Category Archives: comedy
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.