MasterChugs Theater: ‘Obvious Child’

Valentine’s Day is this weekend. Perhaps you and your date are going out to dinner or something else. Maybe you’re staying inside. If so, allow me to recommend a movie to you for date night: Obvious Child. It’s a comedy about abortion.

It’s also pretty great and fairly perfect for a romantic night in. Seriously. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘Obvious Child’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘Birdman’

It’s taken me forever to see Birdman. This happens when you live in an area that does not have a super robust arts community.

So let me just say this: Birdman is easily my favorite movie of all of 2014. In fact, it might be one of my favorite movies of all time. I won’t give you a long and drawn out review, that’s because I want you to rush out and see this movie now.

We’ve seen the long-take trick before, perhaps most notably in Hitchcock’s 1948 chamber thriller Rope, which masked five of its 10 cuts by slinking in close to its cast. But in Birdman, the effect’s entirely different. Working with the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, director Alejandro González Iñárritu turns the film into a high-wire act – live, unpredictable, light as air, yet also fatalistically locked on course. While it’s going on, you’re glued to the impossibility of what you’re seeing. Once it’s over, you can’t believe what you saw.

Yet Birdman isn’t a piece of empty showmanship. It’s a piece about empty showmanship, and its unhinged premise – a fairground-mirror image of the career of its leading man (Michael Keaton), who starred in Tim Burton’s two mega-grossing Batman films then quit the franchise on principle – couldn’t have been told in a smarter way. It’s a beautiful, moving, captivating film.

Treat yourself now: either go see it in a theater or watch it digitally (since it’s now available). It’s worth the money. You’ll thank me.

MasterChugs Theater: ‘Welcome to the Jungle’

A crew of office drones from Nowheresville reenact Lord of the Flies in Rob Meltzer’s Welcome to the Jungle, a picture billed as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s first comedy. That description is arguable on two fronts: it undervalues the laugh-generating capability of many of JCVD’s ostensibly serious outings, while grossly overestimating the comedic value here. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘Welcome to the Jungle’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’

Stanley Kramer’s epic 1963 comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has a complicated, contradictory legacy. During the 51 years since its initial release, the ultimate ensemble comedy has aired in a seemingly constant loop on television. Homages to the film include 1979’s Scavenger Hunt, 1987’s Million Dollar Mystery, and 2001’s Rat Race, all of which owe so much to Mad World, they border on unofficial remakes.

There’s a reason why: it’s a very good movie. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’

MasterChugs Theater: ’22 Jump Street’

If there is such a thing as a meta-sequel, then this flagrantly silly and self-aware follow-up to 21 Jump Street is it. How so? Because 22 Jump Street explodes the whole concept of franchising and then studies the shards to figure out why audiences are always panting to see the same damn thing over and over.

My apologies. I’m not going to make a term paper out of a throwaway comedy. 22 Jump Street is damn funny. It laughs at its own dumb logic and invites us in on the fun.

Don’t decline that invitation. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ’22 Jump Street’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘Scrooged’

A quick note: Sony pulling The Interview is a cowardly move and a strike against free speech.

Would Charles Dickens have written the movie Scrooge? No. Would he have written The Muppet Christmas Carol? Good lord no, and stab your eyes for even suggesting as such. Truth told, he probably would have written something like Scrooged, an 80s, greed-isn’t-good update of the Dickens classic. The wittiest satire of television since Network, Scrooged gives us Frank Cross, the “youngest president in the history of television,” a man who also happens to be the completely maniacal head of the IBC TV network. IBC’s holiday programming runs toward action flicks like The Night the Reindeer Died and cheesy variety shows like Bob Goulet’s Old-Fashioned Cajun Christmas. But Frank’s pièce de résistance is Scrooge, a live-from-around-the-world Christmas Eve special, featuring Buddy Hackett as the old skinflint, Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim, and a bevy of scantily clad, oh-so 80s Solid Gold Dancers.

“We’ll own Christmas,” Frank announces gleefully.

But will it own your heart? Hit the cut, true believers, to find out the answer to that question, along with why it’s the second of three traditional Christmas-time movies for me. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘Scrooged’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘Knights of Badassdom’

Picture this: San Diego Comic-Con, July 2011. Director Joe Lynch premieres a hilarious trailer for his upcoming LARP-horror comedy Knights of Badassdom starring Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister, True Blood’s Jason Stackhouse, Firefly’s River Tam, Community’s Abed Nadir, Sports Night‘s Jeremy Goodwin, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘s Liam McPoyle and Steve Zahn. It sounds like more than a geek fiction lover’s dream, but the dream of someone who loves comedy as well!

Then the movie sits. And it sits. And it sits some more. For over two years, the movie sits.

Maaaaaaybe it should sit around some more. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘Knights of Badassdom’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘The One I Love’

Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love (TOIL) is a difficult movie. Well, it’s not necessarily difficult because of its quality. The movie is a true pleasure to watch, which is all the more surprising given it’s McDowell’s debut directorial feature. No, it’s difficult because discussing it can so easily lead to spoiling the film.

Nonetheless, we’ll give it a try. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘The One I Love’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘In A World’

Voiceover is an integral part of the sale when it comes to commercials, movie trailers and television show announcements, and the more memorable the better. But did you ever notice that most of these announcements are made by men? In A World… evokes this notion with its title, a phrase made famous by the late, great voiceover artist Don LaFontaine. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘In A World’

MasterChugs Theater: ‘Cuban Fury’

Having made his name working alongside his pal Simon Pegg (mostly in projects directed by Edgar Wright), Nick Frost finally gets his own starring vehicle with Cuban Fury, a romantic comedy about a middle-aged English sad sack who takes up salsa dancing to win a woman’s heart.

Frost is a likable lead and an easy rooting interest, but his affability isn’t enough to give this silly-sweet feature the edge and dimension that would make it a memorable contribution to the subgenre epitomized by The Full Monty — comedies in which middle-aged, unassuming Brits discover their inner showman.

It’s good, just not Pegg-Frost-Wright good. Continue reading MasterChugs Theater: ‘Cuban Fury’