Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Not Funny Comedies


Friday is always a good time. Even a bad Friday is pretty good because, hey, it's still Friday. That means the weekend is starting and almost no matter what, there's a reason to have at least one hearty laugh. Things not going quite right at work? Ha! It's Friday. My car not playing nice? You know what? It's Friday. When I get home I'll have a beer and laugh it off. Someone actually pees in my cheerios? Normally, that would infuriate me, but on Friday? That was a good one, you got me.

Thursday, on the other hand, is not so funny. It's just a reminder that the good day is coming, but you still have to lumber through this one. You can see the finish line, you just can't reach it. It's an agonizing day of suffocating anticipation. It's a cruel joke that thinks it's funny, but is really painful.

Perhaps not so ironically, today's topic for Thursday Movie Picks is not funny comedies. You know the kind of movies I'm talking about - the ones that fling joke after joke against the wall to see which ones stick, but none ever do. When they're finally over we're left with a wall dripping with the residue of the all the failed punchlines lying on the floor. Of course, I could fill this post with Adam Sandler and Kevin James movies, but where's the fun in shooting fish in a barrel? I'm gunning for big game.

Duck Soup
(1933)
Look up lists of the all-time greatest comedies, and this movie is likely to be on it. I've seen it hailed as brilliant, a masterpiece, genius, and all those sorts of things. Since it was a hole in the catalog of films I had watched, I gave it a go a few years ago. Damn, was that a mistake. The Marx Brothers brand of comedy just didn't work for me, at all. I wanted to love it, but every joke springboards off Groucho's eyebrows into an abyss of lameness. The movie is clearly a satire and I get what they're going for, but it doesn't work for me. I'd love to blame the era in which it was made. After all, the movie is over 80 years old, but I can't even do that. I love Abbott & Costello movies and think The Three Stooges were comedic gold, too. Well, that might explain it. Those guys didn't go too heavy into satire. Therefore, maybe I'm just not smart enough to get it. Maybe. That doesn't change the fact that Duck Soup doesn't make me laugh.


Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
(1964)
Speaking of movies I'm not smart enough to get, and which appear on numerous greatest movie lists, there's this film from Stanley Kubrick than many people claim is his best. It's another satire, this one about our bumbling leadership accidentally starting a nuclear war with Russia. I tried with this movie. I really tried with this movie. By that, I mean I've watched it three or four times hoping to make myself love it. That turned out to be a fruitless effort. George C. Scott is great and Peter Sellers is working overtime by playing three roles, but it comes off flat. That said, given the current state of our country and, for that matter, the world, I'm willing to give this one yet another go. It helps that there are plenty of other Kubrick movies I love. Maybe one day, I'll love this one, too.


Trainwreck
(2015)
I seriously doubt I will ever love this one, or even watch it again. It's not as big a deal as my other two picks, but it is beloved. After all, it sits at 84% on rottentomatoes.com and raked in an impressive $140 million at the box office against a budget of only $35 million. I'll chalk this one up to letting the gender of the star obscure the fact it's a shitty movie. The simple fact it stars a female was enough to make people believe this is an empowering film for women. I'm not a woman, so if I seem presumptuous, or like some dickhead dude thinking he knows what's best for women, I can live with that. Fact of the matter is I saw it as anything but empowering. She's a jerk who craps on people who care about her, wilts in the face of strong people, and compromises everything she believes in because it will help her get a guy. So much for girl-power. (My Full Review)

Bonus Round:

Normally, this would be the end of the post. However, I'm going to make amends for not doing Thursday Movie Picks last week. That means I have to pick some movies about the...

Financial World

Hmmm...let's see...


Trading Places
(1983)
This comedy...an actually funny one, by the way, pairs Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd as a pair of guys who had their fortunes switched by the ultra wealthy Duke brothers, whose fortunes are heavily tied to the stock market, and wonderfully played by Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy. As an impromptu, highly informal social experiment they decide to frame their young apprentice, Aykroyd, for stealing, and firing him, while simultaneously giving the homeless Murphy everything that belonged to Aykroyd. Add Jamie Lee Curtis as a hooker with a heart of gold, and stir. The result is one of the best films on the resume of everyone I just named.


Drag Me to Hell
(2009)
If you haven't seen Drag Me to Hell, you might only know it's a horror movie. Maybe you also know it's directed by Sam Raimi of Evil Dead and Spider-Man fame. You probably don't know it's a wonderfully nasty piece of recession angst that's one of the genre's best films of the 21st century. And with a healthy dose of dark comedy, it's funnier than any of those movies in the top part of my post, too. The story follows Christine (Alison Lohman), a bank loan officer. When she decides not to extend the loan of an elderly woman about to lose her home, the woman puts a curse on her. From there, well, all sorts of, um, hell, breaks loose. (My Full Review)


The Wolf of Wall Street
(2013)
This one is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker whose unethical, and eventually, illegal tactics made him a fortune, and landed him in prison. The legendary Martin Scorcese directs and Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances. The two of them, plus an excellent Jonah Hill, injects this movie with something sorely missing from those movies up top - humor. As a result, The Wolf of Wall Street is the rarest of movies, a three hour epic that zips by. (My Full Review)


Extra Double Super Duper Bonus

Okay, so I missed the week before that, too. I was going to let it slide, but then I remembered something. The topic fits perfectly with what I've been doing all week.

Animated Films Geared Towards Adults

Batman: Under the Red Hood
(2010)
A bad guy known as The Red Hood is causing some problems in Gotham. With the help of Nightwing, who was once Robin, Batman is on the case. The story-telling is nothing less than compelling. The animation is top-notch, and this film doesn't skimp on the violence, at all. When you put it all together, it's the very best Batman animated feature.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
(2012)
This film finds Bruce Wayne having been retired from the crime-fighting business for quite some time. His body is battered and he's taken to heavy drinking. With a new, out-of-control group of criminals terrorizing Gotham, Ol' Bruce drags himself out of retirement to take them down. Later on (in part 2 if you watch them separately, like I did), an old menace gets involved - The Joker. Lots of murder and other mayhem ensues in one of the best Batman movies of any type. (My Full Review)

Batman: The Killing Joke
(2016)
Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, serves as our entry point in what appears to be a story about a dangerous criminal obsessed with her. That's merely a prelude to the real story, the infamous Joker has somehow escaped from Arkham, once more. And this time, he's really gone off the deep end. A prominent character gets shot on-screen, at point blank range, another gets stripped naked and tortured, it's undeniable two characters have sex, and when it's all said and done, we have the first R-rated Bat-flick. It's not nearly as bad as most would have you believe. In fact, I quite like it, but I'm me so take that with a grain of salt. More on that when my full review hits.

Okay, Okay, you're not into Batman. Try these:

Heavy Metal
(1981)
We get a sci-fi anthology with a wrap-around story involving a strange green orb that has apparently been wreaking havoc on mankind since the beginning of time. We get gore, drug-use, profanity, sex scenes, and more wrapped up in a cult classic. There is a sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, but I haven't seen that one. Yet.

Waltz with Bashir
(2008)
This is the rarest of creatures - an animated documentary. It's based on a soldier trying to regain his memories of his experiences during the Lebanon War of 1982. It's wildly imaginative from a visual standpoint, and all sorts of emotional. (My Full Review)

Anomalisa
(2015)
Surprisingly, this animated movie is one of the most mature takes of any American movie on men suffering a mid-life crisis and are just bored with their life. Our hero is a guy who is looking for something, but he doesn't know what. This is a movie about what he gets when he thinks he's found it.

Phew! Now, I'm done.


26 comments:

  1. There's so much to take in! I chuckled at Kanye being on your banner, that's perfect.

    I've never seen Dr. Strangelove, and Trainwreck, while I thought it was funny the first time I saw it did not hold up on a 2nd watch at all. I didn't laugh once at Amy Schumer herself. It was John Cena, or Ezra Miller or Tilda Swinton.

    Drag Me To Hell is an interesting pick! We matched on Wolf of Wall Street for that one.

    I haven't heard great things about The Killing Joke, but I wanted to see it just because Batman.

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    1. When I found that pic, I knew I had a winner.

      Never bothered watching Trainwreck a second time. I just couldn't.

      Drag Me to Hell is an interesting movie! Love The Wolf of Wall Street.

      The Killing Joke is a polarizing one. Lots of people wanted a straight adaptation of the graphic novel, but that proved to be too short.

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  2. I loved Dr. Strangelove and Anomalisa. And hated The Wall of Wall Street. That banner though!

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  3. So many movies, and so many that I've seen (for once).

    I like the Marx Brothers, but I understand that not everyone does. I was introduced to them at a very young age, so there is a nostalgia factor for me. Duck Soup played on New Year's Eve on television every year for a long time, and when I was a kid, I watched it every year. I also like Dr. Strangelove a lot. I think it requires the right mindset, and I don't think it's a laugh-out-loud movie. It's more a movie where (at least for me), the laugh comes after the fact at the absurdity of what happens. I'm rarely smart enough to laugh in the moment at it.

    Trading Places...it veers into farce on the train, but I don't care. Along with Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, it's the movie to point to as evidence that Eddie Murphy was once very funny, talented, and relevant. The Wolf of Wall Street is damn good, but it's not one I plan on seeing again any time soon. Basically, Scorsese made a three-hour long, hugely financed exploitation film. It's great, but I also find it overwhelming.

    I didn't love The Killing Joke. I didn't hate it, but it's one-and-done for me. Heavy Metal is a bit of a roller coaster with some excellent parts and some that don't hold up that well. The stuff that's good is really, really good, though (for my money, the scene on the WWII bomber makes the film). Anomalisa is another film I'm not sure I want to see again any time soon. I respect what it is a lot more than I liked it.

    Waltz with Bashir is a hard watch but an important one. It's noteworthy for me because it once again calls into question the ideas of nominations for awards. Consider this: Waltz with Bashir was considered one of the best foreign language films for 2008 by AMPAS and was nominated for a foreign language Oscar. However, it was not considered one of the best documentaries of that year and was also not considered one of the best animated films of that year, meaning that in the eyes of AMPAS, Bolt was a better animated film than Waltz with Bashir. And the fact that it is a documentary doesn't figure in; Persepolis was nominated as an animated film the previous year.

    Someone please explain how that happens.

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    1. Yeah, maybe I need to have watched more Marx Brothers when I was kid. Duck Soup annoyed me more than anything else. I get that about Dr. Strangelove, but for me the laughs don't come at all - during or after.

      Love what you say about Waltz with Bashir being important. It is that, on top of being an incredible piece of film. Oscar does some strange things when it comes to foreign language films. Think about that Best Animated Feature nom for Persepolis. It did not get one for Best Foreign Language Film. I've only seen two of the films that did, including The Counterfeiters which one, and it was better than both of those.

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  4. Whew talk about catching up in a hurry! I'm going to have to go week by week.

    I'm not a huge Marx Brothers fan myself though I find them amusing at times. However I never understood why Duck Soup is venerated over all others, I preferred At the Circus and Room Service but I don't really ever return to any of them. Again I don't get the lionization of Dr. Strangelove though I didn't hate it...well that's not quite true. I did hate it the first time I watched it but was sure I missed something so gave it another go with lowered expectations and thought it was alright just not mindblowingly wonderful as reputed. I've heard such awful things about Trainwreck, and I don't get Amy Schumer's appeal, so I've avoided it despite liking Bill Hader. Looks like I'll continue to do so.

    I have to say this was one of the easiest weeks since regrettably crappy unfunny comedies are much easier to find than good ones. These are three I found particularly bad.

    All About Steve (2009)-Sandra Bullock, usually so charming and quirky makes a complete fool of herself in this alleged comedy about nothing so much as creepy stalkerism. A total misfire this is surely her worst film.

    My Boss’s Daughter (2003)-Young dude (Ashton Kutcher) agrees to housesit for his boss in the hopes of scoring points with both the boss and his daughter. But almost as soon as he takes residence a litany of guests and lowlifes including his boss’s son tramp through the place doing things that any rational person would never do in someone else’s home. SO very stupid and extremely vile. Unfunny in the extreme.

    Town & Country (2001)-Warren Beatty directed mishmash that sat on the shelf for years and deservedly sank like a stone on release. Just a terrible mess of a movie that has only the most tenacious plot line running through it. Stories are picked up and dropped willy nilly adding up to pretty much nothing. This notorious flop reportedly cost many, many millions of dollars but they certainly don't show on screen. Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn try to do something with their parts although they are ill-served by the script. Everybody else goes down with the ship, poor Charlton Heston and Marian Seldes are made ridiculous in yet another totally needless subplot. A perfect example of a director and studio lucky enough to gather a great group of talent and then squander them totally.

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    1. I had the same reaction when I watched Duck Soup and Dr. Strangelove: this is one of the greatest movies of all-time?

      I haven't seen All About Steve, but all the other Sandra Bullock rom-coms I've seen are crappy, so I don't doubt this one is the same. Actually, I haven't seen any of your picks, purposely avoiding My Boss's Daughter.

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  5. Of your three financials I've only seen Trading Places which is a lot of fun while still remaining clever. I didn't know the basic story of Drag Me to Hell only that it didn't seem like my kind of flick. Now that I know it has an actual plot it still doesn't seem like my kind of flick but it's a nice out of the main pick. I'm very variable on Scorsese, when he makes something I like-The Aviator, Shutter Island, New York, New York-I really enjoy them but more often than not I'm not a fan. The thing that's kept me from Wolf of Wall Street is its famed excessive swearing which is a pet peeve of mine. I'm not offended by swearing either in life or film but when it's taken to an extreme as MS has a tendency to do it takes me out of the film and pisses me off. It's laziness on the part of the scriptwriter that he can't find a more creative way to express his thoughts.

    I really don't know too much about the world of finance but I do enjoy films set in that world as long as their not too opaque so I decide to decade hop about with my trio.

    Margin Call (2011)-When the head of risk management (Stanley Tucci) of a large Wall Street firm is unexpectedly laid off he tries to alert someone in the company of the project he was in the midst of that showed troubling evidence of an incipient mass failing of many money markets. He is met with total indifference so on his way out the door he hands the info to one of his assistants who is staying (Zachary Quinto). Intrigued at first and then dumbfounded by what he discovers he finally manages to attract the attention of the higher ups. As a series of late night conferences take place the dawning revelation becomes apparent that a global financial meltdown is set to occur and there is not a damn thing that can stop it. A well-directed look at the immediate lead up to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Working Girl (1988)-Mike Nichols directed comedy about ambitious Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith-never more appealing) who despite her college degree and keen intelligence has trouble getting ahead. She goes to work as secretary to Ivy League Katharine Parker (a priceless Sigourney Weaver) in mergers and acquisitions at a large Wall Street investment bank. Lulled into a false sense of security when Katharine seems to extend a helping hand she tells her a provocative idea for a merger that she’s come up with. Katharine without a shred of shame steals the idea behind her back. When circumstances allow Tess to become aware of the duplicity she uses subterfuge teaming with the unaware Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford-sprightly and relaxed) to bring the plan to fruition for herself. All does not go as planned. One of the rare comedies about the financial world that works.

    The Crash (1932)-Racy pre-code about Geoffrey and Linda Gault (George Brent & Ruth Chatterton-married in real life at the time), a rapacious couple who go to great lengths to accumulate wealth on the stock market up to and including Geoffrey encouraging Linda to pimp herself out for tips that can add to their fortune. She goes along because she can’t bear the thought of returning to the poverty of her youth. However when Geoffrey angers her with a request, she picks the precisely wrong time to hand him bad information and they are wiped out in the stock market crash of ’29. Staying together in name only while he tries to pick up the pieces she, haunted by her fears, continues to have gentleman friends who give her expensive things until a turning point is reached. Brief (only 58 minutes) and candid with a frankness that would vanish for decades with the implementation of the Production Code the next year.

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    1. Scorsese definitely doesn't shy away from swearing, and yes, there's plenty of it in The Wolf of Wall Street.

      Margin Call and Working Girl are both excellent. I haven't seen the latter in quite some time, though. Probably time for a revisit. I've never seen The Crash, at all. Sounds very interesting. I'm so curious what Hollywood movies in the 30s, 40s, and 50s would've looked like had The Code not existed.

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  6. I suspect it will come as no shock to you knowing my indifference to animation that I've only seen one of your picks for that theme. Hell I'm surprised I've seen one! But Heavy Metal was such a thing when I was younger I had to check it out. I didn't hate it mostly because of the music but it's not something I return to. Of your others the last two seem serious minded things so maybe some day but I wouldn't put money on that.

    This was super tough and I almost sat out the week since I could only come up with my first choice that I actually liked but I had two films that I'd often considered watching but hadn't gotten too so I made a point of doing so. Well that bite me in the butt since I absolutely hated both!!! But I used them nonetheless so it wasn't a total waste of my time.

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)-Schlubby private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) a cartoon producer to investigate an adultery scandal involving Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), who isn’t bad she’s just drawn that way, wife of Maroon's biggest star, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer). Things heat up even more when owner of Toontown Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), Jessica's supposed lover, is found murdered, the evil Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) vows to catch and destroy Roger. Excellent blend of animation and actors with Kathleen Turner by way of Veronica Lake doing sensational voice work.

    Cool World (1992)-A prisoner Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) has created a comic book universe from his cell and one day finds himself sucked into it where he discovered not only another trapped human Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) but his lascivious creation Holli Would (Kim Basinger) who tries to entice Jack by ANY means so that she can cross over to the human world and with her a Pandora’s Box of cartoon depravity. Ugly leering film of value only to see Pitt working his way up.

    A Scanner Darkly (2006)-Stupid hodgepodge about an undercover cop trying to bust a drug cartel but coming under the influence of the drug he becomes a test subject himself…or something like that. The hook here is that the movie was filmed with actors (Keanu Reeves, Wynona Ryder and Woody Harrelson among them) and then retro scoped with animation. It wasn’t worth it, all concept and little entertainment.

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    1. My last two picks are definitely serious-minded flicks. I hope you give them a try, one day. I'm a big fan of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I've seen A Scanner Darkly, but it didn't do much for me, a meh experience. For some reason, people love it. Haven't seen Cool World, but I will, one of these days.

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  7. Well, I can definitely agree with you on Trainwreck. Not funny at all. Amy Schumer is repulsive.

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    1. I don't hate Schumer like some do, but this movie did nothing for me.

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  8. You did catch up! I was sorely lacking with the adult animation but you more than made up for it. What is interesting is that nobody but you picked the animated Batman movies. We match with Trading Places-I love that film and thought it was great. I didn't see your second film but i saw Wolf and that is another match except that I hated it! The way you think about Duck Soup is what i think about Wolf and I can't stand Jonah Hill. As for Duck Soup...I love it! You are right...one has to love the Marx Bros and I do. I also love A Night at the Opera which is my fav of their films and A Day at the Races. I still have to see Dr. Strangelove so I can't say if I will love it but I do love satire.... As for Trainwreck. For some reason, I have no desire to see this flick. I don't like the comedian and I don't find her that funny so....that will be a miss on my part

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    1. Yay, love for Trading Places! The Marx Brothers are definitely not my thing. God bless those of you that love them. I like satire also, but Dr. Strangelove just didn't work for me. Curious to see your take on it.

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  9. Ooh, somebody else who doesn't share the love for Dr. Strangelove, although in my case, it's due to Sellers' portrayal of Stranglove in the last act, where the movie goes off the rails. I actually picked a different Sellers movie this week, The Party.

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    1. That's a good a reason as mine, though I liked Sellers in this.

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  10. You squeezed so much into one post! Drag me to Hell had the most obvious twist I've ever seen in a movie. Enjoyable film overall. Waltz with Bashir had such a powerful ending

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    1. Correction: everything about Waltz with Bashir is powerful.

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  11. Very true. But that ending went right to my soul. It left me speechless.

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  12. I tried Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb a long time ago...didn't get very far.

    Tried again late last year some time before November and totally get it then...it was funny. I say give it one more go.

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    1. I've already tried it several times. Doubt I'll be going to that well again anytime soon.

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  13. "Every joke springboards off Groucho's eyebrows into an abyss of lameness"...Ha ha! I love that so much. I didn't even make it through Trainwreck. I agree with you completely. As a woman--LOL--I don't feel the least bit empowered by seeing a woman treat everybody around her like sh*t.

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