Category Archives: Comedy

Son of Rambow (2007)

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Son Of Rambow, poster

Son of Rambow

During a long English summer in the early 1980s, two schoolboys from differing backgrounds set out to make a film inspired by First Blood (1982).

3.5

A sweet little romp with more depth than I was expecting, as well as a bit of side-eyed commentary on popularity.

As our heroes attempt to emulate theirs, we see them discover family, loyalty, and true friendship. There are some rough bits, after all, life isn’t all sunshine & rainbows, but the sterner stuff doesn’t diminish the story’s overall charm.

I would say this will be suitable for most on my list, though there is a bit of salty language

From Heather Huntington at ReelzChannel.com:
“As a general rule, I’m not a fan of kids, their movies, or Rambo, but this movie absolutely won me over. And — I’m going to say it — if you can stomach the idea of your kids hearing a (not too terrible) curse word or two, this could very well be a good movie for the whole family.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 74%; Audience 79%
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The Heat (2013)

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The Heat

The Heat

Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) couldn’t be more incompatible. But when they join forces to bring down a ruthless drug lord, they become the last thing anyone expected: buddies. From Paul Feig, director of “Bridesmaids.” (c) Fox

Another movie I never intended to see. As much as I like both Bullock and McCarthy, the ads for The Heat just made it seem awful. (D disagrees, he thought the ads were fine) It was getting impressive reviews, though, and when friends saw and recommended it firsthand, we decided to give it a shot.

Funny. Laugh out loud in a lot of places. The script is iffy, the direction – eh. The movie is saved from mediocrity by the quality cast – especially Sandra Bullock who is as endearing & funny as she has ever been, and seems to be getting better looking with age.

Melissa McCarthy is a funny woman who, unfortunately, seems to believe more is never enough. Her roles just get more & more over the top, usually dampening my enjoyment – The Heat is no exception. However, if you enjoyed her character in Bridesmaids, you will enjoy her character here. She commits to the portrayal 100%, and you have to give her some respect for that.

It is a bit coarse (credit that to McCarthy) and so definitely not for everyone. Still for a movie that had some very unappealing advertisements, this ended up being quite appealing after all.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 66%; Audience 75%

Magic Mike (2012)

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Magic Mike

Magic Mike

Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money. — (C) Warner Bros.

I figured I’d watch this one eventually, though I was in no hurry. Still, it got some great reviews so I assumed it would be worth the time. I was wrong.

There is not enough dancing to make this a fun, musical romp. Were it to focus more on the club & dance routines, I could at least appreciate it on that level. By trying to add some deeper, dramatic narrative, they set the bar higher . . .

. . . and fell far short.

This is not a convincing drama. It is not compelling love story. Perhaps if they had spent less time on the club & dance routines, they could have focused on telling a good story.

In far too many scenes the dialogue just d-r-a-g-s along, as if the actors are doing a lazy table-reading and keep losing their places on the page. There are some fine actors in this cast, yet they are so poorly used that McConaughey (who built his career on wooden, one-dimensional characters) actually gives the most convincing performance.

The major players in this drama repeatedly make bad decisions, making it very difficult to care what happens to them in the end. Even our “hero” is unlovable for any reason beyond his ripped body and accomplished dance moves.

We are supposed to care that Mike wants to make furniture out of junk, but we never see enough of that side of him to believe it – and the finished pieces they show are pretty blah. We are to feel for his plight trying to save money for, and get a loan toward, this dream – but we don’t know what he actually needs money for. More junk? We are to just accept that while he is alley catting around, he is somehow finding love with a chick that he repeatedly disappoints – and with whom he has zero in common.

Can’t really imagine recommending it to many folks, so based on the Word of Mouth Scale it get half a star.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 80%; Audience 63%

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The Women (2008)

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The Women

The Women

A wealthy New Yorker leaves her cheating husband and bonds with other society women at a resort.*

 
This was another movie I never intended to see. But, it was on …

First, the glaring issue running throughout the film – it is a cautionary tale about bad plastic surgery. Several of the women in this cast were, at one time, considered attractive to some degree. Unable or unwilling to age gracefully, they have undergone procedures that have turned them into caricatures. Scary, rubber-faced caricatures.

Now, to the film itself – also a scary caricature…of the far superior movie it claims to update.

  • Meg Ryan plays Mary Haines as a ditsy, uninvolved, overwhelmed mother. It’s hard to feel any empathy for her, which makes the story arc a tough sell, indeed.
  • Annette Bening is a grating Sylvie Fowler, a poor echo of the positively caustic Sylvia from the other versions.
  • Eva Mendes‘s Crystal Allen seems barely appealing enough for a one-night stand, let alone worth leaving your family for (except that Meg Ryan plays the wife as ridiculously unappealing, too)
  • Debra Messing is Edie Cohen, playing her as a schlumpy, goofy earth-mother. Hard to believe how Messing could become even less appealing than she has been in other projects, but she managed it here.
  • Jada Pinkett Smith, always grating, is cast as butch-Lesbian Alex Fisher. Oddly, hers is one of the least irritating characters in the film (which isn’t really saying much with this script)
  • Bette Midler is cast as Leah Miller, an apparent fill-in for Countess De Lave who, in the original, was both amusing and pivotal. Midler’s character has no purpose in this film. Her inclusion, in fact, was so odd I’d have thought it was spliced in from a different movie if she hadn’t dropped the name “Buck Winston” (the cowhand who wooed Countess De Lave). If they weren’t including the rest of her story-line, there was no reason to have her at all.

The list goes on – and on – and on. I could go through the entire awful cast, the awful butchered script, the bland direction, the ridiculous ending.

Unless you are in the mood for a glaring example of how not to remake a classic, avoid this one.

* This description is from IMDB for this remake, but it describes the original. The divorce resort is not a part of the 2008 version.


The Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 13%; Audience 41%

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

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Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl

Lars (Ryan Gosling) and Gus (Paul Schneider) are the grown children of a father who died recently and a mother who died giving birth to Lars. But as brothers, they couldn’t be more different. While Gus lives in the family home and has a loving wife (Emily Mortimer) and a child on the way, Lars leads a more reclusive existence in the family’s garage, hiding in plain sight of his small, wintry hometown. Painfully shy and eccentric, Lars fails to recognize that his co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner) has a major crush on him, and he picks up on a casual reference made by his cubicle mate, who mentions a website where you can order life-sized, anatomically correct sex dolls. But instead of seeing a sex object, Lars sees in this doll a potential life partner and the only kind of social “peer” he can relate to. So Lars orders a doll, whom he names Bianca, and begins treating her with utmost gentlemanly respect — and as though she’s his real-life, flesh-and-blood girlfriend. As he begins bringing Bianca with him everywhere he goes, the townspeople have to find just the right balance between supporting Lars’ unusual romance and trying to introduce him to a more conventional partner. Lars and the Real Girl was written by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver and directed by Mr. Woodcock’s Craig Gillespie.

~ Derek Armstrong

 

I’ve been wanting to see this one for a while, but had a hard time ‘selling’ it to D. After all, “guy falls in love with a sex doll” doesn’t exactly scream quality entertainment. In this case, however, quality entertainment is exactly what we get.

The part of Lars seems written specifically for Ryan Gosling’s delivery; his quiet, quirky, charmingly unsure delivery brings Lars to life for viewers (much as Lars’ affection brings Bianca to life for the townspeople). His pain and growth really come through.

Kelli GarnerAlso particularly well cast is Margo (Kelli Garner, right), whose shy infatuation with Lars has you wishing for his recovery. The lengths to which sister-in-law Karin is willing to go in her attempts to reach Lars in his self-imposed bubble may have been less believably sweet if not for the deft portrayal of Emily Mortimer

The stand out in this very strong cast though was, for me, Patricia Clarkson as Dagmar. She is the doctor who treats “Bianca” in her physical ailments, and Lars in his emotional ones. The role is small and quiet … and absolutely vital. Through her we learn who Lars is and why he is in such pain. Through her (and the other ladies), Lars learns who he is and how to deal with his pain.

So, we have a movie about death, and pain, and sex-dolls…and I am going to recommend it to most of my friends. It is lovely and sweet and explores what relationships mean to us – with family, with friends, and with that special someone (or something?) to whom we give our heart.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 81%; Audience 83%

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Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

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Safety Not Guaranteed

Darius is a young intern at a Seattle-based magazine and jumps at the chance to investigate the author of a classified ad seeking someone to travel back in time with. Along with Jeff, the staff writer, and Arnau, a fellow intern, the three go on a road trip to a coastal town. While Jeff just wants to chase after his high school crush and Arnau wants some kind of life experience, Darius spends her time with Kenneth, a man who believes that he has built a time machine. The closer they become and the more they understand about each other, the less clear it becomes if Kenneth is just crazy or if he actually is going to successfully travel back in time.

A quirky romp that occasionally seems unsure of its direction, which actually adds to its charm.

Don’t get your hopes up for a time-travelogue in a sci-fi, Dr Whovian tradition. There is more can-he-or-can’t-he than been-there-done-that, with an undercurrent of “why would you want to, what would you change?” It is fantastical without being flighty.

I don’t want to write any more of the story in this review, because you should meet these characters and learn their secrets as the writer intended. Every little detail I started to write risks revealing too much. Below, I have linked a couple of reviews that reveal more – so you can get your spoilers there if you choose.

I will simply say, it is a fun, fresh, amusing yarn. Worth your time if you enjoy independent films, quirky romantic comedies, or off-the-wall fantasies. My review would be in the 85% range, but I am limited by the rules I set when I created the Word of Mouth scale. Since I will only tell about 60% of my circle to watch this (there is some coarse language and sexual situations) it ends up as a 3 of 5 here. See the Rotten Tomatoes numbers for a more general idea.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 94%; Audience 84%

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The Way (2010)

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The Way

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

I’ve been a fan of Martin Sheen‘s smaller, quieter work since I saw him decades ago in Sweet Hostage. He is best when he is acting least, and playing a father mourning the loss of his son fit him like a glove.

As Tom (Sheen) makes his physical journey, he is making an emotional journey, as well. Along the way he meets fellow “pilgrims”, each with their own story. Some he meets for only a moment, some join him on his travels; Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), the sweet, sad-sack from Holland; Jack (James Nesbitt), the bold and brash travel writer from Ireland; Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), obnoxious, judgmental Canadian.

The film treads gently through the poignant moments, giving us some laughs to lighten the mood. The location shots are beautiful and Emilio Estevez‘s direction is reverent. This movie also did more to inspire me to travel than anything I’ve seen since Shirley Valentine planted the “must see Greece” seed decades ago.

The story won’t be for everyone, I think a certain maturity will be necessary to appreciate it. Most of those in my circle are out of their teen years, though ;-), so I will be recommending it to most of them.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 82%; Audience 83%

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