Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

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

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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.

 

 

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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.

ant-man-and-the-wasp-

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is encouraged by the return of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) from the Quantum Realm, wants to try to rescue his wife Janet (Michelle Phiffer) from the Quantum Realm.   Pym wants to build a tunnel, shrink himself down to sub-atomic level,  and rescue Janet.  But the tunnel is missing a part and black marketer Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins) has the part, and all he’s interested in is a relationship with Hope. (Evangeline Lilly)  Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest, but escapes to help Hope find the missing part to the tunnel.  Before Hope can negotiate for the tunnel Hope is attacked by the Ghost, (Hannah John Kamen)  who steals Pym’s shrunken lab with all his expensive tech inside.  Ant Man tries to fight Ghost, but fails, and she escapes with the lab. Ghost’s body is phasing in and out of reality because of failed experiments and she ls desperate to find a cure for her physical instability

Pym is forced to go to ex-partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) to help track down the lab, Foster is bitter because Pym helped kick Foster out of the Agents of Shield.  Foster helps Pym, but only slightly.  He has an ulterior motive mot to help Pym.  What is it?  Does Hank Pym fix the Quantum Tunnel?  Does Pym rescue his wife?  Does Ant Man get released from house arrest?

Ant Man and the Wasp is a mediocre sequel to a promising Ant Man film, because it seems like the Ant Man character is a supporting character in his own movie.  Hank Pym is the leading character in this film, he gets the main story arc and all the interesting subplots involve Hank Pym and not Ant Man.  Ant Man gets to play with his daughter, and try to keep his goofy co-workers in line.  He gets to shrink and grow several times, a gimmick which the writers overuse by the way.  Moreover Bill Foster is not enough of a rival, and Ghost was not menacing enough.  The ending was not important, because of the post credits scene, another overused gimmick.

The acting is ok. Paul Rudd is a good actor, he handled both the comedic and serious scenes well, but the writers didn’t make him the lead in his own movies.  He’s more like the comedy relief.  Evangeline Lilly was also very good, in her role, she played the action scenes well, and had good chemistry with Paual Rudd, but again, she was relegated to the background.  Michael Douglas is a stiff as Hank Pym, no expression, no range, just an uptight character, and Douglas doesn’t emote well as an actor.  He found is niche in the Romancing The Stone movies, but his appeal and acting skills have slipped since.  Michelle Pfeiffer still looks young and beautiful at 60; the makeup people try to make her look older, but it doesn’t work too well.  The writers do her no favors, this is a bare bones character,  so she’s essentially wasted.  Laurence Fishburne is also wasted; Bill Foster has powers that the viewers never see. There are too many characters, and not enough lines to go around.

Peyton Reed directed Ant Man and The Wasp, he also directed Ant Man.  What’s most surprising is that Reed doesn’t seem interested in plot development, or character development, Reed seems more interested in setting up the action scenes and executing the action scenes than anything else.  The pacing is poor, all these movies seem to be over 2 hours, and some of them don’t need to be that long.

Ant Man and The Wasp:  The sequel bugs me.

deadpool 2

After two years of working as a mercenary, and killing many bad guys, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) decides to start a family with girlfriend Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin)  When those plans are interrupted, Deadpool is convinced by Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) to join the X-men as a trainee.  His first mission is to rescue a teen boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a home for orphaned mutants, Russell is causing damage with his powers and the police are called, but Deadpool screws up the mission and both he and Russell  go to the Icebox, a mutant prison where their powers are controlled by collars around their necks.  While in prison, Russell seeks revenge on the headmaster(Edde Marsan)  of the orphanage and enlists the aid of Juggernaut,(himself)  the biggest prisoner in the Icebox.

From out of the blue, a soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell, but Russell escapes Cable with his new friend Juggernaut, and heads for the orphanage to get his revenge on the headmaster,  Cable follows Russell, and Deadpool with his new ‘family’ the X-Force, which mainly consists of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and they go to find Russell.  Can Deadpool and Domino stop Russell before he and Juggernaut exact their revenge?  Can Deadpool stop Cable from killing Russell.

Deadpool 2 is a mix of a great deal of violence, scatological teenage anatomy humor, both disturbing and derivative plot elements, and what Hollywood does best, explosions substituting for plot.  There’s a joke in the film that refers to Ryan Reynolds saying. “He doesn’t like sharing the screen with others” which is basically wish fulfillment for the rest of the film.  This is Ryan Reynolds’ film, and he chooses to carry the load mostly on his own.  The mood alternates between frathouse humor and some very disturbing allegations at the orphanage, and the film doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious film about serious issues, or Animal House with mutants, and that is part of the problem .  The mood shifts are so sudden and violent that any viewer would suffer from being whipsawed between laughter and angst  It doesn’t make the X-men look very good either, sending a trainee on a mission they should be handling.  The ending is not surprising, because it’s a Marvel movie, and endings don’t matter in Marvel movies.

The acting s ok, just ok, Ryan Reynolds is not a great actor, he’s as average actor, maybe below average.  So maybe,  sarcastic, snide, comic book superhero Is the best he can do for himself.  His best movies are Van Wilder, and Definitely, Maybe, frathouse comedy romantic comedy.  Deadpool weirdly combines both genres, so no wonder he feels comfortable.   Josh Brolin was a serious actor, he was good in No Country For Old Men, he did a good job as George W Bush in W.  But now he’s not in one but two Marvel movies, playing the heavy, Thanos on The Avengers, but playing a more complex role, as Cable.  Since Brolin is not known for comedy, he plays Cable as a straight man.  Here’s a suggestion, how about Larry the Cable Guy plays Cable?  Need an assassin?  Larry would Get ‘er done!  All kidding aside Brolin is quite good in this role.  Zazie Beetz was a breath of fresh air as Domino, she added snark, and a woman’s perspective to the testosterone dominated cast  She almost steals the movie from the incessantly mugging Reynolds. .  Julian Dennison was a bit too whiny, as Russell, he was boxed in by bad writing.  This was not the comic book Russell’s origin story.

The direction was good, pacing was fast, not an over reliance on special effects,  the pacing is good, a few too many explosions.  He gets mostly good performances from the cast.  And the guy is a stuntman, which makes sense for a movie like this which involves big action scenes and lots of stunts.   He directed  Atomic Blonde too, which I did not like.

Deadpool 2:  Not quite dead in the water.