Peter Eramo’s “Top 25 Comedies of the Decade”: Part Due

I posted the first part of my “Top 25 Comedy Films of the Decade” (2000-2009) a few days ago. What I find fascinating about these lists is that, no matter which films you include/omit, you’re likely to get a lot of beef about it: “How can you put so-and-so on the list?” “How can you leave out such-and-such a film?” Don’t get me wrong, I love any & all comments and I’m always up for a good debate (especially when it comes to movies I feel strongly about). But everyone’s list is going to be different from someone else’s…it’s all just one writer’s opinion (though I do happen to be right…HA!).

Now, I tried very hard not to include too many “obscure” films on the list (whatever the hell that means). But hey, what am I going to do? If I saw the movie and thought it was funny as hell, am I not supposed to include it simply because it is lesser known than “Napoleon Dynamite” (which you won’t see on this list and you’d have to threaten to do me severe bodily harm for me to even consider its inclusion). It sounds silly to me to omit a small film like “The Amateurs” (which I think is a terrific film and pretty damn hilarious) on the basis that not many have seen it. If anything, perhaps someone reads the list [cricket sounds], learns a little about a film they haven’t yet seen, and decides to rent it. I know when I read another writer’s list (on a blog or magazine, etc.) and I am not familiar with a movie…if it sounds good, I’ll put it in my queue for sure! So no, I am not in any way trying to go out of my way to put these little known films on the list (not that anyone is accusing me). And I’m not including a movie just because it seems to be on everyone else’s list covering the same genre. All I did was go through all the comedies I have seen from 2000-2009 and go from there. Like I said in my earlier posting, I started with about 50 and did my best to condense it to 25 funny films. In the end, I only tried to be true to myself and go with the movies I thought were the 25 funniest (in addition to being a good film, which was part of my criteria). It is all a moot point anyway, as the films that follow are mostly all very well-known. Here it is…Part Due of the Best Comedies of the Decade! Let the debate continue!!!

#15. Adaptation (dir. Spike Jonze)

Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of Charlie Kaufman, ladies and gentlemen. Directed by Spike Jonze, this is an unbelieveably unique and oftentimes hilarious, offbeat film that unmistakably comes from the mind of Kaufman himself. The movie features a comically complex performance by Nicolas Cage as a writer who is trying to adapt Susan Orlean’s non-fiction, un-adaptable book “The Orchid Thief” into a screenplay. We watch the action of the book as we watch Kaufman (Cage) struggle to put it on the page. Cage also plays Charlie’s twin brother Donald who is much more carefree and dreams of becoming rich and famous for his own screenplays. Cage is the cornerstone of this film and he actually does a brilliant job in this dual role of the opposing brothers, which echoes Sam Shepard’s terrific play, “True West.” We also watch Meryl Streep (Orleans) interview and slowly fall in love with her subject, John Laroche (Chris Cooper). Both Streep and Cooper are terrific to watch here and all of the stories intertwine at some point with surprising results. The film is so bizarre and so quirky — if you enjoyed “Being John Malkovich” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” then you must definitely give this a watch. Kaufman has his own unique brand of comedy which not only challenges his audience to think, but gives them a tremendous payoff by being funny as hell.

#14. Pineapple Express (dir. David Gordon Green)

Seth Rogen hasn’t shown us much range as an actor and pretty much plays the same type of character, but you know what? He makes us laugh. Here, he plays lazy stoner Dale Denton who pisses people off every day by issuing them court-ordered subpoenas. He also is trying to manage his relationship with a high school girl eight years younger than he is. What does he do to escape? He visits his dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco). Franco has shown pretty good versatility as an actor and here, you can tell that he must have had a ball playing the languid, chilled-out, munchie-eating Saul. The two make a great pair in this incredibly funny buddy film. After purchasing the new Pineapple Express weed (Saul explains to him: “What you do… is you light all three ends at the same, and the smoke converges, creating a trifecta of joint-smoking power. This is it, man. This is what your grandchildren are gonna be smoking.”), Dale witnesses a murder by a crooked cop and leaves his new weed behind at the scene of the crime. bad news for Dale as it can of course be traced back. Dale’s hum-drum life is turned upside down as he and Saul spend the rest of the movie running for their lives from bad cops and other bad dudes. The camaraderie between the two is terrific, the one-liners are outrageously funny and the supporting cast lends their own comic talents as well. Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole and the under-rated Kevin Corrigan are all terrific to watch. There is a lot of action, a lot of vulgarity, a lot of witty banter — all adding up to this movie being a whole lotta fun.

#13. Hamlet 2 (Andrew Fleming)

Listen, any movie with a musical number entitled “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” deserves a spot on this list just based on that alone. Steve Coogan is getting much more notice the past few years and looks to be a comedic force to be reckoned with. Here, he plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor who has relocated to Tuscon, Arizona to become an even worse high school drama teacher. Most of the comedy stems from Dana’s own limitations as an actor (“I’m having a herpes outbreak, right now – but you’d never know it. Thanks, Herpocol!” he says in a horrible looking commercial) and his completely inept teaching. He is informed by administration that drama will be cut the next semester due to budget cuts and when confronted with a student who writes for the school newspaper, Dana decides he’s going to save the theatre department or at least go out with a bang! He writes his own play, “Hamlet 2,” a sequel to the classic Shakespeare tragedy whereby the Prince of Denmark is paired with Jesus Christ to go back in time (via….you guessed it, a time machine)  to save the lives of Gertrude and Ophelia. I hate political correctness and this film is so politically incorrect that I absolutely loved it. Coogan is an absolute riot and carries the film extremely well. Though it has hints of the failed actor in “Waiting for Guffman,” Fleming’s comedy stands completely on its own. The students in Dana’s class provide even more humor and the way Coogan relates to each of them is great fun. Elisabeth Shue also has a delightful small role here. What makes everything more outrageous is Dana’s pomposity and delusions of grandeur…he truly believes that he is in the midst of creating a theatrical masterpiece. Sometimes it is painful to even watch, but in the best of ways.

#12. I ♥ Huckabees (dir. David O. Russell)

Certainly not a film for everyone. A somewhat polarizing film as many I know either loved it immeasurably — or hated it, with great prejudice. I belong to the former and consider O’Russell’s existential comedy to be one the most original, challenging comedies to come out in recent years. The stellar cast — Dustin Hoffman (reminding us of his brilliance), Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg (who should have received a supporting actor nom for this one), Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, and Isabelle Huppert are all in top form. Hoffman and Tomlin play a husband-and-wife detective team that don’t take on traditional cases. No, they are existential detectives and they are hired by Albert (Schwartzman) to solve the coincidence of seeing the same complete stranger three times in a day. The tecs insist that they spy on his every move as they share with him their views on life and other philosophical issues. This film stands by itself on this list as being one that will constantly challenge its viewers — it is daring, creative, wholly unique, articulate, intelligent and yes, pretty damn funny. You catch something new with each viewing and O’Russell refuses to spell it all out for you. It is an affecting film, with an array of quirky and memorable characters. A daring film that is unlike most everything that Hollywood churns out — and never has to sacrifice any of the (very many) laughs in the process.

#11. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (dir. Nicholas Stoller)

Not much new in the overall plot: boy loses girl, tries to get over his broken heart, finds true love. However, it’s how this story is told that make this a refreshing, sweet, & funny movie. Jason Segel’s script makes an old plot arc come alive with newness and, with Stoller’s direction, the two bring its own unique voice to the screen. Here, Segel plays the likable, romantic Peter Bretter who is dumped by his TV-star girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell). He is completely devastated and goes into a tremendous funk. His stepbrother (a very funny Bill Hader) suggests he take a vacation and so he does. Without any planning, he heads off to a heavenly resort in scenic Oahu, Hawaii. Can you guess who he bumps into there? Yup. Sarah…in tow with her new boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) who is a world-famous, perverse rock star who can’t get enough of the ladies or himself. Peter is befriended by the hotel’s clerk (Mila Kunis) and all four of them try to make the best of a very awkward situation. A very funny film with out-loud laughs throughout. Segel is an endearing romantic lead who we empathize with and root for. Some added comedy by Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill in supporting roles here as well. Kunis is a striking female ingenue here and is not only heavenly to look at, but is strong and funny in her own right. A great date movie, though not a “chick flick” by any means. Like most films out by this crew, it doesn’t skimp out on the trashy language, sex humor and overall vulgarity….but it never goes off course, managing to keep its heart and charm throughout.

#10. Monsters, Inc. (dir. Pete Docter)

A film for all ages, “Monsters, Inc.” remains my favorite Pixar motion picture so far. Here, Monsters, Inc. is a corporation that hires monsters of all kinds to scare children at night, channeling these nighttime screams into power for the city. However, they are terribly afraid of being infected by these children, so when a little girl named Boo (Mary Gibbs) enters this world, it disrupts the city and mainly the life of the company’s top scarer, Sulley (John Goodman). This is an adorable film, with constant laughs. What Robin Williams did to animated films in “Aladdin,” Billy Crystal does here with his green, one-eyed character, Mike. As Sully’s best friend (and agent in many ways to keep Sully at the #1 spot), Crystal lets the one-liners fly throughout. Steve Buscemi’s voice is perfect for the weasley Randall Boggs and Jennifer Tilly is very sweet as Celia, an employee of the corporation and Mike’s love interest as well. Sulley may be gigantic and intimidating on the outside, but he is just a big cuddly monster at heart and Goodman adds a tremendous warmth and tenderness to him. His bond with Boo is a touching one. The story is innovative, the animation is impressive, the talent inspiring and the movie…simply delightful.

#9. Death at A Funeral (dir. Frank Oz)

Before Hollywood decided to remake this very same film for an American audience — a whopping three years later (shame on you, LaBute), there was this outrageously funny comedy. And I don’t get it…it’s a British friggin’ movie! You didn’t even need to read subtitles or anything!!! Anyway, I have no desire to see the new version, but would recommend to anybody and everybody to rent this movie — for its clever and creative script, pitch-perfect timing, great cast and non-stop hilarity. The patriarch of a highly dysfunctional family dies and it is up to his son Daniel (Mathhew Macfadyen) to organize his funeral. In the gravest of circumstances, all chaos breaks loose and in that chaos, pure comedy: an undertaker screws up his job, his cousin’s fiance accidentally takes acid and is tripping the light-fantastic, his selfish brother flies back from the States, and a handicapped uncle who is an outright pain in the neck. On top of this, is the mysterious presence of a dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who no one seems to know, but threatens to reveal a dark family secret. I remember when I saw this, I could not stop laughing. I’m usually not even much of a fan of British humor, but I instantly fell in love with the characters and the storytelling. There are moments of dark humor to be sure (it’s a funeral for Jiminy’s sake), but most of the comedy is dry as the characters are all put into very compromising positions. There is something very “real” about the characters as well as we sympathize with their mourning, though the film never gets over-dramatic at all. There is also a very “theatrical” feel to it all, as if it had been written for the stage in the same manner as “Noises Off” was — something is always happening, and it comes at you fast — and funny.

#8. Elf (dir. Jon Favreau)

Upon its release in 2003, “Elf” quickly became one of my all-time favorite holiday films thanks to its ever-so enchanting screenplay (David Berenbaum), astute direction, marvelous casting, picturesque art direction and of course, its leading man, Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. And though I cannot deny that yes, it is a holiday film, I find it much more than that. This is a wonderful motion picture and can make me laugh out loud anytime of the year, including the dog days of summer. From the day he was born, Buddy is an outsider, raised as an elf at the North Pole by his father (how awesome was the casting of the stuttering Bob Newhart as Papa Elf?). Though he tries and tries so very hard to do well, Buddy just creates all kind of havoc while there and is eventually sent to New York City to find his real father — and in the process, finding his real self (how profound is that?!). Will Ferrell is nothing short of marvelous here and his childlike, inexperienced enthusiasm resembles that of Tom Hanks in “Big.” Ferrell is a polished comedian and here, we see him play a role that seems to be unfamiliar terrain to him, and he nails every aspect of it. He takes all of his fervor and energy and manages to put it into a sweet family film rather than his usual fare. Just answering the phone, he picks it up saying, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” and we laugh. In another great casting move, James Caan plays Buddy’s real father…the polar opposite of Buddy who is all work and very little play and has absolutely no time to play in his son’s reindeer games. Ed Asner is a wonderful Santa Claus and Zooey Deschanel is the woman who  steals Buddy’s heart. The love story within this comedy is heartwarming and Deschanel is simply quite captivating. The movie is simply contagious and makes you laugh from beginning to end. “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite,” Buddy says. If you too like to smile, then this is a must-see.

#7. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (dir. Judd Apatow)

After years of writing for television, Apatow made his debut as a film writer/director with this foul-mouthed, yet very appealing movie. Steve Carell (who co-wrote the script) stars as Andy. He’s 40 years old and yes…much to his male friends’ surprise, he’s a virgin! Andy rides a bike to work, his apartment is clustered with collectors’ item action figures and in his spare time, he likes to paint his miniature figurines in silence. He is surely the odd-man out of his bawdy group of male friends that include Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Romany Malco. Feeling mounting pressure (no pun intended) by his pals to finally do the deed, Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mother with three kids. Because she’s been with a lot of creeps in her past, Trish jokes that they should take it slow and begin their relationship with a no-sex policy…that is fine for Andy and they agree on no sexual activity for the first twenty dates. Carell is perfect here as he creates an awkward, nervous and very endearing character. Andy is a nice guy looking for love — and no one, not even Trish can fathom that such a man still exists (“You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!”). Much of the laughs stem from Andy’s sexual naiveté and his lame efforts into bedding a woman. The supporting cast is terrific here. In addition to the aforementioned actors, Elizabeth Banks, Gerry Bednob, and Jane Lynch as Andy’s not-so-discreet boss all make the very best of their running time. The chest-waxing scene became an instant classic and the “You know how I know you’re gay?” repartee is scathingly funny (“You know how I know you’re gay?” “How?” “You like Coldplay.”). “The 40 Year Old Virgin” does not tire with repeated viewings and remains the foundation for the Apatow comedies and the myriad of Apatow-like comedies released since then. I find it amazing that a film so crude and so dirty can still manage to be so pure and engaging. A credit to sir Apatow on finding a wonderful balance.

#6. Thank You For Smoking (dir. Jason Reitman)

One of the truly great satire comedies of recent years, to be sure. Before the over-rated “Juno” and the delightful “Up in the Air,” Reitman wrote and directed this wonderful comedy with an all-star cast. Aaron Eckhart truly shines as Nick Taylor who is the #1 spokesperson for the tobacco industry. Nick loves his job and he is a master at the art of speech and spin. In a time when the health risks involved in smoking are so obvious for all the world to see, Nick’s job has become all the more difficult. But Nick uses his skillset and twisted logic to promote the act of smoking against anyone willing to take him on. His biggest nemesis? Vermont Senator Ortolan Finistirre (a very funny William H. Macy) who wants to bring Taylor and the entire industry down. The script is smart and fast-paced, mocking a number of industries all at once. The supporting cast is wonderful, especially J.K. Simmons, Rob Lowe, Katie Holmes, Sam Elliott and David Koechner. There is also a great subplot following Taylor’s relationship with his 12-year old son Joey, who looks up to him like he’s a superhero. Joey escorts his father on an important business trip and Nick must figure out how to juggle doing his job and being a role model to his adoring son. The MOD Squad (“Merchant of Death”) scenes are very clever as the three lobbyists (for smoking, alcohol and gun control) fight over whose industry has killed more people. Reitman’s dialogue is pitch perfect and very clever. There haven’t been many good satires in recent years, so this stands out even more. A comedy with a lot of bite and a lot to say…

Only five more funny films to go! I will post what I thought to be the 5 Best Comedies of the decade that was 2000-2009 in the next day or two. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and opinions on the very best comedies of the decade.

All I know is that it’s a sad day when I look at a full decade and realize that Woody Allen or Albert Brooks is not a part of such a list. What did Dylan say? “The Times, They are A-Changin…”

Peter Eramo DVD Pick from the 90′s: “The Dinner Game”

Some of you may have already seen the trailer for the new comedy “Dinner with Schmucks” (due out in July) starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. It looks pretty damn funny, right? I am sure it will be. However, this is an American version of a truly wonderful 1998 French film called “Le Diner de Cons” or, “The Dinner Game” written and directed by Francis Veber.

The premise seems to be exactly the same. In the original, the very well-to-do Pierre (Thierry Lhermitte) and his friends have a somewhat mean-spirited competition: each of them tries to find the dumbest idiot he can possibly find and that invited guest has to speak about himself as much a s possible. When all of the duped ones leave, the group of friends makes fun of all of them and elects a winner — who brought the biggest imbecile? For this particular week, Pierre picks Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), a simple man who works for the Internal Revenue Service. Villeret is extraordinarily funny — he is perfect here and makes for terrific bait for Pierre, but he also brings a wonderful warmth to the role and viewers cannot help but empathize with him.

Now you may have never heard of this movie and may not know any of the stars, but I would highly recommend that you put this in your rental queue and see it before the release of the new American version. It is a very funny film — and also very sweet. I am sure that Carell and Rudd will make for a winning pair and that the movie will do well at the box-office, but I wanted to alert you to the original which I have been a great fan of since I saw it when it was first released. So if you are looking for something a little different, don’t mind French subtitles and you are simply looking for a smart, sweet and very funny movie for the night, go rent “The Dinner Game.” If you’d like to see the trailer, just click here.

Results from the Superhero Movie Poll!

Last week I asked the readers of this website to answer “What is Your Favorite Superhero Movie?” and cast their votes. Heather from the Movie Mobsters site called it right on the money and here are the Top 2 Vote-Getters:

The Dark Knight   19%       

        

 

The Incredibles 13%

 

 

 

Three films were tied with 10% of the vote.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Stay tuned for Magic Lantern Film’s next Movie Poll to be posted shortly…

Peter Eramo’s “Top 25 Comedies of the Decade”: Part Uno

 

So I already composed & posted my “Top 10 Films” of the decade list (2000-2009), and I thought it would be fun to do the top comedy films in that same time frame, being that comedies usually play a backseat to the more dramatic films. I started by wanting to make a simple Top 10 List. The problem was…it was not so simple. Not at all. In doing extensive research on the many comedy films released throughout the decade, there were just too many good comedic films that would not crack the ten available slots. And I didn’t want to leave these films out. So I increased it to twenty slots, and finally, after much struggle and inner debate, settled on a final “Top 25 Comedy Film List” of 2000-2009” which you see right here. Many quality comedies are still (unfortunately) left out, but I had to draw the line somewhere. In creating the list (which I spent much more time than I really should have), I was amazed at how difficult the task was — not only in the selecting of films, but putting them in their respective order. Not an easy feat.

The only stipulation I feel I must add here is that many of the best films of the decade have both comedic and dramatic elements in them (for instance, I included “Sideways,” “Matchstick Men, ” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” on my Top 10 List of the decade). I suppose it is up to each individual’s interpretation because though these movies certainly have very funny moments in them, I consider them to be more dramatic films. For this particular list, I went with funny…what made me laugh, what was original & unique, what was an overall entertaining and well-made movie. Some may not even be considered to be great movies by most, but again…I went with funny. And if I enjoyed it and it made me laugh, then I surely needed to consider it. Here’s the list. Enjoy!

#25. You Kill Me (dir. John Dahl)

Ben Kingsley plays Frank Falenczyk, a man who loves his job….which is odd since he’s a hit-man for the Polish mob and on top of this, happens to be an alcoholic who botches a critical assignment. He is then ordered to re-locate and clean up his act (against his will). He attends AA meetings, gets a sponsor and lands a job in a mortuary where he meets and falls for Laurel (Tea Leoni), a very intriguing woman with almost no boundaries. This movie has some great dark humor to it and what makes most of the film so funny is that it doesn’t go for the laughs — the script & direction play the entire story straight. Kingsley and Leoni make a wonderful pair here, though you wouldn’t think this to be the case going in. Kingsley is a remarkably gifted thespian and here, he gets to show off his comedic chops playing Frank who is not a touchy, sentimental guy. His transformation from beginning to end is an enjoyable one to watch. A great supporting cast includes Philip Baker HallLuke Wilson (as Frank’s gay sponsor), Bill Pullman and Dennis Farina.  A hidden gem that didn’t get a wide release at all, but absolutely worth seeing. The script is taut, inimitable and unpredictable and beneath the murders, dark themes and substance abuse, there is a heart to it all.

#24. intermission (dir. John Crowley)

An Irish comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. What we have here is a collection of numerous stories (11, I believe) set in Dublin that stem from one single circumstance: when John (Cillian Murphy) breaks up with Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald) to “give her a little test.” His plan backfires and sets off a constant stream of conflicts & stories concerning all the people around them. One of those people is Lehiff (Colin Farrell), a career criminal working on his next heist and the detective (a very loose and free Colm Meaney) who will stop at nothing to nab him. At its core, “intermission” is a love story, but it brilliantly portrays all of the repercussions surrounding its opening scene and cleverly illustrates how our lives intersect and relate to one another. You get a great sense of the Irish setting and the unique people who inhabit it — a great, diverse collection of characters to watch here. Though it may take some time to adapt to the very thick accents, the film is a non-stop rollercoaster ride, filled with great comedic performances that keeps you on your toes.

#23. Scotland, PA. (dir. Billy Morrissette)

I absolutely love this movie! A modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, “Macbeth” set in the 1970’s in…you guessed it, Scotland, Pennsylvania. If you’re familiar with the classic play, you will surely get much more out of this ingenious adaptation. If you aren’t into the Bard, I think you’ll still enjoy the film on its own. Hard-working Joe McBeth (James LeGros) works at a hamburger stand with his much more ambitious wife, Pat (the gorgeous Maura Tierney). Pat is convinced that they can do a much better job at running the place than their kind, but short-sighted boss, Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn) and concocts a plan to do away with the owner (a very comedic & clever scene) and take over the establishment. Most of the elements of the “Macbeth” play are here and part of the fun is seeing how Morrissette modernizes it all. The three weird sisters are three pot-smokers who foresee the future with a magic 8-ball, Macduff is re-created into a vegetarian detective (Christopher Walken) investigating the murder, and the connections keep going and going. Maura Tierney is a fantastic Lady Macbeth here — she is smart, sexy and sinfully ambitious (“We’re not bad people, Mac…just underachievers”). Her chemistry with LeGross is terrific and the two have captured the essence of the relationship that was the Macbeths. But more importantly, the film is just downright funny. The soundtrack of 70’s Bad Company tunes throughout fits very well and adds the perfect mood. The eclectic mix of characters in this small town is great fun to watch and seeing how Morrissette gets the most out of the original story with his crazy, dark script and humble setting is pure pleasure.

#22. Zoolander (dir. Ben Stiller)

I am aware of how ridiculously absurd this movie is. That said, I can’t help but find this movie hilariously funny. Ben Stiller plays Derek Zoolander, an incredibly dim-witted fashion model who was once at the pinnacle of the industry and now finds himself fading and at the end of his career. He is brainwashed by the evil fashion guru Mugatu (Will Ferrell) to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia – so no, the film doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Owen Wilson plays Hansel, Zoolander’s chief competition and the fashion industry’s next hot model, usurping Zoolander of his title. The rivalry here is great fun to watch and Stiller and Wilson, we know, work well together. Stiller has created a very engaging character here too — from his walk, to his speech to his contorted facial expressions…he truly does something entirely different. There are some amusing cameos and most of the laughs stem from a combination of Zoolander’s complete stupidity, his obscene vanity and childish vulnerability. His budding romance with Matilda (Christine Taylor) gives the movie its love story, which has its own unusual arc. His “Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too” always makes me laugh, as does the infamous “Walk Off” scene. The one-liners and outlandish, silly scenes are relentless — but in the end, it delivers what it sets out to do and that is make us laugh. For serious!

#21. Old School (dir. Todd Phillips)

Three men who aren’t feeling so great about their personal lives all try to recapture their youth and re-live their wild college days. The catalyst for the insanity that ensues is when Mitch discovers his nymphomaniac girlfriend cheating on him. He finds a new home and his friend Beanie thinks it would be a great idea if they turned it into a frat house. You probably know what happens next. Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell make a riotous trio and all are great fun to watch. Ferrell is usually more effective in a supporting role and here, he makes the most out of playing “The Tank,” a man who was once considered a party animal and is now struggling with the obligations of marriage and the mundane life that sometimes comes with it. His “trust tree” scene with his wife while in therapy is hysterical. Jeremy Piven plays their nemesis well — the longtime nerd who is now Dean of the college and has it in for the popular threesome. This is all-out comedy with a slice of romantic subplot thrown in for good measure. Vince Vaughn is as sarcastic and dry as ever and the whole “ear muffs” thing gets me every time as does Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” to Blue’s passing (“You’re my boy, Blue!”). Great, raunchy fun that doesn’t seem to tire on repeat viewings. Had to find room for this one some way.

#20. Superbad (dir. Greg Mottola)

A filthy, warped, and at times sweet coming-of-age movie in the same way as the original “American Pie” was in the previous decade as it focuses on a trio of male friends who are preparing to start their college careers come the end of summer. Well, they aren’t doing much preparing, to be honest. The main goal for these boys is to get laid. Half the teen dialogue here revolves around either booze or getting laid. Seth and Evan (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) are best friends who have known each other their entire lives. They luck into getting an invite to a huge party and want to make sure to bring enough liquor to get the gals trashed, thereby having their first sexual experience. They bully their good friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) into using his new fake ID to purchase the booze and that’s when everything goes nutty. Fogell falls in with two completely inept cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) while Seth and Evan get separated and map out their own routes to the big party. Mintz-Plasse steals the show here with his wonderfully dorky McLovin character. Some of the funniest scenes are when he gets his groove on, when he’s in bed with a good-looking girl (“I got a boner!”) and when he mimics his machismo. The friendship between Hill and Cera is a very believable one and the separation anxiety between the two continues to build throughout. On the surface, “Superbad” is a perverse, foul-mouthed movie with a lot of laughs. Beneath, there is an intelligence and warmth to it all, focusing on the close bonds between friendships that will not be forgotten.

#19. The Amateurs (dir. Michael Traeger)

Before “Zack & Miri Make A Porno” there was this movie. This one has the better cast, the more original script and most importantly, more laughs. Andy (the ever-talented Jeff Bridges) is a weekend dad who is experiencing a mid-life crisis and is tired of not getting ahead in life. He comes up with the most unconventional, most insane idea this small town has ever heard — he and any citizens who want to join his merry, independent production company are going to make their own full-length adult film! “The Amateurs” is a small film that not many have heard of, let alone seen and with the cast assembled, that is such a surprise to me. Ted Dansen (who gives an impressive comedic performance), William Fichtner, Tim Blake Nelson, Glenne Headly, Joe Pantoliano and the radiant Lauren Graham highlight this delightful film. Bridges is the core here…the ultimate dreamer and he’s the one who has to convince the others to invest their hard-earned money into this crazy scheme. From there, it’s all about who is going to play what role in the making of this movie (in front of or behind the camera). For instance Pantoliano’s ‘Some Idiot’ (that’s what everyone calls him) wants to write and direct the movie. Andy and his pals try to recruit as many village people as they can to help in the making of this adult film and much of the laughter stems from this. Overall, the film is very sweet and tremendously entertaining. Jeff Bridges can do just about anything and anyone who knows “The Dude” knows that comedy is surely one of those things. If you’re looking to rent a movie and in the mood to laugh, I would strongly suggest giving this little unknown movie a watch.

#18. Fantastic Mr. Fox (dir. Wes Anderson)

I’m not much of a fan of Anderson’s work & I didn’t expect much going in to this one, but I laughed out loud throughout this wonderfully written, and at times profound movie based on the Roald Dahl classic story. A terrific ensemble cast lend their vocal talents and is surely entertaining for kids & adults alike. To read my full review of this very witty film, click here.

#17. 50 First Dates (dir. Peter Segal)

Fearful of commitment, Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a veterinarian based in Hawaii who lusts after all of the beautiful tourists who come by for fun-in-the-sun, no-strings attachments. He suddenly meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and thinks he has finally found the woman of his dreams. The catch? She has short-term memory loss and forgets who the hell he is the very next day. A clever premise with some resemblances to “Groundhog Day,” but stands by itself quite admirably. A very sweet and endearing romantic comedy that actually does not insult the audience and, with Sandler at the center, is very amusing throughout. Henry must repeatedly make Lucy fall in love with him with each passing sunrise, which makes for some great comic moments in itself. Rob Schneider, Blake Clark, and Dan Aykroyd have some funny moments in supporting roles and the scenes with Henry’s foreign female co-worker are pretty hilarious too. Most romantic comedies I was thinking about for this list were more cute and sweet, with touches of comedy here and there (the very charming “Serendipity” comes to mind as a perfect example), but “50 First Dates” stands out because it never forgets that it is a comedy and the premise alone allows for some great opportunities for originality and humor. Sandler makes a charming leading man and Barrymore does her usual thing, but here she is stretched a bit more than usual. We like her character and her illness makes her all the more endearing. A truly original romantic comedy — with a lot of laughs.

#16. High Fidelity (dir. Stephen Frears)

What is it about John Cusack that we like him so much, especially as a romatic-comedy lead? He is charming, self-deprecating, sweet…just, you know, a nice guy! There always seems to be a little hint of Lloyd Dobler in each of his characters…the dreamer, the philosopher, the romantic; it’s as if we can still see him holding a radio atop his head blasting the tunes of Peter Gabriel. Based on the Nick Hornby novel, “High Fidelity” is another rare romantic comedy that makes this prestigious list. Cusack plays Rob Gordon, a 30’s-something record-store owner and compulsive list-maker (like me!). Here, he is recounting for us, the audience (the breaking of the fourth wall works extremely well here and Cusack is so damn good at it) his Top 5 break-ups, which includes the one in progress to Laura (Iben Hjejle), who he considers to be his all-time true love and tries desperately to get back together with. When we aren’t watching Rob’s fruitless attempts to win Laura back, we are at the record store watching Rob and his two socially inept co-workers (Jack Black and Todd Louiso). Black wasn’t the star he is at this time and here in a smaller role, he truly shines (especially in his rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness“). There are some very funny male bonding moments in the store (speaking to us, Rob says of his assistants, “I can’t fire them. I hired these guys for three days a week and they just started showing up every day. That was four years ago”). We also have Tim Robbins who is ridiculous (in a good way) as Laura’s new-age lover Ian, who Rob of course cannot stand. As always, we root for Cusack to win back the girl and we laugh at the way he over-analyzes himself and the situation at hand. The film shows a great appreciation for music and is a love story told from the guy’s point-of-view, which I can appreciate. Cusack is near perfect here and funny as hell. He opines to us:  “John Dillinger was killed behind that theater in a hail of FBI gunfire. And do you know who tipped them off? His fucking girlfriend. All he wanted to do was go to the movies.” It’s just a great screenplay. I know many have already seen this one, but do yourselves a favor if it has been awhile…see it again. Right away.

That’s the first 10 comedies to make the list. In the next few days, I will make sure to post the remaining films, (#15 – #1). As always, please feel free to leave me your comments – what you think should be included, which have no business being here, and those rare times when you feel that my thinking is actually right on.

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Robin Hood” (***)

I must admit that the initial reviews for this film made me somewhat wary of going to see it. And looking at the somewhat disappointing box-office returns through two weeks of the $200+ million blockbuster film, I think it has made many of the movie-going public wary of going, which is too bad because Ridley Scott’sRobin Hood” is a beautifully made and exciting new take on the legend we all know. Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland (“Mystic River” and “L.A. Confidential“) take a step back and have chosen not re-hash the same “robs from the rich” legend we’re all familiar with. Rather, they give us the story of how Robin Hood actually became an outlaw in the first place; a tale maybe we’re all not so very familiar with. At the end of the film, the titles read: “And So The Legend Begins,” setting the audience up for the proverbial Robin Hood myth that follows (and a sure-to-be-made sequel as well).

An archer fighting in the army of Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston), Robin Hood and his companions decide to return home to England, and along the way, come upon Robert of Loxley who is fatally wounded by Godfrey (a diabolical, intense Mark Strong). Godfrey is in the process of assisting a French invasion of England and manages to trick the newly crowned King John into making him think he’s working on England’s behalf. Robin Hood (Russell Crowe) promises the dying Robert of Loxley that he will return his most cherished sword back to his father, Walter Loxley in Nottingham (played with tremendous humor and pathos by the brilliant Max von Sydow). The sword has an enigmatic inscription on it that pre-occupies Robin throughout. We learn that Robin Hood never knew much about his own father past the age of 6 and he struggles with himself to come to grips with his abrupt disappearance. Upon his return to Nottingham, the elderly Walter adopts him as his own and encourages Robin Longstride to impersonate his dead son and marry Marion (Cate Blanchett) or else the King will seize the land. Marion Loxley has just learned (after 10 long years) that her husband is not coming back, so this is a bit of a transition for her and she takes this new situation somewhat begrudgingly.

Meanwhile, we watch as Godfrey brutally pillages towns across the country under the pretext of collecting taxes for King John (Oscar Isaac). We can clearly see what kind of man King John is and what type of leader he will make right from the beginning and this continues throughout in his confrontational scenes with his mother (Eileen Atkins), to his treatment of the wise and loyal William Marshal (William Hurt) to how he treats his people. Robin Hood and Marion adapt to one another and Walter’s mirth is re-energized. He tells Robin that yes, he did know his father, who helped try to build a stronger, more liberalized society. A raid is made on Nottingham and there is a final battle between Godfrey and his men pitted against Robin Hood, King John and the English. After fighting bravely and faithfully for his land, Robin Hood is now seen as a threat to his people when King John ruthlessly declares him an outlaw. Thus, a legend is born.

Overall, this is a very entertaining, visually stunning film with an epic feel to it. I enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated. The costumes are exquisite, the locations and production design, authentic, and Marc Streitenfeld’s score, majestic. The film has its share of action and battle scenes, romance and some nicely incorporated humor in it as well. The performances too are excellent. Russell Crowe makes a fine Robin Hood; he is strong and has a regal presence to him. He shows strength or vulnerability, whatever is needed. Max von Sydow is a breath of fresh air, William Hurt  (as always) is terrific as William Marshal and we understand and feel for his trial throughout. Mark Addy plays Friar Tuck and he adds a nice touch of humor to the well-known character. Mark Strong plays a great villain – his overall look and demeanor fit quite well as the foil to Robin Hood. And like Joaquin Phoenix in “Gladiator” (another Scott film), Oscar Isaac’s King John is a spoiled, frightened little man who happens to wear the crown. Isaac does a wonderful job with it and we laugh at and detest him throughout. As for Cate Blanchett, I have mixed feelings. An extraordinary actress, to be sure, but I feel either she was simply miscast here or that Scott’s take on Marion may have been a bit rough around the edges. She seems too tough, too macho and her chemistry with Crowe seems a bit forced.

Some of the action sequences are difficult to follow and in the final battle, it does get a bit hokey for its own good (“For the love of God, Marion!” Robin Hood screams out when he sees his true love). Robin Hood’s slow-motion rise from the depths of the water and Marion exclaiming, “This is for you, Walter” were all a bit too much for me and surely could have been done without. And at times, the film falls into temporary lulls here and there. However, it is a grand and stately film. I remember enjoying Kevin Reynolds’Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) very much. It has been a long while since I’ve seen it so I don’t think it fair at all to compare the two. In any case, they are two completely different stories. This one stands on its own just fine. A pleasurable, summer blockbuster movie experience to be sure. If you are one of the many who wanted to see it, but the reviews have kept you away, I would suggest that you go and see it while it’s still on the big screen.

Director:    Ridley Scott
Year:          2010
Rating:      

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Edge of Darkness”

I didn’t know much about this film going in except for the fact that (a) this was Mel Gibson’s first starring role in eight years and  (b) he was pissed off and not making any arrests. Good enough for me, so I checked it out.

Gibson plays Boston homicide detective Thomas Craven who is a single father to Emma (Bojana Novakovic), his 24 year-old daughter. I’m not giving anything away here (I don’t do spoilers in my reviews) by saying that she is brutally killed right in front of him and what we are left with is a very typical revenge film. Craven wants no part of working with his colleagues on this one. No…this time, it’s personal (Thank God he doesn’t say that). Unfortunately, we are not given much that is new here in Martin Campbell’s thriller. In conducting his own investigation as to who murdered his daughter, Craven uncovers not only his daughter’s secret life after graduating MIT, but also a world of corporate conspiracy with the government authorizing murders to make sure that their secrets stay secret. In his search, he runs across Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a government “cleaner” sent in to keep an eye on Craven and sweep up the remaining mess and all evidence left behind. During his search for answers (and ultimately, revenge) Craven is being followed, he gets assaulted, he cracks some heads, you know the drill.

What makes the film engaging is Mel Gibson. It’s his movie and if you’re a fan of his, you will most likely enjoy this one. At the core of the film, we have a father who loved his daughter more than anything else, and Gibson illustrates this well (as he usually does playing characters experiencing a terrible loss). We empathize with him and see his agony on his sleeve. There are some very sweet flashbacks here of Craven and his daughter and in the brief time we see him with his grown-up girl, we see a very close bond between the two. Danny Huston is well cast as Jack Bennett, the president of the company behind all of the mysterious murders, though it would be nice to see Huston play something other than the man we root against. The scenes between Gibson and Winstone are very intriguing and dramatic. We never know exactly where Jedburgh stands until the very end, which keeps you on your toes. Winstone has a powerful screen presence and you can see why he’s been a very busy actor lately (IMDB lists 8 films he has in pre-production at the time of this writing).

I suppose I was hoping for a much more original screenplay here. This is a revenge film that doesn’t veer too far away from recent others of its kind such as “Death Sentence,” “The Brave One,” “Taken” and “Law Abiding Citizen.” One sequence in particular upset me — you know when superheroes get caught (the Batman TV series was famous for this) and he isn’t just killed right there on the spot? No, that would just be too easy, right? So what do they do? They have to imprison their capture and conduct an “extra special” killing and delay the inevitable…the hero pulling off a grand escape from the dungeons of evil. I was surprised to get that here. So in the end, yes, Mel kept me watching, but overall, it doesn’t bring much that is new to the table…I was hoping for much more from his big comeback.

Director:  Martin Campbell
Year:        2010
Rating:    

Peter Eramo’s Personal Pet Peeves

Now how’s that for alliteration…hmm???

I like to think that when it comes to movies, I’m a pretty open-minded kind of guy. I will go to see just about any movie (given my current mood) whether its genre is science fiction, horror, foreign, documentary, silly comedy – even certain musicals that look to be worth the time and money (though those are rare and hard to come by). But we all have our pet peeves when it comes to certain aspects of a movie that keep us from plunking down our $10 to see it (because so-and-so directed it or so-and-so was in it). For example, how many times have you heard the following exchange:

“Did you see [fill in the blank]?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Really?! Why not?”
“Oh…I just can’t stand watching him.”

And you know what? That person has every right to feel this way. It’s your $10 and you have the right to spend it any way you damn well like.

Now there are certain actors (Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, Jeff Bridges) who, no matter what the reviews and public reception have been, I will go out to the theatres, put down my money and see. We all have them. Same for directors. If David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, Oliver Stone or Woody Allen (though he has been testing my patience for the past decade or so) make a movie, then guess what? I’m going out to see it!

So I am looking at the newspaper trying to find a movie to see – and I notice there is almost nothing out there! I look online for the onslaught of summer movies on the horizon and scheduled for release (as soon as this week) and still, I see nothing but slim pickings. My interest is not at all piqued. Now I’m just generalizing here, but all I see is a bunch of movies that look like they were made with only one idea in mind: to take your money. Sequels that don’t deserve one, films based on bad television shows, remakes of films that were perfectly fine in the first place…all coming out. In the spirit of this thinking, I came up with a concise list of my own personal pet peeves – certain aspects of a particular film that will usually (but not all of the time) keep me from seeing it and in turn, I decide to spend my $10 on something else…like a good book – or crack. Here are just a few of my pet peeves, in no particular order:

PET PEEVE #1: Any Film With Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay Listed as Director

These two have decided long ago that they pretty much have little or nothing to say to their viewers other than provide meaningless explosions, rail-thin plot lines and costly (though at times impressive) action sequences. “2012,” “Godzilla,” “The Island, “Armageddon” “Pearl Harbor“? I’ll just stick that $10 back in my pocket, thank you.

PET PEEVE #2: American Movies Based on Very Good Foreign Films

I recently read that David Fincher is slated to direct the American version of the brilliant 4-star “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and I nearly wept. Why does this film need a remake so soon? Because too many Americans are completely ignorant and refuse to engage in the dreaded S-word…subtitles. Now of course there are a handful of exceptions, but there are too many embarrassing, needless remakes of these fine films. Examples that support my luminous pet peeve are:

– “Swept Away” (Guy Ritchie’s slap in the face to the fantastic Italian film)
– “Diabolique” from the masterful 1955 French film, “Les Diaboliques
– “Death at a Funeral” (now in theatres just two years after the brilliantly funny original of the same name. Do yourself a favor and rent the British film. It is hilarious! Was this remake absolutely necessary? Shame on you, Neil LaBute.)
– “Brothers” based on the powerful Danish film “Brodre

And there are many, many more. I think “Oldboy” is in the works for a bastardized American version too. In fact, many well made Korean and Japanese films have been retooled for the Hollywood machine and ruined in the process. I don’t want to piss people off more than I have in a previous list of mine, but you can include “The Departed” on this list. That’s right…Deal with it…

PET PEEVE #3: The Dreaded “Hit List”

Not that I don’t enjoy a good action flick, but I do tend to avoid the ones with names like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel, Gerard Butler, Dolph Lundgren (yeah, he’s still around), Steven Seagal and Jason Statham attached to them. Call me a movie snob…but I can find much more stimulating, edifying ways of spending my 90 minutes. One side note…I thought “JCVD” was a decent film.

PET PEEVE #4: Video Games Should Stay on our Playstations and X-Boxes

Any movie where studio execs said, “Yeah, that’s a popular video game! Make that into a movie!!!” I generally ignore. I love my PlayStation 3 and enjoy playing all of my sports games, but has any of these ever made for a good feature length film?! Let me jog your memory for ya: “Resident Evil,” “Max Payne,” “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Doom,” and yes, the ever-brilliant “Super Mario Brothers.” Oh, Dennis Hopper….it was difficult, but all is forgiven. Just get well.

PET PEEVE #5: Nasty, Inept DNA

I don’t know what was in their water as children, but if a Gyllenhaal is attached to a project, I will oftentimes chuckle and then forget about it. I will admit that it can at times be fun to watch Jake Gyllenhaal struggle his way through a scene and try his little heart out, but more times than not, it’s usually just downright sad. Think of the car wreck that everyone on the road slows down to see…that’s the Gyllenhaal siblings! I will admit that Maggie Gyllenhaal has actually made some strong decisions (“Secretary,” “Happy Endings,” and “Adaptation“), but for me, it’s just ever-so-difficult to watch her. As for her brother, I think all hope is lost. He’s one box-office dud after another, and you know what? There’s a reason! Look at that joke of a film due out, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” — even the trailer looks awful.

Seth MacFarlane, creator of “The Family Guy” pretty much nailed it with the following brief scene. Give it a quick listen. It has the two siblings arguing with their father over who is “more off-putting.” Terrific….

I’m More Off-Putting! Gyllenhaal Scene

PET PEEVE #6: Shocking (Shitty) Sequels

Speaking of abysmal trailers, have you seen the one for the 4th installment of Shrek??? After the original, this franchise has gone steadily downhill. The third was even worse than the second and if this new frivolous trailer is any indication, “Shrek Forever After” will continue the predictable pattern. As a rule, I tend to avoid any sequel that has already shown a significant decline (“Spiderman 3” anyone?) or is so obviously made for purely monetary purposes. Though the originals may be very good (perhaps even the second as well), Hollywood execs will always “jump the shark” until it is quite clear that all possible profits have already been sapped and the audiences finally show that they’ve had enough by not going to the theatre. A fourth “Beverly Hills Cop“?! Tough times, Eddie? Let’s keep spewing out sophomoric Fockers films too. The only “Ocean” movie worth anything was the very amusing “Ocean’s 11” — please, stop, Mr. Soderbergh. I didn’t see the last Indiana Jones movie, and you know what? I sleep quite well. Most horror film franchises fall victim (like that pun) to this: “Saw,” “Halloween,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (uh, was that remake required?), “Friday the 13th,” “Scream,” etc. I understand that they are what they are — that they are not meant to be these enlightening, insightful films. I get that. But this is my pet peeve list and I choose to look elsewhere for my movie buck. “Sex and the City 2“? Were there really that many unanswered questions to the first one? At least Disney has the decency to release these “lesser” films on DVD and not take up valuable screen time.

PET PEEVE #7: Two Words — Michael Moore

I love documentary films. The problem is that, despite public opinion, Mr. Moore is not a documentary filmmaker. He editorializes and tries to manipulate your independent thinking with carefully calculated editing, insinuating music choices and of course, his own slanted commentary on a particular subject. This has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with his political views. The guy just doesn’t make documentaries. Period. If I want someone’s political opinion, I’ll read an op-ed piece. A good documentary explores a specific topic, shows all sides of said topic and lets the viewer come up with his/her own opinion. Most times, the filmmaker is never even seen or heard, but Moore loves putting his mug in front of the camera way too much. Trust me, if you want to see the work of real documentary filmmakers, you look to the fascinating work of Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and yes, Ken Burns. Moore loves the spotlight, you can clearly tell. I also love his abrupt about face on Ralph Nader — from vehemently supporting him to publically crucifying him. Classy move, big guy. You will never get my $10.

Fan Poll: What’s Your Favorite Superhero Movie?

Iron Man 2” was released early this month and has not given up the top spot at the box-office just yet. A good action-packed superhero movie is almost a surefire box-office smash usually results in a sequel or two to follow. With the widely anticipated Green Hornet movie coming out later this year and others in post-production, I wanted to see what your favorite superhero movie is. If I left your favorite off the list, just write me a nasty comment below. I have a tough skin…made of steel!

What is Your Favorite Superhero Movie?
Superman: The Movie
Batman (1989)
The Dark Knight
Spiderman
Spiderman 2
The Incredibles
Dick Tracy
Iron Man
X-Men
X2: X-Men United
Hellboy
Blade
Batman Begins
Watchmen
A Film Not On This List

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Peter Eramo Reviews: “Date Night” (* ½)

Well, they are the king and queen of sitcom television (so I hear), so you knew it wouldn’t be long before Hollywood decided to cast Steve Carell and Tiny Fey opposite one another for the big screen. The result is Shawn Levy’sDate Night,” and sadly, the movie offers very few laughs, some very poor dialogue, and almost no originality.

Carell and Fey play the Fosters – a middle-class, suburban New Jersey couple who discover that their close friends are getting a divorce, sending them a much needed wake-up call.  Between taking care of the kids and managing their respective careers, they are worried that their lives have fallen into one gigantic, wearisome rut. Phil Foster (Carell) wants to do something about that gosh darn-it, and does so by shaking up their weekly humdrum ‘Date Night’ and bringing it to the bright lights of Manhattan. After he “steals” another couple’s reservation at a very trendy, chic restaurant, the mayhem ensues. Or perhaps I should say, wish it had ensued.

The exhilarating and dangerous night that the Fosters face is filled with mistaken identities, a corrupt D.A., cops on the take, car chases, a few cameos to try and keep us entertained, and for some odd reason, an almost empty New York City, where no one can be seen in the world’s most famous park and very few cars and pedestrians take up the normally crowded busy streets.

Tina Fey may be the darling of primetime, but she cannot carry a movie (see the disastrous “Baby Mama”). At best, she makes for a solid supporting role (see “The Invention of Lying”). Carell has already proven he can tackle film and do so convincingly in a wide variety of roles that showcase an impressive range. Here, he is just given a poor script and not given very much to do. William Fichtner, a very strong character actor, is wasted here and his caricature of a district attorney is embarrassing. And the scenes with Detective Arroyo (Taraji P. Henson) were all terribly, terribly written. I will say that the scenes with Mark Wahlberg were quite amusing. Wahlberg plays the always shirtless Holbrooke, who helps the Fosters out throughout the course of this whacky, crazy evening. The funniest scene of the film is when the Fosters finally meet up with the young couple (two fun cameos) who has the computer chip they have been looking for all night.

I don’t really consider myself much of a movie snob – I like a goofy comedy every now and then like anybody else.  Here, I went in to this film thinking that it would at least be funny and good for a few laughs. But instead, all I got was predictability all the way through: the emasculated man must prove to his wife that he can take care of her and save the day, the marriage that once seem to be tedious is now revived, etc., etc., etc.  It’s really too bad because Carell and Fey, with all of their comedic talents, are much better than this shlock and deserve more.

Director:    Shawn Levy
Year:          2010
Rating:     

Results from the Mafia War!

I am hoping that with time and more content and yes, better design/layout of this site (still in the works) – that more traffic will come and more people will become regular readers of Magic Lantern Film. Right now, 30 people cast their votes in last week’s movie poll which posed the question: which is the better gangster film: “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas.” Thirty votes is somewhat respectable, but again, I’d like to see much more in the weeks and months ahead. Especially when I see the site getting over 150+  hits a day this past week. Anyway, thank you to all who participated and made their choice!!! Here are the results:

The Godfather: 68%
Goodfellas:      32%

Yes, Henry Hill will sleep with the fishes.
I’m thinking Clemenza voted at least 5 times here….

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Hot Tub Time Machine”

Three middle-aged guys, all of whom are frustrated with their own lives — and a young nephew — travel back in time (via a magical hot tub) to their heyday year of 1986, a time when the three had their whole lives ahead of them. The premise of Steve Pink’s comedy says it all here and you know what you’re going to get going in. If you are looking for just laughs alone, this film should do it as there are some funny moments here. I would also say that those over the age of 35 and/or those who experienced the 1980’s as a teen would appreciate this film a lot more. On that note, there is a great sense of nostalgia here and plenty of 80’s references sprinkled throughout that will take you back, if just for a little while.

The four men go to a ski resort for some male bonding (and to cheer up one of them up who has been severely depressed). The resort is nothing like they remember it back in their prime — antiquated, filled with old people, near-deserted, with nothing going on. That is, until they all decide to, you know, do the manly thing — and all get in the hot tub together, sans clothing.

Our trio here is John Cusack (the ringleader experiencing a mid-life crisis), Craig Robinson (the married one who still dreams of a life he once gave up on), and Rob Corddry (the vulgar, crude, party animal). It seems with the advent of Apatow comedies (perhaps dating back to the Farrelly Brothers as well) and with the tremendous success of “The Hangover,” most comedies being released need to be over-the-top when it comes to the level of  raunchiness, perversity and sex-themed humor. That’s fine. I’m no prude. But it does sometimes get a bit predictable and really, at this point, what curse word or sight gag is really going to shock us at this point?

Corddry does his best at playing that one friend you see in all of these comedies — the one who will say and do anything, the one with no inner editing device…the asshole who, as Robinson and Cusack refer to as, “their asshole.” Robinson, by the way, is funny, as always. He’s got terrific comedic timing and a wonderful, unique delivery. And John Cusack looks like he’s having a great time, which is fun to see. He’s always a pleasure to watch, despite some of the poor choices he has made in recent years. Clark Duke plays the young, sarcastic, glued-to-my video games nephew and he is fine here in the familiar role.

Overall, though I thought it was funny and I had a good time watching it, I felt it could have gone much further with the time-travel and 1980’s themes. It seemed to touch the surface, but didn’t dig deep enough. The Chevy Chase scenes were somewhat odd and his ominous character felt out of place (though it’s nice to see him getting some work). The subplot between Cusack and Lizzy Caplan was also thrown away. It was great to see Crispin Glover here in a supporting role, but the pay-off on that subplot was not as grand as it could have been. Finally, the ending seemed to be too neatly tied together and yes, rather conventional. Again, I am aware that this was not supposed to enlighten or move me in any profound way. It is a raunchy comedy, and for that, I enjoyed myself. And, as I am in my late thirties, I can honestly say that walking out of the film, it did move me in certain ways; taking me back to 24 years ago and realizing just how quickly it all went by. So there…

Director:  Steve Pink
Year:        2010
Rating:    

The Godfather vs. Goodfellas — Cast Your Vote!

No doubt there have been some brilliant gangster films made over the years. “Casino,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “White Heat,” “Scarface,” “Donnie Brasco“…and I could go on and on. For this week’s “Movie Poll” I could have easily come up with 10 truly awesome gangster flicks for you to pick from. But I’m not going to do that. What’s the point? I’m just going to get right down to the two films it always comes down to anyway, and if you think otherwise, well, then….maybe you better come take a ride…you know what I mean?!

This has always been a source of great debate with me and my film buddies. The question? Which is the better gangster movie: Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” (1972) or Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” (1990)? I have my own very strong opinions on the matter, but for now, I want to see what you think.

So this week is real easy — you get two choices and two choices only…if you’ve never seen them — shame on you. If you like another film better, simply pick which film you enjoy more. Fuhgeddaboudit…it’s that easy.

Which is the Better Gangster Flick?
The Godfather
Goodfellas

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