Tag Archives: humor

Swiss Army Man – Review

12 Jul

Listen, I’m all for big budget Hollywood productions. If there’s a movie that’s a sequel or another comic book adaptation, chances are I might be in that theater seat adding to what some people might call “the problem.” That being said, it is mighty refreshing to come across a new movie that is overflowing with imagination, creativity, and though provoking content. The movie I’m referencing right now is Swiss Army Man, a film circuit gem that has finally gotten a wider release. I’ve seen a lot of great movies this year, and I’ve also seen some garbage, but Swiss Army Man will more than likely remain in my top picks of 2016.

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After being shipwrecked on an island for who knows how long, Hank (Paul Dano) has decided he’s had enough and creates a makeshift noose to help him end it all. This plan abruptly comes to an end when a dead guy who Hank names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on the beach, and through the power of extraordinary flatulence, whisks Hank away to the mainland. Still trapped in the middle of nowhere, Hank and his new deceased friend start their trek back to humanity, but soon it becomes clear that Manny is slowly coming back to life, even though he has no memories of his life or customs that humans hold so dear. As this odd couple makes their way through the woods, Hank gives Manny some lessons about what it means to be human, which includes some of our positives and lots of our negatives.

I have to give all the credit in the world to Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan for having the guts to actually write and direct this movie. When you think of all the movies out there right now, none of them really compare to the absurdity that is seen in Swiss Army Man. It takes a lot of imagination and skill to actually pull this movie off. While it is a fantasy, it also works as a social commentary. Might I just remind everyone that this social commentary is discussed between a guy that’s been stranded on an island and a dead guy that washed up on the beach and is slowly coming back to life. What a ridiculous concept, and yet it is pulled off so well. There’s a lot of overt criticisms, but the ones that are more subtle are the ones that work the most. I don’t want to say it’s a pessimistic view of the world we live in and the rules we are “forced” to follow, but it kinda sorta is.

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So, yeah this is a pretty pessimistic movie that I would argue continues throughout the entire story. Paul Dano’s character has a backstory that is pretty upsetting, even though what can be interpreted as upsetting is actually pretty minor. This is because we can all relate to those little things that always seem to bring us down the most. In that way, Dano’s character is extremely relatable and I really just wanted to see him finally find something to be happy about. On the flip side, Swiss Army Man is also an incredibly funny movie. I laughed a lot at things I never thought I’d ever see. There’s humor as low as fart jokes all the way to some really clever satire. The way Radcliffe’s character is used adds a lot to this humor as his corpse seems capable of pulling anything off. What I’m trying to say is that this movie works well at making you feel sad one moment and then making it seem impossible to stop laughing the next.

Throughout most of the movie, the only characters we see are Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Needless to say, this movie wouldn’t have worked it their chemistry wasn’t exactly on point. Thankfully, it was and now we have one of the most hilarious odd couples to ever grace the silver screen. Dano is great as Hank, the straight man, who is forced to explain even the most basic things to the screwball corpse, Manny. Radcliffe really steals the show, though, as he brings Manny to life more and more as the story progresses. He’s absolutely hilarious and gives one of my favorite performances of the year so far. The only other person worth mentioning is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is only really in the movie near the very end. She’s fine, but she doesn’t really have much to do. If you wanna see Winstead really show what she’s capable of, just watch 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Swiss Army Man is packed to the brim with ideas, imagination, and adventure. It’s certainly a one of a kind movie in every sense of the word, and might sit pretty well in my top 10 movies of the year. Of course, it is only July, but on the other hand I loved this movie a whole hell of a lot. This is normally the part where I would say that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that may be true, but I can’t really see how. This is a movie with characters that anyone can relate to, and a premise that is guaranteed no one has ever seen before. It’s independent film making on a grand scale.

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Strangers on a Train – Review

7 Apr

While on the set of Strangers on a Train, Alfred Hitchcock told the cast and crew that this was truly his first movie. Of course, that wasn’t actually the case. Hitchcock was making silent films before going on to classics like The 39 StepsRope, and Infamous. What Hitchcock meant by this was this was his first film where he could fully explore themes that were taboo at the time, while also telling a suspenseful story full of action and mystery. Strangers on a Train is definitely an interesting film in Hitchcock’s filmography. It was the start of a string of movies that would go on to change film history for the better, and was one of the first instances that showed how much of a story Hitchcock could tell without using dialogue.

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Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is an amateur tennis star on his way to meet his wife, Miriam (Laura Elliot), to discuss matters of their divorce. While on the train, Guy meets a fellow traveller named Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), who has a very strange idea he’d like to share with Guy. Bruno believes that the perfect murder could be committed by a team of two, where one person murders the other person’s victim. Guy humors Bruno, but never actually thinks he’d follow through with his ludicrous plan. Unfortunately, Bruno is not a person to doubt, so when he murders Guy’s wife, Guy is forced to live his life evading Bruno and his desperate attempts to have Guy murder his father. Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), Guy’s wife to be, discovers this absurd plot and starts to help Guy put a stop to Bruno’s nefarious schemes. When this proves unsuccessful, and Bruno reveals a more sinister plan he has up his sleeve, Guy is forced to take action to clear his name and protect his family.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of Strangers on a Train, this movie succeeds greatly entertainment wise, and holds up really well today, as most Hitchcock movies do. We don’t call Hitchcock the Master of Suspense for nothing. This movie is full of great suspense and action that keeps the viewer engaged the entire movie. Certain scenes really stand out like when Bruno is staring down Guy during a tennis match or even the scene where the two men first meet. Don’t even get me started on the climax. Hitchcock understood what it meant to make a great set piece, and the climax is not only extremely satisfying, but also loud and intense. It worked great with all of the quiet menace that was spread throughout the movie. There’s also plenty of that great, dark Hitchcock humor. There’s something hilarious about watching two giddy old women talking about planning a murder.

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Everyone in this movie do great jobs with their characters. Farley Granger plays the unassuming protagonist very well, and Ruth Roman gives a strong performances as his lover trying to keep him on track. The real scene stealer, and I’m sure anyone would agree with this, is Robert Walker. There’s something really sleazy about the way he plays Bruno and he becomes one of Hitchcock’s most memorable villains. The character of Bruno is pretty interesting. He’s not some dastardly guy who deserves any kind of revenge. He’s a spoiled, demented brat who just loves causing chaos. He’s dangerous because he will do whatever he has to to get what he wants, and Walker really nails it.

Like I said before, this movie provided Hitchcock with material to explore things that were forbidden in Hollywood, but of course the Master of Suspense is also pretty masterful with subtlety. For one thing, there’s a motif of doubles all throughout the movie. There’s two men part of the conspiracy, two bespectacled women in danger, two murders, and even two players on a tennis court. Hitchcock was very interested with the duality of humanity and the moral gray area that most certainly exists. There’s also a very clear homoerotic vibe coming from Bruno. Hitchcock made it clear in the movie and confirmed it later that Bruno was attracted to Guy in a homosexual kind of way. That was most certainly a big no-no in Hollywood, but it’s something that just makes the characters and movie deeper than it could have been.

Strangers on a Train doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of other Hitchcock films like Rear Window or Vertigo, but it is still an exceptional movie. There’s plenty of action, suspense, and menace to keep anyone entertained. Robert Walker completely steals the show as one of the most memorable villains I’ve seen in a long time, and Hitchcock’s subtle exploration of taboo themes adds an extra layer to enjoy. Strangers on a Train is objectively defined as a classic, and it has certainly earned that title.

The Campaign – Review

16 Feb

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are a match made in comedy heaven. Add in screenwriters Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell (Entourage and Eastbound and Down) and director Jay Roach (the Austin Powers movies and Borat amongst other things), and anything can be possible. That is exactly the combination for The Campaign, a farcical political comedy that had all of the ingredients to be a damn funny movie, but unfortunately it wastes a lot of its potential and it lands in the region of a forgettable, mediocre film.

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Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a Democratic congressman from the state of North Carolina who is running for his fifth term completely unopposed. It seems like he has the election in the bag until two corrupt businessmen, the Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd) enter the picture. They need a sap that they can control to run for congressmen in order for them to profit off of a Chinese company that they want for production in America. They see that sap in Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), who is thrown into the race and immediately bashed by Brady. Brady underestimated Huggins and his campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), and what ensues is a mudslinging political showdown to end them all.

Did you ever have a friend come up to you all excited about a joke they just heard, and when they finally get through saying it, it isn’t even that funny. Still, you give a little chuckle but that’s nowhere near the reaction they actually wanted, so they keep hammering in the punchline again and again until you finally say, “OK I GET IT!” The tagline for this movie is “May the Best Loser Win.” In my opinion, the tagline should just be, “Ok. I get it.” Repeating a not so funny joke over and over again doesn’t make it any funnier. In fact, it just makes the joke worse.

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All of the ingredients for an excellent comedy are here. Well Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis both have shown their talents in many other films and shows, the same can be said for the writers and the directors. Plus, the cast of supporting actors are all really impressive. Well, for starters, the entire supporting cast is completely underused. How can you cast Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow and have them hardly in the movie. The most disappointing thing, though, is how annoying Will Ferrell is. His character is supposed to be a troublesome person, but his accent and the way he played the character was just surprising. Having tackled more difficult roles before, it’s a wonder how he could’ve been as bad in this as he is. Galifianakis carries his role very well and, like always, seems completely in character.

The Campaign did have a few funny scenes, but that doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie. The scene that had everyone talking is when Ferrell’s character punches a baby. That was really funny and pushed the boundaries a bit, and will be the scene that this movie will be remembered for years down the line. But this one scene and a few others don’t excuse the rest of the jokes falling flat. I like the ideas around the jokes and the points that they are trying to make, but the execution is just so poor.

So, as disappointing as it is to say, The Campaign did not hit most of the marks. With such an excellent cast, two talented writers, and a director who’s proved his skill with comedies before, you would think that this would be a surefire success. Unfortunately, The Campaign is a movie that thinks it’s funnier than it actually is and is such a waste of time for everyone involved, especially the viewer.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

7 Dec

Here we are again, ladies and gentlemen. Back in the strange world of master Japanese splatter punk, Yoshihiro Nishimura. What a strange wold that is, indeed. This time he’s got his hands on two of the most famous and beloved monsters in history: vampires and the Frankenstein monster. Where could a mind as bizarre as his take these two creatures? What could he possibly make them do? Well, it’s been a few days since I’ve seen Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, and I gotta say, I’m actually a little surprised at what I saw, but even Nishimura’s tricks wear thin after a little while.

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Mizushima (Takumi Saito) is a Tokyo high school student who can’t seem to get a grip on anything. He’s a quiet, unassuming kid who doesn’t want any trouble. Trouble finds him, though, when a fellow student, Monami (Yukie Kawamura), falls for him. What he soon learns though, is that she is a vampire. Complications also arise when Keiko (Eri Otoguro), another student in love with Mizushima falls to her death after trying to attack Monami. Her evil father and mad scientist/chemistry teacher brings her back from the dead using spare parts of other students with special traits. This starts a battle between the two girls for the love of Mizushima and as an excuse to paint the halls red.

The story in this one seems a little tame compared to the summaries of the other films by Nishimura and company that I have reviewed before. Probably because we all know about vampires and Frankenstein’s monster, so they don’t really seem so strange to us. However, Nishimura and co-director Naoyuki Tomomatsu do their best at making sure this is like no other film featuring these two monsters that we’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure it is the most bizarre. Certainly not the best, but I don’t think a movie called Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is really reaching for cinematic greatness.

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Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. A vampire movie in a high school with a budding romance as a main point of the plot? Believe me, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is about as similar to Twilight as Casablanca is to Saving Private Ryan. Both WWII films, but absolutely not the same film in any other regard. Nishimura doesn’t hold back on the blood that sprays all over the frame, nor twisted bodily effects that look goofy but are strangely imaginative. I laughed a lot during this movie. But there are things in it that made my head almost tilt off my shoulders in confusion and bewilderment. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is surprisingly very racist and intolerant. It’s worth mentioning that their culture and views on race and society are waaaaaay different than ours, but from an American’s viewpoint, I could see how people could get very offended by the movie.

Running at just under an hour and a half, this is not a long movie at all. In fact, it’s quite short. Unfortunately, as with most of these movies, the jokes and tricks and blood and violence all get tired after about an hour. That makes the last half seem to drag on forever. All the violence and silly blood spray and effects are really fun at first, but how much of that and almost no plot can really carry a feature length movie? It really can’t. Watching these movies in two chunks might be the best way to go about viewing them, but watching one in one sitting gets boring after a while.

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Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is goofy, stupid, violent, bloody and funny… at least for a while. It unfortunately gets old and a lot of it is very offensive to a couple different groups of people. If you can get past that, because it is just a movie after all, and if you’re familiar with this sub genre than give Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl a watch. It’s not anywhere near as good as it could’ve been, and the charm wears off, but if you’re a fan of Nishimura, this isn’t news to you.

Paul – Review

27 Sep

In all my years of being a movie fanatic, I’ve never heard anyone say something bad about Simon Pegg’s and Nick Frost’s films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Whenever these two are in something, it’s pretty much a guaranteed success. Even though Paul a popular movie when it came out, I don’t really hear too much talk about this one. So, I’m here to break the ice and talk about what I think, because that’s just what I do.

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two British science fiction enthusiasts who’ve come to America for the San Diego Comic-Con. After Comic-Con, their plan is to travel to all of the UFO hotspots in the west. They certainly get more than they bargained for when the happen upon a crude, yet innocent extraterrestrial Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). All Paul wants to do is get home, but that’s now what the government has in mind, especially Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) who is hot on their tail. Now on the run from the government and an overly-religious hick (thanks to the trio inadvertently becoming kidnappers), the chances of Paul getting home are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

The first thing I was worried about was that the character of Paul was going to get annoying quickly. I automatically assumed he was going to be crude the entire way through the movie, but he was actually a great character. So was everyone else. Pegg and Frost’s characters are relatable and very likable and the villains are cold and are still able to remain funny. There are a few “villains” that are really no threat at all, and they provide some of the biggest laughs of the movie.

And when I say laughs, I mean I was hysterical. These two never fail to make me laugh, and their writing is as quick as it’s always been, albeit a little more crude. To compare it to the last movie I reviewed, Your HighnessPaul seems like a children’s movie. There are some jokes that are juvenile, but it never goes overboard, and there’s a self-referential tone that stays throughout the entire movie. Speaking of self-referential, there are loads of jokes in this movie that are homages to science fiction classics of the past from Back to the Future to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an excellent Star Wars reference that was very clever.

Something that really surprised me though was the clearly present anti-Christian agenda that really seemed to come out of nowhere. Personally, this didn’t really bother me. I thought it was pretty funny, but at the same time really got the point of views across. At times, I will concede, it did go a little overboard and sort of shoved the opinion down your throat. Subtlety is sometimes a lot better. I do know that a lot of people were offended by this, but you have to remember, it’s just a movie. People have differing ideas on different topics and they are allowed to express them.

 

For me, Paul was a very entertaining movie that kept me laughing from beginning to end, and I’d even go so far as to say that I liked it better than Hot Fuzz. I’m sure a lot of people disagree, but go right ahead. The characters were very likable and the humor was consistently strong and loaded with in jokes and references that were always fun to pick out and appreciate. If you’re looking for a good R-rated comedy, look no further than Paul.