Well, He’s No Solomon…in Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship

Mild-mannered, well-groomed, high-stakes, period-piece social satire reigns supreme in Whit Stillman’s sharp film adaptation of a “lost” and incomplete Jane Austen novella.  Austen simply titled it after her conniving, widowed but still lively anti-heroine Lady Susan (played with perfectly vivacious high-brow snark by Kate Beckinsale), but Stillman plays on Austen’s “Blank & Blank” template and renames it Love & Friendship.  The title itself a rouse, much like the import of debutante season in Stillman’s Metropolitan.

As in the most superior of Austen or Stillman works, high society types are on display in all of their entertaining mannerisms and foibles.  The two authors separated by centuries seem a perfect marriage, as humor both scathing and dry, bites and blows across the posh manners, country estates and London townhouses where Susan plots to find both her and her daughter (Morfydd Clark) rich husbands to secure their futures.  Never do the characters seem aware of their preposterousness, as if all of life is a parlor game, and their scruples (or lack thereof) never are challenged even as gossip and innuendos challenge their lot and plot. Continue reading

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I Would Rather Watch a Real Trainwreck

I’m just kidding!  (Or am I?)

Seriously, the stars are aligned for Amy Schumer right now and nothing I could write about her Judd Apatow directed movie, Trainwreck, will change anyone’s mind about this thing.  So get ready for some free-blogging as I just spew out my thoughts.

1.  Amy Schumer is hilarious (although am I the only one who thinks her usually spot-on and delightfully satirical Comedy Central show derailed into absurdist raunchy boredom the last few episodes this season?).  As the author of her own star-vehicle, she provides herself material in Trainwreck that proves she can act, too.  I just have to wonder, though…what’s next for her?  Will she end up getting typecast?

2.  The first hour or so of the movie is episodic, raunchy, edgy, full of great lines, and riotously awkward moments as we watch Amy stumble through her love life and job at a men’s magazine until she meets a sports doctor (Bill Hader, good at playing the straight man to Schumer’s shtick) who changes her view on everything.  And the fact that all that funny, edgy stuff leads into the “we’ve seen this a thousand times” romantic comedy garbage is what makes the film so frustrating.  The last 45 minutes are an actual trainwreck of storytelling ping-ponging from comedy to pathos with little sense of making any meaning out of it beyond the “we can see it from a mile away” denoument. Continue reading

Bawdy Sophistication, In-Jokes and Cameos Galore in Chris Rock’s Top Five

Top Five

Chris Rock’s stand-up prowess and HBO boundary ripping hilarity never successfully translated to the big screen where, to be honest, his most memorable work was his voice-overs in the Madagascar series.  So here he is now, in the beginning of middle-age, trying to get his groove back by writing, directing and starring in Top Five.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a recovering alcoholic and former stand-up comic who has decreed he wants to be taken seriously now after years of staring as a wise-cracking bear-suited cop in the idiotically successful Hammy the Bear series.  His first serious film, the Haitian slave-revolt biopic Uprising, is hitting theaters just as his marriage to a reality TV star (Gabrielle Union) is set to air on Bravo.  On the fateful day before his bachelor party, a NY Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) follows him around NYC for an in-depth interview.  Along the way the pair riff on life, love, politics and pop culture while making pit stops in Allen’s old hood to meet the family and friends he left behind as he climbed the ladder out of the ghetto and into Hollywood stardom.  The cast features great turns in small roles from some of my favorite comedians including Tracy Morgan and J.B. Smoove, as well as countless cameos –  some of which (DMX singing “Smile”) work, and some of which (Adam Sandler doling out marriage tips) don’t.  There’s also a “watch out, world, here she comes!” spin from Leslie Jones who proves she’s waaaay funnier than her strained bits on the current season of SNL.

Despite its obvious eschewing of the entertainment business and celebrities and its tenuous parallels to Rock’s own career, Top Five miraculously avoids becoming an insular cell of wall-to-wall in-jokes (though there are plenty).  For most of its cameo-laden run-time, it’s actually a sophisticated romantic comedy where Dawson’s character has her own ulterior motives that lead to enjoyable banter and palpable chemistry.  Both leads relish in bouncing off each other’s energy with Rock finally fulfilling the promise he has always shown and Dawson fulfilling the promise she showed over a decade ago in such films as Sidewalks of New York and 25th Hour.  As fabricated as their “all in the same day” whirlwind tour of the city becomes, you root for something real to take root because the two are so engaging and delightful to watch. Continue reading

The Top Ten Will Ferrell Movies

This December, the most anticipated “long-awaited” sequel in film history since The Godfather Part III, will finally be here.

Anchorman 2 - Joke Poster

In honor of Anchorman 2’s upcoming release, I invite my idiot and learned readers alike to name their favorite films from uber-funny and 21st-century absurdist satirical mastermind, Will Ferrell.

Here are The Spin’s Top Ten picks –

  1. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) – Shake & Bake, Dear Lord Baby Jesus and Rickeeee Bobeee.  This was Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen at the height of their powers.
  2. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) – Stay Classy.  Not much else to say here.
  3. The Other Guys (2010) – The scene where the Rock and Samuel L. Jackson leap from a building is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
  4. Step Brothers (2008) – Ferrell and Reilly again in all their monumentally moronic man-child glory.
  5. The Campaign (2012) – Political farce just got Farrelled. Continue reading

The Spin’s Top 60 Comedies of All Time

“You put WHAT on your top comedy list?”

I was recently asked by the film blogger extraordinaires at Wonders in the Dark to submit a ballot for the Top 60 Comedies of All-Time in preparation for their next feature which will tabulate the ballots and produce a definitive list later in the summer.  At first I found the task daunting – as many will remember guest-blogger Nicky D’s hotly contested and wildly popular Top 47 Comedies of All-Time that graced The Spin not so long ago.  For me, comedy is the most subjective and generational-based of genres – and it’s hard to judge films on personal tastes in humor.  However, the always generous Sam Juliano at WitD invited balloters to adopt an “anything goes” policy – meaning – if it’s a comedy to you! – put it on the list.  This opened up the door for me to include some of my favorite accidental comedies as well as satires and dark comedies that many would judge as dramas.  One will see my love for the darker side of comedy in this list, as well as my love for Woody Allen and those rascally kids that had me in stitches when I was a kid – yup – short films are allowed – hence the love for Our Gang.  At any rate…let the debate that started with Nicky D’s list continue as  I present to you my official rebuttal and ballot for the Wonders in the Dark polling.  I will provide no additional commentary and let the list speak for itself… Continue reading

Our Idiot Brother

Like, wow, man, can't we all just get along, man?

 
Is there a more amiable guy working in comedy today than Paul Rudd?  Whether playing a cynic or a sap, he always comes across as the guy you want to have a beer with.  Easily gliding amongst bigger players in the cutting edge works of David Wain, Judd Apatow and Adam McKay – the men who have redefined comedy in the past decade – Rudd has emerged as the most likable, easy-going and authentic of the lot.  In Our Idiot Brother, a film designed around his incalculable charms, Rudd shines in his first film where he is the sole headliner. Continue reading

47 Comedies, One Million Laughs

It’s the long overdue return of The Schleicher Spin’s Guest Blogger Series!

The gauntlet was laid down, and guest blogger Nicky D was asked to make a list of the best comedies of all time.

Which of these films will top Nicky D’s list?

Airplane!

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Coming to America

Groundhog Day

Young Frankenstein

Introduction:

Hello, my name is Nicky D and I am the smartest man alive. I work alongside of Mr. Schleicher on an everyday basis. Mr. Schleicher can’t seem to get over the fact of how brilliant of a man I truly am. I have completely annoyed him with the mentioning of my top lists of movies, especially comedies. So he challenged me to come up with a top comedy list, and I came up with a nice uneven number for you to review and comment on. I love movies and not just comedies either. I am into most genres except for romance, family, documentaries, musicals, and westerns. I still do watch them and try to give an honest opinion on them. My favorite actor is Daniel Day Lewis and my favorite movie is The Last of the Mohicans. I have very strong opinions about movies in general, so if you want to have a spirited debate, as I always say, “Bring it On” (not on the list, by the way). There may be some movies that I left off of the list because of the fact that I might not have seen them, but if you mention a movie I will absolutely check it out and respond with my opinion. Thanks to Mr. Schleicher, and have fun with my top 47 comedies all time.

 Parental Guidance Suggested:  Raw, uncensored comedy quotes below. Continue reading

Snakes in a Hot Tub on a Time Machine Plane

Family, friends, co-workers and psychiatrists have often questioned my taste in comedy.  I consider Woody Allen one of the funniest men alive, but I’m also a sucker for lowest-common denominator gag-o-second spoof films from the original Airplane! (still a masterpiece) to the past decade’s awful trend of “Fill-in-the-Blank” Movies.  I despise the recent trend of uber popular gross-out bromantic comedies (I Love You Man, The Hangover) but I love anything from David Wain (The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten).   When I first heard about Hot Tub Time Machine six months ago, I hadn’t been this excited about a comedy since Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  Sadly, though, what was once thought to be a can’t-miss piece of pure cinematic gold turned into another haphazardly executed Snakes on a Plane style hatchet-job.  I mean how could you go wrong with a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine?Do I even need to go over the plot here?  Continue reading

Difficult Difficult Lemon Difficult

...oh, YES WE CAN!

...oh, YES WE CAN!

A review of IN THE LOOP:

Satire is so hard to pull off.  It’s so far from being “easy peasy lemon squeezy” I would go as far to say that it’s “difficult difficult lemon difficult.”  It’s a British term, you’ll catch on soon.

For the past ten years satire has been regulated to animation (the South Park movie), puppetry (Team America), and well, something called Sacha Baron Cohen, and let’s be honest, is that even real satire, or just mockery?  We really haven’t seen anything live-action of this sort since Wag the Dog, which is why it’s so refreshing to be back In the Loop.  And guess what?  Politics are funny again!

In the Loop is the minor masterstroke of Armando Iannucci, and his central conceit is to imagine a Dr. Strangelove “rush to war” scenario done up in a modern context and filmed like an episode of “The Office” — the British version.  Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell provide the fire power through their whiplash inducing witty dialogue that in turn is spewed forth by a live-wire cast of American and British veterans all playing their A-game. Continue reading

A Review of Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works”

Larry David tries to convince Evan Rachel Wood that Woody Allen likes her just as much as Scarlett Johannson.

Larry David tries to convince Evan Rachel Wood that Woody Allen likes her just as much as Scarlett Johannson.

“I’m not a likable guy…”
7/10
Author: David H. Schleicher

Woody Allen’s alter ego, Boris (a bitterly good and sardonic Larry David) makes this statement to the audience rather early on in Whatever Works.  The truth is, no matter how misanthropic, sarcastic and neurotic Woody Allen is, he ultimately is a pretty likable personality…if you like that type.  Allen’s return to Manhattan after three stays in London and a wonderful stop-over in Barcelona is yet another niche film. Fans of Allen, as well as fans of Larry David’s “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (which not so ironically should be the same folks) will find plenty to laugh at here, while others will inevitability whine, “I don’t care for Woody Allen…and oh, that Larry David! Can’t stand him!”

The plot of Whatever Works  is irrelevant.  Boris is some sort of genius-level physicist trying to speed his way to death, though those metaphors are never explored as poignantly as they should be.  It all just serves as a soap-box for Allen (through David) to funnel his usual dialogues about relationships, love, luck and the meaning of life.  It’s all very broad and obvious this time around, but it’s sometimes nice to still be laughing at the same old feel-good shtick.  It should come as no surprise that Boris also tells the audience this isn’t a movie designed to make you feel good, unless you’re Allen fans, and then you’ll feel pretty swell afterward.  Leave it to Allen to infer moviegoers are inherently morons, but we’re sophisticates for watching his films.

Apparently this is a reworked screenplay from the 1970’s and the Annie Hall style monologues to the audience are evidence of that.  In the jokes department you’ll find old standards mocking the French and suggesting kids should attend “concentration camps” for the summer mixed with modern humor about the Taliban and Viagra.  There’s also one hilarious throw-away/blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to James Cameron’s The Abyss that makes you wonder if perhaps the screenplay was first reworked in the 1980’s before its final incarnation here. 

In the casting department we find Patricia Clarkson, yet again, is a delight in her curiously under-written over-written role (which is far too simply complex to explain in a traditional review) and continues to build a case for herself to be declared this generation’s “Best Supporting Actress” twenty years from now.  Evan Rachel Wood is cute-as a-button (oh, as her character might declare, what a cliché) as a Southern cutie-pie who runs away to New York City and meets up with the suicidal Boris.  Allen, as always, is luminous with his photography of the “young lady.”  And unlike the similarly dumb motor-mouthed funny-voiced Mira Sorvino character from Mighty Aphrodite, Wood’s character is actually given an arc here and proves not to be as shallow and moronic as Boris originally assessed, which indicates maybe Allen is growing just a teeny bit in his view on women…or maybe not.

Ultimately this is yet another testament to Allen’s worldview, which is summed up here as do whatever works for you to trick yourself into believing you’re happy in this miserable world.  Sure, there are times when Boris’ diatribes run a few lines too long, or when the film stops dead when he is not on screen, but for the most part, this is Allen doing what works best for him.  No other director can call himself out on all his personal pratfalls and annoying quirks yet still find a way to endear himself to the faithful who are ever patient with him and his films.  No other director can be so charmingly mean-spirited and self-deprecating yet still find a way to declare his alter ego a genius at picture’s end.  And that’s why we’ve always liked you, Woody, for better and for worse.  For what it’s worth, when it comes to Allen’s better and worse, Whatever Works falls happily in between and works just fine, thank you very much.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

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Check out some of my reviews of past Woody Allen films:

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Match Point (2005)

Melinda and Melinda (2004)

Annie Hall (1977)