Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star in a strange comedy about two women in culottes.
Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) are furniture salespeople from the Midwest. After losing their jobs and getting kicked out of their friends group, the two decide to take a vacation to Vista Del Mar, Florida. They quickly become associated with a man named Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan), who has been sent there by an evil super villain who is also his girlfriend (Wiig). It will somehow be up to Barb and Star to stop the bad guys from unleashing a killer swarm of mosquitoes upon the unsuspecting citizens. Also, hijinks will definitely ensue, some involving Damon Wayans, Jr.
I did not know anything about this movie going into it. Honestly, I had seen the ads and thought that it looked kind of generic. There was almost no information about what was actually going to happen in the movie aside from what was in the title. However, it did have two of the funniest women working today both onscreen and writing the film, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was actually a very good movie.
It was tough to find a movie to compare this to in order to even try and analyze it. It’s not like the movie Airplane, where it’s mostly making fun of existing movies by just carrying everything beyond the point of rationality. Instead, I think this movie is most comparable to the film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, because it takes place in a world that runs on some sort of vague magical realism that just happens to be focused on our leads. Sometimes, the things that happen are normal, but Barb and Star’s reactions are extremely unnatural, making them the weird element. Other times, it just turns out that the world itself is ridiculous. The main thing this film does well is use that inconsistency to constantly keep you on your toes. At any given point in the story, it could play out in a way that is just slightly off from reality, or a crazy celebrity cameo could save everything, and you’ll be surprisingly invested in finding out which it is.
There are also a ton of small details in this film that pay off as long as you are paying attention. Many of the books have hilarious titles and quotes on them, as do almost all of the shops that people walk by, as do almost all of the T shirts. These little details really helped to give this movie a fun atmosphere, particularly when combined with the film’s visual style. I haven’t seen a farce done this well in a long time, because this movie understands that the entire point is that there is no point. Everything just happens in a surreal way, and that’s all that the film needs to give us.
Overall, I really recommend this movie. It would have been way more fun to watch in a theater, but unfortunately it picked the wrong year to come out. Still, a good distraction.
The story of a boy, a girl, and a quest for an awesome car.
Wayne McCullough (Mark McKenna) is a violent teen from Massachusetts whose father is dying of cancer. He meets a local girl named Del (Ciara Bravo) who lost her mother and lives with her violent father and brothers. After Wayne’s dad passes, Wayne resolves to get back his father’s stolen 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that is in the possession of Wayne’s mother’s (Michaela Watkins) new husband (Kirk Ward). They’re pursued by two police officers, Geller and Ganetti (Stephen Kearin and James Earl), as well as Del’s father (Dean Winters), Wayne’s best friend Orlando (Joshua J. Williams), and his principal (Mike O’Malley).
This series came out on YouTube Premium back in 2019 and did pretty well for being on YouTube Premium, but, as the platform seems to mostly have stopped making original content now, didn’t end up continuing. They finally moved it to Amazon Prime and, having watched it, I really hope Amazon keeps it going. This show is an interesting blend of action comedy that we don’t often see on television, because it combines a dark, twisted sense of humor with a heavy dose of graphic violence. Of course, this was made by the same people that made Deadpool, so really we should have seen this coming.
The lead character is described throughout the series as a kind of Robin Hood or avenging angel figure. He is violent and probably a little psychopathic, but he always makes sure his targets have it coming. When he sees a woman being mistreated by her boyfriend, he can’t help but intervene, even at his own detriment. Early on, the principal indicates that Wayne, like his father, sometimes bullies people, but mostly protects the innocent by bullying other bullies. From a storytelling standpoint, this is brilliant, because we never feel bad about all of the horrible things Wayne does to people, and he does do some horrible things. It helps that we do get a lot of cute moments between him and Del in which it becomes apparent that he does have a very soft side underneath his mean exterior. McKenna’s performance has to carry a lot of narrative weight without a huge amount of dialogue, but he pulls it off flawlessly.
Similarly, Del is shown to be dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, with whom she was very close. Her mother was a con woman, leading Del to often have the same traits, but like Wayne Del has a strong moral center that appears to be born out of spiting her father’s criminal ways. She also is shown to want to stand up for the little guy and be a leader, initially selling cookies to supposedly raise funds for her mayoral run in five years, when she’s eligible. Of course, like most politicians, she’s also funding the campaign through theft. Bravo manages to be likable and demonstrate a connection to Wayne despite the fact that he’s violent and mostly emotionless.
The general theme of the series is that these two are rebelling. They’re good people but not the kind of “good” people that the world is prepared to accept. They don’t care about the rules and they really hate people who use the rules to hurt others. That’s what bonds them. Moreover, that’s what leads them to inspire many of the supporting characters to be more honest about how messed up things can be and to change it. It also includes just a ton of humor which is supplemented, rather than detracted from, by the violence.
Overall, this is a great show that everyone needs to watch so that we can maybe get more of it.
Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) is one of the laziest human beings on Earth. He lives with his parents, doesn’t have a job, and just generally smokes pot all day. Shortly before Halloween, his hometown gets attacked by a serial killer that claims Anton’s parents (Fred Willard and Connie Ray). Anton, however, is so oblivious that he misses the bloodstains around the house for several days. After trying to get weed from his friends Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) and failing, Anton finally finds his parents’ bodies. Mick and Pnub come over and discover that the killer is, in fact, Anton, or, more accurately, Anton’s right hand, which is now possessed by a demon without his knowledge. The hand (Christopher Hart) then kills Mick and Pnub and tries to kill Anton’s cat, making him run into his neighbor and crush, Molly (Jessica Alba). The two end up making out as Anton covers for his murderous hand. Mick and Pnub come back to life as zombies and the three have to stop the hand from sending Molly to Hell, with a little help from a druidic priestess named Debi (Vivica A. Fox) and Anton’s neighbor Randy (Jack Noseworthy).
I haven’t seen this movie in years, but my first thought on re-watching it was “man, Devon Sawa does some really good physical acting.” Throughout much of the movie, the humor is that he can’t control one of his hands and that he’s constantly fighting against it and he pulls it off pretty well. I know that later in the film, when the hand is cut off, it is played by Christopher Hart, the same actor who played Thing in Addams Family Values, but my understanding is that while it’s attached, all of the strange, angry, and inhuman motions were by Sawa. It’s not quite the level of comedic ability of Steve Martin in All of Me (which everyone should watch) or the amazing robotic movements of Logan Marshall-Green in Upgrade or even the horror/comedy of Evil Dead II, he still does a great job of playing a guy who is literally fighting his own body. I think the fact that I could even try to compare it to all of those great performances speaks highly of his acting.
Anton’s character is fairly different than most horror protagonists. His possession is seemingly a punishment for his sloth and, in order for that to make sense, he has to be far lazier and stupider than almost any normal slacker. He’s so oblivious and focused on getting high that he misses the obvious signs that his parents have been murdered. This level of ridiculous exaggeration should make him unlikeable, but Sawa plays him so naturally hapless that you can still end up rooting for him.
Seth Green, Elden Hanson, and Jessica Alba are all great supporting roles. Green and Hanson are both the perfect “slightly more productive” stoners to act as comic relief. Their easy adjustment to being involved in the supernatural, particularly after being resurrected, is particularly humorous, and they’re both naturally great at delivering absurd lines in an amusing way. Alba’s main role is to somehow justify being attracted to Anton despite the fact that he literally never removes any article of clothing he’s wearing in the film over several days. Somehow, she almost makes it seem viable by seeming like she’s kind of an odd duck herself. It’s still insane that any woman, let alone this one, would want to sleep with Anton, but at least her performance lets you move past it.
The movie itself suffers from a lot of issues with pacing and never quite nailing the tone. The opening to the film plays out like a legitimate horror movie, but the rest of the film is a farce. Debi and Randy only show up for a few minutes and, with anyone less than Vivica A. Fox, would be completely forgettable. It also relies more on the fact that it has a naturally ridiculous premise to keep it interesting than quality writing. Still, I find the film pretty funny for what it is and I think the hand serves as a pretty decent monster throughout. I can say that it deserves more than the 15% it has on Rotten Tomatoes.
Overall, I’m not going to say that you need to see it, but it’s worthwhile if you’re a horror/comedy fan.
Jon Stewart and Steve Carell bring us a political satire that doesn’t quite go far enough.
Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) is a Democratic campaign manager who was devastated by the results of the 2016 election. He finds a video of Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) taken by his daughter, Diana (Mackenzie Davis), defending the rights of immigrants in his town of Deerlaken, Wisconsin, and decides to use Hastings to try to reconnect the Democratic Party with “America’s Heartland.” The Republican National Committee sends Gary’s nemesis, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), to oppose him. The pair keep escalating the election until it’s national news, rocking the small town.
The opening to this movie consists of a moment of Steve Carell and Rose Byrne both being honest about their jobs, telling the people around them that they literally lie for a living. It is a refreshing scene of political operatives from both parties just dropping all of the bullsh*t and being sincere, with each basically saying the same thing. It’s particularly funny hearing them both say: “Whatever you think you saw tonight, you didn’t. You saw what I saw, as long as I say it repeatedly, doggedly, and with unearned confidence. I lie, and you know I lie…. You all know that and yet, here we are…. F*ck you to America. I look forward to lying to you in the future. Let’s hit the bar.” This is the exact kind of language I want starting a movie like this off. I want some damned honesty about exactly how culpable a large number of groups are for the state of our politics, ranging from the media to, well, us. The problem is, the rest of the movie just doesn’t quite hold up this well. It doesn’t have the guts to keep this kind of satire up.
Instead of being an aggressive piece of political satire, the rest of the movie becomes a kind of morality tale whose message ends up being “politics is really just a bunch of rich people playing games with poor people they don’t care about.” Raise your hand if you haven’t felt that point becoming ABUNDANTLY clear over the last few elections. If your hand is up, then you should absolutely watch this movie, because that is crucial information. Otherwise, you, like me, might spend ninety minutes waiting for the film to reach a bigger point and be disappointed. The problem with the movie is it’s telling us something that would have been very important to recognize in 2013 or so, but now feels like the word of the day.
As to the other half of “political comedy,” Irresistible doesn’t quite have enough comedy for my taste. The humor from the movie largely depends on the “country mouse meets city mouse” formula that arises from Gary and Faith interacting with the townspeople who, naturally, aren’t the redneck stereotypes they expected. I will admit that, as someone who grew up in a rural area near a college town, this sometimes was amusing. There’s even a really funny bit involving nuns. Every few minutes, I think there’s a decent laugh in the movie, but a big problem is that almost all of the jokes have been done and done better by other films. Hell, I think a few of the jokes were just updated versions of bits from The Daily Show, which… I guess isn’t plagiarism? I understand that much of it is supposed to be a deeper kind of humor, but I just never felt like the satisfaction was worth the dive. Comedy is subjective, though, and I can see by the audience Rotten Tomatoes score that a lot of people disagree.
Ultimately, though, the thing that I think will be most divisive is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that it ends up letting a ton of people off of a ton of hooks. It doesn’t help that the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Instead, it tries to just pull the rug out from some of the characters and hopes that the audience falls down, too. If you think it’s funny, then you’ll probably like it. If you don’t, then you won’t. Mostly, I just was really let down that the movie didn’t try to drop a bigger bomb at the end, which might have redeemed more of the other flaws.
Overall, this movie was okay, but if you want a movie that does what this movie was trying to do, but better, check out Bulworth on Amazon Prime. It stars Warren Beatty as a politician who just decides to quit lying and it contains some of the funniest dark satire out there.
Jeremy Gardner writes, co-directs, and stars in this movie about horror and romance.
Hank (Jeremy Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant) were a couple for 10 years, before one day Abby just got up and left without much explanation. Shortly afterwards, Hank finds himself being attacked at night by a monster that attempts to get into his house. Unsurprisingly, no one around him seems to believe that monsters are real, leading him to have to deal with everything alone.
If you’re not familiar with Jeremy Gardner, well, that’s not surprising. This is only his third film as a director/writer (with Christian Stella) and the first two, Tex Montana Will Survive! and The Battery didn’t make a lot of waves, as far as I can tell. Honestly, I only watched them after watching this film, because they’re both free on Amazon Prime, but I will admit that I enjoyed them (mostly The Battery, although Tex Montana is an impressive one-man film). This movie, though, is a big step forward in filmmaking from those.
This is one of those movies that is going to be divisive, because it definitely isn’t what it seems from the beginning. While a lot of the movie is focused on Hank dealing with the monster, it’s constantly intercut with Hank thinking about his relationship with Abby, going from how they bonded to how they would argue to the day that she just disappeared. In the “present,” Hank is paranoid, worn down, and emotionally damaged from dealing with the monster. Despite him repeatedly shooting holes through his front door, he never seems to actually get a clear sight of the beast, leaving it unseen to both him and the audience. Because of this and the constant inter-spliced plotlines showing his decline, the movie always keeps the door open that the entire thing is in Hank’s head.
I’m always an advocate for using horror as a metaphor, and this movie uses its monster and horror elements fairly blatantly as a representation for relationship issues. I don’t want to give it fully away, but I will say that the ending ties the horror and personal themes together perfectly. I’ll add an Ending Explanation after the spoiler break, though, because I want to talk about it.
Garner’s performance is pretty solid, particularly given that he spends much of the movie on his own, fighting against an unseen “monster.” His performance in Tex Montana was a pretty solid indicator that he can both hold your attention during solo stretches and also that he can do slow descents into madness believably. Moreover, his scenes with Brea Grant are excellent and the two have great chemistry. Grant’s performance tells more of the story than most of the actual dialogue in the flashbacks.
Overall, I thought they did a great job with this film. It has two main flaws: it’s not really what people expect from a monster movie, and that the structure can be disorienting to the viewer. Still, I enjoyed it.
Obviously, at the end of the movie, we get the reveal that yes, the monster is real. This is after Abby comes back and explains, at length, all of the things that led to her falling for him and, ultimately, why she left. Throughout the movie, she compared his hunting to his nature with women, unable to stop looking for the next target, which he denies. He then explains some of his own flaws and fears, then, during karaoke, starts to finally show his full vulnerabilities to Abby… which is exactly when the monster attacks, just like he feared. However, ultimately, he kills the monster, then reveals that he already had a ring for Abby the whole time. While I think this part’s a little heavy-handed, it cements the monster as being a symbol for Hank’s fear of commitment. It destroyed the home he built with Abby and ultimately left him a broken, isolated, lonely human being. After he finally allows himself to be vulnerable, yes, it hurts him, but it also gives him the ability to destroy those fears and move forward with Abby. I think it’s a good use of monster, honestly.
Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan star in this true story about a wrongful conviction.
SUMMARY (Spoilers, but not really, cuz true)
In 1989, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard lawyer, travels to Alabama to head up the Southern Center for Human Rights, an organization dedicated to defend Death-Penalty cases and appeals. This later became the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative (after Congress decided to cut funding for Death-Penalty resources). Together with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Bryan takes up a number of cases, including that of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian (Jamie Foxx). Stevenson quickly begins to believe that McMillian, who was convicted of the murder of a white woman named Ronda Morrison, was innocent of the charges and had been used as a scapegoat by local law enforcement. Despite having a number of witnesses that McMillian was present at a public event at the time of the murder, the new prosecutor Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall) refuses to look into the case and the court refuses to grant a new trial even after Stevenson gets the State’s primary witness, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson), to recant. It takes many years and multiple appeals, but eventually Stevenson is able to free McMillian.
In response to the recent (as of this writing) protests arising from the death of George Floyd, Amazon has removed the rental cost on a number of films, including this one. I recommend taking advantage of this, because the movies on the list are great. I selected this one, however, because I’m an attorney in the South. I’ve never witnessed any civil rights violation as bad as the ones alleged in this film (or in the events which form its basis), but I still have been around long enough to know that there are gross inequalities between states, counties, or even different judges, and that race, gender, or sexuality can massively amplify those inequalities. As events in the past… well, history of America, but also the last few weeks, have reminded us, racism is still an issue in this country. In fact, I had a disturbing realization during this movie that all of the events depicted are within my lifetime, including the revelation that another wrongful conviction took 28 years to reverse.
The strength of this movie, naturally, is in its performances. The leads are all unbelievably charismatic and believable, from Michael B. Jordan’s optimistic but not really naive portrayal of Stevenson to Foxx’s portrayal of a disillusioned and broken man to Tim Blake Nelson as a career criminal trying to do just one good thing.
The plot of the movie is pretty standard for how courtroom dramas like these always play out. If you’ve seen Gideon’s Trumpet or The Hurricane, then you have seen this film before. In any story that’s based on a real life case, you can probably guess from the beginning that the end of the film is going to have someone getting exonerated. It would probably be a bummer to tell the story of a person who was executed and then later proven innocent (which has definitely happened), so the movie naturally picked a case with a “happy” ending. Unfortunately, that same logic is one of the weaknesses of the film, because it tries to portray most of what happened to McMillian as being a matter of figurative and literal black-and-white.
That’s not to say that there weren’t a number of extra culpable people in his case, there absolutely were, but the film only touches on the fact that almost all of the people responsible were not only elected, but continued to be elected after the charges against McMillian were dropped. While Jordan does deliver a short monologue on how a rural Southern jury might perceive McMillian (even in 1989), the fact is that any number of people might have wanted to speak out against this, but the entire community would have been at their throats for doing so. Hell, the prosecutor and Sheriff were both basically threatened by the voters if they didn’t have someone convicted for the murder. Racism isn’t just ten bad people in power, it’s the hundred bad people who want those ten people in power, but aren’t willing to do the dirty deeds themselves. The movie also shies away from emphasizing the fact that the media had long condemned McMillian from the moment he got arrested, a reminder that journalists can often contribute to injustice as much as they can fight against it. However, the movie DID go further into it than many other films, so I will still give it credit.
Honestly, this is still a really well-done film, even if it’s pretty formulaic by necessity. I think it also goes into some issues with the legal system that people should be aware are not just remnants of the 50s or 60s, but are still problems in the modern day. Hell, the Alabama rule that allowed a judge to overrule a jury and impose a one-sided Death Penalty, as happened in this case with Judge Robert E. Lee Key, Jr. (yes, that name is real), was only eliminated in 2017. This kind of regional or local inequality still exists. There’s a county line near me where on one side, possession of marijuana resulted in a dropped case for some community service, on the other side, possession was ten days jail (until Florida accidentally made it impossible to prosecute cannabis cases last year).
I try not to get too political on this blog, but right now is a great time to watch a film based on real, and recent, events and get a picture of how our country has been in recent years and to realize that some problems are not just coming out of nowhere. There aren’t going to be a lot of easy solutions, and anything is going to take time, but the first step is to acknowledge there’s a problem. If you watch this movie, or read up on the case that it’s focused on, then it becomes really hard to claim that there aren’t issues in the country. Please, do yourself a favor, check it out.