Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category
Little Big League
Posted by will on June 10, 2011
Runtime: 119 minutes
Plot: A young boy is bequeathed the ownership of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.
Seeing as we are ankle-deep in the 2011 version of our National Pastime, what is more appropriate than looking back on one of the many baseball-centric films of the early to mid 90s? In 1993 – 1994 our nation was plagued by baseball fever at the box office. In the span of two years we were inundated by the family-friendly likes of Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot, and Angels in the Outfield. That doesn’t even include more mature titles such as The Scout, Major League II, The Man from Left Field, A League of Their Own, The Babe, and Cobb.
Little Big League came at a time of fevered passion for baseball. Yet, it also came at the end of a golden era. Baseball had a very strong following and fan base … That is, until the 1994-95 season was lost to baseball’s eight work stoppage and fan interest in our beloved sport waned. Outraged and shaken fans quit attending games and baseball suffered (although, popularity metrics and the actual decline of the love of the game can be infinitely argued upon, this is more from my personal experience).
Growing up, kids of my generation played baseball, religiously followed their team, collected baseball, had their favorite players, and savored visits to the ballpark to see the pros go to work. Baseball, then, was indeed American as apple pie and the Fourth of July. So, what is the state of baseball with American youth now? It’s hard for me to say but I do know I haven’t seen a movie focused on baseball in awhile (sorry, Fever Pitch … which was really a remake on a British film revolving around the game of soccer).
Little Big League manages to play to our childhood fantasies but it also raised the stakes. Whereas Rookie of the Year put a kid in a big league uniform, Little Big League put the a kid in control of a whole team. The premise is simple; the owner of the Minnesota Twins suddenly passes away and leaves the team to his 12 year old grandson, Billy Heywood, who has a prodigious baseball database for a brain. After kicking the unforgiving scuzzball manager to the curb, Heywood installs himself at the team’s helm. The rest of the movie centers around Billy’s attempts to win the respect of the proud and rugged team as they attempt to turn their season around. With every step, Billy must also face the scrutiny of the media, fans, and his friends.
It’s been 17 years since this film was initially released and I am pleased to write that it holds up. The premise is simple but the movie is still a pretty entertaining 119 minutes. While the story is formulaic, there is enough substance for the film to leg out a double. Sure, there are a lot of cornball moments and logic was thrown out of the game in the first inning, but this movie isn’t trying to be an accurate portrayal (a 12 year old is negotiating the rights for Ricky Henderson at one point!).
An added bonus to watching this movie is the nostalgia. Plenty of real life players make cameos, from the legendary (Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson), familiar (Paul O’Neill, Sandy Alomar Jr., Iván Rodriguez, Tim Raines), and the Oh-Yeah-That-Guy (Dave Magadan, Wally Joyner, Carlos Baerga). For those of us Millennials growing up in the late 80′s and early 90′s, Little Big League is a nice memory trip to when baseball was king.
The Other Guys
Posted by christopher on March 21, 2011
Runtime: 107 minutes
Plot: Allen and Terry, they’re not the gunslinging, drug-busting, ball-breaking, veterans in the police force. No, they’re the other guys, the paper pushers who stumble onto a big case and they’re big break.
The Other Guys is a buddy cop comedy staring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as NYPD detectives Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz. Allen is a practical man; a healthy breakfast, a witty quip on NPR, saving money and the environment with his hybrid vehicle. Terry is by all accounts bi-polar; he’s also driven to succeed, to be the best, and subsequently he’s a bit of a bully. Allen and Terry are partners; an unlikely couple who are exact opposites. Finally, The Other Guys is directed and written in part by Adam McKay, a long time Ferrell partner who’s written and/or directed many of his prior films. With that, and with a long list of high profile names as supporting case, we’ve got a pretty good recipe for a funny movie.
I was cautiously interested in The Other Guys. I was quite looking forward to seeing Wahlberg in a more prominent comedic role. He’s a solid actor who knows a good movie or tv show when he sees one. Ferrell is, well, Ferrell who is capable of making a funny movie, but his goofiness has in many cases been lost in me and the wider audience. But I decided to pull the trigger and give The Other Guys a go.
The best way to describe the movie is that almost every scene is individually entertaining, either being funny or displaying some quite thrilling action (which often are also funny given the over-the-top nature of the shots), however together there lacks a cohesion of each part and so we have a somewhat jumbled mess. It’s like a big ball of snickers, jelly beans, skittles, m&m’s, almond joy, and sour patch kids stuck inside of a red velvet cake with a cream cheese icing with a side of sherbet ice cream; individually all of those sweets are brilliant but together not so much. I was drawn into the movie from the beginning and I laughed throughout, it is just unfortunate that each piece couldn’t be better glued together.
The underlying story itself was a social commentary on the recent market fallout, bailout of banks, and fat cat executive schemes. I commend the film for attempting to provide some transparency to the issue (the credits are paired with rather interesting facts and infographics) while making light of it (something worthwhile itself to help us all just move on). However, again, there were many tangential scenes which really just didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but may have just been too good to leave on the cutting room floor or only provide in extras that will likely be missed by most people. One scene, a brilliant long shot of singular, still images when Allen and Terry go out to drown their sorrows in alcohol, was, well, brilliant but didn’t really add anything beyond itself to the story or characters.
While I don’t think The Other Guys will make it into the mainstream like an Anchorman did, it does provide some similarly funny one-liners that will undoubtedly make me laugh while reminiscing. And like the candy-cake and sherbet, The Other Guys is worth a try at least once because there’s some tasty morsels embedded within.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
Posted by will on March 16, 2011
Runtime: 85 minutes
Plot: Police Squad’s own granite-jawed, rock-brained cop, Frank Drebin, bumbles across a mind-control scheme to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. Detective Nordberg, Jane Spencer, a stuffed beaver, two baseball teams an odd assortment of others joining the wacko goings-on.
It’s hard to believe that Leslie Nielson was once a serious dramatic actor at the dawn of his career. Yet, with his role of Dr. Rumack in 1980′s satire hit, Airplane!, Mr. Nielson came across a watershed moment. From there on out, he became the undisputed King of Comedic Deadpan. Whether he was the Lord Dracula in Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the titular Mr. Magoo, Dick Steele in the James Bond and action movie spoof Spy Hard, however awful the movie actually was, Mr. Nielson always kept it together with his expressionless poker-face.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is not only Mr. Nielson at his sharpest, the movie as a whole, with its word play, non sequiturs, and visual gags, is actually a very solid comedy.
Mr. Nielson plays Lt. Frank Drebin, a loose cannon cop within the ranks of Police Squad who, while well respected, has a brick for a brain (he once killed 5 actors during a Shakespeare-in-the-Park presentation of Julius Caesar – ’Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.”). With his partner Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) the victim of a drug bust gone awry and his heart in shambles from being recently dumped, Drebin is in the midst of foiling the assassination of the visiting Queen of England. His suspect only happens to be one of the most wealthy and well-respected men in Los Angeles, Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán). When Frank bumbles his way from lead to the other, namely, burning Ludwig’s offices to the ground and putting the Queen in a compromising position (literally), Drebin is removed from the ranks of Police Squad and must prove his theories alone.
The pace of the jokes and gags are rapid-fire. In fact, it feels like every time I watch this movie, there’s another nuance to the comedy that is uncovered.
The writing and directing is simply brilliant. It’s what you might call “comedy gold”. The lines are sharply crafted and the timing is spot on. Yet, the best part, through all the mayhem and dimwitted antics, the characters remain oblivious to what the audience is certainly howling over.
Suffice to say, this movie, even with its one-liners, outrageous and memorable spoofs, and surprise guest appearances still stands tall after all of these years, proving to be watchable over and over (and over) again.
Posted by benjamin on March 3, 2011
Runtime: 105 minutes
Plot: After being betrayed by the organization who hired him, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss. — IMDb
Machete is the latest in the seemingly long list of grindhouse films brought to us by Robert Rodriguez. You know him. This is the same guy that brought us Sin City, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and…Spy Kids 1, 2 & 3D. For those unfamiliar with the term grindhouse, Wikipedia defines it as “an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films”. In the modern realm of Planet Terror, Death Proof, and now Machete, this means to make a B style movie that is over the top with language, blood and violence. Not typically a formula for enjoyment of most audiences including me.
However, I actually found myself enjoying this movie not just for its ability to be supremely over the top but also in what several of the actors were able to bring to their flat roles. Sure you have a character role staple in the lead of Danny Trejo as Machete, but there’s also Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, and Lindsay Lohan. Now I’d love to sit here and state that De Niro stood out above his cast mates, but I just can’t do that.
Actually my award for why one should see this is Don Johnson. Yes, we are talking about the same Don Johnson from Miami Vice and Nash Bridges. As Von Jackson, Johnson turns an almost too much villain role into something simply dark and hated. I found myself many times just wanting his character on screen rather than anyone else’s. After Johnson, the weight of the picture falls on Trejo who does what he does best and plays the same character role. It works here as the movie is built around that simple story: villain kills family, man kills everyone for revenge.
With all of that said, I know easily and strongly that this movie is not for everyone or even a somewhat majority of the movie going population. You just need to find yourself in that “I need a pointless action movie that will make me laugh for being ridiculous” mood. Well, I was there when I watched Machete and I’m quite glad that I was.
Posted by christopher on February 21, 2011
Runtime: 91 minutes
Plot: Boy meets girl. Girl has an adult son. Son hates boy.
Cyrus, flat out, was an incredible movie. A movie that makes you want to buy it, which sadly in this day and age is quite a compliment–for me at least.
Cyrus follows John, played by John C. Reilly coincidentally, his love interest Molly, played by Marisa Tomei or MT as I often call her, and Cyrus, or Jonah Hill / Jo. Hill for the layman. I jest of course, hopefully awkwardly, which is the embodiment of this film: awkward dramatic comedy. John is depressed having been divorced for now seven years; the epitome of a bachelor with an unkempt house, pizza everywhere, masturbating in bed with half an ass hanging out while listening to rave music. I’ve been there if you can’t tell. I digress. John meets Molly. Molly gives John purpose and happiness. Unfortunately, Molly has an adult son who is not too fond of John, lashing out in a rather devious, demented manner. And cue the laughter.
Cyrus was a miserable joy to watch. And by that I mean that it was truly entertaining, genuinely funny, but incredibly awkward, causing me to many times cringe at the situation unfolding. I’m generally reserved and try to avoid uncomfortable, confrontational situations. Cyrus does the exact opposite pursuing those difficult moments fully while maintaining its comedic sense.
The acting and writing were wonderful. Reilly embodies the everyman, the ‘you’ if you’re a male. He has a wonderful ability to deliver scenes and dialogue slightly off, but fitting given the context. Many times in Cyrus, and other films as well, he spaces the words just so that they’re not fluent but they’re fitting; he does so at times where the character is caught off guard and as you’d imagine is scrambling for the appropriate words. Tomei is emotionally true to her character. She clearly begins with a hardened wall of emotion based on some painful past relationship, but ultimately gives in as you would expect, opening to the kindness and sexiness–joke–of J.C.R. I invariably fell in love with her. Jo Hill is demented and dastardly and the true carrier of the comedy in the film. His uber serious, straight faced moments without question keep the film engaging and funny. Even the minor characters add comedic depth to the film. Specifically I’ll note Matt Walsh, who plays the husband-to-be of John’s ex-wife. His character is reminiscent of the character he played in Old School and at the same time the character played by Craig Kilborn: the dick new husband who you hate but always stands out because of it.
The filmography stood out to me as well. It has a slight touch of the live, candid camera fell but it’s subtle enough to not disgust, unlike some tv shows I know of. The zooming and refocusing of the camera within the frame and scene specifically called out to me in this point. I’m fond of this because it embraced me as a viewer, increasing the believability of the scene as if I were witnessing it play out truly.
Without a doubt, Cyrus should not be overlooked. It’s tight, has incredibly comedic range, and maintains a touching degree of emotion.