Showing posts with label comedy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comedy. Show all posts

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Monday (2018) Packs A Big Punch For The Short Film Circuit

Sometimes it's not the budget that makes a short film good, it's the production team rallying behind it that counts. Following in director Robert Rodriguez's footsteps, independent filmmaker Alejandro Montoya Marin participated on El Rey's network show Rebel Without A Crew where creators banded together to create an original film. Armed with $7,000, no crew, two days to prep and fourteen days to film his project, Marin creates a fun action movie reminiscent of today's blockbusters.

Jim (Jamie H. Jung)'s life is about to change in the worst ways when he loses his job and his girlfriend gives up on their relationship. Caught in the crossfire of two hit women aiming to take down a drug cartel, Jim is on the run for his life and standing up for himself once and for all.

As the story counts down Jim's day starting off as bad as it can be and only getting more bleak and chaotic from there, what Martin and the cast were able to put together in such a short amount of time shines. Each actor has a fitting on-screen presence for their characters and working well as an ensemble. It's difficult to single out any singular actor in particular, but Kenneth McGlothin exudes a perfect big personality as Jim's friend Paul and Anna Schatte/Sofia Embid have a commanding, intimidating bad-ass presence as the hit women at odds with each other's plans. But the entire cast has good comedic timing and offers solid reminders of similar action-comedies like Horrible BossesThe Other Guys or 21 Jump Street . It's also worth it to stay through the end credits for bloopers and a post-story catch-up with Jim's old business acquaintance.

Monday showcases a lot of potential for Marin as a filmmaker. The story trails in the footsteps of comedies and action movies that you would see today with leading stars like The Rock or Kevin Hart. His direction is seamless, especially with the sound editing adding clever bytes for specific lines of dialogue and an energetic soundtrack. As the writer of the film too, there's a real sense of love for film-making with Marin's clever dialogue and nods to pop culture. The only slight stumbles are a few one-liners that feel random and out of place. However, it's tough to imagine how much of a rush the production must have been to work together, but the limitations doesn't show in the slightest. For a film that only runs an hour long, there's a lot to unpack and it makes for a fun Friday night short film to check out. Hopefully it's the start of bigger and better films to come for everyone.

Please Note: I was provided with a screener of this movie in exchange for an honest review. Monday premieres on the El Rey network on Feb 18 at 10 EST and will be available video-on-demand. You can currently watch Rebel Without A Crew on El Rey and Alejandro is getting ready for his next project on IndieGogo.

Rating: ★★☆

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Watch On Netflix: Set It Up (2018)

For the past several years, romantic comedies haven't flourished like they used to. Gone are the days where one quirky love story after another swept us off our feet and dominated the box office. While The Big Sick and Love, Simon have recently become beloved favorites, regular hits seem few and far between. After significant word-of-mouth through social media, there might be some hope left for the ol' harmless genre with Netflix's Set It Up

Two hardworking assistants Harper and Charlie (Zoey Deutch and Glenn Powell, respectively) are anxious to live a normal life outside of the office and enjoy more free time to themselves. To get a much-needed break and reconnect with neglected aspirations/relationships, they decide to secretly set up their bosses Kristen (Lucy Liu) and Rick (Taye Diggs) for a quick hook-up that might just become the real deal.

Fascinatingly, Set It Up is not entirely different than most 'chick flicks' you'd find on the Hallmark channel - which isn't an insult to Netflix's surprise hit at all. Like all rom-coms, the story is a bit of a fairy-tale and more happy-go-lucky than real life fails to be; there's cutesy montages, sappy quotes about what it means to fall in love, a dance-party-Spotify-worthy songlist. Drawing on elements of what's worked in the past for the genre - heartwarming characters, the right cast, and a joyful setting - director Claire Scanlon and writer by Katie Silberman revive the rom-com wheel to create a funny and light-hearted movie night and a big hit online.

Where the movie truly shines is the leads. Zoey Deutch charms the hell out of her role as Harper, an awkward, dorky 'insert foot into mouth' aspiring writer who's become too comfortable filling out her boss's requests in order to take a leap of faith and combine her love of words and sports into a different career. (Something I relate with all too well, fyi). Glen Powell is the perfect counterpart as Charlie, a likeable guy-next-door who puts up with his hotshot boss in order to be promoted and live the high-life, but in getting everything he wants, he might inadvertently fall down the same loveless path Rick's on. As a pair they truly steal the show, wonderfully alienating each other until they fall in love as we fall in love with them.

As for Harper and Charlies' bosses, the script for both Kristen and Rick isn't horrible but could be a bit stronger. There's simply more to love about Lucy Liu's performance and wardrobe than Taye Diggs's. The former's boss-from-hell is fierce, independent, and demanding yet as down-to-earth-as possible, while the latter's quite one-sided and doesn't put his charisma to good use. Though Diggs is typically wonderful in everything he does, his character is less of a perfectionist womanizer with a heart of gold underneath, and more of a spoiled tantrum-thrower with shades of decency thrown in. While the rest of the cast has a sense of humor tailored to them (Harper's sarcastic/clever, Charlie's dry, Kristen's sharp), Rick's one-liners are so random they'll require a double-take. Additionally, Kristen/Rick's initial run-in can only be described as awkward, in comparison to the rest of the movie that's quite subtle and wholesome. While Rick's faults goes to the writing more than the actor, everyone blends together quite smoothly; Liu has a lot more to work with here (she might even get her own sequel), but with Diggs, they manage to exude 'will-they-or-won't-they' chemistry as well as Deutch and Powell.

The most refreshing aspect about Set It Up might be how it avoids falling into tropes with its characters, especially its heroine. The script, and Deutch, have a great time with Harper as a hard-working and dorky-to-the-max protagonist, and also showing that she hasn't had a lot of romantic partners but that doesn't necessarily define. Charlie, who thinks he's quite the ladies man, doesn't try to change her personality or looks to improve her life. Their relationship starts out as strangers who want the same things, which develops into a relateable friendship and something more. There's no man-boys forcing women to be something they're not (looking at you Judd Apatow) or a girl being forced to choose between work and love (looking at you...every other rom-com ever); all of the characters are on equal playing fields. As Netflix churns out feel-good flicks left and right, this one's reminiscent of traditional romantic movies that are thoroughly missed.

Set It Up might not be the most original romantic comedy, but sometimes that's the best kind of escape; girl and boy meet; for the most part get along and wear their 'friendship blinders' until they discover what they've been missing: each other. The movie has a lot to love just the way it is. With a great cast and delightful setting, it's genuinely worth a watch or two.

Have you seen Set It Up? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where Did All The Rom-Coms Go?

Similar to studios releasing horrow movies into theaters at New Years or summer instead of autumn, romantic comedies aren’t limited to February. But it’s strange for Cupid’s month to shine to roll around, and there isn’t the bundle of swoony-worthy films to have a girls’ weekend or single’s dalliance at the theaters. In fact, looking at 2017, only a handful of romance-centered movies are coming out either in theaters or a streaming service like Netflix all year around let alone the month where love and companionship is on full-display. Which makes me ask: where did all the rom-coms go?

While pondering and researching about recent releases at home and theaters, I reasoned my inability to find this genre to my own personal tastes around this particular genre. I like to be swept off of my feet, but prefer rom-coms where the characters and stories are not just about filling a 'swooning' quota, but are genuinely well-rounded stories. My favorites run the lines between You've Got Mail and  Bridget Jones’s Diary to sweeping epics like Titanic and Pride and Prejudice - basically picks where I don't have to add "Yes I know it's just a romance movie".

In looking back on newer films in 2016, I realized the grand sum of what I saw was two films: How To Be Single, a hot mess about three women learning to be single by not being single, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which pits Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy against the zombie apocalypse where there is as much brain-splatter as there is sultry chemistry. But neither of these typically fit the usual tropes of chick flicks – women being saved by men, women traveling the world to get away from men only to fall in love, women balancing men versus work, or motherhood, or staving off against other women, and I was hard-pressed to think of more recent, similar movies that fell in line with the genre’s stereotypes.

This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with movies where women are swept off of their feet. We escape from real life in many ways, and surely, one of them is to have an amazing designer wardrobe, high-profile job, and Mr. or Mrs. Right, especially in the form of our celebrity crushes. The genre isn’t limited to women only wanting to fall in love and has strongly transformed into lifestyle movies for women. Over the past several years, the amount of these movies released during any time of the year has decreased whether released online or theaters, and also how much they bank at the box office, is quite surprising. Considering some of the biggest money makers or influential actresses over the past few years, women flocked to theaters to see many different types of movies:

The Devil Wears Prada put Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt on the map as assistants to a powerful fashion magazine editor played by Meryl Streep. The movie focuses on the duo getting ahead in their careers and the double standards of female bosses versus men.

Magic Mike flipped the tables on women as the typical eye-candy by turning Hollywood’s hottest ab-actors like Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey into strippers.

Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Bryne, and, was the female answer to The Hangover, where competition between a maid-of-honor and a bridesmaid causes chaos before a friend’s wedding.

Thanks to the likes of comedians like Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, and Kristen Wiig, women have slightly moved into the comedy genre in movies where their characters purely bring on the laughs instead of the love. Other actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts have grown out of the  'American Sweethearts' image to take on more mature, complicated roles.

More subtly, other types of movies focusing on relationships, love or singledom were independent movies, focused on heartbreak more than the swooning phase, or took on topical social issues: A broken marriage was torn to pieces with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s characters in Blue Valentine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt went through the complicated seasons of love to co-star Zooey Deschanel in the indie 500 Days of Summer. If there are movies about single women, they might take on more topical issues like Obvious Child, where a comedian faces having an abortion after a one-night stand.

The face of romantic comedies has gradually changed into dramedies or dramas.

Just as moviegoers want to see more dynamic women in science-fiction, fantasy, and action, women in romance have to closely resemble real women living next-to-normal lives. Including, characters who just don’t want to be completed by someone else (usually of different genders), but characters who befriend other women without being enemies or fighting over the same guy, feature LGBTQ couples and minorities, like Imagine Me And You, Blue is the Warmest ColorCarol and Moonlight.

The romance genre hasn’t necessarily gone anywhere – just that the ones we're used to are on a break. To have any sort of comeback at all, the genre has to become smarter, well-rounded, and inclusive.

What do you guys think? Do you miss rom-coms? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How To Be Single (2016) fails to tap into singlehood potential

How To Be Single movie review Oh So Geeky blog
Photo Credit: How To Be Single / Warner Bros Pictures
February is a go-to month for Hollywood to release movies about love and relationships. Taking a break from the Nicholas Sparks' norm, and truly awesome Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaptation, was a more modern comedy How To Be Single starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, and Leslie Mann.

Putting her long-term relationship on pause to ensure no part of her own identity is left untapped Alice (Dakota Johnson) explores the freedom of being single. Helping her navigate a new world of flirtation and one-night-stands is a workaholic sister Meg (Leslie Mann) recognizing her desire for motherhood, and Robin (Rebel Wilson), a non-stop partying and unfiltered coworker.

How To Be Single is more funny than romantic, and the credit goes to its leading ladies.

Johnson had a tremendous breakthrough last year 50 Shades of Grey, and she's steadily establishing herself as a versatile and natural talent. So many women have been in Alice's shoes - single and going through all the wrong relationships to figure out what she really wants? She really gives a nice protagonist to relate to and root for. On top of that, Johnson is endearing and has a natural quiet nature, which organically bounces off of Wilsons' wild ways.

Speaking of which, the surrounding cast lends a nice camaraderie. Wilson, whose built up an impressive persona as a genuinely funny and blunt best friend, gives the most eccentric performance. It's always funny to see her take physical comedy to new heights without it being over-the-top or see her on-screen personality become too annoying. Also, Mann has become a veteran of this genre, making well-rounded characters in the midst of modern-day mayhem of man-boy husbands/boyfriends. Here it's nice to see her as a single lady wanting a different future for herself with kids that may or may not be without a man. The women in the film are first independent, and second seeking a substantial relationship. Though I'd say Wilson provides most of the laugh-out-loud, everyone lends to the film's upbeat nature.
"If Tom texts you wait four hours to respond.
And if you use an emoji I will tit-punch you."
As much as I liked How To Be Single for the cast and overall message, it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend. My only qualm is that at face-value the title doesn't fit the story. Alice's relationship going in all the wrong directions takes a bit too much of the running time.

In fact, Meg at one point shades entertainment like Sex and the City because they focus too much on self-proclaimed single independent women spending all their time hunting down men and depending on their love for validation. Though Alice is given a bit more of a try-and-try-again way of finding what's right for her, How To Be Single does too much of the same SATC thing. Her attempt to understand singlehood by being in relationships almost usurps her actual singlehood.

What I liked the most is that it's not a romantic comedy pushing an agenda - like the regular guy who can't get a girl yearning to just sleep with the girl-next-door but not really appreciate her, or women "daring" to try to balance it all, etc. Instead, How To Be Single feels quite judgement-free, which is perhaps the film's greatest strength next to the cast. Alice, Robin, and Meg provide different layers of what women in want and aren't shoved into boxes that don't work for them.

The women and men aren't harshly judged for their approach in relationships. You can be single and party the hell out of life. You can be single for most of your life and realize that’s not something you want anymore. You can commit to someone/not enjoy one-night-stands but not lose sight of yourself as an individual. The film doesn't cap a limit on what it means to be single i.e. if you are a lone person, you are not automatically sad, anti-social, or an old maid waiting to be discovered half-eaten by ravaged dogs a la Bridget Jones' worst fears. There's no right or wrong way to be single or in relationships. That in itself is refreshing, even if some of the movie's qualities have been done before.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen How To Be Single? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Park City (2015)

Indie film "Hearts and Cash" is about to debut at Sundance film festival. Diva and lead actress Jill, slacker production assistant Dave, amateur director Jim, and ambitious producer Hannah Rosner document their raucous road trip from Santa Monica, California to Park City, Utah. Things start off on the wrong foot from the get-go; their car runs out of gas. If anything can happen, it does.

Once on the road again and finally landing at Sundance, their obstacles only rev up. Ready for hard-earned success to finally pay off, their adventure takes a turn for the worst when their only 35mm film print is lost a few hours before their world premiere.

Park City is a smart comedic exploration on a young filmmaker's attempt of trying to open their work up to more audiences and take friendly jabs at the chaotic world known as show business. It was in fact this approach that I was led to watch this through a private screening.

The approaching premiere at Sundance and the film getting lost is much less about Rosner's team racing against the clock. More strongly, it lays the foundation of Who Dun What. Dividing the film between footage captured during their wild weekend and commentary by the cast, the premise not only makes good for comedic affect but successfully puts over the vibe of the film's mockumentary style.

The premise and film not only appeals to aspiring film makers and lovers who are familiar with the disorderly yet exciting world of film making, but anyone who loves a good laugh over the obstacles that surprise us when we least need them to. Inspired by her own personal experiences at Sundance and blending together the brazen comedy of The Hangover, Rosner's first feature film spotlights a sharp script, and a talented yet novice group of actors who deliver exceptional comedic and empathetic performances.

After winning the audience award at the United Film Festival in Chicago, Rosner and her eclectic group of co-stars have nowhere to go except up. Check out the trailer for Park City here and its official website. Also now available on iTunes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Photo Credit: Drop Dead Gorgeous / New Line Cinema
Forget Mean Girls and it's oh-so-popular quotes. For a movie dealing with high school cliques, it's good...but as my favorite teen movie dealing with teenage culture, specifically young women, nothing compares to the dark, twisted comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous.

In Minnesota, if you are a male high school student, your options of escaping this small town is through prison or hockey scholarships. If "you're seventeen, a girl, and not a total fry", the Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant is just what you do. For this year's festivities on display in this faux documentary, a Hollywood camera crew follows the making of the pageant, where contestants are mysteriously killed off.

Starring Kirsten Dunst as an underdog contestant living in a trailer with her chain-smoking mom (Ellen Barkin), this young teen endears the hearts of everyone she meets. Hardworking and aspiring to be the next Diane Sawyer, she proves to be the main competitor against Rebecca Ann Leeman (Denise Richards); the predicted top dog who lives a comfortable lifestyle as the daughter of the religious pageant committee leader Gladys (Kirstie Alley).

Young adult movies typically deal with themes of feeling like an outcast, falling in love for the first time, or overthrowing a totalitarian government. None of the characters have to contend with being the chosen one. When the documentary delves deeper into the pageant and its history we come across a previous anorexic winner, a creepy peeping tom as a pageant judge, and the not-so-subtle art of jokes poking at ignorant small-town 'Merica. White trash and no holds barred, this 1999 flick is an entire antithesis of your usual coming-of-age entertainment.
I chose Mount Rushmore. 'Cause to live in a country where you can take an ugly old mountain and put faces on it, faces of great Americans who did so much to make our country super great. Well, that makes me Rebecca Leeman, proud to be an American.
Other actresses also must be mentioned. In one of her earliest roles and my favorites, 5-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams once started out showing her comedic side as the slutty aloof cheerleader. Brittany Murphy charms as Lisa Swenson, an enthusiastic daughter who trails her cross-dressing brother to the Big Apple. Veteran actresses also include Ellen Barkin (Amber's boozy mom), Allison Janney (Amber's promiscuous neighbor) and Kirstie Alley (Rebecca's ignorant and spiteful mother). All of the characters could be at face-value looked upon as basic stereotypes but their roles are seriously portrayed with honesty, wit, and intelligence.

If I could elude to my favorite aspect it would most definitely have to be the script. Written by Lona Williams, dialogue is not exactly fitting for today's sense of humor challenged world...yet it is so hard not to quote on a daily basis. I'll be honest to say that I can recite it from beginning to end. The crucial delivery of the story's environment and characters' off-colored humor is only delivered because the film's sense of knowing when it's gone too far and managing to allow these outlandish (mostly ignorant and close-minded people) revolve around each other in bold white-trash craziness.

The film is much more about the basic stereotypes not only in which young teen girls are boxed into in high school but also the superficial world of beauty pageants, its hell-raising competition, and what it means to girls venturing towards something bigger than themselves. On he surface, the movie might seem outlandish, but probing deeper, the movie is hilariously smart.

Mixing the mockumentary style Christopher Guest's cult classics like This Is Spinal Tap, and the environmental atmosphere of Fargo, this cult classic is a comedy that is easily devour able. When most hear a movie about beauty pageants, immediately there are visions of superficiality and the lowered standard women. This turns those ideals back at us so we can be thoroughly entertained. Drop Dead Gorgeous might be wild, twisted, and dark, but its characters, script and timing centered around white trash high school and girl culture is hilarious and drop dead perfect.

Have you seen Drop Dead Gorgeous? What do you think?