Category Archives: Comedy

Review: Ironman 3

Remember when comic books were just for Nerds? Not anymore! The cinema has given a life to these once hand drawn heroes, and they command a serious amount of cash at the box office. Ironman 3 is the latest in a long line of movies from the Marvel comic book universe. It’s not even correct to say this is the third film, because technically it’s also a spin-off from the Avenger’s movie. But who cares right?

In the saturated superhero movie market Ironman stands alone as the more irreverent take on the genre. The first movie was a surprise hit in 2008 because of Robert Downey Juniors  take on Tony Stark and the films ability to weave the threads of the war on terror into its socially conscious plot. It was relevant,  fun, and for many people quite a refreshing take on the genre. Marvel unfortunately stumbled over a half baked sequel that had a woeful script, so does the third film bring any redemption?

Ironman 3 is a throwback to the kind of action movies we saw in the nineties updated to suit the present. I was half expecting to see Jerry Bruckheimer’s name attached as Producer, but instead when I saw Shane Black Director or Predator and Lethal Weapon so it all made sense. It’s a film for those who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, with just enough charisma and a few surprises to keep the rest of us happy.

Remember that movie Team America: World Police? Well Ironman 3 is exactly the kind of movie that movie was having a go at. In all these kinds of movies there is some kind of amazing new technology that basically lets the bad guys (or good) do whatever they need to do to get to the next plot point, while also setting everything up for some crazy action sequences. You know, screw logic! The movie moves too fast for you to notice that most of it doesn’t make much sense, but at least the film makers aren’t out to totally insult us.

Perhaps the best part of this film is Ben Kingsley as the enigmatic Mandarin. A mysterious Osama Bin-Laden style character that is not only genuinely interesting, but certainly the most surprising villain in any superhero movie. His much needed sub-plot and Robert Downey Jr. give this movie the class the second installment lacked. There is no doubt Robert Downey Jr. owns this character, his own past more than fits the tone and style of Tony Stark. This time out Stark is forced to deal with a kind of post traumatic stress disorder after the events in The Avenger’s (I’m told originally it was meant to be alcoholism but Marvel made them cut that sub plot entirely). I think hero’s are at their best when they’re struggling with their inner demons, and the contradictions of Stark make him a very memorable character.

Much of the films 130 minute running time is taken up with crazy over the top action sequences, none of which really stand out. If you can get past the ridiculous nature of what’s going on, it’s a popcorn thrill ride that is sure to excite audiences but it won’t leave you wanting more. Ironman 3 is at it’s best when it is original, surprising and challenging it’s characters. If there was just a little more of that, and a little less of a relentless mindless action and completely unbelievable science fiction it would have been more than just two hours of fun.

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Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Jim Carrey all in one movie? You would think that alone is a recipe for brilliance! Instead it’s a hundred minutes of awkward & sometimes absurd gags,  enough to make you smile, but nothing to send you rolling in the isles.

Burt (Carell) is a famous magician, and with his partner Anton (Steve Buscemi) they perform magic in the biggest theatre in Las Vegas every night. Until the world becomes hook on modern “reality” magician Steve Grey (Carrey). Now sacked, broke, and suffering a mi-life crisis Burt finds his childhood idol Rance Holloway (Arkin) who along with his assistant Jane (Olvia Wilde) inspire his love of magic again.

It’s the kind of story you would expect from an Adam Sandler movie, clichéd, formulaic, and riddled with corny and cheesy moments. It attempts to do the awkward comedy stylings of the successful Will Ferrel, but instead comes of a cheap second. It’s also almost completely devoid of any real magic, a complete shame in a film about magic.

The essentials of the story revolve around the concepts of old versus new, traditional magic versus the modern shock value reality television version, which is ironic given the whole film is based on modern awkward comedic styles bred from the likes of Saturday Night Live instead of traditional well scripted character comedy. It’s also annoying that given the movie’s theme almost all the “real” magic in the movie is CGI and clearly not even remotely real. There is scope here to provide some genuine magical thrills to accompany the jokes, but clearly not much thought has gone into it.

Alan Arkin brings some much needed light to the proceedings, capable of eliciting a smile with just one of his own while Jim Carrey turns in a good performance. Wilde and Buscemi struggle to rise above their mediocre characters, all while Carrel fills any silence with awkward sounds and uninspired dialogue. It’s a waste of talent in the end, especially for Wilde  and Buscemi who have played some amazing characters in both film and television of late. 

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone attempts to emulate successful films like Anchorman but doesn’t quite reach those lofty heights. It’s not a complete disappointment, it had me smiling and giggling for a great deal of the running time. But it never gets out of first gear, rely’s to heavily on cliché, and has no real magic of its own.

 

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Review: Silver Linings Playbook

If you enjoy offbeat comedies with a dash of the deep and meaningful in the fashion of little Miss Sunshine, then you’re going to enjoy Silver Linings Playbook. It might be a little predictable and sometimes contrived, but each and every performer has brought their A-game! This ensemble cast entertain and engage!

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is released into the care of his parents Dolores, and Pat Snr, (Jacki Weaver, Robert DeNiro) after spending time in a mental institution. Pat is determined to find a “silver lining” to his life, get it back on track and reconcile with his ex-wife. However things become rather complicated when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is just as troubled as he is.

It’s an interesting tale, one built on its characters and one designed to ask the question “who is really the crazy one?”. Each major character in the story has some kind of character flaw and its related to some kind of mental illness. Pat Snr is clearly suffering from at least OCD if not mild autism, while the rest all convey flaws like narcissism, high levels of anxiety, etc. It’s a welcome sense of depth and the film rely’s heavily on it. At times the two character who are meant to be mentally ill, Pay and Tiffany, are in fact the only sane people.

It’s also given the cast a chance to really shine. De Niro is fantastic, as is Jacki Weaver, they are masters of their trade and they prove it with excellent performances. Cooper and lawrence do more than hold their own next to them, which is a significant development as neither have really excelled in any kind of serious role before. It’s for these performances that I recommend seeing this film, because not much else is worth writing home about.

There is a formula starting to emerge for movies that deal with the difficult subject of mental illness. A set of unwritten rules if you please that revolve around making the subject matter appealing to the audience. You have to be serious, but not too serious. Because the characters have a mental illness, their behavior can be humorous. At times Silver Linings Playbook does this a little too much, often sidelining any plot, or logic to develop the story in a “cooky” manner. This is acceptable because in a film about mental illness, things do not have to make sense. I’m nitpicking, yes, but it is an emerging trend and I think it deserves to be called out.

The film also suffers a great deal from cliche, it borrows too heavily from the romantic comedy genre complete with all its conventions. I was a little disappointed that such strong characters were not given more story to chew on, but again, fortunately their strength holds the film for its two hour running time.

Silver Linings Playbook is a feel good movie with a good message at its heart. It’s a solid win as a date movie for couples this Valentines Day, it won’t tax you too heavily but it will delight.

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Review: This is 40

If you want to laugh out loud, then this is the movie for you. This is 40 is a sequel of sorts to Knocked Up, following the lives of the characters Pete and Debbie from that story as they turn 40. It is also another in a now long line of comedies from Judd Apatow. I had started growing tired of the Apatow formula, but This is 40 contains enough laughs to more than compensate.

Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd & Leslie Mann) are both about to turn 40 and suffer the cliched mid-life crisis that is supposed to accompany it. The writing is on the wall, Pete’s record company is not doing well and he’s in financial trouble, while his wife Debbie is trying to change everything about their lives in complete denial that she’s getting old. This is 40 is 134 minutes of their collective break down.

It’s a pretty simple situation, but the film puts a lot of effort into fleshing out Paul and Debbie, their relationship and their extended families. It’s a character driven comedy if you will. The film shifts constantly between the drama of these characters lives and its laugh out loud moments. If you’re familiar with any Judd Apatow  movie you’ll know that this is pretty much par for the course, but there are some very genuine laughs.

Like most American comedies it never quite gets past its serious moments and with a running time over two hours it does overstay its welcome. This is the kind of movie you’ll want to see if you want to forget your own problems for a while and laugh at someone else’s. There are also few interesting cameo’s, and fans of Apatow’s other projects will note some of those more than others.

This is 40 is worth a look for the laughs, but you could do better with your money if you want to wait until this is on DVD.

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Review: TED

TED is a part Romantic Comedy, part Buddy movie. It’s juvenile, crude, rude, and completely hilarious. Seth MacFarlane the creator of Family Guy, has produced 106 minutes of quality Adult entertainment, but what he hasn’t produced is a movie. TED is basically a very long episode of Family Guy, it’s more akin to a tele-movie than something you would pay to see in a cinema.

John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) was a lonely 8 year old who made a wish that his Teddy Bear was real, and that they would be friends forever. It came true of course, and now at the age of 35 John and Ted are inseparable, much to the displeasure of John’s girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). It’s a pretty standard plot in the Romantic Comedy genre, that kind of “grow up and be a man” story. It’s actually pretty lame, but let’s be honest, if you want to see this movie then you’re really not going to care about the plot.

What you really came to see was a foul mouthed talking Teddy Bear crack jokes hoping it could hold a full length movie. In that sense, TED is a complete success. The comedy is both crude and clever with a miriad a references from the eighties right through to today. You may not get them all, especially if you didn’t grow up in the eighties, but rest assured there is plenty to laught at. My only major criticism of the comedy is that eventually the movie gets way too dramatic. It’s a staple of American Romantic Comedies that it must eventually get serious. Why? I have no idea.

Aside from the laughs however, in every other sense TED is a complete failure. It’s not a movie, just a really long television episode. There is nothing here that makes me say you have to see it on the big screen, not even the usually obligatory sweeping shot of the city. Even the music is a carbon copy of what you would find in the Family Guy, which was surprisingly dissapointing.

All in all, TED earns its stars by being very funny, and nothing else. If you’re a fan of Seth MacFarlane you’re going to get a lot more out of this movie than anyone else. For everyone else, you will still enjoy the crude humour, but really there is nothing else to see here, move along.

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Review: The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s book of the same name which in turn is based around his own experiences as a young journalist in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the 60’s. It’s as much an oddball comedy about grown men drowning their own lives in the bottom of a bottle of Rum as it is a serious film about a journalist trying to come to grips with the commercial demands of the world and his need to find his own voice and report on what really matters.

Jonny Depp plays American Journalist Paul Kemp, who has come to Puerto Rico to work for a Local newspaper. On arrival he learns he was the only applicant for the job, and if the paper doesn’t improve then it will close. Shortly after being assigned to write the horoscope for the paper Kemp is approached  by Hal Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a wealthy local with a very attractive girlfriend (Amber Heard), with a proposal to write favourable storied in exchange for money.

Kemp is caught between his need to write real truthful stories about the world around him, his real job writing shallow entertaining horoscopes, and sinking a few Rums and having a glorious time dreaming of dating Sanderson’s girlfriend. It’s a recipe for a good story, full of conflict and choice, but it never really gets going. The screenplay is happy to just plod along at just above a snail’s pace while never really going into much of the deeper questions it raises.

It’s a shame, because everyone from Depp to Richard Jenkins is on their game here delivering quality performances. Giovanni Ribisi deserves special mention for his performance, it’s tough playing the degenerate drunk in a film full of quality actors, but he manages to steal most of the scenes that he’s in.

Clocking in at just over two hours the film is simply too long, too unfocused, and happy to just go from scene to scene without any sense of why it wants to tell this story. There is a lot to offer here, it’s just a shame it wasn’t as focussed as it could have been.


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Review: Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is effectively a Shrek spin-off. Puss was a wonderful supporting character in the second Shrek film, but is he strong enough to carry a whole movie? The cynic in me says this is just another way to cash in on the success of the Shrek franchise, and this will be by the numbers. Puss has potential, especially with names like Antonio Banderas, and Salma Hayek. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it is, a by the numbers, run of the mill, decidedly pointless piece of brain dead entertainment … Well some might argue it’s not all that entertaining.

Set many years before the events of Shrek, Puss is an Outlaw set on paying an old debt and clearing his name. He seeks to do so by finding the legendary magical beans, ascending the bean stalk they will grow, and stealing the golden eggs from the Giant who lives there. When he discovers that Jack and Jill have possession of the beans he seeks to steal them but is thwarted by Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The plot is relatively straight forward but it’s told in a rather disjointed manner that doesn’t allow the characters to develop well alienating the audience.

Puss should dominate the movie, his charisma is fantastic, but his development is weak and he feels like a human version of an actor reading his lines off a script. That is a slight injustice to the artistry at working bringing him to life and to the voice work of Antonio Banderas, but the film doesn’t ever convince me that Puss is a character worth caring about, let alone interesting enough to watch.

This is perhaps the films biggest flaw, it’s just another run of the mill story and it’s parts don’t quite sum up to make it whole. Zack Galifianakis voices Humpty Dumpty, but he is as clichéd as they come and he never quite works as a character. Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris voice Jack and Jill, but they also lack anything to define them or justify their presence in the tale. There’s a number of giggle moments here, but never a laugh out loud moment, and certainly nothing that takes you to a place you weren’t expecting to.

Shrek amazed us with clever wit, excellent characters and voice work, and a modern take on the typical knight in shining armor fairy tale. Puss in Boots on the other hand might match Shreks technical wizardry, but lacks all the rest, which is to say it lacks the qualities of even a decent movie. It’s a sign that Dreamworks are yet to really understand what makes the magic produced by Pixar really work and resonate with audiences.I really wouldn’t even recommend this to families or children, it was a strong indicator that even the children in my screening were not having much fun at all that the film really doesn’t work.

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