Monty Python’s Last Hurrah is Flawless (mostly)

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By: Addison Wylie

Legendary British comedy masterminds Monty Python gathered at London’s O2 arena and performed their last show of Monty Python Live (mostly) on Sunday, July 20.  There were plenty of animal puns, ridiculous cheekiness, and spam to go around.

Monty Python Live (mostly) opens with a silly song about llamas and leads in with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and show director Eric Idle performing a sketch about reuniting and oneupmanship regarding horribly ludicrous upbringings.  It was a hilarious mixture of wit and sprawling absurdism.

The show carried on with reenactments of classic bits such as “The Lumberjack Song” and “Every Sperm is Sacred”.  Although it was a thrill to revisit these engraved skits, it was interesting to see how theatrics and a chorus line can sometimes make things….too goofy.  I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek choreography and staging, but it really pushed its own limits of exaggeration – I didn’t know that was possible for these Brits. Continue reading

A Master Builder

By: Addison WylieMasterBuilderposter

Last year, I caught a humbling documentary called André Gregory: Before and After Dinner.  Cindy Kleine’s candid look at Gregory’s life and multi-talented career stole my heart and made me very interested in what the artist had to offer for the future.

In the doc, Gregory and his close collaborator Wallace Shawn are working on their latest work – an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder.  You may remember Shawn for his role in The Princess Bride, his recent ball-breaking turn in The Double, or as the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in the Toy Story franchise.  He has one of those faces – and one of those voices – you recognize in an instant.

During these intimate rehearsals featured in the doc, we see a different side to Shawn.  His theatrical presence was refreshing, and showed audiences that the amiable actor can reach deep inside of himself and pull out a different kind of performance. Continue reading

They Came Together

By: Addison WylieTheyCameTogetherposter

I bet if we scoured filmmaker David Wain’s DVD collection, we would find romantic comedies.  A lot of them.  It takes a certain kind of guilty affection to lampoon a genre this immaculately.

That’s what the absurdist has done with fellow writing cohort Michael Showalter.  The two collaborated on the cult hit Wet Hot American Summer – which took the piss out of camp movies – and now they go for the rom-com jugular with the ridiculous and accuratly funny flick They Came Together.  The film certainly benefits from Showalter’s talents since his directorial debut The Baxter is an adorable yet goofball view on the sugary genre.

The difference between Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together is that the former works by itself as straight-up comedy.  If you didn’t have any knowledge of Meatballs, you could still find humour in the film’s eccentricities.  They Came Together relies more on rom-com cliches and cheesy beats that accompany them.  If this species of date movie isn’t up your alley, a majority of the jokes will either sail over your head or appear to be too campy. Continue reading

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5

By: Addison WylieBG.5poster

Jackass brings back everyone’s favourite filthy grandpa in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa .5.  Home viewing audiences get an assortment of pranks that were cut from the original hidden camera escapade as well as ideas that paid off with unsigned release forms or slacked pacing that may have bogged down Bad Grandpa’s storytelling.

Bad Grandpa .5 is an extended behind-the-scenes feature more than anything.  The indestructible Johnny Knoxville as well as director Jeff Tremaine and co-writer/co-star Spike Jonze reminisce about the birth of their full-length film dedicated to Jackass’ “old man bit”.  The men discuss unused pranks and moments that weirded them out, “marks” that supplied golden reactions, and the DIY production that was pulled off quite well for people usually revelling in crotch kicks and bodily fluids.

A lot of math went into Bad Grandpa.  First of all, Knoxville had to adjust to early morning preparation (with make-up effects conceived by Academy-Award nominee Stephen Prouty).  Next up, Knoxville had to figure out how to better define the character of Irving Zisman.  Bad Grandpa .5 does an admirable job at showing the hands-on process to mould the surly senior.  Knoxville himself seems surprised with the character development that began with Irving being an irritable fart looking to get socked, eventually ending with being a rebellious hooligan. Continue reading

Cinemanovels

By: Addison WylieCinemanovelsPoster

One of the crimes an actor can commit is to remind the audience that they’re acting.  In the case of the melodrama in Cinemanovels, the cast could all do time in the clink.  Since writer/director Terry Miles is the head of this operation and knows no boundaries for heaviness or volume, he should be committed too.

When a highly regarded filmmaker passes away, his distraught daughter Grace (played by Lauren Lee Smith) swoops in to help a retrospective of his work that was being assembled.  Having not seen any of her father’s provocative films, she watches them and is persuaded to cure her unhappiness and sexual curiosities that occupy her personal life.

Cinemanovels has a wobbly time stabilizing its potentially intriguing premise, which means my intensity of caring for anything happening in the movie wavered as well.  Miles takes the wicked misstep of turning the film’s dial to “soap opera”, and proceeds to have his company get overemotional and carried away with themes of infidelity and deception. Continue reading

Wish I Was Here

By: Addison WylieWishIWasHereposter

Epiphanies are mentioned in Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff’s return as a filmmaker.  It’s during a scene where Braff’s Aidan Bloom camps out with his two children Tucker and Grace (played by Pierce Gagnon and Joey King) on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where they find a gorgeous view of the desert on top of three isolated boulders.

This talk about epiphanies made me nostalgic for Braff’s 2004 indie hit Garden State, a work that I truly believe changed the face of how people look at independent films and an inspiration for budding filmmakers as to how they could emulate – or rip off – Braff’s quirky style.

In Garden State, audiences were enchanted by scenes featuring burn outs and drifters chatting about the cards life has dealt them.  Suddenly, someone would accidentally spout off something deep about where they saw themselves currently or how the past has affected them.  These moments of clarity were written with perfection, as if they were unintentionally rambled off with honesty fuelling them.  You could see the characters surprise themselves. Continue reading

Bird Co. Media

By: Addison WyliePoster-8.5x11

What partly hurts Bird Co. Media is its insistence to make people believe it’s a documentary.  Actions in the movie may have been inspired by real life events, but once you see how the film is formatted, you’ll have all the reason to doubt.  For instance, cameras follow our leads and then freely cut around them – including on the other sides of doors.  Those are some nimble cameramen.

Bird Co. Media is another one of those mockumentaries where a film crew chronicles the adventures of the film’s protagonists.  In this case, Brad Miller and Kabir Ali travel to India to build their advertising company where the duo attach banners to birds hoping businesses will take flight in more than one way.  According to the film’s website, Brad and Kabir play “themselves”. Uh huh.

Brad and Kabir have the presentation and attitudes of professionals.  The two have been long-time pals and budding entrepreneurs, and have unlimited amounts of eagerness and courage.  It’s a grind to watch two levelheaded guys fuel such an inane idea.  They have their plans and proposals, yet they’re headed towards the same dead end.  Shaukat (Kabir’s father who is also playing “himself”. Uh huh.) has negative feelings towards the iffy business and calls it “stupid” in one-on-one interviews.  This is why Shaukat gets the film’s biggest laughs. Continue reading

22 Jump Street

By: Addison Wylie22JumpStreetposter

Good things come in pairs;  such as with the clever 22 Jump Street.  The comedy is a complimentary companion to its surprisingly hilarious predecessor, but also acts as another sample of how filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are the kings of their goofball trade.

There’s no point for sequel naysayers to pitch that 22 Jump Street throws more of the same at its audience.  It straight-up admits it!  Part of the fun in watching Lord and Miller’s movie is seeing how the duo (along with Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman’s sly screenplay) turn the tables on sequel pitfalls.  The film very much takes on the attitude of if life throws you lemons, make fun of the lemons.

These self-referential pokes come heavily and don’t hold back.  Schmidt and Jenko (played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are given a mission to hunt down a drug at a college campus and find the supplier.  It’s a task their deputy chief (played by the always amusing Nick Offerman) and Captain Dickson (played again by Ice Cube, who takes his glut of enthusiasm to a new level of insanity) emphasize is almost an exact retread of their first mission. Continue reading

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

By: Addison WylieLegendsOfOzposter

Making a movie about Dorothy Gale’s next adventure after her legendary fantasy in Oz is a tall order.  There may have been movies made about life after Oz, but that doesn’t nullify the large ratio of error for future works.  It’s to no surprise that the paltry produced Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return doesn’t come through.  The bar is set at an impossible height it cannot reach with its ordinary animation and unrefined songs.

Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre’s flick still could’ve been a fluffy, innocuous time for their young audience though.  The imagination can never tap out in L. Frank Baum’s world where inanimate objects can just as quickly be brought to life and dance a jig.  Rolling hills littered with thousands of flowers and greenery paint a bright picture of never-ending childlike innocence.  It’s part of what audience’s find so endearing about the story.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is an oddly dreary movie.  The scenery is replaced with jagged designs and a dark colour palette.  The film begins with Kansas foreclosures post-tornado, death is also randomly mentioned on more than one occasion – usually by an uptight individual threatening one of the good guys – and an alarming fate turning guardians into marionettes is an unnerving sight.  This adventure may call on downbeats, but why did Finn and St. Pierre abandon every single thing a faithful audience member could latch onto?  Why did they feel the need to push their young demographic away with this tonal bummer? Continue reading

Life Itself

By: Addison WylieLifeItselfPoster

Life Itself has the sympathetic appeal and gravitas of a rightfully great documentary about an unbreakable legacy.  It’s the type of film Roger Ebert would’ve liked, even if it wasn’t chronicling the late film critic’s life and times.

Ebert’s “thumbs up/thumbs down” signature alongside buddying rival Gene Siskel left more than just an imprint on the film industry.  Their clashing opinions and exuberance for winning movies had readers and viewers alike riveted.  Life Itself shows us how their camaraderie and screen presence took shape through their years on TV.  Documentarian Steve James interviews truthful yet loyal executive producers and family members who lived through the excitement and resentment that took place behind-the-scenes, and the doc does a splendid job at displaying how the love/hate relationship commemorated their teasingly competitive personalities.

The background documenting Siskel and Ebert at the Movies takes up a fair bit of Life Itself  and it’s all entertaining and absorbing to watch.  However, the doc is Ebert’s show and James is here to celebrate the expert’s passionate career in film criticism. Continue reading