Dark Comedy

Heathers

Year: 1988
Directed By: Michael Lehmann
Written By: Daniel Waters

RYAN’S REVIEW

I grabbed this movie off the shelf during a post-Christmas shopping day at the store. It was reasonably priced and I felt it was a movie that belonged in the collection. I am a fan of dark comedies and this is a classic dark comedy.  This one was original when it came out; twenty four years later it seems like a story that has been played out in a variety of ways. The most immediate example that comes to mind is Tina Fey‘s Mean GirlsI remember it being a popular movie when it came out but all I saw was a cheap knock off of this movie with Lindsay Lohan in it. There are other examples that out there as well but most of those movies are ones I never took the time to watch.  This movie is original and dark in all the ways none of the others ever had the balls to pull off, and ways that simply wouldn’t be accepted today.

This is a movie that plays to the extremes but that is what makes it memorable. It takes a world we all went through at one point or another and gets crazy with it. It says something about our society within the madness too.  It goes to the extremes but it says something about conformity and about bullying.  Veronica Sawyer is an interesting character because she seems to be different yet she is still part of the “Heathers.”  She too is a conformer and bully as she goes along with the mean things they do, but she changes everything all the same. J.D. was just the man to come along and enlighten her but he is much darker than Veronica realizes until it is too late. He seems like the wild and free spirited rebel at first but the farther things go the more we see that he is simply crazy and out of control. I think his role reversal conversations with his father are really interesting and are probably a major contributing factor to his persona.

This movie came out in the era of Winona Ryder and I hate that things went downhill for her over time. I have always been a fan of hers and really wished she could have offered us more over the last decade.  All her greatest roles seem to be played with such an effortless quality that maybe she was simply a pretty face.  The effortless performances that come to mind are Beetlejuice and Edward ScissorhandsI never saw her Oscar winning performance in Girl, Interrupted but it should have opened up so many opportunities for her and simply didn’t. I think she is a gorgeous actress though and miss what she brought to the films she was in.  I don’t mind Christian Slater but I wouldn’t say I was ever really a fan.  He has always seemed to be trying to emulate Jack Nicholson and I’m not really a big fan of Jack either.  I like Slater in this role though.  As JD he fits the part well, interesting enough to catch the eye of a popular girl and unhinged just enough to still manipulate her into what he wants before going off the deep end.

This movie would never fly today because there is simply no place in our society for a movie this dark.  A dark comedy today about school massacres and teen suicide just wouldn’t work.  We have all lived through too many tragedies at this point to tolerate something like this.  That’s part of what I like about this movie though because it gives us a window into a different time.  A time when all of this was acceptable.  This movie came out when this kind of behavior wasn’t so rampant it was practically forbidden to film.  Also a time when actors were still allowed to casually smoke on screen and it not be an issue.  I like that about this movie and what it tells us about how things have changed.

This movie is a classic and all classics are worth your time to see. This is a dark comedy and as I have said before these movies aren’t for everyone.  If you usually enjoy them then you should definitely take some time to see this one because you probably won’t see any other like it. No remakes for this one are ever going to be brought up during a discussion among execs at a movie studio.

In Bruges

Year: 2008
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Written By: Martin McDonagh

RYAN’S REVIEW

I can’t even remember what prompted us to watch this movie at first. When we did watch it for the first time we had to have the subtitles on just to know what the characters were talking about.  This movie sports heavy English accents that confuse our Southern ears.  When we finally figured out what these guys were saying we couldn’t stop laughing at the irony of it all. This isn’t a movie I find myself recommending or passing along to others but it is one I have always loved.  I distinctly remember seeing some random guy in a Best Buy buying this movie once and giving the guy a high five.  I pointed to the DVD and asked if he had seen it, he said yes and that it was awesome, I concurred with the regular masculine action of congratulations, the high five. I am part of the small group of people that loves black comedy it seems, but obviously there are more of us out there.

I don’t like Colin Farrell or Brendan Gleeson but in this movie they fit just right.  That’s not true actually because they both fit into many movies nicely. Farrell is great in Minority Report and Gleeson is great in many movies such as Braveheart and Gangs of New YorkThey are both great actors I have just never been a fan of. Farrell at least has arguably been a good actor but I would argue against on that one. Since seeing his portrayal of Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone‘s miserable biopic I have despised Farrell, who was an awful choice for the role to begin with. I can’t say what it is about Gleeson I have never liked but I can’t take anything away from him as far as talent goes.  He is a great actor who fits into many roles really well.  Ralph Fiennes is really funny as the top mob boss who is dangerous yet dramatic at the same time.

This movie isn’t for everyone, but I think it is worth your time to see whether it’s one you will like or not. I encourage you to watch it with subtitles because it can be difficult to understand the heavy accents but once the language barrier is taken care of anybody can see how good it is.  This is a dark comedy and I have a special place in my heart for those but they do not appeal to everyone.

1/21/19

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. day, first and foremost may he Rest In Peace and his legacy live on. Coincidentally and for random reasons I found myself watching this film tonight. Another movie block scratched off may it do ya fine.

I didn’t know what was going to happen when I watched it. I remembered I liked it and enough to add it to the collection early in its existence but that was pretty much it. This move made its way in shortly after release thanks to a spot on recommendation from our local Blockbuster guy, Taylor Kumroy (a badass movie buff and more importantly, a SURVIVOR). Taylor was right, as I have no doubt he would be today as well, about nearly anything. I have not seen or spoken to him in probably 10 years but I remember him now, because I just enjoyed something spectacular and I have him to thank for it.

It occurred to me as I revisited this move, for the sake of “the poster” that it’s not just good, it’s “The Godfather” good. Simply a wonderful and fantastic movie capable of surprising you.

It surprised me, and I knew what was coming! Time is funny and seemingly insignificant things fade from memory. It’s a wonderful thing when something bubbles up to the surface and your night is fulfilled spending time with it.

This, In Bruges, is so worth your time and I hope you enjoy it. It desevered to be on the poster and I have sincerely loved every minute of watching it again.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Thank goodness for subtitles and closed captioning, otherwise I wouldn’t even know what this movie was about. But, we did watch it in subtitles, and this was a really twistedly funny movie. It’s a strange kind of funny. It’s definitely worth the watch.

 Now that I see the poster, I think it perfectly depicts my explanation above. “Twistedly Funny.” It looks random, and makes you question the movie. That’s what all movie posters should do. Marketing 101: “What the hell is this movie about?” Everyone who sees it should ask that, and the poster should only ask the question, never give it away. I think this poster does that. I even like the color choice. It’s a little blue overall (twisted part) and then there is a random ice cream color of pink and they pick this back up in the typography of the title (funny part). I do love a nice grid structure when it comes to typography and they do a great job of it. The tagline lines up with the “U” in Bruges. I love it.

NEXT MOVIE: Inception (2011)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Year: 1964
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Terri Southern, and Peter George (book)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the greatest comedies of all time, even after almost fifty years.  It is a culturally significant and satirically clever movie that happens to be hilarious as well.  It has been so long since this film has come out that the situation the film depicts might be strange to young viewers unfamiliar with the Cold War.  I urge any of them to learn from this film as it mocks a very real and serious situation in our nation’s history.  When you watch the movie you have to really allow yourself to get sucked into it.  Absorb yourself in the story to get the most out of it.  It is a film that requires your attention because it is easy to get lost in a story about an unfamiliar time.  I have been struggling for years to get Amber to actually pay attention to this film and appreciate how great it really is.

The Cold War was one of the most ridiculous conflicts in the history of the world and it left the entire planet in a precarious situation for a long time.  It is a conflict that every rising generation needs to learn about so that we all understand the pointlessness and risk of the arms race and theories like Mutually Assured Destruction.  This movie is perfect for conveying the danger the world faced and the madness behind it all.  When I was in college I actually designed a lesson plan for a history class on The Cold War that centered on this movie.  The main problem with that would be getting teenagers to pay attention to a black and white film like this.  There would need to be a lot of background info to go over in order for them to understand but that is where most of you teaching points start.  I believe the easiest way to get young kids to understand history is giving them something like a film that they can relate to and understand better.  Teaching around films in this fashion gives you plenty of opportunity to convey important information to them while keeping them interested in the topic with a film.  Films are never historically accurate but that only gives you more opportunities to stop the film and explain how it really was.  The problem with this idea of using movies in history class is that history classes in this state are required to be taught to the test at the end of the year.  That kind of system really limits what teachers are able to do and rushes them to fit too much history into too short a time.  Hopefully the powers that be will one day learn the folly in such a system.

Stanley Kubrick is a legendary director with an incredible track record.  He is also quite the perfectionist which led some people to wonder if he was mad but it always made his films better.  He read something like fifty books about nuclear war before writing the screenplay for this movie.  That’s part of what makes it such a historically and culturally significant film because it so accurately mocks the realities at stake.  This movie only got the green light from the studio if Peter Sellers agreed to play four parts and he got the king’s ransom for his contribution to the film.  Receiving roughly fifty-five percent of the film’s budget in payment.  Peter Sellers played the part of the British liaison officer, the President, and Dr. Strangelove and his performances carry the film.  Sellers was supposed to play the part of the B-52 pilot as well but twisted his ankle or something like that and they had to cast a new role.  The part ultimately went to Slim Pickins after being turned down by the likes of John Wayne and Dan Blocker.  Slim Pickins gave one of his most memorable performances and will live on in infamy because of his role as Major TJ “King” Kong.  George C. Scott, better known for playing General Patton in Patton, was sensational as General Turgidson.  He is specifically does a good job of conveying the paranoia and insanity that had a voice in some of the high level meetings of the time.  “Mr. President! We cannot allow a mine shaft gap!” That line is one of my favorites in the film, it is so funny. Sterling Hayden does a great job of keeping a straight face while he speaks complete nonsense.  He fits the part perfectly as the longtime military man that has ultimately gone mad.

This movie was originally supposed to come out in November of 1963, but when JFK was assassinated it didn’t seem like the right time for this kind of dark comedy. It was pushed back until sometime in 1964 before actually being released. It is one of the most well received movies in history and considered one of the best comedies of all time. This movie is referenced on a regular basis in the media world so it will always have an incredible legacy.  With a movie like this I don’t think I need to vouch for it because this is a movie that speaks for itself.  Let yourself get drawn in and pay close attention to everything that is happening and you will see the value of this film.  It is a great classic film that I always enjoy watching.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan’s right, I really can never seem to get into this movie. I know it is supposed to be really great, but for some reason every time we watch it, I find myslef wandering away or not paying attention. I don’t even know what the movie is about, so I really can’t give it a review. It’s a a classic, so I say yes watch it, I am just not sure if you will like it or not.

 

NEXT MOVIE: Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Death To Smoochy

Year: 2002
Directed By: Danny DeVito
Written By: Adam Resnick

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is my third favorite movie of all time. It’s hard for me to keep any kind of ranking system when I love so many movies but I have had a set and unchanged top three of all time since I saw this movie for the first time.  It’s mystery movie #1 that we haven’t reached in the collection yet, The Big Lebowski, and Death to Smoochy. When I saw this movie for the first time I was in love with it in the first few minutes, it took no more than this and I was sold. It’s so ironic and awesome. Something about Robin Williams surrounded by little people singing that song just hits my funny bone the right way.  I distinctly remember seeing this film on a list in the newspaper of “10 worst movies of the year” back in 2002.  I have also never met another person who likes this movie as much as I do (or at all), but it is special to me and I think it is great.

I think Danny DeVito did a masterful job directing this movie.  I think the direction and the performances are what make this movie so good.  He has great lighting, great set design, and uses excellent angles when filming.  I have always liked Danny DeVito but he isn’t so great as an actor all of the time.  He has gotten so disgusting and weird in his old age on the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I actually think that show started a downward spiral the minute he joined the cast. The show was funnier before he arrived.  There is an entire episode about him pooping down his pants leg regularly because “poop’s funny.”  Is poop funny? I have one kid who just got out of diapers and we are due in a week with another baby.  I don’t think poop is funny and can’t find anybody else who does.  Nevertheless DeVito has done many great things in his career like Batman Returns, Twins, Matilda,  and in my opinion this film. I don’t know why people can’t appreciate this film, it got really horrible reviews.  I think the story is clever, the dialogue is witty, and the performances are fantastic. This is a dark comedy, and I think most people just didn’t get it.

This was part of Robin Williams psycho trilogy that also included One Hour Photo and Insomnia. I consider this the last good movie Williams made but I have to admit I haven’t seen much of his recent work because I have heard bad things.  I know that Williams has struggled with drugs and alcohol throughout his career, I think those issues ultimately created problems later and recently in his career. Williams is great as Rainbow Randolph who  grows more insane as the film progresses.  I love so many of his lines in this movie. When he calls Sheldon to threaten him and says he’s going on a safari I burst into laughter every time. When he proclaims Smoochy as the face of evil and points to the grinning and dancing Edward Norton on the big screen I can’t help but smile.  I also love when he has Sheldon and Nora at gun point in the condo he used to live in. He describes a picture he had on the wall when he lived there of a naked woman, “not a picture of your F-ing mother!”, there is a picture of a Rhino on the wall. When someone throws an egg at his head he begins to first scream that he has been shot and then starts shouting “SALMONELLA, THAT’S SALMONELLA!” Robin Williams is really great in this movie and he has so many great lines, but he isn’t the best.  I’d have to say the best performance went to Edward Norton.

Edward Norton was coming off several roles as a bad guy including American History X, Fight Club, and The Score. He played really violent people in a couple of those movies.  When he curbs that guy in American History X is sent a shock through me that left a mark for a while. So when I saw him playing the part of Smoochy, I was blown away by his complete reversal in character.  I think the character of Sheldon Mopes is so interesting.  He is an over the top nice guy that has a dark part of his personality suppressed and we only see it briefly near the end of the film. Norton seemed so natural and honest in the part.  He had a joyfulness to him that burst through the screen and made his performance special.  This role made Norton one of my favorite actors, but unfortunately he hasn’t had many hits since this film.  I really liked him in The Incredible Hulk and was disappointed that Marvel chose to replace him for The Avengers.  He will be playing a substantial role in Wes Anderson‘s next movie Moonrise Kingdom and I am really looking forward to that.

This is a rare acting role for Jon Stewart and I think he brings a lot to the film.  I should really have a lot more to say about Stewart but I have never really watched much of his show.  Not because I don’t like him but just because I try to avoid politics and that’s his thing. I like Catherine Keener in the female lead, she doesn’t get the lead very often but she is usually good when she does, such as in The 40 Year Old Virgin. Danny Woodburn is also worth mentioning. He played Angelo, the leader of the little people so to speak.  Woodburn was really great as Kramer’s friend Mickey on Seinfeld and I have always been fond of him because of that role. All of these actors as well as the ones I haven’t mentioned came together to make a really weird movie that meant a lot to me even if nobody else liked it.

This movie really was a financial disaster. It had a budget of $55 million and only managed to gross $8 million.  That is really bad and I’m not sure why it was so unsuccessful.  Robin Williams was actually nominated for a Razzie for his part in the movie. None of this means anything to me though, I think this movie is awesome.  I often enjoy dark and weird stories that nobody else seems to appreciate, and I care little about what others think when it comes to something I like.  I am interested nonetheless in anybody else’s opinion about this movie.  If you haven’t seen it then check it out and let us know what you think.  I think this film is worth your time and I hope you enjoy it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not a lot of people have heard of it or seen it, but it is truly one of the funniest, most interesting movies that I have ever seen. This film shows a side of Ed Norton that we have never seen before. He plays the part of a well to do, vegan eating, people loving purple dinosaur and plays the part to a “T.” The movie is interesting and weird and it is hard to actually explain it. I know that Ryan wrote a book about it, so I am going to just simply say watch this movie. There is no if you want to or not, I am just saying go and watch it. It is awesome. We both loved it, and I know that it wasn’t received well by critics, but what do movie reviewers know anyway?

NEXT MOVIE: Deliverance (1972) <————————-You must read this review….I need to explain.

Burn After Reading

Year: 2008
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is not the best Coen Brothers film and in fact it isn’t even one of their better ones but there is a lot to like about this film.  It has an awesome intro that is very funny but overall the film tends to go up and down.  I may be somewhat biased in my criticism though. While I always think highly of the Coens I do have a big problem with infidelity and so much of this film is about infidelity. I am a child of divorce and grew up as the inadvertent victim of infidelity and because of that I get uncomfortable and weird when seeing it.  Like all Coen Brother movies there are a lot of weird things going on in this one, but the positive aspects make it worth our wild.

There is a great cast on hand in this one. John Malkovich gets the movie started with a great outburst and his character is so constantly funny.  Brad Pitt is hilarious and he plays his part well but I felt like this was when we were really starting to see his age.  He was 45 when this movie came and trying to play the part of a much younger man.  He is still great and his character has one of the best moments in the film (with Clooney, coming out of the closet). What makes it so funny is the look on his face when he pops out of the closet. He has this expression that is ready to explain it all “no big deal man I was just hanging out in here.” Francis McDormand is great in this movie. I really don’t like her character and she looks awful but she is such an amazing actress.  I think J.K. Simmons is great in everything he does, and he is fantastic as the CIA director.  George Clooney and Tilda Swinton also star in the film but I don’t really care much for either.  I tend to think Richard Jenkins brings more to the film actually.  For my thoughts on the directors see my posts for Blood Simple or The Big Lebowski They wrote this movie at the same time they were writing No Country for Old Men. I’ve read that they actually alternated days, working on Burn After Reading one day and No Country the next.

This is a really funny movie but it’s that dark comedy that doesn’t appeal to everybody.  There are also a few scenes that could rival the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone a la Clooney’s project going on in the basement.  Better yet Clooney’s character in general is a bit much, such a devious pervert. I don’t mind recommending this movie but it’s R rating does need to be taken seriously.  This movie has a lot of great laughs and really memorable scenes, it is definitely worth you time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is great. It starts out on such an interesting note that you have to keep watching it, just to see how it all comes together. One of my best friends was raised as a Mormon, and in that opening scene they say a line that is one of our all time favorite lines. “I have a drinking problem? Fuck you, Peck, you’re a Mormon. Compared to you we ALL have a drinking problem!” After this line, I was hooked in for the entire movie. It connects all these people in different scenarios into one big story, in true Coen Brothers fashion. The only thing I didn’t really like about this film was the fact that Brad Pitt maybe was a bad choice for his role. I think he did a good job at it, but ultimately I think it would have been better to have him played by someone younger. This movie is worth watching, because all Coen Brothers movies are worth watching.

NEXT MOVIE: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)