"Death at a Funeral," 2007 review

Set in England, “Death a Funeral” revolves around Daniel who, with his wife Jane, is planning and hosting the funeral of his father. Daniel deals with his mother, Sandra, who is a wreck, his brother Robert, a famous writer who is much better liked than Daniel, his cousins Troy and Martha and her fiancée Simon, who is high on Troy’s hallucinogenic drugs, and Peter, a dwarf who had a sexual relationship with Daniel’s father and is blackmailing Daniel for 15,000 pounds about it, all the day of the funeral. It is a black comedy with just a little death.

The 'Jack:

“Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can’t bring back the dead”

“Death at a Funeral” is a mad brilliant exercise in the ludicrous, but somehow it all feels so possible. It is an amazing comedy with great performances and sure direction. From the opening joke to the last, it is just laugh-out-loud silly and downright fun — one of the funniest movies to come out of England.

“Death at a Funeral” mixes a truly awful situation, the death of a father, with silly antics that range from two brothers arguing about funeral costs to a gay midget, played by Peter Dinklage, blackmailing them for 15,000 pounds. When a movie opens with a mortuary bringing the wrong body to the service, you know you are in for some laughs. It has a wonderful way of mixing death with life. Daniel, Mathew Macfadyen, is trying to organize his father’s funeral but his wife Jane, Keeley Hawes, pesters him about putting a down payment on a “flat.” Something so trivial becomes humorous by the mere fact that they are at a funeral; the whole movie is filled with these little bits.

“Death at a Funeral” has so many characters, each with their own little story that weaves so seamlessly with everyone else’s. It is amazing how writer Dean Craig was able to introduce each character naturally in this world. The audience is able to understand who each character is to the others without anybody flat-out saying it. Thirteen characters are able to have their own stories in a 90-minute movie without being rushed or leaving things out, and every actor does a spectacular job.

In a movie filled with spectacular performances, that are both humorous and honest, one particular actor stood out. Alan Tudyk’s performance as Simon, the accidentally drugged fiancé of the deceased’s niece, is out of this world. Before this movie, I didn’t think it was possible to have heartfelt conversation about having a baby with a naked, high man on the roof of a building, and make it work. Somehow Tudyk can be high and still have something more going on with his character.

“Death at a Funeral,” with an amazing script by Dean Craig, is not only one of director Frank Oz’s best comedies, but best movies. It is in the ranks of other Frank Oz comedies, “Dirty Rotten Scondrals,” “What About Bob?” and “Bowfinger.” It may even be the best. It is just too bad Hollywood decided to remake it. So, if you are out this weekend and want to see “Death at a Funeral,” don’t. Instead rent a great movie from 2007, “Death at a funeral.”

“Death at a Funeral” was an exceptional movie. It may not have been a perfect movie, but it was a good movie, and it loved us.

I give it 4/5 drugged, gay midgets.

— The 'Jack

Capt. Awesome:

“Death at a Funeral” is a tough film to explain, as there’s something like 12 intertwining storylines among 13 notable characters that all go on during the funeral of the father of the central character, Daniel, Matthew Macfayden. There’s extortion, accidental intoxication, winning a love interest, hiding a body, money issues, hypochondria, homosexuality, grief, living in somebody’s shadow — just to name a few. However, as European movies do so well, and American cinema can’t seem to comprehend, the more underlying issues are presented with subtlety instead of insulting viewers with direct and hammy dialogue.

All these issues and characters never come across as forced or unimportant, but rather complement each other and keep the pace of the movie consistent and constantly funny. And since this is a true British black comedy, the subject matter is always serious and controlled, and nobody smiles, but the absurdities of the situations are brilliantly funny.

Since black comedies are usually pretty slow, there’s an amazing “Kramer” character in an inebriated Simon, Alan Tudyk, to liven things up. And, holy crap, is it ever good. Just watching Simon is one of the best parts of the film, as Tudyk embodies the phrase “tripping balls.” He somehow balances being incredibly silly, while still maintaining the sense of fear and desperation, and has a deep character that’s fighting his own brain to stay in reality.

“Death at a Funeral,” 2007, is very good, and I highly recommend seeing it. Unfortunately, it didn’t do exceptionally well in the U.S., so it’s been remade from a black comedy to an African-American comedy.

The very idea of the remake is just so wrong on so many levels:
-First, you don’t remake a film from only three years ago that had a U.S. release.
-Second, you especially don’t do it if it’s in the same goddamn language as the original.
-Third, you don’t steal nearly every line, scene, joke, character, and even one of the original actors, Peter Dinklage.
-Lastly, you don’t dumb it down this hard to try to appeal to the lowest common denominator of moviegoers.

Oh well. I’m sure the new version will go on to make obscene amounts of money and will spawn a new frontier of raping good foreign films until there’s nothing left but fart jokes and men in fat-old-lady suits.

If you’re a bad person and plan on seeing the new version, do yourself a favor and watch the original first. But if you saw the trailer for the new version and thought to yourself, “Man, I’d rather remove my eyes with a salad fork than see that atrocity” — That’s the appropriate response.

Now, I need to go see about a discoloration on my wrist.

I give it 4/5 drugged, gay midgets.

— Capt. Awesome

"The Runaways" review

"The Runaways" Brief Summary –

The biographical film, based on the memoir, “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway,” by Cherie Currie, follows two 15-year-old girls, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, as they go from L.A. street kids to rock ‘n’ roll queens as the guitarist and singer, respectively, of the all-girl rock band The Runaways. The two of them are discovered by somewhat-known record producer Kim Fowley, who turns them from relatively innocent teenage girls from broken homes into sex-crazed, drug-taking rock goddesses. Jett and Currie become friends, and lovers, going down the road together toward an inevitable breakdown.

Capt. Awesome:

I hope this review gives you something to live for — have ya, grab ya till you’re sore.

The tale of the rise and fall of a legendary rock band has been done before, and done better. However, “The Runaways” was interesting because it’s about a group of young, like 15 to 18 years old, girls playing in a time when men completely dominated the scene. And while most films about the first something of its kind is generally about the trials faced and social constructs needed to be smashed apart, this story seemed to be more of exploitation of youth and the hazards of the road on already frail psyches.

While I overall enjoyed the movie, it suffered from indecisive storytelling. It couldn’t seem to pick a focus, or at least do all the pieces justice. Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart, was the biggest name to come out of the band, but the majority of the focus was on Cherie Currie, Dakota Fanning, and her internal issues. It also tried to push the storylines of female empowerment, exploring and utilizing sexuality, rebellious youth, never trust the manager, Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon — who was the best part of the movie, by the way. However, by trying to be and do everything, it came up short.

This film could have been greatly improved if it were a biopic on Joan Jett, or if it were about the actual Runaways, instead of barely more than two members of the original five.

I also had mixed emotions while watching. On the one hand, it’s a great, and somewhat factual story about the three most iconic food groups: Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, which is always fun, especially when it’s totally centered on a group of girls. However, this movie made my penis confused because these were very young girls, which is one of those demographics that men generally put on blinders for.

One plus is Kristen Stewart shedding the “Twilight” label and owning her role. While Joan Jett wasn’t exactly diverse or particularly deep in this film, Stewart played the pissed-off rockstar remarkably well, and had the singing chops to match. And it’s not often an actress is given the chance to be pissed off and not crying, or yelling at her boyfriend. She grew a pair and got mean — very Joan Jett.

A few things pissed me off about this film, though:
-One, Lita Ford, the lead guitarist of The Runaways, and the second-most-interesting member was reduced to about half a dozen lines that did nothing more than make her look like a bitchy C-bag.
-Two, Dakota Fanning trying to sing like Cherie Currie… or at all.
-Three, Dakota Fanning being portrayed as sexy. Perhaps it was an intentional casting choice to try to demonstrate how very young these girls were, but it was jarring to see a skinny 15-year-old Fanning in lingerie, gyrating on stage. She’s looks far too young and too sweet to pull off the jailbait sex-kitten look that Cherie Currie was known for.

The film’s direction and pacing also seemed to lack a solid rise and fall. It builds, plateaus and then kind of trails off without a good sense of finality. Granted, all the main characters are still alive and relatively young, so it’s not going to be about the lives and times of the band members, but it could have avoided just…

See what I did there? So clever.

Overall, not bad, but not exactly headed to the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I give it 3/5 stoned Fannings.

— Capt. Awesome

The 'Jack:

“The Runaways” is a below-average movie that is brought to a higher level by solid performances by its lead and supporting actors. Right off that bat, the best part of the movie is Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, the pseudo-manager responsible for getting these five women together. If The Runaways were the Power Rangers, Fowley would be Zordon — a crazy, sex-crazed, creepy Zordon. I wish “The Runaways” came out during “Oscar bait” season so Michael Shannon could be nominated for his amazing performance. His performance makes me think “he must be crazy” because he is just too perfect in the role.

“The Runaways” is not a bio-pic about Kim Fowley, but I would definitely watch that. It is, in fact, about “The Runaways,” go figure. Well, actually, it is more about Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, played by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning respectively, since the rest of the band says a total of, maybe, five lines. The bassist, whose name was changed due to the fact that the actual bassist threatened to sue if she was misrepresented, says absolutely nothing. And she’s played by Alia Shawkat, Maeby from “Arrested Development” — talk about not taking advantage of a good thing.

Going into the film, I expected to get more “Twilight” acting from Stewart but was pleasantly surprised to see a very good portrayal of Joan Jett. She gives a nuanced, but not boring, and natural performance that seems so specific it must be accurate. I had all but written of Stewart, and the only thing keeping her alive was “Adventureland,” but now it is obvious that she has more acting talent than I expected.

The real disappointment, but that’s not really the right word, was Dakota Fanning. Her portrayal of Cherie Currie didn’t live up to the other performances and really didn’t bring much to the film. It wasn’t bad, just average. I will say, though, that no other young actress has the ability of played drunk and/or high quite like Fanning. When she was wasted, she seemed to be wasted. I will hand it to her for trying to break out of her innocent mold at such a young age; it was quite a shock to see her “strutting her stuff” in sexy lingerie on stage. I think I was just not ready for it.

The plot was nothing we haven’t seen before and really didn’t bring anything special. It was your typical rock ‘n roll biopic. And in the end, I didn’t get anything more than a quick history lesson.

“The Runaways” is a film worth seeing, if only for the acting.

I give it 3.5/5 stoned Fannings.
-The ‘Jack

"Repo Men" review

Capt. Awesome:

“Repo Men” was a lot of things: It was creepy, sometimes well-acted, terribly written, fast-paced, a hypothetical window into an overcrowded future where corporations rule the world, but mostly it was horrifyingly violent. And a bloody slaughter-fest is just dandy from time to time, but this did so at the cost of plot, which is kind of important when telling a story.

Our protagonist, Remy, Jude Law, makes his living removing prosthetic organs from people on behalf of his employer, The Union, after the recipients can’t pay the astronomical sums for them. That sounds like a difficult medical procedure that requires years of training to perform. What it actually consists of is tagging a hapless individual with a stun dart or bashing them over the head, and then ripping open the sack of meat like a kid at Christmas armed with a scalpel, and just pulling out whatever organ needs to be repossessed. This, as one would imagine, generally leaves the individual feeling less than alive. How this is legal is left for audiences to figure out.

His sidekick, whom he’s known since their pre-Union military days — though no one explains Jude Law’s British accent in the U.S. military, but that’s another issue altogether — Jake, Forest Whitaker, has a malfunctioning moral compass. One minute, he’s Remy’s best friend — they work side-by-side, spend time together after work, watch sports on the weekend, family barbecues — and the next minute he’s… Well, read the next paragraph.

As the film’s trailer shows, Remy is injured on the job and requires a new heart, which he — wait for it — can’t afford! Cue dramatic music. The trailer explains that about as well as the film does. He’s hurt on company time, using company equipment, doing a company job, and then requires a company product, so instead of giving it to him for free for years of service, or at least giving him one hell of an employee discount, they decide to hunt him down for irony’s sake. And Jake is forced to “repo” his best friend. Oh, the internal conflict!

There’s also no way for a “running from the bad people” movie can exist without a shoehorned romance story, and this is no exception. Remy has a wife who only serves to embody the phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and a son who… just kind of exists. But they’re only on the screen for about five minutes before Remy’s kicked out of the house, and promptly falls head-over-heels for Beth, Alice Braga, a drug-addicted homeless woman who had even less screen time than the wife. And the film never explains why the hell he cares about her, or why she needs to exist, as she seems to only slow Remy down. It felt like there were a couple of scenes that set up the relationship that never made it out of the editing room.

And did I say that this thing was bloody? Oh, man, the body count is staggering for a non-war film. There are dozens of gutted corpses that were victims of The Union, and just as many stabbed and shot Union employees on Remy’s rampage to right the wrong that has been done to him, and to bring down the proverbial man. I can’t even begin to explain the gruesome and somehow sexual climactic scene between Remy and Beth, except that it involves a lot of drug use, kissing, touching, oh, and cutting each other open.

The ending is painfully obvious if one pays attention to the brief flashes of dialogue between murder scenes, and it left me wanting to repossess my $10 from the theater.

Overall, this film was ham-handed and predictable, and it substituted storytelling for gore. I say steer clear of this bloody mess.

I give it 2/5 repossessed livers.

— Capt. Awesome
The 'Jack:

Well acted, original, amazing writing and an overall good movie — these things will never be used to describe "Repo Men." Rather, it is a combination of gruesome violent images and nonsensical story. The idea of repossessing someone’s organs makes about as much sense as putting a chicken behind the wheel of a car. The only result you are going to get is a bunch of dead bodies and people asking, “God, why?” That is "Repo Men."

It opens up with Remy, Jude Law, “repossessing” someone’s organs, which in this world is a legal way to murder, and then moves on to murder repossession after murder repossession until finally Remy gets a new heart to call his own and must go on the run before his heart gets repossessed as well.

The film has no idea what it is doing the whole way through. Jake, Forest Whittaker, is a good guy, then the bad guy and back to the good guy. Remy is married, then his wife leaves him and the next thing you know he is in love with a drug addict. If you want a sex scene that will make you celibate, than look no further. "Repo Men" is for you.

Forest Whittaker is usually good but he is forced to deliver lines that are so blatantly obvious that a child could see what is happening. Quick side note, do not let a child see this movie unless you want to scar them for life. If that is the case, grab some popcorn and set your child down while I call social services.

The director, Miguel Sapochnik, makes no attempt to develop character or story. It feels like whole scenes developing the relationship between Remy and Beth, Alice Braga, were removed because they didn’t have enough murder, or sex, in it. Sapochnik seemed to be guiding us from one gruesome death to another, like when a man’s head is crushed by a falling typewriter (Retrospective spoiler alert). On the note of falling typewriters, first off classic Acme win, and secondly, this is supposedly the future so what is a typewriter even doing there? I probably couldn’t find one in a dump nowadays.

Enough chitchat about typewriters, back to the lack of story. When a writer puts his main characters in a situation that seems to be inescapable, like writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner did in the screenplay for "Repo Men," the audience wants something clever and unexpected but in the case of "Repo Men" all the audience gets is a poorly set up cliché. I won’t ruin the ending, but it rhymes with “they’re in a dream.” If you have any sense at all you will stay away from "Repo Men."

I give it 2/5 Repossessed Livers.
– The ’Jack