- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
Two comedies open this week. I FELL PRETTY is a morale comedy with the message that humans are to look inside themselves to find their real beauty. SUPER TROOPERS 2 is dumb ass comedy. Forget the former, SPER TROOPERS is the funnier better entertinment!
BEST FILMS PLAYING:
ISLE OF DOGS
SUPER TROOPERS 2
The China Hustle
C’EST LA VIE (LE SENS de la FETE)
THE SHAPE OF WATER
You Were Never Really Here
EYE ON JULIET (Canada 2017) ***
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Canadian writer/director Kim Nguyen’s (WAR WITCH and last year’s TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR) new film is a meticulously crafted story of two soul mates in different parts of the world (Detroit and North Africa) that is as strange as it is difficult to believe.
The success of a movie often lies not in the credibility of the plot but on how the story, as incredible as it may be is made credible by the medium of film. As such, despite a few far-fetched points, EYE OF JULIET succeeds in not only having the audience believe what is occurring on screen could happen, but also have them root for the protagonists, two misfits in their own cultures but in finding themselves, and meaning in their somewhat meaningless lives.
The film ties in the madness of modern technology, in this case a sort of spider form of a drone, with old cultures - in this case the order of an arranged marriage.
The film follows, a break-up as it happens in the dark of a dance club. “I love you, I love you,” are the words begged by Gord (Joe Cole) whose girlfriend has dumped him. At work, his supervisor makes him promise that he will go dating again, by connecting with at least 10 people on a dating site. Gord’s job is surveillance. He monitors, using robots (a robotic spider), a pipeline halfway around the world in Northern Africa. One night, Gord notices a young woman, Ayusha, (Lina El Arabi), sitting alone in the dunes waiting to meet her lover. It turns out that Ayusha is planning to go away on a boat with her lover, in order to escape an arranged marriage by her parents to an older man. They need money which the lover is supposed to earn from stealing oil from the pipeline. Gord witnesses the lover’s death through the robotic spider in an accidental explosion. Gord helps her - she is his Juliet - at risk of losing his job.
Joe Cole and El Arabi, though amateurs deliver memorable performances. Cole looks like the everyday nobody who is still an individual in his own right. Cole seems to have some raw and redness at the back of his neck, seen throughout the film but somehow clears up at the end of the film. I wonder if this is deliberate, the allergy due to is stress of losing his girlfriend.
It is clear that Gord and Ayusha are not lovers. But it is clear that the two are connected by circumstance. Nguyen’s film is slow moving, but surprisingly very engaging. Nguyen has the talent of being able to keep his audience glued to the screen by means of details in the plot, one example being of Gord blackmailing his supervisor or and another by observing his supervisor’s sleeping habits.
There are two points in the film that stretches credibility. One is the robot blasting one a window of a house, thew window just popping open after the blast. The other is the ending where Gord and Ayusha agree to meet a t a fixed time and place in Paris.
EYE ON JULIET is meticulous filmmaking and it shows.
I FEEL PRETTY (USA 2018) **
Directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
I FEEL PRETTY is an Amy Schumer vehicle which she produces and stars in. The simple premise revolves around Renee Barrett (Schumer), an ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis. During a cycle fit spin class, she suffers a big fall and wakes up from it believing she is the most beautiful and capable woman in the world, despite looking the same she has always looked. With this new found confidence she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly.
It is expected that a film based on one joke would quickly run out of steam. This is obvious when the film has to resort to a nose picking joke at the film’s climax. There are few surprises in this lazy comedy which runs like a predictable Harlequin romance from start to end.
Renee has to learn that being pretty means pretty on the inside and not on the outside. This means that the audience has to be drummed with this obvious message. The message comes unashamedly at the end when Renee delivers a full blown speech on how the most important thing in life is oneself and not the outward beauty. Awkward enough, for a film that is supposed to have an anti-pretty message, it is very noticeable that most of the cast are good-looking. The most ridiculous is the one scene where it can be observed that all the extras walking down the street in NYC are drop-dead gorgeous.
The cast includes Lauren Hutton who has been absent from the screen for quite a while, playing the matriarch of the LeClaire cosmetics company. Also in the cast is model Naomi Campbell who has earned the horrid reputation of being a terrible human being to work with on set. It would be interesting to hear what trouble this one has caused on the set.
Schumer is perfect in the role of Renee, being pretty, yet not pretty enough. Schumer is brave enough to show off her not-so-perfect body, especially in the bar bikini contest segment, one of the film’s few spirited moments. Michelle Williams is just plain awful here but Tom Hooper is a good sight for sore eyes.
The film runs similar along the lines as the last comedy release BLOCKERS. Mildly funny at best, both films run out of jokes and surprises very fast. I FEEL PRETTY has the joke on Renee’s fall happen 30 minutes into the movie. The first 30 minutes shows Renee in her everyday life, which is as plain and unfunny as the person. Example: the long stretched joke about the wide shoe size is a used joke that is ‘stretched’ too long for its own good. Like the entire film.
The film might appeal as a feel-good movie for audiences that need to feel better about their appearances. Still, if the film contains enough hilarious comedic set-ups, this film might have been worth a visit.
MOBILE HOMES (France/Canada 2017) **
Directed by Vladimir de Fontenay
MOBILE HOMES is a very intense film as evident in three of the film’s opening sequences. The first shows a mother, Ali (British actress Imogen Poots), frustrated to the point of blowing up at her inability to set her son up for aid due to lack of documentation. The next scene that follows is a highly charged erotic sex scene with the mother having it on with boyfriend, Evan (Callum Turner). This soon follows one where the boy, Bone (Frank Oulton) has to make a dash out of a diner to escape payment. Will he make it or get caught?
France born director Vladimir de Fontenay keeps up the intensity throughout the film though one soon has the feeling if all this is necessary or is he trying too hard. MOBILE HOMES, is as the title implies set in the white trailer trash surroundings of losers and dishonest low-life who would cheat and lie to get ahead just for a few bucks. Evan and Ali attempt one scheme after another, often with the help of 8-year old Bone who seems to have an affinity for his mother’s boyfriend who treats him ok, if not teaching him a bad thing or two on survival. There is another nasty bit in the story involving cock fighting. Bone has a rooster that he loves and carries around with him. There is also the question of using an underaged kid to sell drugs or do dishonest deeds besides banned outings like cock fighting.
At one point in the film, Ali confesses her desire to own a place of her own, so she can f*** in her own bed. This leads to a scheme of trying to own their own mobile home, though it may mean stealing from mobile homes owner, Robert (Callum Keith Rennie).
One wonders at the director’s fascination of mobile homes. His obsession can be observed right down to the film’s climax that include a high speed chase with Ali driving a vehicle with a stolen mobile home in tow. It is an extremely exciting and well shot scene, credit to de Fontenay and one that is guaranteed to have audiences at the edge of their seats.
The film is shot in Ontario around the Niagara region, which is where cheap tourism exists - a perfect locale for the film’s setting.
The trouble with MOBILE HOMES is that besides being a really nasty film, director de Fontena offers few redeeming qualities for any of his characters with the result that the audience does not care what happens to them. Why doesn’t Ali just start thinking seriously about getting a job to settle down? The prospect of a job is at one point offered to her by Robert, which she misuses.
While Poots and Turner deliver exceptional performances despite the film’s flaws, it is the boy Frank Oulton who is a natural. Whether getting lost, beaten or scolded, he is the only character that the audience feels for. The result, however, is still a film the audience is detached from.
SPACEMAN (USA 2016) **
Directed by Brett Rapkin
SPACEMAN is the biographical film on former Major League baseball pitcher, Bill Lee (Josh Duhamal from TRANSFORMERS) nicknamed SPACEMAN. Lee is given the nickname for his drug use and hence constantly being ‘spaced out’.
The film is written and directed by Brett Rapkin. SPACEMAN is not the first film Rapkin has made of baseball celebrity eccentric Bill Lee. He made the documentary on Lee SPACEMAN: A BASEBALL ODYSSEY in 2006, a film much better than this one.
This new Bill Lee film made in 2016 took 2 years for its release. The question is the film’s target audience. Who would likely be interested in watching Lee’s biography? He is not super famous or super talented though he can pitch very well on a good day. Non-sports fans like myself have not interest in watching a film on Lee. Being executively produced by Ron Shelton who directed Kevin Costner in BILL DURHAM, one can assume the film financiers are counting on all baseball fans (and maybe the other peripheral sports fans) to be the target audience. The trouble is that Bill Lee is not really a winning character. Lee is more a troublemaker and a loser that no one waned to hire or to be on their team. Still, baseball fans have their heroes and Bill Lee is a darn good pitcher, as evident in the film.
The film first shows Lee making pancakes for breakfast. He sprinkles green stuff on them, so that they end up as marijuana pancakes. The film follows the man as he also gets drunk, and high and often! But he stands up for his baseball mates, to the point that he gets let go, in one rare but very hilarious scene with his manager/boss. He is now out of the major league. The man loves baseball and is willing to go into the minor league to keep playing. Hoping to get hired by other clubs, or be selected by talent scouts, he never ever makes good again. The film reveals one major truth about baseball - it is a business. No businessman wants to hire a player who has a drug problem. That is a bad business decision. Lee ends up losing his family too.
With the above bad stuff going on for Lee, the same goes for the movie. The movie does not have any upside, except for comedic moments. The segment where the audiences is supposed to be on Lee’s side, when he convinces his team to just loosen up and get high, works against the film’s favour. The audience is not on Lee’s side but sees the problem in his actions.
The only positive thing about the biography appears to be Josh Duhamel who is delivering a fine performance regardless of how the film turns out. Duhamel is sufficiently spirited in the role and able to elicit sympathy from the audience for his character’s general poor behaviour.
SPACEMAN ends up a let down just as the Bill Lee character that it portrays. That might have been the film’s aim, but it turns out not to be a very entertaining watch, baseball aficionados excluded.
SUPER TROOPERS 2 (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
The first SUPER TROOPERS movie released in 2001 was a dumb ass but funny enough movie that earned Broken Lizard, the comedy troupe involved with the movie a sufficient following.
SUPER TROOPERS 2 is the long awaited sequel that took a very long time to reach the big screen because of production approval and funding problems. The film finally got funding from the fans, a big $2 million or so worth. What do audiences get? Another low-life dumb comedy. Do NOT have high expectations going to see this one. I did not. But I laughed my head off at the dumbness. And I had a super trooper good time.
Director Chandrasekhar wanted to make a prequel set in the 70’s with the cast portraying the fathers of the original characters. It sounds like a terrible idea. Probably is! Thankfully, Broken Lizard did not follow that idea but did a sequel that started where the original left off. Foster (Paul Soter), Farva (Kevin Heffenan), Rabbit (Erik Stohlhanske), Mac (Steve Lemme) and Throny (director Chandrasekhar), the original five are in it, together with their captain, a stern faced O’Hagan (British Brian Cox). Surprisingly, straight faced Cox gets the film’s most laughs in every scene he is in.
The lame plot involves part of Canada actually being the United States so the Super Troopers are recruited (after losing their jobs in the last film) to patrol the border. They encounter a smuggling scheme of drugs that they eventually solve (well, sort of) with the help of the Canadian mounties. But the story leaves plenty of opportunity for dumb jokes. These dumb jokes are hilarious, the funniest ones of which involve comedic timing. The joke on ‘Happiness in the household’ translated to ‘a penis in the ass hole’ is inspired dumbness.
The film opens with cameos by Seann William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. as two troopers who bust a trailer for speeding and dope. The sequence involves a well-filmed car chase. All the shenanigans are not that funny but it is rewarding to watch Wayans and Scott do their thing. One can tell that if one joke does not work, there are lots more around the corner, and some of these will work. The real super troopers of the film are slowly introduced with the story brought in.
As expected, the film contains a lot of Canadian vs. American banter, about which country is the better one or which one is the worst one. If the jokes are nasty to the Americans, there will be an equally nasty one aimed at the Canadian.s It is an almost equal tit-for-tat.
Three other 80’s stars (as the film caters towards 80’s humour) who lend their hand are Lynda Carter as Governor Jessman), Rob Lowe playing a small-town Canadian major, Guy LeFranc, the bad guy and Fred Savage playing himself. The 80’s period atmosphere is not really convincingly created but the 80’s hippie humour (including a noticeable hippie song) is definitely emphasized.
Hate it or love it, Super Troopers 2 is dumb fun which succeeds in that respect.