Plot Summary: Tim Lippe, small town insurance agent, finds the quest for greatness and integrity a challenge during his first industry conference in Cedar Rapids. Tim needs to bring home to “Two Diamond” award and encounters hurdles in form of a bombastic rival agent (John C. Reilly), scaly and self-righteous manager, a married, but alluring female insurance agent, his pushy boss, and a small town prostitute. Straight-laced Tim strays in glorious fashion, but finds and clarifies his purpose and forms a group of lasting friends.
Likes: This film has many lasting charms, while delivering a lot of laughs. Ed Helms, who plays great wing-men and side eccentric characters, gives a great leading comedic performance. He almost perfectly balances the small-town wholesome guy with the sheltered man-child getting his first brushes with lust and danger.
Tim’s immaturity comes out in an early romantic relationship with his former elementary school teacher played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver’s character Macy is simply looking for a good time after her divorce, but Tim remains the kid with a crush getting to live out his adolescent fantasy. We see Tim grow up through Anne Heche’s character Joan who befriends Tim and becomes his first adult relationship. Heche is a welcome presence: funny, sympathetic, and sweet.
For the laughs, John C. Reilly gives a big, broad performance that delights in gross out humor and witty comebacks, but develops into a heartwarming friend and sidekick to Tim. I loved Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Clay Davis from THE WIRE) as Tim’s roommate at the hotel. Whitlock plays sophisticated without being a snob and subtly conveys that his hopes for the “Two Diamond” award are even higher than Tim’s. He also gives WIRE fans some great lines.
In all, taking the trip to CEDAR RAPIDS will make for an entertaining night. The surprise will be how these characters sneak up on you and their stories bring smiles to your face long after the movie ends.
Intro: Do you remember that thing we did 8 years ago? Yeah, it was around this time of the year. Something to do with Iraq. Let Armando Iannucci’s IN THE LOOP refresh your memory.
Plot Summary: The Prime Minister’s chief henchman Malcolm Tucker’s (Peter Capaldi) day is ruined when Minister of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) gives the BBC a dove-like sound bite as the US and UK are headed to war with an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Tucker immediately springs into action, stalking Foster like a hawk, belittling, and badgering him to fall in political line or shut up. Inept Simon makes a fool of himself on two continents and becomes a pawn for both sides. Meanwhile, Tucker is on his own war path to undo Simon’s damage,
manufacture find the intel to justify an invasion, and bi-coastaly align the US and UK players to vote for war.
Likes: The epitome of funny because it’s true, IN THE LOOP may be the most incisive and effective re-telling and critique of the rush to the Iraq war, which began 8 years ago this week. The film makes art out of jaded bureaucrats writing a truth for public support for war with their puerile underlings sparing at each other. The script is tightly packed with witty one-liners, funny cultural references, and lots of splendid swearing. Peter Capaldi is a profanity spewing-god. His dexterity with puns and four letter words, combined with a wonderfully acerbic mood makes him a joy to watch and re-watch. The first time I saw it, I was doubled over with laughter and missed some of the lines. The whole cast including James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche, and Anna Chlumsky banter and bounce against each other in great fashion.
Unlike Oliver Stone’s W with the actors playing caricatures of Bush’s cabinet, the actors of IN THE LOOP harness the absurdity and attributes of the same world. For example, David Rasche plays Linton Barwick, the super mutant of every US hawk in memory.
A great line from Linton, “We have all the facts on this we need. We don’t need any more facts. In the land of truth, my friend, the man with one fact is the king” sounds exactly like an unexpressed Rumsfeld thought. Yet, Capaldi has the best lines. To one of Simon’s gaffes, Tucker decries him saying, ” “Climbing the mountain of conflict”? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!” Check out IN THE LOOP for an entertaining satire. Unfortunately for our world, IN THE LOOP is too true.
If you get the DVD, watch the deleted scenes. They’re as funny as the film.
Around this time last year, my friends and I were emailing frantically in anticipation for a major event in pop culture and our friendship: the release of Sex and the City 2. If only we knew then what is so clear now: the movies, especially the second one, are so bad they threaten the integrity of the great HBO series.
Tickets, outfits, drinks, and schedules were wasted on a flaming pile of insipid plot, infuriating depictions of wealth, and insulting characterizations of American women and marriage. There were times in the theater I just put my head down in shame thinking “I used to love you, why have you betrayed me.”
That’s behind us now and spring brings greater promise for fun and friendship in BRIDESMAIDS. Kristen Wiig, who I have followed mostly through movies, co-wrote and stars as the unlikely and unrefined Maid of Honor for a childhood friend played by Maya Rudolph.
Along with a mis-matched posse of bridesmaids, the film promises vulgar hilarity and sincere depictions of female friendship. Hopefully, BRIDESMAIDS will attract the ladies, as well as the fellas and show Hollywood we want real, funny women on screen instead of the airbrushed shadows of what the SATC ladies used to be.
For everyone who planned a ladies night out that fell flat with a disappointing film, redeem yourself and see BRIDESMAIDS opening weekend.
In college, when ever someone started a story with, “So, Funny Story” we knew the coming story would likely be a horrific tale of embarrassment due to inebriation or awkwardness. While you never wish misfortune on your friends, hearing the “funny story” made your day and cemented your friendship. Paul Feig’s hilarious and heartwarming BRIDESMAIDS brought me back to those “funny story” moments with a perfect combination of vulgar jokes, gross humor, and a true picture of friendship.
Plot: Annie (Kristen Wiig) has lost her business, lives with two weirdos, and is “dating” a really hot jerk. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged Annie’s frustrations with her life grow as she sees how stable and posh Lillian’s life is becoming. Honored to be Lillian’s Maid of Honor, she feels greater pressure to be the best friend as Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s new friend, upstages Annie’s humble efforts.
Verdict: I loved this movie. It goes for every joke and cuts deep. Melissa McCarthy has my deep and unending respect for her performance particularly in the bridal shop scene. When she perches on the sink yelling, “Look away, Look Away” I was doubled over laughing. The ladies don’t hold back in these scenes and make the sequences strangely ladylike. Kristen Wiig’s freak out at the bridal shower was also perfection. Seeing Helen’s outlandish interpretation of Annie’s sweet idea made me boil with anger. When Annie starts her rant you cheer and cringe because she’s right, but is risking her friendship with Lillian.
There lies the beauty of BRIDESMAIDS. The tension between these women recalls the cutting barbs of Bette Davis’ Margo Channing in ALL ABOUT EVE like, “You can always put that award where your heart ought to be” and the real fears we all feel of being replaced by prettier, fancier, and younger people. I don’t relate to women cat-fighting over a humorless schmo, wedding locations, or jobs. I do know that over a few things, I am the queen. When someone tries to take over, the fight comes out. So, everything Annie does for her friendship feels real and grounds the comedy.
Kristen Wiig was perfect as the comedic heroine. Annie has the intelligence, talents, and charm to turn things around. As indignities and troubles compound she remains completely aware even of bad choices and never sells herself out completely. I ultimately liked Rose Byrne’s performance as Helen. She smartly calibrates her over enthusiasm for Lillian’s wedding with a sad longing to have the kind of friendship Annie and Lillian share. Both ladies reinforce the value of a good friend and make the movie incredibly rich. Lastly, the romance between Chris O’Dowd’s Rhodes and Annie felt like an awesome bonus because it strengthened Annie’s personal story and never supplanted the friendship-centered plot.
BRIDESMAIDS is a must see for a gut-achingly funny comedy and genuine story.
Christmas at the McDonagh house must be a laugh riot. I can only imagine with writer-director brothers John Michael and Martin McDonagh around the table, the ribald humor, malicious practical jokes, and cutting wit must make the holidays naughty and bright. Martin McDonagh wrote and directed 2008’s hilarious mobster, travel, buddy, dark comedy In Bruges starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. In Bruges pairs two hired killers, laying low after a botched job. Gleeson wants to take in a bit of culture, while the restless philistine played by Farrell picks up a girl, makes fun of a midget, and gets into more trouble with their profane boss played by Ralph Fiennes. The Guard is very much in the same vein as In Bruges, a genre mash up with a spark of irreverence and a steady stream of expletives, racial slurs, and odd phrases- all making for a good time at the cinema.
Brendan Gleeson plays Gerry Boyle, a Galway policeman investigating a rare murder in their sleepy town. Gerry’s a rascal, while being a decent, seasoned officer of the law. He enjoys getting a rise out of people and throwing them off to exploit their weaknesses. When greeting his new partner with an outstretched coffee, Gerry takes a sip, throws it to the ground and says, “Fuckin latte’s my drink.” Gerry takes everything in jest, which may be the way he can see through the artifice to the truth. A brutal murder in quiet Galway grabs the attention of Dublin and even the FBI, sending Don Cheadle’s Wendell Everett to Gerry’s turf to investigate drug traffickers suspected of the crime. Gerry and Wendell exchange insults and come to a respectful understanding.
The baddies are even more fun with Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong as erudite, psychopathic killers discussing their favorite philosophers in the car before going out and shooting someone. They like the money, but the drug game offers no intellectual stimulation. Manipulating the cops is too easy and the other criminals are too daft for them. Mark Strong is particularly funny as the Brit in the crew, bemused by the half wit cops and itching for some real action. In a shootout, Strong’s character declares being fired upon with an assualt rifle “Better than fuckin’ Christmas.”
Clever Gerry is on to their game and gets Wendell to join him for a bloody shootout. Bad guys lose, good guys win. Besides being hilarious, The Guard has a nicely plotted story, some genuine emotional moments, and is a great dark comedy. Cheadle and Gleeson reminded me a little bit of Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in In The Heat of the Night. They negotiate their differences and find they ascribe to the same code- the code of Real Police: when justice is the goal, f*&k the route (Alert *The Wire reference*). They’re good together, but this is Brendan Gleeson’s film. He gives a great performance as the surly and surprising Gerry with his cheshire grins and enraged scowls. Cheadle’s character says to Gleeson, “I can’t tell if you’re really motherfuckin dumb or really motherfuckin smart.” Gleeson’s Gerry plays with your perceptions constantly, making the film a delight.
We all know the best dressed film character of all time is Grace Kelly’s Lisa in “Rear Window.” Each outfit Kelly wears in the suspenseful classic is sublime and contributes to the story. Since re-watching that film recently, I’ve become more aware of costumes and celebrating the storytelling capacity of elegant and thoughtful costume design.
I recently caught up with “Wild Target,” a quirky and entertaining British comedy starring Emily Blunt, Bill Nighy, and Rupert Grint. Bill Nighy plays an assassin who starts to re-evaluate his life after failing to kill (and falling for) one of his marks. The lady in question is Rose (Blunt), a free spirited occasional con artist upsets the wrong gang. Nighy, Blunt, and Grint end up on the run from gangsters and another professional hit man. The trio form a makeshift family and everything turns out well in the end.
One constant delight throughout the film besides the witty dialogue and slapstick encounters was Emily Blunt’s bright, flirty, and fun wardrobe pieces. We meet Rose coasting precariously on her bike through central London in this beautiful red coat. Blunt’s Rose always spikes her outfits with color and matches them with lovely accessories. In another scene Nighy follows Blunt through a crowded market. Blunt wears a black dress with a flowing skirt decorated with bold colored flowers. Nighy tracks Blunt following the whips and wisps of her colorful skirt through the bustle of people.
Through the midsection of the film, Blunt dons a bright yellow skirt- almost a ballet costume- and dresses it up with a leather jacket. She adds fun color to the scene and continually draws your attention with her costume.
In the scene where Nighy and Blunt come together as a couple, Rose is wearing an elegant, yet fun white gown. It has an iridescent look with a glittery texture. Blunt pairs the ivory dress with deep red tights and white heels. It’s a wonderful ensemble symbolising her eagerness to settle down (perhaps marry), while retaining her quirky identity.
“Wild Target” is great fun throughout and the costumes contributed much to the story as well as my enjoyment of the film. It is available on Netflix Streaming now!
This weekend is my 10 year high school reunion. In honor of the awkwardness that will ensue, here are some Reunion Movies to prepare for cocktails.
*I haven’t seen “Grosse Pointe Blank” Sorry.
Beautiful Girls (1996)
Ice fishing with Uma Thurman, worldly wisdom from Michael Rapaport, brooding Matt Dillon, jealous Lauren Holly, and adorable little Natalie Portman surround Timothy Hutton’s character Willie who comes back to his small town for his high school reunion.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
Epic Movie is Epic. Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino (where are you Mira Sorvino?) head down to their high school reunion determined to flip the script on their high school experience. They decide that “inventing Post-Its” is a great credential, but realize a lasting friendship was their real achievement. I cry just thinking about Kudrow, Sorvino and Alan Cumming dancing to “Time After Time.”
American Reunion (2012)
On their 13th reunion (the 10 year didn’t get off the ground) we meet the gang and find while some things have changed, Jim (Jason Biggs) is still the lovable pervert he was in high school. A cute movie and just as delightful as seeing people you used to know 10 years ago.
Zach and Miri Make A Porno (2008)
After going to their high school reunion and meeting a classmate that made it big in porn, best friends and roommates Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen decide to produce and star in a porn flick to get out of their dismal financial situation. In doing the deed they find they love each other more than friends. So hilarious, raunchy and sweet. Jason Mewes’ best work.
An entertaining Italian comedy about a group of high school friends required to come back together to take their graduate exams over again. Re-connecting they find old grudges unfounded, crushes bloom to romance, and together they do that last bit of growing up.