Posts Tagged ‘Comedy’

MOVIE: Grabbers (2012)

April 10, 2015

grabbersThis is the time of year when I’m typically at my most busy, aided this year by the fact I’m about to start pretty intensive training for a new volunteer gig on top of everything else, so please excuse the recent lack of posting. However, I just spent a week at my mom’s prepping for this spring chaos, which also means I have a whole lotta movies to tell you guys about.

Of the batch we watched on my week off, this was easily my favorite. It’s not just funny and clever, it also has a great big disgusting alien monster in it — whee! Recipe for joy in the Wood family! Plus, the solution to staying alive in this crazy yarn ended up being “get real drunk,” and who among us hasn’t wished, at least once, that that would actually help with anything whatsoever? I certainly have. I am, in fact, having a gigantic glass of wine right now, on the off-chance.

As the story opens, Irish cop Ciarán O’Shea, an alcoholic whose knowledge of booze is about to come in handy f’realz, has woken up, hungover, to find himself temporarily partnered with a young, ambitious female officer, Garda Lisa Nolan, there to serve as his temporary boss (to make matters worse) while his real boss is out of town. She’s straight-laced and judgmental — oh, joy — and he’s about to have one heckova day.

Their first case together is the strange beaching of a bunch of sea life. Something has killed a ton of seals really fast, which can’t be good.  Meanwhile, a local (likewise alcoholic) fisherman has some kind of new species stored in his bathtub — coincidence? I think not. (Let’s pretend not to notice that a species that thrives in an ocean of saltwater would not likely also thrive in a bathtub of potable. Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.) As the day progresses, the Garda come to discover that that something is, for lack of a better term, “a big huge grody alien octopus thingy.”  It lays many eggs, which hatch into many nasty little creatures, which in turn lead later to a scene in a bar nicely reminiscent of the 80s movie Gremlins, something that never fails to bring me great pleasure.

It doesn’t take long for our intrepid heroes to discover that the big huge alien octopus thingies do not like to eat people who have extremely high levels of alcohol in their systems (aforementioned fishermen is tasted and spat out).  Luckily, they also appear to be readily killed by firepower. The problem is, this little island Irish town doesn’t have much in the way of said firepower (at one point, they attempt to make a flame-thrower out of a Super Soaker water gun filled with gasoline — this goes about as well as expected).  They’ve got a call into the mainland for help, but, of course, a vicious storm is on its way, and the Big Guns won’t arrive until the morrow.

The solution? Get the townsfolk into the bar, and load ’em up.  The twist?  Alcoholic cop O’Shea stays sober to lead the team, whilst teetotaler Nolan gets rip-roarin’ ripped. Cue fireworks! And plenty of good old fashioned alien splatter for the kids in the audience!

It sounds ridiculous, I know, and, generally speaking, as a substance abuse research librarian, I’m not typically a huge fan of movies that make extreme binge drinking look like a good idea. Yet somehow, this movie just works and works and works. The chemistry between O’Shea and Nolan is sparkling, and the writing is sharp, witty, and polished. The monsters look extraordinarily silly, and we loved them all the more for it.

Overall, this is a pretty great installment in the B-movie monster genre, and if you’re looking for an entertaining way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you have a large bottle of booze nearby, you need look no further.

Highly, highly recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre: Monsters, Comedy
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse

MOVIE: World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

January 29, 2015

worldsRecently, I saw — and loved — the horror movie Willow Creek, written and directed by, of all people, goofy 80s comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. I’ve always been a Bobcat fan, but it honestly had never once occurred to me that he might be such a brilliant, not to mention deeply thoughtful, filmmaker.  Seeing that film really surprised and intrigued me, and I’ve been working my way back through his (short) writer/director catalog ever since.

This film, made in 2009 and also written and directed by Bobkitty, was, to be honest, a bit difficult to watch so soon after the loss of its star, the great Robin Williams.  It’s a film about death, you see.  A film about suicide, even (sort of).  Even harder, it’s a film about feeling negligible, a particularly poignant sensation for me, as well as the crazy-making impact of being a negligible person suddenly found necessary (knowing all along that it is a find both illegitimate and temporary).  Push your way through those emotional challenges, though, and you will be rewarded with a truly poignant dark comedy pumped up with so much effusive, legitimate heart it’s practically beating while it rolls.

Williams plays Lance, a high school English teacher, failed writer, and single father to a single teenage son, Kyle.  Kyle is essentially an outrageous asshole, and not just because he’s 17. You’ll try — you’ll try to write it off as a boy simply being 17 — but Kyle will not let you. He’s selfish, he’s judgmental, he’s snide, and frankly, he’s downright mean. Even worse, especially for his father, he’s also not all that smart.

Lance, on the other hand, is one of those people who feels things a little too much, painfully skulking away in a shy, dark corner way over on the opposite side of the empathy spectrum from his son.

When Lance gets home one night to find Kyle dead in his room from auto-erotic asphyxiation gone bad, his first thought is. . . well, his first thought is gut-wrenching grief. But his second thought is to protect his son from what he feels is a shameful, undignified death. The idea of his boy becoming even more of an outcast, a mockery, is so painful a notion he cannot bear it. So, he strings Kyle up from a pull-up bar in the closet (you see, then, why this was hard to watch in light of what happened to Williams) and fakes a poignant suicide note on his computer.

Though devastated by the loss of his son, the instant attention and affection Lance gets in the wake of his loss,  from the very people who used to make him feel so terribly, agonizingly invisible for so long, is utterly addictive. And while at first it’s easy enough to ride along, when Kyle’s “suicide note” is leaked to the school paper, things kaboom out of control.  Thus ensues a dark, satirical look at the way we humans so, so love revisionist history (as long as it’s revised in our favor, of course), as students and teachers galore begin claiming close, personal connections to the lovely, brilliant, and misunderstood Kyle. Latching onto Kyle suddenly makes them all feel less invisible too, of course, as they seek each other out for memorials, cry-fests, memorabilia swaps, and deep conversations with the poor dead boy’s lovely, brilliant, and misunderstood father. The world’s greatest dad.

Caught in the undertow of his own wave, Lance is astonished by the power his faked note has on the people around him, and can’t resist digging himself ever-deeper, next writing and releasing Kyle’s “journal.”  It’s the first time in his life his writing has ever gotten anyone’s attention, and that attention, to this poor ol’ underachieving big-heart, is painfully, agonizingly consuming — and, ultimately, painfully, agonizingly consumptive.

This is an incredibly smart, sharp, clever, witty, beautiful film.  It’s also a powerful reminder of the broad-achieving talent of Robin Williams, and his ability to play a wide range of moving characters, both inside and outside of comedy. (Extra irony here too, of course, because of the intense outpouring of love and support for Williams after his own death by many whom, I would imagine, actually barely knew and hardly liked his work. In my own defense, I was a completely unapologetic fan of Patch Adams, even, and so my aim here is true.)

Anyway. Dudes. Highly recommended, and DO NOT MISS.

[Netflix it (streaming) | Amazon Prime streaming (or DVD)]

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Morgan Murphy, Naomi Glick, Henry Simmons.

MOVIE: Veronica Mars (2014)

October 16, 2014

veronicamarsI’d been waiting to watch this movie until I could watch it with my mom, who was also a big fan of the series.  Neither one of us was sure what to expect from it, but we were both pretty happy about what we got, I’d say.  Not only was this a great movie for diehard fans of the show, but I think it works really well as a stand-alone mystery too.

As the story opens, Veronica is living in New York, having just gotten her law degree. She tell us she’s grown up, she’s changed, she has no interest in all that filthy snooping business she was into in her youth.  She is, in fact, about to land a high-powered job at a high-powered legal firm. . . when she gets a phone call from her old flame Logan.

Logan tells her he needs her help — he’s about to be put on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, a famous pop singer, and he didn’t do it.  Initially, Veronica, now living with the ever-charming but overly-“nice” Piz, plans to return home to Neptune just long enough to help Logan vet a few criminal attorneys.  But, of course, once she’s back in the world of private investigation, it turns out the lady had doth protested too much (that surely is not the proper way to conjugate that verb, but just roll with it); the lady’s no lawyer, she’s a class-A, snoop-lovin’ shamus.

The gang’s all here, from her dad (Enrico Colantoni, whom I was excited to see in The Mysteries of Laura until it became clear he wasn’t sticking around past the pilot, boo!) to her nerdy gal-pal Mac.  It’s great to see them all again, and the banter is as sharp as ever.  Additionally, the cameo from James Franco made me laugh out loud. TWICE. (Mom: “Who’s James Franco?” Me: “He’s like this super stoner dude who’s really, really smart. Except for the part where he tried to turn As I Lay Dying into a movie, which was really, really dumb.” Mom: “That does sound dumb.” Me: “I knew you’d understand.”)

Overall, they did a great job with this one, funded through a Kickstarter campaign.  And, they left it very clearly open to a sequel, which I’d definitely be on board for.  Recommended for fans of the show — big duh — but even if you never tuned in, you’ll find a lot to love here if you’re a fan of light, easy-going mysteries and solid writing.

[Netflix | Amazon]

Genre:  Drama, Comedy
Cast:  Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, Enrico Colantoni

LEGO Double Feature: The LEGO Movie (2014) and Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary (2014)

August 14, 2014

legomovieI saw The LEGO Movie last February and loved it so thoroughly much I decided to hold off on reviewing it and make one of the characters a Boyfriend of the Week.  I wanted to tie the write-up and the review into one big metaphoric LEGO brick I then metaphorically pitched through your metaphoric windows with a gigantic, delightful metaphoric crash.

BUT, as these things do(n’t), that didn’t end up coming together.  Poor MetalBeard; loved and forgotten, all in a span of only about 5 months.  That just ain’t right. (Though, alas, it is all too common — I have 7 (!) unfinished write-ups right now and I can’t seem to focus my attention on any of them long enough to wrap them up!  So many Boyfriends, so little time for foolin’ around!)

Delaying the review, however, ended up being kind of lucky, because when the Seattle International Film Festival came around again this year, I got a chance to see a new LEGO documentary called Beyond the Brick, which was even BETTER than The LEGO Movie, making this pretty much the most perfect double-feature write-up of blissfulness ever.

These two films have two things in common (aside from the obvious theme): they both star a mini-fig, which is awesome because minifigs are my favorite part of LEGO (Beyond the Brick is narrated by Jason Bateman in LEGO form, which is just about the most delightful thing of all time, and The LEGO Movie’s stars are all mini-figs, of course), and both are incredibly funny and completely charming.

Okay, that’s three things. Stop checking my work, nitpickers!

The LEGO Movie was the film I saw first, so let’s start with that one.  It was a huge, delightful surprise!  I was expecting a full-on kid movie, and instead, what I got was a movie very obviously written by someone more or less my age.  The pop culture references were spot-on for my generation, and even the inside jokes about LEGO were things adults were much more likely to pick up on than kids.  Judging from the audience I saw it with, I’m not alone in this, either — the kids in the theater were giggling, but the adults were absolutely roaring.

The plot is nothing unique — it’s about an accidental hero and the buddies who make his heroism possible — but the plot isn’t the point; the characters and the humor are the point, and the point is an incredibly great way to spend 100 minutes of your time.  All the little details are fantastically fun, and the “moral” of the story, that being creative is awesome!, is a great reminder for movie watchers of all ages.  If you’re a fan of interlocking brick systems — or even if you were when you were a kid and you’ve never looked back since — dollars to LEGO croissants, you’re going to get a big kick out of this movie.  And that’s all I’m going to say about it, because I don’t think I need say anything more. IT IS GREAT.

beyondthebrickBeyond the Brick, on the other hand, is not only entertaining, but also utterly fascinating.  This documentary tells the story of the origins of The LEGO Group, which began as a toy company in Denmark in 1949, manufacturing toys made primarily out of wood (like, little wooden ducks on wheels, for example). Then one day, while at some kind of toy expo, the owner saw a demo of a plastic molding machine and got a really great idea.

Since the dawn of the basic 2×4 brick, these toys have been used for a variety of things completely unrelated to play. Engineers and architects use LEGO to build models of new structures, math professors use them to illustrate problems (how many unique configurations can you make with 3 2×4 bricks, e.g.), and they’re used by artists to create all kinds of amazing, creative works (you’ve probably seen Nathan Sawaya’s stuff before).

In one of the most powerful scenes in the film, we’re also introduced to a child psychologist who uses LEGO to help severely autistic children interact with each other and with their therapists.  Kids are put into groups and given a project to build together, each with a specific task.  By following such a direct, clearly defined plan, children who typically have an extraordinarily difficult time engaging with others are able to talk to each other, work together, and create something as a team.  This scene alone makes the film worth the price of admission, if you ask me — what a genius idea, and what an amazing tool for positive change.  TOYS!  They are the best.

The film also has an interesting focus on adult LEGO “play,” too.  It profiles a number of grown-ups famous in the Brick Con (LEGO convention) world for their fantastical creations and structures, as well as people who have created their own LEGO-based businesses, like the Washingtonian guy (a friend of my brother’s, coincidentally) who designs, presses, and sells historical guns and other weaponry (LEGO itself mostly only makes Old West and sci-fi guns).

After all these enterprising adults started to monkey around with the LEGO brand, making their own accessories and builds and even selling some of them for profit, LEGO was forced into a not-so-unusual dilemma in the corporate world: do they go after the people profiting off their brand and sue the pants off ’em?  Or do they embrace the creativity of their fans and try to find a way to work together?

Happily, they went in the latter direction, not only allowing those businesses to continue, but also launching a platform several years ago called “Cuusoo” (Japanese for a concept similar to the word “wish”), in which builders from all over the world design LEGO sets, fans vote on the ones they like the best, and LEGO picks a winner and then develops, markets, and sells the set.  I lack the words to fully express how much I love the whole Cuusoo concept (it’s now called “LEGO Ideas,” by the way).  It’s simply one of the coolest things a huge corporation has ever done for its fans, andpoking around on the site looking at everybody’s designs and voting on my favorites is one my favorite ways to unwind in the evenings (if you have a moment, by the way, register on the site and then vote for the LEGO Hubble telescope, because HOW COOL IS THAT?).

meglegoAll in all, LEGO is sure having a pretty great year on the big screen.  I highly, highly recommend both these movies, especially to all you adult fans out there.  Kids will love The LEGO Movie, to be sure, but you grown-ups will love it even more (unless you have hearts made of plastic). And nobody won’t love Beyond the Brick, because it’s pure perfection. That one isn’t available at the moment, but — best news of all — it’s been picked up by a distribution company  and should be more widely released in late 2014 or early 2015 (according to the producer, who was at the screening I attended answering questions)!  Woo!


[Netflix LEGO Movie | Buy/Rent it on Amazon | Beyond the Brick site]

Genre: Kids, Documentary, Comedy
Cast (LEGO Movie): Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman

MOVIE: The Heat (2013)

January 28, 2014

theheatBefore seeing this movie, I wasn’t much of a Melissa McCarthy fan, I confess.  Unlike the rest of the entire female half of the human race (feels like!), I didn’t find Bridesmaids at all funny, and since that was the only thing I’d seen her in until The Heat, I wasn’t super gung-ho about the lady.

There are a number of bones I could pick with Bridesmaids, but chief among them is the fact the only character who wasn’t rail-thin (McCarthy) was — surprise, surprise! — the gross, weird character (Megan).  The joke was that while she was comfortable in her own body, everybody else knew her body was totally disgusting.  For example, “I never bloat,” her character says while cramming food into her mouth at a luncheon — that line’s hilarious, see, because she’s FAT.  Every bit of humor related to Megan rests solely on her hideous appearance and her sexuality, which:  blarrrrrrgh.  This is so often how heavy people are portrayed in movies and on TV, and it really, really bothers me.

So, when I heard The Heat was directed by the same director, Paul Feig, and partly written by Judd Apatow (not famous for his inspiring female characters), I was braced for the same kind of part for McCarthy, and not at all sure I’d be able to stand it.  The trailer made me laugh, though, so I gave in and sat down.

About ten minutes in and everything was forgiven.  Because while you could certainly still make the argument that McCarthy’s playing a sorta-gross (how old was that sandwich?), definitely-weird character in this movie too, this time, she’s comfortable in her own body. . .  and everybody else thinks she’s KICK-ASS.  (Not to mention smart as a whip.)

This movie is an entertaining spin on the stereotypical cop-buddy flick, with McCarthy playing a brash Boston detective (Mullins) and Sandra Bullock playing a stuck-up, stuffy Feebie (Ashburn) who gets partnered up with Mullins, much to their fairly equal initial dismay.

While the plot is pretty forgettable — I’ve seen it three times now and I can’t currently drum up a single detail from the “crime-solving” story —  it doesn’t matter because the plot isn’t the point.  The point is watching two hilarious, bright, talented women act hilarious, bright, and talented together.  It’s not a perfect movie, but, for me, it was an absolute blast from start to finish (three times over, in fact).  If I’d gotten around to doing a Best-Of list for 2013, The Heat would’ve been in my top 5 for favorite movies of the year.  So there.

Incidentally, after adoring the Melissa-McCarthy outta this film, I checked out season one of her sit-com, Mike & Molly, and was utterly charmed by both her and it.  Want to see some heavier actors playing regular ol’ normal, kind, sweet, funny, people in love for a change?  Tune in.

And as for The Heat — you should go rent this immediately.  IMMEDIATELY!  As Mullins would say, “Don’t make me put this cat down and punch you!”  Recommended!

[Netflix it | Amazon Buy/Rent]

Genre: Comedy
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Taran Killam, Kaitlin Olson, Thomas F. Wilson

MOVIE: The Kings of Summer (2013)

December 31, 2013

kingsofsummerThis incredibly charming film is about two best friends, Joe and Patrick, sophomores in high school, who, one summer, decide they’ve had enough of their obnoxious parents and run away to live in the woods.

There, along with a third kid they hardly know, a delightfully weird little dude named Biaggio who attaches himself to them and won’t let go (“What is this kid doing here?” Patrick asks. “I don’t know,” Joe replies, “I’m afraid to tell him to leave — I don’t know what he’s capable of.”), they build themselves a pretty remarkable little house and begin going about the business of becoming men, sparsely-haired, teenaged mustaches and all.  (For 90 seconds of Biaggio awesomeness, by the way, go here — you can thank me later:

As is usually the case with these things, it’s not long before a girl shows up and throws a long, blonde monkey wrench into the works, breaking up the band, so to speak.  Meanwhile, back at home, Patrick’s parents and Joe’s dad (Nick Offerman, essentially playing Ron Swanson with a teenage son), are working with the police to try to find their boys.

Patrick’s parents, who are the kind of lame-o dorks we all perceive our parents to be when we’re 15, mostly just seem befuddled.  It’s Joe’s dad who has the real transformation — after his wife died a few years back, he became emotionally shut-off from his kids, a gruff father with a lot of strict rules.  As the summer progresses, though, his initial fury over Joe’s behavior softens into exactly the kind of heartache I imagine most parents feel when their children leave home, the kind of heartache that reminds you why you put up with those crappy teenage years in the first place.

This is an utterly delightful film — overall one of the sweetest, warmest, and funniest pictures of 2013 for me.  Absolutely, totally, and completely recommended.  Go watch it right now.  RIGHT NOW, I SAID.

[Netflix it | Amazon Buy/Rent]

Genre: Drama, Comedy
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriarty, Craig Cackowski, Megan Mullally

MOVIE: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

March 14, 2013

70241756Words cannot even begin to express how much I thoroughly, incredibly, delightfully enjoyed this insanely bananas movie.

A few years ago, a reader here recommended the film In Bruges to me, a quirky little comedy about two hit men (one played by anti-Boyfriend Colin Farrell) hiding out in a small town in Belgium while the hoopla over their accidental shooting of [redacted for spoilers] dies down.

Written and directed by Martin McDonaugh, In Bruges is a strange, strangely brilliant movie, with sharp, witty dialogue and a surprising amount of authentic emotion.  It made my #2 spot in my Top Ten Favorite (Good) Movies of 2008 list, and I’ve watched it several times since and loved it all the more every time.

Seven Psychopaths, McDonaugh’s second feature-length picture, follows in similarly-shaped footsteps.  It’s also about a group of guy friends going through something truly weird together, and it’s got a similar kind of empathetic undercurrent to it (not as rich as in Bruges, but there nonetheless), even while it’s also loaded to the hilt with comic-style, exaggerated violence (warning! head explodes!).

The story is about Marty Faranan (Farrell again — and while I hate to say this, I’m really starting to like that guy), a wanna-be scriptwriter living in Los Angeles who has been working hard on his first screenplay for months, yet still only has a concept and a title.  Seven Psychopaths, he’s going to call it, and it’s going to be about. . . seven psychopaths.

Marty’s best friend, Billy (the ever-delightful Sam Rockwell), decides to help Marty out by putting an ad in the paper asking for psychopaths who have interesting stories to give him a call.  THANKS, BILLY!

Meanwhile, Billy and HIS friend Hans (Christopher Walken and his usual brand of semi-contained strangeness) have been working on a money-making scheme in which they kidnap dogs and then “pretend” to find them, collecting reward money.  All is going well until they kidnap the wrong dog — the dog of a notorious gangster, played by Woody Harrelson (cue lots of over-pronunciation of the “t” in “Shih Tzu”).

And just when you think this movie cannot get any more ridiculous or any more ridiculously well-cast, who should walk in the front door but Tom Waits?  Carrying a bunny rabbit, no less!   Honestly, if someone had told me this movie was going to involve Tom Waits and a bunny rabbit, I would’ve been first in line on ticket day.  That’s all it would’ve taken.  THAT IS ALL.

Seven Psychopaths is maybe a little too clever at times — it really likes to pile on the movie archetypes and the meta, with meta on top of meta on top of a picture within a picture.  But the characters are so fun, their relationships so zingy, and their banter so marvelous, the  overdoing-of-things at times just never seemed to get in the way for me.  This movie is flawed, without a doubt, but it’s also an absolute blast.  Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see what McDonaugh does next!

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Comedy, Action
Cast:  Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Pitt, Gabourey Sidibe,

2012 Mini-Review Wrap Up: The Twelve Best Exotic Marigold War Horse Chimpanzees!

February 12, 2013

I was all set to write my last catch-up review for 2012 (finally!) when I realized I actually had FOUR still pending.  Dude!  I want to tell you about The Hobbit and this great book I just read instead!  So, here’s a quick end to 2012 for you!

BOOK:  The Twelve by Justin Cronin.

This book is the sequel to Cronin’s vamp apocalypse novel The Passage, and it’s part two of a planned trilogy.  That I think I’ve officially given up on.  I enjoyed The Passage, but for a few minor complaints, and I reread it right before I read this one last December and enjoyed it the second time too.  But The Twelve is, put simply, a bloated disaster of epic proportions.  Not only does it flip around in time way too much (pick a timeline, already!), but it has waaaay too many wholly unnecessary subplots and characters.  It’s easily 200 pages too long — something a good editor should’ve done something about — and while I liked certain elements of it (like the whole Red Eye population of semi-civilized half-vamps), and I read the whole damn thing, I spent most of it frustrated and and increasingly short on patience.  When I was done, despite the exciting ramp-up there at the end, I felt pretty done.  No interest in part three whatsoever, unless Cronin hires a new editor and the reviews are spectacular.  I’m still glad I read it — there were things I wanted to know and now I know them.  But another gazillion messy pages just won’t be worth the time for the resolution.  I feel resolved enough as it is.  Genre: Horror.  [Buy it]

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelMOVIE: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

I watched this movie with my mother, who had never seen Dev Patel in anything and is now a believer!  That boy is so damn adorable!  (I made her watch Slumdog Millionaire as soon as we were done, naturally.)  The cast of this film is astounding — not just good ol’ Dev, but also Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson, and though it’s weighted down in parts with a touch too much cheese, the joy of getting to see all these people in the same movie more than makes up for the tummy ache.  Each character has a unique, authentic personality (with the exception, possibly, of Maggie Smith, who is always the same character in everything these days and who goes from astounding racist to lover of all things Indian awfully abruptly), and each takes a journey into their “outsourced retirement” that comes to a satisfying conclusion.  Wilkinson’s subplot was particularly touching, and I really, really want to be Judi Dench’s character when I grow up.  This is a delightful film, and a great one to watch with your Mom! Cast:  Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel. [Netflix it | Buy it]

MOVIE: War Horse (2012)

I haven’t seen the play this film was based on, so it’s possible it wasn’t really Spielberg’s fault, but dudes, horses, as wonderful and intelligent as they are, are not, in fact, people in animal suits.  The anthropomorphizing in this movie really got in the way of my ability to enjoy it, and Spielberg’s penchant for overwhelmingly artificial sweetness just left both me and my Mom feeling kind of beyuck in general when we were done.  Gorgeous visuals, and both Mom and I are suckers for movies about horses — one of the passions we both shared as little girls.  But this one’s a dud, start to finish.  Cast: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch.  [Netflix it | Buy it]

MOVIE: Chimpanzee (2012)

This Disney documentary follows the life of an adorable li’l baby chimp named Oscar.  As most animal documentaries do, it begins with the death of the protagonist’s mother, and has kind of a predictable arc that follows.  But the way in which Oscar overcomes his challenge — is truly fascinating and unexpected (in short, he’s taken in not by the other female chimps, who universally reject him despite his near-unbearable cuteness, but instead by the male leader of the group — an incredibly rare thing in the world of chimps and a totally unplanable stroke of luck for the filmmakers).  The scenery can’t be beat, and though I suppose you can accuse this movie of anthropomorphization as well, it feels different when its our closest animal relations, you know what I mean?  Go ahead and call that cute baby boy Oscar.  I’m game.  This would be a great film for kids — though since it involves the death of a mom, you might not want to go too young on this one.  Chimpanzees are so damn cool.  For reals.  Recommended!  [Netflix it | Buy it]

Up next, we enter the present at long last, and there is a return of the Boyfriends!  BELIEVE IT!


[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Comedy
Cast:  Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel

MOVIES: We Bought a Zoo (2012) and Zookeeper (2012)

January 12, 2013

Still playing 2012 catch-up — here are two movies about zoos I saw last year, neither of which really needs a full-length review, so both of which I’m going to haikiew (haiku-review) for you instead.  I enjoyed both of these films, and I think they’d be excellent picks for parents looking for funny, good-natured movies to watch with their kids, but they aren’t, like, brilliant or anything.

weboughtWe Bought a Zoo

Widower buys zoo
To save family from grief.
It’s cheesy but sweet.

Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfadyen, Peter Riegert
[Netflix it | Buy it]

zookeeperThe Zookeeper

Talking animals
Counsel lovelorn zookeeper.
Also cheesy but sweet!

(Hmm, notice a theme?)

Cast: Kevin James (kinda have a dorky crush on Kevin James, by the way, which is why I rented this one) Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow
[Netflix it | Buy it]

MOVIE: Men in Black 3 (2012)

January 4, 2013

mib3[Another 2012 review!  About 7 more still to come this week!  This is a very exclamatory update!]

So, MIB3, the plot:  a really gross alien dude comes back to Earth and decides to go back in time to try to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time himself to stop the alien and save Agent K, and then there’s a really ridiculous scene involving the need to climb up to the top of Apollo 11 and stick a MacGuffin on it (because, yeah, that’ll be no problem, what with the lack of people paying attention to the MOON LAUNCH), followed by a touching moment involving the history of Agents J and K.  WHICH, was actually sort of ridiculous as well (“Hey, my dad’s dead over there in the sand, but you seem nice, so let’s go for a walk on the beach!”), but it was also kind of sweet so whatever, I’ll let it go.

And that thar up there is pretty much all there is to say about this film.  I really enjoyed both the first and the second Men in Black films, and this one was just kind of. . . doot dee doo yawnface.  I laughed maybe twice, chuckled about as many times, and tried not to doze off in the middle.  A bit disappointing.

That said, there’s a reason why critics kept raving about Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones impersonation (he plays the young Agent K) and that reason is that it is SPOT-ON PERFECTION.  Brolin makes this movie worth a rental, and I always enjoy both Will Smith and TLJ (obviously, since both are former BotWs), too.  The problem was, I kept picturing the meeting in which this film’s storyline was thought up, and I have a feeling that meeting went like this:

Writer:  Have you guys seen Josh Brolin?  Don’t you think he’d make a really great younger version of Tommy Lee Jones?

Director:  Yes!  He’d be fantastic!  But HOW?

Writer:  Let’s see, what has Tommy been in that made a shit-ton of money?

Producer:  Hmmm, well, Men in Black leaps right to mind.

Writer:  PERFECT! Only we’ll need a plot — it can’t just be a movie about Josh Brolin doing a really good  impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, after all.

Director:  Why the hell not?  What’re you, new or something?

Writer: Ha ha, you’re right!  I don’t know what I was thinking.  [scribbles on napkins for about 20 minutes]  HERE!  DONE!

Producer:  It’s perfect!  Good job, kid!  Here’s a bazillion dollars!

So, you know.   Four bucks (rental fee) is a reasonable amount to pay for a 90-minute Josh Brolin impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, I say.   And heck, it could’ve been worse, after all:  it could’ve been Prometheus!  (My review of that, by the way, is coming soon!)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Comedy
Cast:  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter


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