Category Archives: Comedy

Despicable Me (2010)

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Despicable Me poster

Despicable Me

When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better.

This is a movie I have heard a lot about, but (not having kidlings) I had never really planned to watch it. I had expected, though, that on viewing I would find some hidden nods to adults – for instance, as they did in Enchanted – but, other than a slam of Lehman Brothers and a Saturday Night Fever reference, I don’t recall any.*

So, my thoughts…eh. Didn’t do much for me, doesn’t seem like the kind of movie the nephews & nieces would have wanted to watch repeatedly. Yes, I did spend unbearable weeks suffering through Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on a loop. D got his fill of The Lion King

I’m glad it was a free viewing (and I am glad it exposed the fact we were sold a floor model), doubt I’d watch it again. If you have kidlings, though, it would kill a few hours without destroying brain cells – theirs or yours.

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – but I thought it was just OK.

*We bought a new Blu-ray player at Fry’s Electronics Saturday. When we set it up, we found a disc in the drive. It was Despicable Me, clearly marked as “non-inventory demo”, so I’m guessing they sold us a floor model. Not sure whether it was the disc or the player, but the movie froze, jumped, and glitched repeatedly, making viewing less than optimal.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 81%; Audience 81%

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Ruby Sparks (2012)

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Ruby Sparks

A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

I think D picked this one based on star Paul Dano; everything we’ve seen him in, D has liked. This role of Calvin Weir-Fields seems written just for Dano (and it may have been, writer Zoe Kazan is his real-life live-in girlfriend). He perfectly inhabits the quirky, insecure genius. Kazan co-stars as Ruby Sparks, Dano’s leapt-off-the-pages infatuation.

The idea is not entirely original, but this presentation is fresh and fun. As the author writes and rewrites his dream girl, Kazan gives life to the phrase “be careful what you wish for”. Her portrayal of the perfect (and not so perfect) girl is strong, flitting easily through a range of emotions and behaviors.

Unfortunately, the film falls down a bit when we meet Calvin’s parents. The characters are so ridiculous and over-the-top, and the performances by Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas so silly, it distracts from the gentle silliness of the rest of the film.

Overall, though, the story and direction are charming. If you like romantic comedies, especially with an intellectual bent, this flick is worth your time.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 79%

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She Wants Me (2012)

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She Wants Me

A neurotic writer working on his new film gets into a tricky situation when an A-list actress shows interest in the role intended for his girlfriend.

This movie was so small, despite having a couple of formerly big name stars (Hillary Duff, Charlie Sheen, Debra Jo Rupp, Wayne Knight…), that it seems no critics felt an inclination to review it. Going by the audience reaction on Rotten Tomatoes, those critics didn’t miss much.

I found it a little more appealing than that, but not much. Fairly disjointed, often absurd. I kept hoping it could become…something. Just when I would start to think it found its footing, up would pop an over-the-top, out of place scene to knock it off.

I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see this one, but if it ever shows up on cable late at night, and you are bored or suffering with insomnia, go ahead and give it a viewing.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics N/A; Audience 41%

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his highschool sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.

Apparently, the primary activities pursued by mankind when faced with their ultimate destruction are sex and drugs. Lots of drugs. Except for Dodge Pederson (Steve Carrell), who we are to see as so schlubby and milquetoasty he drowns his troubles with codeine-laced cough syrup.

Somehow, Dodge finds himself on a road trip with Penny (Keira Knightley) in search of a lost love. Anyone familiar with road trip movies knows the odd couple will eventually fall for each other. This couple’s differences should be insurmountable (despite the whole “end of the world” thing) but there is a sweet chemistry between Knightley and Carrell that draws you in.

There are a few laughs and some fun cameos, but for the most part this movie is just…blah. It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t ‘good’, either.

Can’t think of anyone I would particularly recommend it to, but can’t think of anyone whom I would advise to avoid it. Guess I’ll give it a 2 1/2 because that is middle of the road – which is exactly how this film left me feeling.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 55%; Audience 56%

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Bernie (2011)

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Bernie

Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, well-loved assistant funeral director in a small Texas town. Shirley MacLaine plays Marjorie Nugent, wealthy, cranky, unpopular widow. The way their paths cross is the meat of Bernie, a dark comedy based on a true story. The movie seems far-fetched, but, according to Marjorie’s nephew, the outlandish details were “ripped from the headlines“.

There are little things in “Bernie” that aren’t exactly true, bits of dialogue, a changed name here and there. But the big things, the weirdest things, the things you’d assume would have to be made up, happened exactly as the movie says they did.

Black gives one of his best performances to date, showing us the melancholy and heart in a man somehow driven to murder. MacLaine is an ideal choice as the cranky, crazy old codger fated to be folded into a freezer. The one weak link in casting is Matthew McConaughey playing a Texas lawyer (shocker, McConaughey cast as a lawyer!) set with the unpopular task of prosecuting the town’s favorite resident.

Interspersed throughout the movie, we get bits of local residents (some of them actual residents who knew the real Tiede & Nugent) talking about the couple and the case. It’s a device that can be cheesy if poorly executed, but it works quite well here.

Despite the subject matter, this movie will appeal to just about everyone in my circle. Even those who you wouldn’t expect to get a chuckle from a murder.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 76%

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Shirley Valentine (1989)

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Shirley Valentine

Shirley’s a middle-aged Liverpool housewife, who finds herself talking to the wall while she prepares her husband’s chip’n’egg, wondering what happened to her life. She compares scenes in her current life with what she used to be like and feels she’s stagnated and in a rut. But when her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, Shirley begins to see the world, and herself, in a different light.

One of my favorite flicks for many reasons. It completely reinforces my trip to Greece fantasy. It illuminates the drawbacks of a small life, and highlights the options. It makes being “of a certain age” seem a bit more palatable. It has several laugh out loud lines, along with all the chuckles. It also has a great message and some very touching moments. It has gorgeous scenery. It has Tom Conti 😀

Shirley Valentine is an anthem to the freedom of the soul–with a generous dose of salt of the earth.

I have yet to see Mamma Mia, but I doubt it will replace Shirley Valentine on my “chick flick set in Greece” list. The only reason it doesn’t get the full five stars is because of the chick-flickiness….and some bad language…and nudity.

If you haven’t yet seen it, rent it soon. You may not love it as much as I do, but you are sure to be entertained.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 73%; Users 76%

Baby Mama (2008)

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Baby Mama

Baby Mama

Successful, single businesswoman Kate Holbrook has long put her career ahead of a personal life. Now 37, she’s determined to have a kid on her own. But her plan is thrown a curve ball after she discovers she has only a million-to-one chance of getting pregnant. Undaunted, the driven Kate allows South Philly working girl Angie Ostrowiski to become her unlikely surrogate.

Simple, predictable, treacly premise…in anyone else’s hands. In the hands of Fey & Poehler, it is a hit. It definitely manages to touch a nerve, but with humor. Combine Fey’s wit with some great casting and you are guaranteed a good time.

Poehler’s Angie was a bit over-the-top (is there ever a time she isn’t over the top?) but the obnoxious behavior at the outset is necessary to illustrate the journey her character, and Fey’s, travels.

Greg Kinnear always adds to a movie and this is no exception. When I see him on screen I know I will enjoy his performance, even if the rest of the movie sucks.

A nice surprise is Romany Malco as the over-involved doorman – with a heart of gold 😉 Even with all the lines she gave him, the part could have been a throw-away in lesser hands (or, more likely, considerably overplayed) He keeps you laughing

Steve Martin is one of my faves, more as a writer than a performer, and his part here seems more stunt (or homage) than anything else. It works fine, but was unnecessary. Sigourney Weaver pulls off her bit quite well, though I never really connected to what she was trying to convey – is she a good guy or a bad guy? Compassionate or opportunistic?

In supporting roles we have Maura Tierney (good), Holland Taylor (fabulous), and several SNL alums (fine).

I did have a few nit-picky complaints, though nothing serious enough to be a deal breaker (see below, they’re spoilers). You don’t need to see this on the big screen, though, unless you want to see it NOW.


Rotten Tomatoes: critics 61%; users 69%;

the spoilers: Continue reading →

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