98 posts categorized "Comedy"

May 11, 2018

OH, RICK!

Oh  Rick2The coolest comic you’ve [probably] not heard of, Rick Crom is a comic legend among stand-up comics. The Chicago-born stand-up comic of legendary New York City status gets his just deserts in this loving documentary from co-directors Dustin Sussman and Aaron Rosenbloom.

Rick Crom performed in the full run of the hit Broadway show “Urinetown.” His downtown fans include Wanda Sykes, Louis C.K., Hannibal Burris, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, and the list goes on and on. Rick’s musical abilities are no small trifle. He’s a natural behind a set of 88s as he’s comfortable with a guitar in his hands. Rick Crom’s knack for emceeing has gotten him more NYC stage-time than seems humanly possible. He's a composer, teacher, and the kind of no-nonsense human being you'd be proud to introduce to your family at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or your budding-comic kid's birthday party.

Oh  Rick!3

It’s not every day that someone as skilled and natural as Rick Crom (pronounced "chrome") lights up your day, or night, or wee hours of daybreak. Full disclosure, I had Mr. Crom on my podcast series LA GRANDE BOUFFE (THE BIG FEAST) to talk about Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein,” and about his experiences in comedy. A finer gentleman I’ve not had the pleasure, and honor, of sharing time. See this inspiring movie; you'll be glad you did. I just wish it was 15 minutes longer. 

Not rated. 78 mins. (A-) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

Chicago-born, and NYC stand-up comic legend, Rick Crom (pronounced chrome) joins the Feast to talk about Mel Brooks's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and OH, RICK!, a great documentary about him. No craft beer on this episode, just some chewy chat about funny stuff. Bon appetite. 

Rick Crom

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and follow us on SOUNDCLOUD. And tell your friends! 

Young frankenstein

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

February 25, 2018

GAME NIGHT

Game_nightAlthough saddled with a few unnecessary sequences, this comic rejiggering of David Fincher’s famous 1997 thriller “The Game” (starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn) is a laugh-inducing movie with more than its share of plot twists. Co-directed by John Francis Daley (actor on television’s “Bones”) and Jonathan Goldstein, “Game Night” plays on a cartoon level of violence and suspense. The satire never goes near politics even if the film’s atmosphere is all about American fears and obsessions with torture and violence. Guns and kidnapping provide the lay of the land.

Slapstick pratfalls jab your funny bone, along with witty volleys of sometimes hilarious self-referential [elitist] pop culture jokes that connect more than they miss. With five or ten minutes of sloppy dialogue excised, “Game Night” could run much smoother. The filmmakers are guilty of concurrently running scenes that don’t keep time with each other or the tempo of the movie.

Game-Night

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, a suburban married couple into playing games — board games, charades, you name it. The couple host a weekly game night with two other couples. Now that his wife left him, Max and Annie exclude their creepy police officer neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons) from their weekly group entertainment. You can’t blame them really. Gary is weird, brokenhearted and weird. Just how obsessive, we may only discover during the closing credits.

Trouble arrives in the guise of Max’s older, taller, more handsome, and successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Brooks is in the business of humiliating his little brother at every opportunity. He shows up driving a 1976 candy-apple-red Corvette Stingray that is Max’s dream car. So it follows that Brooks invites the party of revelers to a game night at the palatial house Brooks is renting. Naturally, Brooks has hired a company to kidnap one of the guests so that the rest can follow “FBI Dossier” clues to rescue the poor victim. The winner takes possession of the Stingray as his or her trophy. Think mystery theater, but with guns, blood, and high-speed car chases.

Screenwriter Mark Perez does some interesting things with form. The opening act runs like a top with funny montage sequences that fast-forward us into the story with a slingshot delay. Still, Perez is too much in love with his every darling joke that he doesn’t stand back to see where some sub-plots should land.

Kyle Chandler

Gamers Sarah (Sharon Horgan) and Ryan (Billy Magnussen) are a not-so mismatched cougar-and-fratboy duo whose butting, and budding, relationship pleads for consummation. Perez fares better with a subplot involving Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) whose ongoing argument over a mystery celebrity Michelle laid, gets an inspired resolution.  

“Game Night” is a dark, not black, comedy that taps into modern American fears regarding guns, imposters, and sudden violence. The game is always rigged and no amount of innocence can save you.

Rated R. 100 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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March 10, 2016

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

Whiskey-tango-foxtrot“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (a.k.a. WTF) is such a bizarre title for a movie that it seems unlikely audiences will flock to see Hollywood’s first good film of 2016. I’ve seen it twice for good reason. Tina Fey blows the doors off this baby. So does the ensemble. Martin Freeman (as war photographer Iain MacKelpie), Christopher Abbott (as Afghan fixer Fahim), and Billy Bob Thornton (as a Marine General) contribute mightily to the film’s artistic success. Sure it's American white lady propaganda. You know that going in.

It’s a telling coincidence that the real Kim Barker, upon whose book “The Taliban Shuffle” this film is based, once described herself as “a Tina-Fey type. The heavens were listening. Fey got wind of it and optioned the book before teaming up with co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa to take a running start at Robert Carlock’s seamless adaptation of Barker’s book.

If anything, the movie is paced too evenly. It's missing a dramatic centerpiece, but pushes through on the inertia if its wealth of well observed details. 

The movie squanders a potential key sequence that would show how Kim Barker handles herself alone. As fits the Hollywood formula a man, who represents her knight in shining armor, saves a drunken Kim from an unknown alley in the darkness of night. Can’t win ‘em all. This is a sign of how far Hollywood is willing to go in promoting an unapologetically feminist character; she needs a man to save her even if she manages to return the favor.

Episodic in form, and contained in mainly medium and close-up shots, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” blends America’s pointless Afghan war, comedy, intersecting political and cultural mores, with a thematically meaningful romantic thread. The nuanced tone of the movie is reflected in a military rescue mission that occurs at Dutch angles of blue and green lighting to the strains of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You.” The action is stylized to fit the genre, and the moment.

Whiskeytangofoxtrot

One of the film’s clearest themes states that gender doesn’t matter much; we all become products of our environment. In Kabul, “sex with strangers in restaurant bathrooms” comes with the territory for foreign journalists, and their bodyguards, regardless of whether they are men or women, much less pretty or average looking.

Once leaving her relatively sheltered life in the States, Kim Barker embraces her wartime environment in the “Ka-bubble” of Afghanistan. A watershed event occurs during her first embed outing. Her Humvee’s bulletproof windshield absorbs the first bullet fired by a group of angry Afghan warriors. Without missing a beat Kim jumps outside to videotape the action as she shadows an American marine like a monkey on his back. Her bravery (or professional rashness) earns her an “Oo Ra” from Billy Bob’s General Hollanek. Later, when Kim explains the reason that Marine-built wells keep being destroyed in a tiny village, we see a woman speaking truth to power in a way that has never before been shown in cinema. 

The disorienting storyline spans more than three years, during which time the fearless Baker becomes a battle-tested war journo looking for her next adrenaline fix. So much so that her Afghan fixer Fahim is compelled to read her the riot act over her irrational actions of late. Kim Barker hasn’t had much cultural sensitivity training.

Tina-Fey-Margot-Robbie

Kim gets a brief, and comical, introduction to Afghanistan from the first Western woman she meets, television reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (played by the impossibly lovely Australian Margot Robbie). Tanya hates to be “rude,” but just has to ask Kim for permission to have sex with Kim’s supposedly New Zealand-born bodyguard Nic. Kim gives her consent. She’s only thinking of her boyfriend back in New York. Still, Tanya encourages Kim to share in the practice of shagging your peers. When Kim demurs, Tanya blurts out the unthinkable, “Talk to me in two months when you pussy’s eating your leg.”

Normally I wouldn’t spoil a joke, but trust me; you’ll still laugh when you hear it. The irreverent zinger reflects the film’s precise use of coded ways that journalists, military officers, security forces, and afghan civilians and military communicate. When Alfred Molina's Afghan bureaucrat Ali Massoud Sadiq says he wants Kim to be his "special friend," we know what he means. 

Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot2

The movie explicitly addresses American media’s nonexistent coverage of the war in Afghanistan during a meeting between Kim and Geri Taub (Cherry Jones), the head of the network that funds her reporting. Geri blames it on the public’s lack of interest in the war rather than even pretend to have an editorial mind of her own. The economic signal is clear. War is money, but the media can’t sit at the big table to profit from it anymore.

“The Navy says Who Ya, the Marines say Oo Ra; don’t mix them up.”

Rated R. 112 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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