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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

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If you’re looking for a film that challenges you, surprises you and throws lots of twists at you…yeah, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. This film is exactly what you’re going to expect it to be, and you’ll know it from the first 20 minutes. BUT, that’s something that you tend to find with rom-coms – it’s not the ending that gets you, it’s the journey that takes you there. And as entertaining journeys go, this one is not half bad. I watched this on a Saturday night, after a busy week, when I wanted something undemanding and not in any way distressing to watch. If that’s what you want too, then this film is ideal.

Former best friends Faye and Lydia (Michele Scarabelli and Jennifer Juniper Angeli) have been at loggerheads for the past ten years, opening rival bakeries in Emeryville, Ohio, and competing against each other in the annual pumpkin pie contest. In the latest contest they decide that their children Casey and Sam (Julie Gonzalo and Eric Aragon) should take over their roles, compete against each other and pass the feud down to the next generation. But Casey and Sam start to fall for each other, and can’t reveal their romance for fear of upsetting their mothers.

I liked the film a lot, because I knew what it was going to be when I started it, and that was exactly what I needed. Yes, it’s predictable and a bit contrived, but it does have a particular charm that kept me watching. Julie Gonzalo was lovely as Casey and I could definitely identify with her lack of culinary skills! Eric Aragon was less convincing as Sam but this didn’t really detract from my enjoyment. What can I say? I like rom-coms, I like knowing what’s going to happen and I like a happy ending.

Overall, an enjoyable but totally unsurprising movie. Perfect for those nights when you want something entertaining that doesn’t take too much brain work!

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Steven R. Monroe

Writer: Nina Weinman

Main cast: Julie Gonzalo, Eric Aragon, Michele Scarabelli, Jennifer-Juniper Angeli

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Hotshot New York City Lawyer Ellen (Alison Sweeney) receives a letter that her late grandmother wanted to be delivered to a man in a sleepy town in Maine. Determined to fulfil her grandmother’s wish Ellen travels to Maine and finds a different way of life, where she learns more about her grandmother’s youth, and more about herself in the process.

Given that this is a Hallmark romance, if you don’t guess the outcome within the first 20 minutes, then I can only assume that you have never seen any romance in your life before! Seriously the ending is completely obviously almost from the beginning, but you know what? It doesn’t detract from the charm of this lovely story.

It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story, although ironically this fish falls into the bay in the first few minutes of the film, and is rescued by handsome local Roy Cumberland (Marc Blucas).

Naturally she and Roy keep running into each other and there is an undeniable attraction, but she has her own boyfriend, a successful young man with political ambitions – not to mention her pushy mother – waiting for her back home. Which way of life will Ellen choose?

What sets this story higher than others of a similar genre is a very likeable cast – I loved Alison Sweeney and Marc Blucas, and I also liked the rest of the locals in Maine (particularly Samantha Ferris as the feisty owner of the inn where Ellen stays during her vacation). Shirley Jones pops up as Alison’s late grandmother – don’t worry this is not a supernatural element, just imagined conversations that Ellen has with her from time to time. The scenery was also gorgeous and quite made me want to get away to the countryside and back to nature for a while.

If you’re not into romantic comedy-dramas, then this film is not for you! But if you want something to make you smile, with a sweet storyline, then give it a whirl, you might be surprised how much you enjoy this one.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Kristoffer Tabori (as K T Donaldson)

Writers: Mary Simses (novel), Melissa Salmons

Main cast: Alison Sweeney, Marc Blucas, Shirley Jones, Samantha Ferris

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Three bored friends, widowed Alexandra (Cher), newly divorced uptight musician Jane (Susan Sarandon) and single mother of five Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) all wish that they could meet an interesting man to shake up their lives in the New England town of Eastwick. Enter the devilishly charming Darryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) who not only shakes up their lives, but causes scandal, gossip throughout the neighbourhood, especially upsetting the devoutly religious Felicia, who is the wife of Sukie’s boss.

Darryl seduces all three women and they all stay at his mansion with him, living a life of decadence but when they realise that the town of Eastwick is gossiping about them and calling them all names, they decide that something needs to be done. And then the trouble really starts…

I remember watching this film when it first came out in 1987, and although I had forgotten some of the details, I do recall thinking that it was a lot of fun and visually spectacular, but all kind of fell apart at the end. And this was more or less my feelings on this occasion too, although to say it fell apart is perhaps a bit harsh. The first two thirds of the film are wonderful – the four main members of the cast are superb, especially Jack Nicholson and Cher, and the colour and lavish production are a treat for the eyes. The last third of the film is possibly a bit overblown – I won’t give away what happens in case of spoilers; it may be a fairly old movie by now, but still people will be watching it for the first time – and visual effects seem to take over from the story itself, but it’s still good fun.

Susan Sarandon seems to thoroughly enjoy her role, and the transformation of Jane from a repressed and nervous woman into a sexually adventurous and sensual lady. Michelle Pfeiffer too plays her part as sweet Sukie very well, but it’s Cher as the bohemian, straight talking Alexandra who stood out for me amongst the three female leads. But Jack Nicholson – a man who was probably born for such a part – steals his scenes. Although he is rude and provocative, he does indeed have a lot of charisma and you can see why these women would be attracted to him.

If you like fantasy with your comedy and this one has slipped under your radar, I recommend it – it’s entertaining and amusing, with a great cast.

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Year of release: 1987

Director: George Miller

Writers: John Updike (novel), Michel Cristofer

Main cast: Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, Richard Jenkins, Veronica Cartwright, Carel Struycken

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In this romcom (actually it’s more of an unrom-com, in that it has the comedy but is not romantic!), struggling writer Josh (Rafe Spall) and high-flyer Nat (Rose Byrne) have a whirlwind romance and get married after seven months. Only then does reality set in and they begin to realise that they don’t know each other that well, and may not be at all compatible. Further complications arise in the shape of Josh’s ex-girlfriend Chloe (Anna Faris) who clearly still loves him, and American businessman Guy (Simon Baker) who has immediate chemistry with Rose when he hires her firm to do some work for him.

There are laughs-a-plenty in this film – and as a warning, if you don’t like crude humour then I’d recommend you avoid this, as there is a lot of crudeness and toilet humour – but as alluded to above, not a whole lot of romance, at least not between the two leads. I did think the main four actors all played their parts remarkably well, even if there was not much chemistry between Josh and Nat. Or maybe that was the point – they seemed to click with other people but not with each other.

Stephen Merchant plays Danny, Josh’s best friend and best man, whose speech at the wedding made me wince with embarrassment, and who always seemed to know exactly the wrong thing to say! Because of this, his scenes were amongst the funniest for me, although possibly amongst the most annoying for some viewers. It’s also worth mentioning Minnie Driver and Jason Flenyng as unhappily married – or are they? – friends of Nat. Minnie Driver has a real talent for comedy and it shows in her acerbic character here. Olivia Colman also shines in her small role as marriage counsellor who obviously has problems in her own relationship!

I won’t spoil the ending but I will say that it was unexpected, and I liked that. Overall, if you are looking for some good belly laughs and an undemanding storyline, then give this a try.

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Dan Mazer

Writer: Dan Mazer

Main cast: Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant

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As it is the season to be jolly (fa-la-la-la-laaaaa-la-la-la-la) I thought I would give this festive comedy a watch. It stars Matthew Broderick as Dr Steve Finch, an uptight but well-meaning family man, who organises Christmas like a military operation in his determination to make sure his children enjoy it. His more laid-back wife Kelly (Kristin Davis) bemusedly but loyally supports his efforts to manufacture new Christmas traditions and his need to control everything.

Trouble starts when new neighbours Buddy and Tia Hall (Danny DeVito and Kristin Chenoweth) and their twin teenage daughters Ashley and Emily (Kelly and Sabrina Aldridge) move into the house across the road. Buddy – in a somewhat ridiculous plot leap – decides to decorate his house with so many Christmas lights that it will be visible from space (literally not metaphorically!)

Naturally the repressed Dr Finch is not overkeen on this idea, nor on the idea of having the loudmouthed and uncouth Buddy as a neighbour, and his attempts to curb Buddy’s project cause a feud of epic proportions. Meanwhile their wives become great friends and are both exasperated at the childish behaviour of their respective husbands.

As I always do when I finish a film (or book or television show) I went to look at what other people thought of it and WOW! – the reviews for this film are pretty brutal! Suffice to say it probably won’t become a Christmas classic…and while it was a bit daft and not as heavy on the laughs as you might hope, it’s not that bad. I actually thought it was a passable way to spend an afternoon, although if you scratch below the surface of the plot it all falls apart pretty quickly. But there were a few moments that made me giggle, and even though I normally dislike seeing houses that are lit like…erm…a Christmas tree, I had to admit that Buddy’s display was nothing if not impressive.

I will say that I thought Matthew Broderick was perhaps miscast. Admittedly he was supposed to be the straight man to DeVito’s comedic character, but I think Broderick might have toppled over into dull, although I love Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth, and of course Danny DeVito is always good for a few laughs. If you don’t mind a bit of daftness, give it a go – you never know, you might enjoy it!

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Year of release: 2006

Director: John Whitesell

Writers: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Don Rhymer

Main cast: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Alia Shawcat, Dylan Blue, Kelly Aldridge, Sabrina Aldridge

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You’ve probably seen Nina Conti on television (f you haven’t, get yourself over to YouTube right now and see what you’ve been missing). She is a very funny ventriloquist whose main (but not only) puppet is the foul mouthed monkey. Monkey was in fact the only puppet she used during this show, unless you count the various members of the audience who she got up on stage and used as life-size puppets, complete with facial masks.

At the top of the show, Nina told the audience that every performance is 90% improvised, and you soon realise that this must be correct, as every audience is different and therefore each night there will be a whole new source of characters. On this particular night, she had a couple who were out with their friend for her birthday on stage, a risk assessor for an insurance company and a Paramedic. Her reaction times to these people are quick and usually hilarious as she makes up the script for them as she goes along, and to be fair they all joined in good-naturedly.

For me however, the funniest parts of an altogether extremely funny performance were when she had Monkey on stage with her…especially when Monkey hosts a Q&A with the audience while Nina herself is in a black bag, and he then fills her in on what was said by the audience.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable evening packed with laughter! Judging by the faces of the rest of the audience as people filed out afterwards, this performance was a great success and I would definitely recommend catching a Nina Conti show live if you get the chance.

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If ever there was a director who polarised audiences, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Some people love his gratuitous swearing and gore, while others detest it. I fall in the former camp – I’ve never seen a Tarantino film I didn’t like, and I think it’s because whatever you think of the visceral way he tell his stories, they are brilliant stories, which I always find myself getting drawn into.

This particular film is set just after the American Civil War. Racist attitudes are rife, crime is high, and life is tough out in the wild West where most of the characters come from. But don’t be fooled – after the opening scenes, showing the journey of some of the characters to Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they seek shelter from a particularly nasty blizzard, all of the action takes place in just one room. It’s a form of storytelling that I particularly enjoy…one location, shot in almost real time.

Anyway the story…the hateful eight of the title consist of John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known as the hangman who is bringing his latest quarry Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee) to the town of Red Rock. He is hoping to claim the $10,000 bounty which has been put on her head; After Daisy herself, there is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) a former Confederate Soldier who is bringing his own bounty to Red Rock for a reward, but unlike Daisy, the two men he captured are dead; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the racist new Sheriff of Red Rock, travelling there to start his new job on the right side of the law; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) a hangman at Red Rock, who informs Daisy that when she hangs for her crimes, he will be the man at the other end of the rope; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a loner cowboy who is heading to see his mother for Christmas; General Smiths (Bruce Dern) a older racist who has come to pay his respects to his long-lost-son; and Bob (Demian Bichir) a man who is in charge of Minnie’s Haberdashery in the owner’s absence. Trapped with them is O.B. (James Parks) who was driving the stagecoach which brought some of the characters to their refuge.

Before long, tensions rise between the characters, many of whom were on opposite sides in the Civil War, and then it becomes apparent that some of the people may be there for an ulterior motive.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot – I went in with a limited knowledge of the storyline and this helped my enjoyment massively. What I will say is that yes, the film is extremely violent and bloody – there’s a lot of swearing and offensive language as well, but it’s also incredibly well told, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. Standout performances for me were from Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and the always wonderful and criminally under-recognised Walton Goggins. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also fascinatingly revolting.

So…if you are squeamish or object to foul language, this may not be the film for you. But if you have previously enjoyed Tarantino, and like dark comedy, definitely give it a try. It’s almost three hours long, but doesn’t feel like it. I loved it and will certainly be watching this again in the future.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Birchi, James Parks

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