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Entries Tagged 'Comedy' ↓

The Men Who Stare At Goats

You have to be a really weird movie to even come close to living up the hype that a title like “The Men Who Stare at Goats” has.  The story, which claims to be true, is about not only what the title is about but also how America financed a secret group of soldiers who were perfecting their “supernatural powers.”  Sadly, the movie doesn’t live up to the title.  In fact there are some parts that are almost so believable and rooted in reality that it no longer lives in the realm of absurd humor and is actually kind of sad and dark.  George Clooney and Ewan McGregor star in it as some sort of weird buddy team roaming the Iraqi desert on a mission, perhaps to find the plot of the film.  Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey round out the cast acting as if they are each working off of different versions of the same script.  There’s a huge disconnect in this film that resonates with everything about it.  It seems like this was a movie that was started but had no finished script to work on but it was too late to stop.  That’s the only thing I can think of since the cast is full of the kind of talented actors that can go from drama to comedy in one flawless swoop.  I can’t tell if the fault of the movie not making a solid landing on its own feet was first-time director Grant Heslov’s, or the script itself which was co-written by Jon Ronson, for whom the story is based on.  If the movie is any indication as to what it was really like for Ronson to go through this (if it’s real at all), I’m sure it was a confusing, trippy experience that was perhaps too bizarre to recount in written form in any logical sense.  The film drifts from scene to scene with very little glue holding the story together or explanation as to why things are happening.  That’s not to say that it’s not funny though.  Clooney plays deadpan comedy so well that it makes it such a treat when he takes a role that allows him to do it.  The situations that he talks about, mixed with McGregor’s narration, make for some very funny montages.  The use of quick flashbacks as an almost live-action version of “Family Guy” at times generate some of the biggest laughs in the movie.  But those aren’t enough to make the movie good.  At only 93 minutes long, it feels more like over two hours.  In the film the men who stared at goats apparently did it for hours and hours and hours trying to kill them with their minds; I wonder if us staring at this movie for just one hour killed OUR minds.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C

Couples Retreat

Remember the first time you saw “Swingers?”  That was that classic John Favreau and Vince Vaughn movie about being single and dating in L.A. in the mid-90s.  It was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen and still a crown jewel in my DVD collection.  What made that so good was the chemistry between the two main actors and their fast, improvised dialogue.  Since then I’ve been hoping that they would recapture that magic and so far they’ve fallen flat (they did come close with 2001’s “Made.”)  “Couples Retreat” should be held up as an example of how a movie can become so bad so fast.  The first act of the film is hilarious, the second act isn’t very good and the third act is just terrible.  The story follows four couples in paradise as they all work out their marital issues at a…you guessed it…couples retreat.  Not a bad premise for a movie.  The script was written by Favreau and Vaughn and the movie was directed by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”).  It has Jason Bateman and Faizon Love (“Elf”) to round out the comedic husbands of the couples.  It’s got the makings of a great comedy but man, I don’t know what happened.  It might have something to do with trimming the movie from an R-rating to a PG-13 in hopes to broaden the audience (still might be a little uncomfortable to watch with teens).  But it seemed like most of the problem boiled down to a lost script that didn’t know where to go or how to wrap it up.  Such a disappointment since the charisma, quick dialogue and typical stereotypes of men were funny before they get to the tropical paradise.  But then the scenarios go from funny to ridiculous to unbelievable to just stupid.  It felt like those skits you see on “SNL” some times that are really funny but then suddenly aren’t as you realize they go on too long and trying too hard to find a way to end it?  That’s what happens here.  Except instead of ending the skit on a quotable catch phrase like they would on TV, they end it in a resolution that you would expect to see on a Soap Opera…cheesy, convenient and foolish.  Notice I haven’t yet mentioned the women who make up the wives, played by Malin Akerman (“Watchmen”), Kristin Davis (“Sex and the City”) and the stunningly beautiful, albeit elf-like, Kristen Bell (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”).  That’s because this script didn’t give them any personality or unique characteristics.  You could have switched the actresses with their parts halfway through the movie and I don’t think anyone would’ve noticed.  I don’t know if that’s because they’re not talented actresses or if the script was written purely as a vehicle to showcase the men and use the ladies purely as scenery.  Now I might be wrong with all this since as I was leaving the theater I did hear other people saying how funny they thought it was; but I don’t think I am because I could hear a pin drop in that theater through the whole second half so they either don’t get out very often or just laugh on the inside.
Couples Retreat (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C-

The Informant!

Matt Damon gained over 40lbs for this movie and he certainly looks every inch of it.  But people who hate on The Oscars make fun by saying that anyone who changes their appearance usually wins one.  So is Damon next on that list?  I don’t know, but I think he should get a nomination.  He plays a fat, bumbling headcase named Mark Whitacre who became an FBI informant against his own company.  But wait…there’s SO much more.  In fact there’s so much to this true story that it gets pretty confusing.  That’s the problem with white collar crime – it’s pretty hard to follow.  Tell me that someone got shot or a store got robbed and I can follow that.  But you tell me that Bernie Madoff made off with $500,000,000 in a Ponzi Scheme and I have no idea what you’re talking about.  This film, from directing master Steven Soderbergh, tries its best to explain what kind of crimes are going on but doesn’t slow down for the slow kids in class.  I wasn’t a slow kid, but I wasn’t an A+ one either while watching this.  However, whether you get the plot completely or not doesn’t hinder your ability to laugh at the utterly stupid things that are done and said by Damon’s character, which leads me to wonder why the real Mark Whitacre would ever allow this movie to be made.  Nevertheless it was and it’s good.  Soderbergh (the Oceans 11-13 movies, “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich”) is great at making his movies seem cool and slick, even when it’s not.  Every scene has its own color and every angle has a purpose.  It’s really fun to watch as a film geek, although “The Informant!” doesn’t scream his name overall.  It does though in two areas.  The first is the casting, which has the formerly famous such as Scott Bakula (“Quantum Leap”) and Thomas Wilson (Biff from “Back to the Future”), the upcoming like Joel McHale (“Talk Soup,” “Community”) and a bevy of stand-up comics in not so funny roles.  The other area that is classic Soderbergh is the soundtrack which was done by the camp-master, Marvin Hamlisch.  It’s almost a character in the movie itself adding whimsy and goofiness to a movie that, at times, is a fairly dark comedy about the unraveling of a man.  The movie is almost 2 hours but feels more like 3, but not in a bad way.  There’s just so much information in the film that I wonder if some of it could’ve been kept out since it didn’t have the luxury to explain it in a timely or entertaining way.  But Matt Damon might have the mental illness of Mark Whitacre to thank come Oscar night if…that is if no other actors come out this year with a changed appearance too.
The Informant! (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

I‘ve been a fan of Jeremy Piven’s for a long time.  I remember being 14 and going to see “PCU” in the theaters and thinking that was one of the funniest college movies I ever saw.  Then I grew up and realized it’s not as funny as I remembered it, but his performance in “Very Bad Things” and the HBO series “Entourage” have kept me a loyal fan.  I may need to seriously re-think that allegiance after seeing this.  Just to give you an idea of how bad it was, there was a woman snoring behind me.  Well, I think she was snoring.  She was either snoring or breathing because she did weigh like 500 lbs.  But if she fell asleep, I wouldn’t blame her.  This movie is damn near awful.  The only reason it got the grade that it did was because of two scenes that involve a celebrity cameo (won’t say who it is, but it’s not hard to guess).  If that actor wasn’t so funny, I don’t think I would have laughed out loud the entire time.  It’s directed by a guy named Neal Brennan, who used to write for that show “Singled Out” and tried his hand at directing for the first time with this.  You can tell it’s his first time.  The movie looks as cheap and tawdry as the used car salesmen the movie centers around.  The poster says that it’s from “the guys behind ‘Talladega Nights’ and ‘Step Brothers.'”  By that they mean the Producers (Will Ferrell & Adam McKay – are among them.  I want to believe that if this movie was on…it would be die.  Okay.  I know, I’m beating up on this movie pretty badly.  It’s not entirely horrible.  The cast is actually rather impressive.  Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, David Koechner, Rob Riggle and Kathryn Hahn (“Anchorman” and lots more movies to come) round out the cast.  Even “Growing Pains” own Alan Thicke, who’s looking more and more like a Who from Whoville, has a small role in this.  You’d think that with these comedy up-and-comers, you’d knock it out of the park.  Well, they tried.  But after a grueling 90 minutes of movie, the battle was lost.  I had a few moments where I chuckled.  I had two short scenes where I laughed my ass off.  The rest of the time I was looking at my watch and listening to the snoring metronome behind me.  Ironic that a movie about warrior car salesmen that can sell anything fell so far short of closing the sale of making a good comedy.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D


Going to see “Bruno” is a like going into battle; you’re not all gonna be there when it’s done.  There were several people who walked out of the screening I went too who just couldn’t take anymore.  One of which was a father with his little kid.  Thank God they walked out early before things got worse.  The creators of “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles, have teamed up again to make comedy gold.  Is it better than “Borat?”  No, but it’s still an assault of comedy.  Borat was a loveable innocent character who didn’t know any better and Bruno isn’t.  Bruno is self-centered, shallow and knows exactly what he’s doing.  That may turn even some “Borat” fans off, but not me.  What I loved about this movie the most was how you find yourself wanting to look away every time there’s an edit.  My girlfriend Stacy said (more than once) “Gavin, I don’t know if I can watch this.”  The style of comedy that tests your limits for being offended and making you uncomfortable is one of my favorites…but it’s not for everyone.  You need to keep in mind that this movie just snuck by with an “R” rating after being trimmed down from an “NC-17.”  I’m honestly STILL shocked they showed what they did in some scenes.  Even though this movie is one of the funniest so far this year, it’s far from perfect.  What I didn’t enjoy about it was the story that they felt they needed to shoehorn in.  What makes these movies funny are the interactions with unsuspecting people, not the story line…which in “Bruno” takes center stage at times more than the commando comedy does.  I felt like, at the very least, he could’ve extended some of the interviews that remind us of the amazing HBO series “Da Ali G Show,” which is where Borat and Bruno came from.  I mean, come on, the movie’s only 83 minutes long!  The other complaint is the movie’s staggering around it does at the end trying to come up with an ending.  From what I understand though, that’s not entirely their fault since the ending had to be changed and diced up since some groups were really offended by some ways he wanted to mock California’s denial of gay marriage.  Oh yeah, Bruno’s gay.  I probably should’ve mentioned that.  You have to be comfortable enough to see that.  If you’re one of those thick-neck, jock douchebags that screams and looks away when you see two men kiss in a movie, then go see “Ice Age 3.”  But if you can handle “in-your-face crotch” gay jokes,  and find men making out and lots of floppy penis funny, your movie has arrived!
Bruno (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-

Whatever Works

Woody Allen is an American icon.  He has made a movie once a year since 1975!!!  Not sure if you really grasped that.  One man has written and directed a movie every single year for the past 34 years!  He has one of the longest catalogs on the website.  He’s written some of the funniest movies ever made, won Oscars but has also made some crap.  This one falls somewhere in between.  It stars Larry David, who if you didn’t see him on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO or know he was the creator of “Seinfeld,” would think he’s just some guy who won the Woody Allen look-a-like contest.  He plays the lead opposite Evan Rachel Wood, who is a young, Southern barbie doll who develops an unlikely friendship with him.  Wood is completely unrecognizable since seeing her last as Mickey Rourke’s daughter in “The Wrestler.”  She is really developing into a great actress that has the chops to hold up against any drama and any comedy.  Larry David on the other hand is good at one thing…playing Larry David.  That’s not really a bad thing since all he’s doing is stepping in for Allen who is only good at playing Woody Allen as well.  That’s a kind of accurate way to describe the film as a whole too.  It’s a Woody Allen movie that is really only good at being one thing…a Woody Allen movie.  It’s a slice of romantic comedy New York City life as told (directly to the camera) by a miserable, Jewish, hypocondriac genius.  It mocks the south, stupidity, religion and conservative people.  Those are all things that I find amusing and funny but it doesn’t help Woody Allen’s reputation for being a snob at all.  One of the best Woody Allen movies ever made (and best movie in general ever made) is “Annie Hall.”  It’s like he wanted to recapture the magic in that movie and made this but ended up getting just a low-rent version of it.  It’s a jaded, apathetic, negative look at love but still ends up with a positive message and a couple big laughs by the end.  If you’re a fan of Woody Allen, you know that watching his movies is like watching a play; you have to be patient and get ready for a lot of talking that aims intentionally over your head, but if that’s your cup-of-tea then sit down and enjoy a pot with this.
Whatever Works  (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-

Year One

There once was a time when would consider myself a huge Jack Black fan, but sadly that ship has not only sailed but it also sunk.  It’s not that Black isn’t funny, but it’s that his specific style of humor is the same for every single movie he’s in.  Michael Cera is also just like that.  Luckily I’m not over Michael Cera yet and he’s funny enough in this movie to compensate for the moments where Black isn’t.  The moments where neither are funny, (which are few) they’re compensated by the amazing supporting cast that includes Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt and David Cross.  To call this movie another dumb summer comedy is an injustice.  If anything, this may be one of the smartest comedies I’ve seen in a while.  Sure there are dumb, gross-out jokes in it, but the overall concept is genius.  It’s written and directed by comedy legend Harold Ramis (who also has a role in the film).  It has the feel of a comedy skit drawn out into a 90 minute movie that never once gets old.  The fact that it’s also a historical comedy reminds me of and stands up to the likes of Mel Brooks’ “History of the World Part I” and Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”  Oh, and when I say “historical” don’t think for a second that it’s anywhere close to historically accurate.  But it’s mostly a send up to biblical stories from the Old Testament, but never once really mocks them.   I personally thought that Oliver Platt steals the movie by playing a transgender priest who has the hots for Cera’s character.  There is one scene in particular between them that had me laughing so hard that my eyes were tearing up.  This movie proves once again that Harold Ramis has the comedic know-how to allow his actors to improvise lines on a hilarious story he creates and executes it so well that it appealed to the theological and historical intellect and the fratboy jackass that lies in me.  He played two styles of comedy like that in “Caddyshack,” in “Analyze This” (and “That”) and in “Groundhog Day,” and now he did it again with “Year One.”
Year One (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A

The Hangover

The Hangover (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B

This movie is from the creator of “Old School,” Todd Phillips.  Now he got his start at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC.  I actually worked there when he did and it hurts a little bit when I see his movie covered in people that I used to work with there.  I should’ve hung in there longer.  Ha!  I just needed to say that but anyway…  Whether or not you enjoy this movie is based on whether or not you think that a single joke can last 90 minutes.  My answer to that is no it can’t.  However it can get you to about 60 minutes and it’s a really, really funny 60 minutes.  “The Hangover” stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and comedian Zach Galifianakis and is about three guys waking up in Vegas after an insane bachelor party and trying to remember what happened and find their friend, Doug.  That premise is awesome for the first two-thirds of the story.  But after a while this joke wears real thin.  In fact I laughed till I hurt until we were in the homestrech of the movie and then I don’t think I laughed at all.  However, the end credits helps you forget how unfunny the last act is by being one of the best parts of the movie.  One thing you also need to know is that this movie is not the family comedy of the year.  I don’t know how many of these films need to come out before people catch on to what an “R” rating means.  But the raunch and cheap thrills offered in this don’t compare to other “R” rated comedies that came out this year.  “I Love You, Man” and “Observe and Report” I thought were offensive and edgy but were still really creative.  Their characters had debth and were unique and complex, which as a movie fan is really a treat to see in a comedy.  It’s not that I didn’t like “The Hangover,” because I totally did; I guess I’ve just grown to expect a little more out of my comedies lately.  I like my characters to be a little three dimensional and a little less cookie-cutter.  But at the same time, how can anyone who’s ever woken up after a blackout night of drinking not love at least the first half of this movie?

Observe and Report

Observe and Report (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-

This new movie from writer/director, Jody Hill, is twisted, offensive, graphic…and I loved it.  Hill released a movie a few years ago called “The Foot Fist Way” and it starred Danny McBride (who also make a cameo in this film).  “The Foot Fist Way” was a movie about a delusional Karate instructor who has dreams of becoming something he’ll never be.  “Observe and Report” stars Seth Rogen as a delusional mall cop who has dreams of becoming something he’ll never be.  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Hill seems to know a lot about these types of characters and their mental illness; and yes they are mentally ill.  In fact, in this they even tell you that Rogen’s character “Ronnie” suffers from bi-polar disorder, and my guess is a few other things too.  Because Hill understands these characters so well, there are periods of the film that dive into very serious moments where you’re unsure if you should laugh or not.  I love comedies like that, but I understand that not everyone does.  I get it, that this film is far from being a universally accepted film.  It’s an unsafe brand of humor that is quite different from the Judd Apatow movies, ie: “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up.”  Both are offensive and extremely funny, but Apatow creates clear protaganists that you champion on and Hill’s movies contain characters that make you uneasy about routing for them.  And in “Observe and Report” he punched those characters up by adding talent like Ray Liotta, Anna Faris (who is growing increasingly more sexy in every movie) and even a cameo from one of my favorite comics, Patton Oswalt.  I hope that Hollywood gives Jody Hill more chances to make more movies because I enjoy the return of complex, adult comedies with brains and hope to see more of them.

I Love You, Man

I Love You, Man (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A

Hey guys, remember the first time you saw the movie “Swingers?”  If you were anything like me, that movie struck a chord in you the first time you saw it.  There was a character you identified with and a character you wanted to be like.  This movie is like “Swingers” but for adults.  Paul Rudd, who has been playing the EXACT same role in the movies for the past 3 years (thank God he’s great at it), is a guy about to get married and realizes that he doesn’t have any male friends.  After searching for a best friend and giving up, he then finds Jason Segal, who is a fun-loving, easy-going, totally honest slacker.  Now it might just be that this movie is not as good as I thought it was, even though the theater erupted into laughter and applause several times.  It could be that I just happened to have seen this at the perfect time of my life.  See, just like Paul Rudd’s character, I too feel like I don’t have any real male friends since moving to Sacramento from the east coast.  So watching this character not only made me laugh but it also kind of touched me and let me know that I’m not as alone as I thought I was.  I don’t know, maybe I’m totally alone in this but I thought the movie had a powerful message about the bonds of male friendship as well as being one of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year.  I think one reason it was so funny was that it’s something that men and women can enjoy together, which seems to be a rare situation in the onslaught of Judd Apatow movies in the past few years.  Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still edgy, but it doesn’t revel in the “d*ck & fart” joke arena more than it has too.  It also managed to pull together one of the best comedy ensemble casts in years; ie: John Favreau, Rashida Jones, Jamie Pressley, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samburg, half the cast of The State and Lou Ferrigno as himself.  I would highly suggest you checking out this movie this weekend on a date…or better yet, bring your best bud and heat up the flames of your bromance!