Category Archives: Comedy Films

White Chicks-2004

White Chicks-2004

Director-Keenen Ivory Wayans

Starring-Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans

Reviewed May 29, 2017

Grade: D

Anything but high art, though at the time of release (2004), seeming like a clever, yet silly, slapstick farce, White Chicks was a film that I found rather enjoyable. Watching the film in 2017, some thirteen years later, however, the film feels dated beyond belief and as dumb as can be. The film also contains Paris Hilton gimmick characters and racial overtones that were lost on me when I first saw the film.

Clearly influenced by the drag comedy (and classic) from 1959, Some Like It Hot, the premise sounds interesting and comical. Kevin and Marcus Copeland (played by the comical Wayans brothers) are a pair of black,  masculine, F.B.I. agents who bungle an undercover investigation and are given one last chance to redeem themselves before being booted from the bureau for good. They are assigned the task of protecting the mega-rich cruse-line heiresses Brittany and Tiffany Wilson, who are in town (at the Hamptons) from a planned kidnapping plot over Labor day weekend. Kevin and Marcus don blonde wigs, freakish makeup, and awkwardly pose as the Wilson sisters in order to save their jobs.

As the story goes on, Kevin and Marcus (as Brittany and Tiffany) develop relationships with various characters including millionaire Latrell Spencer (Terry Crews), who takes an interest in Marcus (thinking he is Tiffany, and white). Other antics occur as the “girls” try their best to formulate friendships with the heiresses snotty friends as they attempt to foil the kidnapping plot.

Similarities to the classic Wilder hit, Some Like It Hot, are tough not to notice, and director, Keenen Ivory Wayans, is smart to borrow from a film considered one of the greatest comedies of all time. Just as Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) go on the lam to escape mafia figures out of desperation, Kevin and Marcus are desperate to keep their jobs, causing both sets of “impersonators”, to suffer from dire circumstances. Also worth mentioning are similar conclusions in both films as love interest Osgood Fielding III, also a millionaire, as is Spencer in White Chicks, each are not phased by the “big reveal” as the men are de-masked as actually being males.

Clever in 2004, the incorporation of celebrity Paris Hilton, in 2017 now all but faded, seems dated and of the past. In real life being a hotel heiress, characters Brittany and Tiffany (cruise line heiresses) clearly mirror Hilton as spoiled, self centered, and oblivious to everyone around her. The aspect was a good idea at the time of the films release, but now is irrelevant, not even as a nostalgia gag- perhaps in the year 2037 White Chicks might be appreciated more, but I would not hold my breathe.

The overall tone of White Chicks is also fraught with silliness and with one gag after another. Rather than being believable as females, the Wayans brothers look downright frightening and robotic as Brittany and Tiffany. Certainly in comedies suspension of disbelief is required, but the producers should have done a bit more to feminize the characters instead of playing them as goofs.

The ending of the film is no frills and formulaic with no real twist or surprise ending to speak of. The ridiculous misunderstandings with Kevin and Marcus’s real significant others, foolishly believing the men are having affairs with other women seem forced and amateurish. Predictably, when the men profess their love for the girls in earnest fashion, they fall for it hook, line, and sinker and the film wraps in disappointing, standard fashion.

Cute and fresh feeling at the time, White Chicks now feels stale and tired with racial overtones, deemed amusing back in the day, but now seeming mean-spirited and unnecessary. The film is an attempt at recreating a classic comedy for a younger audience, but I would recommend seeing the original Some Like It Hot instead- it is much more enjoyable.

Sleeper-1973

Sleeper-1973

Director-Woody Allen

Starring-Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Reviewed April 5, 2017

Grade: B

One of the earliest of Woody Allen’s enormous list of film’s that he both directed and starred in, 1973’s Sleeper is a comedic, science-fiction film, and a blueprint for future Allen masterpieces, such as Manhattan and Annie Hall. While this film has it’s moments of intelligence and clever dialogue, it too often teeters into straight up slapstick and silliness to be held in the same esteem as the aforementioned richer films. Rather it is a juvenile effort as compared to masterpieces to follow, but admittedly with some laughs and creative moments. Sleeper is the first of several to pair Allen with longtime co-star, Diane Keaton.

Allen portrays Miles Monroe, a nerdy jazz musician and owner of the “Happy Carrot” health-food store in Greenwich Village, New York City sometime in the then present time of the 1970’s. In the hospital for a routine surgery, he is cryogenically frozen for two-hundred years, waking up in an otherworldly police state and frazzled beyond belief. The scientist’s who revive him are part of a rebellion and beg Miles to assist them as they are taken into police custody, pleading with him to search for a secret plan known only as the “Aries Project”. Miles then poses as a robotic butler and goes to work for Luna (Keaton), a spoiled, bitchy, socialite. The duo ultimately bond together and spend the rest of the film outrunning and outsmarting their pursuers.

Sleeper succeeds as a novel story, one filled with unique and interesting gadgets from a futuristic world, with clever, witty, crisp dialogue and odes to the past world, now deemed irrelevant. Amusing are scenes when scientists explain that natural foods and products, at one time thought to be healthy and natural, are actually not so much. This makes the world that Miles is used to seem silly and superfluous in their minds.

I also enjoyed the physical humor that the film contains, as when Miles (as his robotic persona) serves dinner to a sophisticated group of Luna’s friends, accidentally destroying their expensive outerwear in a garbage incinerator as well as botching dinner. As all of the attendees are high on hallucinogenic drugs (including Miles), they fail to realize that he is a human being- they dance with glee and stumble around in a haze, largely unaware of their surroundings. This is one of the best scenes in the film.

The plot itself is fairly predictable though and almost forced. Certainly, as Miles and Luna are the couple we root for in the film, the introduction of handsome rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck) doesn’t stand a chance and is somewhat of a foil for Miles and Luna. Much of the time, the pair are on the run and sparring with each other. The actors involved have wonderful chemistry with each other, but the central story is not the strongest suit- rather, the weird and unique gadgets and intricacies of the film, are.

Albeit, an introduction for anyone intrigued by the comic genius that is Woody Allen, other polished Allen gems are a better start than this early offering, but that is not to say Sleeper is not a good, entertaining film, with imagination, merely that it lacks all of the elements to rank it among other Woody Allen greats.

Tropic Thunder-2008

Tropic Thunder-2008

Director-Ben Stiller

Starring-Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr.

Reviewed February 5, 2009

Grade: D-

Tropic Thunder was a ridiculous film that I found to be harsh, tedious, and very loud.Attempting to be a satire of sorts, it fails on almost every level. The main issue was with the characters, who are abrasive and unlikable. The only redeeming qualities are Robert Downey Jr.’s and Tom Cruises portrayals, though they both play idiotic characters.

The plot is something of an ode to 1979’s Apocalypse Now, in that it the plot throws back to the Vietnam war. A group of narcissistic actors are filming a Vietnam memoir on location in the jungles of Southeast Asia, when they are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves amid a group of drug lords.

The films attempt at humor fell flat for me. It just seemed like a group of crazed guys running around the jungle acting wild and the film held little point for me. Cruise’s part was interesting, but way too small.

Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, who should stick to acting (if that). How Downey, Jr. scored an Oscar nomination for this drivel is beyond me- despite his acting being one of the better efforts in the film.

The Hangover-2009

The Hangover-2009

Director-Todd Phillips

Starring-Bradley Cooper. Ed Helms

Reviewed June 23, 2009

Grade: B+

It was not my idea to see this particular film- the raunchy, mindless “guy” films have always seemed lackluster and cheesy to me, but I confess to finding The Hangover, a novel and entertaining, summer blockbuster film. I did not expect much from this film, but instead found it comical and fun. Certainly, it has the “dumb frat boy/jock” shenanigans, and not much thought is needed, but it is good old boy entertainment.

Similar to the American Pie films of the 1990’s in which a group of guys find themselves mixed up in amusing, and sometimes humiliating situations, after a night of boozing, The Hangover has a likable cast led by, then up and coming star Bradley Cooper. What sets The Hangover apart is the great chemistry among the cast (Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, specifically) that other flaws or generic writing, can be overlooked or forgotten altogether. The group goes from one hysterical situation after another.

Set in Las Vegas (a great decision), three men awake to find the groom to be missing after a night of debauchery- they are there to celebrate via a wild bachelor party. In their hotel room is a tiger and a six month old baby. From this point, the film goes back to the arrival of the gang and the events that transpired leading up to the hotel room acquisitions. This is fun and keeps the audience engaged in the hi-jinks.

The Hangover was followed by the inevitable two sequels, neither of which was as good or as successful at the box office to the surprise of nobody except maybe movie studio executives.

Julie & Julia-2009

Julie & Julia-2009

Director-Nora Ephron

Starring-Meryl Streep, Amy Adams

Reviewed September 4, 2009

Grade: A-

Julie & Julia is a darling film about cooking and centering on the legendary chef Julia Child. It is for the foodie or culinary geek in all of us. The film is lighthearted and will ruffle no feathers, but a delicious, well told treat.

The film tells of the life of Julia Child, at one time an aspiring chef, contrasted with the life of a young New Yorker, blogger Julie Powell, who is determined to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, within a one year period.

The film, of course, would not be half as good without the amazing talents of Meryl Streep, who portrays Julia Child herself. All of Julia Child’s personality characteristics are portrayed exceptionally well by Streep. Her laugh, her voice, her zest for life, are all perfect. Of course, since Streep is not nearly as tall a woman as Child was, liberties had to be taken by way of camera trickery.

Regardless of Streep’s performance, and props for a nice performance by Adams as well. Julie & Julia is a cute, charming, light, fun movie. I thoroughly recommend it.

Everybody Wants Some!!-2016

Everybody Wants Some!!-2016

Director-Richard Linklater

Starring-Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch

Reviewed January 5, 2017

Grade: A-

A follow-up to the successful 2014 film Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater, Everybody Wants Some!! is another slice of life story with interesting characters, trials and tribulations, and a coming of age theme centering around the main characters struggles to identify with themselves and each other. Like Boyhood, a time-line is used, but instead of taking place over the span of seventeen or so years, it takes place over the course a long weekend preceding the start of the college semester- a blissful, yet melancholy time for many.

The setting is steamy Texas in the late summer of 1980. A few freshman baseball prospects, superstar athletes in high school,but unknown here, move into a large house inhabited by other baseball players all hoping to make it to the majors. The college is fictional, but is a Southeast Texas Cherokees team. The main character, freshman Jake, arrives to find a bevy of drunken jocks carousing for a good time. He bonds with the other guys, but is more introspective and complex, and embarks on a flirtation with a theater student, Beverly, while also connecting with various other jocks whom he lives with.

The film is successful in that it is a quiet story, Linklater, similar to Boyhood, choosing to focus on relationships and good storytelling rather than big bombastic moments or cliched stereotypes. We simply observe a large group of acquaintances living life and getting to know each other, having fun, rather than taking life too seriously. At the same time worrying over their futures and choosing to live for the moment, not knowing what tomorrow will bring- they are stuck in a moment in time.

The musical soundtrack is wonderful- interspersing 1980’s bands like Van Halen (known for the title song), Pat Benatar, Devo, and a myriad of others, while mixing in classics artists like Neil Young and Led Zeppelin. The film focuses on a bonanza of rock n roll history.

Everybody Wants Some!! is well written and intelligent. Fellow intellectual jock, Willoughby, neither he nor Jake quite fitting in with the other, loud and self-centered jocks, forge a close friendship, discussing intricate aspects of rock songs by Led Zeppelin, and dissecting the arrangements and simply talking about life, rather then guzzling beer and chasing girls. Ironically, Linklater chooses to have Willoughby diss Van Halen as a corporate rock band, despite branding the title name of the film.

One may argue that nothing really happens throughout the film, but that is the beauty, and what makes it work as an honest, truthful piece of film making. How novel that the film does not contain any contrived plot devices intended to create tension between the characters- the film simply is, and that is the beauty of it. Everybody Wants Some!! is intended to be observed.

The romance between Jake and Beverly is sweet and unassuming. They come from different backgrounds- he a jock, she a theater major, yet they connect innocently. The film displays different social groups coming together- a major accomplishment of the film. We witness the jocks attend a theater style party and enjoy themselves. The film successfully merges differing social groups together as one, but the key here is that the film never does this in a contrived manner- it simply happens organically.

Some complain of the age of some of the actors- many considerably older than teenage years- donning wigs, but that did not bother me. In fact, I enjoyed the maturity of the seasoned actors in these roles.

Linklater is a modern director daring to tell interesting stories about ordinary individuals who the audience can immediately identify with and that is what makes him a worthy talent of today.

You Again-2010

You Again-2010

Director-Alan Fickman

Starring-Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver

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Reviewed February 18, 2011

Grade: C

If not for the cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White, and Sigourney Weaver) You Again would have been a bad experience and a dimwitted, by the numbers comedy, but the talent involved has helped matters greatly. This is not meant to parlay much credit to the film.

As it is, it is not a great film, and quite silly and dumb, but the cast successful turns it into a light, fun, dumb movie instead of solely drivel- with a cast of lesser this would have undoubtedly been the case. Bell is not my favorite actress, but alas she seems to be currently receiving star turns in these types of films.

The premise is basic and tried and true- A twenty eight year old “beautiful” woman (Kristen Bell) who was an ugly duckling in high school, returns to her hometown for her brother’s wedding and his fiance turns out to be her high school nemesis. It is a standard Hollywood comedy cliched with typical gags, and a “we have seen this before” story. A gripe- Kristen Bell is cute, sort of all-American, girl next door, but I would be remiss if I did not point out she is not the beauty they make her out to be.

Thanks to the aforementioned cast, and the wit that Curtis and Weaver bring to their rivalry (as mothers of the respective fiancé and Bell’s character- they were high school rivals a generation before), the film does get some meager credit. Not much, but some.

Easy A-2010

Easy A-2010

Director-Will Gluck

Starring-Emma Stone

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Reviewed March 12, 2011

Grade: B-

Easy A is an example of a film where some parts are good, other parts dumb. However, at the end of the day it is forgettable and who will remember a film like this in ten years?

The film is a teen comedy about a girl who makes up a rumor about herself to gain attention from her peers. Emma Stone is great in this movie and shows enormous potential of her budding film career. She reminds me a bit of Lindsay Lohan. She is likable and great at comedy and present a fun persona. Also deserving of credit is Lisa Kudrow who appears in the movie.

At times, the dialogue is intelligent and witty, other times it turns into a typical dumb comedy and that is sad because based on the star power involved, Easy A might have been a better film than it was.

This Is 40-2012

This Is 40-2012

Director-Judd Apatow

Starring-Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann

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Reviewed January 7, 2013

Grade: B

I must admit, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie, and my initial thought was “typical dumb comedy” that has been seen a million times before. While the film does contain those elements and is clearly marketed toward a certain target audience, this movie is, surprisingly, smartly written and intelligent…overall.

I have not viewed Knocked Up, but I understand it’s a somewhat follow-up to that film, as the two central characters appear- now married and traversing through a different time in their lives-adulthood.

I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s, Melissa McCarthy’s, and whomever played the oldest daughter’s, performances the most, though Rudd has become the latest actor to play the same role over and over again. I enjoyed the rock n roll elements and the confrontation scenes as these were very cleverly written and nicely acted.

Sadly, at times the film relies on the standard bathroom humor done thousands of times before- a clear attempt at a laugh, and Jason Segal’s and Megan Fox’s characters are unnecessary to the main plot. This Is 40 is a film that, at its heart, shows the trials and tribulations of generations of families, in a humorous way, and done rather well.

Trainwreck-2015

Trainwreck-2015

Director-Judd Apatow

Starring-Amy Schumer, Bill Hader

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Reviewed August 13, 2016

Grade: B

Trainwreck is a raunchy 2015 comedy/romantic comedy that lends its success largely to its star. Amy Schumer makes this film as good as it can be (after all, she wrote it) and despite the raunchy, brazen, girl power themes that are currently the popular trend in films of this genre, Trainwreck has some laughs and good times thrown in, thanks to Schumer. Directed by Judd Apatow, who has successfully directed a gazillion of these types of films in modern times. The film does teeter off into predictability toward the conclusion. It has it’s moments of fun and is not boring.

Unapologetic, sexually promiscuous, and boozy, Schumer plays a successful magazine writer (Amy) given an assignment she despises- interview a sports medicine doctor, named  Aaron (played by SNL alum, Bill Hader).  Amy hates sports and knows nothing about them- she also goes from man to man, nothing serious, and is currently dating a sexy bodybuilder named Steven (John Cena), who she thinks may be gay. Predictably, Amy and Aaron fall in love.

In typical fashion, Trainwreck contains many stereotypical characters or characters who are merely there to bounce off of the main action- SNL alum Vanessa Bayer, and Tilda Swinton are the most obvious examples, as the loyal best friend and rigid, type A boss, respectively. Brie Larson and Colin Quinn co-star as Amy’s family members. Both give one-note performances that are fine, but unspectacular and one surmises that Brie Larson agreed to this role before her Oscar winning turn in Room.

Despite the comedy clichés, however, I had some good fun with Trainwreck. Schumer is quite likable as the ordinary girl- think of her as the new Melissa McCarthy- that many people can relate to. I am not sure Schumer and Hader had the best chemistry, but the point was more that she found love with a “regular” guy, a tad dull, to counter-balance her big, loud personality. And they do make a charming pair.

Some scenes really work. When Amy encourages a naked Steven to “talk dirty to her” in the bedroom and he attributes everything to bodybuilding, the scene is very funny. Others, as when Amy and Steven banter with an angry couple at the movie theater, fall flat.

Certainly not high art, for the raunchy comedy genre, Trainwreck is a treat and entertaining to watch, in large part due to the comedic talents of Amy Schumer. More often than not, when the masses rave about a current comedy as being “great”, I am usually disappointed. While Trainwreck is not great, it is good, with some laughs. Otherwise, it is a rather by the numbers film.

Sisters-2015

Sisters-2015

Director-Jason Moore

Starring-Tina Fey, Amy Poehler

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Reviewed July 31, 2016

Grade: B-

Slapstick comedy is admittedly not my genre of choice, though I will watch some for light entertainment purposes or to see just how bad (or good) current offerings are. Nonetheless, I have tried to put myself in a mindset of having low expectations for these types of films that are by and large fluff and plot driven. In the case of Sisters, the film is pretty much as one would expect: vulgar, crass, and raunchy. Yet, due to the chemistry between the leads (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) and a few light, heartfelt romantic moments, there is something that works about this film- it is not as mean as one might think. This is not to say that Sisters is a great film- hardly- but not as bad as I feared.

Poehler and Fey play Maura and Kate Ellis, respectively, two late thirties sisters, living in other areas of the country, who return home to Orlando, Florida, when their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) sell their childhood home. Maura and Kate have been tasked with cleaning out their bedrooms in time for the sale. The sisters come up with an idea to throw one final bash and invite their high school classmates, who all conveniently still live in the same town. Obviously, events go awry and the party gets way out of hand. Mixed in with the main plot are sub-plots consisting of a romantic interest for Maura, and a rival for Kate, played by Maya Rudolph.

The best part of the film is the chemistry between Poehler and Fey. They simply “have it” whether it is a Saturday Night Live sketch, hosting the Golden Globe awards, or starring in Sisters. The banter and the jokes work well because the two comics work well together and it shows on-screen. They are believable as sisters despite looking nothing alike.

Otherwise, Sisters is a traditional vulgar comedy. One irksome recent trend in this style of film (now more female driven than in years past) is the leading ladies being class-less and this must be an attempt at female empowerment or the assumption that since adult comedies were once a man’s world, female characters should be written like men. Do we really need Kate and Maura swearing like sailors, making poop jokes, and being so raunchy? Behaving like ladies would now be the exception not the norm (Bridesmaids set this precedent).

Not surprisingly, the supporting characters are all caricatures as is typically the case in films of this genre. The parents are a bit clueless, have kinky sex much to the girls chagrin, Brinda, bitchy, judgmental, yet insecure, the Korean (big stereotype) nail technician who cannot properly pronounce English words, the new owners of the house are snobbish, uptight, and clueless, and finally, James, the guy next door, who is Mr. Fix-it and the straight man in the high-jinks. He is sugar sweet and the male hero.

The romantic scenes between Maura and James are rather sweet and sentimental, nicely balancing the vulgarity and raunchiness that the rest of the film encompasses. They are a nice couple and have a rich rooting value.

Most of the action takes place at Kate and Maura’s childhood home where posters of such 1980’s films as E.T. and Out of Africa, as well as a poster of heartthrob Tom Cruise hang on the walls. This and many other references that Generation X’ers will take delight from in this film are pointed out, so that is a treat and a positive of the film.

As the party gets off to a slow start and the thirty and forty something’s appear dull and either talking about their kids or their various maladies, and suddenly, after being fed drugs, are back to their college party days, is both dumb and cute at the same time.

Sisters (hopefully) knows what it is. It is a late Saturday night, raunchy comedy affair, meant as fluff and as escapist fun. It is not a masterpiece nor does it intend to be one. Rather, a full length SNL sketch including many alumni. It is harmless fun.

Dirty Grandpa-2016

Dirty Grandpa-2016

Director-Dan Mazer

Starring-Robert De Niro, Zac Efron

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Reviewed June 29, 2016

Grade: D-

It is a sad day when the only interesting aspect of a film is the gratuitous nudity of one of its stars, but that is precisely the case with Dirty Grandpa, as Zac Efron bravely bares all for the sake of art….or a big paycheck, whichever the case may be. Otherwise, Dirty Grandpa is complete drivel. It is crass, rude, mean-spirited, and blatant in its raunch. It also aspires (successfully) to be politically incorrect- quite surprising in these time of fairness and equality for all. If the film’s intention is to be outrageous it succeeds in spades. Unfortunately, there is not much comedy and the film is quite bad, even where dumb comedies are concerned.

Starring one of films greatest talents of all time- Robert DeNiro, one wonders why he would sign on to appear in this film- certainly not the money, perhaps it has to do with playing a role he has yet to do- we will probably never know. DeNiro plays Dick Kelly, a retired Army veteran, recently widowed after forty years of marriage. Faithful for decades, he embarks on a road trip to Daytona Beach Florida, with his grandson,Jason, in tow. Dick’s goal is to conquer a slutty college girl he and Jason meet while they are eating at a roadside diner. Lenore, the college girl, is with her friend Shadia, who knows Jason from school.  To complicate matters, Jason is engaged to self absorbed Meredith. Clearly this sets off a chain of circumstances where each pair falls in love, all the while hurdling various trivial issues. Thrown in are scenes of partying, acting silly, and outrageous crude remarks and behavior. The standard bathroom humour is not spared.

The subject matter of Dirty Grandpa is not unchartered territory as the “road trip/buddy movie” has been done oodles of times in film history. My gripe is not so much with the films raunchiness, but to be blunt it is just not funny. Over the top in raunch comedy has worked many times before- think Pink Flamingos and other John Waters films. But those films had characters to root for and who were interesting. DeNiro’s character is the pits- Efron’s not so bad. The motivation of Dick Kelly is to have sex- almost like the guys in American Pie, but with them it was cute- but DeNiro plays a man in his 70’s. That is fine, but he is so blunt about his need for sex and whines of not having sex for fifteen years because of his wife’s cancer. So, the audience is to think him a nice guy because he waits for his wife to die to score on spring break? Lame.

Efron is my favorite character and as mentioned above- he bares a lot of skin, making it the most appealing aspect of this sorry film. The chemistry between Efron and DeNiro is really not terrible, and I bought them as grandfather and grandson.  Efron is not afraid to poke fun at his beefcake image and kudos to him for this. He has a fantastic, chiseled body and good for him for showing it off. Efron has the talent- anyone remember The Paperboy? He was superlative in that underrated independent gem. His character is the straight man in Dirty Grandpa and the only “normal” character. He is the voice of reason if you will.

The supporting characters are as stereotypical as possible. In fact, it is almost as if the film intends to offend, but with no good reason why. Dirty Grandpa has the dumb jocks, the horny teen girl, the weak, effeminate gay character, the Hispanic drug dealer,and so on and so forth. Danny Glover’s brief cameo appearance as a horny wheelchair bound nursing home resident (and old buddy of Dick) is as much laughable (not in a good way) as forgettable. Most characters are thinly written.

Dirty Grandpa appeals to unsophisticated moviegoers who find crude, mean spirited characters funny, and deem stock characters acceptable. Every other sensible person will dislike this film.

Ted-2012

Ted-2012

Director-Seth MacFarlane

Starring-Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis

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Reviewed May 16, 2013

Grade: D-

So many times I will watch a comedy deemed “the funniest movie of the year”, or some other touting, and be disappointed in it. This is certainly the case with Ted.

To be fair to the creators, I did enjoy the 1980’s references and the teddy bear had a charming, gruff, witty, crude personality that was funny at times, but that was really it for the positives.

The main storyline (loyal slacker with successful girlfriend) has been done to death and this was one of the most predictable, sappy movie endings I’ve ever seen so I don’t get why people think it is so great. Think happily ever after, as if the end result was ever in question.

Ted was filled with stereotypical characters, specifically the Asian stereotypes, and a myriad of dumb situations. The actors certainly could handle stronger material.

Raunchy comedies need not have a surprise ending, but the sappy love story was too lame to take at times. At least the film should have taken some risks and given edge to it.  And lord help us if there is the inevitable sequel.

That’s My Boy-2012

That’s My Boy-2012

Director-Sean Anders

Starring-Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg

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Reviewed June 6, 2013

Grade: D

That’s My Boy is such an incredibly bad film yet there is something that strangely kept my attention. With the oodles of stereotypes and either sexist, homophobic, or racist jokes throughout the film, it should have made me angry, but somehow it did not. This movie was so completely over the top that it could not possibly be taken too seriously.

Once laughable aspect that I did enjoy was the, albeit odd, cameos by Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges who seem to have no problem degrading themselves, and the references to the 1980’s, otherwise this was pretty rock bottom for film making.

This is not a knock on the dumb comedy genre as there are other recent similar types of films that are well written (This is 40). But, alas, That’s My Boy is not one of those films and will not go down in history as such. True to form, the ending was predictable and uninteresting.

Some Like It Hot-1959

Some Like It Hot-1959

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis

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Reviewed March 26, 2016

Grade: A

Considered to be one of the best comedies ever made, Some Like It Hot is a funny, outlandish, yet controlled film, that never teeters too over the top or dives into outrageous camp, but rather is well written, well acted, and contains great chemistry between the stars. In a nutshell, it is a film where all of the elements simply come together just right. In film comedy, this is a very rare event to happen. Rather, typically we are treated to formulas or retreads of past successes. Some Like It Hot feels refreshing and brilliant.

The film was also monumental in paving the way to the eventual elimination of the hated Hays Code, which put many restrictions on American films from 1930-1968. Some Like It Hot pushed the envelope in important ways, leading to a spike in creativity and art within the film industry that lasted mainly throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. For that it is a masterpiece.

Down on their luck, broke, and needing work, Jerry and Joe (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) are struggling  jazz musicians who eek out a meager existence in snowy Chicago. Having witnessed the St. Valentine’s day massacre, they go on the run from the assailants, who have seen them, and pose as Josephine and Daphne, dressed in drag. This leads to one humorous situation after another as they take the bus from Chicago to Miami with an all-girl musical band, a slumber party of sorts, led by boozy starlet Sugar Kane (played by Marilyn Monroe), who serves as the bands vocalist and ukulele player. Once arrived in sunny Miami “the girls” both find romantic entanglements, with Sugar and rich millionaire, Osgood Fielding III, with obvious comic antics ensuing. Josephine poses as male Shell Oil Junior in an attempt to woo Sugar with his assumed riches in the oil business.

What makes Some Like It Hot work so well, for starters, is that it does not go too far over the edge to make it seem campy, nor does it play it too straight, if you will. The balance is perfect and that makes the film rich with natural, fresh comedy. Director Billy Wilder chose wisely to film in black and white, thereby avoiding Lemmon and Curtis looking ridiculous with colorful, bright makeup. This was toned down and muted so that it allowed for more believability.

Additionally, the subtle edginess of the film impresses me with each passing watch.  Some Like It Hot got away with a lot for 1959, keeping in mind the restrictions of the day,  and with that knowledge gives it a groundbreaking quality. There is an air of homosexuality throughout and the final line of the film is my favorite allowing for thought provoking interpretation. When Daphne reaches her breaking point with Osgood’s romancing and yanks off his wig professing in a state of exasperation, “I am a man!!” only to hear Osgood’s startling reply of “Well, nobody’s perfect”, that is clever dialogue. Did Osgood know all along that Daphne was male? Will he marry her anyway?

Who wouldn’t have blushed gazing at Monroe’s skin colored and quite revealing outfit? It gave the impression that she was nude, and how funny is the physical comic timing of Lemmon and Curtis together. Bumbling around in stocking, heels, and dresses, attempting to be feminine, but never really succeeding, but somehow making all of the other characters think that they truly were women is great. Curtis was reportedly quite uncomfortable in drag and it shows on camera, but this works out well as it gives Josephine an awkwardness that is natural. Lemmon went all out in his costumes and his energy really comes across.

In my opinion not looking her best, slightly plump and tired looking, Marilyn Monroe still gives the film added life and charm and who is not mesmerized viewing her on stage singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You”? To think that Monroe died only 3 short years later is sad and an appreciation of her career in the final stages.

A risqué, laugh out loud, funny treat, Some Like It Hot resonates with me and did so with audiences upon release in 1959. Comical, smart, and highly influential, the film is a must see for fans of film comedy done honestly and free of standard cliché. A blueprint for all smart comedies to follow.

Spy-2015

Spy-2015

Director-Paul Feig

Starring-Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham

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Reviewed March 20, 2016

Grade: C+

Spy is a 2015 comedy spy spoof starring funny-lady Melissa McCarthy as a loser desk CIA-analyst suddenly thrown into the field and assigned to rescue a missing agent whom she is also in love with. Clearly carrying the film in every way, McCarthy is very funny and adds a great deal to an otherwise formulaic,  by the numbers, comedy. As, admittedly, the “action comedy” genre is not my favorite, I have seen much worse than Spy, and the premise is quite nice, but the second half of the film sinks into the ridiculous and is very loud and overly long.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a frumpy forty-year old woman with a decent job as a CIA analyst (she tracks the field agents cameras and warns them of impending peril), an important job, but nonetheless, she is deemed dispensable and a loser by the higher-ups at her job, with more important duties. She is single, overweight, and lonely, pining after her sophisticated partner Bradley Pine (Jude Law), a field agent and stylish James Bond-type.  After a mishap with Bradley thought dead, Susan goes undercover in France, Rome, and Budapest to solve the case since she will be unnoticed.

Spy is a film with a star that completely carries the film. Personally being a big fan of McCarthy’s and enjoying her performance in whatever she appears in (comedy or drama), this film needs her charisma and comic timing.  Spy contains a few laugh out loud moments, especially when McCarthy is forced to take on the persona of one loser after another- a divorcee with multiple cats and a wardrobe to cringe over- throw in a 1980’s perm and you’ve got a great SNL type moment. In fact the film itself reminds me of a long SNL skit. When McCarthy delivers her one liners they connect and amuse.

An apparent homage to spy films and James Bond films, Spy seems closer to an Austin Powers film as it goes for more silliness, but not quite as over the top. Still, the European locales offered add elements of Bond films in a pleasant way. McCarthy as an apparent female James Bond is also kind of cute.

A noticeable negative is the unnecessary two hour running time. With a genre of this nature a ninety to one-hundred minute running time is all that is necessary and any more than that and the jokes wane, become redundant, and usually teeter off into the ridiculous, which is exactly what happens with Spy.

Another problem with Spy is the supporting characters. A well-known cast including Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Jason Statham,  and Bobby Cannavale, each of these actors are cast in cartoon-like, one-note roles. Cannavale and Byrne are the villains (Sergio and Rayna) in the plot and they play their roles in a one-dimensional way,  as evil as possible, but perhaps also over-acting the parts. This could be the fault of the director or simply what is accepted in the genre that this is. Janney-  as the tough as nails CIA director and Stathum as the dumb, temperamental, field agent also overplay their roles. Why are all of these characters loud, unpleasant, insulting, or all of the above? The answer is it might allow better comedy to have caricatures instead of characters, but that is a debate for another time.

On the other hand, Miranda Hart as McCarthy’s sidekick Nancy, a very tall, awkward woman and Susan’s best friend is great and shares equally in the comic success that McCarthy brings. Their chemistry is evident and a recommended second pairing would be worth exploring. Unlike the other characters, I felt myself rooting for her and wished her a love interest, though the 50 Cent romantic introduction was strange.

The plot is more or less trivial and rather unimportant in a film like this. Rationally speaking, almost everything that transpires in this film would never happen in real life, but alas, this is the movies, so one must suspend disbelief big time. Spy is escapist fare to the max.

A hot mess if not for the wit and comic timing that McCarthy brings to the table, Spy has an interesting premise, but fails at delivering anything more than the silly formula that has existed for decades in the film comedy world. I finished the film with mixed emotions.

How to Marry a Millionaire-1953

How to Marry a Millionaire-1953

Director-Jean Negulesco

Starring-Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable

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Reviewed February 28, 2016

Grade: B

How to Marry a Millionaire is a light hearted, fun, romantic comedy from 1953 that features three leading ladies, famous at the time- Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and the legendary Marilyn Monroe.  The backdrop used in the film is New York City, in the 1950’s, warm and sophisticated and pleasing. This is an appropriate setting as all three women featured in the film are models searching for wealthy suitors.

Schatze (Bacall), Loco (Grable), and Pola (Monroe) are blatant gold-diggers, set on using their looks and charms to seduce rich men into marriage. They rent an enormous and lavish apartment (the owner out of the country and avoiding the IRS) and slowly sell the furniture to pay the rent. Each woman encounters potential beaus, both rich and poor, and must choose between true love and a marriage for money. Or could they achieve both?

Very soon I noticed similarities to the 1980’s television sitcom The Golden Girls. As a whole, the ladies on the Golden Girls were constantly pursuing men- albeit not always rich men, but more specifically, Schatze resembles Dorothy in her directness, leadership skills, and height. Loco has qualities attributed to Blanche- sexiness and a coquettish manner. Finally, Pola is dizzy and blonde, a close match for Rose. Unquestionably, How to Marry a Millionaire influenced the iconic television series.

How wonderful the setting is. Interspersed throughout the film are shots of Manhattan, not to mention the visible New York City skyline from the ladies luxurious apartment where men came and went in attempts of pursuing the eligible women. The city skyline is clearly a set, however other locales are not. Numerous cinematic shots include the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the lights of Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the United Nations Building. As a lover of New York City, it struck me as both fantastic and melancholy to think how many people have come and gone throughout the iconic city, yet here it remains and always will. A slice of 1950’s Manhattan- another time entirely- was wonderful to see.

The film itself is arguably fluff- lightweight to be sure. But there is a 1950’s innocence and a sense of fun to How to Marry a Millionaire that has become tainted and is missing in today’s romantic comedy genre- everything is now so crude and cynical, which is why this film really works for me. There is a wholesomeness to it.

Sure, the women are manipulative (specifically  Schatze), but they yearn for true love and are kind women. Their escapades are humorous. Pola- frightened of being seen by a man wearing her glasses- and blind as a bat without them- constantly bumps her way into walls and navigates rooms by feeling her way around. More humorous still is when she mistakes a flight to Atlantic City for Kansas City, thereby changing the course of her life.

Loco (Grable), clearly the oldest of the three, and in fact, by this time Grable was looking flat out matronly, decides to go on a trip to Maine with her married beau, expecting to attend a convention filled with rich and eligible men. Misunderstanding the situation, she then engages in hilarious hijinks with her beau and also meets dashing, but poor, Eban.

Light, fun, with bright colors and sets, How to Marry a Millionaire, when watched now, brings me back to a more pure day, when films were innocent and fresh- filled with glamour and sophistication. A trip down memory lane in film is a nice thing.

Hail, Caesar!-2016

Hail, Caesar!-2016

Director-Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring-George Clooney, Channing Tatum

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Reviewed February 16, 2016

Grade: B+

Hail, Caesar! is a quirky film created and directed by the Coen Brothers, known for such offbeat films as Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and Raising Arizona.  Hail, Caesar is a satirical comedy about the Hollywood film industry during the post World War II time period of the 1950’s. Including singing, dancing, and scandalous matters, the film includes a bevy of current Hollywood talent including George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, and Scarlett Johannsen to name but a few. All give fine performances and add humor and wit to the film.

The plot centers on the character of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a celebrity “fixer” and real life person, who works as an executive for Capitol Pictures, and whose main responsibility is to ensure that famous Hollywood stars remain out of trouble. The period is 1951, a particularly scandalous time in pictures. One of the biggest stars of the time, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), is suddenly kidnapped and held for ransom while in the midst of completing a big epic film for the studio. Mannix must race to keep the crisis out of the news and safely get Whitlock back.

Certainly, there are interesting subplots including handsome, yet talent-less Western actor Hobie Doyle, hired by the studio to appear in a sweeping period piece directed by suave Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), and DeeAnna Moran (Johannsen), unmarried and with a “bun in the oven”, determined to keep herself out of the tabloids.

I loved the look of the film, as numerous films within the film occur. The 1950’s set pieces and set designs are exquisite to experience, particularly the period piece set, lavishly designed with classic doors, a staircase, flowers, and a cast dressed to the nines. It brings back an extravagant time.

The film is a satire, to be sure, but also contains the serious subject matter of communism (especially for that time period), Russia and Russian defectors, all involved in a plot to prove a valuable point. Despite the film being a comedy, this is worth serious thought. Many writers in Hollywood make money for the studios and are rewarded with underwhelming salaries. The same holds true in Hollywood today. This point can spill over into other walks of life as well and the point of the “little man gets screwed” is explored. Communism is also explored throughout the film as the main message- a message that is important and resonates.

Another interesting tidbit that Hail, Caesar! mentions, though only on the surface, is the burgeoning onslaught of television programming. Suddenly, more and more folks were purchasing TV’s and staying away from the glamour of films opting instead for the comfort of their couch. What a different time it was!

An intriguing, favorite character of mine belongs to Channing Tatum’s portrayal of Burt Gurney, a Gene Kelly like character famous for singing and dancing numbers. A sizzling sailor dance gives edge and sexuality to the film. A revealing scandal involving Burt and Laurence is fantastic and delicious.

My favorite scene belongs to Frances McDormand, shamefully only appearing in one scene- quite memorable. As film editor C.C. Calhoun, she diligently shows Mannix film dailies in the hopes of discovering a clue in the disappearance of Whitlock. When her scarf gets caught in the projector, both hilarity and grotesqueness ensue. It is classic Coen Brothers comedy.

Hail Caesar! succeeds as a witty, comical, throwback to a wonderful time in film history, with a political edge, that historians will appreciate and Coen Brothers fans will relish. Perhaps not their most creative or memorable, but enjoyable all the same.

Caddyshack-1980

Caddyshack-1980

Director-Harold Ramis

Starring-Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield

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Reviewed April 15, 2016

Grade: A

Caddyshack is one of the funniest slapstick comedy films of the 1980’s, arguably the decade of the “mindless comedy”. Made in 1980, the cusp of the decade, it led the pack during a time when one after the other, comedy films were churned out-cookie cutter style- based largely on the success of Caddyshack.  While not every aspect of the film works, the parts that do are hysterical and its influence in film history is unquestionable. More than merely a “dumb comedy”, Caddyshack features funnymen of the day (Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield), and the talent and timing are spot on.

Clean-cut teenager Danny Noonan works as a caddy at a posh resort named Bushwood Country Club. An “underachiever”, he lacks direction in life while being pressured by his parents to attend college. While spending the summer at work pondering his future, high jinks ensue as a rivalry develops  between the club co-founder, Judge Smails (Ted Knight), and the outrageous Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), who is a nouveau riche real estate developer. Meanwhile, bordering on psychotic, Bill Murray as groundskeeper Carl Spackler, is engrossed in his own feud with a gopher running rampant on the golf course. Mixed in with all of this are the standard teen romance themes, bathroom gags, and sexual jokes.

Caddyshack is not high art nor does it need to, or intend to be. It is simply pure juvenile fun. It is not even that well written, but it works. Interestingly, the portions that work so well do not even involve the caddies featured in the film- originally set to be the focal point. Rather, the real scene stealers are the two oldest members of the cast- Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. The bickering and barbs traded between the two characters is delicious and downright funny. When Al mocks Smails hat, or dances with his snobbish wife, or crashes into his new boat, each scene is rich with goofy comic timing.

Without a doubt, my favorite scene is the “doody” scene in the resort pool. It is laugh out loud raucous as a candy bar tossed into the water is thought to be something else. The star of this scene is Lois Kibbee, who plays Judge Smails wife. Her comic mannerisms and upper-crust looks make her a perfect choice for the role and she arguably steals the show in her limited appearances. When Al jokes that she must have really been something before electricity, her facial expressions emit comic horror in a perfect way.

There are points of the film that really are unnecessary and do not work well- I have never understood Bill Murray’s character of Carl. Bordering on silly, with a stuffed animal as the gopher, Murray himself is fantastic- clearly improvising, but the role does not seem necessary to the rest of the film. More scenes between the Judge and Al, or more from Chevy Chase’s character of Ty, and of the Judge’s wife would have been preferable.

Also, the attempted teen triangle between Danny, Maggie, and Lacey is dullsville- plain Maggie cannot really compete with gorgeous and slutty Lacey.

These criticisms, however, are small gripes when compared to the hilarity and perfect timing of the rest of the film and that is why it certainly ranks among one of my favorites.

Caddyshack, along with Animal House, paved the way for the plethora of slapstick comedies to follow- a few good, most bad, but must be recognized as the influence that it was, and a must-see for fans of golf, sports, and good, clean fun. The elements of Caddyshack come together and work so well.

Reform School Girls-1986

Reform School Girls-1986

Director-Tom DeSimone

Starring-Linda Carol, Wendy O. Williams

Top 100 Films-#100

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Reviewed January 25, 2017

Grade: A

Let’s be honest here- Reform School Girls is neither a work of cinema art nor a particularly well-acted film. In fact, from a critic’s perspective it is riddled with stereotypes and objectifies women. Still, it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and has an offbeat charm that makes me want to watch the film over and over again. I never tire of it. I also do not think it should be reviled, but rather, revered. There is a perverse magnificence to  the film and some similarities to another cult gem-Russ Myers Faster Pussycat, Kill!…Kill! Critics be damned- not every film needs to be high art!

One of my absolute favorite cult actresses, Pat Ast, famous for another cult gem, 1972’s Heat, stars in Reform School Girls as a vicious prison guard. Alongside punk rocker turned actress, Wendy O. Williams, they make the film a guilty masterpiece as both women bring their share of odd energy and humor to the flick. Sybil Danning co-stars as the corrupt Warden Sutter.

The plot of the film is pretty straightforward and it screams late night fun. A virginal teenage girl named Jenny is sent to a reform school run by the sinister warden and her sadistic and abusive henchwoman, Edna (Ast). While there, Jenny is intimidated by Charlie (Williams), who rules the roost via bullying and threats. Jenny is accompanies by several other terrified girls, who are stripped and degraded by Edna. This leads to an attempted escape and protest scene by the girls and others as they try to remove themselves from their tormentors.

Reform School Girls is simply great fun. The poor acting is actually a strength of the film as one scantily clad female after another prances around the reform school. Wendy O. Williams regularly wears skimpy panties, bra, and heels and is laughable playing a teenager since the actress was pushing forty years old.

The culmination of the film is fantastic as a chase ends up by an enormous tower on the grounds of the prison, resulting in the deaths of Charlie and Edna in dramatic fashion. Edna’s charred remains are met by an uproar of cheers by the inmates- I half expected them to burst into a chorus of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead”.  Reform School Girls is a perfect cult classic to enjoy on a late Saturday night.

Clue-1985

Clue-1985

Director-Jonathan Lynn

Starring-Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn

Top 100 Films-#61

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Reviewed January 31, 2017

Grade: A

Clue is a harmless, 1985 comic yarn that is not a cinematic masterpiece, nor really anything more than fluff, but since I adored  the classic board game growing up and reveled in the excitement of the different characters, rooms, and murder weapons, the film version holds a very special place in my heart and memory bank, having watched it time and time again as a youngster.

The plot is immediately filled with intrigue- a successful element and the best part of the film. Six interesting characters- with provocative aliases such as Ms. Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. Peacock, are all summoned to a New England mansion named Hill House. Naturally, it is a dark, stormy night and each receives a mysterious note written by a stranger.

Among the colorful characters working at the mansion are the plump cook, the scantily dressed maid, Yvette, and the butler, Wadsworth, who is running the show and greets the confused guests. Slowly, it is revealed that all of the guests are being blackmailed and all of them either live, or have ties to Washington D.C. After each guest is given a weapon as a gift, the lights go out and a murder occurs, launching a fun whodunit. Each guest, and the staff, strive to figure out who has committed the murder, as subsequent murders begin to occur. The comic hi-jinks are reminiscent of funny films like High Anxiety and even Young Frankenstein.

The atmospheric qualities featured in Clue is what I love most about the film- the vast mansion, the many gorgeously decorated rooms, the secret passageways, and the driving rain all make for great ambiance. Clue is clever in that it features three different endings!  Upon initial theatrical release this was a unique premise- one could see the film multiple times and not know how it was to end or who the killer might be revealed to be- what fun! Unfortunately, the film was not a commercial success so this ploy did not work.

The famed cast delivers their parts with comic gusto, and with lesser talents the film would simply be dumb. It seems obvious that the cast had a good old time with this romp- Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, and Madeline Khan, have a comic ball with their perfect delivery of the lines.

Clue is not a message movie, it does not inspire cinematic art, but what it does, it does incredibly well- it entertains. The writing and the political and sexual innuendos are witty. One can become lost in the interesting characters and try to guess, or even make up, the whodunit and why they done it. I can be entertained by Clue time and time again.

The Graduate-1967

The Graduate-1967

Director-Mike Nichols

Starring-Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft

Top 100 Films-#48

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

The Graduate is an immeasurable success and highly influential comedy from 1967- a time when films were gaining in creative freedoms and really pushing the envelope in new, edgy ideas and risqué subject matters. Almost scandalous at the time of release, the film holds up exceptionally well after all of these years and remains fresh and cutting edge. It is slick, sophisticated, and quite funny, though peppered with dark humour. Thanks to Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, the film really works and is among my favorites of all-time.

Hoffman plays Benjamin Braddock, a nervous, insecure recent college graduate, who returns home to sunny California unsure of what his future will hold. His overbearing parents throw a lavish celebration at their home where Benjamin is flocked by well-wishers, most of whom have a materialistic edge to them. His parents live in a very affluent community where wealth and items are of great importance. All Benjamin wants to do is be by himself. At the party, Benjamin is pursued by the much older and glamourous Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft), who lives nearby and asks Benjamin for a ride home. Her attempted seduction of him kicks off the meat of the film and how their relationship progresses, especially when Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), enters the picture and steals Benjamin’s heart.

Director Mike Nichols successfully sets the right tone for the film and we see the style and the sophistication of wealthy California in the 1960’s. Fashion, style, and glamour are prevalent, but they go against what Benjamin and Elaine, stand for. The film is also an exploration in generations. Benjamin’s parents and all of their friends are into material things-fancy cars, houses, and parties.

The triangle between Benjamin, Mrs. Robinson, and Elaine is clearly the heart of the film. At first, we find ourselves rooting for Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. There is a sweet nature to their romance. She clearly is the aggressor- mature, in control, and confident whereas Benjamin is insecure and shy, yet enamored with Mrs. Robinson. Their awkward exchange in the hotel bar and their liaison in the hotel room are fantastic scenes. Slowly, once Elaine emerges, Mrs. Robinson becomes manipulative, more of a villain type character, as the youngsters love blooms and we begin to root for their happiness.

A fantastic aspect of The Graduate is of its musical soundtrack- completely done by Simon and Garfunkel, a major musical duo of the late 1960’s. From the opening chords of “The Sound of Silence”, to the appropriate “Mrs. Robinson”, the music adds much life and energy to the film, and was successful at attracting young viewers at the time. The featured soundtrack was highly influential to other films released after The Graduate.

Still fresh today, The Graduate launched the very successful career of Dustin Hoffman and emerged as an inspirational film that, controversial in its day, seems tame now, but the writing is as crisp as it ever was. A film to watch time and time again.  

The Seven Year Itch-1955

The Seven Year Itch-1955

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell

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Reviewed December 17, 2015

Grade: B

Following a string of successful hits by director Billy Wilder (mostly famous for films in the 1940’s and 1950’s), The Seven Year Itch features Marilyn Monroe in her prime and at her finest. It is a cute film made charming by the likable legend. While certainly not high art, it is fun and an entertaining experience in classic romantic comedy cinema and it has an innocence certainly lost in today’s genre. Playing a familiar character to what she was known for (sexy, flirty, sweet blondes), it is arguably Monroe’s best role (though Some Like it Hot still wins out for me as her best film role).

Richard Sherman, a successful New York publisher, finds himself alone for the summer when his wife and son leave for a vacation  in the country. Middle-aged and bored, he immediately is enamored with his gorgeous new upstairs neighbor, simply known as The Girl, played by Marilyn Monroe. The Girl is a commercial actress and former model and quite friendly and bubbly. She is conveniently staying in New York City while filming a new television ad for toothpaste. Richard finds himself awkwardly tempted by the curvaceous Girl in one situation after another.

The Seven Year Itch is pure innocence and fantasy. The Girl has no designs on Richard, whatsoever, and his flirtation with her is harmless and juvenile. Richard is nerdy and socially awkward, not to mention fearful of his wife’s stern nature, should she find out that he is even spending a moment with The Girl. Much of the film includes scenes where Richard imagines conversations with his wife or imagines her with another man, justifying his attraction for The Girl. These scenes are done in a hilarious manner as he imagines conversations with his wife and much of his thoughts are exaggerated.

Humorous scenes transpire such as the “champagne scene” in which The Girl and Richard attempt to open a champagne bottle while cooling off with Richard’s new state of the art air conditioner.  The Girl keeps her underpants in a freezer to cool off. The Girl appearing in her toothpaste commercial, in comic fashion, is also a treat. And who can forget Marilyn Monroe’s famous scene in which she appears standing over a subway grate, clad in a sexy white dress and high heels, the wind from the subway blowing her dress in the air is one of the most memorable in film history and timeless.

Some would argue that The Seven Year Itch is nothing but fluff and they in large part are correct, but in an age of crude and obnoxious films disguised as romantic comedy, with cheesy jokes and canned humor, it is refreshing to revel back to 1950’s culture, largely an innocent era, and enjoy a fun film romp with one of cinema’s forever stars.

Magic Mike XXL-2015

Magic Mike XXL-2015

Director-Gregory Jacobs

Starring-Channing Tatum

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Reviewed November 27, 2015

Grade: F

Magic Mike XXL might possibly be the worst film of 2015. The follow-up to 2012’s Magic Mike (a predictable yet decent flick), this version has none of the novelty nor the basic storyline that the original contained. Instead, audiences are treated to a lame mess of nonsense, lack of a story that makes sense or is realistic, plot holes galore, and, to nitpick a bit given the subject matter at hand, scarcely any skin at all. A stripper road trip kind of movie, I can’t quite decide if the film was targeting frat guys looking for a buddy movie or teen girls and soccer Mom’s looking for escapism.

Even in a less than adequate film, I always try to find something positive to mention, whether it be with the characters, the story, or cinematic elements, but I truly cannot find any redeeming value to Magic Mike XXL. Fortunately, Matthew McConaughey had the good sense not to sign on to appear in this drivel.  The same is not the case with Channing Tatum as he is the star of this installment. Poor guy. I hope the paycheck was worth it.

The premise is as follows: Mike (Tatum), who is out of the stripper business and now runs a furniture business, receives a call that his former boss is “gone”. Mistaking this to mean he has died, Mike returns to Florida to see his old buddies, who convince him to join a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to end their careers on a high note.  While on the road en route to the convention, problems, secrets, and past faces resurface to add to the drama.

Mike’s love interest from the first film is barely mentioned and dismissed in a weak story-dictated explanation. Clearly, this is an attempt for Mike to have a new love interest in the character of Zoe, a photographer headed to New York and played by Amber Heard.

The film is really a mess from start to finish, but here are highlights (or low-lights). The silliness in conflict over coming up with a new routine fails miserably. The character of Richie (Joe Manganiello) slinks into a convenience store and razzle dazzles a brooding cashier, making her burst with delight because she thinks he is dancing for her. C’mon! Completely juvenile, watered down,  and unrealistic.

The stereotypes simply flow from Magic Mike XXL. En route to Myrtle Beach, the fellas make two stops that are the most ridiculous parts of the film and feature name actresses in silly roles. When their van breaks down after an accident, clearly a plot driven way to allow the group to be sans  vehicle,  Mike looks up an ex named Rome (a severely miscast and unappealing Jada Pinkett Smith), who runs a weird male stripper house for bachelorette’s in the  middle of nowhere. After a lame strip scene (PG rated at best) to impress Rome, the boys are on their way again. What was the point of introducing Rome to the story at all? And there is zero chemistry between Tatum and Smith. It seems like complete filler and the dancing scene endless.

As if the film wasn’t bad enough already, one of the dancer’s looks up his love interest and the group winds up at her mother’s house. A fifty-something boozy, sophisticate, played by Andie MacDowell, is the mother Nancy, and along with her group of cougar friends, flirt with the boys and conjures up every negative female stereotype imaginable- a couple of the women are misunderstood by their husbands and are feeling needy and desperate. And of course they are all horny and oogling over the guys.

And what is with the lack of nudity or much skin? Is Magic Mike XXL not a stripper film?  Besides  Manganiello’s bare bum in one brief pool scene, there is nothing else and barely any stripping going on. This truly makes the film weak.

Magic Mike XXL is a complete dud of a film and I hope against hope that there will not be a third installment. If the target audience is giggly teen girls, the horrific bad writing does not say much for society these days.

Neighbors-2014

Neighbors-2014

Director-Nicholas Stoller

Starring-Zac Efron, Seth Rogan

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Reviewed March 15, 2015

Grade: F

By far one of the worst movies I have seen in some time, Neighbors is a silly, redundant, nonsensical, and plain old bad film. Whoever thought this film was a good idea and green-lit it must have their head examined. Successful comedies- even raunchy, slapstick comedy, contain perfect comic timing and likeable characters that the audience roots for, and at least a shred of creativity and originality- Neighbors has none of these qualities. Bridesmaids is an example of a modern raunchy comedy that works and is hysterical- sadly, Neighbors is a far cry from Bridesmaids.

Neighbors stars Seth Rogan, a familiar face in the slapstick comedy genre, along with Rose Byrne as Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple in their thirties with a newborn baby named Stella. Former party animals in their own college days, the two live in a college town and attempt to peacefully bring up their daughter in a great neighborhood. One day, Delta Psi Beta, a fraternity known to be one of the rowdiest of frats, moves into the house next door to the Radner’s and immediately begins causing chaos with their never ending, rambunctious parties. The frat is led by Teddy, played by Zac Efron. Initially striking up a mutual respect, the Radner’s relationship with Teddy is ruined due to a misunderstanding involving the police being called one night. The remainder of the film focuses on Mac and Kelly’s attempts at getting the fraternity to move out of their house by sabotaging parties and pitting various frat brothers against each other, causing hijinks to ensue and a war to develop between parents and college kids.

If Neighbors is an attempt to harken back to the days of delicious college comedies such as Animal House or American Pie, the film fails on every level- it is simply not funny. It contains a plot that is so unoriginal and the jokes featured to death in similar films (bathroom humor, frat jokes, drug jokes, male and female anatomy jokes) and by this point if you have seen one Seth Rogan film you have seen them all- he is a one trick pony and has become what Adam Sandler became- tired and dull. Rose Byrne’s annoying character had me believing the actress was using a poor Australian accent only to realize that the actress is in fact Australian. This is not a testament to Ms. Byrne’s acting ability by the way.

The protagonists are quite irritating and not likeable at all. What is the rooting value? Mac and Kelly are irresponsible parents. They presumably leave Stella at home in order to visit the frat house and wind up getting drunk and high, stay out late, wake up early the next day when Kelly attempts to feed Stella using tainted breast milk, which leads us to an unfunny scene between Mac and Kelly focusing on Kelly’s vein popping breasts, which makes no sense anyway. Other suspensions of disbelief and logic pop up left and right- Why would the police reveal to the fraternity the names of who had called to complain about them and after catching the Radner’s in a lie, tell them never to call the police again? How unrealistic. Mac and Kelly live in a college town, the risk of a fraternity or sorority being close by never occurred to them? They acted surprised that college students existed at all. The wonderful Lisa Kudrow is cast in a ridiculous role as the college Dean, but is completely wasted in a hysterical, bubble-headed, dumb role.

If I had to give a positive to Neighbors, it would be that Zac Efron does a halfway decent job portraying his character Teddy and Efron does possess a good deal of acting talent (think-The Paperboy), but I am being quite generous and looking for a bright side to a train wreck. The film is poor.