Showing posts with the label Dark Comedy

Go (1999)

If you've never seen Go , here's what you need to know: it's a fantastic movie that's better experienced than described. Even though I'm barely going to mention the plot, I'm about to spoil the whole movie. So stop reading, watch the thing, then come back. We good? Good. The genius of Go is its tone. What tone is that? Well... that depends whether it's your first time watching it. If you've never seen it before, Go is a disturbing, twisted, suspense movie broken up by bits of dark comic relief. On subsequent viewings, it's a fun and lighthearted comedic romp. It all comes down to point-of-view, which is exceedingly appropriate, since it's about point-of-view. The film is set on Christmas Eve, a fact that feels almost incidental at times. There's a number of holiday decorations, but nowhere near the quantity most holiday-set movies incorporate. There are a few bits of dialogue alluding to the season, but by and large no one seems to ca

In Bruges (2008)

Nothing says Christmas like violence and bleak depression. This was a fantastic movie. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are professional hitmen. After a job, they’re sent to the Belgium city of Bruges to lay low and await instructions at Christmastime. Ken enjoys the city, the younger Ray chafes at being in the middle of nowhere. But something deeper is eating at Ray, and… You know what? We usually do a bit of a synopsis in our reviews here, but I really enjoyed watching this twisty plot unfold, so I’m not going to give too many more specifics. One of the final twists, I saw coming (and Erin didn’t! Call the papers, that might be a first), but watching it was still incredibly compelling. Suffice to say that this movie contains quiet, atmospheric scenes, emotional breakdowns, public brawling, graphic violence and lots of historic buildings. The cast does a fantastic job portraying the complexities of the characters. The subtlety of the performances was just lovely

Brazil (1985)

The title of Brazil is drawn from its theme song, despite the fact the movie is not set in Brazil, and the nation of Brazil has absolutely no bearing on the movie, nor is it even mentioned. It should be noted that they considered several alternative titles while the movie was in development, and - miraculously - Brazil seems to have been the best they thought of. You can read a bunch of the others on Wikipedia . If I could be so bold, I might suggest calling this the Metropolis Christmas Special, which is how I'm going to think of it from now on. Recently, I found this on a couple of lists of science fiction Christmas movies, which surprised me, since I didn't recall it having taken place at Christmas. Granted, it's been more than a decade since I saw this, and I didn't think much of it at the time. For years, my summation was simply: any ten minutes of Brazil is gorgeous, but there's no reason to watch more than that. Maybe I'm just mellowing as I age,

A Merry Friggin' Christmas (2014)

A Merry Friggin' Christmas  is a direct-to-video movie starring Robin Williams and Joel McHale. It's one of Williams's last films, which netted it some publicity prior to its release. If you've seen the trailer, you're likely expecting a slapstick comedy in the vein of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . That's certainly what I was anticipating, and I hate   National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . If you skim the one-sentence blurbs over on Rotten Tomatoes, you get the sense that's what the reviewers were expecting, too. Those reviews are almost uniformly negative - only 18% Fresh at the moment - and the primary issue seems to be that this movie just wasn't that funny. In my opinion, this is another case of critics missing the point. This wasn't all that funny, because it wasn't slapstick: it was a Christmas dramedy. And I thought it was a pretty decent one. The movie focuses on the relationship between its two leads. Williams

Wilfred: Confrontation (2013)

There are the Christmas episodes you seek out, then there are the ones you trip over. I've been slowly making my way through the series, Wilfred , and I stumbled across a holiday episode in season 3. First a few words about the series. More specifically, this is the American remake of an Australian show with the same name. It follows Ryan, played by Elijah Wood, a disturbed former lawyer who perceives his neighbor's dog as a grown man in a dog suit. Just describing the bizarre premise doesn't do the series justice. This is far stranger and darker than it sounds. It regularly delves into existential questions, as Ryan attempts to determine whether his experiences are mystical in nature or if he's simply losing his mind. The series's tone oscillates between dark comedy and psychological horror. This episode is surprisingly restrained, though it ventures into some dark territory. It's Christmas, and Ryan's family is reuniting for the first time in years

All is Bright (2013)

All is Bright centers around a paroled thief played by Paul Giamatti, who returns to his home in Quebec to discover his wife is seeing his best friend (Paul Rudd). She's told his daughter that he died of cancer, and doesn't want her to learn otherwise. Despite being furious with his friend, Giamatti's character approaches him for a job. Together, they drive to New York City to sell a truckload of Christmas trees. It sounds like a premise with some comic potential, but the movie goes in a different direction. It's generally described as a dark comedy, but it doesn't really fit in that category. It has a handful of jokes - some of which are hilarious - but they're few and far between. For the most part, the movie skews closer to drama. This is a Christmas movie about poverty and desperation. It's about people who want to put their lives back together, but have no real chance of succeeding. Even if the world wasn't completely apathetic to their situa

The Ref (1994)

It's strange that it took me so long to see The Ref . It's relatively well known, but somehow it always slipped below my radar. But it finally came up on my Netflix queue. The plot revolves around a thief who takes a dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve to hide out from the cops. By and large, comedies about families with issues are just about the worst genre holiday entertainment has to offer, but miraculously, The Ref is actually pretty good. While there's a long list of things this movie did wrong, the filmmakers made several extremely smart decisions that elevate this to something worth watching. First of all, they cut the slapstick down to a minimum. Second - and maybe more important - they wrote some depth into the main characters. If the husband and wife had been two-dimensional, this thing would probably have been as bad as Surviving Christmas . Well, maybe not that bad, but you get the point. Fortunately, the husband and wife were well cast (Judy D

M is for Merry Christmas (2013)

Aint it Cool posts a weekly list of short films , which is usually worth glancing through. Like the drug stores around here, they're not waiting for Halloween to wrap up before mixing in some Christmas offerings. "M is for Merry Christmas" is only about three minutes long. It stars Krampus, a Christmas demon who really needs more exposure. It's a dark, fun little piece that's definitely worth the time. Check it out: M is for Merry Christmas from Holomax on Vimeo .

Tales From the Crypt: All Through the House (1989)

This is only the second episode of Tales From the Crypt produced, and it was directed by Robert Zemeckis (keep in mind this is Zemeckis in '89, back when he making the Back to the Future movies and still awesome; not the current Zemeckis who's been producing CG abominations). I saw a handful of episodes of Tales From the Crypt back in the day, but I certainly never watched religiously. Actually, I suspect I would have watched it religiously had I been able to, but I never had HBO growing up (this also means the episodes I did get to see were tragically edited for content). Lindsay tracked this down on Youtube, and we just finished watching it. I'm really, really glad we did: it was a lot of fun. The episode starts with a woman brutally murdering her husband for the insurance money while her daughter's asleep. When she tries to dispose of the body, an ax murderer dressed as Santa Claus shows up. As you can probably tell, there's not much in the way of plot here.

Surviving Christmas (2004)

Movies like Surviving Christmas make me reflect on the nature and meaning of awfulness as a quality in and of itself. Too often we revert to an overly simplistic formula, where movies are merely judged on how "good" they are. But things like Surviving Christmas highlight the weakness of such models: they suggest that a movie can be no worse than "not good." Or, to put it another way, nothing below zero. This isn't to say Surviving Christmas is the worst thing we've ever seen or even the worst this year: it isn't, not by a long shot. There were two or three funny lines in the movie, and that's more than I can say about many comedies reviewed here. And there's nothing technically offensive about this: no gross-out humor or anything. But that's what makes this movie so interesting from an academic standpoint. I've seen Christmas movies which weren't funny at all. I've seen things that were as boring as watching paint dry. I

Eight Crazy Nights (2002)

Eight Crazy Nights performs an important service by virtue of its 12% Freshness Rating, which establishes a much needed margin of error on the Tomatometer (turns out it's 12%). Upon finishing this movie, the very idea that someone out there could conceivably have liked it is sickening. This is, without a doubt, the worst Adam Sandler movie either of us have ever seen. Think about that for a minute. The film is an utter mess. Worse still, it seems to think it's actually funny, charming, subversive, and touching, while offering absolutely nothing of value. The jokes, often punctuated by the narrator restating the obvious intent, come off as mean-spirited and pointless. The movie's premise is somewhat similar to Bad Santa's, but it misses its mark to a degree that's almost incredible to behold. Not only is it painfully clear that the producers have never made an animated film before, we found ourselves wondering if they'd ever actually seen one. The timing was

Bump in the Night: Twas the Night Before Bumpy (1995)

I can't remember ever hearing of "Bump in the Night," but Lindsay swears it was popular in its day. It was a stop motion series from the mid-90's about a monster named Bumpy and his friends. We wound up getting the hour-long Christmas special on the "Christmas Cartoon Collection" DVD Lindsay found for six bucks at Toys R Us. Calling this bizarre is an understatement: it's one of the strangest Christmas specials I've ever seen... and that's saying something. Bumpy sets out on a quest to steal Santa's sack of gifts from the North Pole. On the way he manipulates others into assisting him by promising them presents. The animation is impressive. It's warped and twisted, as is the writing. The jokes are farther apart than I'd have liked, but most are clever (some were exceptionally so). Ultimately, we're left with something mixed. It has an amazing tone thanks to a shockingly dark sense of humor, but the pace is way too slow. Th

Bad Santa (2003)

I've never seen this movie before this year, despite the parallels in tone with this blog. Going in, I was aware the movie was based on the theory that having Billy Bob Thornton drinking and swearing while wearing a Santa suit would somehow equal comedy gold. That they somehow managed to prove this theory is kind of amazing. This thing is very well made and does a good job knowing precisely how far it can go without actually crossing the wrong line. The movie wants to create the illusion it has no limits or sense of decency, but that's not the case. The lead character never really does anyone any actual harm (well, at least not where we have to see the consequences), which prevents the audience from having to confront any dark truths, save the requisite criticism of consumerism. I'm no fan of gross-out humor (in fact, it repulses me), but nothing in here bothered me. I remember seeing the trailers and thinking this would be a dark comedy, but it isn't; not really.

Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)

I enjoy all of Blackadder, but this Christmas special might just be my favorite part of the franchise. I adore it for the simple premise: it's a reverse Christmas Carol. Blackadder, if you've missed it, was comprised of four short seasons, several specials, and a movie, set through various times in British history.  (Actors often play similarly named characters in different time periods, ostensibly relations/descendants of previous characters.)  In most of the series (the first season was a bit different) the protagonist Blackadder is cunning, self-serving, and highly intelligent, and is always either trying to get ahead in society, or trying to evade responsibility and danger. At the beginning of Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Blackadder is the “kindest and loveliest  man” in London.  That doesn't exactly last. I have seen this over and over, and I still laugh out loud.  That's the mark of great comedy for me. The first half is great because it

Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever (2002)

Invader Zim is a weird show. It's one I really wanted to like, and kinda did like from time to time, but I generally don't enjoy watching it. If you missed it (it's obscure for some), it's an animated series with a twisted aesthetic, about an alien who is trying, and failing, to take over the Earth. Some episodes were disturbingly brilliant, others just disturbing. This was the last episode that aired in its original run (more episodes were finished but not aired for several years after the show was canceled) and actually given the “Two Million Years in the Future” frame scenes, it almost works as a weird ending. Zim discovers that humans await the return of “Santa” to save them, or something, and Zim decides to play upon their gullibility, disguise himself as Santa, and enslave all the humans. It comes fairly close to working. This episode is mostly worth watching for the ending, which is pretty fantastic, but getting there involves sitting through a lo

Lobo's Paramilitary Christmas (2005?)

This one isn't an official release: instead, it was put together as a fan video and released on YouTube. At thirteen minutes, it's pretty substantial, and the production values are pretty solid, all things considered. I've never read the comic this was based on, but it's a pretty safe bet they adapted it more or less faithfully. This is more or less exactly what it should be. I'm not really sure that's a good thing, though. Whether or not you should press play comes down to whether you like Lobo. Personally... I don't, at least not when he's the protagonist. As a supporting character, he can be a lot of fun, but on his own, I find the attempt to shock and repulse me kind of tedious. That said, I can understand the appeal of twisted humor. If you're a fan of the character, you'll want to check this out: it's probably the closest thing you'll get to a movie for a long, long time. If you don't know who Lobo is or what I'

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Hooray!  Now I'm in the Halloween spirit.  Uh, Christmas spirit, Christmas spirit, that's what I said, right? Seriously, the scene in which Jack discovers Christmas Town I find to be one of the most holiday-cheer inducing scenes on film.  I get a big stupid grin on my face just listening to the song. It's a modern classic.  The animation is outstanding, the writing brilliant, the music amazing, the story inspired.  I have basically no complaints. I really sympathize with Jack. He discovers this wonderful thing that makes him feel warm and happy, and he starts out by trying to share it with his friends.  Everything spirals out of control, but it starts with a both selfish and unselfish instinct: Jack wants to have Christmas for himself because it makes him feel good, and he wants to share it, so his friends can feel it too. It doesn't work out, because despite their best efforts, the residents of Halloween Town just don't understand the whole "spreadin

The Spirit of Christmas: Frosty Vs. Jesus (1992) and The Spirit of Christmas: Santa Vs. Jesus (1995)

I'm not sure whether the titles for these shorts were inspired by the 1950 Bell presentation, "The Spirit of Christmas," but given Parker and Stone's love of puppetry, I can't rule it out. If you're not familiar with these shorts, you are familiar with their legacy: cut out of construction paper, these are the first two South Park shorts. As a show, I have conflicted feelings about South Park.  On one hand, I've seen some episodes I absolutely love.  At its best, the show is clever, cunning, and subversive in a way that's both original and shocking.  The thing is, whenever I've tried getting into the series in any serious depth, I always stumble across an episode containing images or ideas I can't stomach.  The fact they manage to disturb or offend me using what amount to paper cutouts is something the show should be commended for.  Still, it limits my interest. At any rate, while I've never gotten too involved with the series, I love