Tag Archives: comedy

Miracolo a Milano

The theme for week three of the letterboxd dot com challenge was Italian Neorealism. For the uninitiated (which includes me, for example), that is a specific period in post-war Italian cinema that focuses on reality and daily life stories with no heroes. So from the list available, we picked Miracle in Milan, which is pretty much the opposite of those things? I may have done a bad job.

It is also worth noting that, wait, why is it so far past your week two review? The answer is, haha, we’ve been sick and got behind. Hoping to catch up over a few days? We’ll see!

So anyway, this movie is weird[1]. Like really weird. There’s this kid, Totò, who after experiencing a bizarre childhood punctuated by a cabbage patch adoption and multiplication tables, comes out of the orphanage as a relentlessly cheerful and giving adult who immediately finds himself in a homeless encampment[2], and proceeds to organize it into a pretty cozy and happy shantytown. (I haven’t yet gotten to where the movie is especially weird, to be clear, but saying more would go deep into spoiler towne, whose inhabitants are far less cheerful a bunch than these were.)

I guess the neorealism part is in the characters themselves rather than the plot, which shortly after I ended my synopsis above (about 15 minutes into a 90 minute movie) goes so far off the rails my metaphor is impossible to complete, but the words “wishing dove” and “timely to modern eyes class warfare” are involved, as are the words “ghostly top hat stampede”. But the characters, I was saying, the characters have a lot of daily life reality. There’s the rich family that has fallen on hard times but still has a nanny (also now homeless, natch), who spends most of their time in the shantytown trying to bilk lire from the populace. There’s the really grumpy outsider guy who keeps getting in fights with everyone else. There’s the black man and white women who arrived at the same time and are clearly mutually interested, but who keep staying away from each other because I guess Italy also had miscegenation laws?[3]

And there are more. What I guess I am impressed by, as an avowed watcher of movies that would not want to be called films, is how many of the characters in a cast of hundreds were, okay, not fully realized, but at least memorable. I’m not sure if that’s just difficult to accomplish in more plot-centric movies, or if we’ve lost something along the way, but I bet it’s some of both.

All the same, I’m glad my entry into this subgenre of film history was as plot-dense as it was, because I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed something that was all aimless and bleak like the description of Italian neorealism reads to me. I know I said “entry”, and while I use the term advisedly, one of the other movies we contemplated, The Bicycle Thieves, is by the same writer and director, and I can’t help being a little curious. (I mean, it will not be capital-w weird, I already know that much. But still.)

[1] Also, I never saw Life is Beautiful, but I can tell you with high confidence that `the guy who made it has this movie as one of his major influences. Seriously, look it up later and prove me right.
[2] If you see the wry humor in that, trust me, so did the filmmakers.
[3] That plotline ends in a way that would be spectacularly cringey if I were to describe it, but in its own context was both progressive and earnedly hilarious.

The Lost City (2022)

What if you wrote a romance novel about being a romance novelist whose life is devoid of romance, but then you crossed that with Romancing the Stone from the ’80s, which is more of an action comedy than a romance novel, but then you also noticed that hey if you’re crossing it with a movie anyway, you might as well make your novel a movie instead?

Also, maybe your inspiration for writing a novel about the thing you ended up making a movie about instead came from those Bones novels, so you should probably make your novelist an expert in the field of whatever will allow her to go out and do actiony treasure hunting a la the movie you decided to cross your romance novel with.

Also, you are just on board with everything Daniel Radcliffe has done since he got out of his Harry Potter contract.

In the unlikely event that you’ve done all of these things: congratulations! You’re going to get sued by the people who made The Lost City, for flagrant plagiarism. That sounds fun!

All of this said: I’m not coming down on it. It for sure has an aesthetic and knows exactly what it’s going for, and you might hate that thing, but if you do not, this is a pretty funny and moderately sweet example of said thing.

Sex Appeal (2022)

What if a teen sex comedy, but without anything explicit (other than the language)? Actually, it a) worked pretty well[1] and b) was surprisingly sweet. Sex Appeal tells the story of a STEM-focused high school valedictorian[2] who is unexpectedly confronted with a concept she’s never had to consider before. (It’s, uh, a partner who is interested in a physical relationship.) So, she decides to kill two birds with one stone by creating as her entry into an upcoming competition a phone app that coaches people into having great sex.

Unfortunately, she’s an emotionless robot, and the people around her who are tasked with experimenting to get everything just right aren’t[3]. It was funny, though probably not funny enough that I shouldn’t have watched something on Shudder instead. But I will say that at no point was it predictable, and that’s not nothing.

[1] The metaphors that replaced the sex scenes were the correct amount of over the top, for example. Perhaps not the “hilarious” that they were going for, but definitely lavishly overstated.
[2] The kind that only exist in movies, who are given the run of the school, can interrupt anything at any time with no consequences, can even ignore classes that they consider irrelevant and nevertheless the faculty all love them. Movies are weird, yo.
[3] Aren’t emotionless robots, not aren’t people. It’s not that kind of movie.

8-Bit Christmas

Back when streaming wasn’t a thing, A Christmas Story was such a popular movie that it would play over and over again for like a week straight on TBS, so people could just drop in and out and watch it whenever they felt like. In a strange albeit horrific and commercial-littered way, it presaged the very idea of streaming, at least for this one specific movie.

8-Bit Christmas is essentially Neil Patrick Harris narrating to his daughter his childhood attempts to bag a Nintendo Entertainment System near Christmas, one year in the late ’80s. It is episodic, sweet and heartfelt, and might otherwise become a classic if that kind of thing were possible anymore in such a diverse, fractured field of infinite entertainment options.

Basically, to bring my point back around to an otherwise extraneous introductory paragraph, A Christmas Story was an early ’80s movie about life and the holidays in the 1940s. This is an early ’20s movie about life and the holidays in the 1980s. I’m not saying they’re the same movie, but that’s mainly because I was alive in the ’80s and not the ’40s, so it’s hard to detect if ACS was telling lies or not. 8BC isn’t, though.

Yummy

Since I saw Hack-O-Lantern last year, I’m pretty sure Yummy is / will be the weirdest[1] movie I see in 2021. It’s exactly the kind of movie I keep Shudder around for, because it’s so far outside the space of my expectations for any movie anywhere, yet in retrospect it was mandatory that someone finally make it.

Because, have you ever seen an indictment of the plastic surgery / beauty standard, of toxic masculinity, and of the male gaze, all bundled together into a zombie outbreak movie? Except also it’s not brave enough to truly shy away from nearly any of those things, insofar as they might shatter precious genre conventions. But to be honest, those failures are a big part of what makes it just so… noteworthy? I’m not sure what I mean, but it is extremely that thing.

A dutch(?) lady with breasts larger than she’d like, her hemophobic[2] boyfriend, and her slutty teen fifty-something mom go to what the write-ups describe as a sketchy plastic surgery hospital, but I’m not sure I see much of that?, in order to get (respectively) a breast reduction surgery, credit for being legitimately supportive, and an umpteenth facelift and/or lipo. Except: oops all zombies! (I maybe left out some twists and turns, but do you care? I think not.)

Topless zombies, flaming penises, explosive lipoinsertion, and horrific manhole covers are but a few of the treats in store for anyone with the distinguished tastes required to give this weird-ass movie a shot. Check it out!

[1] Weirdest is maybe the wrong word. I’ve definitely seen a far weirder movie, but it was basically someone’s coked out fever dream, and a little too weird. So I guess here I’m using weird with an upper limit of “can be described without first getting high myself”.
[2] Aside from being a great word, this is another standout aspect of the movie. How has nobody ever put someone afraid of blood into a zombie flick? And yet, here we are breaking new ground.

The Suicide Squad

I remember liking Suicide Squad better than most people did, even if mostly by comparison to other DC movies on offer in the same continuity. And my just glanced-over review bears that memory out.

The Suicide Squad is kind of an oddly named sequel? It’s maybe slightly closer to reboot than sequel even though there is character continuity and it’s clearly still part of the DC Cinematic Universe. Basically, it feels like James Gunn came along while he was briefly persona non grata with Disney[1] and said hey, DC, you know what would make this movie better? Leaning into the comedy part and out of the grimdark part. And they listened!

There are a few things he did especially right. First: it is over the top. The plot is over the top, the violence is over the top, the character are all aware of these facts and embrace their ridiculous, hyper-violent, insane world for what it is. Second: it is funny. This is another thing the characters embrace. I don’t know how to explain exactly what I mean. It’s not like they’re trying to outfunny each other. But there’s an absurdity to everything that’s going on, and they lean into it instead of staying aloof from it[3]. Third: would be a giant spoiler to actually say, but trust me. Gunn understands the world in which he is operating, and I do not mean DC at large, I mean this series in particular, of which I hope to see more.

This is the new best DC movie, and their trendline has been so solid that I legitimately want to see whatever they make next. …I mean, as long as it’s not another Superman.

[1] For historical purposes: he got “canceled[2]” by right wing people who were tired of seeing their heroes be “canceled” for things they were doing in real time, so they dug up things Gunn had done years earlier, and Disney briefly listened to this and took it as the same kind of thing, instead of noticing that he had learned from the past and was no longer doing those sorts of things. Later, they got over it and there will be a third Guardians of the Galaxy movie after all. Still, I cannot hate the outcome of his personal digression.
[2] For additional historical purposes: canceled is when you did something wrong, and people called you out on it, and consequences ensued. Prior to a few years ago, the people calling you out part rarely happened, and consequences ensuing happened so rarely as to be basically never.
[3] Well, except for Amanda Waller as the orchestrator of the squad and its varied missions, who takes everything and herself just as seriously as she did last time. But even this is an important aspect of the story being told.

Freaky

Horror movies are often funny. It’s a structural thing, I think. Movies with unrelieved dread are hard to watch. So you throw in some tension-relieving fake-outs or a stoner, to name a couple of common examples, and get the audience laughing, so they feel a little better when Kevin Bacon gets it through the box spring. …okay, bad example of a moment when the audience would need to feel better.

My point is, some horror parodies are straight comedies without an iota of actual horror to be found, and many horror movies (especially slashers) can be funny at times. And some horror movies are unintentionally hilarious, of course. But the idea of a horror comedy is a rare beast indeed. …and then try to imagine mashing that up with a family movie like, oh, I don’t know, The Parent Trap or, say, Freaky Friday.

A thing I know in my heart is that the pitch meeting had the movie named Freaky Friday the 13th, and I wish they had stuck to their guns. Trimming it down made me expect something a little more serious, and if I’d believed I was going to get to see Vince Vaughn hamming it up as a high school misfit with a tough past 17 year old girl turned fish out of water serial killer suspect, well, I might have tried harder to see it in… haha no, it was in theaters last fall right after everything opened up but way before anything was safe, didn’t it? But I mean, I would have had larger regrets about the zero percent chance of seeing it under those circumstances.

But I saw it last night, so that’s good too!

Werewolves Within

You know that party game The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow (later by another company just Werewolves), where the players are divided into werewolves and villagers, and the werewolves are eating people and the villagers have to decide who the werewolves are? If you don’t: it’s pretty cool.

It seems that sometime in the past five years (because it can hardly have been earlier under the circumstances, now could it?), someone made a VR game on that general topic which I had never previously heard of called Werewolves Within. Which explains why Ubisoft was one of the production studios for the movie of the same name, and also explains why this ranks highly in the annals of video game movies: because it came by it unfairly, is why.

If you have ever played the game, you know everything you need to know already, but if you haven’t: imagine a small Alaskan town in the middle of nowhere[1], with a cast of characters including the methhead couple, the heavily armed Republican couple, the wealthy gay couple who just moved from the city, the lady who runs the bed and breakfast, the unscrupulous oil man, the famed environmentalist, and the creepy loner[2]. Plus our main characters, the newly assigned forest ranger (who has mostly been a voice actor in previous roles) and the mail man postal carrier (who has mostly previously been the AT&T ad lady).

So, some of them are “villagers”, at least one of them is a werewolf, one of them is more or less a “seer”, and we get to enjoy a couple of days of comedic mayhem as the players sort each other out.

As non video games movies go, it was fine. As video game movies go: top 10 percent, easily.

[1] We are Redundancy R Us
[2] I actually think I covered everyone, but don’t hold me to it.

Satanic Panic (2019)

I’m going to cut straight to the chase here: what Home Alone did for burglars, Satanic Panic does for devil worshipers.

You have no idea how much I want to just stop there, but I feel obligated to say at least enough that the text reaches as far as the poster, you know? So, this is basically a lazy comedy of errors in which the pizza delivery girl rides into the rich neighborhood hoping for a big tip, and instead finds herself entangled with Satanists on the night of the annual(?) sacrifice, and hijinks? Why yes, they ensue.

Despite my diss above, it was actually pretty funny. It’s just that the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. But the pizza girl’s wide-eyed innocent irritation makes up a lot of ground, and with all the blood splashing around and the fish out of water laughs and the bumbling, ineffective devil worshiper laughs, I didn’t actually care about how nonsensical the plot was.

Basically, if you’ve always secretly believed that rich people are not like you and me, because they got their money and power as a result of sacrifice rather than hard work, and also that they hold orgies on the full moon? (And who hasn’t, at one point or another?) If so, whoever made this movie made it for you. Also, I learned in the last scene that this was made in Dallas, and yeah, if I was going to pick a city where that is what the rich people are like, Dallas or LA would have been the coin toss. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, what about Houston? But the climate was survivable, so Houston was already off the table.)

Guns Akimbo

I have heard of Guns Akimbo before, so the Amazon Prime rule does not apply.

So, remember BumFights, where people would pay bums to, y’know, fight each other, and record it on their phones, and then upload those videos and charge people to watch them, and voilà, instant albeit troubling profit[1]? Imagine that world advanced by technology and the decline and fall of civilized society, and you have Skizm, a website where people pay to watch random folk hunt and murder each other.

Now imagine that Harry Potter hadn’t been a wizard, so he ended up as a mobile game software developer with a way too cool girlfriend who came to her senses and dumped him, and now he’s got nothing going for him, so he trolls the Skizm website insulting its viewership one at a time. Until he insults the wrong person, and ends up home-invaded, knocked out, and wakes up with a pair of guns literally bolted to his hands, because he has become the latest contestant, with 24 hours to kill or be killed by his opponent.

Sure, the plot is a little deeper than that, but you know everything you need to know. Either that’s hilarious and you want to watch it, or you’re a better person than I am.

[1] I did a modicum of research and determined that it was too long ago for phone recordings, was released on DVD, and also maybe what I’m remembering was more backlash hype than reality. But that’s not important to the metaphor.