Tag Archive: review


Dinner For Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks

Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis, Stephanie Szostak, and Lucy Punch.

Let’s face it, you already know if you’re going to like Dinner for Schmucks. Can’t get enough of Steve Carell’s painfully uncomfortable awkwardness or Paul Rudd’s seemingly effortless charm? Then this is the movie for you. Dinner for Schmucks suffers from a terribly slow first Act littered with too much expository dialogue, but with the introduction of Steve Carell’s Barry, the movie picks up some serious speed and becomes all that it promises to be: funny.

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Mind-Heist Madness

Inception

Written and directed by Chris Nolan

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, and Michael Caine

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” So says David H. Everett and Inception agrees to the fullest, by constructing a world where dream and reality collide to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish the two.

Inception, at its very basic level, is a heist film, except instead of robbing a bank or jewelry store the characters break into a subject’s subconscious via dreams and their big pay-off is information. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are specialists in “extraction”, breaking into someone’s mind and taking whatever information they’re hiding. However this can only be accomplished when the subject and extractors are sedated and hooked up to a “sleep machine” of sorts (similar to “jacking into” the Matrix) allowing for multiple layers of dreams to be created (dreaming within a dream).

Cobb and Arthur are eventually hired to do the opposite of extraction: “inception”, which is planting an idea deeply enough into the subconscious of a target, so that they wake up thinking the idea was theirs, allowing you to plant any idea (sinister or benign) without a trace. They plan on doing this by creating a triple layered dream (dreaming within a dream within a dream, get it?) and so they set out to recruit a team and plan their attack for this widely considered impossible feat.

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The Best of Brooks

Mel Brooks certainly rode a blazing saddle. With a Grammy, Tony, Oscar and Emmy under his belt and the honor of having three of his films ranked in the top 20 on AFI’s 100 comedies of all-time, it’s safe to say this guy knows funny. After rewatching the musical mash-up of his work at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors, I decided to put together a little list (in no particular order) of my favorite Mel Brooks comedies. LISTS!

Spaceballs (1987)

Brooks’ Star Wars spoof is packed full of ridiculous gags that’ll make you roll with laughter and slap your forehead sighing, “wow he actually went through with that one” (gotta love that jammed radar joke). With Rick Moranis, John Candy and Mel Brooks himself at the helm of this satirical ship, it’s a must see for any comedy fan. May the Schwartz be with you.

Blazing Saddles (1974)

The movie that gave us the famous campfire fart scene, Blazing Saddles tells the twisted tale of a corrupt political boss who convinces the dim-witted Governor (cross-eyed, paddle ball enthusiast Mel Brooks) to elect a black Sheriff in hopes that he will be lynched leaving it unprotected for bandits. With Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Cleavon Little, this movie satirizes the obscured racism of Cowboy movies…but more importantly it’s hilarious.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

As the tagline states, “the legend had it coming…”. Mel Brooks retells the Robin Hood mythos with his own comedic, satirical twist in his parody of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Robin Hood leads his men in tights (tight tights!) to steal from the rich, give to the poor and yadda yadda you know the story already. Cary Elwes, Dave Chappelle and Richard Lewis front this film and deliver a stream of gags that will most likely leave you more entertained than the recent Russell Crowe adaptation.

The Producers (1968)

Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, need I say more? Brooks’ most ambitious project is about a pair of Producers who realize you can make more money with a flop than with a hit, and then go on to produce “Springtime for Hitler” (a supposed sure-fire flop) only to have audiences fall in love with it. While most critics at the time hated this film, it’s garnered a significant cult following due to the musical adaptation’s success (also written by Mel Brooks) and the fact that it’s amazing.

High Anxiety (1978)

Have you ever thought that Alfred Hitchcock was too dark and just needed to lighten up a little? Well apparently so did Mel Brooks and so he created High Anxiety an homage to the Master of Suspense, parodying “The Birds”, “Psycho” and “Vertigo” to name a few. The film stars Brooks staples Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman and is a laugh a minute.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle and Cloris Leachman lead this classic horror movie spoof about a young Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Frankensteen, thank you very much) who travels to his Grandfather’s castle for scientific research, ultimately ending in reanimating human life! Brooks is at his best with this movie and the scene where Dr. Frankenstein and Igor discuss a werewolf is so stupid that it’s amazing.

The Producers (2005)

Yeah, yeah I know, I already have “The Producers” on my list, but this one is the musical adaptation and is significantly different than the original. So there. With Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell, the musical version tells basically the same story as it’s predecessor but with enough changes for it to be a completely different experience. Mel Brooks further proves his comic genius (as if that needed proving) by writing all of the songs in this musical, and you’ll be singing “keep it gay” weeks after watching.

History of the World: Part I (1981)

What Mel Brooks movie list is complete without “History of the World: Part I”? This film gave us the famous Brooks line, “It’s good to be the king” as well as an assortment of jokes and gags that you’ll recognize even if you haven’t seen the film. It’s one heck of a movie and if you’re a Mel Brooks fan who hasn’t seen it (which is doubtful) change that now!

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass (2010)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz

It’s become increasingly rare for me to be thoroughly excited about a movie I’m watching, a movie that gets me so pumped up that once it’s over I’m on the edge of my seat, gawking slack-jawed at the screen and longing for more. Kick-Ass did just that.

A group of friends and I saw Kick-Ass about a week ago and it’s been on my mind since. We had so much adrenaline pumping through us afterwards that once we finally stopped talking about “how freaking awesome that movie was!” we started planning out our own superheroes, costumes, names, powers and all (even drawing the concept art, which could possibly end up on this site…).

I was looking at some other reviews for this movie and most of them (not surprisingly) were negative. What most critics failed to realize about this movie, however, is that it takes you on a ride. Sure, there isn’t that much emotional connection to the movie or any real kind of aesthetic appeal, but this movie is fun. From start to finish, I was having the time of my life and watching that movie went from being a pass time to an experience.

Matthew Vaughn creates a pitch-black satire of the comic genre in his film adaptation of the Marvel comic Kick-Ass. The movie follows the same basic structure that’s become increasingly popular over the years (Wanted and Zombieland are just a few that come to mind), a loser protagonist narrating his experience from zero to hero.

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Precious Bodily Fluids

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Tracy Reed and Slim Pickens

A great film is one that, despite being watched countless times, still seems fresh and undated. It is a film where you make a new discovery with every viewing. Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove is a great film.

Dr. Strangelove is a comedy satirizing the Cold War and tells the story of a crazed Army General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who orders an unauthorized nuclear strike against Russia. British Attaché Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) realizes that Gen. Ripper must’ve made some sort of miscalculation and so tries talking him into calling off the strike, yet only manages to get himself locked in an office with the nutjob General. The situation quickly escalates, and the President of the United States (again played by Peter Sellers) holds a meeting with several Military leaders  in one of the most widely recognizable film sets of all time, The War Room, about what needs to be done. Top Military Scientist and crazy Nazi, Dr. Strangelove (yeah you guessed it, Peter Sellers) warns them of the devastating Doomsday Machine and the unavoidable destruction it would cause (all human and animal life obliterated) if a nuclear bomb were to strike it’s location (which happens to be Russia). As you can see, they’ve got a dilemma. Through a dark comedy of errors, the characters try and fail repeatedly to call off the nuclear strike until eventually, B-52 Pilot Maj. King ‘Kong’ (Slim Pickens) rides the H-bomb bareback into it’s target.

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAWWWWWWWW!!!

To prepare for this review, I had to watch the film again for the first time in about two years or so since I needed to reacquaint myself with the material. I’ve read several reviews for this film, all of them praising George C. Scott’s performance, which I thought (back when I first saw it) wasn’t anything amazing. This time around, however, I knew exactly what everyone was talking about because I discovered what he can do with his face.

He's kind of crazy

When I watched it again, all of his grimaces, facial tics, twitches and eyebrow arching were crystal clear. I passed over all of this the first few times because Scott’s work hides in plain sight. His face is so plastic and mobile, yet you don’t consciously notice it because he sells his performance with such conviction. Take, for example, a small scene where his character Gen. Buck Turgdison is running around the War Room and then trips, rolls on the floor, rights himself up and carries on all without dropping a line. Kubrick (known for being a perfectionist) left this unplanned fall in, because Scott made it seem so convincing.

Scott’s performance is just one example of the comedy in this film. As Roger Ebert put it, Dr. Strangelove’s humor is generated by a basic comic principle, “people trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing”. All the characters in Dr. Strangelove are played so seriously that you can’t stop yourself from laughing when they all fall apart.

General Ripper’s dialogue is so sexually charged that it leads to the most ridiculous and awkward conversations between him and Captain Mandrake, as he goes on a tirade about how the commies are poisoning the “purity and essence of our natural bodily fluids” while fondling his phallic cigar. One of the funniest bits in the movie is when Ripper is explaining to Mandrake how he concocted this crazy conspiracy theory during “the physical act of love” where he suddenly had a feeling of great fatigue and loss of “concentration”. Naturally, his impotency was caused by those damn Ruskies poisoning the water supply.

Peter Sellers’ Oscar nominated triple performance accentuates the dead pan, failed seriousness humor of this film. He plays the roles of Group Captain Mandrake, President Muffley and Dr. Strangelove and gives each of them their own distinct accent, physical appearance and movement. His character of President Muffley is a great example of being extremely serious and failing. One of the best scenes in the film is where he is having a conversation over the phone with Russian Prime Minister Kissoff. He gets into an argument about how the President never calls Kissoff just to say hello, and then they fight over who is more sorry about the fact that nuclear warheads are on their way to Russia.

Dr. Merkwurdichliebe

Peter Sellers was known to be quite…uncontrollable on the set of films. He would go off script and improvise dialogue, was always doing different accents and acting out of character, and was just enjoying himself. Stanley Kubrick was known for his attention to detail and for being a perfectionist, so naturally you’d think these two would collide. On the contrary, Kubrick actually encouraged Peter’s improvisation and the character of Dr. Strangelove (a maniacal nazi scientist with a possessed arm) was actually developed through Peter goofing around the set and playing with one of Kubrick’s lighting gloves. Watching these two artists work together (although it was not the first time they have done so) is spectacular and their finished product is tremendous.

Dr. Strangelove captures the spirit of the cold war and the “we better attack before they do” mentality, yet it does so in a way that is absolutely hilarious. This film is a timeless masterpiece that is still as poignant as it was when it was first released. So go and watch it!