Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
Sacha Baron Cohen creates characters, both highly offensive and enduring in their ignorance – Ali G, Borat and Bruno. But it’s not enough to create them; he lives in them, interacting with ordinary, unsuspecting victims. In a sense, it’s a modern day Socratic Method, making people laugh at other’s intolerance, racism, bigotry, or sometimes he just acts like a moron. But here, he moves into a real, scripted film – a modern-day “Coming to America.” Yes, he’s still promoting the movie as a Middle-Eastern dictator, but it’s only a movie and not a socio-philosophical mockumentary. Oh, there’s plenty of social relevance here. There’s plenty of mocking popular culture. And there’s a ditch full of dirty jokes and situations. This is Cohen and director Larry Charles’ third pairing. Charles also directed “Borat” and “Bruno” – but he’s a stalwart of TV comedy history. He’s been an integral part of “Fridays” in the ‘80s, “Seinfeld” and “Mad About You” in the ‘90s, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Entourage” in the ‘00s, along with his brave but fruitless efforts of trying to bring “The Tick” and “Dilbert” to TV. But Charles and Cohen have proven that anytime they get together, it’s worth a watch.
Say what you want, Greg Kinnear puts in the work. He’ll play a supporting role, he’ll do indie films or big budgets or TV. He can play a bad guy or be the All-American hero. He comes off so nice sometimes that he’s often cast as disingenuous or a Judas. But that’s OK because he’s convincing. This is an ideal role for Kinnear – an insurance salesman with his ethics on a sliding-scale. And the surrounding cast only adds more flavor and enriches the pot. Add Billy Crudup as a whack-job ex-con and Alan Arkin as a forgetful old man in need of friendship and insurance, and presto – you have a combo that manages for a really good crime film set in Wisconsin...Let’s call it Cheese Noir. It’s a small movie that earns any exposure it gets – worth a watch.
This is not so much a movie as a reference guide to other movies. The dialogue is an onslaught of snarky remarks recalling movie and pop culture from the ‘80s and the ‘90s. The script is a mishmash of “The Breakfast Club” and “Scream” and every time-travel or horror movie ever made. The whole thing moves like a subway train passing some really cool graffiti – it’s stylistic and bright but there’s no cohesion or answers about how or why any of this is happening. The lack of story arc makes more sense after learning it was directed by Joseph Kahn, the “IT” director of music videos. He also directed the tremendously terrible motorcycle movie, “Torque.” But don’t worry – this movie references the terribleness of “Torque.” It all tries to be too cool to make sense and maybe some people can treat it like a game of match the reference. If so, here is your challenge – can you make it to the grizzly bear time machine before you hit stop on the remote? If yes, it’s worth a watch. If you just read, “grizzly bear time machine” and thought, “ what the hell are they talking about?”...Then, pass.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge