Category Archives: Comedy

Ridicule

220px-Ridicule_posterWhat Jesse said:

[Unfortunately, I can’t remember what Jesse said about Ridicule.  He definitely liked it, and he was very indignant at my hesitation to spend an evening trying to keep up with subtitles. But at some point over the last year, while I was coming up with excuses to avoid watching the film, I managed to misplace the email with his thoughts. Oops.  Maybe he’ll send it to me again later so I can update this.  Update: Jesse re-sent his thoughts!]

Ridicule: I really enjoyed this French-language movie about the triumph of style over substance, or, how being witty and socially adept was the primary concern of bored French aristocracy in the 1700’s. Some pretty funny moments and amazing cinematography.

Mike’s verdict:

I am really not a fan of subtitles – for two important reasons. The first reason is everything that I miss while I am reading. Dialog in a film is usually important, obviously, but the visual is even more so – in fact, if it wasn’t crucial we’d all still be listening to radio. For me, the opportunity cost of subtitles is simply too high for anything other than documentaries.  The second reason is that subtitles are regularly plagued by errors. Unless written directly by the film writers, subtitles tend to introduce changes to the meaning of dialog, and often these changes are significant.

This is why I put off watching Ridicule, and as it turns out, I was right. Both of my concerns became reality during a painful hour and forty-five minutes.

Ridicule is supposedly about wit in late 18th century France.  I don’t know anything about 18th century France, but Jesse will agree that I know all about wit.  Wit is complicated.  Wit is precise.  It requires a high level of intelligence and vocabulary from both speaker and listener.  Most importantly, for a phrase to be considered witty, there needs to be agreement on the meaning of the words.  There can’t be ambiguity in any of it, unless the ambiguity is intentional.

And therein lies the problem. I have no idea if any of the characters are witty in French, but if they are then that wit was completely lost in the translation of the subtitles I had to read.

Not only was the subtitled dialog distinctly lacking in wit, I even found it incredibly difficult to follow the story. Actually, that’s an understatement – I literally have no idea what the plot was about.  An old man gets peed on. Some people flounder around a swamp to catch fish by hand. Someone steals a shoe and throws it in a fireplace. A guy hangs himself. All the while, people claim to be witty.  That’s all I got.

Maybe Ridicule makes sense to people who can make sense of French.  But it did not make sense to me, and I think the subtitles might have been written by this guy.

1/10


Ant-man

Ant-Man-International-PosterWhat Jesse said:

Ant-Man is a friggin’ awesome fun ‘popcorn movie’ that doesn’t waste the audience’s time with overly complicated motives or over the top exposition. It’s a pretty simple story of a guy (Paul Rudd) who puts on a high-tech suit that gives him the power to shrink down to ant size in order to stop an evil dude from using the technology for not-so-nice purposes. The action sequences were a lot of fun and I thought the comic relief (provided by Michael Pena as ‘Luis’) was absolutely perfect. The whole thing was a lot of fun and I’m definitely checking out a sequel if they ever make one. Michael Douglas does a competent job as the ‘Scientist with a formula’ and Evangeline Lilly sleepwalks through this one as the ‘angry daughter who doesn’t get it yet’. Nothing much to think about or grand themes to ponder, just a fun flick to chill out to with some very cool sequences. Good movie, check it out.

Mike’s verdict:

Ant-Man is not my favourite superhero. Ant-Man is not even a superhero I was aware of until Jesse told me that there was a movie. I still can’t understand why Ant-Man is a superhero at all – at least, I can’t understand why a writer would choose to name a hero with the ability to become very tiny ‘Ant-Man’. Lots of things are tiny, many of them cool. There is nothing cool, menacing, or even encouraging about an ant unless it’s the kind that stings; and this one, as it turns out, doesn’t sting.

I started this movie thinking I was going to see something like Spider-Man, a superhero with super-abilities that are directly related to the persona he portrays, and merely enhanced by technological toys. Instead I got the other kind of superhero – the guy who puts on a suit and just comes up with a name that kind of fits the image at a really basic level – like Batman. That might be fine, except that in this case the toy that Ant-Man uses just takes him from being a normal-sized loser, to a really tiny one.

To be fair, I can’t exactly argue with the things that Jesse liked about this movie:

  • It definitely doesn’t waste time with complicated motives or exposition.
  • It is a simple story.
  • The action sequences were fun.
  • The comic relief was, okay maybe not perfect, but appreciated.
  • Michael Douglas is competent as an idealistic scientist.
  • Evangeline Lilly definitely doesn’t get it.
  • There is nothing much to think about or themes to ponder.

Watching this reminded me of Fantastic Four – the one from 2005 . It’s entertaining for the sake of entertainment, nothing is spectacular but everything works together if you suspend disbelief (which obviously you have to – it’s a superhero movie!).

My only real complaint is that nothing about this movie stands out. If I want a simple story, Ant-Man won’t be the first movie that comes to mind. If I’m in the mood for action, or if I want to watch Michael Douglas, Ant-Man won’t be the first movie that comes to mind. If I want to watch Evangeline Lilly, Ant-Man won’t be – wait, I’ll never want to watch Evangeline Lilly.  And if I don’t want much to think about or themes to ponder, Ant-Man won’t be the movie that comes to mind.

Ant-Man fulfilled its role – it helped time go by while I was bored on an airplane. But unless I’m on another plane with really limited choices, Ant-Man The Sequal/Prequal won’t be my choice.

On last thing, Paul Rudd does a fine job as Ant-Man. I expected him to be funnier, because he is, but I can understand that wasn’t his role this time.  But if I want to watch Paul Rudd in the future, Ant-Man won’t be the movie that comes to mind.

5/10


Rudderless

RudderlessWhat Jesse said:

I just watched a movie that literally left me speechless. It’s called Rudderless and it stars Billy Cruddup and Anton Yelchin, and was directed by William H. Macy (whom I’ve actually met while waiting for a flight in Vancouver!) I really had no idea what to expect from a movie about the fairly difficult topic of how to deal with unbearable grief following a tragic family event. But then there’s the music (I know that sounds like a non sequitur, but stay with me). Cruddup plays Sam, a man whose life takes a nosedive after losing his college-aged son Josh in a mass shooting. A while after this event, Sam starts to play music in an apparent attempt to learn more about his dead son. Overall, I thought the performances were top-notch, and the movie had some funny as well as some very powerful moments. Awesome. Watch it.

Mike’s verdict:

Finally, a decent recommendation!  It’s been ages since Jesse has recommended any movie at all, let alone one that I thought would interest me. I will admit that based on Jesse’s description I was only vaguely sold on this though.  Human strife is tedious so it takes a good deal of talent to make me think it worth spending my evening. That said, Jesse did get this one right.

On the surface, Rudderless is an engaging and clever look at a side of violence that is rarely considered in film, as the plot follows characters that are normally tangential in stories about mass shootings. This film doesn’t look at the classic victims of violence, nor the classic perpetrators of violence. Instead, it circles those who are affected indirectly. But in a way, even the over-arching plot is itself actually tangential to the real focus of the film/ This is more a story about a man trying to escape his life, and his rediscovery of music as a means to propel himself to fulfillment, than it is a story about a mass shooting.

To be clear, the actual plot itself is pretty light. There’s a nice twist (that you’ll almost certainly foresee if you’re paying attention) but not a whole lot really happens. The pace is good, and the characters are interesting, and that’s enough to satisfy the basics without overdoing it or taking away from the real point – which is to follow a man who reconnects with himself as he tries to reconnect with the son he never really knew.

And along the way you become immersed in a fantastic soundtrack that in some ways over-shadows the rest of the film, but is just so much fun.  You likely won’t ever hear a better rendition of The Wheels on the Bus and Kate Micucci (remember Lucy from The Big Bang Theory?) has an angry/sad open-mic ukulele performance that is perfect. Even William H. Macy (whom Jesse thinks he met in an airport but it was really a 52 year old woman wearing a big hat) is superb as the nondescript open-mic bar owner.

I like this movie – it’ll be going in the ‘keep’ pile, and I’m going to hunt down the soundtrack too.

9/10

 


The Grand Budapest Hotel

What Jesse said:

Jesse didn’t really say anything about this one as far as I can remember but he did suggest we get together to see it.  It’s not the strongest recommendation, but a recommendation none the less. We never got around to finding a good time, so I decided to watch it myself.

Mike’s verdict:

Wes Anderson makes strange movies; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Within minutes of opening, The Grand Budapest Hotel projects a feeling similar to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which, despite a strong cult following, didn’t work for me. That put me a little on edge to start and in some sense that feeling stayed with me throughout the film, though in the end I felt I had been well entertained. I think anyone who enjoyed Life Aquatic will likely enjoy Grand Budapest but the latter will probably find a broader audience.

Grand Budapest managed to mostly fix the things I didn’t like about Life Aquatic. It’s still very Wes Anderson – you’re watching for an understated quirky story populated by overstated quirky characters. But this time the two halves meshed really well. The endless string of cameos was a lot of fun and the whole cast did a fantastic job. In a lot of cases it took me a moment to figure out why a person was familiar.

One really nice surprise was the variety of cameos this time. You don’t just get the standard Wes Anderson movie fare. A whole new group of recruits meant a wonderfully sparing use of Owen Wilson and no Ben Stiller at all!

The story still moves a little slow, but like with all of Anderson’s films you are expected to make use of the pace to look around at details in the background.

7/10


Burn After Reading

burn after readin-coverWhat Jesse said:

Hey Mike, have I mentioned before that Brad Pitt is dreamy? I watch all his movies because he’s dreamy. Oh, speaking of Brad Pitt being dreamy, there’s a movie you should see. It’s called Burn After Reading and Brad Pitt is adorable in it. He says funny things. So dreamy. Frances McDormand is pretty good in it too. And there are some other funny people who you’ll recognize.

Mike’s verdict:

When Jesse told me about Burn After Reading he only mentioned Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand by name. Somehow he managed to leave out that the film co-stars: George Clooneywho’s really goofy; John Malkovichwho’s quite good – obviously; Tilda Swintonwho’s fantastic; Richard Jenkinswho pretty much reprises his awkward character from The Visitor; and J.K. Simmons, who doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as he deserves. 

I actually had reservations about this one because it’s a comedy with so many big names. I like comedy, but I prefer clever funny rather than idiot funny. Too often, writers rely on funny people to make up for silly dialog and slapstick situations. Being a recommendation from Jesse, I knew it could really go either way.

In this case, it’s clear that the goal was to try for clever but I don’t think Burn After Reading quite hit the mark. It’s close. It’s definitely funny, but not always cleverly so. Much of the film was just too silly for the caliber of talent that is involved. Though J.K. Simmons really uses his minimal role to steal the show. His deadpan is great.

About halfway through I thought the best part of this movie would be Brad Pitt being punched in the face, but (without giving too much away) I was wrong.

Overall, I didn’t find this one exceptionally funny other than Simmons’ character,  but it was definitely amusing. It’s a good watch for a light evening when you’re not drunk enough to watch Jim Carrey but still don’t want to have to think too much either. Plus Stuart the comic shop owner has a decent cameo. It’s nice to see him get other work.

7/10


This is the End

What Jesse said:

Hey, I have a movie you need to see. Actually, let’s go see it in the theatre. I’ve already seen it once with other people and didn’t bother to invite you. But I want to see it again and don’t want to go alone. What? It’s not in theatres anymore? Okay, well how about this then: we’ll wait until it’s available for home viewing, you can get it for me, and then we’ll watch it at my place. Oh, and every time I see you for the next month I’m going to ask if you have it yet, so don’t take your time.

Mike’s verdict:

This is the End is hilarious from beginning to end. Especially the end. What could be better than a bunch of celebrities, playing funnier versions of themselves coming to terms with the apocalypse while partying at James Franco‘s house? James Franco is a surprisingly good actor, but I’d never really thought of him as funny. He’s definitely funny now. Awesome cast, loads of cameos, fantastic writing. 10/10


Time Bandits

What Jesse said:

If you’re going to watch 12 Monkeys, you might as well watch Time Bandits too. They were both directed by the guy who wrote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and they form a loose trilogy with Brazil. Don’t bother with Brazil though.

Mike’s Verdict:

I probably would have enjoyed this a little more if I had seen it 25 years ago. For most of the movie I felt like I was actually watching Holy Grail but with short people substituted for witty dialog. What can I say: it’s a children’s movie from the early 80s.

I did really like the undertone commentary on theology though, and I suppose I wouldn’t have caught any of it had I watched this when I was a kid.

6/10