Posts tagged "Comedy"

“Spinster” – A comedic new spin on single women

August 5th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Spinster” – A comedic new spin on single women”

Female. 39. Single. Three words that set off alarm bells for some women, but ladies, times have and are changing and Chelsea Peretti’s new film “Spinster” screams that from the mountain tops.

Peretti plays Gaby, a caterer who seems rather jaded when it comes to love and marriage as we see in the opening scene, citing the origins of the marriage contract to a prospective customer who is hell-bent on sharing an exasperating story of her “love at first sight” encounter. Dripping with sarcasm (and wisdom), Peretti portrays the realistic young woman who decided to be “single by choice.” Of course, this happens right after she’s dumped by her 3-month boyfriend with whom she inadvertently began living.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Finding solace with her childhood friend Amanda (Susan Kent), Gaby bemoans society’s pressures and expectations as she works through her own issues of self-worth and newly formed goals. Dating is a redundant endeavor, yet Gaby gives it another go and we, the audience, gets to bask in the comedic rays of snippets of disastrous dates. While there’s a bit of guilt in laughing at all the brutally awkward interactions, we gain a sense of understanding and compassion for Gaby as she lets down her guard.

Picking herself up by her bootstraps and dusting herself off, she embarks on a new adventure, that of a dog owner and weekly auntie duties to help out her overwhelmed brother. Sharing a rather tumultuous upbringing which still harbors resentment from Gaby toward her father, the two discuss life’s decisions as only siblings can. But it is the role she plays as aunt that seems to help her push away the stronghold of preconceived notions of marriage and motherhood which allows Gaby to find her true self and follow her dreams.

“Spinster” has an obvious message, but the journey we take with Gaby makes the overtness of the film an absolute pleasure. The straightforward honesty within all of her relationships propel the story forward as she gives herself permission to pave her own path.

The friendship between she and Amanda has diverged, but find a new way to connect. Their conversations give the viewer keen insight into how Gaby thinks, feels, and why she acts how she does. But it is her defensiveness at a dinner party that makes us want to stand up and cheer for her while we laugh out loud. It’s one of my favorite scenes as all the women defend one another against the accusations of insensitive, bold and condescending dinner guest. And then we have the damaged father-daughter relationship which is key in helping Gaby acknowledge and confront her past, but these wounds can only heal with the salve of forgiveness.

Peretti is comic gold with her natural style and delivery of incredibly honest material. The connection between she and her niece Willow (Charlie Boyle) is sweetly sincere, and the hostility she exudes when she’s with Bill Carr’s character of Jack, her father, is palpable. Peretti shines in this role and allows all those around her to do the same.

Consistent humor while splaying open the reality of society’s pressures upon women is an unusual combination that makes this film work. It is ok to not be married by 30 or 40 (or ever). It’s ok to not have kids. And it’s ok to follow your dreams and attain your goals whether you’re male or female. What a great message in a film AND you get to laugh your ass off, too!

3 ½ Stars

Available on all major digital platforms beginning Friday, August 7, 2020

“I Used to Go Here” – A comedic reflection of life’s hopes and memories and the reality of it all

July 29th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““I Used to Go Here” – A comedic reflection of life’s hopes and memories and the reality of it all”

Chicago writer and director Kris Rey’s newest film “I Used to Go Here” will premiere and cater to Chicagoans thanks to Elevated Films and The Music Box Theatre as it will be shown at ChiTown Movies Drive-In Theater on Wednesday, July 29 with a live Q&A. For ticket informaiton, visit: DRIVE IN TICKET INFO If you can’t make it, don’t despair, as you can still catch it virtually via online rentals beginning Friday, July 31 through the Music Box’s Virtual Cinema program. For info, go here: VIRTUAL TICKET INFO

“I Used to Go Here” depicts Chicagoan Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs) as a mediocre author who has published her first book to less than favorable reviews. However, a former writing professor, David (Jemaine Clement) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale invites her to speak at her alma mater. Boosted slightly by this, Kate returns, but soon finds herself immeshed in students’ lives, reliving her past and coming to terms with her present and her future.

Kate’s superficial confidence with the lack thereof bubbling just beneath the surface is the the attribute which allows her to change over the course of the film. 10 years have passed since she graduated and each and every interaction with students punctuates her lack of success and how time quickly flies by. The students look up to her, but deep down she knows she doesn’t deserve their respect that is until she connects with Hugo (Josh Wiggins), a student who lives in her old house and has her old room. From this point, Kate ingratiates herself into their world, attempting to turn back the hands of time.

Jacobs portrays Kate beautifully as a woman who has been recently dumped and her life is in neutral, but she’s looking for a way to shift things into high gear and on the right path. Her ability to hone in on the awkwardness of each and every situation finds just the right note of humor to make you not only laugh, but also connect with her.

The secondary stories within the film all support Kate’s story arc, but they also add humor and heart to the film. April’s role (Hannah Marks) provides the mirror image for Kate which instigates jealousy and anger. But looking in the mirror, she is also able to finally see her reflection which provides one of the most poignant moments in the film. Tall Brandon (Brandon Daley) is just downright funny and his connection with Hugo’s mom is at once strange and hilarious providing balance within the story as Kate begins to wake up to the realities of her past. Wiggnins is a standout as Hugo with an incredibly natural performance that is both witty and charming. He also finds a level of unexpected maturity that is authentically portrayed giving his character depth and complexity.

Rarely do you find just attention to detail in supporting characters that become equally important to the lead role, but Rey expertly does so. She also has a comedic knack for how we all perceive our pasts, but it is with Kate’s former crush on David that really accentuates how our memories sometimes deceive us. Seeing someone through experienced and adult eyes is jarring when our memory recalls a less jaded viewpoint; one filled with hope and the power of youth. Within all of these actions and interactions, Kate, in her own way, grows up.
Rey’s wisdom within the film is like looking into a crystal ball that comedically yet poignantly tells one woman’s life story. Who doesn’t look back on our college years and wish we had the wisdom of life’s experiences now to impart on our younger selves? And Rey deftly commits to this storyline with a character who is lovable yet at the same time we shake our heads at her decisions and laugh.

“I Used to Go Here” is a film that many of us can relate to, but if you went to SIU-C, you’re going to truly walk down memory lane. Rey’s succinct story telling creates an innovative and entertaining film, but with Jacobs in the lead role this movie becomes an even more memorable one.

Thanks to the Music Box Theatre Virtual Cinema Program, you can see this one week earlier than its Video On Demand Release.

4 Stars

“Fisherman’s Friends” An uplifting feel-good comedy based on a true story

July 21st, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Fisherman’s Friends” An uplifting feel-good comedy based on a true story”

If you’re looking for a feel good, sweet romantic comedy that is based upon a true story, then look no further. “Fisherman’s Friends” is exactly what you’re looking for. In Cornwall, England, a group of 10 fishermen who sing to pass the time and occasionally entertain the townspeople, find themselves an unexpected recording sensation. Of course, with movie-making magic, there’s more to the story than meets the eye in this romantic comedy with a flare for fun and music.

Watch the trailer here

We meet Danny (Daniel Mays) and his buddies, all big shot executives at Universal Records in London, as they are vacationing (and standing out like a sore thumb) in the quaint fishing village of Cornwall. Danny and his friends are like fish out of water in this town as they strut along in tight leather jackets ordering high end beers and driving a large vehicle on streets designed for horses. After making waves, the young men spot a group of fishermen singing along the shore for the entertainment of the community. Danny, unimpressed, is duped into thinking his colleagues love this new genre of music and is charged with getting the 10 men to sign on for a new record label. As Danny earns their trust, and not so easily, of these tightly knit men and their families, he learns of the joke that’s been played.

The very likes of someone like Danny sets up plenty of pratfalls and insider jokes that no matter how much we predict that they will happen, we laugh anyway. While you can easily see the writing on the wall and know how this tale is going to end, it’s the convincing and loving portrayal of the characters that endears us to the story. Danny isn’t your typical leading man and each and every fisherman could have easily been pulled directly from the boat and cast in a role bringing a level of reality to the film. The scenes and narrative are set, but never do they feel contrived. But it is the chemistry and reactions between each and every character that feels absolutely authentic. From Maggie (Maggie Steed) tending bar and sitting as the matriarch of the family to Jim (James Purefoy) protecting not just his daughter from the London city slicker, but his fishing family as well.

Between Danny’s attempts at convincing the a cappella singers to sign and learning that they’ve all been duped by Universal Records, there’s a sweet love story that unfolds between Tamsyn (Meadow Nobrega), Jim’s daughter, and the fast-talking outsider amidst all of the comedic chaos. Tamsyn sees right through Danny, but as he gets more deeply entrenched in the traditions of these community members’ lives, he changes which allows a natural connection to develop between he and Tamsyn. With a few additional side stories of financial and health issues, each of these stories intertwine to give us a charmingly sweet story that is unexpectedly emotional and engaging.

While I mentioned the authenticity of the cast which is vital to bringing this story to life, Mays leads the way in this film. He elicits disdain from us with his portrayal of Danny, initially, but ingratiates himself as he allows he follows his heart and connects with the townspeople. Mays finds a way to be pompous and condescending on the outside, only to peel those superficial layers away to reveal who he really is. It’s a gradual change, again accentuating the believability of the story.

Of course, in a film about music and musicians, the a cappella songs are fun and capture the soul of those who rely on the sea for their livelihood. Filmed in the town where the actual band originated brings us even closer to this fishing village and the atmosphere. With all of these elements brought together in perfect harmony, “Fisherman’s Friends” is good old-fashioned fun. Yes, it’s predictable, but its lightheartedness and sweetness is just what the doctor ordered in these trying times. Escape and have some fun with “The Fisherman’s Friends” streaming on Amazon and all major digital platforms beginning July 24.

3 Stars

“My Spy” a familiar yet surprisingly funny summer flick

June 25th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““My Spy” a familiar yet surprisingly funny summer flick”

Tough guy Dave Bautista is following in the footsteps of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger as he teams up with a whip-smart youngster to solve a serious crime. While this has been done many, many times before, the formula, if you have the right actors, never loses its charm. Bautista and co-star Chloe Coleman along with a cast of talented comedic actors is exactly the right mix to make this a fun film even if you know exactly what’s going to happen.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

The opening scene showcases Bautista’s braun as he poses as a Russian mobster, meeting with like thugs and trading nuclear paraphernalia. Of course, things go south, but it’s the way that things take a negative turn for JJ (Braun) as he’s called out for his inability to properly do a Russian accent. The exchange around this obvious error is hysterical as JJ’s performance is compared to Micky Rourke’s in “Iron Man 2.” And then we have action! There slow motion gun fight paired with music that doesn’t quite fit adds another element of humor to the scene, but on top of all that is the CIA lead by David Kim (Ken Jeong) and tech geek Bobbi (Kristen Schaal, who are watching this all unfold via hidden cameras. Their commentary makes this opening scene keep your fingers crossed that the energy and ability to make fun of itself continues. It does.

JJ, after killing every bad guy in his situation except the one who escaped unscathed with the sought after nuclear element, is demoted to surveillance duty and partnered with Bobbi who thinks JJ walks on water. As they set up their cameras and learn about their “targets,” Sophie (Coleman) and her mom Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), we find out this duo on the run is related to the evil henchman in search of that nuclear item. Sophie quickly discovers JJ and Bobbi and blackmails them into helping her fit in to her new school in Chicago and teach her how to do spy things like pass a lie detector test.

Let’s get this out there right now. The premise and everything that happens is totally ridiculous, but that’s ok. Bautista and Coleman are great together and as Bautista’s hardened shell begins to melt, even though we knew it would, it’s still sweet. It’s Coleman’s portrayal of Sophie that really drives the narrative as she struggles in her new school, is bullied, and is also trying to play matchmaker between her mom and JJ. We can see her wheels turning at every step of the way, always outsmarting her newly found mentor and best buddy, JJ, much to Bobbi’s chagrin.

Bautista finds the right rhythm in this film, unlike his recent performance in “Stuber” with Kumail Nanjiani, seeming to recognize the fact that he’s known for his muscle but he can do a bit more than just look tough. The script is a lot of fun, even if it isn’t an original story, and the interactions, pacing, and comedy stitch this story together to make it one you want to see how they wrap it all up. With this, the supporting cast is a highlight in the film. Schaal, a recognizable face, but maybe not her name, shines in her role as the slighted and overlooked fumbling CIA agent. She has a physical comedic skill that makes you laugh even harder as she delivers her lines. And when you add Jeong to the mix, you’ve struck gold. He can turn a running commentary of deaths into a belly laugh. His delivery, timing, and reactions make you want to see more of him as you know you’re in for fun when he’s in a scene.

“My Spy” misses a few chances to be a little bit more than a typical tough guy meets smart kid movie as there aren’t really any plot twists or surprises along the way. But thanks to the skillful direction of Peter Segal, this film delivers comedy, has character chemistry, and entertaining performances so we can forgive that omission.

“My Spy” is exactly what you think it’s going to be…silly fun. This is total escapism using a familiar story line, but the actors make this one worth watching.

Stream now on Amazon

3 Stars

“Judy and Punch” An unrestrained imaginative origin story

June 3rd, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Judy and Punch” An unrestrained imaginative origin story”

Imagine a world where people took the law into their own hands and the ideals were archaic, ostracizing and accusing people based on superstitions and hearsay. No, I’m not describing our world today, but I am describing the new film “Judy and Punch” starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman. I’m sure all of you over the age of 40 will remember a children’s puppet show from the 1950’s called “Punch and Judy” where the bizarre puppets beat each other up. The puppet show and concept originated in 16th century Italy and is now flipped on its head thanks to the unrestrained imagination of first-time writer and director Mirrah Foulkes.

WATCH THE TRAILER

The story is set in the town of Seaside,“nowhere near the sea,” in 17th century England, and begins with a casual suggestion of a stoning and who will throw the first one. After recovering from the fact that yes, they are actually talking about stoning someone and it being a privilege to cast the first one, you understand that this darkly Monty Python-esque film promises to take you to some very humorous yet unexpectedly dramatic places and it does not disappoint.

Judy (Wasikowska) and Professor Punch (Herriman) are trying to resurrect an entertainment career with their magical puppet show which wildly entertains the raucous and unruly crowds. If it weren’t for the fact that Punch has a few “issues” that have sabotaged their stardom, this puppeteering duo would have been all the rage. For those of you familiar with the original series, Foulkes maintains the “simplistic set of stock characters” as she referred to them. She also keeps a through line of using a baby, a dog, and sausages. While this sounds bizarre, and it is, these elements set the tone for what becomes a story of a woman scorned.

“Judy and Punch,” as the word order would suggest, follows Judy, giving us a back story or perhaps an origin story, seeing the world through her eyes. She and many of the townspeople are wronged by her lying, cheating, manipulative husband portrayed expertly by Herriman and Judy is set to right those wrongs, but not before all hell breaks loose in the town thanks to Punch’s cowardice.

While these descriptions of the film sound quite menacing, and they are, there is plenty of humor interwoven throughout the film. Foulkes, as she recently told me in an interview, likes to “mess with an audience” by using slapstick sequences followed by violence which forces the audience to confront our attraction to violence. These shifts in tone are like a roller coaster ride as you find yourself aghast at what happens to the baby, but laughing just moments later. You feel as if you’ve been a part of a magic trick, unsure as to how this magician just made you cringe and gasp aloud and then laugh just as audibly.

This incredibly imaginative script plays out in an equally unique set which transports you to an era you’ve only read about. With bawdy pubs darkly lit, stone walled homes and churches, dirt pathways and costuming to suggest the period, Wasikowska’s brilliance as an actor shines through. She’s immediately likable and we see her struggle with her husband, but not long into the film, we find that her tolerance for Punch’s behavior can no longer be tolerated as Punch’s true colors are blinding. Wasikowska finds the right levels of each emotion as she plummets from sweet mother to an empowered vengeful woman who has suffered more atrocities than any woman should.

Herriman, no stranger to playing the bad guy, hones his skills in this role. While he portrays a character who is truly unlikeable, Herriman finds a way to allow other aspects of Punch’s personality to come to the surface as a nervous, narcissistic, and controlling man, who is ultimately nothing more than a coward. Together, although Wasikowska and he aren’t on screen at the same time for a significant part of the film, these actors find the spark in the story and light it on fire.

The entire cast supports the narrative bringing an almost theatrical feel to the film. Terry Norris and Brenda Palmer are an absolute delight adding just the right touches of comedy in just the right ways and the young Daisy Axon creates subtle tones of humor balancing some of the horrors that we behold. Within the deft acting skills and direction of this film, there are also plenty of special effects that will make your heart race or perhaps elicit a gasp. Either way, it’s a credit to the impressive yet never over-the-top special effects crew.

“Judy and Punch” is a fairytale of a film with a succinct and riveting script and paired with great performances resulting in total entertainment throughout the entire film, laughing even amidst the darkness.

You can stream “Judy and Punch” on all major digital platforms beginning June 5. To read the interview with Foulkes, go to FF2 Media.

4 Stars

“Extra Ordinary” blends rom-com-horror perfectly

March 15th, 2020 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Extra Ordinary” blends rom-com-horror perfectly”

What happens when the lives of a paranormal communicator, a widower, and a narcissistic musical has-been converge? You get an “extraordinary” story filled with laughs and love sprinkled with a peppering of gruesome gore.

Watch the trailer here

Mike Ahern and Edna Loughman team up to direct Maeve Higgins as “Rose,” a lonely, guilt-ridden Irish driving instructor who wants to forget about her “talent” of reaching out to the dearly departed. Her talents are needed, however, as Martin Martin (Barry Ward) asks for help in exorcising his nagging dead wife. Initially refusing, Rose feels a spark between herself and Martin, but when his daughter becomes a possible virgin sacrifice for the one-hit wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte), Rose dives in head first, attempting to rekindle her skills she learned from her father, the former leader and television star in paranormal activity.

This dark comedy hits all the right notes from start to finish. The confusing initial scene, soon explained, introduces us to Rose’s father who also had the talent of perceiving those left behind in a state of limbo. We then meet Rose and her sister Sailor (Terri Chandler) reminiscing about their father’s untimely death. Rose, a sweet woman who could be everyone’s best friend, lives a simple life as a driving instructor, but the townspeople know she is destined to walk in her father’s footsteps. Flashing back in time, we learn more about her upbringing and her relationships which are all filled with bittersweet humor connecting us even more deeply with Rose. And when she falls for Martin Martin, she becomes our hero, and we root for her every step of the way.

The story unfolds in three parts: Martin’s ghostly situation which effects his teenage daughter; Winter’s deal with the devil; and Rose’s life intersecting with both Martin and Winter. This is when the horrific yet comedic story shifts into high gear.

“Extra Ordinary” is a quirky yet exceptionally engaging film thanks to a succinct script and skilled performances. Higgins, Ward, and Forte as well as Claudia O’Doherty who portrays Winter’s wife, gel as a well-formed comedy troupe, all playing off of one another’s chemistry with perfection. Forte’s over-the-top “Winter” is hysterical, particularly as his tolerance is pushed by his wife’s superficially selfish demands. Ward stands out in this film as he embodies or takes on the attributes of many different characters. Using nuanced physical and vocal attributes of others is key to believing that what you’re seeing and hearing is actually another person.

The balance in the story, particularly if you’re not a huge fan of the horror genre, is what makes this a film that will appeal to everyone. It’s really more of a comedy, with an underlying love story and just the right amount of horror. And with a few references to “Ghostbusters” and other iconic supernatural movies, this horror film is refreshingly fun. There aren’t many films in this genre you can say that about!

The film is currently playing in theaters and is still available to see at the Gene Siskel Film Center with limited seats and “social distancing” procedures in effect. For more information go to: Siskel Film Center

3 1/2 stars

“Knives Out” is an ingeniously funny and smart whodunit movie

November 24th, 2019 Posted by Film Festivals, Review 0 thoughts on ““Knives Out” is an ingeniously funny and smart whodunit movie”

Writer and director Rian Johnson changes gears from “Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi” to his newest film “Knives Out,” an ingenious, whip-smart comedic thriller with an incredible all-star cast. This old-fashioned “who-dunnit” crime story takes us on a ride of mystery, intrigue, and puzzle-solving while laughing the entire time. This is a standout film of the year.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is the family’s patriarch having made his fortune writing murder mysteries. Coincidentally, the old man dies in his palatial mansion and his family, focused on the inheritance and not shedding a tear, are stopped short of the treasure chest as the famed Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) suspects foul play. This, of course, would change the cause of death from suicide to murder and now puts each and every family member under the microscope as suspects.

Oh, what a family this is! Timing the release perfectly for Thanksgiving, you’ll find that your own family isn’t quite so dysfunctional after watching this one. Johnson covers all his family relationship bases with an ex-wife, a trust fund, shallow grandson named Ransom (Chris Evans), a controlling daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Valley Girl Joni (Toni Collette) as well as the disappointing son Walt (Michael Shannon). There are plenty of in-law issues beginning with Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) and strange grandchildren. We even have the Keystone Cops lead by Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield).

It’s evident from the beginning that we are in for a rip-roaring good time as the interrogation begins. Flashing between each of the suspects, a lone man slouches off in the corner at a piano, intermittently hitting a single key. Confusingly funny, the subjects make comments as to this man’s presence. We see the tangled web of deceit has been spun perfectly and now the players are all accounted for. The story then takes us back in time using a non-linear storytelling technique to put the pieces of the puzzle in proper order to solve the mystery of who killed Harlan Thrombey…or was it a suicide?

“Knives Out” keeps you on your toes with its clever unveiling of clues while distracting you with these bizarre and over-the-top characters who all have a motive or two. Collette and Evans take on roles and perform like you’ve never seen them before adding to the unexpected twists and turns as well as the hilarity. Johnson’s genius writing is always a step ahead of you, never putting all the pieces of the puzzle together until he wants you to.

The film, in all is jocularity, actually finds a way to address a common theme of movies this year: the haves versus the have-nots. Of course, with this wealthy family comes the topic of entitlement and work ethics, but these heavier subjects are all boiling well beneath the surface, fostering the hilarious situations and consequences.

While all the characters and performances are uniquely strong, the commonality among them is the actors truly seem to be having fun, elevating their performances to the highest level. Plummer just gets better and better, showing audiences that he truly can take any role and bring it to its ultimate potential. His character of “Harlan” is smart and strong with great wisdom and verve all delivered with a knowing twinkle in his eye. Each actor’s character gets a moment in the spotlight, allowing us to know who they truly are and what drives them. Two surprising performances come from Craig as he stuns us with his comedic timing. It’s a dry humor, the writing creating a strange interaction to make us laugh, but it it Craig’s interpretation and presentation that adds just the right touch. And then there’s Evans who certainly doesn’t come off as Capt. America. He’s a narcissistic, entitled, blue blood who is despicably condescending—but all of these attributes are presented in unexpectedly delightful ways.

Another surprise is a relatively unknown actor who has a lead in this film, Ana de Armas who portrays Marta Cabrera, the nurse and caregiver for Harlan. Her storyline stitches all the characters together while the social issue of immigration plays every so perfectly into this narrative. de Armas’ performance hits all the right notes as she invites us to walk in her shoes. She’s remarkably engaging, honing her ability to connect with the audience no matter her circumstances.

As you can see, there is one enjoyable and entertaining surprise after another. Its fast pace never lets you catch your breath as you happily try to see the full picture, but alas, Johnson is the driver of that car and you’ll get there when he wants you to. To find such an entertaining murder mystery with the feel of a film from days gone by is an absolute treasure. This incredibly smart and funny film with standout performances from actors who are having as much fun as the viewer is sure to be tops on not just critics’ lists, but yours as well.

4/4 stars

Director Miranda Bailey talks about “Being Frank”

June 20th, 2019 Posted by Interviews, Review 0 thoughts on “Director Miranda Bailey talks about “Being Frank””

“Being Frank,” traveled the film festival circuit for quite some time before getting its final edits and now a release across the country. The film stars Jim Gaffigan, a favorite stand up comic whose acting career is bursting at the seems right now, as Frank, a man who attempts to balance life with two families; each unknown to the other. Of course, all “good” things must come to an end and Frank finds himself in a pickle with his son Phillip (Logan Miller). It’s a dark comedy that keeps the laughs coming thanks to the creative writing and directing as well as the casts’ impeccable ability to play off of one another yet still maintain a level of drama.

In an interview recently, Director Miranda Bailey discussed the changes made to the original concept, how she balances life, her female review site Cherry Picks, and quite shockingly, the fact that she had never heard of Jim Gaffigan before casting her film! Shocking, simply shocking.

Pamela Powell (PP): I understand you had a few changes to the overall script, making it a more personal one.

Miranda Bailey (MB): When I first received the script…it was in modern times. The one (wife) that Frank really loved was the stay-at-home mom who cooked all the time and was perfect and the other [wife] was working…We’re not going to have the one he really loves as this kind, sweet mom and the working mom is this one that no one wants around. Those elements changed drastically, the roles of the women. [The film was also] moved to 1992 which was a time in my life that was when my parents got divorced…I felt the fear that Phillip (Miller) goes through. ***SPOILER*** I was able to … say everything that I wanted to say to my dad or to myself as a child through the character. When Anna Gunn [the character of Laura] is saying .. well, he’ll always be your dad even though he’s a total dick … I wish someone would have said that to me.

PP: Initially, I thought it was an odd casting choice to have Gaffigan, but now I can’t imagine anyone else being able to pull off this role!

MB: I actually didn’t even know him when we started casting, I didn’t even know Jim Gaffigan!

PP: NO!

MB: When the script was ready to go, and you want Jason Bateman, but it can’t be Jason Bateman, 1. Because we can’t afford him; 2. He’s not available, and 3. Then it’s a Jason Bateman movie. It’s quite hard, especially in that age range to try to find someone who can be likable and lovable and still doing something so cruel but with cowardice…Initially, we were thinking Louis CK …and I’m so lucky the agents never gave it to him!

PP: Can you imagine?

MB: ****SPOILER***** Oh, my God! That would be awful! We made this movie before…any of the Weinstein stuff came out. Movies take a long time to go from concept to [finish] so it’s been pretty interesting in editing based on those things. [In] the version at the festivals, “You Can’t Choose Your Family,” Frank was forgiven by his son and I changed that in the end because the world has changed in that year.

PP: Gaffigan’s comedy has a very dark edge to it in this film. As a director, how did you draw that out of him?

MB: He definitely does have the dark comedic elements to him. That’s not necessarily part of his standup, but, you know, tragedy is funny! I think he understands that.

PP: Frank’s relationship with Laura is based on a lie. Can you talk about the lies and all the relationships?

MB: A lot of this movie focuses on lies. Everyone in this film, not just Frank, is lying to someone else or lying to themselves. Whether it’s Phillip lying about where he’s going, that he’s not drinking, he’s studying and his best friend’s lying about being gay, and Anna Gunn’s character is lying about being in a happy marriage. Not lying, but she’s refusing, she knows, she’s reading that book, she knows that something’s going on, she knows she’s not in love, she’s staying the course, she’s lying to herself that it’ll be ok. Samantha [her character of Bonnie] is being lied to but she is oblivious and doesn’t know but that’s like part of why she keeps painting the same thing, her home in her own back yard, nothing changes. Something’s going on and she’s trying to find it. She doesn’t know what it is, it’s like this weird artful metaphor, but she doesn’t realize it’s her and her husband.

PP: I hadn’t thought about that being her subconscious talking to her! Let’s chat about your own balancing act in life as director, producer, wife, and mother.

MB: I have a stay-at-home husband and my mother [and in-laws] and brother living here. When I was filming “Being Frank,” I had a really solid support system. … I don’t think I could do it without a supportive partner who was like, ‘Hey, I really want my job to be the house person,’ which is like the hardest job there is. That said, when I come home from work, he’s like, here you go! Your turn!

PP: It’s a tough balancing act!

MB: There’s a lot of pressure on us from society… when I was producing…all the traveling…all the guys and women were single and I was married and I was like the “bad mom” ha ha ha. They’d joke about it, [saying], “You’re never around. You’re always in Toronto drinking beer with us ha ha ha.” I’m not a bad mom, I’m a very good mom, but you don’t say anything. I think we feel guiltiest. Like my dad never had to go to parent teacher conferences and never got the pressure to do that. … And I hate dealing with teachers and principals and report cards, so it’s good because I just make him [my husband] do all that. (Laughs)

PP: I bet he’s good at it!

MB: He is because he’s nice. There’s got to be someone as the tough one. I’m tough in my regular life which is not home so when I come home and they say, can I have ice cream for dinner, I’m like, yep! Sure!

PP: You’ve got so many irons in the fire all the time and Cherry Picks review site for women is one of them and has been live now for 8 months. How’s that going?

MB: We now have this fantastic design that’s operating and at the end of the month we’ll have this critics [area] where critics will be able to upload their own stuff … and we have our own articles … we’re still learning and growing. It takes a long time to build. It’s like remodeling a kitchen. It takes 10 times longer than you expect. Rotten Tomatoes is great, but it’s for a specific audience and Cherry Picks is also for a specific audience.

“Being Frank” expands across the country this weekend and you can find more information about Cherry Picks at thecherrypicks.com

Film Rating: 3/4 Stars

“Avengers: Endgame” Is a dynamic, dramatic, and hilarious film worth all 181 minutes

April 24th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Avengers: Endgame” Is a dynamic, dramatic, and hilarious film worth all 181 minutes”

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year as the answers to all the fans’ questions come into clear focus and the super hero worlds not only overlap, but collide in surprising ways. It’s an all-star arena filled with “marvel”ous characters in a fight for life, humanity, and the future of the world and the universe. (Don’t worry–no spoilers ahead!)

The evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) possesses all the Infinity Stones making him the most powerful being in the universe. And with that power, he has cursed the world, culling the population by 50%. “Endgame” picks up exactly where “Infinity War” left off and it’s an affective beginning as we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) with his loving family enjoying their time together only to be turned to dust. The impact of this emotionally loaded initial scene is unexpectedly shocking and not only are we hooked, we care about and relate to this family and Hawkeye’s devastation. And then the opening credits begin to roll.

Fast forward to 5 years later and the catastrophic results of Thanos’ work is more than evident— cities are in a state of shambles, but the oceans and natural environment are beginning to balance once again. The remaining super hero allies band together in what seems to be a losing battle to right this sinking ship and not a spark of hope is detected among them…until an Avenger thought to be dead, resurfaces. And this is where the fun begins!

From the depths of an emotionally heavy load, we are immediately bouyed into hilarious one-liners, side notes, and quick-paced dialogue and antics to remind us why we love comic books. Without giving one surprise away (I fear losing friends if I do), “Endgame” ranks up in the comedy hierarchy with the hilarity of stand alone super hero films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ironman.” With references to some of our favorite films of the last 40 years and costuming that transforms these heroes into unexpected yet disturbingly funny renditions of themselves, for most of the 3 hour 1 minute (yes, you read that correctly) running time, it’s a captivatingly intriguing and funny film while it still creates an entertainingly entangled story to wrap your head around.

The story truly needed most of that 3 hour time period in order to create the thorough and emotionally dynamic storyline, although the last 30 minutes could have been edited quite a bit as the CGI begins to feel a bit mundane. (But that’s my issue with every super hero film.) I must admit that it’s a complicated story that intellectually makes sense as it delves into the waters of our environment and the cost of humanity and our memories. It is these memories that make us human and compassionate; an element that adheres us to one another. The writers cover all their bases, leaving no possible stone unturned, pulling you into their vortex of logic and reason while they connect you to the characters. Every past story is covered in well-balanced detail and of course, we have the directors and actors to thank for bringing such textured performances to those words on the page.

Watching this all-star cast in their respective roles feels like a family reunion, everyone knowing each other like family, the good and the bad. They love one another and have their squabbles, only to have each others’ backs when they need to. They are family. There’s a comfort in seeing this relaxed and familiar camaraderie even during times of dire situations and it is this interaction among and between the characters that not only propels the story, but engages us. We have become an invested part of this family.

“Endgame” showcases female empowerment, too, as we watch them rise to any challenge, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and these women shine. To single out any particular female super hero would be to spoil the film, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, the it’s a male-female gender balanced film.

This is also a visually powerful film. The action is impressive as are the special effects and while this is what makes fans of this genre happy, it’s the levity that Ironman, Thor, Rocket, Ant Man and Quill bring to the table. When Robert Downey, Jr. Paul Rudd, and Chris Hemsworth interact, you have a comedy team that could make the Queen of England belly laugh. All three of these actors have the comedic timing and pacing to get the most from their lines and scenes, but when the dramatic elements are needed, they are at the ready, adding just the right touch and never doing so in a heavy-handed way.

“Avengers: Endgame” was a wonderful surprise, filling almost each and every minute with excitement, drama, humor and visually interesting and entertaining intrigue. While the 3 hour running time was a bit long, needing a 10-minute edit, that’s not a huge detractor from the film. It’s a strong story, great acting and directing, and a wonderfully well-balanced film on every level. If you’ve seen all of the Marvel movies, and this truly is a must to get full enjoyment from “Endgame,” the film is perfect escapism and an all ‘round good time. (No need to stay after the credits roll.)

4 Stars

“Us” is a mixed bag of horror, comedy, and inexplicable twists

March 20th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Us” is a mixed bag of horror, comedy, and inexplicable twists”

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” pleased critics and audiences alike with an original concept that was as creepy as it was funny. We are expecting a lot from his newest film, “Us” which premiered to rave reviews at the SXSW Film Festival. Can it and he live up to all the hype? The answer is yes and no. It’s a mixed bag this time as he creates a crazy story that focuses more on the twists in the road than the road itself.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

It’s 1986 in Santa Cruz, CA at an amusement park where little Adelaide (Madison Curry) wanders off into a house of mirrors. With worried parents, the little girl returns, but seems traumatized. What actually happened in that house will haunt Adelaide forever. Fast forward to the current day and Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family return to a vacation home near the fateful site where she disappeared as a youngster. With a gut-sinking feeling that she and her family are in danger, she wants to leave, but it’s too late. The apocalypse has begun and we witness the bizarre and gruesome tale unfold in the dark of night in a cabin in the woods.

Peele masterfully sets up an eerie and spine-chilling vibe as young Adelaide wanders off, slowly and deliberately, candy apple in hand, capturing her trance-like reaction to her surroundings. We are with her every step of the way, holding our breath as she enters a “Beetlejuice” type of house complete with a neon arrow showing the way. Jumping at the corniest of things, the image Adelaide sees before her makes her (and us) gasp. We now know what we are in for as the family comes back to the scene of the incident 30 years later.

“Us” showcases Peele’s seemingly innate ability to perfectly blend comedy and horror with the timing of a Swiss watch. Unfortunately, after the initial set up of the premise, the film becomes an exercise in typical horror gore. The family is being chased, they make stupid decisions, and blood is spilled…lots and lots of blood. Thankfully, Peele and his cast expertly continue the humor to pull us out of the shock of the brutality, allowing us to stick with it. As we learn the truth about what lies beneath our green grass, we yearn to find out how this family will survive. That’s great writing, but Peele sets up so many possible paths and red herrings throughout the film, that we feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us. And the use of a speech to explain everything in the last 20 minutes is a let down. It feels much like a classroom where the teacher dutifully spells out what actually had been going on deep inside this other realm.

While there are issues with the twists that still don’t quite square up, and to describe them would be a major spoiler, the acting from this ensemble cast is stellar. Curry’s portrayal of young Adelaide is exceptional as she is responsible for setting the tone of the entire film. That’s an incredible weight to carry and she does so with ease. Nyong’o creates two totally different personas and never do we question the “fact” that we are seeing two people on screen. Her eyes are wonderfully expressive, allowing us to understand her every thought immediately as the caring, loving mom who will do anything to save her children. Then there’s her doppelgänger who she portrays with a soulless void. Winston Duke (Gabe) adds most of the humor with his actions and reactions, both physically and verbally, lightening the heaviness of the brutal carnage that ensues. And the kids, Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora) and Evan Alex (Jason), find the depth to give us double performances, again never questioning that there are two different people before us.

With any horror film, camera work has to be as much of a character as the actual actors. Having actors portray two different people, frequently on screen at the same time, takes some heaving lifting and it works. Additionally, and with utmost skill, the cameras have a way of making us peer around the corner to see what’s ahead. It also gives a sense of dread as it follows the characters from behind or blinding us from seeing, allowing us to only hearing what’s to come.

“Us” is a typical horror film in many ways, but the consistent humor throughout elevates it, but not to the level of Peele’s first blockbuster that had powerful social statements, humor and horror. With “Us,” it feels as if he was more interested in surprising the audience with zingers and entertaining with gore than giving us a consistently good story. And it will behoove you to look in the Bible for Jeremiah 11:11 before you go. Trust me.

3 Stars

“Odd Brodsky” An Uplifting & Quirky Comedy

January 9th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Odd Brodsky” An Uplifting & Quirky Comedy”

Discovering films made from the heart and filled with hope, humor, and even a positive message are far and few between, but Cindy Baer’s original film, “Odd Brodsky” is just that. As co-writer with her husband Matthew Irving, producer, and editor, Baer tells the tale of Audrey Brodsky (Tegan Ashton Cohan), a young woman living in L.A., stuck in a lucrative, but unfulfilling desk job, who decides to take a chance and chase her dreams of becoming an actress—a promise she made to her late mother as a teen.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: https://youtu.be/KHLKr_ztcSs

From the moment we meet the younger version of Audrey, played with natural skill by Ilana Klusky, there’s a whimsical, light air to the story with a vibrant flare of color and energy. The narrator takes us back in time to Audrey’s birth and her childhood years as she attempts every creative endeavor possible. With the encouragement (and tolerance) of her parents, Audrey gives it her all even when she’s viewed as a bit of an oddball by her peers. Fast forward to the current day, and Audrey still has hopes and dreams of acting, but her current day job has stifled her creativity. Longing for more, she quits her job and she plunges into the unknown head first. The creative waters are deep and as she flails around, comedically, she refines and redefines herself and her goals.

This is a good, old-fashioned comedy as we connect with this ever-hopeful young woman who refuses to give up. Interspersed with many comedic situations, Baer reminds us of what women encounter regarding looks and perceptions…sobering information, but alas, Baer always remembers that this is a comedy, first and foremost. Goofy situations arise, many thanks to her constantly high roommate, Spuds (Scotty Dickert), and we get to know her eclectic group of friends and watch a love story unfold unbeknownst to Audrey.

Cohan creates this lovable and quirky character of Audrey with sincere honesty. Her tone of voice matched with her affect beautifully pair with the rich and colorful costuming and set designs. There’s a feeling of balance in the tone of this film, never losing sight of the final message while colorfully entertaining your mind and your soul.

The ensemble cast gels together, particularly her best friends with whom she can share her every thought, relying on them all whenever she needs them or they need her…exactly what women do. To give this group even more interest and fun, Sammy (Baer), Kitty (Christina Moses), and Zoey (Elana Krausz) all have rather whacky attributes. And the sweetness of Camera One played by Matthew Kevin Anderson cannot be denied as we see him fall head over heals in love with Cohan’s character.

Baer’s off-beat and engaging writing is swept up by cinematographer Irving’s highly stylized eye as each character is allowed to shine in their roles. The set design is gorgeous, never feeling that this is a small and independent film. Together, with a great cast, “Odd Brodsky” works. It’s funny, charming, and positive…the perfect escape.

“Odd Brodsky” is a film for anyone who has felt out of place, aka odd, or has lost sight of who they are and where they want to be. (I believe that speaks to all of us!) It’s a story of determination, resiliency, and growing to understand oneself, making a few mistakes and learning and laughing along the way.

You can see this film on multiple digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube.

3/4 Stars

“Bathtubs Over Broadway” a charmingly unusual story of life, laughter, and love

January 5th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Bathtubs Over Broadway” a charmingly unusual story of life, laughter, and love”

The title of this documentary, “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” is an unusual one and you’ll never guess what this film is about based solely on those three bolded words. Steve Young, the former long-time comedy writer for the David Letterman show, hardened by his years of writing bizarrely funny bits for Letterman, is obsessed with a collection that turned into a passion project and resulted in a new-found love of life and those around him. The collection? Industrial Musicals.

What? You don’t know what that means? Neither did I nor does most of the population, but director and co-writer Dava Whisenant takes us along Young’s journey as he discovers long-lost records recorded by prominent companies in the ’60’s and ’70’s of sales and motivational productions. These productions, many of which were starting points for now well-known musical artists like Bob Fosse, dwarfed the budgets of Broadway musicals in an attempt to help corporations up their bottom line. Watch the trailer here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6029778/videoplayer/vi1731574297?ref_=tt_ov_vi

Young scours the country, finding just a few like-minded individuals who know about this subject and begins to collect everything he can get his hands on. It isn’t until he delves more deeply into the people behind the productions that he discovers the meaningful relationships and the talent that evolved from these productions.

Whisenant provides us an opportunity to watch Young’s entire demeanor and even, perhaps, his purpose in life evolve as he befriends and gives affirmation to this long-lost art and artists. Filled with charming interviews along this journey with well-known actors like Martin Short who made ends meet by acting in these shows, entertaining video clips of productions about being a better sales person and manager, and his discovery of Sid Siegel in Buffalo Grove, IL who produced “The Bathrooms Are Coming,” the story comes together as Young gives credit to this unique art form by way of acknowledgment, understanding and appreciation.

“Bathtubs Over Broadway” is nothing that you expect and will be everything that you love. It’s narrative storyline initially points in one direction, only to take a beautiful and heartfelt turn that will leave you in awe and appreciation for Young and all those he has rediscovered. You’ll be swept away by the toe-tapping numbers, laughing along the way, while wiping away a few tears as you, too, have connected with these artists. Industrial Musicals and the talent associated with them may be a part of the past, but thanks to Young, it’s not lost. Thank you, Steve Young.

For more information about this film, go to https://www.bathtubsoverbroadway.com/

3 1/2 Stars out of 4

“Funny Tweets” shines new light on the power of Twitter

January 5th, 2019 Posted by Review, Weekly VOD 0 thoughts on ““Funny Tweets” shines new light on the power of Twitter”

Laurie McGuinness creates an undeniably funny yet somehow thoughtful documentary film depicting one of the many powerful uses of Twitter.   This social networking platform isn’t just to learn about how our country is being run or the next viral meme.  McGuinness  takes a different approach to this global communication device as he features Dan Duvall, a seemingly ordinary guy from a typical town in British Columbia who, via his comedic tweets, accesses and lands job opportunities with major studios and shows in L.A.  

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: https://youtu.be/HWWyGiaxIZ0

McGuinness interviews several comedy writers who connected with Duvall via Twitter and follows the thread that stitched them all together.  We gain an understanding of the community networking and importance of how Twitter levels the playing field and opens the doors of opportunity that were once not only closed, but seemingly locked with a single gatekeeper.  While the story revolves around Duvall and how he managed his persona on Twitter over the years to find success, the candid interviews with established writers such as Matt Selman, Executive Producer an writer for “The Simpsons, Andy Richter, Announcer for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and Damien Fahey, writer for “Family Guy” give insight and maybe even hope to anyone from anywhere that if you’ve got the talent, you’ve got a chance.

“Funny Tweets” is truly laugh out loud funny as McGuinness generously sprinkles the story with hilarious tweets written by not only well-known comedy writers, but everyday people like this one from Elle Emmenopee (@ElleOhHell) about air travel. “Please remain seated until we’ve reached the gate, then feel free to stand hunched over weirdly sideways for 15 minutes while we do whatever.”  We also see how Twitter, with all its pros and cons, has been the subject matter of many shows, including “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” as McGuinness expertly splices in excerpts from these shows.  We even get a glimpse into why certain tweets are funny and the origins of comic style dating back to, believe it or not, Winston Churchill.

Most of us don’t think twice about our accounts on Twitter as we browse through various tweets every day (or every 5 minutes), but perhaps, thanks to the insight of this film, we can see Twitter as a positive tool to help build our businesses, our dreams, or attain a previously out-of-reach goal.  While social media platforms can seem overwhelming and unnecessary, “Funny Tweets” gives Twitter a different spin; one of positivity and acceptance of this digital world.

“Funny Tweets” is available to stream on-line via iTunes http://bit.ly/FunnyTweetsFilm

3.5/4 STARS

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