Now that this year’s Hot Docs coverage has come to an end, it’s time to introduce my new video segment to you all.
Does It Float? will have me revisiting films I gave positive reviews to and seeing if they hold up on a second viewing. Sometimes, a film can be heightened by the experience or with a certain type of crowd. With Does It Float?, I plan to give you both sides of movie watching – my initial view and a more familiarized viewing of the film.
My first webisode is focusing on Michael Tiddes’ send-up to Paranormal Activity. A Haunted House has earned a small audience that considers it a guilty pleasure – and I considered myself part of that merry bunch.
Unfortunately, it isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. The comedy sits at an embarrassing 6% on Rotten Tomatoes with print critics and online critics calling it a dud.
Has my opinion changed? Does the immaturity and juvenile comedy not sit well during round two? Watch the premiere of Does It Float? and find out!
To read my original review, click here!
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The documentary Shooting Bigfoot follows three expeditions led by four different devoted and off-kilter trackers.
One subject is Rick Dyer. Dyer has had his name besmirched in the world of hunting Bigfoot due to a scam that took the media by storm. Once he finds Bigfoot, he plans to capture it and take its life.
Another hunter is Tom Biscardi, a well known tracker who has no interest in killing Bigfoot, but was involved with Dyer’s hoax. By the skin of his teeth, he was able to somewhat clear his name even if both parties have different stories. He was, and still is, a man who is passionate about the hunt for the elusive creature and will stop at nothing to prove his truths.
The last team of hunters are a couple of best friends. Dallas and Wayne may look unprepared…and that may be true. However, with their prior experience hunting the mysterious beast and their ability to “successfully” make familiar calls to it, they’re the underdogs in this truly oddball story of dedication and the line that’s drawn in the sand between hopefulness and losing your marbles.
Filmmaker Morgan Matthews doesn’t make his subjects likeable or unlikeable, but rather lets their boisterous outgoingness speak for themselves. It works because our main hunters don’t come across as false personalities. Their aggressiveness, frustration, and dedication never feels cooked up by a cheeky editor, but rather by men who are very proud and simply do not think before they speak.
Each hunter, whether they like it or not, picks their on-screen destiny. Dallas and Wayne are goofy, but a hoot to root for and follow on their surreal quest. Biscardi, on the other hand, makes for a great anti-hero. He snarls and gets flustered easily when his team isn’t on the same page as him, but we can’t help but find him interesting when he shows how focused he is to find Bigfoot and how unintentionally hilarious he is when he demands people to get him peach Snapple.
Because Matthews doesn’t tell us what to think, his direction feels natural – even though I wish he was on mic when he asked questions behind the camera. I wasn’t a fan of how the doc would take on a smart aleck attitude occasionally with its music. At one point when Dyer is explaining a past run-in with the creature, the background music swells and gets more dramatic. As I explain it, it sounds as if Matthews is trying to add more tenseness to the scene, but when you see it on screen, it feels as if Matthews doesn’t have the right intentions.
With all the laughs, the eccentricities, and oodles of quotable lines (my personal favourite is when Biscardi is describing how long winded someone is: “You ask him for the time and he builds you a watch!”), it’s unfortunate Matthews drops the ball at the very end.
Shooting Bigfoot has a non-ending that feels as if the director’s patience wore too thin and eventually threw his hands up in the air and gave up. Once you see what happens in the surprisingly creepy last third, you’ll understand why Matthews feels resentment. However, the ending still feels too abrupt and doesn’t end the way moviegoers will want it to.
Looking past that ending – the doc’s only real noteworthy downfall – Shooting Bigfoot is a ton of fun and is strangely fascinating from start to finish.
Catch Shooting Bigfoot at:
Tuesday, April 30 at 8:29 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Wednesday, May 1 at 11:58 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Friday, May 3 at 9:30 p.m. at The Royal Cinema
Visit the official Hot Docs webpage here!
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First and foremost: Scary Movie 5 is not a funny movie. I know I usually state in my reviews that humour is subjective, but finding a joke or sight gag in Malcolm D. Lee’s comedy that could be deemed as hilarious or clever would be like sifting through the Pacific Ocean to find a sliver of gold.
It’s a bizarre comedy that forces the audience to wonder about who thought these jokes and slapstick routines would hit the right notes for moviegoers thirteen and up. Malcolm D. Lee and his unruly writers (Pat Proft and ex-spoof master David Zucker) write jokes that feel as stale and cheap as they look on screen being acted by less than enthused actors.
It’s a movie that thinks everything is funnier when it’s sped up. People running, people falling down, people mugging at the camera. This was funny when comedian Benny Hill was doing this in the 70′s – and even that is debatable. But nowadays, moviegoers need more than just watching someone fall twice as fast. There needs to be timing, rhythm, and talent on both sides of the camera for the best slapstick to be pulled off and Scary Movie 5 has none of these traits from what I can see.
Second of all: Scary Movie 5 is not a movie – at least, my definition of a movie. It’s a movie in the same sense as Movie 43 and InAPPropriate Comedy were movies. Hell, it’s a movie in the same sense that Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans were movies. It’s more of a cash-in.
Scary Movie 5 has more of a story than those aforementioned disappointments, but the barrage of references to random pop culture peppered throughout these extended sketches are very loosely threaded together.
The trailers and TV spots for Scary Movie 5 sell this instalment as a send-up to Paranormal Activity, but what moviegoers end up getting is a story that pokes fun at this year’s earlier chiller Mama. Along with the spoof of Mama, moviegoers also get two other prominent spoofs wringing out Black Swan and this year’s Evil Dead remake.
The majority of online sources tracking Scary Movie 5′s haphazardly lethargic development state that the film was completed in 2012 with some re-shoots occurring in early 2013 – I don’t buy it. With recent spoof movies, filmmakers glance at upcoming movies and try to synchronize the release of their comedy with these blockbusters so the relevancy stays fresh.
Paranormal Activity is an easy and expected target for this franchise, but the Mama jabs are peculiar. It’s as if Lee and his team of stale writers saw the trailer for Mama and predicted that it would become a hit. The problem with writing with this mentality is that no one can predict the future. Mama received mixed but mostly favourable reviews (including mine), but was no way demanding the spoofing treatment.
To make matters worse, Scary Movie 5 almost reenacts Mama beat for beat, signalling to me that Lee and his writers actually watched the original film before shooting theirs. If the filmmakers watched Mama before shooting their spoof, that means that this pivotal plot was filmed less than three months ago before being thrown into theatres. The same can be said about the head-scratching placement of the Evil Dead scenarios. These can’t be considered re-shoots. This is building the movie from the ground up while balancing extremely poor and rushed time management.
That is too fast of a turnaround time to ensue smart writing or correct promotion. I wouldn’t be proposing this would-be schedule if I didn’t feel confident that this was true. It adds to the slapdash nature of this terrible movie. It looks and feels thrown together without a care in the world; as if everything was conceived in a matter of weeks. Why? Because the relevancy has taken seniority over thought out and well calculated comedy.
If I was the editor of this colossal stinker, I’d be running to the hills or at least trying to remove my credit from this film. I’ve never seen editing that has looked and felt so lazy. Then again, when Lee and his crew are giving editor Sam Seig this footage to work with, as well as poorly executed ADR, it’s inevitable the results wouldn’t fare well.
There are moments where an actor is saying one thing while a superimposed audio clip is trying to cover up what they’re really saying. It may be a swear being covered to maintain a PG-13 rating or a detail that is irrelevant to the movie after multiple edits. Either way, these are awful mistakes.
And for those who are nitpickey with their dosage of found footage, prepare for the frustration. The film makes use of the aforementioned sped up footage with the addition of the camera’s time code, but forgets to slow the time back down when characters are moving at a normal pace. Strike two, Seig…
Additionally, these three main spoofs read as extended bits for the MTV Movie Awards that need crucial editing to pin down the timing. Flatlining jokes are repeated over and over again hoping to breathe life into the material, but Seig as well as Lee need to know when to move on to the next attempt to make audiences laugh instead of trying the same unfunny trick ad nauseam.
Scary Movie 5 is embarrassing for the actors and embarrassing for the team who stitched this cruddy production together from scratch, hoping to conduct electricity through this tired baked potato of a franchise.
Todd Berger’s ill-timed and ill-titled comedy is being released at a perilous time – which isn’t the filmmaker nor the movie’s fault. However, It’s A Disaster! is too small and vague to be deemed as controversial or hateful, but it’s theatrical run is so quiet that it runs the risk of not becoming a blip on the average moviegoer’s radar. It’s unfortunate because Berger’s comedy of manners is pretty good and sophisticatedly funny.
The film centres around a group of couples who gather for a Sunday brunch - a tradition for the friends. The friends put on smiles, sip away at glasses of wine, and catch up with each other abut life. Meanwhile, each member of the group has lost their love for these get-togethers. They appear happy, but the audience knows they would rather be anywhere but there.
Just then, the electricity cuts out. Outside becomes desolate – not even a dog is in sight. Soon, a neighbour runs over in a hazmat suit and informs the brunching troupe that bombs have gone off downtown unleashing lethal nuclear gas. Everyone has been told to stay indoors and seal off any openings including vents and doorways.
Berger and his talented cast treat the deadly circumstances with straight faces, but Berger’s script allows the company to get sidetracked when preparing for the worse. A search for a radio becomes an amusing emotional rekindling as characters find old items while others have a debate as to whether you pronounce it “duct tape” or “duck tape” and if satellite radio is worth shelling out extra money for “better results”.
It’s A Disaster! is like watching a really good, well timed comedy team re-enacting their long running comedy show for the big screen. It may be hard to comprehend why It’s A Disaster! needs a cinematic treatment when a troupe like Second City could perform this in a theatrical setting, making the chemistry that more real. But, let’s focus on what Todd Berger is serving audiences, because it’s worth looking at.
The roles are filled out by relatively unknown actors, but they have immaculate timing and skill with delivering all types of jokes. An impressive strength that the company can control is their ability to keep running jokes afloat and funny.
The more recognizable faces are David Cross, Julia Stiles, and America Ferrera and they’re just as strong as their other comedic cohorts. A qualm I had with last year’s Lloyd the Conqueror is that there was a line drawn in the sand between the more skilled performers and the amateurs. I’m very glad that the same separation cannot be found in Berger’s film and that he treats all of his actors as equals.
The film hardly tries too hard to make the audience laugh and a lot of the jokes are written and acted in a dry manner. It’s a style of comedy that isn’t going to make everyone double over with laughter, but as the jokes keep coming, the company keeps a generally consistent momentum which holds our interest throughout and often tickles our funny bone.
Moviegoers won’t feel the comedy dragging its feet or ditching its style when the film decides to focus more on the story. When more bleak moments enter the picture, the ball never feels dropped. We actually appreciate Berger wanting to give us more than we bargained for. Specifically, there’s a very well written and well acted scene between Stiles and Cross as they talk about what a would-be life between them would be like. It’s darkly funny, but very comforting and bittersweet.
It’s A Disaster! is the type of movie that briskly exits theatres only to catch attention on VOD and DVD. It’s a concrete example as to why independent cinema deserves to be seen and supported. Without our eyes on it, it settles for cult classic status on home viewing when it can be so much more. With the talent on screen as well as Berger’s special script and direction, this has all the promise and potential to be a hit. A small hit, but a hit nonetheless.
The premise for He’s Way More Famous Than You is risky for its main actress Halley Feiffer – who plays an exaggerated version of herself in the film.
The comedy about a hopeful actress wanting to gain more recognition long after her “star-making” performance in 2005′s The Squid and the Whale can go two ways. It can be a sharply written satire about self-obsession and the Hollywood machine. It can be about what one has to do nowadays to be featured next to a good looking hunk in a sweeping motion picture and how that lucky starlet can raise their likability and familiarity in an insanely competitive career.
Or, it can swing into the opposite field. It can take on an embarrassing bumpy ride as the stars of the film have fun within their company and the unlucky moviegoers watch an unintentional self-deprecating vehicle that will surely hurt the career of the irritating lead and the other cast members.
He’s Way More Famous Than You is a little of “column A” and a lot of “column B”. The film has a promising start as we see how clingy Feiffer is to the star-tracker, an online counter ranking the popularity of actors. She constantly reminds her boyfriend Michael Chernus (also playing himself) about how important it is for her to be recognized and, at one point, goes as far as to record herself crying after a major blow-up between the frustrated couple.
After Chernus walks out on Feiffer and their relationship as well as an argument between her and her agent, Halley vows to write a head-turning, ground-breaking screenplay that will garner awards and, yes, recognition. She reels in her brother Ryan (played by Ryan Spahn who I’m hoping isn’t playing himself) who then suckers his boyfriend into the director’s chair.
The director of choice is Michael Urie. Urie also directs He’s Way More Famous Than You adding another layer of meta. When Urie directs scenes from Halley and Ryan’s screenplay, he often looks confused and annoyed. Something tells me he didn’t have to dive too deep into his memory to pull out an authentic portrayal of a director wanting to leave a project.
Much like how the exaggerated Feiffer gets wrapped up in binge drinking and movie stars, Feiffer (who co-wrote He’s Way More Famous Than You with Spahn) gets wrapped up in her own production sending the much needed satirical edge and clever meta nods out the window.
He’s Way More Famous Than You reads on screen as one of those movies where the leading cast (sans Urie) were all having fun and forgot to include audiences in on the joke. The writing becomes more blunt and absurd – happily inviting drawn out improvisation into the mix – and the dialogue progressively gets more shouty. It’s as if Feiffer and her gang realized that mugging, screaming, and contorting their faces was a much easier way to generate laughs than to do research about how to stick it to Hollywood.
The script also overdoes it on winking towards the camera and reminding annoyed moviegoers that the production has random stars portraying themselves. Feiffer and Spahn constantly have their characters spouting off the résumé of each actor – as if the people paying to see their movie have never seen a movie before.
The only time I found these reminders helpful was with Chernus. I had recognized Chernus somewhere, but when Halley talked about his work on Men in Black 3, my lightbulb lit up.
However, I found the rest of the blatant in-jokes to be far too obvious and irrelevant. I don’t need to be reminded countless times that Ralph Macchio was in The Karate Kid. And worse, I now understand that Urie plays a gay character on Ugly Betty. I don’t need this fact announced to me multiple times.
It doesn’t help that these big name stars look uncomfortable on camera. They may have been told to act awkward in their roles when sharing the screen with the obnoxious Halley Feiffer, but as a moviegoer, I can sense when Ben Stiller is acting uneasy and when he’s slowly realizing that Envy is no longer the worse thing in his filmography.
Another idea the film suggests is that even though Urie directed He’s Way More Famous Than You and Ryan Spahn co-wrote the screenplay, this is very much the Halley show. During one scene in a restaurant where Feiffer finds out that Macchio could star in her movie within this movie, she collapses on the floor and starts reenacting a scene from The Outsiders - again, an unnecessary reminder that’s beaten into the ground.
Around her are extras in this busy restaurant. About 50% of them are acting while the other half bite their lips and try not to laugh. This isn’t the only occurrence when this happens. When I see this, I get the feeling that no one told Feiffer that she was adding too much to a scene. It was as though everyone felt inclined and pressured to think her comedic sense and timing were both flawless and hilarious.
Meanwhile, the life is being suffocated out of the scene as the pacing lags and the audience waits for Feiffer to get her burst of comedic energy out of her system so the film can go on. For a similar case, see John Asher’s 2005 bomb Dirty Love starring his ex-wife Jenny McCarthy, who also wrote the screenplay. Or better yet, don’t and say you did.
Eventually, some form of the movie within the movie is screened and shows the audience having a merry-old-time watching the product. As past clips from He’s Way More Famous Than You play, the audience roars with laughter. So, as if the movie wasn’t self-deprecating enough, it turns into something much more smug on top of that.
As a result of this movie, Halley Feiffer, you’re more well known. You took the stage and showed audiences what you have to give them. However, maybe you could have used your microphone as less of a megaphone; and maybe then, my appreciation wouldn’t have felt so much like a throbbing headache.
Do you like having spare time, but find that you have TOO much of it? What do you do with it? How do you use it?
Hi! It’s Addison with a brand new product for you called InAPPropriate Comedy, brought to you by director/co-writer Vince Offer.
When he’s not selling ShamWOWs, Slap Chops, or Schtickies, he’s making movies. With InAPPropriate Comedy, he hopes to break down racial and sexual barriers to have some good ole’ politically incorrect fun! And, what better year to release his sketch comedy movie than during a year where critics and moviegoers alike screamed at January’s vignette fest Movie 43. They do say the key component to comedy is timing after all.
How does it work? I’m glad you asked. With the purchase of admission to Offer’s new comedy, Vince takes your free time and magically dissolves it into nothing. All you have to do is sit down and endure a barrage of tasteless, ill-fitting, unfunny, and dated jokes wringing out all those obvious stereotypes comedians hang on to when their writing or talent is nowhere near par.
InAPPropriate Comedy has it all! Puns and guns! Innuendos and loudmouth crescendos! Racial slurs and more racial slurs. Let Vince take you into his realm of comedy – that is found in Lindsay Lohan’s vagina via tablet.
The tablet, manned by a horny Vince Offer (That’s right, he acts too!), features many apps…to which you won’t see. Vince clicks on the same handful of apps featuring the same jokes, proving that repetition of the same punchline is the golden key to true laughs. Are you laughing yet? Is that spare time still with you?
In this tablet are characters and sketches all revolving around sexual or racial material. Behold ‘The Porno Review‘, where Rob Schneider and Michelle Rodriguez play an unconvincing screen duo who review porn movies based on a scale helmed by a hovering creep who aims his “rating system” into an empty popcorn bucket. You can also watch Adrian Brody play a detective named Flirty Harry who unknowingly speaks in double-entendres hinting at gay sex. And, drink in the bigotry during a number of pointless and appalling shorts spoofing Jackass. In ‘Blackass’, a group of hollering black guys dressed in shabby clothes running from the cops, playing with their oversized penises, and scaring uptight white people.
How do they scare them, you ask? Do they jump out and scream? Do they wear gruesome masks? None of the above. They use the same hot tubs as them, imply they could be good baby sitters, and offer behind-the-building abortions!
Purchase your movie ticket now, and we’ll throw in Ari Shaffir’s Amazing Racist character. Some of you may have seen Shaffir portray this character on National Lampoon’s straight-to-DVD Lost Reality releases. He’s a ballsy and obnoxious fella who pushes peoples’ patience with stating ignorant views and deliberately placing himself in uncomfortable and awkward situations making his shallow views the punchline in the hidden camera prank.
Whether the reactions around the Amazing Racist were staged or not, the humour was created from the flabbergasted – and sometimes violent – rebounds from those roped into the gag and the improvised comebacks provided by Shaffir.
In order to rid of this grotesque spare time, InAPPropriate Comedy does the exact opposite of what worked in those previous Amazing Racist sketches. The film gets rid of the spontaneity of the character and gets rid of the seemingly improvised nature of the skits. Offer, along with screenwriters Shaffir and Ken Pringle, replace these key elements with a script that simply states shallow stereotypes and waits for its audience to laugh at the hurt feelings of the actors who are barely playing the role of ‘the bewildered passerby’.
Watch Shaffir help Asian drivers by taping their eyes wider! Watch Shaffir offer “one-way” boat trips to Africa for black people! Watch Shaffir bully Jewish shoppers into signing an apology petition stating that “Jews killed Jesus”!
How does that sound? Tell you what, let’s spice up the pot. Rush out to see InAPPropriate Comedy and we’ll double….no, triple…..nay, quadruple the length of all these sketches so the emptiness within these vacant skeletons of alleged humour can resonate with you. Vince Offer wants you to realize you’re in a theatre watching deplorable, boring material that makes watching grass grow seem like an olympic sport.
We all know that time moves too fast when we’re enjoying something or watching a good movie. InAPProproate Comedy wishes to move as slowly as possible to ensure you feel every waking minute of spare time slipping from your fingers. It’ll send you into such a stupefied state of numbness, that your awareness moves away from finding anything to laugh at in Offer’s flick and towards the fact that you are sitting through a cinematic hate crime.
This isn’t just Vince Offer’s gift to you and your abundance of free time. Every single person from the star-studded cast to the PA’s to the grips to the marketing team wanted you to have this. They wanted you to sit through this. To endure the madness, the hate, the racism, the ugliness that lies within every single frame of this forsaken mess committed and churned out; waiting for YOU to lap it up.
So, act now! If this sounds like your idea of a slice of fried gold, you better run out and buy your ticket. Offer’s offer expires in the next 48 hours – the amount of time I expect this comedy has left in a mainstream release before it’s escorted out of the theatre.
Our next product on this program: a book! Or, these mountain boots that you could hike in. How about this bike? I suppose you could rid your free time using any of these items up for grabs in our program. Or, meet a friend, go out for coffee, write a novel, roll down a hill, go swimming, count the number of tiles on your bathroom wall, find those missing socks, fix that clock on your oven, you could even learn a new language!
Say, any of these things would be better than InAPPropriate Comedy regarding getting rid of that spare time. This advertiser’s eyes are now OPEN! And, I didn’t even need to use Shaffir’s racist taping tactic!
Vince? Step away from the celluloid. Stick to selling shammies. We’re going to be OK.
When director Don Scardino and his screenwriting duo Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley are nailing punchlines and taking cracks at old magic vs. new magic, inflated egos, and stage show cheesiness, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone lifts off. Add the timing and delivery from Steve Carell and Jim Carrey – two comically trained actors – and the film is a delight to watch. However, Goldstein and Daley take a few screenwriting turns that don’t always benefit the film and, in fact, dampens the middle section of their comedy.
But first, the main attractions. Steve Carell usually plays an oblivious bumbling fool and plays that role quite well. With the role of Burt Wonderstone, Carell is asked to play a more arrogant and mean version of this bumbling fool. The results are uneven, but much like the film itself, when he’s in his element, he’s very funny.
Here’s the thing with Steve Carell. I appreciate the actor wanting to take on different roles. We’ve seen this variety in Dan in Real Life and with Little Miss Sunshine. In broad comedies and in NBC’s The Office, he plays that type of loveable nitwit so well, that it’s a shame to see him stuck with a character who practically begs moviegoers to hate him.
Burt Wonderstone is a man-child who gets cranky and overreacts and it’s occasionally funny; with the best showcase featuring him and his partner Anton Marvelton (played by an amusing and well cast Steve Buscemi) performing an endurance trick in a dangling glass box. But, when Burt is at his worst, audience’s won’t understand why Wonderstone is acting childish to this degree as well as why he’s so unaware of how he rudely treats others.
This makes things especially difficult to grasp onto when Wonderstone and Marvelton have a falling out, to which the film ditches broad comedy and goes for a more emotional route about a struggling entertainer trying to re-establish himself.
Laughs are still to be had, especially when Wonderstone meets up with his mentor Rance Holloway (played by Alan Arkin), but these soggy scenes feel out of place in something that really should be more of a riotous rivalry story between duelling magicians.
Which brings me to Wonderstone’s worst enemy: Steve Gray (played with gusto by Jim Carrey). Carrey is the definition of a scene stealer with the role that’s supposed to resemble other shock entertainers – such as Mindfreak’s Criss Angel.
He’s sensationally funny and it’s a clear example of why Carrey is a brilliant comedic actor when given a character he’s allowed to have fun with. When Carrey was on the sketch show In Living Color, he would push himself to make certain characters resonate. He would warp his physicality and flesh out a seemingly flat sketch persona into something truly original and bizarre.
Gray feels like a lost In Living Color character. He’s a physical, violent enigma that allows Carrey to elongate his blowhard, nonsensical speeches and then follow it up with well-timed physical comedy. He’s able to take the perfect amount of pauses and balance out all the screams and facial manipulations. It’s a return to form for a comedy legend who is still aware of good character mechanics.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is successful as a comedy, but could’ve easily been a lot better. The introduction to Burt Wonderstone and to the Wonderstone/Marvelton stage show is well played and Carrey is a comic force, however, it’s frustrating to be presented with such interesting, hilarious scenarios – and especially with a character like Steve Gray – only to be pulled out of that scenario and thrown into Burt Wonderstone’s story that is dripping with sentimentality – which is something I’d appreciate in one of Carell’s dramedies, but not here.
For a comedy about two buds who take their birthday boy pal on the night of his life filled with partying, copious amounts of booze, and flirtatious girls, I expected 21 & Over to be a somewhat obnoxious ride through unsupervised adolescence with some cheap shots that wouldn’t have the film feeling as if it was devoid of all laughs. I’m glad to report that my expectations were wrong.
21 & Over gives two charismatic guys who have shone in supporting roles in recent sleeper hits (Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin and Footloose’s Miles Teller) the chance to take the screen with leading roles. They play a typical loose cannon/straight guy comedy routine, but what makes the duo noteworthy is how well they’re able to set up jokes and deliver the punchline.
Teller is Miller – the partier – who appears he’s been given the direction to “out Vince Vaughn” Vince Vaughn. He rapidly spurts off insults, wonders why everyone isn’t quite as wild as he is, and thinks highly of himself when trying to pick up women. Teller, though, is able to make a lot of his material work because of his timing and his deadpan readings and expressions.
The jokes are benefited even moreso by Astin’s “straight man” role, Casey. He’s there to state the obvious and to always be that character we can all root for throughout. He’s also a character who isn’t afraid to call Miller out on his wisecracks and overly confident attitude. He isn’t afraid to tell Miller to “shut up” and that’s a character attribute that is missing in so many buddy comedies that fail.
There are prat falls and frequent obscenities, but the jokes I found myself laughing at the most were the seemingly off-the-cuff banter between Astin and Teller. These are side conversations that don’t necessarily impact the story, but shows how fun their friendship is when these two are easily distracted by something/someone they find interesting. A random back-and-forth about Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of these highlights.
Let’s not forget about Jeff Chang (played by Justin Chon), the often inebriated yuk-yuk who unintentionally gets himself in fights and awkward situations all while not knowing where he is. Chon’s hilariously executed sense of unknowingness and innocence while being pulled along on this wild ride of a night is what makes us laugh at his expense. The expression, ”it’s funny because it isn’t happening to you” is in full force as we watch Chon’s gusto carry him from one sticky situation to another. Literally.
21 & Over is brought to us by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the same writers who penned The Hangover, but this film is surprisingly more like Dude, Where’s My Car? – and even more surprisingly wants to be the next Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle with the usage of racial stereotypical humour.
It’s funny – in an un-PC sort of way – but a lot of the shots at Jeff Chang’s irritated father and a sorority made up of angry Latino women feel like they’re missing a punchline. Just by showing angry ethnicities doesn’t guarantee hilarity. Why the first Harold & Kumar worked so well is because narrow-minded characters would presume the dimmest of accusations and possibilities based on silly ethnic stereotypes, which would usually be addressed by our sane stoner duo. Some of these race jokes work in 21 & Over, but others feel like they’ve been written by those narrow-minded characters from Harold & Kumar without anyone calling out just how silly they are.
There are plenty of disgusting jokes including a tampon midnight snack and a messy mechanical bull ride – all of which would sound even grosser in print – but the crew behind 21 & Over can get away with a lot of it because of how likeable the cast is and how quick the timing is all around. For a film cast entirely of lesser known younger actors, this vehicle shows a lot of great comedic talent.
Female moviegoers are going to be surprised with just how much of a skin flick this is for them, which leads me to Astin and Teller’s courage. I admire them for being able to push their own boundaries and comfort zones with this step in their careers. It’s a ballsy move. Literally.
I’ve underestimated filmmaker Jonathan Levine. When he first debuted with The Wackness, he had proven to have a great eye for detail in his mid-90′s settings but nothing else more.
I’ll eat my fair share of crow because with 50/50 and now with his zom-com Warm Bodies, he has a resumé that gives plenty of evidence that he realizes how to recognize humanity and what makes us tick. It’s a skill that makes his characters more than just “characters”.
He challenges himself with Warm Bodies; what better way to represent simplistic human instincts than with a lead character who is part of the walking dead after an apocalypse.
Nicholas Hoult plays the zombie lead, R. He goes on a first letter basis due to him having very little memory of what his name was before the apocalypse. In fact, a lot of information about this mass wipeout is nonchalantly untouched. R explains – in narration – that he may not remember what happened, but it doesn’t matter to his story because the disaster is in the past. Worrying about it is useless because “what’s done is done”.
It may sound like a screenwriter’s cop out, but it isn’t. It helps us realize just how aware R is to his surroundings and how dull and unenthused his existence has become. We get insight through more narration – which, again, could be a screenwriter’s cop out in an amateur’s hands – but, Levine is very crafty, giving Hoult a proper voice.
R is charismatic for a zombie and has dialogue that highlights the obvious but in a way that’s funny and observant in a natural frame of mind. At times, he almost sounds like an undead, less neurotic Charlie Kaufman from Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.
Hoult isn’t the only likeable zombie in the film. Funnyman Rob Corddry plays R’s best friend. They often groan abut nothing back-and-forth. But, those conversations play a big part in R’s life where he longs for interaction with others. He isn’t interested in wandering alone and aimlessly around an abandoned airport.
Corddry is very effective as a walking corpse. His dead eyes and long stares and sighs are spot-on and his performance is most definitely a scene stealer.
A turning point in R’s life happens when an attack occurs pairing himself with an attractive human woman, Julie played by Teresa Palmer, to whom he develops feelings for. Feelings and sensations that will stabilize that connection and romantic interest he’s been missing.
Warm Bodies has a premise that could be very gimmicky. Instead of giving into the obvious corpse/human-out-of-water jokes, Levine wishes to keep it simple and allow these two leads to develop a liking to one another. The outcome works wonderfully. It’s cute, but never cheesy.
Now, a few reviews ago, I scolded Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters for having a wild premise and not doing anything with it. There’s a big difference between doing nothing and keeping it simple. Why Warm Bodies works as well as it does is because these small moments of relatable feelings and actions provide that seamless bond between the fantastical and reality, thus, doing something new.
As R spends more time with Julie, that transition becomes more established and allows both Hoult and Palmer to resonate in new areas as the film progresses. There may be one too many moments of R and Julie listening to music and playing with R’s “collectables”, but these montages count for something.
There’s also a well-acted role by John Malkovich, who plays Julie’s bitter Father. It’s unsure if Malkovich is quietly having fun with this anti-zombie role or if he’s proving that he could play a character like this in his sleep. Either way, his presence is fun to watch.
I know it’s early to be claiming movies to be “one of the best I’ll see this year”, but I wouldn’t feel like I was jumping the gun with Warm Bodies. Maybe because I was looking for originality like this during most of last year’s fiscal attempts.
For now, I’ll comfortably call the movie the best thing playing in mainstream theatres at the moment and, yes, a fantastic flick in time for Valentine’s Day.
I’m sure anything can be made funny in some way. But, I have a hard time fathoming someone making a “howling comedy” about the hilarities of identity theft. Especially, when the film’s featured crook (played gratingly by Melissa McCarthy) is introduced to us as a loud, obnoxious, compulsive liar who is often either drunk or randy. And, she’s our comedy relief, folks.
In the hands of a cunning and careful dark comedic master, Identity Thief could’ve had potential – but, even that’s a stretch. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with this lame-brained comedy directed by Seth Gordon; a documentarian who showed sincerity with his doc The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and is now directing mainstream dreck.
In the studio’s defence, Gordon did direct the sleeper hit Horrible Bosses – a dark comedy that goes as dark as it can whilst trying not to push away its mainstream moviegoers. Wanting the same results, I can see why producers and studio heads would feel comfortable with Gordon at the wheel.
But, Gordon is out of his element as he works with an offensive back-peddling script penned by Craig Mazin. Not only is the premise dead-in-the-water, but the motivations behind each character are astronomically flimsy. There’s nothing for Gordon to work with here.
Seth Gordon may have directed two narratively driven financial successes beforehand, but those films were almost used as tools to see if Gordon is comfortable with directing films that aren’t documentaries. You can see this clearly with Four Christmases.
To send this semi-new filmmaker to follow-up those two films with a colossal waste that is more contradictory than funny is mean. To make a film as deplorable and unfunny as this is unacceptable.
But, enough career analysis and adjective hurling. After all my fuss, why does this alleged “comedy” stink?
We’ve all seen the trailers and TV spots for Identity Thief and, by now, we’re familiar with the premise. However, it doesn’t overcome the film’s major hiccup regarding treating a serious and frustrating issue like identity fraud as a broad comedy.
Right out of the gate, Identity Thief fails and keeps on failing for almost two-hours. The main problem being that the film’s protagonist is brought to our attention as Sandy Patterson (played by Jason Bateman), a ne’er-do-well husband who loves and cares for his family and has done nothing wrong. In Identity Thief, audiences are supposed to laugh at him as he’s being humiliated, discriminated, and abused…for doing nothing but wanting to get his financial situation in order so that he can go back to work.
Comic relief isn’t funny when it’s conducted by an annoying dolt and aimed at someone who hasn’t done anything. The only loophole is if that “mark” does something that snowballs out of control that leads to the absurdity. There’s none of that here because Bateman’s character is exhausted and halfway sane – until the unbelievable last third.
When Bateman’s Sandy Patterson meets up with McCarthy’s “Sandy Patterson”, audiences then endure one of the most irritating road comedies as we sit with someone who mugs uncontrollably and someone who doesn’t deserve to be miserable.
Sandy and “Sandy” make various stops along the way. All these pitstops involve McCarthy lying in order to get things and insulting Bateman. She takes advantage of peoples’ generosity and sympathy and doesn’t bat an eyelash. Hilarious stuff, right?
Wait until you see “Sandy” seduce a heftier cowboy (played by Eric Stonestreet) and then find out that he’s a widower and that he’s nervous about having sex with another woman. Imagine the joyous uproars of laughter when she jumps on him, has wild sex, and contemplates robbing him.
It’s a recipe for disaster – and the movie has no idea. Who thought it would be a good idea to generate laughs from an irksome, hoarding, annoying, selfish sociopath?
But, you’ve seen nor heard nothing yet. No. The film goes further down the rabbit hole.
Identity Thief has the gall to turn the tables. To represent “Sandy” as hurt and misunderstood. To allow Sandy to feel bad and develop a friendship with her. To show that even though someone has turned your life upside-down, upset your finances and your family, and belittled you for days, they can still teach you a thing or two about confidence.
Hell, the crook can even show you how to get back at that jerk-of-a-boss – by doing the same things that she’s been doing that are not only illegal, but have been angering you and fuelling your trip in order to sustain justice. Because, hey, that rule-breaking nuisance may just be worth fighting for.
Is it possible to set a movie on fire?