Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

beauty and the beast live

A headstrong, well-read French village girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is tired of life in her small village and can’t help but think that life has more to offer than her small town gives her.  She is relentlessly pursued by town hunk and resident harasser, Gaston, (Luke Evans) who she cleverly avoids. Belle is very close to her father, Maurice, (Kevin Kline) who raised her after Belle’s mom passed away.  When she visits Maurice, Belle asks her dad for a rose, and he promises to get her one. On a snowy night, Maurice loses his way and gets captured by a Beast (Dan Stevens) who has been cursed  by an Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) for his superficiality.  Belle hears that his father has been captured and rides off to save him.  She switches places with Maurice, and traps herself with the Beast.

Gaston sees an opportunity to be the hero, and rides off to save Belle with Maurice.  But Maurice refuses to let him marry Belle, and Gaston accuses Maurice of being crazy and wants to send him to an asylum.  In the castle, Belle and the Beast are becoming closer.  Lumiere, (Ewan McGregor) the candelabra Cogsworth ( Ian McKellan) the clock, Mrs. Potts, the teapot, and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) the wardrobe, are doing all they can to make the mood as romantic as possible.  They hope Bellle professes her love for the beast, because that will break the Enchantress’ spell on them too.  Things are going swimmingly until Belle checks on her father in a magic mirror, and sees that he is being taken away.  What does she do?  What happens to the Beast and his enchanted staff?

I was disappointed by Beauty and The Beast.  How could I not like a delightful movie such as this, you ask?  Easy, it was too much like its animated namesake, the live action movie followed the story of the animated movie, line for line shot for shot and scene for scene.  When Disney made a live action Jungle Book movie, they created a whole new story that was in every way better than the animated film.  That made me want to watch The Jungle Book, because I didn’t know what was coming with the next scene.  Since I had seen the animated Beauty before, not only did I know the scenes, I knew the songs, I knew the ending, I knew everything.  The few jokes that were added  for Josh Gad’s character weren’t that funny, and didn’t add much to the film.  Why is almost every actor speaking in a British accent, if the film is set in France?  Why does the Beast have blue eyes, is that important? The writers could have done a flashback and embellished the Beast’s character before the curse, and what made him such a superficial person, in the first place something to make it distinctive, anything.

The acting was good.  Emma Watson does the best she can with quite a limiting role, she is supposed to be an independent woman, headstrong, yet falling in love with a cursed Prince.  There is an inherent  contradiction in the role, but Watson is pleasant enough, and sings well enough to make Belle somewhat interesting.  Dan Stevens is pretty dull as the Beast, he doesn’t really bring much to the role.  Kevin Kline plays his role as comedy relief. Luke Evans is actually very good as Gaston, funny and evil at the same time, he put some real life into his role.  Of the Best’s household staff, only Ewan McGregor s Lumiere stands out, he infuses the role with humor and joy and a little sadness, he is truly a great actor.  Audra McDonald has a great operatic voice, I wish they gave her more songs to sing.

The direction is a mixed bag.  The visuals on some of the exteriors are visually appealing.  One of the opening scenes reminded  me very much of The Sound of Music, it was unintentionally humorous.  While the visuals were intriguing, the pacing is extremely slow, two hours seemed  more like four, and the performances were somewhat mixed.  The songs were great, just like the animated film,  but the CGI was overdone.

Beauty and The Beast:  It didn’t ring my Belle.

lego batman movie

Fresh from vanquishing all the villains in Gotham City, including his arch rival The Joker (Zach Galafiinakis)  Batman (Will Arnett) takes a victory lap to Gotham’s orphanage, where he mistakenly adopts Dick Grayson. (Michael Cera)  Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) suggests that Batman take care of his young ward, so Batman hatches a plot to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone Projector, a device that will send the Joker to an alternate dimension, called the Phantom Zone. Only Dick Grayson is small and agile enough to take the Phantom Zone Projector, and he succeeds from taking it from Superman’s Fortress  of Solitude.  Does Batman use the Projector on The Joker and send him to The Phantom Zone?  Does Dick Grayson get the love and support he craves from his adoptive father?  Does Batman learn to work with Dick Grayson and other allies, or does he continue to be a loner?

The Lego Batman movie is oddly disappointing.   Batman was a very funny part of the Lego Movie, so it seemed natural that Batman had a Lego movie of its own.  But the Lego Batman Movie lacks the humor and charm of the Lego movie.  In fact it’s not very funny at all, and instead choses to be another re-telling of the Batman mythology.  The writers had the perfect physical representation of a man cave, namely the Bat Cave and didn’t use it. The writers instead try to push a romance, and a phony father son relationship with cloyingly bad results. The writers return time and time to a theme, that doesn’t gain credence with repetition.

Will Arnett hams it up relentlessly, which is alright for a supporting character, but it is redundant and rather unfunny. Michael Cera plays Robin as an infantile boy begging for love.  There is something annoying about every character that Cera plays, and he brings that annoyance factor to a likeable character. Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon as an uninteresting daughter of a commissioner who becomes commissioner. Dawson is also a love interest for the egomaniacal Batman, which is neither interesting or carries much chemistry along with it.

The direction is not noteworthy.  The pacing is slow, the performances are weak, and there is nothing eye-catching about the animation either.

The Batman Lego Movie:  A Batastrophe.

get out

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black man dating a well-to-do white woman, Rose Armitage. (Allison Williams) This fact alone in post-Obama America shouldn’t be troublesome, but Chris is going to meet Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) a neurisurgeon and Missy (Catherine Keener) a psychologist  for the first time, so naturally, they are both a bit nervous about meeting her parents.  On their way to her parents’ house in the country a policeman pulls the two over, heightening the tension, but he lets them with a warning, thanks to Rose.  Chris meets Dean and Missy, the act somewhat oddly. Chris thinks they may be overcompensating for being “Obama liberals” but he undoubtedly gets a strange vibe from Rose’s brother, Jeremy, (Caleb Landry Jones) who  is always talking about Mixed Martial Arts, and Chris needing to bulk up. Chris also gets an uneasy feeling about the black people hired to help around the Armitage household.  But maybe living in the country has made them more laid back than the people he’s used to meeting. After talking to Chris on the phone, his friend Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howry) has a vastly different take on the situation.  His advice to Chris:  Get Out!

Get Out is not a horror movie per se, it’s more a psychological thriller.  Get Out is a thought-provoking movie that plays with the viewers’ minds.  Do Rose’s parents resent Chris for dating their daughter, despite their liberal leanings?  Does Chris feel guilty for dating outside his race?  Chris is also dealing with some baggage of his own that the viewer finds out about during the movie, and Rose has a secret that is also revealed.  Things are revealed gradually like pieces to a big puzzle, but when the puzzle comes together, it is a treat.  I could tell you what movies Get Out reminds me of, but that would give too much away.  It’s not easy to combine elements of suspense with social commentary and comedy, but Get Out does it all, pretty flawlessly.  If you haven’t seen this movie, you should see it.

The acting is great.  Daniel Kaluuya plays a normal guy in increasingly abnormal situations.  If this was a comedy, he would be the straight man. He notices some things that are off-putting, but he doesn’t really think anything is wrong, he’s still got a great girlfriend, if nothing else so he stays in the house.  Allison Williams plays his loving sometimes protective girlfriend, She will protect him during his stay if things get weird, won’t she?  Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are superb as typical upper class parents, the kind of parents any kid would be lucky to have, or would you?  The comedy relief is refreshingly provided by Lil Rel Howry, let’s just say he is the canary in the coal mine, and he is hilarious.

The direction by Jordan Peele, who also produced and wrote the film is pretty standard horror movie visual direction, closeups on the protagonist’s face, close-ups on the back of his head, while he is  walking down the stairs.  The protagonist is sometimes shot in the foreground, while unexplained things go on in the background.  It all sets a mood, which is not so much scary as it is creepy.  The pacing is excellent, it doesn’t get bogged down on any one point, and he gets excellent performances from a talented cast.  I just wish this movie had come out before Keanu, which was about as funny as a migraine.  This movie displays Jordan Peele’s true range of talents.

Get Out.  Outstanding.

Band Wagon (1953) 24

Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is a washed-up Hollywood song and dance man.  He comes to New York by train and is met by the only two remaining members of his fan club, Lester Martin (Oscar Levant) and his wife Lilly. (Nanette Fabray) Lester and Lilly are also screenwriters and Lester has a script for a Broadway play all set for Tony to star in.  Tony’s not sure, but Lester has a meeting set up for Tony with the hottest Broadway producer/director Jeffrey Cordova. (Jack Buchanan)  Jeffrey hears the pitch for the script, and has ideas of his own, he wants to do the play as an adaptation of Faust, the literary character who wants to make a deal with the devil to achieve success. Jeffrey also wants ballerina, Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) to be the leading lady, and after some reverse psychology on Gabrielle’s boyfriend, Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) Jeffrey gets Gabrielle to be the leading lady and Paul to be the play’s chorographer.

But as soon as the cast starts rehearsals for the play, tensions start to mount.  Tony feels like he’s being marginalized by Jeffrey.  Tony also fights with Gabrielle, he feels Gabrielle is arrogant and trying to make things more difficult for him. Even Lilly and Lester, the original writers and members of Tony’s fan club, are not even speaking to one another.  Will this play even make it to previews off Broadway or will internal dissension kill this play before people even see it?

Since I saw La La Land, which was a tribute to Hollywood musicals, I wanted to see a classic Hollywood movie to see if the authentic movie musical was worth the tribute.  The Band Wagon is definitely worth watching and definitely is a classic.  Whereas Singin’ In The Rain is a satire of Hollywood in the silent movie era, the Band Wagon is a satire of Broadway, much like Mel Brooks’ The Producers.  The pompous pretentious producer Jeffrey reminds me of the Horace Hardwick character from Top Hat, pompous, pretentious, and perpetually confused.  Part of this movie reminds me of Damn Yankees, a movie that was really based on Faust, with Gwen Verdon as the temptress, instead of Cyd Charisse The only kink in the armor of The Band Wagon is that they try to push a romantic storyline, where it was really not necessary. But I’m a sucker for Fred Astaire, and even an older version of Astaire has wit, charm, and dance steps to spare.

Fred Astaire plays what he always plays, a song and dance man.  But this time, he’s an aging song and dance man who’s staring the end of his career straight in the face.  Actor Astaire conveys the frustration of being an aging Hollywood star well, in a town that tosses out older stars like most people toss their garbage.  Dancer Astaire proves that he’s still got magic in those feet, doing some of the more masculine styles popularized by Gene Kelly in his movie musicals.  Similarly, Cyd Charisse plays her role with a dual purpose as well.  Actress Charisse plays the role of a shy ballerina, while dancer Charisse plays her role with a smoky seductiveness.  Jack Buchanan plays the haughty producer to perfection, and Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray add even more comedic value to the movie.

The director is Vincente Minelli, father of Broadway star Liza.  Minelli’s film, like many other movies in that golden age of film, pops with bright almost incandescent colors.  This was a visual style aped by Darren Chazier in La La Land.   The musical numbers are expertly staged, and the choreography is excellent.  Minelli also gets very good performances from a talented cast.

The Band Wagon Jump on!

th secret life of pets

Max (Louis CK) is a pampered pet living in New York City.  His owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper) raised him from a pup, and Max misses Katie terribly when she goes to work, but she hangs out with the neighborhood pets when she’s gone, he hangs around with other pets, a cat with a voracious appetite, named Chloe, (Lake Bell) a pug, Mel, (Bobby Moynihan) a dachshund ,Buddy (Hannibal Burress)  and a Pomeranian named Gidget  (Jenny Slate) with a secret crush on Max.  Max’s cushy life ends abruptly when  Kate brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound.

Max and Duke don’t like each other, and Duke drags Max way out of his neighborhood where they are attacked by cats, who forcibly remove their collars.  Max and Duke are then dragged into a van by animal control and are on their way to the pound.  Max and Duke are “rescued” by Flushed Pets a militant group of former pets who want to lead a revolution against their human masters.  They are led by a deranged bunny named Snowball, (Kevin Hart) and have their headquarters in the New York City sewer system.  Snowball holds Max and Duke hostage after they refuse to go along with Snowball’s revolution.  Can Gidget and Max’s other friends save him from Snowball?

This movie misses the mark almost completely, there are a few funny moments, but not nearly enough to sustain a whole movie.  I’ve seen a lot of animated films, and The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t even come close to Pixar films in terms of plot and theme. There are animated movies for kids and animated movies for adults and this one is definitely aimed towards kids.  Here’s the ironic part, the Flushed Pets are definitely not for kids, they espouse kidnapping and violence, so the theme of two dogs from different backgrounds trying  to get along is completely overshadowed by this strange subplot.  There are good characters, Chloe, the cat, Gidget the Pomeranian, but they are woefully underdeveloped.  The writers ran out of material, about 15 minutes before the ending and so they just repeat a plot point from earlier in the movie.

The voice acting is not great.  Louis CK is way too mellow as Max, I expected some sharper, funnier lines from him, the director should have let him ad lib a little. Eric Stonestreet at least tries to inject some personality into Duke.  Kevin Hart goes far overboard on Snowball, someone needs to give Snowball some kitty Xanex.  All kidding aside, again it’s the director’s job to reign in such prodigious overacting, and he did not.  Jenny Slate has a likeable quality to her voice, they should have developed her character more fully, but there were so many characters that the writers didn’t or couldn’t focus on a few.  Lake Bell does a good job also playing a cat who all the dogs are slightly wary of. She should have had more lines.

The direction is not that great.  The directors just seemed to let the actors do whatever they felt like doing, and sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  One of the directors directed Despicable Me which I really liked, but I didn’t like this movie at all.   The animation was not great other than a few scenes of the New York City skyline.

The Secret Life of Pets:  For the dogs.

the founder

In the 1950’s, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) was a salesman for a milkshake mixer called the Multi-Mix.  He was not very successful at it either.  He was trying to sell mixers near his home in Illinois, while drinking heavily and reading the Power of Positive Thinking. Despite his best efforts to stay positive, his business is struggling. Kroc’s downward spiral ends abruptly one day when he receives an order for six Multi-Mixers from a hamburger stand in San Bernardino California.  He decides to drive all the way to California  on Route 66, and there he finds Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick McDonald.(Nick Offerman)  The McDonald brothers have laid out their restaurant based on a floor plan that emphasizes speed and efficiency.  Kroc eats the burger and he’s sold, he sees the floor plan and hears about the ups and downs of all of the McDonald’s business ventures. Kroc takes in the presentation, and after some discouraging words from his wife, Ethel, (Laura Dern) Kroc tries to go back to selling milk shake mixers, but he can’t get McDonald’s out of his mind, so he goes back to the McDonald brothers with a proposal.  He wants to franchise the brothers’ burger stand.  What do Mac and Dick say?

The Founder is unflinching in its portrayal of Ray Kroc.  He is a ruthless, unscrupulous, unethical businessman.  He’s a schemer, whose many get-rich quick schemes have failed in the past.  He sees a golden opportunity and he’s not going to let it pass.  And business is not the only aspect of his life where he has a winner take all attitude.  The McDonald brothers are portrayed as naïve yokels, who fell off the turnip truck. How much of either is true is only known by the principals in the story, but it makes for a fascinating story.

The acting was mainly carried by Michael Keaton, he didn’t try to humanize Kroc at all, he just portrayed him as a tough, driven, SOB, who would run over people to get what he wanted.  It was a tough role, and Keaton didn’t even try to be likeable in it.  Despite the single note performance, it’s a good comeback for Keaton. John Carroll Lynch was excellent as Mac McDonald, he made Mac seem honest likeable, and even sympathetic.  Nick Offerman was also good as Dick McDonald, he played Dick as a tough but fair businessman, who only wanted to serve a decent burger. Even though Offerman played Dick as a by the book businessman, the viewer also feels sympathetic toward him.   Laura Dern was dull as Kroc’s wife Ethel, the most she ever did was glower at Keaton, and that’s all.

The direction was ok, the pacing was kind of slow, but the cinematography was fantastic, there are shots of an early McDonald’s lit up with neon and it looks gorgeous, so inviting to go into and eat.  He got some good performances, from Keaton, Offerman and Lynch but surprisingly, it was the visuals that made it fun to watch as well as informative.

The Founder:  Keaton doesn’t clown around as Kroc.

 

logan

In the year 2029, the mutant population has shrunken dramatically, and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is finding life difficult now that the X-men have disbanded.  He is working as a chauffeur, and medicating himself by drinking quite a bit.  He realizes after fending off an attack from a group of youths trying to steal his car, that his ability to heal is vastly depleted.  Logan tries to maintain his loyalty to Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) by taking care of him in his older years.  Xavier is suffering from either Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, and if these diseases are not treated with medication, Xavier’s powers go haywire.  Logan is aided by Caliban, (Stephen Merchant) as the three learn to deal with the fragilities of aging bodies.

Adding to the chaos that’s become Logan’s everyday life, a woman named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is desperate for Logan to help her.  She is a nurse and she is taking care of a pre-teen girl named Laura.(Daphne Keen)  There is a story that Gabriella adamently wants to tell Logan, what is the story?  Who is Gabriella?  Who is Laura?  Why do they need Logan’s help?  Does Logan help them?

Logan is a very interesting story about men who used to have superhuman abilities who is now learning to cope with his mortality.  It’s also part Western (with a telling reference to the movie Shane) part odd mutant nuclear family story, and part road trip, its settings seem like they are post-apocalyptic, and they may be for mutants, but the roads are mostly empty in the small rural towns where the film is focused.  That seems purposeful.   It is far from the traditional superhero movie where the heroes team up to stop some catastrophe, instead it’s a very personal story about being mortal, after living as an immoral.  It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s touching, nothing anyone would expect from a superhero film, but all qualities that abound in this film.  All the more reason to watch it.

The acting in Logan is superb.  Hugh Jackman is an amazing actor who knows this character so intimately, that he knows how to play him in every circumstance, and in this circumstance the role requires different emotions for Jackman to draw upon, and he does so successfully.  I can’t imagine anyone else playing Logan or Wolverine.  I know it will happen, eventually  but I won’t like it. Patrick Stewart also gave a standout performance.  He is no longer the cool, calm, collected mentor of the X-Men he is a man on the verge of losing his mental faculties and watching his powers spiral out of control. Stewart conveys the desperation of that situation well, but manages to maintain the character’s dignity, humor and compassion. Daphne Keen is ok as Laura, but she us silent for much of the movie, then screams for more, she is just not given much to do.

The direction is very effective in conveying that this is not one of those epic end of the world movies. James Mangold wrote and directed this movie, as well as the previous movie Wolverine, so he knows this territory.  He also  directed  3:10 to Yuma so he knows how to direct a Western too. The scenes in the rural countryside give a sense that this is a modern day Western, and also a quieter movie devoid  of the massive amounts of special effects that are so prevalent in movies like this.  This is a long movie because there is a lot of exposition and there needs to be because there are a lot of pieces to put together, but when the pieces come together, it is a very satisfying film.  He gets good performances from the leads, and the ending is satisfying as well.

Logan:  The claws that refresh.