Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Double Movie Review: Life of of Brian + Scott Pilgrim

Today, rather than reviewing one movie at a time, I will do a comparison of two comedies that I watched recently: one that I really like, and one that really bugs me.

First off, let me write a little about the movie I saw first, "Monty Python's: Life of Brian". For many years I've been a big fan of the TV show "Monty Python's Flying Circus", but it's only recently that I've developed a taste for their movies as well. "Life of Brian" is a story mainly revolving around a man named Brian (obviously), who just happened to be born at the same time as Jesus.

What I liked about watching this movie was that it had so many funny parts that my siblings and I hit rewind to see them over again, and the story was a good one too. Also, I liked seeing the 6 core actors, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam, play many different parts throughout the movie, with the exception of Graham Chapman who only played Brian.
The jokes were clever and made me laugh a lot, and the sets + costumes used in "Life of Brian" were so good that it made me believe I was taking a look at what life was like in ancient Judea back in the 1st century AD. Back in the day when this movie was first released, it stirred up some major controversy in religious circles, causing it to be banned in many cities in America and Europe, even those that didn't even have movie theaters within their boundaries (oddly enough :P). I believe that it was because of this that the movie became so popular, and today it's still seen as one of the best British comedies of all time.

Next, my review for the 2010 Action/Comedy, "Scott Pilgrim VS. The World". Before going on, you should know that I've never read the graphic-novel series (by Bryan Lee O'Malley) that the movie is based on, so I'm only judging the movie for it's own merits and not whether it's true to it's original source or not.
Besides the fact that it stars Michael Cera, who's usually in pretty good movies, and that the tone of the film was bright and creative, and seemed to have a video-game theme to it, I did not like this film as much as "Life of Brian".

The story goes that Scott Pilgrim falls in love with the girl of his dreams (literally, he dreamed about her before they met), and in order to keep being her boyfriend, he must defeat her seven evil exes who have all joined up to try and kill him. Pretty original, I'll admit. Still, the parts where Scott is fighting the ex-boyfriends (and 1 ex-girlfriend even) were more exaggerated than realistic, and the strange part is that nobody in the crowds during the fights pay any attention or make a big deal out of them. Add to the fact that Scott Pilgrim is just your average nerd/rock-star wannabe with questionable martial arts skills, and you've got yourself a pretty unbelievable plot.

For me, it was distracting to see most of the sound-effects accompanied by comic-book-esque onomatopoeia (words that mean the sounds they make), whenever a phone rang or a punch was thrown, but hey, that just reinforces the fact that the world within the movie is not our own. What reinforces it even more are the characters' personalities and actions. Scott Pilgrim just seems so nerdy and socially-challenged, and he doesn't seem to have many redeemable qualities like kindness or interest in other people besides himself, so I feel less inclined to "root" for his character.

Also the girl that he falls in love with, Ramona, is so mysterious and aloof that I don't see what the big attraction is, besides the fact that he dreamed about her before they met and the fact that she changes her hair-color every week and 1/2.

Still, I feel that if I bash this movie too much I might forget what I actually liked about it. I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack of the movie (Scott Pilgrim's band is called "Sex Bob-omb", which I thought was pretty creative) and I appreciated the filmography and artistic-style of the film. The attempt to integrate video-game elements into the story was an earnest one, but I think if I liked the story a bit more, I would've been more into it.

In short, "Life of Brian" 1, "Scott Pilgrim" 0. If you have an opinion you'd like to share about either of these movies, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Movie Review: "Man on the Moon"

Directed by: Milos Forman
Year Released: 1999
Running Time: 118 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Annette's Star Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

IMDB.com's Quick Summary:
A film about the life and career of the eccentric avant-garde comedian, Andy Kaufman.
Years ago, it must've been, I remember seeing this movie before, but I don't believe I saw the whole thing from beginning to end the first time around. If I did before, then I didn't understand the story as well as I do now, since I've grown in years and matured in my tastes.

To make a long story short, I liked watching this movie. To make a short story a little longer, I liked watching this movie because it's a different sort of comedy from the obvious parody that was "Johnny Dangerously" (see my recent review of it at this link). Since the story is actually based on the life of a real person, the humor has more of an empathic flavor to it. I feel like what I'm watching might've actually happened to a guy named Andy Kaufman.

However, from the opening scene of "Man on the Moon", the audience gets a big dose of meta-humor: Andy (played by the incomparable Jim Carrey) says in his funny voice that the movie-makers have taken the events of his life and rearranged and rewrote them for dramatic purposes, and that he thinks the movie is a load of baloney. With that, he starts rolling the ending credits for the movie and he wonders why the audience is not leaving the theater.

**Because we paid good money for these seats and we're going to get our money's worth!**
(Not that we really paid to see "Man on the Moon", we just borrowed the DVD from our local library.)

Anyway, after the "end-credits" are done rolling, there's dead, black air for about 10 seconds, and Andy Kaufman comes back on in a normal-sounding voice explaining that the prank he just pulled was just so he could get everyone who wouldn't understand him or his work out of the theater and because he knew that the really curious ones would stay and be patient enough to see the rest of the real movie.

That is the first big joke, and I can't believe I never saw it the first time around. If I did, I would've remembered what a funny and creative stunt it was. If after reading this blog-post you decide to go watch this movie for yourself, now you'll be prepared to sit through the silly prologue and get to the really juicy parts.

All in all, the story is fascinating and well-written, the main characters are memorable and played by fine actors (Jim Carrey, Danny Devito, and Paul Giamatti among many others), and there are even some celebrity appearances by David Letterman, Lorne Michaels, and pro-wrestler Jerry Lawler all playing as themselves and re-enacting the roles they played in Andy Kaufman's life.

Plus, check out the amazing resemblance between Jim Carrey and the real Andy Kaufman! To me, it's almost eerie how much they look alike. Also, I found out that they both have the exact same birthday: January 17th! 0_0 (You can see for yourself; check out both their bios on Wikipedia or some other information website.)

The movie is rated "R" due to a brief scene of nudity involving Andy and a couple of prostitutes, but other than that, most of the movie is clean and free of offensive material. Sure there are a few swears here and there, but nothing flat-out crude.

Except there is this one character, Tony Clifton, a lounge singer/insult-comic persona of Andy Kaufman's, who generally abuses the audience and acts like a jerk mostly for the heck of it, and he may get some viewers of this movie riled up, but just remember that it's only Andy or his friend Bob Zmuda (played by Paul Giamatti) in makeup and costume and you'll be fine.

As a biographical film, "Man on the Moon" might not be a 100% accurate account of Andy Kaufmans life, but as a dramatic story, it works quite well in giving me a good 2 hours of entertainment.

This is the end of my review, so see you later, and enjoy the rest of your time on your computer or other internet-viewing device.
"Thank you very much!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Movie Review: "Johnny Dangerously"

Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Year Released: 1984
Running Time: 90 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Annette's Star Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

IMDB.com's Quick Summary:
"Set in the 1930's, an honest, goodhearted man is forced to turn to a life of crime to finance his neurotic mother's skyrocketing medical bills."
Funny story how I found out about this movie: A few days, maybe a week ago, I was going through a sort of "Weird" Al Yankovic phase, looking for music videos on YouTube and telling my sibs about how funny his songs are. Anyway, one day, I find a music video called "This is the Life", which I later found out is a song that plays during the opening credits of a movie I've never heard about called "Johnny Dangerously".
Here's the music video I saw:
After watching this music video, I immediately put "Johnny Dangerously" on my "to-watch" list, and now that I've seen it, I can write my review for it. So here it goes...

First of all, let me start by saying I really, really enjoyed watching this movie. There are so many different kinds of jokes scattered throughout the story that it's a little like going on an Easter egg hunt. You never know where you'll run into a subtle visual gag, or a well-placed pratfall, or a sly gangster-movie reference, or just those moments that make you go, "Wait a minute, what just happened?" There were some parts where my brother, sister and I had to rewind the movie just to get another laugh at a funny part. Whenever this happens, I know that we've got a new favorite film.

The movie starts off with Michael Keaton's character, Johnny Kelly (a.k.a. Johnny Dangerously), a pet-shop keeper who prevents a young boy from stealing a kitten and proceeds to tell him his entire life-story. Cue the ripple-y memory-lane effect and harp-strumming that comes when one reminisces. The boy goes, "Hey, what's going on?" and Johnny says, "Oh don't worry, it always goes like that when I start thinking about the past."

The rest of the film is pretty much a flash-back of Johnny Dangerously's life as the boss of a big gangster-mob, but that doesn't stop the jokes from coming, no sir. The writing in this movie is clever and fast-paced; the one-liners are well set up and hilariously delivered, and the actors looked like they were having a great time being in this movie. The tone for the movie is light and irreverent, in the same sort of vein as films like "Airplane", "Mafia", and the "Naked Gun" movies. Like the films I've just described, "Johnny Dangerously" is fueled mainly by running gags, visual gags, and jokes that rely more on the setting than the story. One running gag is a line from a character called Danny Vermin, which goes something like, "You shouldn't [kick me/hang me on a hook/kick me in the balls] like that. My [insert family member] did that to me once. Once..." The line is so funny that it has the potential to become a new in-joke to bug people with. "Oh yeah, I did something like that once. Once..."

Another running gag that I liked was whenever this character, a rival mob-boss named Roman Moronie, found occasion to use curse-words: instead of using conventional dirty swears, he uses replacements like "icehole", "cork-soaker", and "fargin som-an-a-batch". Thinly disguised? Yes. Is it funny? Oh yeah. Oddly enough, other characters in the movie use real swear-words, so it's just this Moronie character who uses curses in this way.

Anyway, this movie is great. It might be a bit cliche at times, but other times it turns cliches on their heads and shows you something you never see coming. For example, in the beginning of the movie, after the opening credits are done, you see a busy street and the year appears: 1935.

After a few moments, a car crashes right into 1935 and the year crumbles into pieces! As if it was just a sign made of wood that was just there in the middle of the road!

I feel bad giving some of the best gags in the movie away, but don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from that I haven't even mentioned yet. I recommend this movie to everyone, especially those people who love parody films.

Have a great day now!