1988, 30 years, 30th birthday, 80s, comedy, dark comedy, film, film blogger, film blogging, film reviews, films, fucking awesome, fucking creepy, fucking funny, fucking ridiculous, fucking stupid, fucking weird, horror, review, reviewing, reviews, Uncategorized

Throwback Thirty – Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

killer_klowns_from_outer_space_28198829_poster

5_star_rating_system_4_and_a_half_stars When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything… Continue reading

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biopic, comedy, films, fucking weird, Jim Carrey, life story, TBT

TBT – Man on the Moon (1999)


As I said in my Tuesday’s Review of Jim & Andy this week, I’m sure that I’ve seen Man on the Moon at some point in my life but, for whatever reason, I couldn’t remember it. I guess it’s mostly because I really don’t know who Andy Kaufman is. Not only was he not really a ‘thing’ in the UK but I wasn’t even born when he died. I’d heard of him but certainly had no real appreciation of his popularity or supposed genius. My interest in this film will basically have come down to my interest in Jim Carrey. As with most people around my age, he was probably one of my favourite actors growing up. As I kid my sister and I loved his films. We rented the VHS of Liar, Liar on a number of occasions and I’m pretty sure we watched The Mask so much that the ribbon started wearing down. Oh my god, 90s kid problems, am I right? Kids today… etc etc etc. So, after watching the documentary this week and with the film currently being available on BBC iPlayer, I decided it was only fair that I rewatch it for today’s review. This isn’t exactly going to be a massive review but it’s taking me ages. Not because of the film but because I’m procrastinating. I’m heading to London tomorrow to stay with a friend and I need to get my stuff together. Instead, I’m watching some shitty cooking show on Netflix and not writing this. I’m definitely going to regret this when it gets to midnight and I still don’t have my clothes ready for the morning. I’m nearly 30, when exactly does the part of my adult brain kick in that gets me to pack quickly and efficiently? I miss the days when I wasn’t expected to do anything the night before we went on holiday. Conveniently, the days that this film would have been coming out.

Andy Kaufman was the kind of person that delighted in confusing and tricking his audiences. That’s why the opening to this film feels like the most appropriate tribute to him. It starts with the man himself (played by Jim Carrey) explaining that the film was so bad that he edited it down. In fact, the film was so terrible that all that could be saved was the end credits, which proceed to roll as Andy plays a record on repeat. Moments after the credits finish Andy returns to the screen to explain that was a test to ensure his audience were the kind of people that would understand his humour and appreciate what he was trying to do. It’s a simple but very effective way of getting across the real genius of Kaufman before we learn anything about him. It’s a stand out moment and a great way to kick things off.

After the opening things start to get a little less exciting. We see snippets of Andy’s life from being a child performing in his bedroom to his huge show at Carnegie Hall. He has a lot of difficulty in finding his place as people just don’t understand what he’s doing. A lot of what he does is intentionally terrible and playing up on the silliness. He doesn’t fit in with the traditional stand-up vibe so has to make sacrifices to get to the top. Most notably taking a job on the popular sitcom Taxi, a decision that he didn’t want to make but agreed to in order to get his own network special. Andy delights in confusing his audience and tricking them. The greatest example of this is his most famous alter ego; the obnoxious lounge singer Tony Clifton. Clifton was loud, difficult and insulting. The perfect antithesis to Kaufman’s own more innocent image.

Man on the Moon is your basic biographical film about a comedian. There really is only so far you can take it before it becomes a recreation rather than an exploration. Watching it now, especially after watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really go far in getting to grips with Kaufam and, instead, just replayed the major events that lead to his success. We see Carrey perform snippets of his most famous routines but there it’s all too brief. We watch a lot of people trying to cnonvince other people that Kaufman is a genius but the evidence isn’t always there. Then there’s the fact that the film presents the entertainer as wholly positive. There is never a sense that anything he does, for whatever reason, is questionable. This isn’t a hard-hitting look at the life of a popular performer but more of a celebration of his greatness.

But maybe that has something to do with the tragic circumstances surrounding his death. Kaufman was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1983. The end of the film focuses on his struggle with the illness and, quite frankly, the scenes are emotional. Aside from the opening, it is the final few scenes that provide the greatest moments in the film. Watching as his friends and family come to terms with the news and seeing Andy struggle with the idea of his mortality are played as straight as they should be. Kaufman was only 35 when he died, which is obviously no age at all. I’m not say his short life shouldn’t be celebrated but I couldn’t help but wonder if Andy’s death pushed the whole film more towards the sentimental than the analytical.

There is a question, particularly with the image that Carrey and co. have created in the documentary, that there is a greater story behind the scenes. The documentary wanted, but failed, to start a conversation about the madness behind performance. In Man on the Moon Kaufman is hailed as a genius who subverted comedy and changed the fucking world. But how much of the innocent, man-child image the real story? What of the madness that lay behind Kaufman’s need to lie and cheat his audience? I couldn’t help but feel that there is a bigger question everyone is ignoring. Just what possessed Kaufman to act the way he did and why was everyone happy to let it happen? I’m sure he was funny but he also seemed like a huge dick.

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British, comedy, crime, cringe, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, fucking stupid, meh, Steve Coogan, TBT

TBT – The Parole Officer (2001)


When you’re the creator of an iconic character it can be super difficult to get yourself out from under its shadow. Steve Coogan has tried to move away from just being the guy who plays Alan Partridge but nothing else has ever really stuck. Let’s be honest, he’s appeared in some utter shite over the years and it’s not been pretty. In more recent years he has made the move that most comedy performers over a certain age try and picked more serious roles. Gone straight if you will. It was a different story back in 2001 when he co-wrote and starred in his own British comedy crime caper. For some reason, when The Parole Officer came out it was constantly being compared to the Ealing crime comedies from the 1950s and 1960s. I guess there were just no real expectations for British comedies in the early 2000s so anything that got made was deemed kind of successful. It was the same year that the Vinnie Jones comedy vehicle Mean Machine and a film about a hairdresser from Keighley starring Alan Rickman were released, after all. When the greatest British comedy to be released that year was Bridget Jones’ Diary then maybe I can see why people got so excited. Nowadays, Coogan seems pretty embarrassed to have ever made the film and, in 2015, stated that he doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. I’ve known a load of people who loved this film but, really, they aren’t the kind of people who I would ever seek advice from. On any subject matter. However, it’s been a really long time since I saw this film so, after I so harshly critiqued it during my Tuesday review this week, I decided it was time to see if it really was as bad as I remembered.

Alan Partridge claimed The Parole Officer was “unarguably the greatest film ever made”. We have to assume that he’s at least a little biased, of course, on account of it being his creator, Steve Coogan’s film, and, you know, cause he’s a fucking fictional character. Rewatching the film in 2017 I was struck by 2 things: number 1, Stannis Baratheon and Cersei Lannister are both pretending to be British police officers and, number 2, this is a fucking awful film. It’s weird to think of a time when Steve Coogan was having to try so fucking hard to make it in Hollywood but this film is proof of the murky depths he was once willing to sink to. It’s sad and more cringe inducing than anything Alan Partridge has done in his illustrious career. The major positive I have for it is, because it was made during a time when British comedies tended not to wander too far beyond the 90 minute mark, it’s short. I mean it still felt like I was watching it for a good few days but, in reality, I didn’t actually have to waste too much time on it.

The Parole Officer is not a fresh British comedy and, instead, uses a really tired situation but with additionally gross-out gags. It’s trying to do the same thing that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did so successfully just 3 years later with Shaun of the Dead but failing. With their Cornetto Trilogy, Wright and Pegg managed to repurpose the narratives of classic Hollywood genres for use in a UK landscape without it seeming too gimmicky. Here, Coogan and co-writer, Henry Normal, just lazily implant the premise of films like The Italian Job in the North of England. It just ends up being overly twee and nonsensical. It needed a more careful hand instead of just putting Coogan on a rollercoaster in Blackpool and calling it a day. It’s just infuriating to watch this film and know how much better it could have been. Instead, the narrative is just a mess that is full of holes, dropped storylines and so many awful attempts to push comedy where there shouldn’t be any.

Coogan, obviously, has the starring role as the titular Parole Officer, Simon Garden, who accidentally witnesses a murder carried out by a corrupt cop (Stephen Dillane). He is threatened with going to prison for the crime unless he shuts his mouth and leaves Manchester forever. In order to clear his name, Simon puts together a plan to rob a banks and retrieve a VHS tape showing the truth. He creates a crew using the only 3 criminals that he has successfully convinced to go straight and a teenage joy rider he was trying to help. At the same time, Simon is attempting to romance the way out of his league WPC Emmap (Lena Headey) who, for reasons not shown during the film, has fallen for the charms that nobody else seems to realise Simon has.

Despite boasting a great cast, everything about The Parole Officer feels kind of flat. The actors all do as great a job as they can but it never comes together. It always feels like we’re watching a terrible film instead of being engrossed in a fantastically woven tale. Although, Dillane is memorable as the bent copper who threatens Simon and the trio of ex-criminals fair much better than Coogan himself. It helps that they are played by the likes of Om Puri and Ben Miller, of course, but they all get some fairly decent moments. What is majorly disappointing is that none of the characters have any real depth. Coogan clearly has a talent for creating well-rounded characters but nobody, not even Simon, feels fleshed out. You don’t really know anything about anybody or why we should give a shit about them. This film is so desperate to get to the action and the gags that it skips the important stuff.

There is certainly an issue with pacing and editing in this film. The first 30 minutes are a confusing mess which feels as though major parts of the story have been cut. People suddenly talk to each other like old friends and seem to know things they really shouldn’t. And that’s exactly the point where you realise that you still have an hour of this shit to sit through. The script has a decent stab at creating some comedy to move things along but most of it falls flat in the end. There are a couple of really funny moments but, for the most part, it relies too heavily on physical comedy or gross-out gags. I can see why Steve Coogan regrets making this film. I regretted watching it again before I was even half-way through. There is very little to really celebrate here. It deserves props for getting such an amazing cast together but it ruins it by not giving them anything to do. Considering how great we know Coogan can be, The Parole Officer it’s even more insane that this film is as bad as it is.

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comedy, Diego Luna, films, fucking weird, Gael García Bernal, parody, silly, TBT, Will Ferrell

TBT – Casa de mi Padre (2012)


On Tuesday I criticised Will Ferrell’s new film The House for being short at 88 minutes long. Casa di mi Padre undercuts that by 3 minutes. So, if you thought I was harsh to the former then just wait until I get started on the latter. Until I watched it specifically for this review I’d never seen this film before. I used to pride myself on watching every film that Will Ferrell starred in but, over the years, I’ve really become quite lax in my viewing. I think it was probably around the Bewitched era when it just became a bit too much for me. I feel as though I’m on fairly safe ground with any kind of Will Ferrell/Adam McKay combination but the pair only act as one of the many producers for this film. Instead it is a combined effort of ex-SNL writer, Andrew Steele’s, script and Funny or Die co-creator, Matt Piedmont, in the director’s chair. I can’t say that, after seeing the disappointing results of a union between Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, I wasn’t exactly excited to see this. Especially when it couldn’t even find enough comedy to fill a 90 minute running time. Then again, maybe it’s just so well-developed that anything over 85 minutes would be too much for the audience to handle? It’s possible, right?

You know that Will Ferrell character who starts off being a mild-mannered, lovable loser who is forced to become a badass? You might well ask “which one?” because, these days, it’s fucking all of them. He’s the guy we saw it in The Other Guys, The House, Get Hard, and Daddy’s Home. No doubt there are countless others that I just never got round to seeing. Casa de mi Padre is different, though, because Ferrell turns into a badass whilst speaking Spanish. Genius! Casa de mi Padre is the telenovela parody that nobody wanted or needed Ferrell to be a part of. A film that combines subtitles, an impressive cast, including Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, an utterly silly narrative and, underwhelming jokes. What’s not to love?

We have seen Ferrell take on many unlikely guises over the years but this has to be one of the more out there ones. He plays Armando Álvarez, a Mexican rancher on his father’s cattle ranch. His world is turned upside down when his younger brother, Raúl (Diego Luna), returns to the homestead with a beautiful fiance, Sonia (Génesis Rodríguez), in tow. Armando not only instantly falls for his future sister-in-law but discovers that his brother is a drugs dealers who has come back to finish his war with fellow dealer Onza (Gael García Bernal). When Sonia is put in danger, Armando has to prove himself to everyone who saw him as the useless brother.

It’s hardly the most exicting or original story we’ve ever seen but that is probably more to do with the genre it is parodying. This isn’t really a film that wants to do something new and exciting but that wants to give Ferrell and co the chance to go all out with their performances. The problem is, there isn’t enough within Casa di mi Padre to get a lot of laughs out of. That’s not to say that there aren’t any enjoyable moments in the film but they are few and far between. Most of the humour is forced through obvious spoofs of the television dramas it is based on. There are dodgy backdrops, ‘hilarious’ bad continuity, and terrible editing. Still, there are a couple of memorable moments that will get more than a mere titter form the audience. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more.

Honestly, there is never a point where Casa di mi Padre feels like a real film. It’s more like a sketch that really outstays it’s welcome or a fake trailer that would briefly go viral before becoming irrelevant. Unfortunately, it is a real film and it stars real actors. They all give it their best shot but there is just too little for them to work with. It never really strikes a balance between serious or silly. Ferrell always gives 100% to every part he plays but there isn’t enough to Armando for it to ever come to anything. His Spanish lines always feel too awkward to feel real but not silly enough to feel intentional. This could have been a wonderful and fresh comedy but it just feels cheap and pointless.

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Amy Poehler, bullshit, comedy, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, meh, reviews, Will Ferrell

Tuesday’s Reviews – The House (2017)


Will Ferrell is one of those comedians that you can trust to be funny whatever he’s doing. Through the years, I’ve happily watched and enjoyed every film starring him that I’ve ever seen. Even the shit ones, like Daddy’s Home for example, have something fairly entertaining in them. The guy always gives his all in a role and is so naturally hilarious that you’ll find yourself crying with laughter at the stupidest things. So I kind of feel like I’m on solid ground with him and that’s before you even consider that Amy Poehler is also in it. Combine the pair and you have a powerhouse of SNL alumni. Of course, things start to unravel when you look at how the film is being marketed. It’s very telling that neither Ferrell or Poehler seem very eager to talk about the film itself. Interviews aren’t treated as a place to talk about the film but simply about getting the pair in front of a camera. Will Ferrell has done some shit films in the past so when he’s keeping shtum about a film then you know it’s embarrassing. 1 hour and 28 minutes worth of embarrassing. Yep, The House can’t even hit the 90 minute mark and we’ve all heard the one about good films
coming in short run times. Well, even if this is going to be shit at least it’s not going to be shit for too long. Let’s be thankful for small mercies.

The House is one of the films that sounds really good on paper. Taking two fabulous comedians, a great supporting cast of funny people, and giving them an interesting premise to work with. It should have been simple. When their daughter gets accepted into the university of her dreams, Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) are over the moon. Until they discover that the scholarship they were being offered by the town has been scraped in favour of an exciting new town pool. In order to drive the plot forward, neither Scott or Kate had prepared for any other eventuality and have failed to put aside any money to pay for their daughter’s tuition. You kind of have to question parents who are this lackadaisical with regards to their child’s future. And, also, how far in advance does the town pick a child to fund? Did they know she was getting the cash from birth or was it just super lucky that her name was drawn?

Of course, I know the answers to these questions: because the narrative demands it. When the pair find themselves unable to send their precious daughter to her dream school they accept their weird friend, Frank’s (Jason Mantzoukas), suggestion that they open an underground casino in his empty home. Frank, as it turns out, is a gambling addict who is going through a divorce and in danger of losing his coincidentally casino-sized house. We all know that “the House always wins” so why not become the House? The mild-mannered parents take to their life of crime and wealth and embrace everything about it. Kate becomes addicted to weed whilst Scott unwittingly becomes a casino heavy who uses force to get patrons to pay their debts. Things quickly get out-of-hand as the narrative gets more and more extreme. Finally, ending with political cover-ups and a crazed mob boss played by  Jeremy Renner, in a completely underwhelming cameo.

The House isn’t the biggest disaster that you’ll ever watch at the cinema but you can’t get away from the fact that it’s just not good. You’ll probably watch it and think it’s okay but that will mostly be down to the three leads. All three actors at the film’s centre put everything into their characters but it can’t be ignored that there isn’t really much there. If I’m honest, I had to look up everyone’s names because by the time the credits rolled I had no fucking clue who anyone was. They’re just bland and underdeveloped characters who just take part in outrageous activities with no real justification. Their actions always seem unnecessary or unexplained outside of the “we thought it would be funny” argument. There’s an utterly pointless plot-strand that sees Scott being rubbish with maths that really goes nowhere and is, in actuality, not as funny as it may have seen whilst writing the script.

It’s just not very inspiring. There isn’t time for an aspect of the film to evolve into something interesting or even funny. The humour is mostly derived from awful stereotypes that directly tie to the actor’s involved. This film just feels like several short sketches haphazardly stitched together to create the kind of quilt that you’d definitely tell people was made by your young child. Handily, for a film concerning parents experiencing empty nest syndrome, this film is equal parts embarrassing and sad to watch. There are very few genuine laughs to be found but plenty of places where the writer/director attempts to force it with lame gags or physical comedy. It makes me both sad and angry that Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler were subjected to this and that they both allowed it to happen. This is the kind of disaster that should never have been made. Turns out, The House doesn’t actually always win.

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Christopher Guest, comedy, dogs, films, fucking funny, improvised, mockumentary, reviews

TBT – Best in Show (2000)

Today was the opening day of the Crufts dog show. I work with more than a few dog obsessives who will get quite into the show. So it’s probably going to be something I hear about a lot for the next few days. As much as I love dogs, Crufts always brings to mind the Christopher Guest mockumentary Best in Show. So, being a Thursday, I decided to rewatch the film about a fake dog show instead of watching the real thing. After all, watching dogs actually compete for the title of Best in Show would only have me wishing that I was still a dog owner. At least this way I have the comedy to distract myself. After all, sitting down to watch a Christopher Guest film is like sitting down with an old friend. Back in November, I watched his Netflix original Mascots and, despite feeling it could have been better, I bloody enjoyed it. It’s been 17 years since Best in Show was first released so would it still feel as fresh and funny?

I’m one of those people who prefers dogs to people. I’m getting to an age where people seem to be absolutely obsessed with babies. As a woman in her (now very) late 20s it’s sort of expected that I’m getting broody and am desperately waiting to have a tiny human being of my own to clean up after. I still have no real idea on the kid front and, as of right now, would much prefer a dog instead. For one thing they’re much cuter and are a lot less hassle to obtain. Babies are great, yes, and if anyone shows me pictures of their child doing something “adorable” I will nod and smile as much as they want me to. But I’ll secretly be wishing I was looking at a picture of a dog dressed as a Star Wars character. So I kind of understand the crazy relationships people have with their dogs. It’s also something Christopher Guest found fascinating enough to make a film about.

Although, it almost didn’t happen. When Guest pitched the idea to co-writer Eugene Levy, Levy was convinced the idea wouldn’t work. He didn’t think their was enough room for comedy in a dog show setting. Thankfully the pair came together to create a concept, gathered a talented cast of comic actors, and brought together a bunch of ex-competition winning dogs. And thank fuck they did. Now, as with any Christopher Guest film. the story itself isn’t really important: this is a film about the characters. During the film’s first act we are introduced to five dog owners and their prized pets. Each owner is making their way to the Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia and is hoping to win the illusive title of Best in Show.

There is the troubled married couple Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who are desperately trying to keep their Weimaraner happy but failing miserably. The couple from Florida (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) who’s money troubles are forcing them to sleep in the hotel’s storage room but who adore their Norwich Terrier. A keen Fisherman and wannabe ventriloquist (Christopher Guest) and his Bloodhound. The trophy wife and her trainer/secret girlfriend (Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch) who are returning to the show as two-time champions. A camp gay couple (John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean) and their kind of ridiculous Shih Tzu. The films first half lets us see the each competitor in their homes before they make their way to the dog show and compete with the other dogs.

As you’d expect, a lot of the film is improvised and the cast are able to run wild with their characters. This is a talented bunch of people and the film is littered with Guest’s regular co-stars. Each of the competitors is an absurd creation but never at the expense of anyone. The film highlights the inherent weirdness in the world of showing dogs professionally but it is constantly tinged with a love and understanding that stops it from moving into meanness. In the middle of the showboating and pomp there is plenty of love between the owners and their dogs. It is a crazy and hyperbolic representation of dog owners but it is strangely sweet at the same time.

This film really helped cement Guest as the king of the improvised mockumentary style that has become his staple. The film is full of funny moments but, if you ask me, it doesn’t really pick up until the action moves into the arena. The opening act is great as we hear the backstories of each contenstant but it is Fred Willard’s role as an inept commentator that will stick with you. Seated alongside an industry professional (Jim Piddock), Willard’s Buck Laughlin speculates that a Sherlock Holmes costume would help the Bloodhound’s chances of winning the prize. Let loose in this manner, Willard is unstoppable. He is constantly funny and surprising and, despite Eugene Levy’s doubts, it is the dog show itself that lifts this film.

Best in Show may feel a bit old school now thanks to Christopher Guest’s increasing filmography. However, when it came out 17 years ago it was still a fresh and different approach to film making. It is still an incredibly funny film and a must-see for anyone who missed it/wasn’t born when it was made. It has everything: laughs, love, suspense, and a heartwarming ending. If anything deserved the winner’s rosette then it’s this.

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Bill Murray, classic, comedy, films, fucking funny, fucking sweet, Harold Ramis, TBT

TBT – Groundhog Day (1993)

Before I start today’s post I have to hold my hands up and say “I’m sorry”. In my flu-y haze I managed to forget that yesterday was the first Wednesday of February. That would normally be my day for a Top 10 post but I ended up falling asleep. So, you’ll have to wait a week longer to read it but, hopefully, the added time will make it a doozy. I mean past experience tells me it won’t be but you never know.

Just over a week ago it was announced that John Hurt had died. He was a phenomenal actor who could  turn his hand to any role. He was a chameleon and would always sparkle on screen, especially in his more villainous parts. So learning that he had been battling cancer was clearly devastating to his fans. So, in honour of greatest works, I was planning on using this TBT post to discuss one of Hurt’s greatest film roles. Then I found out it was fucking Groundhog Day and I decided I couldn’t miss the chance that had fallen in my lap. I’ll move the memorial post to next week and discuss one of the greatest films of all time. It’s one I’ve loved for a long time and was delighted to study in my one year of taking film studies at University. I didn’t carry on the subject because I wasn’t a fan of the course or the lecturers but it will always live on in my memory as the only time I’ve ever been able to watch some of my favourite films, like Groundhog Day and Beauty and the Beast, and call it work. Movie night with my flatmates as a learning experience? That’s the kind of shit I can get behind. As much as I love studying poetry it’s not quite the same.

As someone who grew up in the UK and didn’t really give much thought to the world outside my little social bubble, Groundhog day never meant anything to me until I saw this film. Now the quirky annual American event has become synonymous with repetition. The film centres around the small town tradition that states if a Groundhog comes out of its burrow on February 2nd and the weather is cloudy Spring will come early. However, the film really has very little to do with the celebration that takes place every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Instead it has everything to narcissistic TV weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) becoming stuck in a time loop and repeating the day over and over. To begin with, Phil tries to have fun with his situation and live a hedonistic and wild life without consequences. Over time, his life becomes more bleak and he realises that he has time to become a better person. After all, it’s the only way he can end his quest to win the heart of his producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell).

Phil has been forced to cover the Groundhog day celebration in Punxsutawney for years and, it’s safe to say, he has a great deal of contempt for the assignment. He considers the town and it’s people to be insignificant and the holiday to be a huge joke. He believes he’s meant for better things than interviewing a Groundhog about when Spring will arrive. So, it’s the ultimate karmic revenge when every time he wakes up February 2nd has started over again. Phil relives the same day an unspecified number of days but there have been several attempts to work it out. These range from the modest 8 year, 8 months and 16 days to the more harrowing 33 years 350 days. Still, looking at the amount of shit that Phil achieves and manages to work out about the town people, it’s clear that he celebrated Groundhog dog an awesome number of times.

Despite the endless feeling of déjà vu that both Phil and the audience will get as the narrative repeats itself, Goundhog Day never feels old. It’s continually fresh, funny and heartwarming. That feeling comes, not from a relentless silliness that was probably most associated with Murray at this time, but from the mixture of light-hearted and deep issues that Phil deals with. Yes, he has fun with the endless cycle by eating whatever he wants and using his insider knowledge to bed women. On the other hand, he deals with dark issues like suicide and the realisation that his shallow life cannot sustain him. Harold Ramis and Billy Murrary reportedly argued about the overall tone of the film; with Ramis wanting to keep things firmly in the comedy camps whilst Murray wanted to go for a more melancholy tone. In the end, the film works so well because it is neither one thing or the other. The two ideas, like the director/actor combo, work so well together that is is seamless.

That’s what has made Groundhog Day such a classic. It uses the greatest of Murray’s comedy and dramatic chops and has become the kind of film that not only succeeds in multiple viewings but basically demands it. The late, great Roger Ebert initially awarded the film a very respectable 3 star rating but, when he revisited it, admitted that he has dismissed many of the film’s great points. The actual Groundhog Day festival may have been overshadowed by this cinematic masterpiece but it does provide the perfect excuse to rewatch Bill Murray at his best every single year. Groundhog Day is a sweet, funny, and incredibly clever film that you’ll want to watch over and over again.

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Bill Murray, classic, comedy, films, fucking funny, fucking sweet, Harold Ramis, TBT

TBT – Groundhog Day (1993)

Before I start today’s post I have to hold my hands up and say “I’m sorry”. In my flu-y haze I managed to forget that yesterday was the first Wednesday of February. That would normally be my day for a Top 10 post but I ended up falling asleep. So, you’ll have to wait a week longer to read it but, hopefully, the added time will make it a doozy. I mean past experience tells me it won’t be but you never know.

Just over a week ago it was announced that John Hurt had died. He was a phenomenal actor who could  turn his hand to any role. He was a chameleon and would always sparkle on screen, especially in his more villainous parts. So learning that he had been battling cancer was clearly devastating to his fans. So, in honour of greatest works, I was planning on using this TBT post to discuss one of Hurt’s greatest film roles. Then I found out it was fucking Groundhog Day and I decided I couldn’t miss the chance that had fallen in my lap. I’ll move the memorial post to next week and discuss one of the greatest films of all time. It’s one I’ve loved for a long time and was delighted to study in my one year of taking film studies at University. I didn’t carry on the subject because I wasn’t a fan of the course or the lecturers but it will always live on in my memory as the only time I’ve ever been able to watch some of my favourite films, like Groundhog Day and Beauty and the Beast, and call it work. Movie night with my flatmates as a learning experience? That’s the kind of shit I can get behind. As much as I love studying poetry it’s not quite the same.

As someone who grew up in the UK and didn’t really give much thought to the world outside my little social bubble, Groundhog day never meant anything to me until I saw this film. Now the quirky annual American event has become synonymous with repetition. The film centres around the small town tradition that states if a Groundhog comes out of its burrow on February 2nd and the weather is cloudy Spring will come early. However, the film really has very little to do with the celebration that takes place every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Instead it has everything to narcissistic TV weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) becoming stuck in a time loop and repeating the day over and over. To begin with, Phil tries to have fun with his situation and live a hedonistic and wild life without consequences. Over time, his life becomes more bleak and he realises that he has time to become a better person. After all, it’s the only way he can end his quest to win the heart of his producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell).

Phil has been forced to cover the Groundhog day celebration in Punxsutawney for years and, it’s safe to say, he has a great deal of contempt for the assignment. He considers the town and it’s people to be insignificant and the holiday to be a huge joke. He believes he’s meant for better things than interviewing a Groundhog about when Spring will arrive. So, it’s the ultimate karmic revenge when every time he wakes up February 2nd has started over again. Phil relives the same day an unspecified number of days but there have been several attempts to work it out. These range from the modest 8 year, 8 months and 16 days to the more harrowing 33 years 350 days. Still, looking at the amount of shit that Phil achieves and manages to work out about the town people, it’s clear that he celebrated Groundhog dog an awesome number of times.

Despite the endless feeling of déjà vu that both Phil and the audience will get as the narrative repeats itself, Goundhog Day never feels old. It’s continually fresh, funny and heartwarming. That feeling comes, not from a relentless silliness that was probably most associated with Murray at this time, but from the mixture of light-hearted and deep issues that Phil deals with. Yes, he has fun with the endless cycle by eating whatever he wants and using his insider knowledge to bed women. On the other hand, he deals with dark issues like suicide and the realisation that his shallow life cannot sustain him. Harold Ramis and Billy Murrary reportedly argued about the overall tone of the film; with Ramis wanting to keep things firmly in the comedy camps whilst Murray wanted to go for a more melancholy tone. In the end, the film works so well because it is neither one thing or the other. The two ideas, like the director/actor combo, work so well together that is is seamless.

That’s what has made Groundhog Day such a classic. It uses the greatest of Murray’s comedy and dramatic chops and has become the kind of film that not only succeeds in multiple viewings but basically demands it. The late, great Roger Ebert initially awarded the film a very respectable 3 star rating but, when he revisited it, admitted that he has dismissed many of the film’s great points. The actual Groundhog Day festival may have been overshadowed by this cinematic masterpiece but it does provide the perfect excuse to rewatch Bill Murray at his best every single year. Groundhog Day is a sweet, funny, and incredibly clever film that you’ll want to watch over and over again.

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comedy, films, fucking funny, Paul Rudd, review, silly, Steve Carell, TBT

TBT: The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

You may have read my post on Tuesday during which I went fucking mental about the novel Losing It by Emma Rathbone. The book tells the story of a 26 year-old woman who was desperate to finally have sex after so many years. In the days that followed the posts uploading I have calmed down a little but I still really hate the book. It gave a horrible image of women and strengthened the idea that a life without sex is something to be ashamed of. In many of the reviews I’d read about the book, critics declared it to be the literary and female version of the Judd Apatow film The 40 Year-Old Virgin. I’m going to blame this comparison with the fact that I was so desperate to read this book. I remember first watching the film when I was 16 with my friends. I really enjoyed it. Steve Carell and the rest of the cast were really funny and the film ended up being quite sympathetic to the plight of it’s main character. So, after the disappointment of the book, I felt it was time to revisit the film to see if my judgement is just off or if critics are just so lazy that they’ll compare a book about virginity with the only other really famous thing to also do so.
It seems weird to think that, before 2005, Steve Carell wasn’t famous enough to play the lead in a film. Especially when you remember that he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar 9 years later. It was The 40 Year-Old Virgin that gave Carell his first lead role in a film and he has never really looked back since. Alongside his much-loved turn as Michael Scott in the American version of The Office, it was this film that pushed the star firmly into the limelight and determined his place as a true comic genius. By the time it was made, he had already shone in his supporting roles in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman and this gave him the chance to show audiences what he really did best.

Which, as it turns out, it create a sympathetic portrayal of a geeky, shy man who has got through life failing to understand dating and women. Watching this film again now as weird because, when you think about it, it’s not the kind of film you could make nowadays. Especially when, as the Big Bang Theory is so keen to remind us in its unrelentingly sub-par manner, that geeks are sexy, I’m not suggesting that the premise is no longer relevant but the idea that a man who collects action figures and loves comic books is automatically not going to find a woman. Geek is chic and, according to the internet, people are so desperate to seem cool that they’re fraudulently claiming to be into geek culture.

However, 2005 was clearly a different time. We didn’t Tinder and internet dating  so men like Andy, our main character, were considered weird. So, after several failed attempts during his youth, Andy has given up on sex. He’s got through his life pretending to have an active social life and awkwardly getting out of any difficult or personal questions. He lives a pretty solitary life and he’s as happy as he can expect to be. Until his colleagues find out about his predicament and decide to help get Andy laid. Turns out its easy for Andy to meet women and not one but 3 women who would willingly have sex with him come along without any real effort on his part. Still, he fails to get the job done with any of these women but, instead, starts a romantic relationship with Trish (Catherine Keener). This piles on the pressure meaning Andy gets more and more nervous about finally getting his end away. So he just puts it off. Clearly, because this is Hollywood, it all comes out in dramatic style.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin is the kind of comedy that has stood the test of time despite being so fucking dated. I mean there is a scene discussing the end of VHS and the introduction of DVDs. It’s a different world. The humour, though, really stands up and the cast all do well in finding the humour in the situation without being mean. That was the truly refreshing thing about the film after reading the dismal Losing It. After some initial banter, there is never a moment wher people paint Andy as a huge freak because he hasn’t had sex. There is no sense that anyone but himself is trying to make him feel bad about it. Yes, his make friends get quite bro-happy about finding Andy some pussy but it all feels as though their heart is in the right place.

My only major criticism of the film is regarding its length;. What I’d forgotten about, or at least, not appreciated at the time, is that The 40 Year-Old Virgin is fucking long. It comes in at just over 2 hours which feels incredibly long for a film based around this pretty flimsy narrative. That’s why it’s jam packed with so many side-plots, random moments of improvisation, and numerous joke call backs. It’s all supposed to flesh out the main story but none of these stories feel worth my time. The plot repeats itself so many times you might as well be watching Groudnhog Day. Then there’s the endless supply of side plots: There’s the strand concerning Paul Rudd’s inability to get over his ex, Romany Malco’s Jay keeps his womanising from his girlfriend ntil he discovers she’s pregnant, and the weird but sexually successful Cal, payed by Seth Rogen, is just being an awful stoner who swears a lot. And that’s just the main ones. There’s so much going on that it just makes the film seem slow and puts off the inevitable for self-indulgent reasons.

Still, there are some truly funny and memorable moments in this film and it’s still worth a watch. Steve Carell is fantastic and there are some fantastic improvised interactions between the rest of the cast. Overall, it is a touching and silly love story that manages to take a potentially dangerous story and make it sympathetic instead of judgemental. It might not be as good as I thought it was at 16 but it’s still a wonderfully entertaining film. If only it were much shorter.

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childhood favourite, comedy, films, fucking funny, Jim Carrey, meh, TBT

TBT – Liar Liar (1997)

This has been an absurd week really. Just when we thought no political decision could out crazy Brexit America decides it’s time to up the game. The world has changed dramatically thanks to the this weeks American election. We’ve been through weeks of incredibly mean campaigns and general horribleness only to be left with scenes of despair, fear and violence when the least likely Presidential candidate actually fucking won. Still, I also feel that it’s not really my place to go too far into how much of a fuck up this could be. It will have an effect on everyone but will have a major effect on the people who live in American who aren’t white, male and straight. It’s crazy and I can see why people are worried. Even if Trump does eventually tire of politics it won’t exactly leave us in a better position. Compared to the rest of his party, he’s fucking liberal. He goes and we get Mike Pence. Hardly comforting. Anyway, this has never been a political blog so it’s time to get back to normal life. So, for this TBT I decided to find a film that both summed up my feelings about this election and provided an escape from reality. Liar Liar is a film that works on both levels.

I have to admit that when I was younger I absolutely adored Liar Liar. I think this mostly came down the bloopers included in the credits which my twin and I rewound so much the VHS ribbon was nearly destroyed. They’re incredibly funny because it’s just Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey. I remember crying with laughter as we watched and it’s given me a great memory of the film. It’s been happily sitting within my nostalgia bank where it would provide happy memories and the occasional random quote when necessary. Upon watching it as an adult I realised that the entire film manages to be funny thanks to Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey. I mean it’s still funny because… Jim Carrey but, when you really look at it, the film lacks substance. The narrative is particularly uninspiring and, were it not for the sheer energy of it’s main star, this film would have been forgotten forever.

It’s a very basic premise that doesn’t really get much development and is intended to give Carrey the chance to gurn, shout and jump around on screen. Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, a very talented lawyer who is willing to lie and cheat his way to the top. In his desperation to become a partner of his law firm, Fletcher is jeopardising his relationship with his son, Max (Justin Cooper). After on too many disappointments, Max makes a birthday wish that his father spend one day without telling any lies. Unfortunately for Fletcher, who is in the middle of a career defining case, the wish comes true and his planned trial tactics are suddenly impossible. Then there’s the added threat of Flethcer’s ex-wife, Audrey (Maura Tierney), taking Max to Boston with her new boyfriend. Fletcher must find a way to win his case, make it up to his son, and stop his wife moving without being able to fall back on his talent for telling lies.

The premise is so flimsy that it’s hard to ignore the fact that in the hands of a lesser actor there would be little to keep an audience with the story. I mean it’s basically just one gag repeated in different scenarios: Fletcher being forced to confront situations with complete honesty and facing the disastrous consequences. It’s all fine but it’s hardly an in depth discussion on the social and moral consequences of lying. It’s just a load of absurd situations mixed in with some cliched emotional nonsense about a workaholic, negligent father finding out that, really, his son is the only thing that really matters to him. This film only succeeds because Jim Carrey is willing to do anything to get a laugh and, to be honest, he often does. He has a way of making his face and body do things that seem impossible. I still love this film as an adult but I do so without the rose-tinted glasses that youth provides us.

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