Category Archives: Comedy

Come to Daddy (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

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Director: Ant Timpson
Writers: Toby Harvard (story), Toby Harvard
Stars: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson

Watch & review enough movies and you learn to appreciate those which manage to surprise you. Come to Daddy is definitely not for everyone, but if nothing else, it is totally unpredictable from start to finish.

I’ll to refrain from giving any kind of detailed plot synopsis because the twists and character revelations come early and often. But the initial set-up has emotionally-fragile musician Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) visiting his estranged father (Stephen McHattie), who left him and his mother 30 years ago. Norval hopes to rekindle their relationship, or at least find out why he’s reaching-out after all these years. However, it turns out Dad isn’t the man he seems to be – in more ways than one – and the story’s just getting started.

Not a horror film per se, Come to Daddy is sometimes very horrific, but the wince-inducing violence is tempered by clever black comedy and, while occasionally shocking, it never feels gratuitous. The plot itself unfolds like something the Coen Brothers would concoct during a drunken binge – ultimately a compliment – and the performances are suitably amusing. Wood makes a sympathetic protagonist (though he can do this type of role in his sleep), but McHattie and especially Martin Donovan – whose role I wouldn’t dream of revealing – steal every scene they’re in.

Best of all, the entire film is completely unpredictable, blindsiding the viewer with one surprise after another. Come to Daddy is loaded with plot twists – none of which I saw coming – without any pesky red herrings. Twisted and brutal but also frequently funny, the film is consistently engaging for thrillseekers looking for something different.

First Love (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

First Love Review

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Masa Nakamura
Stars: Becky, Mami Fujioka, Sakurako Konishi 

Have you ever gone on iMDB and seen just how prolific director Takashi Miike has been throughout his career? If he and Nick Cage ever hooked up, they could crank out a new movie every 10 minutes. Actually, Cage’s career could probably use a little of Miike’s help right now.

On this side of the ocean, Miike is arguably best-known for Audition and Ichi the Killer, establishing him as not-only prolific, but maybe a little nuts. First Love isn’t quite as bonkers as either, but stylistically similar to the latter. Though it contains plenty of bloody mayhem, particularly during the wild finale, there’s none of the sexual violence that sometimes made Ichi tough to endure.

Leo (Masatake Kubota) is a young boxer who comes to the ‘rescue’ of Monica (Sakurako Konishi) by punching the guy chasing her down the street. However, Monica is actually a drug-addicted prostitute and her pursuer is a crooked cop in-cahoots with local Yakuza gangster Kase (Shota Sometani), who plans to steal a drug shipment from his own bosses. Monica is set-up as their patsy in a ruse that also implicates the Chinese mob (who send a batch of their own assassins to find her). Naturally, the plan goes awry.

That’s the basic plot, which grows increasingly complex – some might say convoluted – as it unfolds. But the story ultimately boils down to a long, delirious chase with a variety of quirky, amusing characters trying to get their hands on the bag o’ drugs. Leo & Monica are just innocent young rubes caught in the melee, which leads to a violent, blood-soaked showdown in a hardware store.

Despite efforts to give them a bit of complexity, the somber young leads don’t resonate much. Considering his abundance of previous Yakuza action thrillers, Miike is obviously far more infatuated with the gangsters. As such, they’re interesting characters, some of whom are exaggerated and highly amusing, like Kase – who keeps inadvertently killing people – and a hitman simply known as One-Armed Wang. While a definite mean-streak runs throughout the film, its healthy sense of humour might even make the violence palatable enough for – dare I say it? – mainstream audiences.

The story seems a bit padded out at times. Bookending the action is a lot mundane character exposition and an unnecessarily protracted epilogue. In-between, however, is a fast, furious ballet of guns, fights, swords, squibs, dismemberments and beheadings. First Love probably isn’t destined to enjoy the cult status of Takashi Miike’s most audacious films, but it’s certainly stylish, exuberant and a lot of ridiculous fun.

The Professor (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

The Professor Review

Director: Wayne Roberts
Writer: Wayne Roberts
Stars: Johnny Depp, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young

Let me start in a cheeky and derogatory tone. Let’s take Jack Sparrow, promote him to be an eloquent university professor teaching literature and tell him that he’s terminally ill. If you watch the movie “The Professor” (the original movie title was “Richard says goodbye“) with a dismissive attitude, you could utter such a statement. Well. Johnny Depp may have the tendency to use the ever-drunk pirate character. But otherwise, this entertaining tragicomedy doesn’t have much in common or many similarities with the Caribbean pirate spectacle. Even if the film is steeped with dark humour, a deeply tragic subject can still be discovered. A message about acceptance and an attitude of resignation. Though, Richard’s (Johnny Depp) way of acceptance and resignation can be called very rigorous.

Instead of a tough treatment against the proliferating ailment, Richard decides to let things carry on as they are and completely change the course of his life (the subtle Sparrow-references come to mind spontaneously). That means enjoying life to the full. In short, exploiting the saying “Carpe Diem” in an extreme way. Richard gets dead drunk continuously, smokes pot on a regular basis and ventures into unabashed free sex. In fact, with both sexes and with the approval of his wife who confessed she’s having an affair with Richard’s boss. So you can say that the bad news told by his doctor, caused a groundbreaking turn in his personal life. For the bystanders, however, it seems as if he has become completely insane.

This is without a doubt one of the most successful interpretations of Depp in years. Here this energetic actor shows he can act for sure. I fully understand that he was given this part. The rebellious character of the egocentric figure Richard fits effortlessly with a figure like Johnny Depp. Perhaps his personal private situation provided the appropriate state of mind to play this indifferent intellectualist. His sarcastic view on life produces amusing scenes. The recklessness with which he plunges into adventures, causes others to frown. As a viewer, you understand this turnaround much better. As a result, Richard finds himself in some fairly bizarre situations in which his wife Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), daughter Olivia (Odessa Young) and best friend Peter (Danny Huston) are involved. By the way, I didn’t think the acting performance of these last actors was that bad either. Apart from the theatrical drama of Danny Huston.

“The Professor” probably won’t appeal to a younger audience. It’s not really a movie that will make you happy. I guess it applies to all films that deal with this terrible disease. Yet “The Professor” succeeded in transforming this tragic fact into something humorous. That the end would become more emotional (you could use the expression corny as well) was of course inevitable. Serious films where you are confronted with the concepts of finiteness and death clearly does something with a person. It makes you think about the meaning of life and what you have achieved. And I agree that as I grow older my thoughts sometimes drift away into that area. After seeing this film, I think I will drastically revise my opinion and also take a “Je mon fou” attitude like Richard. So I can fully enjoy everything in the time that’s left. That seems a more pleasant way to end my earthly journey.

The Farewell (2019) Movie Review By Gianni Damaia

 

The Farewell Review

Director: Lulu Wang
Writer: Lulu Wang
Stars: Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo

A stunning exploration in collective grief, The Farewell hits like a freight train. Of course I’m saying this in part because it’s true and in part because Golden Globes nominated Awkwafina in this as a comedy and that in itself is a tragedy. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of The Farewell, I’ll briefly detail its jovial premise… The beloved matriarch, known as Nai Nai, of a slightly disjointed Chinese family is facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Her family collectively decides not to tell her this grave news so that they can all have her in high spirits as they spend their last moments with her. How jolly! I shouldn’t be too dismissive of the comedic elements in The Farewell. Lulu Wang’s voice shines through in nearly every scene, allowing the narrative to become grounded in such relatable urgency.

The Farewell features one of the best screenplays of the year in this regard by allowing the emotional vibrancy to propel each somber moment into the next with an air of mysticism. From the second we understand her diagnosis, Nai Nai becomes a near-cosmic being of triumph. Every time seeing her feels like it could be the last, and like Billi we yearn for more time with such a wonderful presence. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is largely in part to Shuzhen Zhao’s exceptional performance. The tenacity of such a character could easily be lost in a lesser performer, but Zhao is able to take it entirely in stride. She careens through the screen with such dominance that it takes you by surprise how much you actually care for her in the end. Like a magic trick, Zhao and Wang show you a powerful, grounded force of respectability while subtly manoeuvring their story to create an emotional tether. The trick is so masterful that by the time you reach the climax of this heartfelt journey (a shot from the rear view of a car, too rich to spoil),  you will stare bewildered at your own emotional response to a story that could’ve otherwise felt so foreign and distant from your experience.

Perhaps that is only my relationship to The Farewell, but I don’t think I stand alone in that assessment. Of course, with a performer as powerful as Zhao, it becomes hard to fixate on anyone else. And largely, the performances in The Farewell are good, but they often lack the emotional catharsis that we get from Billi and Nai Nai. Exceptions exist (the uncle comes easily to mind), but The Farewell is so transfixed on its core relationship that it occasionally seems to miss opportunities to explore complexities that are only touched upon. It’s a loose critique (I know, and you’ll likely catch me writing that a lot in these next few choices), but I can’t have you thinking I would give anything a perfect 10, right? 9.5/10

Ready or Not (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Ready or Not Review

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writers: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Stars: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien

I have to revise my opinion about the horror/comedy cross-over urgently after seeing “Monster Party” and “The dead don’t die” this year. “Ready or not” is yet another film that pleasantly surprised me. Really. I had a great time watching this movie. And not only because the lead actress Samara Weaving looks appetising, but also because of the entertaining content. I appreciated the morbid black humour as well. It’s not such absurd humour as in “The dead don’t die“. But the slapstick-like events that were used in it, resulted in a spontaneous chuckle sometimes. There were also quite a few bloody scenes in it. In short, it was fun watching this horror flick.

And all because of playing an innocent game of “hide and seek”. Grace (Samara Weaving) chose that on her wedding night by pulling a card out of a wooden box. Apparently, the Le Domas family, who made their fortune in the board gaming world, has a recurring family tradition at weddings. So the moment Grace got a wedding ring from Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), her brand new husband, she unknowingly became part of this tradition. So instead of playing a game of hanky-panky and frolicking in the old-fashioned-looking four-poster bed, the wedding couple is requested to go to the family room to play an old-fashioned board game. What Grace doesn’t realise is that there’s one special card that can have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the evening. Guess what. Yep indeed, she draws the card in question.

It was not only the course of the story I found enormously fascinating and ingenious. Also, the setting where it all took place was beautiful to see. A huge Victorian house, full of dark corners and niches. Such a huge villa that suits a wealthy family like Le Domas perfectly. Full of wood paneling, majestic staircases, and richly decorated corridors. As a child, you could easily get lost there. And that’s where the innocent “hide and seek” takes place. At the beginning Grace enthusiastically participates. Until she realises that nobody from the Le Domas family starts the countdown and starts shouting “Ready or Not, Here I come” (hence the film title). Instead, this insane family has armed itself with old, primitive weapons and starts hunting her.

The most hilarious thing about the film is the family members themselves. All of them are cartoonish, caricatural characters. From the authoritarian somewhat empty-headed paterfamilias Tony (Henry Czerny) and his wife Becky (Andie MacDowell) to the scary-looking, shrewish aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). The latter is the most extreme character. She looks as if she’s a member of a satanic cult with her purple suit, black nail polish and upright Cruella de Vil hairstyle. And when you see her running through the corridors, screaming frantically and waving with a huge lumberjack’s ax, the picture is complete. Add a bunch of other family members to it, such as the alcoholic son Daniel (Adam Brody) and his cheeky wife Charity (Elyse Levesque). The coke-addicted daughter Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her cowardly husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun). And of course the butler should not be missing. Together they form a colourful “Adam’s Family” -like collective.

Finally something about the horror part. Even though the overall atmosphere is rather lighthearted and caricatural, the hardcore horror fanatic will enjoy certain moments. This gothic horror is filled with a few gory and bloody scenes while maintaining an exciting pace. I found the part in the barn particularly successful and at the same time extremely funny. You see the nail. You see the hole in a hand. And you immediately know how these two facts will be linked. Sublime. And even though you know where it’s going, I was surprised by the denouement. A denouement that would make Quentin Tarantino jealous. And I suppose they wanted to show how huge the gap is between rich and poor. In the end, this was just a minor side issue. “Ready or not” is perhaps the cruel version of the Cinderella fairy tale. But ultimate entertainment was the main goal here. And they certainly have succeeded in that for me.

Let it Snow (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Let it Snow Review

Director: Luke Snellin
Writers: Laura Solon (screenplay by), Victoria Strouse (screenplay by)
Stars: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush

Christmas. The period everyone is jolly again. Family reunions. A brown-baked turkey with a tasty filling that was squeezed through its smallest hole. Christmas trees full of sparkling baubles, angel hair and soft-yellow LED lights. Every few moments a Christmas song is being heard on the radio. Christmas presents are piling up. And everyone hopes that on this Christian holiday the sky will be filled with pregnant snow clouds that’ll cover the surface of the earth with a soft, downy snow carpet. Sigh, I’m getting lyrical. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere. If you have a moderate maritime climate, such as in Belgium, it’ll be drizzly and autumnal. And an additional phenomenon during these holidays is the broadcasting of well-known Christmas movies. And yes, on Twitter the annually recurring question “What’s the ultimate Christmas film?“, appears again. Unfortunately, “Let it snow” won’t be mentioned often, I guess.

If, like me, you dislike “Love actually“, I would definitely advise you to avoid this youthly version. “Love actually” is a typical film that is shown on different television channels during the Christmas season. Perhaps the film adds that extra magic for some of us, during these winter holidays. For me, it causes an extreme form of explosive diarrhea every time I see the grin of Hugh Grant on the screen. And “Let it snow” uses the same concept as “Love actually“. An entanglement of different storylines that come together in an ecstatic crescendo. Only now, the protagonists are all teenagers.

Each with their own love-life-related-issues. Understandable because the film is based on the eponymous popular winter book, in which three authors bring a short story.
Unfortunately, after a few minutes, I realized that I’m not really part of the target audience. Not that I was bored to death. The stories eventually follow the pattern of a trillion other rom-com stories. They all walk the famous proverbial path of love, full of pitfalls, stumbling blocks, and obstacles. And at the finish, everything is peaches and cream. And peace and light. The feeling of love rises by a few degrees Celsius. In short, it’s as predictable as a story from Vicky the Viking. An ultimate feel-good film so teenage girls will sigh and moan empathetically while they watch at the screen with big cow eyes and see those romantic couples hugging each other. Well, my teenage period is far behind me. Hence the “Not being part of the target audience” feeling.

The most positive in this film are the participating actors. I didn’t know them all, because I’m not a fan of the Netflix series. Only Julie (Isabela Merced) I recognized immediately (Yes, I recently watched “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” with my two kids). She happens to have the most beautiful and convincing role. The way in which she presents responsible Julie is admirable. It’s the most endearing and sad part of the entire film. I even appreciated the pop idol Stuart (Shameik Moore). He fits wonderfully with the lovely, cuddly Julie. He’s a lonely, fame-ridden singer who spends Christmas all alone in a hotel room. Ultra sad. Even though he will wallow in all the luxury that he can afford. I also thought the role of Tobin (For me, the unknown Mitchell Hope) was successful. But only because of his humour and timid attitude that fitted perfectly in this syrupy film. And here too, they found the perfect companion in the form of The Duke (Kiernan “The Silence” Shipka). The funniest character was that of Jacob “Spider-man: Homecoming & Far from home” Batalon as the hyperkinetic Keon.

Add a lesbian girl with love troubles and her girlfriend who doesn’t have her best day, and you have all the cliché types that a movie like “Let it snow” needs. After that, let everyone wrestle the whole movie with his or her emotions and finally knit a happy ending to it. It’s not my taste, but who am I to complain about that. After all, it’s a Christmas movie. And shouldn’t a Christmas film be about happiness and love? Even though the corniness drips from it and it is so sugar-sweet that a spontaneous stomach cramp comes up. I want romantic souls to have it. So couples of this earth, unite and go and watch this film en masse. Oh well, next Movie!