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Alicia Vikander cast as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Only supporting actress winners are allowed to play this role!

"What on earth can Alicia bring to this role, and why bother? Good luck." - Tom F

"How long must we wait for Dianne Wiest as Lara Croft!?" - Mike

 

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Entries in comedy (167)

Wednesday
Apr272016

Dark Comedy or Sick Nihilism? "The Mother" and "High-Rise"

Tribeca is over and we're almost done catching up with reviews. Here's Nathaniel on a potential Oscar submission from Estonia and a twisted thriller from the UK.

Mother
The festival described this crime comedy as Fargo-like and that's true to a degree. It takes place in a small town where everyone seems to know each other...ish. The local customs are amusing or peculiar to the outsider (namely, us). There's also a noticeable undercurrent of 'and all for a little money' despair about the human condition that tugs at both the red herrings and the true crime. A young ladies-man teacher named Lauri (Siim Maaten), something of a slacker/dreamer as he had big plans but never moved out of his parents home, has been in a coma for months following a shooting. While his long suffering mother attempts to care for him alone (the father is no help), a parade of visitors including friends, lovers and policemen keep bursting in to bear their souls or search his room on the sly. The director Kadri Kousaar (yay for female filmmakers!) keeps the camera as invasive as the guests, and we're often looking where we shouldn't be behind doors or curtains or seeing things from odd angles. One of the best sustained jokes in this deadpan comedy (it's not really a movie for guffaws but heh-heh touches) is that no matter how many times there's a knock at the door, the parents are surprised even though their house has become Grand Central Station.

But who is responsible for the shooting and why is everyone acting so suspicious or guilty about their history with Lauri? While the story revolves around the mystery surrounding the son, the mother is the star of the picture (in case the title didn't clue you in). Despite a difficult character to dramatize with Elsa being barely verbal and moving throughout like a resentful silent martyr to her drudgery, Tiina Mälberg is terrific in the role. And it's her first movie! She makes the character alternately funny and intriguing and, in the odd moment here and there, when her mostly surpressed emotions bubble up Mälberg earns the reveals and keeps the character cohesive. Grade: B/B+

P.S. The Estonian film industry is tiny, producing a couple handfuls of films a year so we have to take any release that makes its way to American festivals seriously as a potential Oscar submission. The country enjoyed its first nomination in the foreign language film category with Tangerines in 2014 (a joint production with Georgia). 

High-Rise
Another film where the laughs land uncomfortably -- because boy is this nihilistic -- is Ben Wheatley's adaptation of J.G. Ballard's "High-Rise". The allegorical satire takes place (almost) entirely within a high-rise apartment building where the 1% (Jeremy Iron as the architect) lives at the tippity top and everyone else is more or less at his mercy and subject to suffer for his follies if things don't work quite right in the building. Doctors like Tom Hiddleston's Laing, a brain surgeon, are somewhere around the floor and so on down to lower floors where families (Elisabeth Moss & Luke Evans) with seemingly endless children struggle to get by. The eventual societal breakdown is revealed from the very first image which is rather an odd choice; it kills what might have been gut-churning momentum. We already know the downward spiral will have the adults going  Lord of the Flies on each other and Laing will be living in shambles  as one of the society's only survivors. 

If you can get past the nihilism and poor treatment of animals, the film has plentiful pleasures including a smart performance from Hiddleston and rich filmmaking from every department. Clint Mansell contributes another intriguing score but the MVP is the eye candy from fascinating production design through to the very attractive cast. A crisp white shirt has never looked so pornographic as it does here on Tom Hiddleston but he's also wearing a lot less, which his fellow resident (Sienna Miller - yes her again) notices and appreciates straightaway immediately spinning the interpersonal web of craziness that will grow and grow from the moment Laing moves in on every floor. Ballard's novel was written in the 1970s but the film never plays it like a period piece really despite the flare of some clothing and hair and prop details, which helps keep it out of time and universal; the film isn't going for realism but allegory anyway. Not all of this works, the pacing is a particular sore point since the film gets mired down on its way to where we know its already going and he doesn't quite stick the landing, but I left convinced that director Ben Wheatley is someday going to make a great film. Grade: B

 

Monday
Apr252016

Everybody Wants Some Podcasting !!

NathanielNick, and Joe kick off a whole new season of the podcast by hitting the road with Michael Shannon and family in Midnight Special and going back to college with Richard Linklater's baseball boys in Everybody Wants Some!! We believe its our 8th season, so we'll just go with that.

42:30 minutes 
00:01 The Crucible Broadway & Film
02:12 The Slumdog Oscar Year
05:00 Everybody Wants Some!! delightful & sexy
15:00 Pro & Con on Midnight Special
32:00 Hello My Name is Doris,  Zootopia
40:30 Favorite Prince songs

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes. Please continue the conversation in the comments. Did you "want some!!" and where do you fall in the all-over-the-place reactions to Midnight Special.

Everybody Wants Season Debut

Monday
Apr252016

The Furniture: The Lady with the Van Paints a Crime Scene Into a Home

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Lady in the Van begins with a bloody hit-and-run accident. The title van-driving lady, played by Maggie Smith, collides with a young man and leaves him for dead. On the lam, bound by necessity to a vehicle that may also be a murder weapon, she finds her way to a quiet neighborhood full of artists and bourgeois intellectuals.

Then it turns into a delightful comedy about the social anxieties of Alan Bennett.

It’s a bit abrupt, to be honest. And it may take a fair while to warm up to the neurotic, Adaptation.-style doppelgangers that represent the split personalities of the playwright protagonist. The vans themselves, though, quite effectively capture a much more gradual transition, one that charts Mary/Margaret’s arc with care. What begins as an all-in-one murder weapon and crime scene becomes a home. [More...]

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Saturday
Apr092016

Review: Melissa McCarthy in "The Boss"

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Melissa McCarthy cuts an imposing figure in her first scene in The Boss and I’m not talking about her plus size physique though we’ll get there in a minute. In the new comedy she’s Michelle Darnell, a mega-successful businesswoman (details are fuzzy on what kind) descending into a stadium on a giant faux phoenix that’s shooting off fireworks. The sound mix is as uniformly deafening as that image is unsubtle so you can’t make out a single word of the rapping, mob chanting, pandemonium that follows. This should be annoying but it comes as a weird relief in this relentlessly politicking season of pandering narcissistic windbags wearing saggy human costumes on TV every night. It’s better to close your ears and laugh at the inanity of the spectacle than really contemplate what they’re saying and what their cults are cheering about; that way lies nihilistic depression about the state of the world and we’re here to laugh, damnit, this being a Melissa McCarthy movie. (In short: I was in the right mood to see this movie. And that often matters with comedy.)

Shortly after that insane entrance, which presents Darnell as a Susan Powter style self-help guru (for economics), the movie recasts her as a less specific cutthroat executive who buys and sells companies in the blink of an eye — and buys and sells out people with equally swift mercilessness.  [More...]

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Friday
Apr082016

Posterized: Melissa McCarthy, Unlikely Superstar

Though Melissa McCarthy's star went supernova just five years ago in a role so popular that she won both an Oscar nomination and an Emmy statue (Bridesmaids... oh please, you know the Emmy wasn't actually for Mike and Molly!) she's wasted approximately zero days since in cementing her unlikely place as a box office titan with star vehicles emerging annually since. Right now that means her new capitalist diva comedy The Boss and if it isn't Spy (2015) or The Heat (2013) level funny (sorry... but few things are) it's not bad. It sure as hell runs rings around Identity Thief (2013) and Tammy (2014) so it's firmly middle of the pack, if you ask me. (It's weird that the reviews so far are the worst of any of her solo vehicles.)

We call her place as a truly bankable actress 'unlikely' because it's just that. Guess how long it's been since audiences embraced a hefty actress as a (regular) lead? I can't think of a single one from my lifetime though we occassionally get a one time debut hit (Gabby Sidibe in Precious, Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray - they had to settle for supporting work thereafter) or a frequently employed secondary lead (Rebel Wilson). You might argue for Kathy Bates but she's only headlined a few times.  I think you have to sail back to the early 1930s to the odd case of Marie Dressler who was a true box office sensation and quite awesome (see her Oscar winning Min & Bill; It's a blast!)

Though Bridesmaids entirely changed McCarthy's career her debut was way back in the cult favorite Go (1999) which she soon followed with the role that most people think of as her debut "Sookie" on several seasons of The Gilmore Girls, a role she'll reprise for the upcoming reunion. Hooray!  All the McCarthy movie posters are after the jump. How many have you seen?

  

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Tuesday
Apr052016

TV @ The Movies: "Bob's Burgers" and The Birds (1963)

Please tell me that you watch and love Bob's Burgers. (It's safe to assume that if you do the former you also do the latter.) The most recent episode "House of a 1000 Bounces" was a brilliant children's birthday party heist largely focused on the animated sitcom's superbly written kids: Tina, Louise, and Gene. The characterizations on this show never disappoint. Each Belcher family member and nearly every supporting character are so defined they're hi-res. And yet it's more than just broad strokes with flat colors. It's not one of those (many) sitcoms that rests on five variations of 1 joke for per character. Six seasons in the show is still strong with variety and invention.

In the B plot of this episode a pigeon inadvertently gets trapped inside the titular restaurant and Linda (Bob's wife) and Teddy (his self described best friend) are surprised to realize that Bob is terrified of pigeons. When they ask him to explain he flashes back to a childhood memory that looks and sounds all too familiar.

Let's alternate between Bob's false memories and the real fiction as it were. 

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Wednesday
Mar162016

Mercedes McCambridge Centennial: "Charlie's Angels" & "Bewitched"

Today is the Centennial of one of the most singular character actresses of the 1950s, Mercedes McCambridge, born in Joliet Illinois on this very day in 1916. We hope you've enjoyed our mini retrospective. We previousy discussed her sensational debut in All The King's Men (1949) her final Oscar nomination for the Texas epic Giant (1956) and her sorry fate in a teensy part in the Airport disaster series. (In the past, ICYMI, we've amply discussed The Exorcist in which she did truly legendary voice work as well as the fiery abandon of must-see western Johnny Guitar.) 

In The Concorde... Airport '79 article, Tim talked about the disaster genre's often ...um... disastrous treatment of aged film stars in cameos. But discarded stars of Old Hollywood also frequently collected paychecks through TV guest spots. On the small screen there was the same roulette wheel chances at success. In fact McCambridge was more frequently spotted on TV than in film, switching between both for her entire career after her launch in radio in the 1930s. Many early TV shows are impossible to see now but let's discuss her downright fantastic guest spots on Charlie's Angels (1978) & Bewitched (1968).

Murder mysteries and witchcraft -- and a chance to discuss two classic camp series (oh you know you want to!) follow after the jump....

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