Category: Comedy


The Great Lebowski

October 28th, 2014 — 9:33pm

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Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.33.05 PMThe Great Lebowski nf – There is nothing like a cross-country plane ride to find an old film that you missed and think you might like. In this case for us it turned out to be The Great Lebowski starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. This movie is often affectionately referenced in various settings and we were curious to watch it. Bridges plays “The Dude” who might be described as a good old boy with a heart of gold who is usually content to mind his own business and hang out with his buddies at the bowling alley. He dresses as if he is walking around in his underwear, with a bathrobe thrown over him. He is, of course, very likeable. The biggest event in his life would seem to be the latest bowling tournament. That is until The Dude gets mistaken for some rich guy called The Big Lebowski and gets drawn into an apparent kidnapping and ransom scheme of The Big Lebowski’s wife. The Dude’s good friend Walter (John Goodman) gets involved. He sees himself as a tough guy who knows how to handle difficult situations but usually he makes things worse. But that doesn’t stop him from trying to help the Dude with some new twist that develops. These guys are the charm of the film. The more the Dude tries to work his way out of trouble, the deeper he gets into it. In fact, he gets punched out several times and there is always a very creative depiction of his journey being unconscious. The movie really doesn’t go any place. The Coen Brother who wrote and directed the film put together a supporting cast that includes Julianne More, Steve Bucemia, Ben Gazzara, John Turturro and others. In the end we see that life goes on. The Dude carries on his life. Perhaps we all know this guy in a small way or he is someone we think we know or maybe on some level he is us. (1998)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Celeste & Jesse Forever

August 12th, 2014 — 6:52am

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Celeste and Jesse Forever nf-   Young couples that start as a high school romance may have tremendous chemistry and compatibility but one or both may not be mature enough to stick it out and allow the couple to develop into a long term relationship. They may breakup early on or split after a couple of years of marriage. They may move on never to forget each other and what could have been. That is life . It also is the essence of this very thoughtful and touching film. Jesse is played by Adam Samberg (of SNL fame but comes across as a serious, sometimes silly but very likeable guy) and Celeste is the successful half of the couple but with still room to grow (played by Rashida Jones who had to have understood this character quite well as she co-wrote the screenplay with Will McCormick who also played a role as a friend). The movie is directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who is under 30, as would seem to be most of the characters in the film. The setting is current day Los Angeles where we see how young people party, drink and smoke weed. It is also where we are led to believe there is opportunity for success if you have talent and you hustle, or find the absence of it, if you don’t make the big effort. This would seem to be in job success as well as romance. This is a light modern romantic comedy that will touch a lot of people. No matter what your age, unless you were born a mature adult, you will probably find something in this movie that could have been you. (2012)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

The One I Love

July 31st, 2014 — 7:22am

 

 

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The One I Love- sp- This is another example of an Independent movie put together by a small creative team. In this case it is Mark Duplass (co-star of the movie)  who co-produces with Charlie McDowell (who also directs the film) with other co-producers, brother Jay Duplass along with Mel Eslyn and of course writer Justin Lader. This is part of new wave of films which pays all the cast and crew $100/day but gives everyone a certain amount of points which will determine how they will share the profits from the film which in this case will be through a game plan involving combined theatrical releases with television, Netflix and Video on Demand. They used a detailed script that had everything but the dialogue which the actors improvised within the framework of the story. There were essentially only two actors on the screen and that was Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss (known best for Mad Men). We shouldn’t give away the storyline which has a twist. Suffice it to say that Ethan and Sophie are having trouble with their marriage and they go to see a therapist (a brief role by Ted Danson) who sends them to an isolated vacation retreat where they are supposed to find out who they really are and fix their marital relationship. They and the audience are in for a confusing surprise. The problem is that we didn’t feel it really worked. We got a few smiles out of the story but felt that the story behind the twist could have been developed much better than it was done. We appreciated the creative attempt, You may end up seeing this one night on TV but we can’t recommend it. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Wish I Was Here

July 26th, 2014 — 5:48pm

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Wish I Was Here —rm   It isn’t too difficult for a halfway decent movie to pull our chain and bring tears to our eyes. All you need is a likeable character who is dying and his family all around him especially if there are children and grandchildren in it. This movie did all that but took it to the next level. All the characters including the children have a depth which allows you to empathize with them even though they may not be telling your story. Aiden Bloom (Zack Braff ), Director and co writer of the screen play with his real brother Adam J. Braff and known for among other things as the star of TV show Scrubs) is a struggling actor who is trying to reach his career dream although not yet very successful . Sarah, his loving and very supportive wife (Kate Hudson), is frustrated over her husband being more interested in trying to follow his dream than support their family, leaving her to work in a data inputting job and suffer some weird harassment by a cubical partner. They have two adorable kids. Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) is the younger kid who values a wireless drill for reasons we don’t quite understand. The slightly older sister (Joey King) is beginning to try to find out what values are really important. Aiden has a brother (Josh Gad) who lives in a trailer who is also struggling with his off beat career and his alienation from their dad. Now the dad, the patriarch of the family is Gabe, a widower played by Mandy Patankin in what could be an award winning performance. He has been a tough dad who hasn’t seemed to be sympathetic to the trials and tribulations of his two sons. He now is faced with a fatal illness, which brings him and the whole family to contemplate the meaning of life and how they feel about death and dying The deep feelings of both father and sons for each other are examined in a very sensitive and real manner. It may very well make you begin to reflect on your own family relationships. The movie is a serious drama dealing with relationships and philosophical issues. But it also is a touching satiric comedy. One subject of some satire, believe it or not, is orthodox Judaism. The Bloom family is shown to be of this persuasion and one of the subplots was that Gabe was paying for his grandchildren’s private (Jewish) school until he required the money for his cancer care. There is even an old rabbi who rides on a Segway (we assume not on Shabbat) (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Obvious Child

July 11th, 2014 — 5:00am

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Obvious Child-rm- If you can relate to women in their late 20s, especially New Yorkers and a situation where they might end up needing an abortion, this film will probably resonate with you. Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a 28-year-old single woman living in Manhattan and has a one-night stand and finds herself pregnant. By day she works in a bookstore and by night she is a standup comedian. Gillian Robespierre who directed the film and wrote the screen play based on a story by Elisabeth Holm, Anna Bean, Karen Maine and himself, skillfully used this latter occupation to share with the audience the inner thoughts of this character as her comedy shtick was truthfully talking about her life and whatever she was experiencing. In this case it was a break up with her boyfriend who had an affair with her previously good friend. She then meets Max (Jake Lacy), which leads to a wild night and the “slip up” leading to the pregnancy. The movie is really a comic drama. On one hand we see the empathic feelings of Jenny’s close friend (Gabby Hoffman), her new boy friend and her divorced parents (Polly Draper and Richard Kind). The interaction with her mother did bring out the greatest comedic moment of the film as when Jenny tells mom she has to discuss something very serious with her and then reveals her pregnancy. Mom then responds, “Oh, I was concerned you were going to tell me that you were moving to LA.” Mom however did go on to tell her about her own abortion before her marriage and before it was legal. So this movie is also a political statement that is being released as the controversy about a women’s right for health insurance to cover contraception as well as her right to an unencumbered abortion is back in the headlines. It is therefore also noteworthy that in the credits of this movie there are numerous names of individual people who financially supported this movie as part a “kickstarter” program to get it made.This might be an added incentive to support this film at the box office or on Netflix.. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

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

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