Category Archives: comedy

Rabid Reads: "Benjamin’s Parasite" by Jeff Strand

Benjamin’s Parasite
223 pages
ISBN 9781934546123
Purchase via: Amazon / Book Depository
It’s been a little while since I read a book that nearly made me retch. If I was keeping a daily tally on how long it’s been since the last time a book managed to make me a bit queasy, I’d have to set it back to zero now. It’s not a gore fest, mind you, but there were just a couple scenes that really made me cringe. Body horror has a way of doing that to me. What kind of horror fan am I?
So, this is a novel about Benjamin Wilson–and his parasite. Well, technically it’s not his, so much as it’s the property of a top secret project, and it just happens to wind up inside Benjamin after a tangled series of events, which is capped off with him having to shoot one of his students in self-defense when the boy goes on a seemingly random psychotic rampage. After that traumatic event, he begins to experience some strange cravings and inhibitions are lowered. Basically his every latent compulsion and desire is coming to the surface, sometimes when he’s not even aware of it.
Then there’s that searing pain in his stomach.
This novel is a quick, crazy read. And, it’s not just a horror novel, as there is a wild kind of road story to it, too. That’s because Benjamin is saved early on from certain death by a femme fatale bountyhunter who abducts him and tries to get him to the folks responsible for the parasite, so they can get it out of him. There are others who are aware of the parasite too though, and will stop at nothing to get it–whether Benjamin lives or dies in the process. Gunfights, car chases, double crosses, etc.
Benjamin is an amiable character and easy to root for, but there are moments when he is hip deep in the action and it feels like he is just taking it all in stride. Like, he’s in such an incredibly unheard of onslaught of circumstances and he still maintains an aloof sense of humor at times. Most of the time he is freaking out and scared shitless, so that helps, but his wisecracking feels overdone once in a while.
Other than that gripe, this is great pulpy horror/action novel, and it served as a great sample of Jeff Strand’s work. I’m eager to read more of his work down the road.

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Filed under Benjamin's Parasite, book review, comedy, horror novels, Jeff Strand, monsters, Rabid Reads, sci-fi novels

Rabid Rewind: Due Date

Due Date
starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx, and Danny McBride
directed by Todd Phillips
screenplay by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland
Warner Bros. (2010)
I would not have pegged Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as an effective comedy duo, but this movie demonstrated that they have an interesting chemistry on screen together. Go figure.
Downey stars as Peter, a self-absorbed architect on his way from Atlanta to L.A. in order to rejoin his pregnant wife and witness the birth of his first child. Through a series of unfortunate events, upon meeting Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis), Peter is kicked off his flight, put on a no-fly list, and must find a way to make it cross-country without his wallet or luggage. Ethan to the rescue–but not really, since Ethan is responsible for Peter getting kicked off the plane in the first place through his eccentric and grating nature.
With no other options, Peter joins Ethan on a cross-country road trip that has them encountering a plethora of oddball characters including an ass-kicking paraplegic (Danny McBride) and a drug-dealing mother (Juliette Lewis). It’s a combination of dark comedy and slapstick in what winds up being kind of an uneven film, compared to that other beloved Todd Phillips film, The Hangover.
Downey and Galifianakis are great to watch as they play off each other in assorted scenes, and even play the smattering of serious moments with a sincere tone that actually works, but the relationship between the characters becomes less and less believable as their antics become more and more zany. And when the inevitable blow-up occurs, the end results are simply too far-fetched to be believed. A happy end just didn’t feel right for a movie like this, but I suppose audiences would have rejected a more genuine ending.
It’s a funny enough film to rent some weekend, but it falls well short of the better slapstick comedies to hit theaters in the last few years, which is a shame because there was a ton of potential here.

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Filed under comedy, Danny McBride, Due Date, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis, movie review, Rabid Rewind, Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis

Rabid Rewind: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, & Nathan Fillion

directed by Joss Whedon

written by Maurissa Tancharden, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon

Mutant Enemy (2008)

Maybe if I had any real online presence at the time, I might have hopped on this bandwagon when it first started rolling. Be that as it may, I am a fan of it now.

Neil Patrick Harris plays Dr. Horrible, a second-rate super-villain looking for his chance to join the League of Evil. And when he’s not plotting some crime or catastrophe, he’s kvetching on his video blog. There’s a certain Jack Benny or Bob Hope delivery with those to-the-camera moments of the movie that Harris seems pitch perfect at doing. And he’s not a bad singer either.

And that’s a big plus to this movie, because the singing could have been god-awful. Maybe I’m jaded, but musicals so rarely work nowadays(I find Glee insufferable, so forgive me). Dr. Horrible sings about his exploits and his nemesis, Captain Hammer, as well as his unrequited love for a girl he met at the local laundromat (Felicia Day).

If Harris does a great job portraying a slightly neurotic, and ultimately hapless villain, Nathan Fillion does an equal job at playing the blithely ignorant and self-absorbed superhero Captain Hammer. I remember Fillion stating in an interview that he always wanted to play a superhero, so I guess this was his shot and he played it for all it was worth.

The whole story is irresistible in its charm and satirical song lyrics. If you saw the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then this will be right up your alley. And in vintage Joss Whedon fashion, he’s not opposed to throwing in a dash of pathos at the height of the comedy.

I believe the episodes are still viewable online, so just a Google search if you’re curious. But the DVD extras were a treat, including the director’s commentary presented as its own musical, so you might want to track that down too.

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Filed under comedy, Dr. Horrible, Felicia Day, Joss Whedon, movie review, musical, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, Rabid Rewind

Rabid Rewind: The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad
starring Andrew Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr
directed by Fred Dekker
screenplay by Fred Dekker & Shane Black
Lions Gate (1987
)

If I ever saw this movie as a child, I cannot recall. If I did, however, I’m sure I enjoyed it even more than I did when I watched it a couple of weeks ago. The movie pressed my buttons, awaking my inner-child, and made me reminisce about those days as a boy when the impossible seemed more attainable than it does as a grownup.

This movie apparently hit theaters the same year as The Lost Boys. If it was released after that 80s classic, it must have been considered a pale knockoff. The storyline of tween-aged boys waging war on a vampire is eerily similar, but The Monster Squad has the drawback of lacking any marquee names on the cast. Where The Lost Boys had the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman), plus Keifer Sutherland, Diane Weist, and others, the only person I recognized from The Monster Squad was Jason Hervey (of The Wonder Years fame) as one of the bullies.

I gotta say, there is something very 80s about a group of boys banding together to fight a menace on their own. Take a look back at some of those movies starring a cast of tweens and you’ll see what I mean. In this one, Dracula has descended on an unassuming town–quite literally, as he and his precious cargo are dropped out of a cargo plane. His plans: to take over the world, of course. And to do that he has enlisted the help of the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein (the monster not the mad scientist). It’s like someone left the gates open at Universal Studios.

While makeup and costume heavily disguises the monsters, Duncan Regehr shines as a vicious and comically evil Dracula. You would think an immortal bloodsucker who can transform into a bat would have all the tools he needs to put a stomping on a group of kids, but this Dracula goes the one step further and actually uses dynamite at one point to blow up their tree house. Yeah–dynamite!

The other great thing about this movie is that the kids talk like kids, or at least how the kids I grew up with talked. Foul-mouthed, trash-talking precociousness. That’s something that was lost when the 80s ended. I watch a kids movie now and the profanity is rare, if it happens at all–thank you very much, Disney Inc.

The movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and at times borrows heavily from other films, but there’s such a charm to it that I can’t help but love it. Sure, the kids and their quest to find a virgin in order to stop Dracula is somewhat redundant–they’re all virgins, after all–but plot holes like that are easily forgivable. I just wish they made movies like this today. Cheesy, but in a good way.

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Filed under children's, comedy, Dracula, fantasy, Frankenstein, monster movie marathon, Monster Squad, Mummy, Rabid Rewind, vampires, werewolves, Wolfman

Rabid Rewind: Just Buried

Title: Just Buried
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Rose Byrne, and Graham Greene
Writer/Director: Chaz Thorne
Released: Seville Pictures (2008)
Genre: Horror/Comedy

Nova Scotia doesn’t get featured all that often in film, let alone horror films. Though, the original My Bloody Valentine was set in my home province, if I recall correctly. So when I caught wind that this comedic horror film was set and filmed around Windsor, Nova Scotia, I just had to check it out.

I wish I could say, however, that I have seen a good horror film set in Nova Scotia. But I can’t, because this film bored me. That’s a shame too, because Jay Baruchel is a talented actor and the plot for the film sounded promising, if not a bit familiar. The biggest problem with the film I found though, was that the performances came off as disingenuous, like they were played purely for the laughs. A comedic film playing for laughs? Perish the thought. Okay, point taken. But, the suspense simply wasn’t there for me.

It’s a tricky enough balance as it is when it comes to horror, as there are plenty of ways for it to teeter into farce and self-parody. When you purposefully throw in a comedic element, the task becomes all the more difficult in creating a quality film. For me, Baruchel’s spastic and intensely awkward character, Oliver, comes off as an amped up and dumbed down echo of his roles in Tropic Thunder and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The story basically deals with Oliver and his older brother returning home after the death of their estranged father. Following a dysfunctional funeral, the family’s disparate members view the patriarch’s video will which uses a “The Price Is Right” style wheel to determine the sole inheritor of his estate, which includes the small town’s struggling funeral home. Oliver, of course, wins the prize. The trouble for him is that he has no experience as a business owner, and even less about the funeral business. And with most of the elderly already kicked off, and a more conveniently located funeral parlor elsewhere, the estate is going under.

What does Oliver do? Yup, to exploit the horror element of the film, Oliver becomes a relunctant accomplice to murder as his mortician and potential love interest, Roberta–played by Rose Byrne in one of the more refreshing performances of the film–starts offing people in order to drum up business. From there, it’s a bit of hijinks and escalating tension as they try to evade suspicion from local authorities, and Oliver tries to maintain his sanity in the ensuing madness.

The movie had potential. I just felt it flopped. I think a more effective blend of comedy and horror was achieved by Vincent Price years ago in a film with a very similar plot. I encourage movie fans to watch that one instead. And for the Jay Baruchel fans out there, stick with the mainstream fare.

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Filed under Chaz Thorne, comedy, Graham Greene, horror, Jay Baruchel, Just Buried, movie review, Nova Scotia, Rabid Rewind, Rose Byrne

Rabid Rewind: Youth in Revolt

Title: Youth in Revolt
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Adhir Kalyan, Ray Liotta, Frank Willard, Steve Buscemi, and Zach Galifianakis
Director: Miguel Arteta
Screenplay: Gustin Nash; adapted from the novel by C.D. Payne
Released: Alliance Films (2010)
Category/Genre: Comedy

I’m waiting for the day when Michael Cera stars in a movie I don’t like. His batting average so far is great and convinces me that Jesse Eisenberg has a long way to go before he’ll be anywhere as watchable an actor as Cera. There’s only room for one nerdy-looking pseudo-intellectual leading man-boy. I think Youth in Revolt gives him his closest resemblence to his performance on “Arrested Devlopment.” You could pretty much transplant his character from that show and plunk it down in this movie and you’d never know the difference.

Based on the C.D. Payne novel, the movie’s about Nick Twisp. He’s a helpless virgin living with his divorced mother (Jean Smart) and her long-haul trucker boyfriend, Jerry (Galifianakis). He’s there against his will basically because she’s his sole source of income: child support from Nick’s dad (Buscemi). After a mishap involving a lemon of a car, some sailors, and Jerry’s lack of morals, Nick is whisked away to a lakeside trailer park where he meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni (Doubleday). She’s a flirt of the highest order and wraps Nick around his finger in record time.

I might have expected her to become a rather shallow and manipulative character, but I was pleasantly surprised when she became less of a tease than a genuinely nice person that related to Nick. But she’s already told Nick that she doesn’t like him in that way, so he invents a bad boy persona in order to win her heart. Enter Francois Dillinger.

The movie really picks up as Cera plays double duty, playing both shy-guy Nick and defiant cad, Francois Dillinger. In a kind of split personality development, Nick starts lashing out at authority and tries his best to get kicked out of his mother’s house so he can live with his father, closer to the trailer park and Sheeni. Things, of course, get carried away and Nick risks becoming a fugitive from the law after he accidentally sets half the town on fire.

Of course, her ultra-Christian parents disapprove of her godless heathen of a summer fling and send her to a French immersion school to keep her away. Cue the road trip. This part of the movie felt a bit tacked on in one sense, and put there purely to appeal to what’s left of the American Pie fanbase.

Overall, I liked this movie thanks in large part to the performances of everyone involved. The plot kind of fell apart a bit towards the end, especially when Sheeni’s unseen ex-boyfriend, Trent, finally shows up in the third act. Some more antagonism from him earlier on would have helped, but I think some editing for time clipped most of that character from the film. Too bad, because he was a real dick and a perfect foil for Nick.

It’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet, especially if you’re a Cera fan. And the supporting cast, carried mostly by Frank Willard and Ray Liotta, really helps lift the movie where it sags.

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Filed under Adhir Kalyan, comedy, Frank Willard, Michael Cera, movie review, Portia Doubleday, Rabid Rewind, Ray Liotta, Uncategorized, Youth in Revolt, Zach Galifianakis

Getting Graphic: "Kick-Ass" by Mark Millar

Title: Kick-Ass
Author: Mark Millar
Illustrator: John Romita Jr.
Published: Marvel Comics (2010); originally published as series in 2008
Genre: Superheroes; Comedy
ISBN 978-0-7851-3435-0

Wow, this was not exactly the graphic novel I was expecting to read. I knew it was going to be violent, as critics of the film adaptation seemed to take exception with Hit Girl’s violent antics. What I didn’t know was that the book was drenched in blood, piss, and more nudity that just about any Marvel comic I’ve ever read.

If you’re not familiar with this graphic novel, the setup is pretty easy. Take a nerdy loner in high school who is looking for a way to break out of his shell, then give him the inspiration to dress up like a superhero and roam the streets looking to save the day. You might have heard on the news a few years ago about real life people who do this sort of thing. They dress up in wild costumes then go out in public and perform vigilante style justice and make citizen arrests. That might be where Millar got his inspiration from, actually.

Dave Lizewski sticks to dressing up in his green scuba suit and mask at night, so he can skulk through alleys and even wear his outfit under his regular clothes–you know, for that whole Superman feel when he rips his shirt off to reveal the costume underneath. Then he tries to confront some actual thugs. Where superheroes always get the upper-hand on lowlifes, Dave is beaten mercilessly. Punched, stomped, and even stabbed … then run over by a car for good measure.

For some reason, he persists in his superhero fetish after physical rehabilitation. That’s when he really has to hide his antics from his father, friends, and everyone else. But he also becomes a YouTube sensation when he finally beats up some bad guys, earns the name “Kick-Ass,” and discovers he isn’t the only one parading around the city in a costume fighting crime. Enter Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

Now that Chloe kid in the movie trailers–I haven’t seen the movie yet–looks downright adorable, like a kid wearing a bad-ass Halloween costume. But in the graphic novel, Hit Girl looks like a tiny little maniac. She makes her first appearance in the book to save Kick-Ass from getting killed, and the wrath she lays upon the apartment full of gangsters is unholy. If you’re not expecting something like that, then you’ll do what I did and do a double-take at the pages while Hit Girl slices bad guys to pieces. An eleven year old, mind you, commits what I think is the most extreme, atrocious violence in the entire book.

Despite the fleeting shock value that comes with such stark scenes, the story does resonate on a certain level. Dave just wants to create his own identity, find himself somewhere in all the madness, and winds up seduced by the marginal fame he acquires. And the tragic circumstances of Hit Girl and her so-called origin story are just a harsh call to how messed up some parents can be. Big Daddy might be, in my estimation, a woefully unfit parent, but he’s only fictional and I’ve seen far worse examples of parenting on the six o’ clock news.

It’s a good book, but it is by no means a cutesy piece of popcorn fluff for the little kids. This is a relentless, hyper-violent look at what it would really take to run around in spandex and chase villains. If there’s a second volume to this, and by the looks of the ending there ought to be, then I’ll definitely want to read it.

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Filed under book review, comedy, Getting Graphic, graphic novel, John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass, Mark Millar, superheroes