are definitely serial killers in training.

The Kristofor Brown/Seth Rogen screenplay features more physical violence than all three of the other hits to come from The Judd Apatow production line [I guess something has to escalate to fill the space of all those missing cuss words]. Steven Brill’s direction is pretty straightforward – the pace picks up for the violence; slows slightly for the jokes [allowing beats for audience response], and slows appropriately for the one romantic plot arc.

Drillbit Taylor Review EclipseMagazine.com Movies

It’s the romantic arc between Drillbit, faking his way as a substitute teacher, and the lovely, but lovelorn Lisa [Leslie Mann, who is brilliant as usual] that brings the homeless con man out of his scam and into admitting that he actually likes his intended victims. This revelation occurs just in time to try to stop his equally homeless friends from stealing all of Wade’s family’s possessions.

For Wilson, the character of Drillbit pretty much plays to his strengths: aw shucks charm with an underpinning of darkness. He’s fast on his feet, though not as much as he thinks he is – and, of course, when it comes down to crunch time, he makes the right choices even if the result won’t be that good for him.

The punching bag trio come from the usual assortment of circumstances: Wade’s mom re-married a guy who is proud of having been a bully in school and has two sons who look to be following in his footsteps; Ryan’s single mom dotes on him to the point of enabling his weight gain, and Emmit seems to appear from the ozone.

Filkins has become emancipated, and the idiot Principal Doppler – Stephen Root’s second most oblivious character [after Office Space’s Milton] – takes that to mean he’s a nice, honest boy who is being maligned by the trio’s allegations of violence. The only person outside the trio who seems to like Wade is a little Asian girl named Brooke [Valerie Tian], which is good because he has a definite crush on her – and has joined all the same clubs [including the Asian Heritage Club] as her in hopes that he’ll be able to work up the courage to talk to her.

Drillbit Taylor Review EclipseMagazine.com Movies

Ryan’s claim to fame is that he’s a not too terrible rapper – a sequence where he raps against Filkins is one of the movie’s highlights. Emmit, it seems, doesn’t have any notable skills, but shows an immense amount of courage at a crucial moment.

While the climax of the movie might not be what you’d expect – you’d think three nerds would outthink the bullies – there is an intelligence at play in their actions, especially in how they organize them. And there’s a moment near the end that harkens back what we are sure must be an apocryphal tale about Filkins – a perfectly timed bit of business that gives Wilson one final bravura moment to follow up his one moment of genuine heroism.

Sure, Drillbit Taylor doesn’t have the same level of language and gross humor as, say, Superbad, but it still has plenty of bodily function humor and decent sight gags. It never reaches the heights of Superbad, or Knocked Up, but I have to say I enjoyed it more than The 40-Year Old Virgin [despite Steve Carrell, I still don’t regard that one with much respect]. Drillbit Taylor is a little more violent than it needs to be, but it works well enough, overall, that I can recommend it – just.

Final Grade: C+

Drillbit Taylor – Michelle’s Review

drillbitposteer

Have I said lately how much I really dislike Judd Apatow movies and Seth Rogen? Their films are generally hollow, profanity laced, geek boy fantasies. Where the slobby, foul mouth, fat jerk always ends up with the hot chick.  Their formula is successful, but it’s cookie cutter beyond belief.  The only difference is they switch between “Adult fair,” to “Teen fair,” without changing their character template.  Their latest effort Drillbit Taylor is the same basic film as all of the other Apatow productions. But what amazed me is, I actually kind of liked Drillbit. I generally love Owen Wilson, but a little of him goes a very long way.  Drillbit is kind of a modern remake of an early 80’s film called “My Bodyguard.”  It’s every picked upon nerd’s fantasy. If you can’t handle the school bully, why not hire someone to do it for you?  In this case the school bully Filkins (Alex Frost) is wonderfully insane.  He has the makings of future serial killer written all over his face.  Filkins has the ability to go from ‘Eddie’ Haskell Jr. to Norman Bates with minimal effort.  Our two nerds – Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile) have a reason to be scared. Where Superbad failed Drillbit somehow worked for me.  It’s almost the exact same movie. Same characters only different situation.  And just like Superbad, I couldn’t stand the fat kid – Ryan the wannabe rapper.  He is so unlikable it’s a wonder his mother loves him. Was writer Seth Rogen this annoying as a kid? I hope not. Then again it probably explains a lot about why he seems incapable of creating original characters.

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But despite this I liked this movie, Owen Wilson’s Drillbit is just like every other Owen Wilson character – a fast talking, scheming, liar who is always looking for the next score. Drillbit, a homeless man sees these rich nerds as his meal ticket and instead of fighting the bullies for the kids, trains them how to fight.  So he says.  Along the way even a loser like Drillbit finds a hot teacher Barbara (Beth Littleford) to fall for.  While this movie didn’t contain one laugh out loud moment, it did feel more like a real film than previous Apatow productions. It’s not as over the top as previous efforts. Director Steven Brill does a great job with pacing, although the montage where Filkins and his buddy are terrorizing the nerds seems to go on forever as does a lot of the scenes with Wilson training the kids. It’s cute in small doses, eventually it starts to get annoying. I know it sounds like I didn’t like this film but it actually did work for me. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny and have I said how much I hated that fat kid? This is a wait for cable kind of film.

Final Grade C

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 4/21/08