Tag Archives: comedy

Love & Other Drugs

22 Feb

Love & Other Drug‘s poster is deceptive – it let me think that I was going to watch a light-hearted, typical RomCom. And that is what I got for the first 45 minutes before the comedy quietly slipped away to reveal the drama that I  knew had been lurking since Anne Hathaway made her entrance and Jake Gyllenhaal got to stare at her boobs.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a through and through womaniser ne’er-do-well who has tremendous charm. Hence he gets to sleep with so many women. After losing his last job, he enters the world of pharmaceutical repping and begins at Pfizer when Zoloft is still their biggest selling (pre-1996).  While trying wangle his way into the hearts of the local doctors (most of whom won’t give him the time of day), Jamie meets Maggie Murdock and the pursuit begins. Maggie is no usual quarry, however, calling Jamie on all his BS and seemingly as much as a player as he is. The raunchy sex scenes are something that I, as typical RomCom fan, wasn’t really prepared for, but they themselves also provide some laughter (even if it was shocked!).

Anne Hathaway in the outstanding role of Maggie Murdock

And, as my boyfriend knows because I have trained him well in the art of the Romantic Comedy, the roller coaster begins. There are ups and downs in all RomComs, but this one has particular lows as Maggie suffers from early on-set Parkinson’s. This is a story that has been told before, but unlike Winona Ryder in  Autumn in New York and  Charlize Theron in Sweet November, Anne Hathaway’s character plays very little on her self-pity. Her performance in fact is superb. She uses her bright eyes and quick smile to her advantage not only when being a vixen while reeling Jake Gyllenhaal in, but also in her more vulnerable moments.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie is the ultimate smooth talking salesman and he provides (along with his character’s brother) most of the humour in the film. His break though is hilarious and anyone will chuckle about the drug he ends up making his name on (here’s a clue – it’s blue!). So while Love & Other Drugs is pretty funny, it also contains a lot of sadness in , particularly if you know or have known someone who suffered with Parkinson’s. The film does try to deal with living with the illness, but at the end of the day it is a Romantic Drama with excellent casting and it is the romance between two unlikely characters that lies at the heart of it.

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Glee season 1

25 Sep

“Jubilant delight” and “joy” are what Glee causes inside me. Singing, dancing and triumphant geeks are three of my favourite things. Glee combines them all with slick choreography, biting wit and some cheesy story lines which make me smile, cringe and at times feel like weeping. Yes, Glee is series gold.

Matthew Morrison heads up the cast of the high school musical comedy series. He is Willaim Schuester, the Spanish teacher who takes over Glee Club (also known as Show Choir) and tries to bring the talent out of the misfit members so that they can be proud of themselves. Jane Lynch, co-stars as Sue Sylvester, coach of the cheerleading squad, the Cheerios. She is committed to the destruction of Glee Club so that her Cheerios can keep their full quota of talent and the budget.

The misfits cast is made up of the incredbily talented Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley and others. They are the heart and soul of the series. Lea Michelle’s character, Rachel, is the obnoxious ingenue (her word, not mine) and undeniable singing star of the series. When she sings “On My Own” from Les Mis, I get goosebumps!

But of course, to build up Glee Club, Mr Schuester has to try recruit popular kids to join their ranks and so enter Cory Monteith (as the quarterback, Finn), Dianna Argon (his cheerleader girlfriend, Quinn) and Mark Salling. THis is where the politics and twisted plot lines really begin.

Glee has plenty of typical high school drama – bullying, learning to accept others, being proud of who you are, coming out the closet, even teenage pregnancy. But this isn’t just about high school: Mr Schuester’s life is falling apart thanks to his crazy (and I mean LOCO) wife, bizarre jock colleague and school guidance counsellor crush. And if this wasn’t all enough, he is under pressure for the Glee Club to perform at the regional competition so that the programme isn’t cut.

So that’s the storyline, but what’s the catch? How can something that sounds so ordinary attract so much attention? Simply by the fact that it’s not ordinary. The humour is not your average American sitcom humour – some of it is more abrasive, some of it is quirkier and some of it is just plain ridiculous. The humour of King of the Hill and Arrested Development  become mainstream (if somewhat watered down) and I love it in this high school context. Jane Lynch’s character is perfect at mocking the “winner” attitude of so many Americans. Plus her uniform of matching tracksuits is ridiculous!

But of course it’s the singing of Glee that sets it apart. From show tunes, to feel-good classics, to contemporary chart-toppers, Glee has some music for everyone. Who says the sparkle of musicals is only for the silverscreen or stage? The cast of Glee are superb, most of them having been sourced from Broadway, and most viewers won’t be able to resist tapping their feet.

When you are feeling down, there is nothing as uplifting as music, or a good story about underdogs becoming victorious. Rent or buy Glee and smile, because you will have definitely made the right choice. Season 2 has only just started showing on US screens, so unfortunatley we’ll have to wait some time to get it. Until then I’ll be getting my dose of “jubilant delight” by watching season 1 again and again (especially episode 4!)

Kick-Ass

24 Sep

I love a good superhero movie. Superheroes are fascinating. Whether you like the idea of radio-active spider bites or prefer the dark mystery of Bruce Wayne, there is a superhero out there for everyone. Kick-Ass takes this concept one step further – if everyone loves superheroes why haven’t people tried to BE superheroes?

Dave (Aaron Johnson) is a fairly innocuous school boy. He loves comics, struggles with girls and has shaggy hair – a typical film geek. He is inspired by comics books however, and decides to become his own superhero and help people around him. A few missteps down the line and suddenly Kick-Ass (his chosen pseudonym) is an Internet superstar.

Unfortunately there are more competent superheroes (of the Batman ilk) around town and they are causing trouble for Crime Boss, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), so he is seeking them out, hoping to destroy them. I’m sure you can see how this will cause trouble for Kick-Ass, no?

What follows is a feast of violence, wire-dependent filming and some really funny scenes. Of course by funny I mean dark and satirical humour, but that’s the best kind really.

Aaron Johnson is the perfect anxious teen, but it is his unknown nemesis, Chris D’Amico, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who really captures high school angst. He’s come a long way from bit parts in Superbad and Year One. Mintz-Plasse is just one more sign that in Hollywood, nerds are becoming really cool.

And what about the real superheroes I mentioned? Nicholas Cage is the disillusioned father bent on

Chloe Moretz as Mindy Macready

revenge, who drags his sweet daughter, Mindy, into the fray. Mindy is played by Chloe Moretz, and if I were her mother I would have washed her mouth out with soap at the end of each day’s shoot! But this girl can act. She carries the weight that Halle Berry lacked when she played Cat Woman, and she’s only 12! Nicholas Cage is matched by his small co-star and she is one to look out for in the future.

 

Mark Strong does what he does best in Kick-Ass: mean. His acting range is not fantastic (he’s been the scary, quiet type  in everything I’ve seen him in – Rock’n’Rolla, Sherlock Holmes, Body of Lies…). While it would be wonderful to see him extend himself, he certainly didn’t need to in order to pull of Frank D’Amico convincingly.

Be prepared for a film that moves from ordinary narration of teen angst to high-gear, Kill Bill-style violent escapade of good vs evil. Awesome. The fact that the most violent character is a 12-year-old girl worried me for a bit, but once she has on her superhero outfit, I could forget her real identity!

Away We Go

18 Sep

Away We Go is an off-beat offering from Sam Mendes which had me in stitches and quietly contemplating the directions we take in life.

Burt and Verona are expecting a baby, (the way they discover this is a strange opening scene!). They lead average lives in an average town and haven’t really got all the details figured out yet. But they know that their love will get through anything. In anticipation of a baby, one would expect parental support, but no, Burt’s eccentric parents decide to up and leave to Amsterdam a month before the baby is due.

Verona realises that they too don’t need to stay in their average little town and so begins their quest for where to settle down. Their travels take them to Phoenix, Montreal, Miami and, hopefully, home.

John Krasinki & Maya Rudolph

John Krasinksi (The Office US) is fabulous. He has the dorky charm of an old teddy bear and the way he portrays husbandly love is sigh-worthy (take tips, gentlemen!) He is bold when he needs to be, but his performance never loses its softness. Opposite him, Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Idiocracy) is perfect. She has the nerves of a new mother down, but her natural humour makes her accessible even to people who have no idea about babies (i.e. me). She also carries a sense of sadness in her performance, creating a balance which is stunning.

Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal have hilarious bit parts as various friends the couple visit on their travels. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a mother who doesn’t believe in the three Ss – separation, sugar and strollers. This you need to see!

It’s not surprising that this insightful comedy on relationships and parenting is written by husband-and-wife-and-parents team, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. It must take personal experience to write so naturally and also to mock all the kinds of parents there are out there!

Sam Mendes has veered away from his typical serious films with Away We Go, and it might open him up to a whole new audience. Heaven knows this light, quirky film is a far cry from American Beauty and Jarhead, but it has its commentary too, though far more subtle.

Rent Away We Go for a comfortable night on the couch, some good laughs and hopefully you’ll be with someone to give a big kiss to afterwards! (boys, this does not make it a chick flick!)

Having said all this, one of my favourite parts about Away We Go is the soundtrack. I will find it and buy it! It’s mostly made up of Alexi Murdoch, who I didn’t know before this, but the sprinklings of George Harrison, The Stranglers and Bob Dylan makes for a really great music experience.

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Away We Go is an off-beat offering from Sam Mendes which had me in stitches and quietly contemplating the directions we take in life.

Burt and Verona are expecting a baby. They lead average lives in an average town and haven’t really got all the details figured out yet. But they know that their love will get through anything. In anticipation of a baby, one would expect parental support, but no, Burt’s parents decide to up and leave to Amsterdam a month before the baby is due.

Verona realises that they too don’t need to stay in their average little town and so begins their quest for where to settle down. Their travels take them to Phoenix, Montreal, Miami and, hopefully, home.

John Krasinksi (The Office US) is fabulous. He has the dorky charm of an old teddy bear and the way he portrays husbandly love is sigh-worthy (take tips, gentlemen!) He is bold when he needs to be, but his performance never loses its softness. Opposite him, Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Idiocracy) is perfect. She has the nerves of a new mother down, but her natural humour makes her accessible even to people who have no idea about babies (i.e. me). She also carries a sense of sadness in her performance, creating a balance which is stunning.

Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal have hilarious bit parts as various friends the couple visit on their travels. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a mother who doesn’t believe in the three Ss – separation, sugar and strollers. This you need to see!

Sam Mendes has veered away from his typical serious films with Away We Go, and it might open him up to a whole new audience. Heaven knows this light, quirky film is a far cry from American Beauty and Jarhead, but it has its commentary too, though far more subtle.

Rent Away We Go for a comfortable night on the couch, so good laughs and hopefully you’ll be with someone to give a big kiss to afterwards! (boys, this does not make it a chick flick!)

Having said all this, one of my favourite parts about Away We Go is the soundtrack. I will find it and buy it! It’s mostly made up of Alexi Murdoch, who I didn’t know before this, but the sprinklings of George Harrison, The Stranglers and Bob Dylan makes for a really great music experience.

Please Give

7 Sep

Buying furniture from dead people’s estates sounds wrong. Buying furniture from dead people’s estates for as little as possible and selling it on at a profit seems somewhat despicable. Yet this is how many people, including Kate (Catherine Keener), make their living. Can she still consider herself a good person?

Quirky comedies are my favourite genre of film (if quirky counts as a genre?). And Please Give fulfils the criteria of quirky very well. As in the vein of Garden State, The Squid and the Whale and 500 Days of SummerPlease Give tells a small, personalised story which deals with universal issues, in this case, what does it mean to be a good person?   

Kate and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), own a furniture store which they stock with furniture bought from dead people’s estates. Kate struggles with the morals of her job. She is a deeply compassionate person, but only sees the negative around her. Thus she spends her time being upset those less fortunate and handing $20 bills to beggars in an effort to “save the world”. Her daughter, a teenager struggling to deal with her self-esteem and skin problems, does not see the use of her mother’s compassion.

Next door lives Andra, a cranky 91-year-old who is looked after by her granddaughter Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and ignored as far as possible by her other granddaughter Mary (Amanda Peet). These two families’ lives meet as Kate and Alex have bought Andra’s flat (at least this purchase was before death!).

Catherine Keener gives a wonderful performance as a woman struggling with her image of herself and her choices in life. Rebecca Hall is the iconic self-sacrificing granddaughter, but she

Rebecca Hall

develops throughout the film. Her softness is so welcoming and adds to the empathy the audience feels for her long-suffering character.

The best performance must surely come from Sarah Steele. She plays Abby, Kate and Alex’s self-conscious daughter. She also played Adam Sandler’s chubby daughter in Spanglish. Her frail self-image and despair at her teenage skin is so real and I felt instant sympathy for this poor girl.

Please Give does not come to a great climactic ending. Not even all the issues are resolved – but isn’t that life? Do not go see Please Give if you are an adrenaline junkie or wanting to be a voyeur of the gritty realities of life. Please Give is calm, at times very funny and poignant film about people trying to be better.

Nando’s Comedy Festival

1 Sep

Disclaimer: This review has been written by a prude who is proud of her brain!

Trevor Noah

Americans are loud, brash people. A generalisation yes, but one that enforced itself at the opening of this year’s Nando’s comedy festival. I was amazed at how different American humour is to the rest of the world’s : aggressive, loud and focused on sex. That being said Trevor Noah (South African comic extraordinaire – duh!) and Dave Thornton (Australian) stole the show for me, by showing that a sharp wit and insight are far funnier than the F-word and sex.

Ian Bagg was the formidable American MC of the event (though I’m sure I heard some “oots” and “aboots”). He rushes off his lines like an auctioneer or a boxing commentator and is focused on the audience. He clearly was not impressed by South Africans as he kept saying, “oops, I’ve gone too far.” I thought comedians are meant to be quick, but he kept making the same mistakes – rape and paedophile jokes are just not funny in South Africa. His funniest moments were those when he wasn’t trying to be funny – not knowing what M-net was he asked people if they had “an M-Net”. Oh dear. Well done to the sponsors for letting their starts know about their company! He popped up between each act and in the end I could tell he just wanted to go home!

Next up was Bobby Lee who clearly suffers from small man syndrome. He is loud, obnoxious and focused on his small pecker.  His style of comedy is classic stand-up, running from joke set to joke set. He was funny about his typically Korean father, but otherwise, again with the sex and the F-word. Seriously? Are we not more intelligent than this? His funniest jokes were when he turned to self-deprecation, which I suppose is why I enjoy British humour so much more than American, as self-deprecation is at its core.

After Bobby Lee I could breathe a sigh of relief as our own wonder boy of comedy, Trevor Noah, bounded to the stage. What I love about Trevor Noah is that he is funny because he is observant, up-to-date, politically relevant and clean. He definitely plays on racial stereotypes, but South African audiences are so comfortable with this and he offends all racial groups equally. His accents are fantastic and really get to the essence of whichever race was being mocked at the time. I will definitely make an effort to see Trevor Noah again.

Mo Mandell, another American, was next and started out pretty well. His humour was mostly focused on being Jewish. When he made some sex jokes at least he picked up on the fact that “South Africans are racist but don’t have sex!” My problem with this statement is that it missed the point. Yes, South Africans laugh at racial and ethnic jokes (now mostly when they’re told by a person of said race/ethnicity) and yes, we are more conservative than many nations about sex, but why is that a problem? Aren’t comedians meant to adapt? If your whole act hinges on one aspect of life, you’re not going to appeal to the broader audience.

Dave ThorntonEnter Dave Thornton – Yay for the land down under (I know, I’m a South African and I’m cheering for an Aussie – shock!). Dave Thornton once again proved that wit and insight are king. His gentle manner of delivery and self-deprecating humour trumped any of the American acts. The odd sex joke and swear word came up, but coupled with his style of humour and mixed in a range of topic, these jokes actually were funny and not a bombardment.  

Orny Adams ended the show. At last, an American comedian with something else to talk about! Orny Adams certainly got himself worked up on stage, but his keen look at modern life, including obese children, texting and products made for real belly laughing. He certainly made the best one-liner of the night: “This generation is so fat, the next war will be fought over cooking oil!” Classic. His age was also key to his set and, though I’m still pretty young, these were some of his funniest cracks.

The comedy festival really did provide me with some good laughs, but it definitely showed me I need to appreciate our local comedians far more. It also proved how uncomfortable I am about sex in the public domain, which is something I freely admit. If you are more like my friends than me, you will surely roll with laughter. Just don’t take your little brother or mom.

Nando’s Comedy Festival: Baxter Theatre, Rondebosch, Main Arena. 31 August -19 September. 8pm Mondays-Saturdays, 6pm Sundays, special 10.30 pm shows on Friday & Saturday 17-18 September.R120-150. Tickets through Computicket or at the Baxter Theatre

Cosi

11 Aug

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it certainly is a wonderful anti-depressant, but can it fix crazy? I hope not, because then the cast of Cosi would be cured and the fun would all be over! Cosi is the chaotic Louis Nowra play, first performed in Australia in 1992.  The chaos on stage was matched only by my own raucous laughter, which has often been the embarrassment of my friends. 

Cosi follows a director who is plunged into an asylum for a social experiment to direct the inmates in a play. The social worker is determined that this will “bring them out of their shells.” She has clearly forgotten that most people are in asylums for not staying far enough in their shells as is socially acceptable! The cast contains a pyromaniac, murderer, committed drug addict and other various crazies. 

The cast within the cast ambitiously decides to stage Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte much to the dismay of the director, as he would rather do something more meaningful for him, like Brecht. His is eventually swayed and the story rollicks forward with the production of an opera involving no singing and in English!

Guy de Lancey absolutely gleams as the ring leader of the inmates. He is mesmerising. But don’t only keep your eyes on him, because then you will miss Adrian Collins and Luke Ellenbogen’s hilarious side antics which could easily overtake the drama. Seeing Luke with a bucket on his head and later hopping around naked (in strategically dimmed lighting!) made me roar with that same embarrassing laughter.

Kate Liquorish is the overbearing social worker on the edge of a mental break herself, and the cool Andrew Laubscher plays the director, playfully nicknamed Jerry by the inmates.

Scott Sparrow’s direction is wonderful and he clearly has worked hard to get the absolute best out of his cast. The relationships on stage are believable and the truth about the complications of love really shines through in both the opera and the play itself. The characters are warm and loveable (except of course when they’re vulgar and repulsive, but such is the charm of nutcases!). Adrian Collins’ character produces particularly poignant moments and brings the central conflict of the time to life.

 Unfortunately Cosi’s run at the Little Theatre has ended, but I sincerely encourage you to see anything done by the Mechanicals troupe. This season lasts until the 29th August and they have moved to the Intimate theatre to present Highway Crossing and Endgame. I doubt my laughter will ring through the theatre in Endgame, but I’m sure it’ll be worth every absurd moment.

Cosi, Written: Louis Nowra, Directed: Scott Sparrow, Starring: the Mechanicals troupe.