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The Unofficial Scramble The Unofficial Scramble

Are we laughing at the people in 2018's Death of Stalin or with them? It feels at first like an irrelevant question; hardly anyone laughs in the movie. And when they do, it’s provoked by a commonplace sadism or arrogance. But do we see them as our fellow humans or as grotesque exaggerations? Despite the film being…

The Bandit Escapes The Bandit Escapes

A comedy and action blend works so very well in 1977's Smokey and the Bandit because of its breezy pace and natural charisma of its stars. Of the latter, Burt Reynolds, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82, is obviously the film’s chief virtue.

Hiding Brigitte Hiding Brigitte

Keeping a gangster’s beautiful daughter hidden while her father is on the lam can be trickier and involve more slapstick and songs than you might imagine. In 1956's Naughty Girl (Cette sacrée gamine) a suave nightclub singer has just such a task which makes for a delightful screwball comedy that is overshadowed…

The Guardians of the Comic Con The Guardians of the Comic Con

Oh, what happy Nazgul. How often can you say that? That photo’s from yesterday at the Weta booth at Comic Con. I was at Comic Con all day yesterday and didn’t hear the news about James Gunn getting fired by Disney until I got home. He’s been fired after a pro-Trump web site drudged up ten year old tweets in which Gunn…

Virginie, the Inquiring Voyeur Virginie, the Inquiring Voyeur

Nothing complicates a relationship quite like a murder. When Brigitte Bardot spots her husband with a gun standing over the body of a deceased Dawn Addams in 1959's Come Dance with Me (Voulez-vous danser avec moi?) she draws the natural conclusion. But she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and plays…

The Hundred Year Soldier or Tree? The Hundred Year Soldier or Tree?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Shoulder Arms, one of several films Charlie Chaplin directed and starred in in 1918. But at forty-six minutes it was by far the longest film he’d directed and remained so until 1921's The Kid. Shoulder Arms remains a brilliant film. It lacks the pathos his films became known…

When a Boy's Fancy Turns to Fighting! When a Boy's Fancy Turns to Fighting!

When a boy can’t have sex or masturbate, what else can he do but fight? 1966's Fighting Elegy (けんかえれじい) is the story of an earnest Catholic lad desperately picking fights all over town. It’s part of an effort to curb all the nervous energy that seems to build up after he vows not to pleasure himself. Set in 1935 on…

Jekyll versus Slapstick Jekyll versus Slapstick

For all the issues presented by the Jekyll and Hyde story, can we rely on Abbott and Costello for a solution? No. But 1953's Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is no waste of time though you’d be better off watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Their Jekyll and Hyde film is in many ways a less…

Comedy's Castle Comedy's Castle

Last night and to-day I enjoyed some crisp and pretty visions of the 1950s courtesy of The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel. I watched the first episode last night and the second to-day of this new series created by Amy Sherman Palladino, a really fun fantasy about a well to do housewife who becomes a stream of consciousness…

Thunder, Muscle, and Ships Thunder, Muscle, and Ships

The end of the world is a really colourful, light hearted adventure in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. Far from the layered family drama of the first film but a lot better than the weak sitcom tone of the second film, this third entry in the Thor series directed by Taika Waititi is about as far from grim as you can get for a…

Alara Kitan Sleeps Well Alara Kitan Sleeps Well

Last night’s new Orville, “Firestorm”, seemed mainly to be another set of homages to Star Trek until the end when it took things in a surprising and satisfying direction. Directed by Brannon Braga and written by Family Guy writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, the episode is an entertaining and effective contemplation of…

Cupid's Now Time Cupid's Now Time

While The Orville is generally a mixture of drama and comedy, it showed last night that in the comedy department at least it can outdo Star Trek. The occasional comedy episode of any Star Trek series is usually pretty awkward but in a homage to the “Naked Time” and “Naked Now” episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG…

Disco Inferno Disco Inferno

So I guess disco does live on in the Federation imagination—this week’s new Star Trek Discovery, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”, featured “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees in the form of a sample in a song by Funkmaster. So maybe they just don’t know it used to belong to a genre called disco? Maybe they don’t…

Holy Crusades and Edible Cacti Holy Crusades and Edible Cacti

Last night brought “Krill”, the first episode of The Orville not written by Seth MacFarlane and the first written by someone who used to write for a Star Trek series, David A. Goodman. Having worked on four episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise as well as having been a writer for Family Guy and Futurama—the famous Star…

The Good Sex Egg The Good Sex Egg

There shouldn’t be any mistaking The Orville for a parody now, though I’m sure people still will. Last night’s new episode, “About a Girl”, is the third written by Seth MacFarlane, making that three more episodes written for The Orville than MacFarlane’s written for Family Guy in the past ten years. It presents the…

The Vessel with the Layered Brew The Vessel with the Layered Brew

Your average fantasy story relies on some, at the least, improbable things being allowed to occur unimpeded, like the impetuous attractive protagonist and the virtuous attractive love interest having their relationship coincide with the precarious affairs of the state. So effective parodies often make hay by making…

The Former Worst Ghostbusters Movie The Former Worst Ghostbusters Movie

Is Ghostbusters 2 really so bad? Well, yes, it has some big, crucial flaws which a few virtues can’t make up for. But there are a few virtues. I’ve certainly seen worse. Like, the 2016 reboot, for example.

The Continuing Flight of the Orville The Continuing Flight of the Orville

Many people seem to feel that the second episode of The Orville, “Command Performance”, which aired last night, is an improvement over the first episode and in some ways I agree. It had the first moment that really made me laugh thanks to a cameo by Jeffrey Tambor and Holland Taylor as Ed’s parents. The scene takes…

That New Science Fiction Series You're
Supposed to Hate That New Science Fiction Series You're Supposed to Hate

I’ve been kind of fascinated by the extreme gulf between critical and audience reaction to The Orville, the new Sci-Fi adventure comedy that premièred on Sunday. Rotten Tomatoes currently says the show’s scored 22% positive in critical reviews but the audience score is 90%. It’s not just on Rotten Tomatoes I see this…

The Stories to Tell with Uneasy Allies The Stories to Tell with Uneasy Allies

I’m often surprised by the light-hearted attitude 1940s British comedies take towards World War II. A vivid example being 1946's I See a Dark Stranger, a comedy spy thriller about a naive Irishwoman who becomes a spy for Germany during the war. The film is a finely crafted enough comedy by Sidney Gilliat and Frank…

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