Tag Archives: comedy

A Million Ways to Die in the West Review (Film, 2014)

A Million Ways to Die in the West Review (Film, 2014)

Living in the Wild West sucks. Just ask sheep herder Albert. He’s witnessed the daily death and destruction in his town of Old Stump and he just can’t take it anymore. No one else seems willing to settle any dispute with words, not gunfire, and backing out of the certain death in a pointless duel means his girlfriend, Louise, dumps him. Now a new young lady, Anna, has entered the town and she decides it’s about time that Albert chooses to live for himself. This, naturally, leads to another duel and an actual need for Albert to learn how to fire a gun and survive in the West.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is Seth MacFarlane’s second feature film and it’s not as strong as Ted. There’s no avoiding that discussion. The two films take a similar approach to comedy, but Ted is far more entertaining in its dissection of romantic comedy tropes than A Million Ways to Die in the West is in its skewering of Western tropes.

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Muppets Most Wanted Review

Muppets Most Wanted Review (Film, 2014)

Muppets Most Wanted, announced as the seventh sequel in a clever opening song, takes the iconic puppets on a whirlwind tour of Europe for the first time. Kermit and his friends are convinced by tour manager Dominic Badguy to perform in Europe after the rousing success of their comeback at the end of 2011′s The Muppets. However, international criminal mastermind Constantine, himself a green frog, swaps places with Kermit in a grand scheme to steal the crown jewels of England. Comedy ensues.

The great dividing factor on your reaction to Muppets Most Wanted is how much you enjoy musicals. Do you like the Muppets and musicals? Then you’ll love Muppets Most Wanted. Do you prefer there not to be an original song in almost every scene of your Muppets film experience? Then you probably won’t fall for Muppets Most Wanted. It really is as simple as that.

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John Dies at the End Review (Film, 2013)

John Dies at the End ReviewIf anyone could make a sensible adaptation out of David Wong’s bizarro horror/comedy novel John Dies at the End, it would be writer/director Don Coscarelli. He gets weird. From the first two entries in the Phantasm series to the wild ride of Bubba Ho-Tep, Coscarelli has made a name for himself as a director of weird films. The quasi-Lovecraftian nightmare of Wong’s fictional blog turned novel is right in his wheelhouse. His approach just might not be what you would expect.

In the present, Dave is meeting with a newspaper reporter named Arnie to come clean with his story about an alternate dimension’s drug and monsters infecting our world. Dave tells Arnie the story of how he and John came to discover this disturbing alternate world that is invisible to the naked eye. Only a scant glance out of the corner of your eye can show you the horrors lurking everywhere if you do not take the Soy Sauce.

Wong’s novel is very episodic in nature. It tells three interconnected stories with the same beats and locations about Dave and John fighting against the intrusion of an alternate dimension. The reason it works is that there are humans cooperating with the alternate dimension to control the world. They basically hit the reset button, erase the evidence, and leave John and Dave to take the fall for everything.

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The World’s End Review (Film, 2013)

The World's End Poster ReviewEdgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Ice Cream and Blood Trilogy (each film features ice cream, blood, and an exaggerated play on film genre) ends on a high note with The World’s End. This clever sci-fi/comedy is the ridiculous love letter to the genre you’ve come to expect from the creators of the RomComZom (Shaun of the Dead) and one of the most entertaining, self-referential cop/action films ever (Hot Fuzz).

Gary King peaked in 1992 when he and his four best friends spent one glorious night going head to head with the Golden Mile. This 12 part pub crawl required the teenagers to drink one pint of beer at twelve different pubs in their home town of Newton Haven. They failed, but had the time of their lives instead. When Gary realizes that his goal was never achieved, he tricks his former friends into returning to Newton Haven for the first time in 20 years to finish the Golden Mile. Tensions reach the boiling point right when the friends discover something is terribly wrong with the town they ran away from.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing Review (Film, 2013)

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s wilder comedies. It does not have the fantasy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or hinge its entire plot on double lives like Twelfth Night. It lives on a series of interwoven short stories about royalty celebrating a great military victory.

Much Ado About Nothing PosterLeonato, the governor of Messina, allows Don Pedro’s men to stay in his home for a month after their victory. Claudio, a member of Don Pedro’s court, falls hopelessly in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero. Beatrice, Leonato’s niece, trades barbs with Benedick, a friend of Don Pedro. Meanwhile, Don John (Don Pedro’s brother) plots against the celebration to spite his brother’s victory. Also, a foolish police constable named Dogberry attempts to maintain order with the sudden influx of guests.

The tricky part of adapting Much Ado About Nothing is making sure all the players are clearly introduced in the story. Joss Whedon’s one stumbling point in this otherwise enjoyable adaptation is just that.

Benedick and Beatrice introduce themselves, as do Hero, Claudio, and Don John. Don Pedro assumes limited narrator duties and Leonato randomly interjects thoughts throughout the story. The gender is flipped on one of Don John’s men to give him a love interest–confusing a villain with Margaret, one of Hero’s ladies in waiting–and none of the police force is introduced by name, Dogberry included.

Lines are shuffled around and truncated to shift the focus to Benedick and Beatrice to the detriment of the other major stories. Don Pedro and Leonato barely exist outside of the context when their main role in the play (Don Pedro especially) is to establish that context. Whedon clearly wanted to keep the adaptation short and snappy, but it becomes difficult to parse out the first act of this adaptation.

That is not to say that Whedon’s approach is poor. This is actually one of the livelier adaptations of a Shakespearean comedy to come around in years. The setting is vaguely modern and fueled with alcohol. All of the “Oh, Lord”s are changed to expletive “Oh Lord!”s and every sexual innuendo is hit like a pick-up artist trying out every smooth line he has during last calls. There are pratfalls, joke fights, well-placed sight gags, and an able cast of actors that know the text well enough to sell the comedy in a believable way.

Much Ado About Nothing really comes alive where so many stage productions and adaptations before it fall apart. The turn in Act IV to tragic circumstances is so hard to get right. The first three acts are all about misdirection, mischief, and merriment. This makes the turn to tragedy in Act IV so much more powerful when it’s done right.

Much Ado About NothingWhedon knows how to play up drama. The wedding (Act IV, Scene 1), my favorite scene in all of Shakespeare’s works, is shocking here. It took my breath away. I was crying in the theater, so engrossed in the moment that I forgot everything I knew about Shakespeare’s comedic form and the play itself. To see these characters so alive with alcohol and shenanigans fall apart to scandal and crime is heartwrenching. The pace grinds to a halt and freezes the moment so you’re forced to endure the full pain of Don John’s heinous scheme.

Much Ado About Nothing, like any of Shakespeare’s great comedies, is at its best when the turn to tragedy is unexpected and organic at the same time. Joss Whedon achieves that in this gorgeous black and white adaptation. Once the players settle in and establish themselves, it’s an engrossing ride.

Rating: 7/10

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