Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar: A Great Modern Farce – Amazon Rental Review

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star in a strange comedy about two women in culottes.

SUMMARY

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.

And perhaps a musical number.

END SUMMARY

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.

These two.

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.

Also, Jamie Dornan is just hilarious in this. Great job avoiding typecasting, man.

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.

This crab is not voiced by Morgan Freeman.

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.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Wonder Woman 1984: There’s a Good Movie In There Somewhere – HBO Max Review

It’s got the makings of a good film, covered in a lot of fluff.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s not quite 1985 yet and America is living it up like it’s 1999, Prince’s 1982 album. If that sentence seemed like an overly roundabout and pointlessly showy way of saying “it’s 1984,” then I have successfully conveyed the movie’s tone. Diana, Princess of the Amazons, (Gal Gadot) is working as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian and somewhat covertly operating as Wonder Woman. After stopping a heist of rare antiquities, she meets Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a new gemologist, who envies Diana for her confidence and strength. One of the items from the robbery is an inscribed stone which is given to Barbara to inspect by the FBI. After handling it, Diana discovers that her previously deceased love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is now alive again. At the same time, aspiring businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) wants the stone for his own purposes. Action sequences ensue.

THEY ENSUE!!!!

END SUMMARY

This movie reminds me a bit of the third Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film. There were good performances in it and several decent ideas, but the plot was overloaded with moments that exist just to satisfy some fleeting desire to add a single element. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still better than most of Spider-Man 3, but it has the same “let’s add 10 minutes for an unnecessary sub-plot” feeling. As a result, this movie is probably about a solid forty minutes longer than it needs to be. They just kept adding things that either needed more focus to really work or just didn’t need to be there at all. I’ll give a concrete and major example after the spoiler break.

Ah yes, the armor strong enough to fight the world (in 30 BC).

I’m not going to say that this film is bad. I certainly wasn’t blindingly angry while watching it, which puts it ahead of at least two other films in the DCEU. There are some good sequences in it, particularly the fight sequence in the White House, and Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal both play their characters better than they are written. Sure, there are a lot of scenes that could be cut, but many of the scenes in the film are genuinely touching or well-done. I particularly will say that I loved the way that the main conflict was resolved. In the first movie, Diana says that her greatest power is love, but then also beats Ares by using the power of shooting magic lightning. It’s hard for me to absorb the message when the story completely contradicts it. However, in this film, Diana actually does win by using love and empathy rather than just punching. It’s a logical resolution that contains a great moral and a lesson that is completely appropriate for our time.

But the White House fight scene was still pretty freaking awesome.

I will admit that while watching it I considered that the movie might be bloated and overindulgent because it’s a 1980s film. That was a decade of action movies that basically defined the term “over-the-top” and maybe this movie is trying to take that back from the extremely male-dominated genre by saying “here’s a film with a strong female protagonist that is also f*cking ridiculous.” We were willing to overlook the many flaws in Commando and turn it into a much-loved classic, so why can’t this film get the same benefit? But, if that was why, that’s still not a great reason. We don’t make ’80s action films anymore because we are no longer living in the ’80s. America, and the world, is fundamentally different and our art reflects that. The film captures the style of the period, it doesn’t need to capture the attitude behind the scenes.

Although studio f*ckery, which might be the cause, is still a thing.

Overall, I don’t think this is a great movie, but I don’t regret seeing it. I am glad they’ve gone ahead and green-lit another film, because this movie still made it clear that Patty Jenkins knows how to shoot some great sequences and Gal Gadot is a solid choice for Wonder Woman. Also, amazing post-credits cameo.

***SPOILERS***

The single point at which I knew I was getting frustrated in the movie was the invisible jet sequence. It has so many logical flaws that it just started breaking my brain. First, they have to get a jet because they need to fly to Cairo in one trip and can’t fly commercial as Steve doesn’t have a passport. This is already stupid because A) Steve is possessing the body of a guy who clearly travels and thus would likely have a passport, B) Diana, a literal immortal goddess, works for the Federal Government and thus clearly knows someone who can make fake identities, and C) they pick a Panavia Tornado, a Jet whose maximum range would not get you halfway to Cairo from Washington DC on a full tank of fuel. Also, Steve can fly a jet even though he died in 1918? Then, while they’re taking off, Diana suddenly remembers that stealing a jet is a thing people don’t like and that they’re going to be attacked, so she has to make it invisible, even though she apparently hasn’t done this before. The thing that really pisses me off is that it was all just a ham-fisted way to work the Invisible Jet into the Wonder Woman film. It’s a 20 minute subplot that could just have been replaced with “oh, btw, I HAVE A MAGIC JET THAT’S INVISIBLE.” Making it a real jet that she turns invisible makes you wonder how the hell they found an airstrip or a place to refuel or how Steve used the bathroom during a 10 hour fight. If it’s a magic jet, like it usually is in the comics, then no one needs to think about any of that stuff. Or, honestly, just work the jet in somewhere else and do a jump cut to them being in Cairo. No one would have questioned them just taking a commercial plane. 

And it seems like it was just to get to this shot.

There are about three different subplots like this that add nothing to the movie and feel like they were done just to add something for either the trailer or just to satisfy a studio checklist. Actually, multiple scenes from the trailer were completely pointless, like having her lasso lightning while flying or having her don Asteria’s armor only for Cheetah to tear it apart in a minute. 

Pictured: THE MOST POINTLESS ACT IN THE MOVIE.

Then there’s Cheetah. Okay, so, I’m giving credit to the movie for the scene in which a drunk guy accosts Barbara, because it is appropriately horrifying. Particularly with him repeatedly saying “I’m a nice guy” as he tries to force himself on her. When Diana saves her, it’s completely reasonable that Barbara would wish to be like Diana and thus wish to be strong. It’s even understandable that she would start to get caught up in having that much power and attention. However, they try to convey her “start of darkness” by having her beat up the guy who accosted her. A woman beating up her would-be rapist is usually not a “villainous” act. But the biggest question is why she ever wanted to be a cheetah woman at all. She already has super-strength and such, why the hell not just ask for Wonder Woman’s full powerset? She says it’s about being an “apex predator,” which is weird enough, but cheetahs, while they technically fit the term, aren’t what you think of when you hear “apex predator.” I could not buy that last leap to being Cheetah on any level. Why not have Barbara lose her powers at the end of this film and seek alternate powers to be strong again in the next movie that have the side-effect of turning her into a cheetah? It’d give some time for an actually well-done character to believably go from nice to villain.

Pictured: A ball dropped at the goal line.

The thing about all of these complaints is that they stink to high heaven of studio meddling. “You can’t use a movie to set-up Cheetah without showing Cheetah” or “we need some cool shots for a trailer that will be made a year before the film is done.” If you cut all of this crap, then this movie could genuinely have been really good. I think I could re-cut the movie myself to be better with just what we have. It’s just frustrating to watch a lot of good get diluted by mediocre.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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The Grouch on the Couch Rants: Holmes and Watson

BY THE GROUCH ON THE COUCH

I hate this movie too much to give it a stinger.

SUMMARY

Sherlock Holmes (Will “What the hell happened” Ferrell) and John Watson (John C. “Seriously, you guys are usually funny” Reilly) try to protect the queen from being murdered by James Moriarity (Ralph “God, I hope you got this in cash up front” Fiennes). Everything else that would potentially be plot is irrelevant crap.

HolmesWatson - 1Leads.jpg
Shame on you.

END SUMMARY

Because of the bad reviews, I waited until I didn’t have to pay for this movie. I should have seen it in theaters so I would have actual damages for my impending tort claim against this film. This took up like 90 minutes of my life. 90 minutes I could have spent doing anything else. I could have watched Plan 9 From Outer Space, because at least that’s the FUN kind of bad. This film somehow was never even close to amusing.

HolmesWatson - 2Selfie
Oh wow, a selfie joke. This is groundbreaking.

I have never seen a movie this aggressively unfunny. Even the parts of this movie that seem like they SHOULD be funny, particularly given the relatively high-level comedians who are found in the cast, somehow become irritating and flat. Part of it is that the film never feels like it’s surprising the audience. The more obvious the joke, the more likely it’s going to be what’s said next, so why do we even need them to say it? There’s an episode of South Park where Stan starts to see that everything around him is actually crap, envisioning bad films as filled with talking and dancing turds. This film was taken from that episode, then given brain damage from a series of sledgehammer blows to the head, then set on fire by crackheads. This movie makes me almost want to apologize to Uwe Boll for the things I’ve said about him. Almost.

HolmesWatson - 3Marketing
The marketing is them doing this. THIS WAS WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO GET PEOPLE TO SEE THIS FILM.

It’s tough to really nail down everything that doesn’t work here, but if I had to say why I particularly hate it, it’s that nobody in the film appears to be trying. Ferrell and Reilly don’t appear to be invested in any part of this, going through the motions almost robotically without any of their added flair. In 2015, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig appeared in a movie for Lifetime called A Deadly Adoption in which they both play actual Lifetime characters with complete sincerity, the “joke” being that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig both played straight characters in a Lifetime film. A lot of critics agreed that wasn’t really funny. I actually thought it was kind of amusing, because at least it was original to spend all the time and effort to create a comedy set-up and then play it straight. I would respect this movie it was going for something like that. It wouldn’t be fun, sure, but it would at least have shown that they were trying.

HolmesWatson - 4DeadlyAdoption
Give this a shot if you’re drunk.

What’s extremely weird about the movie is that it can never decide what any of the characters are. It’s like they had 3 different drafts of the movie which each had completely different interpretations of Holmes and Watson and they decided to use all of them. Holmes is portrayed simultaneously as a legitimate genius, a complete idiot, and also an insane person. This isn’t like in Without a Clue or They Might Be Giants where the character is supposed to be completely separate from the actual fictional Sherlock Holmes, thus explaining why they’re not actually good detectives. This movie features Sherlock being honored as one of the most superior minds in the world, something that just doesn’t sync with watching him constantly fumbling around doing slapstick. Watson, who at least can be characterized as a bumbling sidekick, is therefore forced to drop down in intelligence to the point of being a complete fool, despite still ALSO being a recognized figure for his work with Holmes. I think this is why this particular strain of comedic take on Holmes doesn’t quite work. You can’t have both of them be simultaneously competent and incompetent. That’s not to say that films haven’t pulled that off, in fact The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts does it with a pair of detectives, but it only works there because the entire world of the movie is absurd. This film can never decide how serious it is supposed to be and that makes for a lousy comedy.

HolmesWatson - 5PrivateEyes.jpg
They made this movie better 40 years ago.

The supporting characters suffer from similar problems, such as Holmes’s and Watson’s love interests Dr. Hart and the Feral Millie (Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus), who are completely absurd except when they aren’t. Similar things happen with the villain *SPOILERS BUT F*CK THIS MOVIE*, Mrs. Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), who is revealed to be the mastermind of a brilliant scheme that is also pointlessly complicated and dumb. Seriously, these are all good people, and none of them could get a chuckle out of me. 

I will say that one thing did make me laugh: There’s a scene on the Titanic with Billy Zane, and that’s a fun cameo. That’s about it.

Avoid this movie like the plague. I cannot believe the same person that wrote Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder wrote this. Someone should genuinely check on Etan Cohen to make sure he’s okay. I know all of these people will do better in the future, but this… this was rough. That’s about all I can say.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.