Category Archives: Comedy

Hail, Caesar – Director, The Coen Brothers

I liked this movie although I will admit it is not the best Coen brother film ever. It is much quieter and more subtle than I had anticipated. Reviews are mostly very positive and congratulate the Coen’s on a tribute and laugh at 1950’s Hollywood but the negative ones are very negative. I think it might be useful to see the film in conjunction with Trumbo and with Women He’s Undressed which also look at the same period. Hail, Caesar does not miss the communist element in Hollywood but does make light of it. The attack on the left wing elements of the creative people in Hollywood of the time was devastating and not funny but I am not sure the Coen’s deserve the antagonism they get for having fun with the whole thing. Certainly it is a comic take but it is so clearly comic and so tongue in cheek that I really enjoyed it notwithstanding the real story. There are some really great scenes mocking the mega dance scenes, the heroic over the top epics, and the mega stars who led the Hollywood of the time. There a number of great cameos and some wonderfully comic scenes but for the most part it is done without going over the top. I enjoyed it but as I note there are much better Coen Bros. films. Their best films are really great so their lesser efforts clearly disappointed some critics but to be fair, not being as great as their best is still pretty darn good.

Shaun the Sheep Movie – Directors, Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

This movie has received rave reviews and very much deserves its nomination as Best Animated Feature although I suspect it will not win. It is aimed very much at a very young audience and since the Academy is not made up of kids it will be smiled at but not garner many votes. The animation is stop action which I also suspect is not everyone’s favourite. I liked it and the animation is great but again it raises several questions for me. Should there not be some recognition of the range, techniques and styles of animation and shouldn’t these be recognized with their own separate awards? Again we have a movie with no dialogue which again creates a style and approach that is not common in live action. Finally this is a kids movie. Is there any problem with having a category for children’s films? Live action or animated. It really doesn’t matter. Just so long as the very talented people who devote themselves to this kind of film get some recognition. Just saying.

Deadpool – Director, Tim Miller

Deadpool was not on my list of films to see until I heard Eli Glasner’s review. It started with him suggesting that the scene he showed during his review was the only one that the CBC’s rules would allow. The film has an R rating for a reason. It is very very funny, violent, full of foul language, nudity and very adult themes. I think that pretty much covers it. We are of course dealing with a Marvel product and it is well done, well written, and not too heavy on the special effects although they do play an important role so those of you who like them will not be disappointed. Oh yeah. It’s a love story too.

I really liked this movie despite making the mistake of attending on opening day. The theatre (and I went to the 2D, non-AVX etc version) was packed. There were people munching on everything you can imagine over and above popcorn, there were Susie seat kickers, Teddy texters, loudmouths talking through the whole film etc etc. It was totally annoying. So wait a week then go. This is a story about a super hero with a foul mouth, a low moral threshold and a red suit. The need for the latter becomes clear early in the film. Assuming you can tolerate violence as a comic element you will really enjoy your just under 2 hours of entertainment. Go for it.

The Art of the Deal – Director, Ron Howard – I suppose

There is a website called Funny or Die that creates comic and satiric films and has been doing so for years. These films are often on youtube but you can also go to their website. I have no idea how they are funded or how it all works but they just released this 50 minute film of Donald Trump starring Johnny Depp as Trump and including a number of film and TV stars in supporting roles including Ron Howard and Henry Winkler among many others. It is ostensibly based on the book The Art of the Deal by Trump himself. It is clearly very low budget and has both good and bad aspects but basically it’s a hoot. I recommend you watch it as you suffer the never ending US election process. Depp is brilliant and while this will never find its way to the Oscars it is worth some kind of award. Enjoy. Link attached.

2016 Academy Award Best Live Action Shorts

The live action shorts for 2016 are all very good and it is hard to pick. Whereas it is virtually impossible for a comedy or farce to make it as a nominee for best feature length film or Best Picture, this is not a problem with the shorts. In this case we have some heart wrenching dramas, a lovely romantic film and a total farce. My favourite is the farce – an Israeli film called Ave Maria. My second favourite is the romance – Stutterer, but I suspect the winner will be a very unhappy film called Shok. All the films came from different countries and I really liked them all to be honest. Ave Maria, my favourite, is about an Israeli family (husband, wife and mother-in-law heading back late one Friday afternoon from occupied Palestine to Israeli territory. They crash into a statue of Mary outside a convent run by nuns who have taken a vow of silence just as the Sabbath falls. This confluence of events leads to a very very funny confrontation and a wonderful punchline when it all wraps up in, yes, just 15 minutes. It is hard to find these films unless you are lucky enough to have something like TIFF in your city. The other idea is to look on iTunes for them which happens every now and then.

Stutterer is from the UK and as the name implies is about a young man with a severe stutter. Again very short but the lead actor (Mathew Needham) turns in a great performance. It tells the tale of a young man who stutters so badly he is learning sign language to more easily communicate. He carries on a 6 month texting relationship with a girl who after the 6 months suggests that they meet face to face. He is of course terrified but finally agrees. The ending when the meet is perhaps predictable and very sweet but keeps from being maudlin or sickening by the gentle nature of the film and great performance.

The third film – Shok – is UK/Kosovo production and is set in Kosovo in 1998 in the midst of civil war. It follows the story of two Albanian pre-teens who are forced to live in a racist/ genocidal conflict. It does not end well but that gives nothing away as one can see that from the opening scenes. It is very well done. I struggle to watch films that put children in situations they cannot hope to handle and this film just manages to make my cut. Still not fun if you are not okay with films that exploit the suffering of kids.

The other two films (Everything will be Okay and Day One) were very upsetting to watch depending on your personal circumstances and while well done don’t make my cut.

American Ultra – Director, Nima Nourizadeh














I was inspired to watch this movie because of Jesse Eisenberg and the premise plus a few online suggestions that it was one of the more underrated films of 2015. It had pretty terrible reviews on Rotten Tomaotes but nonetheless I was impressed despite the low rating. The movie is very strange and one is never sure whether to laugh or cry but mostly I laughed. It is incredibly violent but more in the style of Tarantino (though I would not put it in that category of quality) and tongue in cheek. So I would put this in the same category as Cop Car. It is interesting that the comments, unlike the reviews, on Rotten Tomatoes were almost universally positive and did not support the large number of negative critical reviews. There is no question that the critics misread their fans here. It’s no Oscar nominee but it is fun and deserving of more favourable opinion.

Eisenberg plays a young stoner who is living a pretty boring and uneventful life in small rural town. His girlfriend is clearly in love with him and he desperately wants to marry her and make her happy but his attempts to propose and take her away on a celebratory holiday are stymied by the fact that for some reason he just can’t leave town. Any time he tries he falls violently ill. Unbeknownst to him however he is the result of a secret CIA experiment to turn out the perfect secret agent and a highly trained killer. He has been brainwashed or at least brain wiped and has no memory of his role or his skills. Internal squabbles at CIA headquarters results in a decision to have him terminated as a failed experiment but the agent who trained him decides to save him and travels to the town to “wake him up”. The resulting chaos, confusion and copious bloodshed is the rest of the film. Again, like Cop Car, not the stuff of Tarantino or Coen Bros. but worth the 90 minutes of B movie thrills and fun.

What We Do in the Shadows – Directors, Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi













As the movie poster suggests, this film is hilarious. It is a very low budget New Zealand mockumentary about a group of four vampires living in modern day Wellington New Zealand. The vampires vary in age from just under 200 years old to over 8000 years old. It chronicles the day to day… make that night to night travails and problems of being undead in contemporary Wellington. From arguments over who will do the dishes, making sure the drapes are drawn at dawn and waking up Peter the 8000-year-old guy who lives in the basement we follow them on various adventures around town. These include befriending a human who they decide not to kill themselves but who is ultimately turned into a werewolf and a new take on racism as the vampires realize that werewolves do not pee on everything and are actually fairly civilized at least when the moon is not full. I highly recommend this for a relaxing evening when you really can’t take anything very seriously and want to just relax in great satire.

It should be noted that director Taika Waititi is working on the new Thor picture due to be released in November 2017. A big reward for a talented young director who stumbled with Green Lantern in 2011 but I suspect will do much better with Thor.

Very Semi-Serious – Director, Leah Wolchok

The subtitle for this HBO documentary film is: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists. I have to admit I am a New Yorker cartoon addict. I get the magazine every week and like the old Playboy joke – I do read it for the articles but first I flip through and read all the cartoons. To get a chance to learn how they get chosen, who draws them, and who the editor is, was a chance not to be missed. Best of all I saw it at the Bloor Cinema – home of the Hot Docs festival and the New Yorker’s cartoonist and cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff was there for a Q and A after the showing. The film took 7 years to put together and includes interviews with many of the better know cartoonists who are fascinating and often unusually strange people themselves. We learn a great deal about how the cartoons are chosen and how Bob Mankoff works with the contributors to improve and enhance their work including such factoids as: Mankoff goes through 1000 cartoon submissions a week to choose 15 to be published. He does this often by meeting with the cartoonists personally each week in his office to discuss and critique their submissions. He cares deeply about the art of cartooning and uses his job as editor to build and support the small group of active cartoonists. Cartooning is a slowly dying art with fewer publications publishing them each year. To ensure the continuance and renewal of the art Mankoff deliberately works with younger contributors who will hopefully replace the current old timers like himself. He has been remarkably successful. The Q and A after the film was brilliant with Mankoff being a sharp and witty in person as he is on the pages of the New Yorker. If you are a fan you can also read his book titled after one of his more iconic cartoon captions: How about never. Is never good for you?

Youth – Director – Paolo Sorrentino

This film will likely be on the OSCAR track if not for best film then for best actor for Michael Caine. The director is Italian and noted for several previous films that were generally pretty depressing in theme and plot. They have been lauded for quality but not for fun. This film takes him in a new direction. The story is lighter than anything he has previously done and offers a theme of redemption. I found some of it very beautiful to look at, very funny in several places, moving in others, but he insists on inserting scenes and images that as far as I can see are a tribute to Fellini and have nothing to do with the plot or theme. Nonetheless I was entertained more than I was irritated and the acting is top notch. I am reminded at how effortlessly the old pros like Caine and Keitel can act while being impressed with the Paul Dano a young actor who has a great career in front of him.

The story is about two old friends, Caine and Keitel who are at Swiss spa to rest and regain health. Keitel is a film director and Caine a retired composer and orchestra conductor. Both have hidden issues in their lives that remain unresolved and which come to light in the course of the film. I can’t tell you how the plot evolves but will intrigue you with the fact that Miss Universe is also there and prone to walking about with minimal clothing, and a small subplot in which Caine and Keitel bet on the quality of the relationship between ta couple who eat dinner at table near them. The picture above has them observing a change in that relationship. All very funny.

On the whole a good movie and one that will be out this fall and worth the time to see.

No Men Beyond This Point – Director – Mark Sawers

This was the funniest movie of the week. A mockumentary that the director told us was more about mocking documentaries than mocking the topic of the film. Still the topic was great and the film very funny. Filmed in Canada with a Canadian cast and director, the film speculated on a world in which women begin getting pregnant through parthenogenesis or asexually. They just become pregnant without requiring male involvement and worse, at least from the male perspective, all these pregnancies result in female babies. After a few decades men are becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the population and as no new males are being born, older and older. The film focusses on the youngest remaining man, a 37 year old who is working as a nanny and housekeeper for an all-female household. Among the speculations is that sex becomes something to be refrained from at least in the policies of the female government and a new naturalist religion evolves. Men are forced to live in compounds and the title of the film comes from signs restricting males from leaving their compounds.

The film lacks good scientific background but it uses great documentary style and while you do not laugh hysterically you do chuckle continuously and in a good way. It is a very funny movie. The director was there for a Q and A and was asked some pretty silly questions like why he did not address issues of gay/lesbian sex, his lack of multicultural or racial variety in the cast, the problem of reduced genetic diversity in parthenogenesis etc. It was after all a comedy and a joke and needed to be accepted as such and not as a serious sci-fi film. On the other had he was asked how he came up with the idea and he confessed his starting point was that he wanted to make a movie, he had limited funds so it would be shot in his house, use only 6-7 actors and involve a love triangle. The idea for the movie came from a story he read about komodo dragons who can reproduce without male/female intercourse. He felt bad for the komodo dragon and speculated on this possibility in human populations. Thus a movie is born.

I think this is well worth your time if you can track it down. I suspect it will show up at Hot Docs but not in general release but if you can find it, see it.