Showing posts with label Joan Rivers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joan Rivers. Show all posts

Friday, December 16, 2016

"Office Christmas Party" and The Week in Reviews

It's comedy week with a touch of the holidays thrown in!

[I review the new comedy "Office Christmas Party" as well as the DVDs "Love the Coopers" and "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising."  The Book of the Week is "Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Love, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Lucino Visconti's epic "The Leopard."]

What do you do when your mean old CEO of a sister wants to shut down your branch of the company and says absolutely NO CHRISTMAS PARTY?  Why you throw a Christmas party to end all Christmas parties, right?!

Clay Vanstone (T. J. Miller) is a trust fund baby whose father, when he died, left him the Chicago branch of  his company, Zenotech, to run.  However, he must have loved Clay's sister, Carol (Jennifer Anniston) more because he made her CEO of the entire company, and she is, shall we say, not the warm and fuzzy type.  She is all about the bottom line and has no problem whatsoever shutting down branches and laying people off, even if it's her brother's branch and it's the Christmas holidays.  When she shows up, people quake in their boots.  And wouldn't you know, she shows up at Clay's branch.

Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) is a recently divorced guy and also the Chief Technical Officer for Zenotech.  He is loyal to Clay, despite the fact that Clay is a total bonehead.  But Clay is a kind of sweet bonehead who means well.  When Carol decides that not only is she going to shut down Clay's branch but she is shutting down the annual Christmas party, Josh teams up with Clay to save both. They decide that if they can land a big account from wealthy Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), all will be saved.  To do that, they decide to impress him with a big Christmas party. 

Carol is on her way to London, or so they all think, but wouldn't you know,   snow sets in and Carol's flight is canceled so she returns to the office when the party is in full swing.  She is not amused.

There is a side plot about one of the employees, Nate (Karan Soni), who is being bullied by a couple of his co-workers who not only don't believe that Nate's girlfriend is a model, they don't believe he even has a girlfriend. Of course they are right, he doesn't, but when he is forced into bringing his "girlfriend" to the Christmas party, he hires a prostitute, Savannah (Abbey Lee), to pretend to be his girlfriend, who proceeds to cause all kinds of havoc at the party. 

With the party in full swing, Clay and Josh have a misunderstanding, Clay drinks (he shouldn't) and goes off with Savannah's pimp (Jillian Bell) to party while she proceeds to try to find out where he keeps his money.  The rest of the film is a car chase to save Clay.

The plot itself has been done in various iterations many times.  People are being mistreated by the boss or some officious person, so screw it! Let's get even by having one big blow out to end all blow outs.  It's part "The Hangover" and part "Adventures in Babysitting."  However, the potential for funny in this film isn't the plot but the characters.
Here is a rundown on the characters:
  • Clay (Miller), the long-haired hippy dippy boss who is an idiot but means well
  • Josh (Bateman), the deadpan, put upon friend and co-worker who appears to be the only sane one in the company
  • Carol (Anniston), the mean sister and CEO
  • Tracey (Olivia Munn), the geeky and brilliant IT woman who has a crush on Josh
  • Mary (SNL's Kate McKinnon), the uptight HR person who is always breathing down everyone's neck about PC issues
  • Allison (SNL's Vanessa Bayer) a single mom with a crush on Fred (Randall Park), until she discovers he has a mom/baby fetish
  • Jeremy (Rob Corddry), Head of Customer Service, who hates people and complains constantly

You know that I am always on the look out for a good comedy and am usually disappointed because I just don't find very many comedies funny.  If I end a review with "I laughed," that is high praise.

Just to give you some background, my idea of funny and what makes me laugh is this:  early Woody Allen and Peter Sellers ("Sleeper" or "The Party" are some examples).  Also Christopher Guest's mockumentaries are hilarious to me ("This is Spinal Tap"), and I also loved Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor before they got all sentimental.  Anyway, those are the kinds of movies that make me laugh, and I know those are hard acts to follow. And in fact, I haven't really laughed much at the movies in the last 30 years.  Well, that is sort of an exaggeration, but not much. But hope springs eternal as they say, so I keep trying (and by the way who are "they?).

So how does this film measure up?

Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the movie is very character driven and has some funny characters, so whether or not you think it is funny depends on whether or not you think the characters are funny. For example, Jennifer Anniston is once again a "horrible boss."  Does the idea of her being a mean boss again and being able to beat men up make you laugh?  If so, you might like this.  Do you think someone accidentally inhaling a busload of cocaine and then turning from an uptight dude to a party animal funny?  Then you might like this. How about people taking pictures of their butts on the photocopy machine (do people even do that any more?). Again, if you think that's funny, then you might laugh.  I, on the other hand, do not find those things very funny.

However, I do give props to T.J. Miller as Jennifer Anniston's brother, the clueless boss.  He did make me laugh. Fans of the TV show "Silicon Valley" will recognize him. He was also very kooky in "Deadpool," where he had one of the funniest lines in the movie, which he supposedly adlibbed (when describing Wade's disfigurement he says, "You look like an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado.")  He is very hot right now.  He is so hot that he hosted the "Critics Choice Awards" this last week and was just as nutty as the characters he has played on TV and in the movies.  I am always drawn to the actors who aren't afraid to "go there," and Miller is willing to not only "go there," but go beyond there. 

I also enjoyed Jillian Bell as the female pimp who is super friendly until you cross her and Fortune Feimster as a first-time Uber driver makes an impact in a very small role.  They both made me chuckle.  Jason Bateman is the king of the put upon, sad sack guy. He pretty much plays straight man to the antics of everyone else but that in and of itself is very funny. 

But was that enough?  Not really.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked "The Hangover" or really over-the-top Christmas parties are your thing, you might like this but if you don't, don't say I didn't warn you.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Love the Coopers

What do you think might happen when four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration?  Right. 

Charlotte Cooper (Diane Keaton) wants to have the Perfect Christmas for her family just like they used to have.  However, we all know that reality can never live up to happy memories and that's what we have here. Families getting together for Christmas is fraught with drama.  But the real problem is that Charlotte and her husband, Sam (John Goodman), are going to get a divorce after 40 years - you know, it's an empty nest thing - but Charlotte wants to have one last big party before announcing the divorce to the family (sound familiar?).

Son Hank (Ed Helms) spends a lot of time looking for a job and daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde, whom I really like), is avoiding going home and while dawdling in an airport bar meets a soldier (Jake Lacy). Grandpa Bucky (Alan Arkin) is mourning the days when he was a hot commodity with the ladies and acts out a bit with Ruby, the young waitress (Amanda Seyfried) at the restaurant he frequents every day. He has a crush on her and wants to tell her, but it's also her last day on the job.  Marisa Tomei plays Charlotte's sister, Emma, who has a problem with shoplifting and Anthony Mackie is the cop who arrests her and befriends her.  Far-fetched as can be.

If all of that sounds funny or even interesting to you, you might like this, but for me...yawn.

This is the age old story of a married couple losing themselves and their relationship while raising their kids and Christmas bringing up memories, regrets, family slights and expectations, but in the end, no matter how dysfunctional we are we are still family.  Yawn.

I am an Olivia Wilde fan and she has done some great work, but here she seems to be channeling Diane Keaton's mannerisms so that we will really believe she is her daughter, and since I am not a fan of Diane Keaton's mannerisms, I didn't much care for the performance and it didn't really make sense to me.  In fact, most of the characters and situations just didn't make sense. It's a star-studded cast with little for any of them to do.

The script by Steven Rogers was probably supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy about family and Christmas, but despite a few good moments, it was disjointed and there weren't enough of the good moments to override the bad ones such as precocious kids (which I hate) and farting old people, which I also don't find funny, probably because I am one. 

Directed by Jessie Nelson, the film just didn't come together in a satisfying way.  I just didn't know what I was supposed to feel when it was over.  That the holidays are fraught with emotion?  That families are dysfunctional?  Duh. I already knew that.

With a holiday theme and disparate characters and their stories coming together, this could be compared to a low-rent Garry Marshall movie like "Mother's Day," so...

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Garry Marshall's movies like the aforementioned "Mother's Day" (or "New Year's Eve" or "Valentine's Day"), you might like this, but I don't so I didn't.  If you are dying to watch a Christmas movie, watch "It's a Wonderful Life" instead.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2015)

They're baaaack!  As Yogi Berra famously said, "It's deja vu all over again."  Mac (Josh Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), who fought off their old neighbors, a rowdy fraternity in the first film, have new neighbors.  No it's not another fraternity.  This time it's a sorority and the girls are even worse than the boys. They are so bad in fact that Mac and Kelly ask their old nemesis, Teddy (Zac Efron), to help.

I liked the first "Neighbors." But you know how I feel about sequels.

Kelly and Mac decide it's time to sell their house.  They have some buyers and the deal is just about to go through...

Meanwhile, Shelby (Chloe Grace Moritz) joins a sorority and is told that sorority girls are not allowed to party in the sorority houses, but they can go party with the boys in the frat houses.  That is not OK with Shelby so she declares war and decides to start her own sorority.  Guess what?  It's going to be in the house next to Mac and Kelly, the same house where that darned fraternity was last time!  What are the odds? 

The girls party like mad making Mac's and Kelly's lives a nightmare.  The girls harass them, throwing used tampons at their windows and exhibiting other gross behavior.  Mac and Kelly are worried that they won't be able to sell their house if the buyers find out there is a sorority next door. 

How do you hide the existence of the sorority next door and eventually get rid of them before those buyers back out?  Why you ask your arch nemesis and his friend to help.  They ask Teddy and Pete (Dave Franco, who has the same smile as his brother, James - it's something about the teeth), their enemies from the last movie, to help them bring the girls down.  Teddy is out of college now and is a model.  Not sure what Pete is doing.  I think he is gay and I don't remember that from the first one.  Anyway...

It's WAR!

The girls really can't afford that house so they decide to sell weed to finance the sorority so Mac, Kelly, Teddy and Pete decide to infiltrate a party the girls are throwing and throw a wrench in their big drug deal. 

And  that's the crux of this story. 

Directed by Nicholas Stoller, with a few new tweaks, it's basically a rehash of the first film.  Hey, the first movie was a success, why not do it again but this time with girls? 

You are probably sick by now of how much I talk about HATING SEQUELS!!  Not to mention that gross-out humor and talking about penises (that's not the word the girls use) is not my idea of funny.  This film had good box office and I give the feminist angle some props - I mean girls like to party, too, so why should the guys get all of the fun? That is a plus, but that doesn't make it a good film, though I'm not the demographic this film was aimed at either.

But ...just when I was going to give up on this mess, Zac goes up on the stage at the party shirtless and does a strip tease...nothing like a little naked Zac to add some life to a movie.  Maybe I am that demographic after all.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you want to see a rehash of the first "Neighbors" again, you might like this, though the first one stands as the best one.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

223 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Leopard (1963)

A Sicilian nobleman tries to maintain his integrity and class in the upheaval of 1860's Italy.

(I know I said this post was all about comedy and it is.  You wouldn't think an epic like this could be classified as comedy, but I think one can say that life is a comedy in many ways and this film is actually quite comical).
This is the story of Prince Fabrizio di Salina (Burt Lancaster) who by trying to avoid a confrontation with Garibaldi's army has to move his family to their retreat at Donnafugata.  But he also understands that if he wants to maintain his position in life, he needs to make some compromises, so he marries his nephew, Tancredi (Alain Delon), off to Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), the daughter of the local mayor, an alliance between "The Leopard" and "The Jackal," an alliance between the old ways and old rich and the new ways and the new rich. 

That is fine with Tancredi, who is not only suave and handsome but smart and opportunistic about what lies ahead.  It is the wedding ball that covers the entire last third of the film and which also brings the central metaphor to life - the end of an era.  When the Prince dances with Angelica at the ball, it is the  last dance of an aging man who remembers his youth and what might have been with a beautiful woman like Angelica (and she knows it too), but it's also the last dance of a particular kind of social order. 

The Prince: "We were the leopards, the lions.  Those who will take our place will be jackals, hyenas.  And all of us - leopards, lions, jackals, and sheep - we'll go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth."

This film, directed and adapted by Italian auteur director Luchina Visconti from the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa, is considered a masterpiece of filmmaking.

Why it's a Must See:  "A cult classic, [this film] is a sumptuous fresco of a world that's active at twilight...No other filmmaker handled [Burt] Lancaster the way Visconti did, making him look so aristocratic, so distinguished, but also so human.  His wonderful performance made Prince Salina one of the emblematic noble characters in movie history...The film's refined chromatic and visual style, based on Visconti's competence in the fine arts, became his signature.  One of the most expensive, sumptuous movies ever produced in Europe."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Burt Lancaster is almost unrecognizable here, so maybe it is his amazing acting, but it's difficult to judge his acting since it is obvious his Italian is being dubbed by an Italian.  But he is still affecting because acting is not all about how an actor delivers dialogue.  It's also about the face and Lancaster's face delivers.

"It was my best work," Lancaster himself told me [Roger Ebert] sadly, more than 20 years later. 'I bought 11 copies of The Leopard because I thought it was a great novel. I gave it to everyone. But when I was asked to play in it, I said, no, that part's for a real Italian. But, lo, the wheels of fortune turned. They wanted a Russian, but he was too old. They wanted Olivier, but he was too busy. When I was suggested, Visconti said, 'Oh, no! A cowboy!' But I had just finished 'Judgment at Nuremberg,' which he saw, and he needed $3 million, which 20th Century-Fox would give them if they used an American star, and so the inevitable occurred. And it turned out to be a wonderful marriage." 

Alain Delon is French so he's probably being dubbed too, though who cares?  He is SOOO handsome.  I first fell in love with him when he starred in the British film "The Yellow Rolls Royce," and he has been a swoon worthy leading man for me ever since.  His big break-out roll was "Rocco and his Brothers," which I reviewed last year as part of this "project." Swoony McSwoonerson.

Claudia Cardinale, who coincidentally was also in "Rocco and his Brothers," became an international sex symbol after she starred in "The Pink Panther" and is at the height of her beauty here. She looks like a young Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like historical epics that are beautiful to look at and with political significance that could well resonate today, you will love this film.  They don't make movies like this anymore.  But spoiler:  it's LONG.



***Book of the Week***

Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers by Leslie Bennetts (2016)

The life and career of Joan Rivers, the first biography since her untimely death.

Even though comedian Joan Rivers was 81 when she died, she not only had no intention of retiring, she didn't plan on dying anytime soon either.  She did a sold-out show the night before a botched endoscopy ended her life.  Rivers was not just a legendary comedian whose career spanned 60 years, she was a feminist pioneer in the male dominated world of stand-up comedy with her conspiratorial humor and her relatable looks.  However, she wanted to be beautiful and not being beautiful haunted her and drove her.

"If I had to choose between being funny and beautiful - beautiful." 

Hence her dedication to plastic surgery, something she made no bones about admitting and her drive to be funny.

It's all here - growing up in middle class Larchmont with a conventional Jewish mother who wanted her to give up comedy and get married to a nice Jewish boy, her big break on the Johnny Carson Show and their subsequent feud, the suicide of her husband, her estrangement from her daughter who blamed her for her father's death - all of that drove her to work, work, work - and Rivers decided that if she couldn't be loved because she was beautiful, she would be loved because she was funny. 

But Rivers was also a feminist trying to make it in the male dominated world of stand-up comedy, so she was tough and didn't care who she insulted.  Funny is funny was her motto.  Most female comedians credit Rivers with paving the way for them in a world where men didn't think women could be funny.  And we ladies know that men are wrong a LOT because women are funny!

Rosy the Reviewer engrossing biography that reveals the woman behind the jokes.

See you 


for a special

Holiday Treat!

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