New in Theaters: ‘Zero Motivation’

Nelly Tagar tries to be all she can be in 'Zero Motivation' (Zeitgeist Films)

Nelly Tagar tries to be all she can be in ‘Zero Motivation’ (Zeitgeist Films)

The new Israeli film Zero Motivation—which played the film festival circuit earlier in the year—is a smart, dour comedy set in a military office where little gets done. The military satire is punched up with the occasional flash of surrealism; it’s a fantastic mix.

Zero Motivation is opening this week in limited release. I reviewed it at the Tribeca Film Festival for PopMatters:

On a base that feels as removed from any actual war as Sgt. Bilko, the human resources office is a den of sloth and ineptitude. Commanding officer Rama (Shani Klein) is frazzled trying to get any of the women in her command to care even remotely about their assignments. Her best friends Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy) can’t be bothered to do much besides complain and play Minesweeper, as they all survive in a casually sexist division, where the men are assigned all the combat roles and so ascend to higher ranks, and female soldiers fetch coffee and bicker…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Horrible Bosses 2′

'Horrible Bosses 2' (New Line Cinema)

‘Horrible Bosses 2′ (Warner Bros.)

There wasn’t much to know about the comedy Horrible Bosses beyond that it featured three guys (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) who hated their bosses and wanted revenge. There isn’t much else to know about the sequel, except that it’s not about plot so much as watching three great comic actors bicker and squall.

Horrible Bosses 2 opened this week and will be playing pretty much everywhere for at least a couple weeks for anybody already sick of Oscar contender films. My review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘The Trip to Italy’ is Highly Unnecessary Comedy, But Not in a Bad Way

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in 'The Trip to Italy' (IFC Films)

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in ‘The Trip to Italy’ (IFC Films)

Two comics playing slightly tweaked versions of themselves, ravishing Italian scenery, phenomenal food, recitations of Shelley’s poetry, Tom Hardy impressions. That’s about all one needs to know about Michael Winterbottom’s nervy, gadabout sequel to the 2010 road comedy The Trip.

The Trip to Italy is playing now in highly limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

The Trip to Italy’s total lack of necessity has little bearing on its enjoyability. There’s nothing wrong with watching a pair of lyrical, spry, and acid-tongued comics lashing each other with barbed commentary while enjoying the operatic grandeur of a foodie junket through Italy’s more salubrious and sun-splashed districts. Does it matter that they’re not bringing much new to the party?…

You can see the trailer here:

Also, here you can check out one of the better clips: Coogan and Brydon on The Dark Knight Rises:

New in Theaters: ‘Obvious Child’

Jake Lacy, Jenny Slate, Gaby Hoffman in 'Obvious Child' (A24)

Jake Lacy, Jenny Slate, and Gaby Hoffman in ‘Obvious Child’ (A24)

obviouschild-posterIn yet another attempt to subvert the romantic comedy—a genre that remains essentially dead despite all Cameron Diaz’s efforts—Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child throws a lot into the mix: pregnancy, awkward relationships, and millennial insecurity.

Obvious Child opens in limited release tomorrow. My review is at Film Racket:

A fresh-faced, faux-messy romantic comedy with a refreshingly economic take on the usual meet-cute / separation crisis / resolution arc, Obvious Child is like many tales birthed in purportedly edgy Brooklyn. Yes, it spends its time mostly in Williamsburg’s creative demimonde and the operative comedic style is layered in irony like so many smothering quilts. But the story itself, once you get past the frank talk about abortion and bodily functions, is just as much love at first sight as a pastel-colored confection starring Katherine Heigl and set across the river in a midtown fashion magazine. Only the soundtrack is better, there’s three times as many solid laughs, and it’s about 20 blessed minutes shorter….

You can see the trailer here:

Now Playing: ‘Bad Words’

Jason Bateman has been crafting comedy genius for so long in front of the camera that it’s perhaps inevitable he would eventually move behind it as well. Bad Words is his directorial debut, a promising and blessedly short if wildly uneven hour-and-a-half of rude comedy about a misanthropic adult who crashes a kids’ spelling bee.

Bad Words is still playing just about everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

Guy Trilby is custom-made for Bateman’s perfected admixture of laconic sharpness. Instead of the more explosive brand of destabilizers favored by US comedy, your John Belushis and Will Ferrells, Bateman upends the norms of this closed micro-society of over-schooled spelling quants by having Trilby simply plant himself there and refusing to move or explain his motivations. Occasionally he’ll try to get a leg up in competition by upsetting his preteen opponents with some verbal guerrilla warfare. But in the main, Trilby is a stoic pillar of nasty. (Having played the put-upon and exasperated nice guy in everything from Arrested Development to Identity Thief, Bateman gets some mileage here out of going so far to the dark side.) He’s Bartleby, and will not be moved…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Prince Avalanche’

Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get on each other's nerves in 'Prince Avalanche'.

Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get on each other’s nerves in ‘Prince Avalanche’.

prince-avalanche-posterDavid Gordon Green has carved out an odd career for himself in Hollywood, switching back and forth between artful mood pieces (George Washington) and stoner f/x comedies (Your Highness). His newest comedy, Prince Avalanche, tries to thread the needle between those two opposites and comes up a winner.

Prince Avalanche is playing now. My review is at Film Journal International:

In David Gordon Green’s new comedy Prince Avalanche, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch star as Alvin and Lance, both slackers in highly different ways. It’s 1987 in the great state of Texas and the two guys are spending the summer working in a park that was recently burned out by a massive fire. Their assignment is the prosaic stuff of road crews: repainting yellow stripes and putting in reflectors. Alvin, who fancies himself a thinker a, sees it as a time for self-sufficiency and self-reflection. However, Lance, who would be defined as your garden-variety “doofus,” is quietly losing his mind due to the lack of, well, women. Something’s got to give…

Here’s the trailer:

 

Now Playing: ‘Girl Most Likely’

Kristen Wiig and Annete Bening in 'Girl Most Likely'.

Kristen Wiig and Annete Bening in ‘Girl Most Likely’.

girlmostlikelyposter1Every so often a former SNL performer finds their way to a career outside sketch comedy. Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and so on. But there’s an even longer list of those who found that their talents just didn’t translate well into different mediums. One new addition to that list just might be Kristen Wiig, whose new comedy Girl Most Likely is out in theaters now. To her credit, she’s far from the worst thing about the the movie.

My review is at Film Racket; here’s part of it:

As the star of the flimsy, dreary debacle that is Girl Most Likely, Kristen Wiig joins the august pantheon of modern actresses forced to debase and humiliate themselves for ninety minutes or so of pop-song-scored OMG embarrassments. Her Imogene is another in a long line of female screen neurotics who are brought low by an inability to get out of their own head before being rescued by a patient, doe-eyed, and dark-haired dreamboat with a Crest Whitening smile. Michelle Morgan’s manic script — which cruises along on derivative and mean-spirited cliche before detouring into are-they-joking inanity in the last section — barely situates Imogene before it starts to destroy her; this may be an irrelevant problem, though, since she’s such an unpleasant piece of work that more time in her company wouldn’t have created more sympathy…

You can see the trailer here: