Category Archives: Comedy

The Angels’ Share

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This comedy/drama is my favorite movie since SXSW in early March.

Robbie, played by newcomer Paul Brannigan, seems to be headed to jail. Due to his impending fatherhood, he is given a lenient sentence of community service. Despite the sentence and his desire to turn things around, it appears the Robbie is doomed to a life of trouble. Things look so bleak for Robbie that his girlfriend’s father offers to pay him to leave Glasgow and never return.

In community service, Robbie befriends three other troubled souls without bright futures who are all helped by the leader of the group, Harry, played by John Henshaw. Most of the comedy is the interaction of these characters. Harry takes the group on a whiskey tasting excursion and Robbie’s burgeoning nose for whiskey provides a possible path to redemption and a better life for him and his family (so this is definitely a film to see for anyone really into whiskey).

This isn’t the funniest or deepest movie ever, but it just makes you feel good. It reminded me of The Full Monty…just a good comedy with some drama mixed in about someone with a future that doesn’t look bright, but who gives it their best. One other similarity is that The Angels’ Share features people who speak English, but whose accents make it very tough to understand at first. In this case the filmmakers were kind enough to provide subtitles.  After the first 15 minutes or so they weren’t really needed, but it was nice to have them there.

My two favorite parts of the movie were the very beginning and the very end (sweet), but I also liked the stuff in between. This is an art house movie that may be hard to find, but if you can, check it out.

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The Heat

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

The Heat doesn’t open until late June, but had a special free screening at ‘Girlie Night’ at the Alamo. As I take my responsibility to provide reviews to the masses seriously (and I like things that are free), I put up with Girlie Night and having to turn in my phone and get screened to ensure I wasn’t bringing in any recording devices to the screening.

The Heat is a buddy movie starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and is directed by Paul Feig, whose last film was the mega-hit Bridesmaids. While The Heat is very formulaic, predictable, and probably a little longer than it needs to be, the bottom line is that this is a very funny movie and that’s all that really matters. Bullock plays the by-the-book, full-of-herself FBI agent. McCarthy is the do-whatever-it-takes, break-all-the-rules street cop. They get paired together to try to break up a drug ring and butt heads for a while, but eventually bond and unite to go after the bad guys.

McCarthy, as usual, is very funny and this movie has a lot more laughs than her previous movie, Identity Thief. I thought Sandra Bullock started a little slow, but she definitely warmed up and got into the fun as the movie went on. I felt they had a good rapport and liked that, in addition to the laughs, at the end you cared about their characters and their friendship.

This isn’t quite as raunchy as Bridesmaids, but it does have a fair amount. Unless that bothers you, this movie will definitely be worth seeing.

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SXSW Films – Irwin’s Reviews

Short reviews of the films I saw at SXSW Film Festival

Drinking Buddies – 3.5 out of 5

Great premise: bunch of guys working at a small craft-beer factory hang out with their one female co-worker, played by Olivia Wilde. For the first 10 minutes, the film portrays Olivia as everyman’s perfect woman: beautiful, easy going, loves joking around including food fights, beer drinking, pool playing at the bar after work, and enticing and loving at home. With a sophisticated Mr. Big type as a boyfriend, Olivia even dresses and leaves after their weeknight fun so she can be home for the morning. What more can a guy want? Well, apparently, not even Olivia’s character is perfect, and complications ensue. I really enjoyed the whole movie, and most of all appreciated it’s avoidance of cliche’s and typical Hollywood plot line. Anna Kendrick is terrific along with Jake Johnson (the latter a beer worker and aforementioned buddy, the former as his girlfriend).

Elena – 3.5 out of 5

Bill C. reviewed this below, and I agree, it’s excellent documentary about a young Brazilian woman who goes to New York City to become an actress. She ends up committing suicide (not a spoiler), and this story tries to undestand what happened. The interesting and unique part of this documentary is that it was produced by Elena’s younger sister, aided by 50 hours of home movies and audition tapes that she was able to uncover, and by her mother’s recollections. In other words, it’s all real, from the scenes of Elena as a 12 year-old singing and dancing in her parents living room, to current day when her mom and sister visit the apartment in NYC where Elena ended up. It’s very touching and artfully done. (not to be confused with another movie called Elena)

Some Girl(s) – 3 out of 5

Young man, about to be wed, decides to conduct an apology tour of his old flames, touring the country, meeting them in his hotel rooms, and confronting why they didn’t work, asking if they “are good”, but apparently not looking for a final fling. Sounds creepy and suspicious, but the film kept my interest by the actors interactions and variety of old girlfriends, one as interesting as the other. Adam Brody is believable as the guy, nice guy on the surface buy maybe not so nice if he left all these women without a proper break-up. Best of the women are Kristen Bell, Mia Maestro, and Zoe Kazan.

The Bounceback – 3.5 out of 5

Set in Austin, 20-somethings try to re-connect with their old loves, and/or find new ones, whichever is easier. Some hysterical scenes, some touching scenes, and plenty of memorable characters, especially Sara Paxton as self-styled slut, who takes no BS from her ex-boyfriend.

The Wait – 1.5 out of 5

I waited, and waited, for something to happen, while Chloe Sevigny’s character waits for her recently deceased mother to come back to life (in the bed she passed away in), and her sister and son go about their wandering ways in the Oregon upscale wooded community. Lots a strange scenes, many of which make no sense. Don’t waste your time.

Maladies – 2 ouf of 5

Going to a film festival movie I don’t have much to go on, certainly no reviews, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this film starring James Franco and Catherine Keener. Well, I learn something new every day and boy I needed reminding that while they are terrific actors, a good film needs a good story to be written, and that is not the case here.

Sound City – 3 out of 5

Solid documentary about a sound board – actually about the music studio that houses the board, and the many great artists who created legenday rock music there. Directed and conceived, and funded, by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, it’s clearly a labor of love, as it is with his guest musicians, including Paul McCartney, Rick Springfield and John Fogarty.

 

Identity Thief

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

I had originally intended to skip this movie based on the poor reviews it received from critics.  But based on the audience reception on Rotten Tomatoes and since there’s not a lot that’s really good out there right now I decided to give it a shot.  Unfortunately I agree with the critics.  Melissa McCarthy is excellent and provides the laughs but they are too few and far between and this movie violates Bill I’s prime rule of movie previews – don’t show all the best laughs if the movie is a comedy.

This movie seemed to me like a weak clone of the John Candy/Steve  Martin classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles with  two strangers driving each other crazy on a disastrous road trip together before coming together at the end.  Unless you really like Melissa McCarthy I would rent that  instead.  Another option if you’re a fan of the director Seth Gordon is to rent one of my favorite and very funny documentary, The King of Kong, the story of good vs. evil in the quest to be the record holder in ‘Donkey Kong’.

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Django Unchained

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is a unique film: quintessential Tarantino with gushing blood, provocative speeches from compelling characters, tongue in cheek humor, homages to spaghetti westerns, and incredible scenes of in your face violence, combined with a revenge fantasy cum morality tale that delves into life during slavery that you won’t see portrayed in too many places in film today or ever. I cringed during the bloody scenes of the worst type of brutality, and my first instinct is to reject such tastelessness, but then I think am I seeing scenes that would have never happened, or was this the unpleasant reality that no one likes to think about happened right here in the US? The current movie, Lincoln, is focused on passing legislation that banned slavery, but it never shows the reality that slavery entails. Django Unchained shows it in a way I’ve never seen. We all know that families were broken up by auctions, but have we internalized the implications of how awful that was? We’ve heard that slaves were treated like chattel, worse than dogs, but seeing it depicted here is something again that I have rarely seen in popular culture. We’ve read about the Uncle Toms, the “house” n***s, the “field” n***s, the “master” who treats his surrogate father who effectively brought him up like a, well, a slave. But watch Samuel L. Jackson’s ultimate Uncle Tom, wielding power over the plantation, watch Leo Dicaprio as the plantation master toying with his “mandingo” wrestlers as he goads them to fight to the death, watch the brutal treatment of the slaves who try to run away…just unforgettable scenes and portrayals. Christoph Waltz, who was terrific in Inglorius Basterds as the Nazi Colonel, is superb here as the cold hearted, sly bounty hunter. Jamie Foxx is a revelation as the newly freed slave who partners with the bounty hunter to find then free his wife, from whom he was forcible separated. I don’t know if any Tarantino film can be considered a serious treatise of an issue such as slavery,  but if you want to watch an engrossing story which depicts the brutality of our not-too-distant past, check out this film.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Whether or not to see this movie should be a relatively easy decision.  If you like Tarantino movies you should go.  If you don’t you should stay away at all costs.

As Bill says it has all of the elements of a Tarantino film.  In some ways the violence exceeds some of his earlier films.  There is the usual violence for Tarantino – the over the top shoot outs, explosions, etc and then there’s the slavery inspired violence which unfortunately may not be over the top.

The dialogue is good although not quite as good as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs.

The movies is very entertaining and despite it’s over 2.5 hour length the movie flies by.  Tarantino gets great performances from Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, Jackson and others.  There are also a ton of people making cameos or in smaller roles – Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Franco Nero (from the original ‘Django’ movie), Russ (West Side Story!) and Amber Tamblyn, Tarantino (I love his final scene) and others.

While at times this took a serious look at slavery and how slaves were treated it was also very funny.  At times it reminded me of Blazing Saddles with it’s use of the ‘n’ word and with a scene with the KKK that could easily have been in that movie

For those seeing this movie in Austin you should see it at an Alamo Drafthouse and get their in time to see the pre-show.  It has some clips from some of the films that Tarantino is paying homage to and is also entertaining.  But I’m sure it would take a lot longer to go through all the movies he refers to and it would be interesting to know all that he refers to

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This Is 40

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This is 40 is the latest directorial effort by Judd Apatow.  It is the story of married couple  Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they deal with the current state of their lives as they turn 40. As in previous Apatow films, such as Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Apatow tried to meld a raunchy comedy with a touching story that has heart. While this movie had many funny moments and some emotional heart, it was not as consistently funny or as moving as either of the previous movies and does not live up to those previous efforts.

Apatow pulls together a great cast including Melissa McCarthy (who was great in Bridesmaids too), Albert Brooks (another excellent performance coming off of last year’s performance in Drive), Jason Segal, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, and others. This was a family effort for Apatow as Mann is his wife and his two kids also starred and gave good performances in the movie.

While this is an ok movie, it did not live up to my expectations and is not one of Apatow’s best.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I agree it’s not consistently funny, but Apatow is not going for that. He’s got a serious mid-life couple’s drama at the center, and with some funny parts sprinkled throughout, you never forget the real-lifeness going on, from the bitter arguments, to the kids’ reactions, to their co-workers’ indifference, to their selfishness, as well as their lovingness. It’s real life, some of it embarassing, some of it not cool, and some of it to be admired in that they get through it and carry on. The fathers (Lithgow and Brooks) lend context and history to the characters. Leslie Mann has her best role here, as the glue that holds the family together, and enough attractiveness (personality and otherwise) to lend credibility to why Paul Rudd’s character loves her. The film is too long, and could have been edited down to eliminate some of the slow parts, but I don’t know what scenes I would want chopped. It’s hit and miss on some of the comic scenes (Mann berating a 12-year old boy is uncomfortable and not funny). Stay tuned for an outtake early in the credits where Melissa McCarthy riffs on her scene in the principal’s office, funniest of all. If you’re an Apatow fan, you need to see this. If you are married, you should see this, both to learn what to avoid and how you can persist through the tough parts. If you hope to be married in the future, you might want to wait till you’ve been hitched for a few years. Finally, if you ever thought Megan Fox had potential, you will see it realized here in a small but memorable part.

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Silver Linings Playbook

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Very well done, thanks to superb casting of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Deniro. The story is straightforward – manic guy meets cute depressed girl, while his parents try to keep him centered and calm – but it’s elevated by the great chemistry, the captivating Lawrence

amid not terrible sub-plots: dance contest and dad Deniro is rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan who bets the farm. I really enjoyed it, especially the couple of moments where one of the leads gets upset in their own intense way. Not a depressing movie, and in fact, an uplifting message (no spoiler since it’s in the trailer).

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I also liked this movie.

In addition to good performances by Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, I also enjoyed Jacki Weaver (Cooper’s mother), John Ortiz (Cooper’s long time friend) and Chris Tucker (Cooper’s friend from the mental institution). This was Tucker’s first screen appearance in 5 years. To drive home the point that lots of people have issues in our hyperactive world, all of the characters in this movie have their own problems to deal with.

As Bill points out, Russell made some interesting plot points as director, but the very end gets pretty formulaic for a romantic comedy. I felt the final little bit of advice from De Niro (also shown in the previews) was unnecessary, but overall I really enjoyed and recommend this movie.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I really enjoyed this coming-of-age movie about a shy high freshman trying to come to terms with issues in his life and the friends he makes that help to bring him out of his shell. This movie has been out a while and is an art house movie but, if you can find it, definitely go.

This movie is at times sweet, sad, and funny and does a good job of showing what the high school experience can be like. Logan Lerman from the Percy Jackson movies does a good job as the shy freshman dealing with some issues.  It’s a nuanced performance that shows his highs and lows. Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) and Ezra Miller play seniors with issues of their own who befriend him.  Both are very good but I thought Ezra Miller was excellent. He was also great last year in We Need To Talk About Kevin and is an actor to watch.

 Bill I’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

If you are a teenager you should see this movie. If you once were a teenager you should see this movie. If you are not yet a teenager, you should wait, otherwise you might not want to be a teenager.

On its surface, this film is filled with cliches: the bullied high school kid, the jock bullies who love to trip the nerd carrying his lunch tray, the band of outcasts who befriend him, the gay best friend, the female “best friend” who is slotted (in his mind at least) to eventually become his girl friend, the search for ending his virginity…BUT, it’s got an amazing sense of life, captured in a few perfect scenes, that makes you realize that cliches are based on the truest reality. Ezra Miller plays the gay best friend as an original character, exciting, charismatic, and so genuine you will be amazed. Emma Watson, as the queen of the outcasts is similarly captivating. You won’t for a second wonder why the main character (Logan Lerman) falls so in love that he’s at times speechless in her presence. The parents are not cliches, they are believably distracted and ignorant to the day-to-day trials their son is going through, all the while thinking they are super sensitive to his emotional life due to past events. The brother and sister, while given so little screen time and less dialogue, are amazingly shown as real people and will bring tears to your eyes. Finally, you realize that this is a movie driven by child abuse, and what people do to get over it, or not get over it. I won’t give away the incredible moment when the viewer realizes what’s happened, but it gave me insight into what kids go through and try to regain a normal life. I considered giving this film a 4 star review, but realized it’s better than other 4 star movies in its essence.

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Seven Psychopaths

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Is this a nutty, inconsistent, bloody, misogynistic movie? Yes it is! Is it also great fun, with classic moments and lines from Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson, and an unpredictable plot that makes this the ultimate meta-movie? Yes! The main character, played as an alcoholic straight man Colin Farrell, is struggling to write a movie script and all he has to start with is a great title (same as this movie), and his BFF (nutcase Sam Rockwell) does all he can to help him out, including identifying real-life psychopaths he can fit into the script, while he goes about his dog-napping sideline to help his other buddy, Walken, pay for his wife’s cancer surgery. Need I mention this is a comedy? The cast is terrific, including I have to mention again the ultimate Christopher Walken, Tom Waits (I recognized him, after not seeing seen him since 1976 when I approached him back stage at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre), Harry Dean Stanton (not too many lines of dialogue for Harry, in fact, maybe none) and Gabourey Sidibe (also not many lines, but stuck in an unforgettable scene with ultra-gangster Woody). And fans of Boardwalk Empire will enjoy seeing two stars from that series in the opening sequence (the dude who plays Rothstein and the young Jimmy Darmody). I don’t think they needed much time on the set given the short screen time they are given. It’s a meta movie because the psychopaths in the movie become the psychopaths in Colin Farrell’s script. Be sure to sit through the ending credits (the first minute) to see the perfect ending. If you are squeamish about bullets and knife play, or don’t get the humor in the over the top misogynism (it’s tongue in cheek!), then go see Here Comes the Boom), but if you are true fan of Bill and Bill, check this out!

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I finally saw this movie and just wanted to add a few quick thoughts:

– I want to complement Bill on a really excellent review.  Not only is the review insightful, but I learned the meaning of a new word, misogynistic!

– While all the actors were great, I thought Sam Rockwell stole the show.

– If you like this movie, go rent In Bruges by the same director.  I liked Seven Psychopaths and recommend it, but I liked In Bruges even better.

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10 Years

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

A ten year high school reunion, reminiscent of The Big Chill, and populated by some terrific actors, most of whom are much better looking then your typical high school reunion attendees. Channing Tatum, his real-life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Kata Mara, for example. The story is ho-hum until the end, when a very cool musical moment strikes gold, just watch Kata Mara.

Otherwise, pleasant and fun to watch, drags a little in the middle, without much of anything too emotional happening.