Tag Archives: comedy

Review: Krisha

Director(s)Trey Edward Shults
Principal CastKrisha Fairchild as Krisha
Robyn Fairchild as Robyn
Bill Wise as Doyle
Trey Edward Shults as Trey
Release Date2015
Running Time 81 minutes

Having already seen It Comes at Night, I expected Shults’s directorial debut, Krisha, to be ambiguous and unsettling. Though the story managed to get under my skin to an even greater degree than his sophomore feature, it’s much more straight-forward and clear. This is the story of Krisha, a women who returns to the family she abandoned in an attempt to patch things up during Thanksgiving. It doesn’t follow your typical story structure. There’s not one or two dramatic encounters into levity into redemption. This story is real, painful, and manages to explore the damage troubled family members can have on the whole unit in a truly visceral way that isn’t afraid to hold anything back.

The story starts off as Krisha parks her car and attempts to locate her estranged family’s household. We’re immediately given a view into her state of mind and it sets the tone for the disorienting events to come. She talks to herself, talks to inanimate objects, get irritated at inconveniences, and demonstrates a familiar but distant intimacy with her estranged family who all greet her with varied degrees of enthusiasm. From the loving embrace of her sister Robyn to the strange aloofness one of the youngsters, Trey, the movie makes it obvious that there’s a lot of history between Krisha and her kin and that she’s been gone for a long time. You know there’s something wrong there.

I love the way the movie is cut, scored, and presented. It’s a visually unique experience that makes the “estranged family member returns story” far more interesting. Events are inter cut and presented to keep a constant sense of action and uneasiness at play. Every time you feel safer in one scenario, the tension in another inter cut scene starts to ratchet up. There are lots of tracking shots and arc shots that are used to prolong this sense of uneasiness and create disorientation. In particular, one kitchen scene involving an arc shot got me feeling panicked and frantic as it constantly accelerated in speed. The music compliments what’s happening on the screen by accentuating the progression of Krisha’s journey. Early on we’re bombarded by discordant noises that make it impossible to focus yourself. It’s almost like Krisha can’t handle the intensity of coming back to her family and we’re right there with her. Later on music plays, the lyrics serving as a poetic backdrop to Krisha’s journey and transformation up till that point. Sound always has a purpose. All together the audio-visual elements breathe new life into the genre by taking commonplace Thanksgiving activities and functions far more tense than they need to be . It’s an an assault on the senses that never gives you a moment to settle in.

What sells the movie is just how real it all feels. Every performance is on point, but Krisha absolutely steals the show. From the way she looks to the way she carries herself, you can tell that she’s gone through a lot. Her panic translates in her frantic movements and uneasy quiet. The family interactions accurately convey the damage abusive family relationships can have. Members are constantly shown apart from Krisha, having moved forward in spite of her absence. Family interactions with Krisha are varied. Some are kind and open like Robyn, while others are more suspicious like Doyle, Krisha’s brother-in-law. It all comes together to paint a picture of the places families are willing to go to help those who fall of the beaten path. Simultaneously it doesn’t try and sugarcoat the trauma that comes from the abuse at play. The nuance hit me in how familiar it reminded me of my own experiences.

I only wish the movie was a bit longer, because I was interested in some of the hinted family drama that never gets revealed. I thought fleshing out certain character relations a bit more would make later conversations more relevant, but I never felt like I had a lack of information, so this might be more of a nitpick.

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TLDRKrisha follows its titular namesake as she tries to re-integrate with her estranged family during Thanksgiving. However Shults has no intention of making this your typical rehabilitation story filled with positivity and Hallmark cliches. From the shot composition to the score, the movie injects every scene with palpable tension as we watch with baited breath, hoping Krisha can right the ship. This is a nerve-wracking and emotionally painful trip, but is definitely one worth taking.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

Director(s)Jeff Fowler
Principal CastBen Schwartz as Sonic
Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik
James Marsden as Tom
Release Date2020
Running Time 99 minutes

Ever since elementary school, I’ve been grinding out Sonic games from Sonic Adventure to Sonic Mania. I can still remember waking up early every Saturday morning to catch Sonic X on 4Kids. Hell, I even read the Archie comic series whenever I could find an issue around. I think you get the point. The fast blue blur has one of my favorite fictional characters, so you can imagine my reaction when the initial trailers for this movie dropped. I know the games haven’t been amazing as of late, but the titular character’s render felt like a final nail in the coffin. That’s why I was elated when Fowler tweeted that Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) was getting a makeover to keep the fan favorite character more in line with expectations . When I saw the redesign, I immediately got excited for the movie again, and I’m happy to say if you’re a Sonic fan or looking for a cute family movie, this movie should satisfy you.

The movie follows Sonic, an anthropomorphic hedgehog with the ability to run at supersonic speeds, who finds himself transported to the planet Earth after violent forces threaten him on his home planet. He comes over at a young age and has to grow up lonely, without guidance, but eager to have fun. The movie wastes no time with boring dialogue or senseless exposition. It’s a straight dive to action. Soon after this initial set-up, Sonic finds himself in trouble and has to partner up with local police officer, Tom, as they try to escape the government and Dr.Robotnik.

This movie does that Deadpool-style (and more recently Harley Quinn) breaking the fourth wall narration, with Sonic recounting his experiences or talking about what’s going on, but I don’t think it comes off as gimmicky in this movie. He’s a kid forced to talk to himself to stifle off the alienation he feels, so talking out loud makes sense as a coping mechanism. It helps that Ben Schwartz nails the quirky, adventurous, comical traits that Sonic is known for, so listening to him talk is always fun. His interactions with Tom are a lot of fun, even if they feel a bit too cookie cutter. The dialogue between the two is what you’d expect from a cute team-up adventure movie, but is competently acted by all sides so you can let yourself just enjoy the spectacle unfold.

Sonic’s antagonistic counterpart, Dr.Robotnik, is brought to life by Jim Carrey, who brings his crazy patented action energy and makes the crazy scientist even more over-the-top. I was shocked at how much I liked the Doctor, because the trailers made him seem like a joke, and while he is to an extent, there’s a whole lot of dangerous scientist underneath. Robotnik’s comical but deadly, and outside of a few small moments, totally feels like a man who could destroy the world in pursuit of his twisted scientific desires.

Though the movie doesn’t do anything to blow your mind, you can tell there was a lot of love that went into the project. Action scenes feature a litany of small callback moments to the games (spin dashes and homing attacks anyone?) – fans will be happy and newcomers won’t be distracted by their inclusion. They’re integrated so as to feel natural and not as a “Hey do you see this reference – we are very clever with putting this here,” that’s so commonplace in adaptations/sequels/reboots. It’s clear to watch action progress, so if you’re someone that hates visual clutter or messy CGI explosion scenes, don’t worry about this one. For the most part, the movie runs a tight ship in making sure you know what’s going on. Furthermore, the theme of not running away from your problems feels even more poignant in a movie about a hedgehog who runs super fast, and I think Sonic’s subsequent journey into discovering himself is done well.

My only big issue with the movie is that ending came off a bit too comical and wish that it was treated with more purpose/seriousness. In an otherwise solid movie, it feels sloppy. That being said, I did think the overall sentiment of the ending was sweet, so I can’t fault the movie for wanting to please the families that would inevitably come to see it as opposed to doing something more grounded.

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TLDRSonic the Hedgehog should satisfy any fan of the massive video game franchise or anyone looking for a fun family movie. The story doesn’t break the mold or push any boundaries, but is competent and does what it needs to do. The movie has a very similar feeling to Detective Pikachu. It’s cute, has fun callbacks to the series, is easy to digest by any audience, and you can definitely tell a lot of care and effort went into portraying the subject matter.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


Review: The Love Witch

Director(s)Anna Biller
Principal CastSamantha Robinson as Elaine Parks
Laura Waddell as Trish
Jared Sanford as Gahan
Gian Keys as Griff
Release Date 2016
Running Time120 minutes

In honor of Valentine’s day, I present my review of The Love Witch, a nuanced feminist story about love, gender, agency, desire, and their infinite intersections. The movie follows Elaine, a witch who moves to California in the hopes of finding someone to love. Once there, she uses magic and rituals to aid in her goal, but is met with comedic and tragic consequences.

I’m someone who loves feminism in media (when it’s done well) and Biller’s story masterfully navigates themes within the larger genre. At first it can feel like there are too many heavy-handed comments and not-so-subtle hints about what characters are thinking. However, by the end of the movie it’s obvious that a lot of what was said was done in an effort to control narrative sources of ambiguity and make discussion more interesting/accessible. If more people are on the same page about initial events and character motivations, then the subsequent discussion can go more in depth on the what actually matters- the themes.

The Love Witch analyzes the way desire and love are positioned by society and in relation to sex/gender. Elaine accepts her position as eye-candy and utilizes the adoration and affection she receives to try and find love, a reciprocal exchange in her mind. She gives men exactly what they think they want, in the hopes that it’ll get them to be what she needs them to, but is always met with some kind of issue. The men get too emotional and she can’t relate, or they’re touchy and she’s uncomfortable. Watching her navigate the matrix of power relations is interesting because of how she is forced to don her sexuality and make use of it simultaneously. She is shamed and praised and the movie presents her choice as a path, not the only option. The way she approaches love is juxtaposed with other views, culminating in a discussion that will leave you thinking about what love really is.

The movie never feels preachy because it excels in developing situations in multifaceted ways. There are women and men who do “good” and “bad” things. It’s all couched in your perspective of what proper behavior looks like. Thankfully, the movie does a good job in making you question those interpretations, and going through that journey ends up revealing a lot about your own biases. The real horror is discovering these aspects of ourselves/society and thinking about how deep they run in constructing the bounds of what is and isn’t permissible behavior.

I love how the movie integrates witches into the world, in an unique and wholly original package. Witchcraft exists as a kind of protected religion in this world. Witches go about everyday life wearing their witch garb, selling and buying witchcraft related products at stores, holding/attending witchcraft lessons/rituals, etc. It’s a realistic take that gives the movie its own personality while keeping the more supernatural elements grounded. The story’s take on magic,love magic in particular, allows for imaginative and hypnotic horror sequences and also serves to expand the layers of the themes. Costume and set design is pristine and ties everything together, radiating color and personality. Elaine’s house for example, is filled with beautiful art work and colors that leap out at you so there’s always something to look at when she’s working in there. This can be said for all the different environments the movie navigates, each bursting with personality and a bright eye-catching color palette. I found myself drawn into each scene, completely immersed by the beauty of what I was seeing.

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TLDRThe Love Witch is a deep dive into the way we approach love and the methods by which society and gender determine the same. Despite feeling a bit heavy-handed with its dialogue, the movie isn’t preachy and manages to be visually stunning and thematically poignant. The story of a love-struck witch, desperate for a Prince Charming, willing to make use of her sexuality and prowess with spells to charm men is funny, visually intoxicating, scary, and innovative in how it flips the traditional final girl horror cliche. Highly recommend to fans of feminist media or anyone who wants a horror movie about love.
Grade A+

Review: Stree

Director(s)Amar Kaushik
Principal CastShraddha Kapoor as the mysterious woman
Rajkummar Rao as Vicky
Aparshakti Kurana as Bittu
Abishek Banerjee as Jaana
Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra
Release Date 2018
Running Time128 minutes

This highly slept on horror comedy follows Vicky, a tailor with genius abilities who becomes smitten with an unknown woman who shows up during his town’s esoteric festival/ritual meant to ward off a man-snatching spirit aptly named Stree (which means woman in Hindi). As the supernatural situation gets more tense, suspicions run high, as everyone is desperate to find a way to stop the abductions. The movie expertly plays with audience expectations, subverting them in ways that are clever and well laid out by a directorial bread crumb trail. Watching the mystery unfold is a treat and the movie will keep you on edge up till the very end.

If you’re familiar with Indian politics,the country’s social setting, or grew up with family/close friends that filled your heads with stories about those things, the movie will stand out even more in how well it effectively utilizes both horror and comedy to critique gender roles, religious manipulation, and the discrepancy between the customs of different generations. By leading into these serious discussions with a comedic touch, the horrifying “lessons” ,so to say, both highlight the repercussions of actions that aren’t taken seriously today, while never coming off as too preachy. From urinating on the wall, to prostitution, to sex talks, the movie knows how to approach the broad variety of topics it wants to talk about with great care. Tonal balance is definitely here and the movie never loses focus on what it’s trying to do.

There’s more than one moment that reminded me of interactions I had in my youth, and I laughed at how genuine and real the dialogue sounded. This is obviously helped by the great performances from the leading cast members. Rao absolutely nails it as Vicky, a dopey, awkward, romantic with aspirations of moving out and ahead in life. He’s comical enough to laugh at, but not so comical to render the issues he goes through less serious. Kapoor captures the ambivalence of the mysterious woman to a T and constantly kept me guessing as to what really drove her. Every side character is interesting from Vicky’s father to the town’s resident bookkeeper. Even if you can’t keep track of all the names, they’re all written with a real humaneness so you care about them. I can still tell you exactly what each character was about, so that’s a credit to how fleshed out everyone comes off.

If you’re someone who likes Bollywood, you’ll be glad to know this movie manages to incorporate the flair and passion you normally get in an mainstream Indian movie, but ties it down into a wholly unique plot that demonstrates serious writing ingenuity. There’s even an item song that’s incorporated both as an injection of a fun vibrant energy and as a way to highlight the themes at play. Offering a unique story is hard enough but managing to do that while playing to convention is something else. Sound design is excellent and the music can be scary and exciting at the same time. By playing up the normal romcom ideas we expect to see and adding a supernatural twist to the background those affairs take place in, the movie manages to keep the audience constantly guessing what’s going to happen. There’s more than one moment that had me nervously laughing, both because of the comedic tension of the situation at play and the fear that something horrendous would happen.

Despite my glowing praise, there are some plot elements that stand out as being less developed than others. It makes sense given the breadth of what the movie is trying to do, but those little moments feel like they could’ve really cemented some of the themes. Thankfully, a sequel is due to come out , so I’m excited to see how this creative team will answer or develop these threads.

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TLDRStree is a one of a kind horror comedy that mixes traditional Bollywood elements with a one of a kind ghost story. If you’re familiar with India’s culture/social history, the movie really shines as a critique of some of the country’s most pressing issues. With the sequel coming out soon, there’s no better than than now to watch this masterpiece.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Director(s)Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Principal CastTaika Waititi as Viago
Jemaine Clement as Vladislav
Jonathan Brugh as Deacon
Ben Fransham as Petyr
Release Date2014
Running Time 85 minutes

This mockumentary about vampires is less a horror movie and more a comedy making it the perfect kind of flick to show to friends who despise anything that’s too scary, while keeping with a horror aesthetic. The “documentary” follows a group of four vampires -Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr – as they go through their day to day activities as creatures of the night who have adapted to modern human society.

Each member of the vampire flat is distinctive and funny in their own way. I love how much I can remember about each of their personalities, which is just an indication of how well they’re written out. Viago is responsible, romantic, and the opposite of assertive. His calm personality completely goes against the idea of what we think a vampire is which makes watching him deal with bloodthirsty matters all the funnier. Petyr is a Nosferatu like vampire who’s completely traditional but hangs out with the “youngsters” as an older respected member. Watching his modern interactions with them is cute and endearing. Deacon is rebellious and feels exactly like a teenager who’s spent a bit too much time watching prank videos on YouTube. Watching his take on human pranks with vampire twists keeps the gags fresh and unique. Finally, Vladislav (my favorite) is like a Bram Stoker kind of Dracula, but with a lot of humorous gimmicks that keep him feeling like a dark absurdity as opposed to something scary. As you would imagine, their personalities lend to a plethora of interesting conversations and watching them convene about affairs and deal with each other is simultaneously reminiscent of the way we talk to our own friends but absurd with how far the vampires take certain things.

Waititi and Clement really have a knack on pop culture understandings of vampires and take great liberty in accentuating those perceptions to make truly memorable comedic moments. Werewolves and other creatures of the night show up throughout the movie and are made to play their own respective comedic beats. The interactions between all of them feels like a love letter to creature features all around. I love how seamless the creature world has been integrated into the human world. For example, vampires have to follow rules about being invited in, so they have certain vampire run locations where a bouncer will greet them in , fulfilling the rule. Moments like these give the movie a genuine novelty. Every interaction between a monster and a human is bound to tickle someone’s funny bone and there’s more than one moment that had me laughing to tears.

At the heart of the movie is a story about judging people , in this case creatures, unfairly. Often times we approach situations with a certain prejudice which colors our interpretation of why they’ve done certain actions or who they “really” are. We can’t begin to understand one another unless we actively reach across the aisle and try and see eye to eye. The movie explores this idea multiple times, never coming as preachy or corny. It’s just an authentic feel good time about trying to see the best in each other.

I only have one big issue with the movie. To some of ya’ll it might come off as a bit nit-picky, but for me it made the grounded realistic feeling of the movie a lot harder to get into. The movie goes along with the idea that vampires can’t be captured in mirrors because they don’t have reflections. There’s even a gag about it confirming that its “cannon”. However, if that’s the case then the documentary crew wouldn’t be able to record the group at all. Given how clever the movie was about everything else, I thought they’d either make a joke about how the mirror thing was an absurd human myth or come up with some roundabout way of circumventing it (ex: mirrors traditionally used silver which was bad for the vampires as evidence by the movie, so the cameras don’t use silver mirrors…etc ). I can forgive it because it’s the only big issue with the documentary style, which otherwise looks spot-on and like a convincing documentation of supernatural phenomena as if it was occurring in real life, but it stands out given how immaculate every other aspect of the movie feels.

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TLDRWhat We Do in the Shadows is a humorous interpretation to the monsters that lurk in our nightmares. The way it humanizes vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night while retaining the characteristics that make them memorable to us is genuinely impressive. The characters are engaging and the humor really hits, so feel free to show this movie at events. It’s a real crowd pleaser.
Grade A

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Director(s)Eli Craig
Principal CastAlan Tudyk as Tucker
Tyler Labine as Dale
Katrina Bowden as Allison
Jesse Moss as Chad
Release Date2010
Running Time 89 minutes

You wouldn’t expect it from the title, but Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a heartwarming, hilarious, bloody good time of a movie. It follows a group of college aged kids who go to a forest to camp out. They run into a pair of hillbillies, Tucker and Dale, who they immediately typecast as murderous degenerates. As the misunderstanding between the two groups rises, blood starts flowing, and utter chaos ensues.

The story is crisp and to the point. No joke ever feels like it overstays its welcome and the creativity in execution and sense of comedic timing is immaculate. There are dark comedic moments that’ll have you laughing and looking away from the screen, but there are also genuinely funny moments that you’d see in a more lighthearted comedy. Somehow, the movie manages to combine both of them seamlessly leading to a unique comedic feel. The movie is narratively sound as well. The ending has a lot of interesting twists that are both hilarious but give the movie more of a thematic bite. It’s immensely satisfying to watch everything play out. The movie knows exactly what it wants to be and how to get there.

Despite all the absurdity on the screen, the movie boils down a story about misunderstanding and projection. The way that it explores that via the characters and their actions and subsequent revelations is a constant reminder to not fall prey to faulty first impressions. This including perceptions of oneself. Often times, the person who stops us from achieving our potential , is our insecurities. The movie is just as much about the way we count ourselves out, as it is about how we turn others into caricatures based on certain attributes. It might not be the most nuanced message, but it’s conveyed with such a deft hand that you can’t help but appreciate it. Plus, it’s not like the message is bad or anything. The world could do with people judging others less.

None of this is to say the movie is perfect. Despite doing a great job with its leads and the leader of the college kid, Chad, the rest of the characters fall to the wayside. They exist for the sake of the plot and feel like joke extensions. The setup for some of the kills also pushes the limits of believable. Yes, it’s a comedy movie and is supposed to be over the top, but there’s a threshold to how dumb a character can be.

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TLDRTucker & Dale vs. Evil is comedy about the pitfalls of misunderstanding and making improper assumptions. The movie is hilarious and proceeds at a brisk pace with twists and turns that should keep you entertained from start to finish. Some of the characters and their decisions feel a bit over the top, but you’ll hardly notice it as you’re laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Grade A

Review: Get Out

Director(s)Jordan Peele
Principal CastDaniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage
Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams
Release Date2017
Running Time 104 minutes

I’ll admit , as someone who actually went and bought Key and Peele Seasons 1-3 on Blu-Ray, I was more than a bit excited when I realized part of the duo that made “Substitute Teacher” was making a horror movie. I even kept myself away from trailers because I wanted to make sure I came into the movie fresh. When the credits started rolling, I was left floored. I couldn’t believe a movie could be this smart but digestible at the same time. Social commentary mixed real with horror is already not prevalent, but to take on neo-liberal racism? That’s wild. I have no doubt that in the next 15-20 years, horror fans will look back on this movie fondly as an all time great. It’s bold, innovative, and works on almost every level.

The plot focus on Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he travels with his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) to her parents house in an attempt to get to know them. Everything starts off innocuous at first but it’s not long before things start feeling off. I didn’t know what the plot was going into my first watch and only really caught on when things started becoming more direct in the third act. However, on recent re-watches it’s almost obvious what the movie is about. There are hints littered in the dialogue, scenery, and visual cues abound. It makes you appreciate just how much attention when into crafting this story, and it all pays off.

The movie is shot and scored with a finesse I’m not used to seeing. The score in particular has a distinctive feeling to it. Peele’s extra effort in incorporating black voices into the music makes the themes of the movie that much stronger. Music that’s functional, thematic, and great to listen to doesn’t happen a lot. Usually it only serves one or two of the above so getting a score that does all three is something else. The fact that Childish Gambino’s Redbone plays at the beginning of the movie is genius. It sets the tone with the way it sounds and does the same thematically with the lyrics that play.

All the performances are stellar. The romance between Rose and Chris is done well and it makes their subsequent actions make a lot of sense. I can’t say more without spoiling anything, but a lot of the actors/actresses are required to emote varied and widely distinct emotional states. Once everything starts making more sense, you begin to appreciate the performances and character actions take on a new sense of meaning. It’s amazing just how much there is to unpack. However, I can’t help but mention just how great Howery’s performance is. He had me laughing myself to tears with his delivery and cadence and absolutely gave the movie some real levity in spite of the bleak subject matter.

Finally, what makes this movie a classic is just how nuanced its take on racism is. It recognizes that anti-black discrimination is not just present in outright demonstrations of hate but also in neo-liberal forms of fetishization. It’s not white people bad (there’s an Asian man in a scene for this very reason), as some reviews might lead you to think. There’s a lot to unpack here, but one thing’s clear. Racism is more than meets the eye and it’s folly to think it’s been resolved or has easily discernible limits.

My only issue with the movie is the presence of two random jump scares that are low hanging fruit. That’s it.

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TLDRGet Out is a masterpiece in storytelling. A fresh social commentary – the story is believable and shocking. The careful attention to detail makes multiple re-watches fun and entertaining. With an impeccable score and amazing performance, this movie is one of the best to grace the screens in the past decade.
Grade A+