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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Another evening, another Campbell Scott movie. In Roger Dodger he plays against type as Roger, a sleazy, womanising ad agency executive in NYC; the film opens with a short scene in a bar after which Roger is unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend Joyce (Isabella Rossellini), who is also his boss. Shortly afterwards his awkward 16 year old nephew Nick turns up in the Big Apple looking for advice from his uncle on how to attract the ladies. What follows is a journey through a NY night out, where Roger introduces Nick to various women and imparts his own brand of wisdom on how to attract and treat ladies. Roger has no respect for women, or indeed for practically anyone. He proudly admits that his job is to make people feel bad about themselves so that they will buy into whatever he is advertising. He is basically an extremely charismatic bastard. He would be easy to hate, but there’s the thing – there are moments, just a few but enough, that you do feel sorry for him. He may not admit it to himself or to anyone else, but we can see that he IS hurt by Joyce finishing their relationship. Campbell Scott is fantastic in this movie because in the hands of a lesser actor, Roger would just be a very one-dimensional character, but there’s clearly more to him somewhere. Kudos also to Jesse Eisenberg, who embodies the nervous, slightly misfit teenager.

It’s a very talky film – lots of lots of dialogue and not an awful lot of action. Roger and Nick drift from scene to scene encountering different women but it’s really all about the words. If action is your thing then this might not be for you, but if you like dialogue-heavy films, then you may enjoy this. I also love films that take place over one night or over one short period of time, and this dilm does exactly that.

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I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages and when I finally got around to it I was not disappointed!

Saint Ralph aka The Miracle of Saint Ralph stars Adam Butcher as the titular character, a 14 year old boy at Catholic school in the 1950s, who has a mother desperately ill in hospital. When a nurse tells him that it will be a miracle if his mom recovers he decides that he will create the miracle that is needed by running and winning the Boston Marathon. One of his teachers, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott, one of my faves) offers to train him against the wishes of the strict headmaster Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent).

Considered to have absolutely no hope when he begins training, Ralph is determined to complete his mission and the local town starts to see his as an embodiment of their hopes and desires and everyone who initially laughed at the idea starts to support him. He also provides a new lease of life to Father Hibbert, who gave up some of his own athletic dreams when he joined the priesthood.

This is such a sweet film, with lots of humorous moments – although it isn’t really a comedy, and lots of poignant moments. All of the main cast are excellent, including Jennifer Tilly as the nurst who looks after Ralph’s mom, and by extension, Ralph himself. Campbell Scott is perfect as the slightly rebellious priest, and I defy anyone to watch this and not end the film with a smile on their face.

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Well well. After over a year of being deprived of live theatre, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to go back to the RSC to see this production of Shakespeare’s shortest and arguably most farcical play. This was set in the newly erected outdoor Garden Theatre, which is just about the sweetest theatre I have been in. It has a capacity of 500, but ticket sales were topped at 310, to allow for social distancing. The weather is always a risk with outdoor performances, but regular groundling visitors to The Globe Theatre are used to coping; in any event we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine on this particular visit.

In essence, The Comedy of Errors features two sets of identical twins – one pair of whom work for the other pair. As children the pairs get separated and one twin from each set ends up with one twin from the other set. When they meet up again as adults – with none of them knowing of the existence of their twin brother, mayhem ensues as they get mistaken for each other. One man’s wife is convinced he has gone off her, one of them is accused of owing money, and there are all sorts of opportunities for both verbal and physical comedy.

The play was updated to give a 1980s feel and look, with scene changes taking place accompanied by a group of four a capella singers, also dressed in 80s clothes.

Part of the challenge must have been to find actors who were sufficiently alike to make the mistaken identities believable, while being different enough for the audience to tell the actors apart. I thought this was achieved perfectly with the two Antiphulos characters (yes, to confuse things further each man has the same name as his twin) being played by Guy Lewis and Rowan Polonski, and the two Dromio characters being played by Jonathan Broadbent and Greg Haiste.

I loved the show, and found myself laughing all the way through – as did the rest of the audience who all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. I hope the cast had as good a time as we did. I have missed live theatre so much during the Covid-19 pandemic and this was the perfect way to celebrate being able to see a show again.

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The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley have been living among humans since the beginning of time, and they quite like it. And despite being theoretical enemies, they quite like each other too. So neither of them really wants the world to end, but yet it must – next Saturday in fact, starting in a little village named Tadfield. Aziraphale and Crowley need to try and stop it, and fast! All this was predicted centuries earlier by Agnes Nutter, a witch who wrote a book of her predictions, and which one of her many descendants lives her life by. That descendant, Anathema Device, decides that she needs to try and stop the oncoming apocalypse.

Meanwhile, due to a clerical mixup, the young anti-Christ has gone missing, which only makes stopping the apocalypse more difficult. Chuck in a Witchfinder General and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse – now riding motorcycles, and with Pollution replacing Pestilence who has becoming large obsolete, and the stage is set for a huge showdown.

Unfortunately this book was a big disappointment to me. Let me say that I am probably not the target audience – I don’t generally like fantasy novels, apart from Stephen King, who is a very different type of writer to either Gaiman or Pratchett. I’ve never ready anything else by either of these two authors, and was largely tempted to buy this book due to the TV adaptation starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen (which I haven’t watched, but was intending to). But I still had high hopes, due to the amount of love for this book, online and offline. Even the man who served me when I bought the book, told me it was his favourite book of all time.

It started off quite well, and there is no doubt that one or both of these authors has a great sense of comedy – I laughed out loud a few times near the beginning and everything seemed to bode well. However, I think it got a bit too convoluted with too many characters, and too much going on, plus it kept jumping around a lot. This is also not the kind of comedy I enjoy – it’s like Monty Python on paper (even Monty Python’s The Life of Brian left me cold), and largely just daft.

So overall, definitely not for me. But if you are thinking of reading it, don’t be put off. This is a widely loved book by two very acclaimed authors, so you might absolutely love it.

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(Audiobook narrated by Alex Tregear)

Imogen is a single mother with a demanding job, who hasn’t had a holiday in years. So when her friend Meredith wins a luxury break in Barcelona, the two of them and their other best friend Nicola decide to take full advantage. After all, Meredith is pregnant, so who knows when they will get the chance again. However, things start to go wrong from the start, with Imogen having to sort out work problems despite being on holiday and coping with her demanding mother’s phone calls. And then there’s Harry – the fellow holidaymaker who is the first man to pique Imogen’s interest since Roberto, the father of her daughter.

I have listened to Jane Costello before and have previously enjoyed her books. Initially I enjoyed this one too, but I must admit that after a while, it started to grate on me somewhat. It is narrated by Imogen, and honestly…I just wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being such a doormat. This woman is on holiday for the first time in several years, and she receives several telephone calls a day from her boss and other colleagues, expecting her to sort out a problem that was not caused by her in the first place!! And she just puts up with it.

Additionally, I had to ask just how many ridiculous mishaps can happen to one person? It made it really hard to believe in the story when embarrassments and clumsy mishaps happened to Imogen time and time again, supposedly for comedic effect.

Anyway the ending was predictable, and well signposted, but I find that’s usually the case with chicklit.

I would listen to more by Jane Costello, but that is based on my previous experience, rather than this particular read. It’s not awful but it’s certainly not great either.

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Walk, Don’t Run was Cary Grant’s last film, and (unbeknown to me prior to watching) is a remake of an earlier film The More The Merrier.

Grant is William Rutland, a British businessman who arrives in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and is unable to find a room to stay. He has arrived two days early, meaning that the hotel room he had booked is not yet available. He finds a room to let in the apartment of a young woman named Christine Eaton (Samantha Eggar). Christine had advertised for a female flatmate but reluctantly agrees to let Rutland stay as she feels it is her patriotic duty. Rutland then invites a young athlete named Steve Davis (Jim Hutton) to also stay at the apartment, in the hope of playing cupid for Christine and Steve.

The two youngsters are very different people but eventually start to get along fairly well. However there are obstacles to their romance, not least Christine’s stuffy diplomat boyfriend Julius Haversack (John Standing).

This film has one major point in it’s favour, that is Cary Grant. Grant himself declined to play a romantic lead at this point in his career as he felt that he was too old to be believable in such a role. He subsequently retired from acting to raise his daughter. In all fairness, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton are also both very good in their roles. The film itself though is ultimately something of a let-down. It’s not bad, but it starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.

Still, as a fan of Cary Grant, that alone makes it worth the watch, so while I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily, I wouldn’t mind if I had to sit down and watch it again.

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One Touch of Venus is a lighthearted romantic comedy starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner, with support from Eve Arden, Tom Conway, Dick Hayes and Olga San Juan.

Walker is Eddie Hatch, a worker in a posh department store who is asked to fix a curtain behind which is a statue of Venus (Gardner). He impulsively kisses the statue and is astonished when Venus comes to life and starts to follow him round. Hatch is already in a relationship with Gloria (San Juan) so chaos and comedy ensue when he tries to keep Gloria and Venus from meeting, while also coming under suspicion from his boss Mr Savory (Conway) who believes that Hatch has stolen the now missing statue.

The 1980s film Mannequin clearly borrowed heavily from this film, and while I enjoyed Mannequin, I think One Touch of Venus is superior. Ava Gardner certainly is goddess-like, and Walker has a gift for physical comedy and they carry the film well together.

San Juan was great supporters were Conway and Dick Hayes (as Hatch’s friend Joe). However Eve Arden, as Mr Savory’s personal assistant stole most of the scenes she was in, with her acerbic and witty comments.

This film had slipped under my radar and I only spotted it by accident. I’m glad I did though, and would recommend it to fans of classic old movies.

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Vivacious Lady stars a young James Stewart as botany professor Peter Morgan and Ginger Rogers as the title character – a nightclub singer named Francey. When Peter and Francey meet, it’s love and first sight and they impulsively get married. However, Peter is then faced with the prospect of telling his conservative parents – not to mention his fiancee Helen! – what he has done. Lots of comedy ensues as he struggles to find the right time, and the couple have to hide their romance.

This film is a sparkling delight from start to finish. James Stewart is just so bloody likeable and sincere in everything he ever did, and Ginger Rogers had perfect comic timing, which made her shine in a hilarious fight scene. Not that she has the monopoly on physical comedy in this film – Stewart’s character getting drunk is terrific (he does a splendid drunken scene two years later in The Philadelphia Story) and there is a wonderful dance scene with Rogers, James Ellison as Peter’s cousin Frank, and Beulah Bondi as Peter’s mother Martha.

With Charles Coburn playing Peter’s father, who takes an instant dislike to Francey, and great turns from Frances Mercer as Helen, this is a great cast who all seem to be enjoying themselves. And this certainly translates to the viewer, because I can’t imagine anyone finishing this film without a smile on their face.

In short, this is called a classic for a very valid reason. If you like films from this genre, then don’t miss this one!

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Nick Hornby has always been what I would call a reliable author, by which I mean that I might not have loved everything he has written, but I have found some enjoyment in everything of his that I have ever read. But actually I did love this book, and think it is his best yet.

Set in the 1960s, it tells of Barbara Parker from Blackpool, who wins the title of Miss Blackpool, promptly decides she doesn’t want it, and heads off to London to realise her dream of becoming a comedienne like her heroine, Lucille Ball.

Before long, Barbara has become Sophie Straw, landed a lead role in a new, successful tv sitcom, and the world – or the UK at least – is at her feet. She becomes part of a close-knit team, with her co-star, writers and director and life is wonderful for a while. But as they grow older and wiser and real life starts to get in the way, they have to rethink just how long the show can continue.

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this book. I liked Sophie so much – she was quick-witted, intelligent and full of fun – and I also liked the team she worked with. The writers, Tony and Bill, both gay men at a time when homosexuality was illegal and both dealing with it in very different ways; the director Dennis, gentle, kind, cuckolded by his awful wife Edith; and co-star Clive, who should have been easy to dislike with his womanising, his unfaithfulness and his professional jealousy, but who nonetheless was charismatic and made me laugh.

Hornby weaves real people in and out of the narrative, and I liked this; the prime minister and Lucille Ball both make an appearance amongst others. The tone is light and humorous, but never superficial. I felt as though 1960s London was brought to life.

Definitely a thumbs up from me for this one – I highly recommend.

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Ghost Town stars Ricky Gervais – in his first Hollywood role – as Bertram Pincus, an irascible, antisocial dentist, who has little interest in other people. However, after a standard hospital operation he suddenly finds that he is able to see ghosts. Everywhere. And they all want something from him. Recently deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) is desperate to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) remarrying, and begs Pincus to help break up her relationship. Pincus agrees merely to get Frank off his back, but starts to realise that not only is Gwen’s finance a decent man, but that Bertram himself is developing feelings for her.

Whether or not you enjoy this film is going to depend largely on whether or not you enjoy watching Ricky Gervais. For my money, he is a superb comedian and I’ve never watched anything he has done without thoroughly enjoying it. He’s irritable but also very relatable and brings pathos to the role of Pincus, especially towards the end of the film. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are also both excellent in their roles. There is a lot of humour to be found here, and when the film ended I had a big smile on my face.

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