Tag Archives: Comedy

Movie Review: Scream VI (2023)

All the joys of the Scream franchise – surprise slayings, fun rules, sly cinephile references, newbies and nostalgia, all in a wily whodunit package, come together effectively in Scream VI (B+) co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Characters who seemed tentative in the last go-round come of age with self-assurance in this installment with an invigorating change of venue to New York City. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega are dynamite as the central sisters smarting from the events of the 2022 film, and Jasmin Savoy Brown, Liana Liberato, Courteney Cox and Hayden Panettiere are among the standouts in the ensemble. The co-directors make great spectacle of Manhattan’s alleyways, brownstones, subways and even a movie palace as their topsy turvy series entry stylishly careens to effective showdowns. The whole movie is about subverting expectations with ample surprises up its sleeve. There’s a highly effective sequence to tickle the fancy of horror movie fans with a near-fancon of spooky cameos plus an array of genuinely suspenseful action scenes and a lot more gore. This energized entry brings some glory back to Ghostface. 

Movie Review: Cocaine Bear (2023)

Director Elizabeth Banks and her game ensemble let loose with a devil-may-care bear tale and keep their powder dry with a sustained sassy stoner tone in the 1985-set action comedy Cocaine Bear (B-). O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich are a hoot as talky henchmen in search of a duffel bag full of drugs fallen from the sky and partially ingested by an American black bear in a Georgia forest. Margo Martindale is splendidly on brand for this lark as a ranger who “blow”-viates and practices her uneasy aim with a gun. The late Ray Liotta is sinister as the baddie who wants his stash returned and isn’t afraid to fight a sky-high mammal to retrieve it. As far as concerned moms go, Keri Russell and her kids are generally upstaged by the CGI bear and her cubs. The film keeps upping the ante with fun and frivolous tongue in cheek antics and an assortment of severed limbs. Bonkers comedic misadventures abound. It’s a silly premise well executed. Certainly no one forgets their lines!

Movie Review: Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023)

Now in theatres from Warner Bros.

All this tease from a tepid trilogy has revealed Tampa’s titular hero has simply been a frustrated theatrical choreographer all along. Steven Soderbergh is back at the helm for the third and hopefully final outing, Magic Mike’s Last Dance (C-). The director smashes his endowed everyman Channing Tatum against a proposal from a wealthy businesswoman played by Salma Hayek Pinault to direct a West End London adult entertainment revue disguised as a comedy of manners. It’s a convoluted plot when one isn’t really needed, plus it’s punctuated with observational voice-over narration as if it’s an academic exercise tracking the taxonomies of exotic dancers for a medical journal. Since there really is a British live stage show based on the dancing characters from this series, it’s also one of cinema’s most naked commercial cash grabs since Mac and Me and Million Dollar Mystery, ‘80s films that hawked fast food and trash bags, respectively. There’s a nicely shot smooth dance sequence at the beginning and another at the end, and the central romance between the charming leads has a swirl of sweet moments, but most of the film is either dull or misbegotten. A full proscenium of pole dancers still can’t conjure a respectable spectacle. Unlike the first two films when the ensemble is a winning part of the formula, this time the talented dancers are hardly given any speaking parts at all. Of course Soderbergh is trading in fantasy wish fulfillment, but the plot strains credulity and logic in too many ways to be taken seriously or even to function as campy guilty pleasure. The tones are so wildly different in this trio of thong and dance films that they might as well be classified as an anthology loosely based on a similar notion with one common cast member. What started with a g-string and a prayer has packed on so many layers, the series has almost forgotten it’s supposed to be about strippers. This film strains for the graceful exit.

Review of previous film in the trilogy

Review of original film in the trilogy

Movie Review: Karaoke (2022)

Premiered February 2023 at Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Festival runs through Feb, 21, 2023 with tickets to an array of narrative and documentary films available here: https://ajff.org/

An empty nest couple caught in a rut experiences the truth serum of a lifetime when a charismatic stranger moves into the penthouse of their Israeli high rise and lures them into his hedonistic lifestyle in Moshe Rosenthal’s Karaoke (A-), a sly and sentimental story about coming of age later in life. Sasson Gabay and Rita Shikrun are a delight as the introverted husband and ebullient wife both irritated and intrigued by their new neighbor, suavely portrayed by Lior Ashkenazi. Questions of identity and fidelity ensue when the central characters experience a triangle of mild madness as they endeavor to march to the sonic sounds of an unexpected vocoder. Rosenthal orchestrates the observational comedy with finesse as his sixty-somethings embark on a rebellious detour and a rage against the FOMO. There are some tender sequences involving music and dance which add to the expression and character exploration. This international film is a solid companion piece to Parasite, as middle class mores become trumped and tested by those at the top. It’s a marvelous and affecting work worthy of a mic drop., as middle class mores become trumped and tested by those at the top. It’s a marvelous and affecting work worthy of a mic drop.

Movie Review: White Noise (2022)

Now on Netflix.

The future in plastics once predicted in the ‘60s comes full circle in Noah Baumbach’s absurdist ‘80s-set dark comedy White Noise (C), in which airborne toxic events, misbegotten drug deals and the power of suggestion in consumerist culture swirl in the whirling dervish of a day-glo college town. This is far from linear or logical stuff, and it only works in spurts despite lots of creativity. Based on Don DeLillo’s notoriously unadaptable postmodern novel, this go-for-broke movie introduces all sorts of intriguing ideas which are equal parts fascinating and face palm worthy. Adam Driver is the assured oddity at the center of the proceedings as an eccentric professor of Hitler studies, surrounded domestically by a bunch of loquacious, precocious offspring from multiple marriages. His current wife played by a wryly funny Greta Gerwig is largely defined by a penne pasta meets poodle inspired haircut and a possible secret. Another talky teacher friend played with relish by Don Cheadle harbors awe for Elvis and supermarkets. The plot is a series of strange events, some that linger too lovingly long on their source material roots. The ensemble’s commitment to a hilariously heightened vibe is admirable though and makes for an uneven but readymade cult sensation, a bonkers love child of Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg and Kurt Vonnegut. Perhaps the film should be accompanied Rocky Horror style with a survival kit baggie of edibles. If you make it to the end, enjoy a closing credit musical sequence that’s somewhat more thematically cogent than the feature overstaying its welcome preceding it. 

Movie Review: Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022)

Now on Netflix.

Flickers of self-reflection and self-loathing dot the terrain of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Mexico-set semi-autobiographical seriocomedy Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (C-) as it leisurely meanders through its bloated running time. There are many ambitious ideas and a few lovely and dreamlike visual flourishes, but this film rarely transcends its bursts of inspiration. Daniel Giménez Cacho is a stand-in for the director, who is often quite passive in his own morality tale. Just as this tepid protagonist is caught between the worlds of his Mexican homeland and the Hollywood/America where he has immigrated, the film alternates between meta realism and smug fantasies. It’s all quite self-indulgent and mostly hangs like a punishing squawking albatross. The film feels a little bored with its own gimmickry and may have the same effect on audiences.

Movie Review: Spirited (2022)

The overlong runtime could make one think this Charles Dickens adaptation is more inspired by the author’s prolific publishing house word counts (£400+ for just a few more pages of script?) than the bones of his novella A Christmas Carol, but while stuffed like plump holiday poultry, Sean Anders’s Spirited (B-) is largely a lovable lark. This holiday comedy centers on Will Ferrell as a wide-eyed Ghost of Christmas Present who works in a league of modern-day “spirits as a service” opposite Ryan Reynolds as a cynical earthbound purveyor of humbugs and shady public relations campaigns. Both comic actors shine in their tailor-made roles and prove their musical chops since the film possesses a new songbook by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Octavia Spencer is also a solid songstress and contributor to the fantastical proceedings, along with Broadway journeymen such as Patrick Page and Joe Tippett. Many of the musical acts are rousing and fun, especially a throwback to 1800s England. The first act gets bogged down in procedure and unsure meta jokes plus a little Cop Rock deja vu, but once the emphasis lands squarely on how Ferrell and Reynolds flip the script on the classic story and start to rehabilitate each other, a litany of laughs and deserved emotion come center stage. It’s not a perfect addition to the holiday movie oeuvre but often a fun sprinkling of confetti from the Christmas canon. The hearty let’s-put-on-a-show vibe pairs well with the film’s trippy troupe and could very well propel this into the Yuletide movie pantheon. 

Movie Review: Ticket to Paradise (2022)

Reports of the death of the multiplex romantic comedy have been greatly exaggerated, with Ol Parker’s Ticket to Paradise (B) a prime example of a frothy frolic gracefully executed. This formulaic film is a semisweet bonbon set in the sumptuous getaway environment of Bali with gorgeous central duo Julia Roberts and George Clooney as embittered divorcees trying to sabotage their daughter’s quickie wedding and possibly rekindling their own flame. These classic marquee stars are undoubtedly the draw, and they are largely a delight balancing bickering with charm. They are magnetic and magnanimous in spreading their glee, although no one will mistake their acid-tongued repartee for the lost work of Billy Wilder. Kaitlyn Dever is a little stiff in an underwritten part as the couple’s love struck offspring, although Maxime Bouttier as her solemn betrothed and Billie Lourd as her loopy best friend are game in supporting roles. There’s a good deal more rom than com afoot in this enterprise, but it’s hard to argue with the escapist thrill of these actors re-meeting cute in tropical splendor.

Movie Review: Do Revenge (2022)

Now on Netflix.

It’s dish served deliciously. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Do Revenge (B+) is a smart teen comedy loosely inspired by Strangers on a Train, set in a prestigious Miami high school with candy-coated colors and ‘90s music delights. Talented TV stars Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke get top billing in this fever dream of diabolical double crosses and hilarious one-liners. The film examines the truth and consequences of spreading secrets and starting rumors and demonstrates toxicity isn’t the domain of a single gender. Mendes and Hawke are a wonderful duo and play two ends of a spectrum with verve and vivacity. Austin Abrams is also a hoot as a hedonistic bad boy. This is a recommended comedy in the terrific tradition of Heathers, Clueless and Mean Girls with tinges of suspense and acerbic wit. 

Movie Review: Bros (2022)

Now on demand.

This movie is about confidence and not letting anyone tell you you’re not worthy of achieving a particular goal; and that theme, more than the raunchy and sometimes routine comedy, makes its story a standout. Billy Eichner, known for his hilarious man on the street sketch highjinks, stars in and co-wrote Bros (B) with director Nicholas Stoller, and there’s a sense of gravitas and urgency to the proceedings as it’s one of the first gay rom-coms from a legacy Hollywood studio. Eichner’s acerbic personality often makes for an awkward force fit as the protagonist who has given up on finding a relationship, but luckily he acts opposite a very sturdy and funny co-lead in Luke Macfarlane, his polar opposite. Eichner inhabits a character who hosts podcasts and curates a museum but doesn’t really seem a natural especially on the latter, but his occupations are catalysts for him to encounter a diverse batch of characters and set into motion tropes of the genre including meeting cute at a party and hoping to get a call to hang out again. All the rom-com conventions are here through a gay lens both funny and poignant as the characters reckon with the history undergirding their fairly privileged NYC lives, and Stoller mines goldmines of incidental comedy out of the ensemble. There are snarky throwaway comic lines and occasionally some broadly funny physical comedy, but the main through-line was having something to prove much more than getting into a funny groove. Tips of the hat go to Bowen Yang and Debra Messing for very funny bits. The movie gets high marks for being high minded but could have used a little more lowbrow. The best parts are the more conventional “falling in love” sequences, and some of the other trappings feel like they are trying too hard to have Something to Say.

Movie Review: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (2022)

Now in limited theatrical release from A24.

Director Dean Fleischer-Camp’s novel stop-motion meets live-action dramedy Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (B) is an often entertaining sass menagerie, the A24 Films indie improv build on the likes of Aardman Studios’ Wallace and Gromit clay-making charm with a mix of Pixar-style pathos to punctuate the proceedings. This mockumentary style slip of a story is based on a series of online webisodes and stars the voice of Jenny Slate as the titular anthropomorphic animated character. Marcel lives with his grandmother (dialogue by Isabella Rossellini) in a vacation rental home occupied by a human filmmaker, played by the actual director. Viewers are treated to the one-inch-tall protagonist’s misadventures, gallant gadgetry and droll quips inside the house as he prepares for a newsmagazine TV show to chronicle his quirky life and possibly reunite him with his conch kind. Enjoyment of this movie depends on how captivated you are by Marcel; and while this shell without a filter is indeed hella funny, an elongated series of his outtakes do not a full-fledged story make. The film gets high originality points for its pleasant change of perspective amidst flashier fare. If you listen closely, you may hear tremendous tidal tidings washing over you, but some of the time it’s just treading water.

Movie Review: Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

In limited theatres and streaming on Apple+.

The central character is a whirling dervish of a “party starter” who, behind the scenes of his admittedly small-time New Jersey public persona, is experiencing his own struggles to launch his personal life at the beginning of his twenties in a sweet, thoughtful and unpredictable movie. The second feature film written by, starring and directed by Cooper Raiff, Cha Cha Real Smooth (B+) is a cerebral and celebratory triumph of emotion and characters; and even when some of the plot strands coalesce as awkwardly as the protagonist’s philosophical search for career, romance and meaning, the journey is a winning and watchable high-wire act. Raiff is captivating and charismatic as the extremely talky lead whose so-called motivational dancing is the least of his charms, but it’s two women who steal the show: Dakota Johnson as a mysterious mother who attends a series of bar and bat mitzvahs where Raiff is holding court and Vanessa Burghardt as her autistic daughter whose droll deadpans are a welcome yin to Raiff’s yangs. Johnson in particular has rarely been better as she plays shy vulnerability and gets to open up in some very engaging scenes including one signature discussion over vintage blue raspberry and lemon-lime popsicles. Among the many pleasures of the film is the intermingling of generations: Raiff riffs with the likes of his curious teen younger brother (Evan Assante), his supportive mom (an excellent Leslie Mann) and a variety of characters his junior and senior with plain spoken and plaintive exchanges about the nature of happiness and romance. The music is also a propulsive, delight ranging from the title party tune and familiar works by the likes of Lupe Fiasco to gems by bands such as Homeschool and Harmony House. This isn’t a laugh-out-loud comedy nor is it a conventional romcom, but it will reward those who enjoy a tug at the heartstrings and a good “I’m still coming of age” film. Sometimes no matter the station or season in life, a little bit of party pep can put a spring in one’s step.