Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Hotel Artemis

In Los Angeles, in the year 2028, a “nurse” named Jean Thomas (Jodie Foster) runs a members only secret hospital for criminals.  A bank robber named Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) seeks medical attention for his brother, Honolulu. (Bryan Tyree Henry)  Waikiki definitely wants out of Lost Angeles, but has to wait for his brother to heal first. The brothers are joined by Acapulco (Charlie Day) and Nice (Sophia Boutella) a contract killer looking for her mark.  Nurse Thomas is also told that Niagara (Jeff Goldblum) is coming to Hotel Artemis for treatment, he runs Los Angeles in the year 2028, and so he is let in without question.  Then , Nurse Thomas sees a woman  named Morgan (Jenny Slate)  injured in the street, and tells her assistant Everest (Dave Bautista ) to bring her in. Trouble is Morgan is a cop, and there are definitely no police allowed in Hotel Artemis.  Why does the nurse make an exception for Morgan?  Does Waikiki ever get out of L.A.?  Does Nice Find her mark?

This should have been a good story, it was a pretty good premise, but badly executed.  The relationships between the characters is vague, they all seem to know each other, but how is not exactly spelled out, the character development is poor, some character development is non-existent and the story meanders for a long time, the ending is chaotic and violent, maybe that was the intent, but this ending looked like another Hollywood excuse for mayhem, and bloodshed.

The cast is stellar.  Jodie Foster tries to eschew her physical beauty, as a tough-as nails, no-nonsense healthcare professional.  It works at times, and doesn’t work at other times.  Sterling K. Brown is good as Waikiki, the only good guy in a den of thieves, he displays a different character than he plays in This Is Us The other actors play characters familiar to them. Charlie Day plays a fast-talking wise guy, a role that’s oh so familiar to viewers of the first Pacific Rim movie. Sofia Boutella plays a mysterious assassin, which is what she played in Kingsman.  Dave Bautista, plays a big dumb comedy relief role, same as Guardians of the Galaxy.  Jeff Goldblum actually reins in his performance a bit, it’s actually quite a muted performance.  But Jenny Slate as a police officer?  No, just no.

The direction is ok.  Not great, there are some interesting crane shots from above, but the pacing is slow.  Drew Pearce is the director and the writer, something that usually sets off alarm bels for me, and Hotel Artemis is no exception. The elements of the story that he wrote come together very slowly.  An hour and a half long movie seems much longer.

Hotel Artemis:  Where For Art Thou plot?

 

 

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kidding

Episode 1:

 Green Means Go

Jeff (Jim Carrey) is beloved children’s television host Mr. Pickles.  Jeff has just gone through a traumatic experience which caused his wife, Jill (Judy Greer) to divorce him.  Jeff wants to talk about what happened to him on his show, but Sebastian (Frank Langella) Jeff’s father and producer of show is against it.  Deidre, (Catherine Keener) Jeff’s sister has family problems of  her own.  Does Jeff get to share his trauma on tv?  Can he put his family back together?

This show has an interesting premise, what if a Mr. Rogers type character had a life changing event happen to him?   Good premise, the execution seems a bit odd.  I know writers like to make shows edgy, but this is a little too edgy for me.  JOne of the plot points is straight out of a cheesy 70’s sitcom.

Jim Carrey is a good actor, watch him in movies like the Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he seems to be stuck between comedy and drama here and he doesn’t know which choice is the right one. Frank Langella is a great actor, and is good here.  His voice is commanding, and he uses it well.   Catherine Keener isn’t given much to do, until the end of the episode.

Episode 2:

 Pusillanimous

Jeff visits a sick child in the hospital, Sebastian is not thrilled with Jeff’s new look.  Jeff spies on his wife’s new boyfriend, Peter.  (Justin Kirk)  Sebastian Is not happy about the direction in which the program is going.

It seems like Jim Carrey enjoys playing the scenes with the kids, and enjoys the Mr. Pickles character, more than the darker side of this character, because the Pickles character allows him to use his creativity more than the serious aspect of the character.  I think Frank Langella is enjoying plying the voice of reason, the realist in the fantasy world Jeff has created,  I don’t know what to make of the show, not yet, but I’m intrigued to find out.

Episode 3:

Every Pain Needs A Name

Jeff continues to try to vent his pain on the show, while Sebastian continues to try to merchandise Jeff’s likeness.  Sebastian also tries to convince Jeff to date one of his adult fans, while Jeff visits a cancer patient in a hospital.

This series is straddling a line between good taste and bad taste right now.  They should be careful because, the writers are dealing wiith a real live character her or at least the representation of one Fred Rogers was a real person, a Presbyterian minister, and if the writers cross that line, this will just become another joke at the expense of a kind, caring man, I hope they are cognizant of that.

 

Episode 4:

Bye Mom

Sebastian is still trying to find a way to monetize the Mr. Pickles character.  Deidre is still having marital problems, and Jill. Jeff’s ex-wife, has problems with something he has done.  Jeff is only worried if his out of date flip phone is working correctly.

This episode changed my mind about this show, I’ve always had a cynical underlying feeling about this show, that the writers were waiting for the right time to turn the Mr. Pickles character into another caricature of Fred Rogers, a man I admire very much.  Now I am more hopeful that this show will make Jeff Picklers a well-rounded humane character, instead of the butt of a cruel joke.  Let’s see how my hope plays out against the rest of the episodes.

Episode 5:

The New You

Jeff continues his unconventional relationship.  Sebastian continues to try to expand the marketing of Mr. Pickles.  Deidre tries to impress Sebastian with a new puppet.  Sebastian and Will bond.

This episode was disappointing because it focused on Jeff’s mental state, I hoped the focus would be elsewhere, but the writers are seemingly pushing the show in a different direction.  It could have been revolutionary or at least different, but it seems like it will be just another man on the edge series, and this character deserved better.  The big gag of the episode wasn’t even that funny.

 

Jeff’s relationship hits a low point.  Will Pickles vandalizes an empty house with his stoner friends without knowing that his father has bought the house  Jeff wants Tara Lapinski to stop impersonating him on ice.  Does she listen to him?  Deidre reaches her limit with her daughter, Maddy  (Juliet Morris)

This show is maddening.  Some of this episode is so beautiful, and some of it is just plain puzzling.  Just when I think I have a handle on the show or a character, something contradictory happens, and that makes the show frustrating to watch.  Will Pickles is especially annoying, maybe because of his moral nihilism, or his sense of privilege, because of his father’s wealth and fame, Will thinks he can get away with anything , people like that exist, I don’t want to see them on tv.

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 7:

Kintsugi

Mr. Pickles San ( Louis Ozawa Changchien) visits Jeff Pickles to pick up some tips on his version of Mr. Pickles.  Jeff approves a talking Mr. Pickles doll, and feels freer to speak his mind. Deidre finds kinship with Pickles San.  Scott and Deirdre argue about Maddy’s musical choices.  Jeff’s unconventional relationship takes an unexpected turn.

For 28 minutes this show is going as expected, but for the last two minutes of the show it devolves into something I don’t want to see. I hope it doesn’t turn into the kind of show that it seems to want to use shock value to gain viewers.  There are too many shows like that already, this show has a chance to be different, I hope it takes that chance to take the road less travelled.

Episode 8:

Phillium

Phil does magic tricks.  Jeff is asked to witness an execution.  Does he do it?

This was a filler episode about a tangential relationship between minor characters, all of these pay tv based shows have at least one of these filler episodes. I hope this is the last filler episode for this show.  It’s a flashback episode but it reveals little and what it reveals are only minor about minor characters.

Episode 9:

LT Pickles

Some creates a Mr. Pickles shooting game for smartphones.  Will gets into trouble in school.  Deidre’s feelings for Mr. Pickles San intensify.  Jeff is seeing things that don’t exist, is the pressure of being Mr. Pickles getting to him?

This show seems to be going in the direction that I feared it would, not in the direction that I hoped it would.  Every show is about sensationalism these days, not about how true to life a person can be.  I once again remind the writers and creator  of this fictional show that a real-life man entertained millions of kids without having mental issues, while confronting major societal issues, but nevermind.

Episode 10:

Some Day

Jeff pours his heart out on a live Christmas tree lighting, and it has unexpected consequences.  Deidre comes to a decision about her life that may not please everyone.  Will finds something unusual in the house he thought was abandoned.

This episode was actually a fitting episode for this show. Jeff finally got to speak from his heart, and it was touching, there was also a twist at the end of the episode if the episode got too saccharine for the viewers.  This was probably the best episode of the series, and made me want to watch Season 2.

My impressions of Season 1:

The  Some Day episode went a long way toward healing the flaws in this series, but the series was not without issues.  There was a foreboding tone and a downward spiral in the arc of the characters that was at times  depressing to watch.  The writers did some things for shock value, and also some cheap situation comedy tricks that really didn’t work.  There are also characters that are annoying, mostly the children but sometimes the adults.  Deidre is an example of such a character, she is in a season long rut, and whatever she tries to get out of that rut, it fails.  Deidre’s daughter, Maddy, is just a banshee, a bratty character that bears no resemblance to a real child.  Deidre’s husband Scott is less than one-dimensional, he’s no-dimensional, Jeff’s son Will is an entitled brat that everyone hopes their son is not.  One aspect of the writing is very good, and that’s the songs, the songs and the puppetry make the viewer believe that Mr. Pickles is a real kids show.

So what saves this show from the ash heap of pay tv series?   Frankly, the main characters, Jeff and Seb, are interesting.  There’s something interesting about a man with one foot out the door and another foot on a banana peel, I was hoping for a different kind of character, but there is still something morbidly intriguing about something on the edge of losing it.  The writers definitely pushed that narrative beyond the limits, b the viewer can’t look away. Jeff starts out as a total innocent, almost childlike in his naïveté, and then he evolves.  The evolution is sometimes disappointing, but always interesting.  Seb is interesting because of his undying cynicism .  How can a grown man be so Machiavellian in trying to manipulate his son?

The acting is another reason to watch the series.  Jim Carrey gives a mostly understated, well-modulated performance, as a man coping with incredible stress, and trying to find a silver lining in what he’s going through.  Sometimes Carrey reverts back to sit-com Jim Carrey,  but most of the time he delivers a sensitive and sweet performance.  The character has many sides and Carrey does well in exploring all facets of this character. Frank Langella almost steals the show as Seb, Jeff’s dad, Seb is underhanded, manipulative and mercenary.  The show needed someone like Seb to balance out all of Jeff’s good instincts.  It’s really a one dimensional character, Seb is basically trying to find new and different ways to monetize Jeff, but Langella does his best to infuse the character with humor, and that makes the character palatable.  Catherine Keener is stuck playing a sad-sack character who is desperately trying to find some happiness that seems just out of reach.  I don’t blame Keener, more the writers for giving her an untenable character.

Mostly for the acting, I will watch season two, because there is a twist at the end of season 1 that revives all the questions of  season 1.

Kidding:  Jim doesn’t get “Carreyd” away with silliness.

upgrade

In the near future, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) makes a living as an auto mechanic selling souped up cars to people like technology whiz Eron Keen. (Harrison Gilbertson)  One day, Grey’s self-driving car, takes him and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) to a seedy part of town.  Criminals kill Grey’s wife, and severely wound Grey, and disappear into thin air.  Doctors save Grey’s life, but he is a paraplegic, who is limited to a life in bed.  One day, Eron visits Grey and gives him a proposal, he proposes to implant a chip called STEM, into Grey’s back.  Eron tells Grey that the chip will relay signals from his brain to his body and allow him to walk again.  The chip works, and Grey decides to  try to find the people who killed his wife.  But there are several things Grey doesn’t know about the chip or Eron.  What surprises lay in store for Grey as he pursues his wife’s killers?  Does he find them and does he get revenge?

For all its futuristic references to technology, Upgrade relies on a very old formula.  A man’s wife is dead, the police and helpless, and so the man hops into action and become a vigilante.  For all its promise with the premise of a disabled man becoming able bodied again, this film is nothing more than a cross between Death Wish and Robocop.  The police in this film are not corrupt, just inept, despite having cameras and drones everywhere. The dire warnings about technology are not new either, Hollywood has been stirring up fears of technology since Sandra Bullock starred in The Net. Upgrade often substitutes violence for actual plot, something else that is common in Hollywood, and the violence is grisly.  The writers of Upgrade try to keep the audience guessing about who killed Grey’s wife, but the final answer to that question is disappointing.

The acting is pretty good considering that all these actors are relatively unknown.  Logan Marshall Green handles the humorous quips well, until the violence in the script overwhelms him. Harrison Gilbertson is suitably annoying as the tech geek, or maybe he’s just annoying in person, who knows?  Betty Gabriel from Get Out  is suitably intense as the police officer.  The script really betrays her.

The direction is pretty good, Leigh Wannell wrote and directed this film, the pacing is good, he mixes both exposition and action in the film, but his script is a little too clichéd, and entirely too violent.  His credits will explain the violence, he directed Insidious 3, and wrote the Saw and Insidious movies.

Upgrade:  Degrades quickly

trevor noah

Trevor Noah is just starting to be recognized as a major comedic star.  He is the host of the Daily Show, taking over for Jon Stewart and author of a book about his mother called Born A Crime.

I saw Trevor Noah live in concert recently and it was an interesting show.  Being the host of The Daily Show, I expected a lot of political humor and jokes about the current president of the United States.  I was both relieved and disappointed that Noah didn’t do a lot of political humor and even less about the current president. The lack of political humor showed his versatility, but he’s so good with political humor that I wished there was more.  The show concentrated on cultural differences between America and Europe and his own culture.  Noah’s ability to mimic accents comes into play, and the ease in which he switched accents enhanced his material. Noah’s funniest routine had to do with gender differences.  The only drawback of Noah’s set was it was a little short, I wish he had stayed on stage a little longer.

His opening act was Latino comedian Angelo Lozada, he also does the audience warm up for The Daily Show.  Most of his jokes came from interaction with the audience, which means he had to be quick on his feet, but it was also limiting, because he didn’t have another style to fall back on.  He had one funny punchline that I can remember.  He needs more material, if he wants his comedic career to reach the next level.

Trevor Noah:  His career arc is going upward.

isle of dogs

In the Japanese archipelago, 20 years from now, a vicious strain of the Dog Flu has broken out, in order to protect the humans from the flu, the Mayor  of the Prefecture, Mayor Kobayashi , (Kunichi Nomura) has deported all the dogs to Trash Island.  Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) a 12 year old distant relative of the mayor, flies a plane to Trash Island, in search of his dog, Spots. (Liev Schreiber)  The plane crash lands on the island.  The leader of the dogs on Trash Island, Chief (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t trust humans, but decides to rescue Atari.  Atari then sets out to find Spots.

At the prefecture, Professor Watanabe  (Akira Ito) thinks he has come up with a cure to the Dog Flu, but something happens to Watanabe after he eats some sushi.  At the same time, the Mayor finds out that Atari is alive on Trash Island, and he sends his men to find him.  Mayor Takashi easily wins re-election, but exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) suspects a rigged election.  Does Atari find Spots?  Do the Mayor’s men find Atari?  What’s happened to Professor Watanabe?  Is the election on the up and up?

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not draw parallels to the political situation in America over the past two years.  A power hungry politician deports dogs to a distant place in the name of national security.  The election of the politician is called into question, as the politician faces dissension from the populace.  At the heart of it, Isle of Dogs is a story about a boy and his dog,   it’s also story of possible redemption for a jaded dog, who doesn’t like humans very much, and has become something of a recluse.  It’s interesting to see how all the different elements of the story come together in the end of the film.

The acting is very good and it has to be because all the emotions have to be conveyed through the voice.  Kunichi Namora is very good as the corrupt politician, he wants to stay in power at all costs.  Bryan Cranston is excellent as the lead dog, tough on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, yearning for someone to love him.  Koyu Rankin is also good as Atari, vulnerable but determined.  Greta Gerwig was funny as the angry exchange student.

Wes Anderson did a great job directing and co-writing this movie.  The stop motion animation was terrific, the ha;; where Mayor Kobayashi gave the speech reminded me of the scene from Citizen Kane,  where Kane gave a speech, Trash Island was suitably grungy, and the use of symbolism, Atari wearing white, his dog being a white dog, Chief becoming a white dog after Atari gives him a bath, it was all very well done.  The pacing was fast, the performances were good, I don’t know how much of a role Anderson played in that, these are all skilled veteran actors, except for the boy who played Atari. This film and Moonrise Kingdom are his best work to date.

Isle of Dogs:  Biting satire.

 

early-man-movie3

In the Pleistocene Era, Stone Age Man learned to play soccer when a comet falls from the sky.  By the Bronze Age, Stone Age men have forgotten their soccer skills and spend their time hunting rabbits.  A small band of Stone Age people are invaded by the Bronze Age men, and their valley is taken away from them and the Stone Age people are imprisoned.  One member of the Stone Age village is captured by the Bronze Age people, and so he sees what the Bronze Age Society looks like.  Dug, (Eddie Redmayne) the Stone Age captive, learns that the Bronze Age people are very good at soccer.  The Bronze Age Ruler, Lord Nooth  (Tom Hiddleston) is a greedy despot, only interested in collecting bronze coins from the overflow crowds at the soccer game.  Dug challenges Nooth’s team to a soccer game, but the Stone Agers have forgotten everything that they ever knew about  soccer, can Dug, and a female Bronze Age  named Goona  (Masie Williams) help the Stone Age team, beat the Bronze Age team?

Early Man is a tongue in cheek look at the history of soccer, going back to prehistoric man.  The story seems a little padded, there is not only one montage where the Stone Age team learns to play soccer but two .  The use of French accents for the Bronze age players is smart and funny, underscoring the Anglo French rivalry in Europe.  The reason why Dug goes back to the Bronze Age stadium is dumb, but the introduction of Goona is a welcome change from the mostly male cast.  There are lots of jokes, soccer jokes and non-soccer jokes, enough to sustain the film.  The climax is exciting and expected.  Early Man is slightly less enjoyable than Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run, but I enjoy Claymation animation so I enjoyed this movie.

Tom Hiddleston is a very funny guy, and anyone who’s seen his film probably wouldn’t know that, but in this movie he exploits his comedic timing and voice.  He is a large reason why I like this movie.  Hiddleston should make more comedies.  Eddie Redmayne is ok, as Dug, he’s really a straight man, allowing Hiddleston to go over the top with his character.  Masie Williams is good as the soccer enthusiast who wants to be part of a team, but can’t make the Bronze Age team.  She pairs well with Redmayne.

The direction is ok.  It is difficult to animate clay, so bonus points for that, the pacing is slow and disjointed to begin with, but it gathers steam and builds to a nice climax.  The climactic soccer game is filmed well.

Early Man:  Make it a gooooooal to see it.

 

 

Patticakes.png

Patti Dombrowski  (Danielle McDonald) is an overweight girl, living in a  dead-end town in New Jersey.  Patti dreams of being a rap star, but right now her life is weighed down by too many problems, her mother, Barb, (Bridget Everett) is a barfly, and an alcoholic who doesn’t pay her bills.  Patti’s grandmother, Nana, (Cathy Moriarty) is a sickly old woman in a wheelchair.  Patti is forced to support her dysfunctional family by becoming a bartender.

Fortunately, for Patti, her friend Jheri (Siddarth Dananjay) shares her dream.  He wants to be a DJ in a rap band.  Jheri has a day job as a pharmacist, but he scrapes together enough money for a recording session, that goes horribly wrong.  One day while tending bar, she meets Basterd (Mamoudou Athie)  he’s playing some thrash guitar over some spoken word poetry, Patti is enthralled.  She finds him again in his hideaway, a run-down shack in the middle of no-where.  Patti asks Basterd to lay down a guitar track on top of  her rapping, and the band PBNJ, Patti Basterd, Nana, and Jheri was born.  With a lot of hard work bartending, and playing clubs, PBNJ make a demo tape. Patti gets a lucky  break while bartending and lands in front of her rap hero, O-Z. (Sahr Ngaujah) She slips him her demo tape. What happens next?

I like this movie because it packs a lot of realism into one movie, Patti is far from the perfect looking girl viewers usually see in these films.  She gets teased for her appearance, she has a far from perfect family, but she has a dream, and she works hard, and with two fellow outcasts follows that dream.  It almost doesn’t matter if the dream comes true or not, this is a story about a girl and her tenacity, she and her friends keep trying no matter what obstacles get in their way.  There is a bit of generalization about New Jersey, not everyone there listens to Springsteen and has big hair, but it captures the mood of the place well.  The ending is somewhat predictable, I figured it out before it happened, but other than that, it was a well-written well-acted movie.

Here’s to the hope that Danielle McDonald is not a one hit wonder, she plays the role with such grit, and yet sweetness that she wins over the audience almost immediately.  She deserves more roles after this stellar performance.  Siddarth Dhananjay plays something of a stereotypical role, he’s the pharmacist, he breaks out of the stereotype a bit by being the DJ, but then again slips back in as Patti’s safe, non-threatening friend.  Mamoudou Athie plays the stoic Basterd with just enough mystery, to have the audience wondering, “What’s with this guy?” It’s a very good understated performance. Cathy Moriarty is sweet as the strong and supportive grandmother, Nana.  She is the role model that Patti needs.  Bridget Everett is also good in a tough role as Patti’s drunk and destitute mother.

The direction has splashes of visual stimulation; Basterd has one blue contact lens in his eye, O-Z is bathed in green and likes green drinks.  The musical numbers are energetically staged, and the pacing is very quick.

Patti cake$: a bittersweet treat.