Kurt Russell doesn’t usually go for the comedy scripts so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Captain Ron but it was a legit blast of good times and the character he creates here is a legendary tornado of dreadlocked, suntanned, beer swillin’ manic energy. Martin Short plays a reliably high strung Chicago businessman who inherits a decent sized sailboat from a distant relative, and has to go down to the Caribbean to sail it back up before it can be appraised by an oily marine magnate (Paul Anka, of all people). So he decides to take his wife (Mary Kay Place) and two teenage kids along for the adventure, and since Russell’s renegade rascal Ron seems to be the only skipper on the rock who isn’t too hungover to be their guide and navigator, he hires him on the spot. What could go wrong? Well… not as much as I expected from the marketing on this thing but like… in a good way. The comedy is surprisingly restrained, very situational and well written where it could have been pretty 90’s silly slapstick and Russell’s performance, although loopy as all hell, is actually pretty subtle when it comes to getting those small, spur of the moment laughs that sneak in and become the funniest bits of the film. Like when he’s explaining the hierarchy of a ship crew to this clueless family and he goes “incentives are important. I learned that in rehab.” They encounter storms, pirates, packed harbours ready to party hard and armed ‘guerrillas’ (another joke that landed spectacularly) attempting to overthrow an unstable government and although Short’s attitude sometimes makes this feel like the ‘trip from hell downward spiral of insanity’ kind of flick it wants to be, it inadvertently just ends up having a great time out at sea and becomes a party, laidback hangout film, which is fine by me. This is thanks mainly to Russell and his effortless good ol’ boy charisma; even when he’s playing the most stoic, unfriendly badasses you always just get the sense that he’d be a guy you’d love to have a beer and just kick it with. Well you can do that here, and Captain Ron is one of the most easygoing, flat out hilarious and downright fun films of his career. Good times.
CBC’s Schitt’s Creek was kind of an unassuming watch for me in the sense that I don’t usually go for sitcoms and when I do it’s for breezy background noise, or simply reruns of stuff like That 70’s Show that I’m already intimately familiar with; the genre just isn’t really for me. This show, however, grew on me like no other and from the first quaint little episode to the emotionally uplifting grand finale it has now become one of my all time favourite pieces of television. Ostensibly the story of one disgustingly rich family who is embezzled out of their fortune by a disloyal employee and forced to relocate to a tiny backwater town they once purchased as a prank, this is so so SO much more than just a “riches to rags” comedy lark and such an important piece, and what’s more is it becomes important and essential without even trying to be, which isn’t easy to do. Eugene Levy is Johnny Rose, former video store tycoon relegated to rural life with his frequently hysterical prima Donna wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and two adult children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy). As they are jarringly propelled from their ultra-bougie existence into a bucolic world of motels, diners and quiet country life we are swept up in a pithy, hyper-satirical slice of life small town dramedy that gradually and cunningly becomes something so good, so well developed and so engrossing the effect is almost profound. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara already have roots in SCTV satire from their days of yore and bring every inch of that pop culture sendup energy here, as Levy’s own kid Dan co-creates with pops and we get the sense that every creative engine involved here is just firing on all cylinders and perfectly in sync. The epic and incredibly dense yet somehow blessedly lighthearted six season run see these four characters go through unbelievable, surprising, touching, hilarious and always realistic arcs as they adjust to life in the sticks, make friends, find love, bicker absolutely non stop in the most lovable of ways and simply just… live their lives. Others orbit them including the town’s incredibly offbeat mayor (Chris Elliott is too funny for words here), his darling of a wife (Jennifer Robertson), the local motel owner (Emily Hampshire, who I fell in love with within minutes), David’s eventual boyfriend and colleague (Noah Reid) and many, many others all portrayed wonderfully. What makes this show so special and such a standout amidst the absolute galaxy of sitcoms out there is a delicious mixture of a few things: it’s relentlessly, consistently funny, like you don’t even get a chance to breathe in between the airtight, intimidatingly verbose jokes especially when O’Hara and her priceless pronunciation is concerned. The characters here are real, developed human beings who you grow with, learn to care for deeply, are frequently exasperated with and the sense of community, family and love permeates everything. The themes are relevant and the tone is compassionate, understanding and candid in terms of LGBT content and the whole thing just hums on every level, it’s about as close to perfect as you can get in the television storytelling world. It’s a bittersweet turn that the show only achieved real, worldwide acclaim near the end of its run because I feel like it could go on to say and do so much more, and influence so many more people with its fun, positivity, empathy, masterclass writing and once in a lifetime performances. Could not recommend this highly enough for how great it is.
Undercover Blues is about as light, breezy and fluffed out as a film can get, to its own detriment in fact. I love a good lighthearted comedy but unfortunately this one tries to be so carefree and leisurely that it comes across as… well just that, something that feels like it’s trying too hard to achieve it’s vibe instead of just naturally arriving there. Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner play former spies who are on vacation in New Orleans, trying to escape the espionage life for awhile so they can raise their baby. When a chance encounter with a hopeless mugger named ‘Muerte’ (Stanley Tucci in a performance that has to be seen to be believed) puts them in the spotlight of their former boss (Richard Jenkins) they are tasked with finding and taking down an easily distracted Euro-trash villainess (Fiona Shaw) who is selling plutonium rods to terrorists.. that’s the loose version anyways, the film doesn’t really have much of a grasp on the reins of its own plot. Pretty soon two dogged detectives are after them, played by Obba Babatunde and the always scene stealing Larry Miller who is doing a voice/accent here that is so bizarre he sounds like he walked out of the looney toons. There really isn’t too much romantic chemistry between Quaid and Turner save for one brief scene and for all their cavalier swashbuckling and attempts at charisma they seem curiously lifeless. Tucci is anything but though as this ridiculous petty criminal, barking out childish threats with a priceless Spanish accent and spicing up the proceedings with his coked up manic energy. Watch for familiar faces including Tom Arnold, Jan Triska, Marshall Bell, Dennis Lipscomb, Saul Rubinek, Chris Ellis, Olek Krupa and a very young Dave Chapelle. I wish I liked this more but it just didn’t have substance or anything to grab ahold of. It’s fine to have easy breezy, fluffy action comedies but there’s still gotta be an interesting story, strong character dynamics and a genuine sense of danger or I’ll just lose interest. This was a great big meh. If you want to see how an effective lighthearted New Orleans caper with Quaid is done, check out The Big Easy with him and Ellen Barkin, an absolutely wonderful romance cop flick that feels genuinely laidback without having to try SO damn hard to convince us it is, like this pot of watered down gumbo.
Is this what was considered funny in the 70’s? Because it felt lukewarm, awkward and stretched over a super long runtime to me. Don’t get me wrong I love Gene Wilder with all my heart and Richard Pryor is cool too but if Silver Streak is any kind of barometer as to what their comedic pairing in cinema back then is all about (this is my first one) then, well… meh. Wilder plays a mild mannered businessman on a long distance rail trip who gets unwittingly yanked into all sorts of espionage shenanigans involving a femme fatale (Jill Clayburgh), a malevolent Bond type villain (Patrick McGoohan), a boisterous undercover federal agent (Ned Beatty) and many others aboard the speeding train, all of them looking for some sort of highly incriminating McGuffin object that we never really see. Pryor himself doesn’t even show up until at least halfway through the film playing a rowdy petty thief who is proud of his vocation (“I’m a thief” lol) and sort of forms an uneasy alliance with Wilder to outwit all these competing forces. That sounds like a ton of fun, right? Not so much. It all just comes across as awkward, weirdly paced and WAY too long, this is a brisk 90 minute comedy posing as a two hour big budget thing that just doesn’t have the juice to fill that runtime with enough to keep us occupied. There’s a jarring sequence where Wilder gets done up in blackface, *with* Pryor’s assistance no less, and get coached in jive turkey talk as some harebrained disguise gimmick, but it’s only really in the film as a shtick to serve itself and makes no logical or comedic sense whatsoever. Now I know this was the 70’s and comedy was a lot different back then, and I’m the last one to ruffle my feathers over stuff like that but time period aside it just feels lame, awkward and unnecessary, with both actors making painfully embarrassing asses of themselves. There is one scene that genuinely made me laugh hard, in which a frazzled Wilder frantically tries to explain his predicament to a dozy small town sheriff (Clifton James) who simply cannot wrap his mind around the complexities of a multi-character spy dilemma unfolding in real time. This part is genuinely hilarious and shows some spark but it was the only instance of that for me. The film is packed with recognizable faces including Fred Willard, Scatman Crothers, Ray Walston, Richard Kiel and more, none of whom make very vivid or memorable impressions. This just felt like a misfire to me overall, with two actors who I know to be surefire winners most of the time that just sort of flatline here in oddly conceived skits, a hopelessly cluttered and not particularly engaging caper that just feels like a lot of sitting on a train, running around and then more sitting on the train without much that kept me entertained. Check out the sheriff’s station scene over on YouTube though, it’s a hoot.
I didn’t expect much from The Campaign given how saturated the comedy genre is with collective Will Ferrell/Zach Galifinakis content that can be profoundly hit or miss but this is one seriously funny film, starting with the freedom to play thanks to its R rating which is always an asset. Political satires should always elicit nervous laughter here and there and this does a good job of having fun but also kind of subtly showing us exactly how elections work and the inherent, ever present corruption behind each and every one of them. Ferrell is Cam Brady, a dipshit Louisiana congressman with the IQ of a riverbed who is up for re-election and since he’s so far unchallenged, is in relax mode. However, two scheming, cigar chewing billionaire industrialists (John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd channeling their inner Looney Toons) are trying to sell out their state’s resources to those pesky Chinese that seem to keep buying everything up so they can develop a bunch of land into sweatshops and turn dirty profits loose. They need a rival candidate that they basically own though, which brings us to Galifinakis’s Marty Huggins, a hopeless but sweet dim-bulb from old money whose rich prick kingpin father (a perpetually tipsy Brian Cox) doesn’t think much of him. A Slick Dick campaign fixer (Dylan McDermott) is hired and suddenly Brady has a challenger in this sweet tea swillin’, double pug owning, piss-ant little character who at first is in way over his head but soon gets a clue and then it’s clash of the brain-dead republican candidates. On paper this sounds like it skewers republicans only but all these people really don’t give a shit about the party ideals they’re representing and it’s clear that this kind of behaviour, cash backed policies, rampant scandals, passive aggressive smear attempts and clandestine maneuvers happen on both sides regardless of red or blue, and no one is off the hook. These two go to great and terrible lengths to one up each other that start with trying to bang each other’s wives, escalates to one tricking the other into driving while spectacularly hammered (and getting subsequently disgraced) and by the time this battle of wits (or lack thereof) reaches its fever pitch Ferrell has accidentally one-punched both a baby and a dog! I’m not gonna lie this film had me fuckin laughing almost the entire way through at these blissfully tasteless antics and appreciating the diabolically satirical script that is the most on point send up of politics this side of Barry Levinson’s Wag The Dog. Also I’ll add that there’s more cameos in this film than an episode of Entourage so keep your eyes peeled for a lot of famous people being super ridiculous. Hilarious film.
I didn’t expect much from Spy, but it’s kind of one of the funniest films I’ve seen and, of the countless espionage spoofs out there, one of the most effective and witty efforts that sends up aspects of the Bond franchise and others in high style. It’s also a great starring role for Melissa McCarthy because for the first time since her absolutely wild career has taken off I got the sense that we were able to laugh ‘with’ her instead of laugh ‘at’ her, which is nice because she seems like kind of a sweetheart. This is also due to the fact that her reasonably competent agency analyst is perpetually surrounded by coworkers and enemies alike who, to quote a character from another spy spoof, are all ‘fricken idiots.’ She’s a low level desk jockey who serves as the techie eyes and eyes for Jude Law’s slick debonair super-spy who is a seemingly worldly but ultimately vacuous fellow. He manages to get himself in deep shit overseas and the agency’s impossibly jaded Director (Allison Janney, funny af) sends McCarthy and spectacularly klutzy coworker Miranda Hart on a globetrotting mission to find him and take down international arms smuggler Rose Byrne and her band of thugs. They’re also followed by Jason Statham as a rival agent who might actually be one of the dumbest people on planet earth and provides much of the film’s relentless, pulverizing and inspired humour. McCarthy is terrific here and initially has the hallmarks of the aloof caricature we’re used to seeing from her but by the end of her arc she’s earned her stripes and we believe she really has run this gauntlet for real and that the most unassuming character in our spy flick can make it as a field agent. Byrne is sultry, slick and unreasonably sexy as the bratty, moody villainess supreme and finds the right notes of menace, petulance and exasperation when she, like McCarthy, must stare down utter ineptitude in her own ranks. Statham sends up his own British tough guy image and is more around to be this agency court jester of thick-brained fuckery than serve any plot function, he’s a walking disaster and is loving every second of it. There’s also welcome appearances from Richard Brake, Bobby Cannavale, Morena Baccarin, 50 Cent and more. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz nearly walks off with the film as an agency contact in Europe that they have to babysit, he’s basically this hyperactive, incredibly pervy Italian weirdo who’s constantly trying to fuck, grope and sweet talk anything that moves and can barely be understood underneath his marinara soaked accent, it’s an acting creation that has to be seen to be believed. I had a lot of fun with this film when I didn’t expect much overall, but there’s a lot more going on than the glossy veneer of the marketing campaign might suggest. It’s a satire that understands every facet of the genre it’s trying to make fun of, feels at home in its tone and setting and provides this wonderfully written, crisply costumed, fast paced playground for all the actors to have some self aware, manic fun in. Great film.
Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks is an ironic title for this film because the ‘schmucks’ therein are more interesting and charismatic than most of the people I’ve ever shared a dinner table with. A psychic medium who talks to dead pets? A dude with a pet turkey vulture? A ventriloquist with hella marriage issues? A guy who taxidermies dead mice into gorgeously elaborate dioramas? A fucking blind fencer are you kidding me?? These are the people I want to party with. Anyways this film rocks and is built around the ludicrously funny but unfortunate premise of a rich asshole CEO (Bruce Greenwood) who hosts a dinner once a year where each of his smarmy junior execs pick the most outlandish person they can find to bring along to dinner, and whoever’s guest they make fun of the most is invited into his dumb little rich boys club. Paul Rudd is a golden boy employee looking for that perfect dinner guest who he finds in Steve Carell, who is the mouse taxidermist, bordering on the spectrum and is a laugh riot the entire film. Rudd’s art-world girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak) thinks the whole dinner idea is reprehensible (she’s right of course, it’s legit the meanest fucking thing ever) and tells him not to go but it could potentially mean a huge promotion so he’s torn in the classic ‘angsty but funny conflicted Paul Rudd’ way that he’s almost patented these days. He’s also relentlessly pursued by his psycho bitch of an ex girlfriend (we’ve all got one), constantly dealing with the bizarre sexual advances on his current girlfriend perpetrated by larger than life performance artist Jermaine Clement and doggedly shadowed by Carell and his kindergarten asylum antics that cause mess after mess. If my review seems like it’s taking a long time to get to the dinner itself, well the film does the same thing and you begin to wonder if it’ll ever happen… then it does and trust me it’s worth the wait. The film has a stacked cast including Octavia Spencer, Chris O’ Dowd, Ron Livingston, Lucy Punch, David Walliams, Jeff Dunham, Patrick Fischler, Rick Overton, Nicole Laliberte, Alex Borstein and a reliably bizarre Zach Galifinakis who somehow manages to be even weirder than Carell himself, which trust me is an achievement here. Much of the humour is improvised and not all of it lands squarely (Clement overdoes the elemental, sultry musk of his oddball artist and can be a drag) but Carell fires on all of his certifiably insane cylinders for a character that’s lost in his own abstract world and for long periods of time is only able to communicate in bursts of eyebrow raising verbal and physical eccentricities which are just too funny. I’ve seldom laughed harder than I did at him trying to speak gibberish Austrian and sounding like the Swedish chef in front of a literal Austrian couple who do not look amused. There’s also an inherent sweetness to the film as it evolves and Rudd’s character realizes what his boss is doing is not okay in any universe and takes steps to both derail it and connect better with Carell’s whirlwind of unorthodox behaviour, who is actually a really decent guy underneath all of his issues. Great film.
I’m not usually one for sex comedies, I’m more reserved about the subject matter overall, it’s just not my style and most of the ones they make these days are obnoxious as fuck and pretty terrible. However, having said that I caught Maggie Carey’s The To Do List the other night and I gotta say it was a great time for more reasons than just being hilarious, which it is. It’s probably about the best my experience will get in this sub genre and I think one of the main reasons why is Aubrey Plaza, who is so young here! I’ve seen her here and there mostly in supporting turns and cameos but never in dead on lead role, but she nails it here as Brandy, a terminally curious high school senior with no sexual experience and a burning desire to get some under her belt. As summer break starts she writes up a To Do List (or a Fuckit List, as one reviewer on IMDb so candidly put it) of experimentation ideas and sets out to check some boxes off, but her adorable naivety and unhinged overzealousness leads to some… fairly chaotic situational comedy. She encounters a brain dead jock douchebag named (I wish I was making this up) Rusty Waters and a sensitive good boy (Johnny Simmons), all while under the various influences of her hilariously repressed dad (Clark Gregg), secretly adventurous mom (Connie Britton) and spitfire sister (Rachel Bilson). The film is set over a portion of the summer in the 90’s, so not only is there a wonderful sheen of carefully curated nostalgia at play, she also works at an outdoor kids pool under the deranged mentorship of a hopelessly inebriated boss (Bill Hader) so the setting and atmosphere are lovely to hang out it. Plaza is such a terrific presence onscreen and this likely my favourite of her roles yet, she makes Brandy adorably clueless but also has this clumsy intuition where she stumbles into the most awkward sexual situations possible and then somehow manages to find her way out in ways that had me laughing a lot. It’s also nice to see a sex positive comedy from a girl’s perspective that does a nice job of blending the raunchier aspects with a really down to earth message woven into the narrative. Good stuff.
I wasn’t prepared for what a pitch black, unapologetically dark comedy Heathers really is. I’ve always known about this film and always meant to see it because I love Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and all things 80’s but man does this thing have some teeth! High school satire has never been this ruthless as we see Ryder try and escape a popular clique trio of bitchy brats all hilariously named Heather with the help of sociopathic, extremely destructive bad boy Slater. Her character is interesting because she’s like the Daywalker of high school cliques, able to blend in as both the good girl and snotty popular girl crowds and as such comes across as an individual rather than a caricature. Her and Slater are adorable together onscreen, both in full on nubile brunette mode and they have cutey pie chemistry that supernovas when he goes kamikaze and decides he not only wants to commit multiple murders on campus, but eventually blow up said campus with a giant brick of C4!! This all sounds perfectly horrible and of course the subject matter takes on dark, ominous new portent when we look at all the tragic school shootings these days but somehow this film, besides being very much of it’s time, manages to play off all these fucked up elements squarely for laughs, albeit of the darkest kind. The corrosive script by Daniel Waters (Hudson Hawk, Demolition Man, Batman Returns) is an impossibly witty, bitterly sardonic yet refreshingly playful cocktail of deprecating cynicism, punishingly pointed social satire and so many jokes I had to compartmentalize how long to laugh at each before the next one piled on. Ryder is lovely here and this might be one of her most engaging, impressive and attractive onscreen roles, she has a grand time with the dialogue, her chemistry with Slater’s lovably dangerous, misanthropic outsider almost singes the celluloid and you can tell overall that everyone involved is just having so much fun. I’ve made darker films before about the kind of subject matter you’re not sure if you should laugh or wince at and they are the best kind of sets to be on, if everyone is in on the joke and willing to ‘go there.’ It’s evident they all were here, and they’ve made one hell of a great film.
Robert Zemeckis’s Death Becomes Her is a such a frickin sexy, good looking film that you think it’s glamorizing death but it cleverly ducks that later on, using its devilish central premise to poke fun at just how vain, petty and superficial some people are and to hilariously show the awkward clumsiness and unwieldy, bizarre nature of the human body getting older and dying using morbid dark humour and screwball comic sensibilities. Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are two bitter rivals with a decades long feud over the same man, mild mannered undertaker Bruce Willis. When I say mild mannered I mean that as an understatement; this is the antithesis of classic Willis tough guys we are used to, he’s constantly shook, rattled, neurotic and absolutely hysterical as a poor sod stuck in between two crazy bitches. Streep’s character just can’t even handle her body getting older, so she obtains some magic potion with suspiciously vague properties from a shady gypsy witch (Isabella Rossellini is like… unreasonably sexy here) and suddenly she’s a perky, nubile young’in once again… but it’s not without its side effects. When she’s accidentally ‘killed,’ her body just doesn’t wanna stay dead and she’s basically a really whiny zombie chick… and just wait til you see the kind of undead insanity it escalates to from there. Hawn and Streep are terrific in their roles as these two supremely unlikeable shrieking banshee harridans, while Willis is a royal hoot as the hapless, anxiety ridden boob. I like the film’s overall condemnation of materialistic whinging over ones physical appearance and the incessant vanity that permeates western culture. The special effects are wonderfully wild and even quite scary in places as a spectacularly uncoordinated zombie Meryl Streep jerks and careens about her mansion like a drunken slinky, terrifying everyone in sight. Playful direction from Zemeckis, caustically witty screenplay courtesy of David Koepp, engaging lead performances and a spooky Alan Silvestri score, this one is a barrel of fun.