Tag Archives: comedy

With the odds stacked against it, I was happily surprised (50/50 – 2011)

An excellent buddy film, enjoyably comedic with seriousness becoming of such a dark topic.  Recommended to all age-appropriate audiences.

To my adoring public:

Okay, despite my grotesque amount of soon-to-be-due homework, I decided to go out and see a movie this morning.  That’s right, I love you webizens so much that I’m willing to sacrifice my education so that you can remain an informed movie-going public.  Well, that and I really wanted to see something.  So it was a toss-up between Moneyball and 50/50. 

Now, I had originally planned on seeing Moneyball.  It looks excellent and I’ve never had much faith in Seth Rogen.  However, on the way to the movie theatre, I had a change of heart.  I decided that I had at least ought to make the attempt to remain current, so I chose this week’s major release.  Ergo, today we’re looking at 50/50.

Now, a brief point before I begin, I’m moving away from the good-bad-ugly format.  It seems too rote for art and thereby limiting the message I can convey or forcing me to make points where I don’t feel they’re relevant.  So we’re just going to roll through this thing freely.  Let’s get started:

The best place to start is where I had the least faith.  Seth Rogen plays a surprisingly enjoyable character, Adam’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) friend, Kyle.  Despite being a repeat of the obnoxious frat boy we’re accustomed to, the character grows more appreciably serious towards the end.  The exemplary friend, though thickly veiled by the boisterous exterior, is both alluded to and later evidenced by the way he deals with the final moments preceding and following Adam’s surgery.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though not as enjoyable as his role in Inception, performed well in his character, Adam Lerner.  Acting as a real cancer patient cycling through periods of numbness, anger, and depression, he puts up a believable face in spite of the heavy comedic influences.  Standing out firmly from the rest of the film is the scene in which Adam has a nervous breakdown in Kyle’s car.  Gordon-Levitt thrashes about a bit, but makes the scene truly memorable with an incredibly startling and primal scream. 

The plot of this film (cue Tom’s rant on the writing) was actually excellent.  I went in without expecting much and was taken aback by how enjoyable and true the character development seemed to be.  With Adam progressing through the stages of grief, a young psychiatrist learning her technique, and the friends and family attempting to cope (in many different ways) with the possibility of losing Adam to cancer, it’s both a simple and implicitly complex tale.  Still, it easily wraps itself up at the end, leaving only a few unanswered questions, those these are easily dismissed for what we’re shown.

That’s not to say that this film was perfect.  The blossoming of the relationship between Adam and his psychiatrist, Katie (Anna Kendrick), seems unlikely and added only for the movie to end on a more enjoyable note.  Scenes with the cheating ex-girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard), are grossly foreshadowing their impending break-up and then over-the-top in Adam’s cathartic revenge.

However, despite it’s minor problems, the film did well.  Something as off as old men eating cookies laced with marijuana, though at first seeming uninspired, actually goes on to surprise as one of their deaths proves a major  emotional turning point for Adam.  This reality mixed with the fantasy go on to give the film a great balance and leads me to recommend 50/50 to anybody who enjoys dark comedies and playful dramas.

FRIGHT NIGHT

Well, it’s been at least two weeks since I last reviewed a film in theaters.  And now, nearly a week after having seen it, and more than a week since it was released, I’d like to tell you what I thought about Fright Night.

THE GOOD

All of the characters in this comedic horror film were very funny.  The actors were completely believable in their roles and no suspension of disbelief was required in accepting that the characters portrayed could be real people.  (Oftentimes, comedies present you with a number of strawman characters because it’s easy to make them do funny things.  This film employed real personalities whose comedic value were brought about by situational humor and witty dialogue, comedy that I value highly.)  Favorite actors were Colin Farrell and David Tennant as the former portrayed a modern-day vampire as I’d hoped and the latter as being a stupendously ridiculous character, yet still acceptable as a human being.

Beyond the characters, I was a fan of the story.  In my many years, I never got around to seeing the original Fright Night, and have no immediate plans to do so.  (I find that watching original films, after impressive remakes, usually leaves me disappointed in the quality of the original.)  So I can only speak of the most recent Fright Night and commend it for both portraying vampires in a way that I can appreciate (take that Twilight), and for being clever with what a vampire entails.  Aside from the standard, goes out only at night and avoids garlic omelets, the Fright Night vampire, Jerry, is clever about his host city (Las Vegas), the construction of his house , and the way he works.

THE BAD

This movie only suffers when it attempts to reinforce itself.  Truly, it’s almost a curse of humility where the writers, director, and special effects staff must’ve thought they’d not produced a funny enough film so they had to go above and beyond.  In that pursuit, we find a scene reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London, in which our protagonist’s friend is turned into a vampire and is nearly decapitated after losing an arm.  But he remains alive, so now our protagonist is attacked by a one-armed, head hanging vampire that now not only reminds me of the zombie from AWIL, but the Black Knight from Monty Python.  ‘Tis merely a flesh wound. 

THE UGLY

My sole qualm belonging in this section is the special effects work done in this film.  Blood effects seem overdone and Jerry’s transformation in times of extreme physical threat is a bit off-putting, with the transformed image looking poor in comparison to everything around him.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was a greatly enjoyable film.  Though it is no cinematic masterpiece, it will likely become a modern cult classic, succeeding its predecessor.  I recommend this film as a comedy more than anything else because that’s what it did best.  It has mild thriller elements and a classic monster story, but you’ll probably want to see it for the laughs more than anything else.  (Well, the laughs and the scene in which our protagonist lights himself on fire to grapple with Jerry.  That was brilliant.)

A TRANSVESTITE WIN (REVIEW OF TOOTSIE)

For the uninformed, I have a cinematic curse following my romantic relationships.  My first date is invariably to see a movie (don’t judge me, I want a girl who enjoys film) and I let the woman choose the title.  Before Cate, my previous girlfriend chose the film He’s Just Not That Into You.  (While the film didn’t hold any significant message for our relationship, it was a foreboding experience).  As I said in an earlier entry, Cate and I saw Bad Teacher.  While not breaming with negative connotations, it was far from my favorite film. 

Now, what does this have to do with a film that was released before my birth?  (It’s nearly thirty years old, having been released in 1982.)  Well, on our second date, after watching X-Men: First Class (for my fourth time), we went back to her house and watched Tootsie, a surprisingly enjoyable film about an actor cross-dressing to find work.  I say surprising because often cross-dressing comedies are just slightly better than those employing solely sexual and scatological jokes.  In this case however, the characters are believable (enough) and you’re quickly drawn into their drama. 

Now, while the film was good, it deserves a longer review than what I mentioned above.  Let’s get started.

THE GOOD

I’ll try not to start by praise the writing as I have in earlier posts, so I’ll start with the acting.  While there was a small cast and they all performed admirably, the acting of Dustin Hoffman was far above my expectations.  Unlike many other films using a transvestite as a major, comedic plot device, Hoffman’s characters (both male and female) serve to bring drama in along with the laughter.  Furthermore, this film requires a much less severe suspension of disbelief than other films with similar stories.  (In layman’s terms, Hoffman is a rather convincing woman.)

Aside from Hoffman’s impressive ability to portray both sexes, what did I enjoy from this film?  If I’m writing positively, it must be the writing.  And more specifically, the dialogue.  The film revolves around Hoffman’s most recent acting gig, a recurring role on a daytime soap opera.  The stereotypical cheesiness of the soap’s dialogue provides an excellent juxtaposition to the dialogue and acting off the set.  The weaknesses of the former serve to emphasize the clever word exchanges between cast members and the excellently pithy one-liners of Bill Murray.

THE BAD

While the suspension of disbelief was minimal for Hoffman’s female character, the same cannot be said for his/her romantic suitors.  Throughout the film, his female character (Dorothy) is courted by two men, a cast member from the soap opera (John Van Horn, played by George Gaynes) and the widowed father of a friend (Les, played by Charles Durning).  The former fails because his character is purely comical and his advances simply grotesque.  The latter fails for being a dim-witted character, knowing Dorothy for a week before proposing to her.  I detested the first for being a stupidly simple character, and the second for simply being stupid.

THE UGLY

The only note that may strike an off chord with some viewers is that the conclusion doesn’t satisfy all of the possible plotlines that were begun throughout the film.  The most notable of these is that Hoffman’s male character never truly solves his romantic issues, though it concludes with he and his current interest walking home on good terms.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The film is most enjoyable and worthy of multiple viewings.  It’s a light comedy with dramatic and romantic aspects.  Altogether, I thoroughly recommend that anybody watch this film at least once.

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