Film Brief: Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris: a bit as if Wes Anderson made a Charlie Chaplin movie.  Delightful, charming, and fun, but never enough to thoroughly sink your teeth into.  Of note: the French title is Paris pieds nus, which translates most directly as “Paris, feet naked,” or “Barefoot in Paris”.  I think a more appropriate title than the one the marketers ended up pandering with.  7/10

Film Brief: The Little Hours

The Little Hours is an odd little film, a period piece featuring contemporary foul language.  Mick LaSalle, SF Gate:

Though very funny, “The Little Hours” remains low-key and subtle in its effects. There’s no winking or nudging, no straining for laughs.

He thought it more funny than I, but there were a number of good laughs, and I liked the tone.  Tone is important.  Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

The Little Hours coasts along breezily on the oddball rhythms of its actors. The cast also includes John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon, who cap the whole crazy enterprise in a surprisingly tender coda. It doesn’t hurt that Baena and cinematographer Quyen Tran shot the picture in sun-washed Tuscany. Looking for a break from the Black Death, or even just the summer heat? The Little Hours is just the thing.

7/10

VOD Log: We’re the Millers

The terrific TBS promo for We’re the Millers had a lot to do with my desire to see the film.  This promo does not exist anywhere on the internet, that I can find, other than the fragment pasted below — and that’s a shame.  TBS should be proud of its promos.  I do have a small problem with it — there is no girl playing a saxophone on the beach in the movie.  There’s not even a beach.  The musical backdrop, indeed, has no relation to the film at all — which technically amounts to perjury.  However, I certainly can’t ding a movie based on a television network’s independent ad campaign for it.

We’re the Millers falls in the sub-50% zone on Rotten Tomatoes.  One critic wrote that “The filmmakers lack the courage of their convictions.”  Maybe so — but I know that going in.  Put another way, I judge a movie on what it is, not on what it isn’t.  I’m not expecting high art or tense edginess.  I’m expecting Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in a fairly mindless comedy.

And it works on that level.  There’s something likable about these characters, and this story — raunchy and banal as it often is.  It comes nowhere close to comparable films Vacation or Due Date, but for what it is, it succeeds — barely.  6/10

Availability: iTunes

Film Brief: 20th Century Women

There’s a form of contrivance in film which may be termed amalgamation.  The idea that a perfectly good movie can be made by an assembly process, putting a bunch of different elements together in a box.  It’s not a good thing.  Much better is to let your film develop organically.

Nonetheless, I liked the performances and bit of fun in 20th Century Women, so a marginal thumbs-up; 6/10, and one step behind The Accountant on the 2016 List.

Comparison Notes (recommended): The Diary of a Teenage Girl

 

Sitcoms of the Here and Now!

I don’t post much on television shows, and even less on comedies, but I wanted to bring attention to a couple sitcoms.  I usually give new sitcoms a couple minutes of a chance — that’s all I need to decide if they’re for me, and almost always they’re not.  So I was surprised to find myself thoroughly in love with The Mick, a new Fox series airing regularly on Tuesday nights, and irregularly whenever Fox feels like it.  It stars Kaitlin Olson from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, another sitcom that didn’t gel for me.  But I like the dynamic and out-there comic sensibility of The Mick.  Olson plays Mickey, a rough-and-ready aunt to three spoiled and disrespectful rich kids.

Comedy, as I’ve noted before, is tough.  It’s also subjective, I guess.  So check it out for yourself; I recommend starting with the first episode, but it’s not critical.  You may be able to watch it free on-demand via your cable/satellite service; it’s also available on the Fox Now app, though you can’t fast-forward through the commercials.

With a show like this, who knows how long it will last… or how long it will remain funny.

From The Mick, Ep. 1

The Mick, Ep. 1

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Also from Fox, Baskets season 2 began last Thursday 1/19 on FX.

Ever since I saw Due Date (no, not The Hangover), which as a side note was the first movie I saw in San Luis Obispo, I’ve been a fan of Zach Galifianakis.  If for some reason you’re not aware of his brand of humor, watch a few of his “Between Two Ferns” segments on YouTube.

Baskets started off awkwardly, both in the comedic, intentional sense best exemplified by The Office, but also in the clumsy, this-is-not-funny way.  My initial reaction was nearly to discontinue viewing — as you can gather, I have a short fuse when it comes to sitcoms, even those starring Zach Galifianakis.  But the show was nonetheless intriguing, if not hilarious.  It grew on me, and then made a swing upward with Ep. 4, “Easter in Bakersfield,” and then Ep. 5, “Uncle Dad” pushed me into dedicated fan territory.

True the comedy is stilted, but that’s the point.  It’s a balance of humor and the melancholy, and can be quite touching at times — as evidenced so well in the first episode of Season 2.

Besides streaming options, FX airs last week’s episode of its shows, Baskets included, on the night of the new episode — so DVR both on Thursday if you missed the first one.

VOD Log: Office Space

After seeing snippets here and there many times, and hearing about it in conversation on a number of occasions, I finally watched in its entirety Office Space.  Certainly it’s an iconic film, even borderline essential —  but that doesn’t mean it’s great.  The production values leave something to be desired, and purely as comedy it does not measure up to the best Apatow productions.  Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune characterized it as: “Drably shot, unimaginatively written and shallowly acted.”

Still, I recommend Office Space for its classic if rough-hewn content.  Despite its flaws, it musters up a few good laughs, and it’ll keep you in the know next time it comes up at the water cooler.  6/10

Availability: iTunes.  Comparison Notes: Any episode of The Office featuring Steve Carell (don’t bother with post-Steve Carell episodes) is ten times funnier than Office Space.  And, for a much better Mike Judge production, you may visit my post on Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.