Tag 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.



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.



Director-Douglas Langway

Starring-Joe Conti, Stephen Guarino

Reviewed March 19, 2017

Grade: B

BearCity is a small, independent, LGBT, coming of age film that tells of a young man living in New York City, and his exploration of a sub-culture within the LGBT community and a subsequent romance that follows. The film is a comedy and has a “Sex in the City” or “Queer as Folk” approach to its storytelling- a group of close knit friends and  raunchy and gratuitous to be sure. The budget is very small and some aspects rather amateurish, but the film is enjoyable, especially for those exposed to the LGBT lifestyle. The film is not a heavy nor are any of the characters dealing with “coming out” issues, but rather it is a fun sex comedy romp.

Our central character, Tyler (Joe Conti), is a young man in his twenties, an aspiring actor, who moves to New York City to pursue his career, with a mind for casual dating. His roommates encourage him to date Abercrombie and Fitch types, but Tyler comes to realize he prefers “bear” types- mature, hairy men. On the sly he begins to pursue this sub-culture and makes many friends. The apple of his eye, handsome Roger (Gerald McCullough) is a popular mature man, distinguished in the bear circle, and risks his reputation with “the bears” by falling in love with Tyler. The two men spend the greater part of the film conquering their respective fears and finding their way into each others arms in a predictable ending.

BearCity is a fun farce and nothing very heavy and the featuring of a strong circle of friends is a nice, positive portrayal- all of the friends connect well and stick by each other through thick and thin. Comical sub-plots abound such as one couples (Brent and Fred) awkward parlay into the world of threesomes with unsuccessful results. Another bear who is unemployed, and grossly obese, decides to undergo weight loss surgery much to the chagrin of his hunky boyfriend.

The main story though, belongs to Tyler and Roger and their inevitable reunion can be seen miles away. The film throws various hurdles in their way, such as a third person briefly dating Roger, or Roger’s commitment issues, but the climax of the film will be no surprise to anyone. Tyler and Roger make a nice couple as a whole, but perplexing is how the film makes Roger the undisputed leader of the bear group, when he is actually a lean, muscular man- not a “bear” at all! This is odd to me, but BearCity is so light hearted that I suppose I can let this detail slide in favor of a good romance.

Critically, the film is nice, but quite amateurish, and super low-budget. The acting, especially by some of the supporting characters (the pre-surgery guys boyfriend is the most glaring example), is not great. I half-expected him to accidentally look at the camera. Additionally, the film has a low-budget look and feel, which on one level is fine, but combined with the not so stellar acting, enhances the inexperience of the cast and crew. The film is tough to take too seriously- if this is even the intention of the filmmakers.

The film is a logistical treat for anyone privy to popular gay hangouts in New York City- specifically The Eagle and The Ramrod, both locales are featured prominently, and the use of many real-life people who hang out at those establishments are used throughout the production.

BearCity is not a bad experience and certainly a film that is light and comical within the LGBT community seems rather fresh compared to the myriad of dramatic and heavy films that exist. At the same time the film teeters towards goofy too much with more than one bafoonish, sex-crazed, stereotypical gay man, that it almost gives a bad impression, so the film has mixed results for me.

The Player-1992

The Player-1992

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher

Reviewed January 23, 2009

Grade: A

The Player ranks up there with other Robert Altman classics such as Gosford Park, Network, and Short Cuts. The film is an excellent piece of Hollywood satire and centers around a jaded movie executive, played by Tim Robbins, who does an incredible job with his role.

Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a man with no scruples. Feeling usurped by a younger executive, played by Peter Gallagher, as well as receiving death threats, he goes on the hunt for the person he feels responsible, which leads to murder.

The audience is unsure whether to love or hate Mill, thanks to Robbins performance. He is snarky, but also vulnerable and a tad sympathetic.

The film contains a slew of real Hollywood celebrities (Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Willis) playing themselves and is largely improvised (as many of Altman’s films are). Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett star as odd police detectives.

The plot is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s the realness and the direction that make this movie a must see, especially for Robert Altman fans. A hidden gem.

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.



Director-Ruben Fleischer

Starring-Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson

Reviewed October 25, 2009

Grade: B

Zombieland is a fun, entertaining, popcorn-style flick. The film is not designed to be taken very seriously given the subject matter of zombies- nor should it. Rather, the film goes over the top frequently to elicit a good time and plays for laughs. Sometimes it is successful, adding dark comedy to the story, other times the film comes across as silly.

The story takes place during a time when zombies have overtaken the world, and humans are left to fend for themselves and survive. The film is actually a more cartoon version of the popular television series, The Walking Dead, despite pre-dating it. It lacks the heavy drama of the series.

Still, for 2009, the film is a novel idea and the movie works more often than not. Woody Harrelson is amusing and charismatic. Jesse Eisenberg is falling into the Ben Stiller and Will Farrell trap of playing the same character over and over again, and I am personally a big fan of Abigail Breslin and she does not disappoint in this film.

Zombieland will likely only be remembered as a fun midnight, Saturday night fluff film.

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.

A Serious Man-2009

A Serious Man-2009

Director-Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring-Michael Stuhlbarg

Reviewed November 20, 2009

Grade: B

A Serious Man is a quirky, odd film that is definitely a character study. Directed by the Coen brothers who typically have an offbeat style to their films (No Country For Old Men and Fargo spring to mind), A Serious Man is no different, offering wonderful, richly written supporting characters.

The film, however, lacks the violence of other Coen Brothers films, instead, adding more humorous situations and an overall comical premise. It tells the story of a Jewish Professor, Larry Gopnik, living in the 1960’s, who has a string of bad luck. People close to Larry begin to drop dead all around him and he seems cursed with a string of bad luck. The film centers around how he deals with crisis after crisis.

The first half of the film admittedly drags a bit, but the second part really picks up nicely. The plot suddenly comes to a head rather quickly. To stress, A Serious Man is a witty, dark comedy, so many of the dialogue is either tongue in cheek or dry in nature.

The rabbis that Larry meets, combined with his son Danny and wife Judith are very funny and well carved out characters, many certain “types”. The character of Larry also contained elements of the Larry David character on TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Also, for those cinema lovers who pay close attention to or have an appreciation for good set design, the film captures 1960’s style (dress, furniture, cars), perfectly.

A Wedding-1978

A Wedding-1978

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Paul Dooley

Reviewed January 6, 2011

Grade: A

A Wedding is an obscure, brilliant gem penned and directed by Robert Altman- a film genius in my opinion and one of my most adored directors. I love most of his movies and A Wedding is no exception. The creative way that Altman weaves intersecting story-lines and dialogue, thereby creating a real-life tone, gives immense realism to his films.

In A Wedding, he takes a basic life event, and turns it into a well nuanced, fascinating, comical, yet dramatic story. He is known for having enormous casts (in A Wedding it is forty eight principles), but every character serves a purpose. The viewer will feel that they are a fly on the wall of a real wedding.  Altman’s actors primarily improvise the dialogue, speaking at the same time, bringing a reaistic edge. I adore this quality.

The film is a satire- people either love or loath attending weddings and Altman’s film caters to the latter. He creates a setting, from the ceremony, to the reception, riddled with awkward moments, and social guffaws.

In pure satirical, soap opera fashion, two wealthy families gather at a lavish estate for the ceremony to commence. Hilarity ensues when the dead corpse of the matriarch of one family lies in her bed, nobody realizing she is actually dead. Other hi-jinks, such as the revelation of a nude, life-size portrait of the bride, the caterer falling ill, and a tornado wreaking havoc.

Slowly, secrets are revealed by the families, as the alcohol flows and the characters become involved in the perilous situations. Altman does it again as he creates a masterpiece based on a real-life situations that most can relate to.

Desperate Living-1977

Desperate Living-1977

Director-John Waters

Starring-Mink Stole, Liz Renay


Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B

Desperate Living will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a raunchy, late-night comedy, in similar fashion to other John Waters directed cult-classics. This one however, suffers from the absence of Waters staple, Divine, who did not appear due to scheduling conflicts. For this glaring omission, Desperate Living is not the greatest of the Waters films, but it is a fun experience all the same. The film has choruses of political satire, specifically fascism, and overthrowing the government.

Mink Stole (Peggy Gravel) takes on the lead role as a crazed, mentally unhinged, neurotic woman on the lam with her maid, Grizelda, after they accidentally cause the death of Peggy’s husband. Peggy has been in and out of mental hospitals and is clearly off her rocker as she yells at neighbors about communism. After an encounter with a lewd police officer, the duo are banished to Mortville, a town filled with outcasts and social deviants. They align with others in the town to overthrown the tyrannical Queen Carlotta, played by Waters fixture Edith Massey. Carlotta plots to spread rabies throughout the community and is at war with her daughter, Princess Coo Coo.

The issue with Desperate Living really is the absence of Divine, originally set to play Mole McHenry, a self-loathing female wrestler, determined to receive a sex change operation. One imagines Divine in this important role, which was played by Susan Lowe, a capable star, but no Divine. With Divine in the part, the hilarious possibilities are endless. Mink Stole carries the movie well, but traditionally being a supporting player in Waters films, is not quite the star the film needs to be a true success.

This is not to say that the film is a dud- it is entertaining and will please most Waters fans. It contains gross-out moments and vulgarity from the very first scene- as the opening credits role, we see a roasted rat, daintily displayed on good china, on an eloquent dinner table, presumably to be served.

Later, Carlotta meets her fate by being roasted, pig style, on a spit with an apple in her mouth. Another character is executed by being shot in the anus. The offensive moments never end!

There also exists a quite controversial scene that I am surprised made the final cut. Peggy, already in a frazzled state due to a neighbor-boy accidentally shooting out her bedroom window, she is shocked to find another boy playing “doctor” with a little girl in her downstairs basement. Both children are completely naked, leaving not much to the imagination. This scene is tough to watch as one wonders what the child actors thought of all of this. I have never viewed another scene quite like this in film.

Otherwise, Desperate Living is filled with cartoon-like characters, lots of sexually deviant leather men, grizzled men with facial hair, and other odd looking characters, making up the community of Mortville. Water’s set creations for the exterior scenes of the town are great- using mainly cardboard and rubbish he found throughout Baltimore where the film was shot, the sets show a bleak yet colorful underworld.

Desperate Living is a raunchy good time with over-the-top acting, trash filled moments, and laugh out loud fun. The lack of any Divine makes it not the first offering to watch from the Waters collection. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble would take that honor.

You Again-2010

You Again-2010

Director-Alan Fickman

Starring-Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver


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.

Date Night-2010

Date Night-2010

Director-Shawn Levy

Starring-Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg


Reviewed September 17, 2016

Grade: D+

Date Night is a perfect example of mediocrity in modern film making. We have two current comedic actors here- Steve Carrell and Tina Fey- circa 2010- at the top of their game. The film makers idea is to pair these two and make an appealing romantic comedy appealing to the masses. The main issue with this film is that the result is generic and a quite average offering. And the entire film is incredibly plot driven with no character development to speak of. If I am being too harsh, admittedly there is rather nice chemistry between the two leads, but it is wasted because of sloppy writing.

A couple from the New Jersey ‘burbs, Carrell and Fey portray husband and wife, Phil and Claire Foster. Saddled with two kids and their romance reaching dullsville, Phil decides to take Claire to a ritzy Manhattan restaurant. When they arrive, they cannot get a table, but pretend to be another couple (the Tripplehorns) in order to obtain their table after the other couple no-shows. This leads to a tale of mistaken identity as the  Tripplehorns possess a flash drive that a mobster (Ray Liotta) wants. This leads to a chase throughout Manhattan to outrun and outwit their pursuers. Wahlberg plays a hunky client of Claire’s, always shirtless, who is meant to threaten Phil and Claire’s marriage. Yawn.

Several other of the current Hollywood elite- Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Mark Ruffalo, make small and somewhat pointless appearances. Specifically, Franco and Kunis as a stoner-type bickering couple is really silly and unnecessary to the story.

Carrell and Fey are actually quite funny as individuals and as a duo- Date Night, though, does not capitalize nor showcase their respective talents. The film tries too hard to come up with scenario after scenario of the two on the run and encountering one problematic situation after another.

As the plot of Date Night wears on, I found myself noticing that each situation that occurs is a measure of convenience. Conveniently, Claire has a client in town (Wahlberg), who is a security expert. They go to him for help and, predictably, his hunkiness bothers Phil and piques Claire’s interest- though of course we know full well Phil and Claire will end up together- that is how these mainstream films go. In another scene. Phil and Claire are able to break into an office building unnoticed, trigger the alarms, conveniently find a needed file, and escape, miraculously all before the police arrive minutes later. Very plot driven.

The lead actors in Date Night are appealing and even charming together, but the silly, inane plot make it unappealing to watch and the slew of stars that somebody decided would be a great addition to a lukewarm film is odd. The roles written had little bearing on the central plot so it was apparent why they were added. Date Night is a film we have seen time and time again with other actors in similar roles.

Easy A-2010

Easy A-2010

Director-Will Gluck

Starring-Emma Stone


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


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.



Director-Judd Apatow

Starring-Amy Schumer, Bill Hader


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.



Director-Jason Moore

Starring-Tina Fey, Amy Poehler


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


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.



Director-Seth MacFarlane

Starring-Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis


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


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


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.



Director-Paul Feig

Starring-Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham


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


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


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.