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:


New in Theaters: ‘Blue Jasmine’

Cate Blanchett teetering on the brink in 'Blue Jasmine'

Cate Blanchett teetering on the brink in ‘Blue Jasmine’

SONY-JUOS-01_Onesheet_Layout 1Woody Allen’s newest comedy of social status and anxiety, Blue Jasmine, had a quiet launch this week, almost as though the studio thought that it would sell itself. It might not be his funniest movie in some time but it does feature the best lead performance that he’s directed in years. That would be Cate Blanchett, stepping out of Galadriel’s diaphanous glow and tackling a real-world character with an almost frightening intensity.

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

Woody Allen knows that sometimes it’s best just to throw characters into the deep end and see if audiences want to swim with them. By the time we meet his newest creation, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), she’s in full meltdown, barely holding it together with Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and enough self-delusion to power a third-party presidential campaign…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Violet and Daisy’

Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan get all giggly before their next hit in 'Violet and Daisey'

Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan get all giggly before their next hit in ‘Violet and Daisey’

VIOLETDAISY_FINAL_POSTER1A few years back, Geoffrey Fletcher wrote the screenplay for Lee Daniels’ scorching tale of family dysfunction Precious. Now Fletcher is directing his own script for another wildly over-the-top story, only this time it’s supposed to be an archly ironic assassin comedy.

Violet and Daisy is playing now in very very limited release. My review ran at Film Journal International; here’s part:

Fletcher starts off strong, with a pair of teenage-looking girls staring despondently at a poster announcing the cancellation of a concert by their hero, Barbie Sunday. Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) go to work anyway. We next see them walking down the street carrying pizza boxes and dressed up as nuns. Chattering brightly, they knock on an apartment door. Once it’s opened, the two start blazing away with semi-automatic pistols. Several dead guys later, the two are revealed to be hit-girls-for-hire working for some never-seen crime boss who apparently needs people rubbed out just about every other day…

You can watch the trailer here:

New on DVD: ‘Identity Thief’


Melissa McCarthy and her terrifying hair in ‘Identity Thief’

identity-thief-dvd-cover-45Seth Gordon’s Identity Thief hit theaters back in February with low expectations that were easily improved upon. In short, it’s a better-than-it-could-be comedy that’s funny enough but could have easily stood to be 10-15 minutes shorter, no matter how much one appreciates the shared genius of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

It’s available today on Blu-ray and DVD.

My full review ran at Film Journal International, here’s part of it:

Jason Bateman (who also has a producing credit) plays Sandy Patterson, a milquetoast mid-level worker at a Denver financial firm. He discovers that his identity has been stolen by a Florida woman who’s been maxing out his credit cards and even got arrested (as him). In one of those only-in-the-movies wrinkles, he decides to drive to Florida and bring the woman back to clear his name. The problem is that when he gets down there, Diana (Melissa McCarthy) has no intention of helping him out. She’d rather punch him in the throat and make a wheezing run for it…

You can watch the trailer here:


On the Tube: ‘Louis C.K.: Oh My God’

Louis C.K.: "I like to think I'm a nice person, but I don't know — a lot of it is context"

Louis C.K.: “I like to think I’m a nice person, but I don’t know — a lot of it is context”

So how long has everyone known about Louis C.K.? You try to be a culturally aware person, up on the latest things, familiar with the trending performers, and so on and so forth. But every now and again one or more slips through the cracks and you just … miss it. Then, you’re behind the curve, and the more people go on about him or her, you figure, well, I’ll get around to it eventually. And then you do. And then you realize … what took me so long?

louisck-ohmygod-poster-200Case in point, Louis C.K.’s latest special, Oh My God. If you read my review of it that ran on PopMatters yesterday, you might be forgiven for thinking that this particular writer had been following this guy’s career for years, when in fact it was a very recent development, and long overdue.

Anyways, it’s a great hour of comedy, here’s part of my review:

Whenever Chuck Klosterman gets tired of writing the New York Times’ “Ethicist” column, the editors there should consider throwing out a feeler to Louis C.K. They might have to put up with a few gags about the Holocaust and child murder, but he’s actually a good fit for the position. His media profile is that of the controversial shock-comic who leaps into territory that might daunt Sarah Silverman. But what’s always been most interesting about C.K. is his quaintly earnest examination of morality and life’s purpose, with the occasional joke about cannibalism…

Here’s the promo:


New in Theaters: ‘It’s a Disaster’


And so begins the last couples’ brunch of the 21st century…

its_a_disaster posterAlmost perfectly designed to come and go quickly from theaters, leaving mostly silence but a few nattering and persistent fans in its wake, It’s a Disaster is a tart comedy for chilly times. From my review at Film Journal International:

The current vogue for apocalypse stories gets a refreshing redo in Todd Berger’s nimble comedy about a miserable brunch that turns only mildly more sour after the realization that everyone is just hours away from death. The lack of both zombies and stars, not to mention the inside-out mockery of genre tropes, will keep wider audiences at a distance. But strong word of mouth could result in a small cult hit, at least among those who don’t mind a film whose attitude toward its doomed characters is simple and damning: Good riddance…

It’s a Disaster opened yesterday in very limited release; find it however and wherever you can.

Here’s the trailer:



New on DVD: ‘This is 40′

This Is 40

thisis 40dvdJudd Apatow has done more than just about any other filmmaker to revive the American film comedy as a vital force. But his influence has been much more positive as a writer, producer, and show-runner (Freaks and Geeks to Adventureland) than it has been as a writer and director of his own work. This is 40 follows squarely in that slightly disappointing line.

It came out last week on Blu-ray and DVD. My full review is at Film Racket; here’s part of it:

In 2007’s Knocked Up— also known as the last funny movie Judd Apatow directed — Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) were the fractious married couple who served as a warning to the commitment-phobic Ben Stone (Seth Rogen). With This Is 40, Apatow makes the wildly unnecessary move of spinning them off into their own film…

You can watch the trailer here: