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

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Courtney Gets Possessed (2023)

In Sickness and In Hell.”
Melting ice sculptures. Sibling rivalries. A mother’s cringe-worthy honeymoon advice. Plenty of mishaps can and will throw off a bride’s special day. Perhaps nothing more can cause such damage than when an ex-flame shows up out of nowhere and that ex just happens to be….Dave. Also known as Satan.

The horror of tying the knot has never been so much fun than in director and writer combo Jono Mitchell and Madison Hatfield’s latest film Courtney Gets Possessed.

When soon-to-be-newlywed Courtney (Lauren Bugioli) becomes possessed by Dave (Jonathon Pawlowski), her bridal party – including type A maid of honor Lexi (Aditi George), jealous sister Caitlin (Madison Hatfield), and groom’s disapproving sister Jasmine (Najah Bradley) – race to exorcise Dave out of the picture for good before he makes their beloved friend tie the cursed knot for all eternity.

Following in the footsteps of famed classic The Exorcism and hit-comedy Bridesmaids, Mitchell and Hatfield captures both the anticipation and joy of such an occasion as a wedding. Using a limited setting in the characters’ main home, there’s tremendous attention to detail with the production from the neon lighting design that evokes both hell and a rave to the 80s synth theme score composed by Jordan Benett. The film manages to break the limitations of independent features to capture the essence of major studio flick – it never feels entirely claustrophobic with clever cinematography by Brett A. Frager that moves the story forward from room to room. 

As the panicked attendees take the DIY approach to get their friend back, the direction paces the unexpected bloodshed with wry humor. When a large ensemble shares sufficient scream-time and mic-drop jokes, many films stumble in losing sight of the story to capture all of the players at work and vice versa. In contrast, Courtney Gets Possessed allows Bugioli to offer a stellar leading performance with a double-take between Courtney and as Dave, but never dilutes the supporting cast into mere reinforcements. Each character leads as a star in their own right – Madison Hatfield masking Caitlin’s sarcasm with self-doubt and envy, Jonathon Pawlowski’s mischievous devilry as Dave/Satan, Najah Bradley’s Jasmine heartfelt protectiveness over her brother and charismatic bait Zae Jordan Glen, Aditi George’s spinning Lexi’s perfectionism into nerdy endearment, Steve Reddington’s blusters of expletives will live in my head rent-free – to name a few. It's difficult to point out one performance over another, speaking to how evenly focused the directors were to both the plot and characters.

Performing a cover of boy band hits and delving into sibling rivalries while performing a How To: Exorcise The Devil can only be carried on with verve if trust is infused by the directors and carried on by the actors. As the characters feel the pressure to save Courtney while peeking at the Prince of Darkness’s Wikipedia and throwing together impromptu internet-ordained exorcisms, Hatfield and Mitchell maintain a steady confidence over their inspiration from cinema and wedding season. While there are notable homages and nods to classic demonic possession movies, the duo at the helm put their own confident stamp on both comedy and horror. Even though every day is a good day for an exorcism for some – for others, not so much. But Courtney Gets Possessed certainly makes a must-watch good case for it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Note: I was provided with a screener to provide this review. Be sure to check out Courtney Gets Possessed - available on digital and demand November 3rd.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Clover (2020) Entertains the Dubious Nature of Luck in the Mob Genre

clover movie review 2020
In the gritty world of mobsters, there’s the hunter and the prey. A hierarchy of crime bosses rule the roost while their henchmen or women, loaners, and sharks must obey pecking order to survive. Step one toe out of line and the whole business descends into chaos. This is something two hapless brothers in Clover learn the hard way.

Mickey (Jon Abrahams) and Jackie (Mark Webber) Callaghan are about to lose the pub that's been in the family for generations. The night before they’re supposed to payback a sizable loan, Jackie loses it all while gambling. When local mobster Tony Davolio (Chazz Palminteri) offers one last opportunity to wipe the slate clean, the siblings must go on the run with a young girl Clover (Nicole Elizabeth Berger) after she accidentally kills Davolio’s son.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Best Damn Comedy and Most Smartest Movie

Young adult movies always explore characters feeling like an outcast, falling in love for the first time, or trying to find their identity outside of school. Grease riffs on the jocks, nerds, and beauties from the 1950s. Mean Girls cleverly explores dysfunctional girl culture in high school. The Perks of Being a Wallflower brings the misfits together in their senior year before college. While I love all of these movies, and many more, my go-to teen flick has and will always be Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Because it was a commercial and critical failure, there’s a chance you might’ve never heard of it. And if you did, there are even more chances that the talk surrounding the movie was about its sense of humor. But it is a dark and twisted comedy that not only do I know better than the back of my hand, but also feels like it deserves some praise, especially on its 20th anniversary.

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. You can currently watch Monday on Apple Itunes.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you watched Monday? What did you think?

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 horror movies into theaters at New Years or Christmas movies in July, romantic comedies haven't been relegated to February releases in several years. But it still has remained a strange mood to adjust to when Cupid's month rolls around and there isn't a bundle of swoon-worthy films to enjoy a girls' weekend or single's dalliance at the theaters. In fact, looking at the next year ahead in 2017, only a handful of romantic-centered movies are coming out in theaters or on a streaming service like Netflix. And the lack of popularity of this once inescapable genre makes me ask: where did all the rom-coms go?

While pondering about recent releases at home and in theaters, I reasoned that my inability to find more options was because my own personal tastes for this genre are limited. Generally, I like to be swept off of my feet, but prefer rom-coms where the characters aren't around to fill a 'swooning' quota, the script offers dynamic dialogue, and the story has something other to offer than just two people falling in love. Mostly, I don't like to watch comedies where guys just ogle the girl-next-door or use women for their own macho rivals with other bros. 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 flicks that could be denounced as a romantic movie at a glance but I'm not compelled to defend its chick flick sensibilities.

In looking back on films in 2016, I realized the grand sum of what I had seen was two: 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.  Even though my own preferred style of rom-coms is limited, I was hard-pressed to find not only rom-coms where the women are swept off their feet but lifestyle movies - where women are as focused on their career and family as they are on their relationships - and came up short. Whether released online or in theaters, around or far-away from Valentine's Day, the genre has slowly started to wither away.

But if rom-coms aren't as popular as they used to be, have they subtly transformed into another genre altogether that we just can't recognize them anymore.

There's nothing inherently wrong about movies where women find the love of their lives. We escape from real life in many ways, and surely, one of them is to have an amazing designer wardrobe, high-profile job, and finding fervent fantasies with Mr and Mrs Right through our celebrity crushes. However, 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, and yet the genre hasn't been able to maintain its previous influence:

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.

Over the years, rom-coms have changed from the inside out. Thanks to the likes of comedians like Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, and Kristen Wiig, women have moved into the comedy genre where their characters purely bring on the laughs instead of the love. Meanwhile, other actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts have grown out of the  'American Sweethearts' image to take on more mature, complicated roles, and more up-and-coming actresses strive for complex roles in indies and dramas than the typical boy-meets-girl route in young adult.

Just as moviegoers want to see more dynamic women in science-fiction, fantasy, and action, women in romance have come to closely resemble real women living next-to-normal lives. More subtly, other types of movies focusing on relationships or singledom have come to the forefront in the form of independent movies focusing on heartbreak or 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; a comedian played by Jenny Slate faces having an abortion after a one-night stand in Obvious Child. And if a film still centers on a women's love life, the dynamics of stories we used to know like the back of our hands have changed: characters aren't limited to just being completed by someone else, women befriend other women without becoming enemies or fighting over the same guy, and are starting to prominently feature LGBTQ couples and minorities.

In asking myself where did the rom-com genre go, I also have to ask how it has changed. It 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 has a natural quiet nature which organically bounces off Wilson's 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 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 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 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.