Category: Comedy


Tasting Menu

April 17th, 2014 — 5:47pm

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Tasting Menu- sp-  This film is mostly in Catalan with some English and has English subtitles. It is an ensemble movie nicely blended together as a well-crafted meal. None of the characters or their stories is very heavy with details but they are combined into an absorbing tale, lightly sprinkled with some comedy and some touching emotional moments. Chef Mar Videl (Viventa N’dongo), who has won the award for the world’s best chef three times, has her world famous restaurant which only seats 30 on Spain’s Costa Brava with her partner Max (Andrew Tarbel). They have decided to close their restaurant and move on to other things but will serve one last sensational meal. One couple has a reservation there on the final night for over a year. However, they split up but neither wanted to give up their table so Rachel, (Claudia Bassols) a famous writer and Marc, a young prominent pediatrician, (Jan Cornet) do attend this last meal. So does Danny (Timothy Gibbons), Rachel’s editor and wannabe boyfriend who wangles a reservation to be in this select group. There is the Countess (Fionnula Flanagan) who in her healthier younger days would eat there many times with her illustrious husband who will attend this time in the form of his ashes in an urn. Two competing businessmen, ( Toto Igawa and Akihiko Serikawa) from Japan, who want to reopen the restaurant in their country are in attendance as is Mina (Marta Torne), their guide for their visit to the U.S. The final main character and perhaps the most mysterious and interesting of all is Walter (Stephen Rea) who we never quite figure out. Before we get to the dessert there is a boat lost at sea which includes the musicians who were to play that evening and this unlikely group might even try to save them. There is very little logic to this screenplay by Roger Gual who also directed it but the chances are you will come away satiated with a good feelings and delighted by its charm. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Foreign

The Grand Budapest Hotel

April 5th, 2014 — 6:25am

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The Grand Budapest Hotel- rm-  This movie is a mixture of a fairytale, a romp with the keystone cops and a sophisticated mystery.  We are introduced to the Grand Budapest Hotel somewhere in Europe in modern times during an off-season. It is clear that the hotel has an interesting history, as does the one of main characters who we meet. That is an older Mr. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) now the owner of this Grand Lady of a Hotel that still is magnificent.  He takes us back to what are probably the 1930;s when he was a young lobby boy of the hotel known as Zero (Tony Revolori). He became a protégé of Mr. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) the legendary concierge of the hotel with whom he is about embark upon a great adventure.  Gustave is the perfect gentleman who befriends the wealthy men and women who come to hotel. One in particular Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) leaves a valuable painting to him, which he discovers when he travels to pay his respects after she is murdered. His young faithful companion accompanies him. Their adventure leads to confrontation with police, soldiers, and time in jail with an escape, a bad villain and a fanciful tale. It all probably should viewed as an allegory for the good times of pre World War II in Europe that were turned into death and destruction with precious memories by those who survived. The director and screen writer Wes Anderson is known for bringing imaginative story lines to the screen such as Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and many others. In this case he based the story on writings of Stephen Zweig. The dialogue is fitting the upper crust that is being served by the likes of Gustave and his lobby boy but then periodically breaks down into paradoxical comments that bring out a good laugh and reminds you that there is satire going on here. The setting is old Europe and it was filmed in Germany where Anderson and his crew found or created not only the Grand Hotel but also magnificent castle like mansions, prisons and even escape tunnels. The cast was excellent which included Jude Law, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Jason Swartzman, William DeFoe, Adrian Brody, Bob Balahan and others. Some had very small parts but all were on the mark to give a realistic performance in a fantasy movie. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Rob The Mob

March 20th, 2014 — 8:07pm

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Rob the Mob- sp- Are you ready for another good  movie about “The Mafia”? But this time it is the “wise guys” meet Bonnie and Clyde. On top of this it is vintage New York 1990s and it is all based on a true story.  Tommy is a young hoodlum who with his girl friend Rosie get caught robbing a flower shop. After he gets out of prison Tommy gets the bright idea that he should get an Uzi machine gun to hold up a bunch of  small  clubs where the gangsters hang out, since he heard they aren’t allowed to have their guns there. She will drive the getaway car. He even makes these mob guys strip down to their underwear. If you think this duo isn’t too bright, you aren’t far from the truth. But they are in love and are both funny and charming. Michael Pitt a 32 year old actor with some good movie and TV experience who  comes across as a tough but naïve Clyde, alias Tommy. His Bonnie, or should we say Rosie, is inhabited by someone who reminds us of Barbara Streisand without the voice and is perfectly played by Nina Arianda who has already established herself on Broadway as well as in film. There are a bunch of very familiar looking gangsters including one played by Burt Young, who you remember as Paulie in Stallone’s Rocky and actually was in all six of those films. Ray Ramono continues to demonstrate his versatility as an actor playing the sympathetic NY Post reporter Jerry Cardoza. If there is poignancy in this film it is in the character of Big Al, the honcho of the mob, who is on the verge of being brought down by these two bumbling bandits. He is played very well with dignity by Andy Garcia, who actually makes us feel sad that the FBI is about to bag him due to unbelievable but true circumstances, which are part of this story. Credit for the success of this film in great part goes to director Raymond De Felitta who ran with the screenplay by Jonathan Fernandez and worked very closely during the editing phase with Stephen Endelman who did the music which always sets the tone in this kind of a film. Unless there is word of mouth, this independent film might not take off on the first trip around but it is worth seeing. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Crime, Uncategorized

Bad Words

March 13th, 2014 — 6:37pm

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Bad Words-sp  This is  Jason Bateman’s directorial debut starring Jason Bateman. It can be described as a mean or subversive comedy. The main character says and does cruel things to other people including a bunch of preteen kids which although they are “funny” they are not very nice.We meet Guy Trilby (Bateman) as a 40 year old guy who is entering the national spelling bee contest which he is determined to win and claims the right to be in it since he meets the criteria of never completing the 8th grade.He is accompanied by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn)  doing a story about his endeavor for a web site. He overcomes the objections of Dr. Bernice Deagan  (Allison Janney), one of the administrators, and confronts the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman(Phillip Baker Hall), who are both furious at him, as are all the parents of the young other contestants. Trilby plays distracting mean tricks on some of the kids to get them eliminated from the competition. He does befriend one of the kids, 10 year old Indian boy Chaitanya Chopra with whom there is a hint that he identifies with him. We see terrific chemistry between the two and a great acting job by a young boy by the name of Rohan Chand. And now for an announcement SPOILER ALERT which is necessary although we probably knew the secret for 1/5 of the film and still enjoyed it. The question, of course, is why would a 40 year old man undertake this mission? The answer has something to do with the fact that we learn that the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman, actually once as a traveling salesman met Philby’s  mother and became his biological father but never stayed around and of course does not know this fact. Philby had found this out recently just before  his mother died and now is on the mission to screw up the good doctor’s prestigious spelling contest. In the end this makes for an interesting, funny and ultimately a feel good movie that many people will enjoy seeing.  But his film fascinated once of us (MB)  because we have observed some variation of this theme is numerous movies played out in different ways, as well as having seen it in several real life situations. But in each case the motivation and the actions of the person searching for his or her biological parent or child is different. It certainly is not always vindictive as in this story and sometimes it is to establish a meaningful connection. Here are some films and our reviews where this was the main theme:

Philomena -Elderly British woman who had child out of wedlock in convent goes to US to find out what happened to him. Stars Oscar nominated Judy Dench

The Kids Are All Right- Two lesbian parents are raising two teenage kids who decide to search out their sperm donor biological dad. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo

People Like Us – A man and woman never realized they were from the same parent Elizabeth Banks , Chris Pine and Michelle Pfeiffer

Stories We Tell – Documentary by a woman  who uncovers secrets of her family and that she was not her father’s child. Sarah Polley

Admission- Assistant Dean of Admissions realizes an applicant is her child given up at birth- Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Pail Rudd

Mother and Child   Mother child relationships . Children given up for adoption and fantasies of children who want  to reunite with their mother. Annette Bening and Noemi Watts

I have also written about three cases from real life in my PsychiatryTalk.com blog  (http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2012/07/discussion-of-the-phenomena-of-unknown-family-members/)       (2014)

 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Her

January 5th, 2014 — 11:59pm

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Her –  rm This movie certainly has to rank as one of the most daring and creative movies of the year. It is founded on a somewhat outrageous premise, which if the audience does not buy into, the film would be a ridiculous flop. The man who had to sell the concept and the execution of this movie is screenwriter/director Spike Jonze  who is best known for Adaptation (2002) and Being John Malklovich  (1999) both of which produced award winning performances, as well as a large number of short films and many music videos. The premise of Her is that technology has now produced a computer operating system, which can think, learn and even feel as a human being.  Theodore ( Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely guy who has a job writing nice romantic letters for a website program. He is going through a divorce after 8 years of marriage with Catherine (Rooney Mara) who he thought had been the love of his life but they have grown apart. He readily connects with his new computer operating system who named herself Samantha (the voice of  Scarlett Johansson). She understands him, is clever, funny, warm, sexy and they even have sex together which is a successfully done cinematic accomplishment although she doesn’t have a body. With a small earpiece in his ear, a little video camera sticking out of his front shirt pocket, they are always together. They chat, she does work for him, they discuss personal things, go out to dinner and even join another couple for a social evening out together.  There is also Amy (played quite well by the talented Amy Adams) who is a friend and neighbor going through her own domestic issues and has a whirl with her own new operating system. The film is set in a beautiful future Los Angeles. However, what makes this movie a success is that it is much  more than a story about a funny gimmick or an advanced Siri. It is  a depiction of  how lonely a person can be, despite having interactions with lots of people. It also is an examination of what love is and how it can slip away when you think you have it. This is tackling some big issues and you have to be willing to accept the daunting premise of the film, which is a difficult thing to do. But if you do, you will have quite an experience. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

January 3rd, 2014 — 8:10pm

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -rm

There is a little bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. Who hasn’t had a daydream of being a hero, flying in a plane or a helicopter on some mission, jumping through some dangerous obstacle, defeating the villain and winning over the object of your affection? This ability to fantasize at any time, any place, can carry us out of any mundane situation and temporarily put us on top of the world. It is the universality of this state of mind, which made the skillfully penned short story by James Thurber written in 1939, endure and become one of the most frequently anthologized stories in American literature. The derivative word “Mittyesque “ lives on in the English language meaning an ineffectual person who spends time in heroic daydreams rather than dealing with reality. The first Walter Mitty movie, which didn’t follow the plot of the Thurber short story, starred Danny Kaye and came out in 1947. Nor does the current movie with the screenplay by Steve Conrad, although the theme does befit Walter Mitty. In this story Life Magazine is closing and  converting to an all online media. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a behind the scenes negative analyst (meaning he analyzes and fixes up negatives of photographs of pictures, which appear in this iconic publication.) There is to be one last issue of the magazine before it closes and Mitty has taken on the responsibility of tracking down a lost negative sent in by a great photojournalist (Sean Penn) who travels the world to capture magnificent pictures. Mitty has a secret crush on co-worker Cheryl Melhoff  (Kristen Wiig) with whom he timidly interacts with in real life and of course is quite dashing in his secret daydreams. In his quest of the missing negative  Mitty travels the world, ends up in Greenland and then Iceland, takes dangerous helicopter rides, climbs gigantic magnificent mountains and skateboards down them, faces man made dangers well as the perils of nature including a shark. At times it may be a little disconcerting as a there is a blur between whether we are seeing the real actions of Mitty or his fantasy life. This is not a movie about another superhero. The attempt here is to make Mitty possibly be anyone or everyone. Stiller’s face, his acting along with his outstanding directing, with a full, well thought out sound track, a 90 million dollar budget including shooting in Iceland as well as generous very effective CGIs, achieves this goal. An added bonus is Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother. In the end, we are moved and touched by the film so it is probably worth the budget and what may be the longest end of movie credits that we have seen in a long time (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Anchorman 2

December 25th, 2013 — 1:16am

 ***rl-rF1gfu1pP7doSJN1xCaFPSCJmcBNk2gTeMqj49s-eXivW2XOC3aaT0ykujIS_wMZW=s85 Anchorman 2 : The Legend Continues –rm  Nobody should be surprised by this movie. Either you have seen the first version of Anchorman or you have seen the massive publicity and the trailers about this movie. If you haven’t, feel free to take a moment and watch one of them which has a good many of the film’s “funny” lines and bits: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Elczv0ghqw0 The jokes are juvenile, slapstick with a lot of screaming along with racial, antigay, sexist jokes and even makes fun of people who are blind. Of course the characters are also making fun of themselves and they will make you gasp and /or laugh, sometimes. Adam McKay, who co-wrote it with Will Ferrell, directs it. MacKay also co-wrote the first Anchorman. The movie opens with Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell) being fired by the retiring veteran anchorman (Harrison Ford) who at the same time names his own replacement to be Ron’s co-anchor and wife (Christine Applegate). A new 24-hour/day-television news station subsequently hires Ron and he rounds up some of his previous colleagues from the old days who are played by Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner. They have lots of interactions with the television station people especially one tough, sexy boss played by Linda Jackson. The storyline is thin, disjointed and flows in order to allow the jokes and comic routines. There are bit to middling roles by Kristen Wiig, Sacha Baron Cohen, Steve Coulter, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Greg Kinnear, Liam Neeson and Amy Poehler to name a few. They really don’t change the level of the comedy, which comes mainly from Ferrell. With so many great films out at this time of the season, if you don’t see a large number, we don’t know why you would choose this one. But on the other hand, we realize that there are a lot of folks who go for this type of comedy so after some discussion we decided that it might fit our criteria for three stars. (2013) 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Don Jon

October 13th, 2013 — 7:46pm

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Don Jon- rm – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a writer, director and lead actor takes on a complicated and difficult subject and that is relationships and sexuality. He also takes a swipe at the Catholic Church and what some might say is the stereotype of New Jersey women and men. Don Jon  (certainly a name to remind us of the great lover Don Juan), played by Levitt is a 30 something guy living a single life in New Jersey. He lives near his parents (Tony Danza and Glenne Headley) and is a working guy like his dad. He has a bachelor pad where he enjoys sex with his latest girlfriend. However, he enjoys watching pornography on his computer even more. Ms. Sugaraman (Scarlett Johansson), his new girlfriend is a knockout but she has definite ideas what a man should be like and thus tries to set the bar for Don Jon. This includes, going back to school, having a maid clean his apartment rather than himself (which Don would rather do), spend time with her and her friends together and most of all enjoy seeing romantic movies with her. Don tries to do all of this but still goes back to his Porn. All the Hail Mary’s ordered by his Priest after his Confession don’t help. He meets a slightly older widow (Julianne Moore) who shows him that sex and lovemaking can even be better than porn when the two people are really into each other. Levitt makes his points with good writing and great acting (especially his and Johansson’s). However, it isn’t clear to us if he is talking about the current state of sexuality in today’s society or if he is making a statement about the coming of age of his generation or both. In either case, he made a bold creative movie that may be able stand on it’s own. We suspect that Mr. Levitt who has established himself as an actor will be on the scene as a filmmaker for some exciting new movies. Perhaps we are seeing the the new Woody Allen. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

Enough Said

September 22nd, 2013 — 1:24am

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Enough Said rm- Once you get over the fact that you are seeing the late James Gandolfini’s last performance you will find that you are watching a very insightful and touching romantic comedy. This is the story of two divorced middle age people with flaws and baggage who encounter each other and develop a romantic relationship. Eva (Julia Louis –Dreyfus), a masseuse, is as expected funny but yet poignant as she finds chemistry with her new friend Albert (Gandolfini) but yet is unsure of herself and doesn’t really appreciate what she has found. She is greatly influenced by her old friend Sarah (Toni Collette) who would rather change her furniture than consider changing her misfit husband (Ben Falcone) as well as by her new client and friend Marianne (Catherine Keener). This film also examines the interaction between parents and daughters at the point where the daughters (Tracy Fairaway and Michaela Watkins) are going off to college. Screenwriter and Director Nicole Holofcener has weaved this complicated and poignant relationship into the story as both main characters are in this situation. There are some great comedic moments, which play off the big coincidence of the story, which the audience becomes aware early on and watches the characters come to their own meaningful realization. This movie is also a showcase for Gandolfini to demonstrate his versatility in showing vulnerability as a gentle man as compared to that trait in his role as a tough guy, for which he will forever be remembered in the Sopranos. (2013)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Romance

Afternoon Delight

August 27th, 2013 — 5:56pm

Afternoon Delight***

Afternoon Delight-sp-  First time movie Writer/Director Jill Soloway (known for writing and directing TV’s Six Feet Under and other shows) pulls no punches as she takes on the young modern 3rd generation post feminist  woman represented by Rachel (Kathryn  Hahn ). This character is living in a beautiful home in  Silver Lake, California with the tall Los Angeles skyline in the background. She has one small child and is married to Jeff ( Josh Radnor) , a successful app designer. Their sex life has gone stale and they try to stimulate things by going to a local strip club where Rachel has a lap dance by McKenna (Juno Temple), a 20 year old beautiful stripper, (we understand that this is not an unheard of pastime in this generation). By coincidence a few days later  Rachel meets this young woman  (self defined as a sex worker) who has lost her place to stay and being the “do-gooder” that she is, Rachel  tries to help her out by giving her a temporary room in her house. It is through the study of these two women that Soloway (who won a Best Director Award at Sundance for this film) attempts to explore what contemporary female sexuality is all about . She does this not only by examining Rachel’s marital situation but through the attitude of McKenna who seemingly is very comfortable being paid to satisfy men’s sexual needs . Rachel’s friends reveal their inner feelings while loosened up by some alcohol at a girl’s gathering. There is discussion about connection between men and women and looking into your partner’s eyes during orgasm etc. There is a hint of the ability of women to want love and sensuality from men and women. Rachel even accompanies McKenna on a visit to a client. In seems that we are supposed to conclude that people should be happy with what they have.  But how do you really come to appreciate that? The film certainly makes a valiant effort to do this by stripping away all the airs and defensiveness that people frequently show to each other. There also is  great acting by Kathryn Hahn who conveys her pain, struggle and arousal in a very real and yet at times comedic manner. Jane Lynch plays a psychiatrist who initially was providing insight to Rachel but then deteriorates into a ridiculous character that has a need to talk about her own problems which don’t seem to be related to the themes of the movie. While perhaps we are sensitive to such satire but it seemed to detract from the movie. Whether there be enough left in this film to satisfy the 30 something woman and those who want to understand her, remains to be seen.

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance

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