Category Archives: Comedy

Monoglot Movie Club: What The Fox Said Next

Part of an occasional series in which Spank The Monkey travels to foreign countries, watches films in unfamiliar languages, and then complains about not understanding them. This episode: Norway, November 2013.

foxbook

Continue reading Monoglot Movie Club: What The Fox Said Next

Clock This!

Richard Curtis has a new film out and it’s very good. Yes, it is. Ron Swanson reports.

"Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past." Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy wrap their heads around a paradox.
“Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past.” Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy wrap their heads around a chronological paradox. With hilarious results.

It’s nicely in keeping with Richard Curtis’ films’ apologetically stylised view of England that I’m tempted to start this positive review of his new movie, About Time, with an apology, or more accurately, a justification. It’s tempting to put my emotional reaction to his film down to the fact that I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, or that I was having a bad week, or that the idea of time travel has always made me want to cry. If I knew how to winsomely stutter in print, I would totally give it a go.

As it is, no justification is needed. It may seem like trifling praise indeed, to claim that About Time is Curtis’ best film, but I like Four Weddings, Notting Hill and Love, Actually quite a lot, and this absolutely soars past them. While it may benefit from the lowered expectations caused by the clusterfuck that was The Boat that Rocked and an insipid and oddly charmless trailer, this is a film that makes me hope there’s more to come from Curtis. Continue reading Clock This!

Women on the Verge of a Mirthful Breakthrough

Laura Morgan went to Edinburgh and all she got was a load of female comedians.

The Proclaimers! Dressed as women! For reasons that are tangentially related to the following article!
The Proclaimers! Dressed as women! For reasons that are tangentially related to the following article!

Just as there’s no point seeing the headline acts at Glastonbury when you could be learning to breathe fire or dancing to The Proclaimers instead, there’s no point going to the Edinburgh Fringe and seeing comics you can watch performing on tour or mugging on TV panel shows all year round. The beauty of a festival is the ability to discover acts performing to crowds of half a dozen and giving it their heartfelt all: a voyage of glorious discovery made better, not worse, by the knowledge that you might end up the only audience member at a terrible show. (This happened to me once, at the Camden Fringe: I hoped for both our sakes that the comic in question would cancel the show, but he nobly went on and shouted the whole thing into my face. These are the sacrifices I make for art.)

There are thousands of performers at the Fringe, and since my time in Edinburgh was limited to three days I decided I needed a focus, so I made it my business to go and see some solo shows by women, partly because women are ace and partly in an attempt to discover why the top ten one-liners of the Fringe are almost always all by men. Are men better at one-liners? Is it that the judges only go to see shows by men? Are there simply fewer women doing stand-up (yes) and is that because Women Aren’t Funny? (no). (It also isn’t, incidentally, down to Women Aren’t Funny’s uglier sibling: Men Don’t Like Funny Women.) Continue reading Women on the Verge of a Mirthful Breakthrough

Sorted for Teens and Wizz

by Gareth Negus

There are different kinds of teen movie: the kind aimed at teenagers, and the kind that are about teenagers but aimed at adults. Then there’s the kind that fall somewhere between the two. The Way, Way Back is one of those.

The film stars Liam James as 14-year-old Duncan, reluctantly dragged on holiday for the summer with his mom (Toni Collette), his mom’s hectoring and unlikable new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s daughter. After spending some time moping around being miserable, Duncan chances across the Water Wizz amusement park, where the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) takes him under his wing.

Miserable 14-year-olds are no fun to hang around with (even most miserable 14-year-olds would agree with that, if they ever spoke) and not much fun to watch on screen. So it takes a while to engage with the film’s protagonist, and the situation isn’t helped by the fact that we suspect we could be having more fun watching Collette, or Allison Janney who plays the oft-sozzled divorcee next door.  Instead, we get to watch the adults through Duncan’s eyes, as they drink too much, and lie to themselves and each other – a narrative device also seen recently in What Maisie Knew. Fortunately, the film, like its lead, opens up and becomes somewhat less awkward once it spends more time at the Water Wizz with Rockwell, who naturally provides some helpful life lessons under his happy-go-lucky, man-child style of management. Naturally, this also helps him befriend the pretty girl next door (AnnaSophia Robb). Continue reading Sorted for Teens and Wizz

“You See That Sign Flashing There? It Says…Applesauce.”

black-and-white-audience

There’s been a lot of talk recently of canned laughter.  Surely no-one denies that canned laughter exists – the wonderfully spooky phrase “the laughter of the dead” refers specifically to laughter captured so long ago that the audience is no longer even with us – but clearly the idea of laughs on cue is taboo in modern comedy. Mention the phrase on Twitter, for example, and you’re as likely as not to find the size twelves of the local comedy constabulary on your neck, requesting that you re-think the phrase and maybe buy a DVD in penance. We here at MostlyFilm, however, are not subject to the laws of Tweet-land and can more freely question the idea that every laugh at every joke on the soundtrack to every comedy was recorded right at the moment the punchline dropped.

After the jump, Sarah Slade shares her memories of being in an audience for a comedy show that didn’t quite get the laughing part of their job right. It’s certainly enough to pose the reasonable question – if not canned, then what? Ethically sourced and packaged in a protective atmosphere for later use?

Continue reading “You See That Sign Flashing There? It Says…Applesauce.”

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

The Tramp looks at the apocalyptic conclusion of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’.

Why stop at one Cornetto?
Why stop at one Cornetto?

In the USA everything is bigger. The landscape, the buildings, the food portions… I think the sheer size of everything in the USA creeps into the conception of Hollywood films. (Well, that and the deep pockets of the studios.) When zombies invade, they invade a shopping mall the size of a small town, or a lone house surrounded by cornfields so vast that they reach to both ends of the horizon. The police are always pitted against villains with more hardware than the army, while not being short of a rocket launcher or two themselves. When aliens land, they choose to dramatically level large national landmarks carved into mountain ranges or hide below ground in those vast cornfields I mentioned earlier, insidiously taking over townsfolk and rolling out their secret invasion via trucks large enough to make a Routemaster look tiny.

This sense of vastness somehow manages to cover up the inherent silliness of an awful lot of Hollywood movies. Or if not cover up precisely, at least provide some form of legitimacy to them. In scrunched-up old Blighty, however, big themes are more difficult to pull off – hence the risky tendency to come at these themes (and Hollywood plots in general) by means of send-up and leg-pull. But it’s in precisely this risky area that Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright have succeeded. It started in 2004 with Shaun of the Dead, in which a zombie apocalypse is experienced from Crouch End’s best pub. It was followed in 2007 by Hot Fuzz, in which a Big City cop blows shit up in a small sleepy village. Now, to complete the trilogy, comes The World’s End, in which aliens infiltrate the cultural wasteland of an English New Town. Continue reading Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

Monoglot Movie Club: A Poor Second To Belgium

Part of an occasional series in which Spank The Monkey travels to foreign countries, watches films in unfamiliar languages, and then complains about not understanding them

pie

You’re so sadly neglected
And often ignored
A poor second to Belgium
When going abroad
Finland, Finland, Finland
The country where I quite want to be

–       Monty Python, Finland

Quick! Name a famous Finnish film director. I’ll give you bonus points for lateral thinking if you said Renny Harlin, but arthouse cinema fans will probably have plumped for Aki Kaurismäki. Sadly, I didn’t get to see any of his movies on my recent visit to Helsinki, but it’s hard to avoid the man’s presence, particularly if you’re the sort of person that eats food. The Belated Birthday Girl and I kept ending up in restaurants that were either patronised by the director (the menu at Kosmos includes ‘Pike perch with Lobster Sauce and Crayfish Tails au Gratin à la Aki Kaurismäki’), or owned by him. Of the latter, Zetor is probably the best one to go for, with its tractor-heavy décor and its patriotic blueberry pie served in a tin mug, as seen above.

Still, you have to assume that Finnish cinema doesn’t begin and end with Kaurismäki. So I made it my mission, as ever, to track down a couple of the latest domestic releases, and attempt to watch them without the benefit of English subtitles. Good news for all you lovers of schadenfreude: one of these turned out to be Monoglot Movie Club’s first complete failure. Continue reading Monoglot Movie Club: A Poor Second To Belgium

Wedding Hells

Gareth Negus gets drunk at weddings.

Abandon hope.
Abandon hope.

Maybe it’s the fault of Bridesmaids. Maybe it goes back further, to Four Weddings and a FuneralMy Big Fat Greek Wedding should probably take some of the blame. Either way, there has been a plague of wedding-based comedies at the cinema over the past 12 months or so, and they all have one thing in common: they’re crap.

There’s nothing wrong with the basic idea.  Weddings have lots of attractions for a comedy writer: they’re universal (most people have been to at least one, if only as a guest), there is ample opportunity for humorous mix ups and exaggerated characters, both of which can plausibly be fuelled by drink. Add the in-built happy ending (assuming the happy couple manage to sort out their differences at the last minute), something we all need more than ever in These Difficult Times, and it’s easy to see why there are so many of things being made.  If only they weren’t so terrible.

Continue reading Wedding Hells