Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Sondra James

Don’t Think Twice (2016)

Don’t always try to be a comic. Not everyone likes a non-stop jokester.

The Commune has been an improv troupe for as long as the downtown New York comedy scene has been around. Some have obviously gone onto bigger, way better things, whereas there have been quite a few, that have either given up on comedy altogether, or still stayed with the comedy troupe, in hopes that, one day, they’ll soon catch that big break. Miles (Mike Birbiglia) has been with the troupe the longest, and not only wonders what he’s to do next with his career, but also what to do about his life, when it comes to starting a family and getting a stable job. Same goes for everyone else, like the spoiled Lindsay (Tami Sagher), who still gets allowance from her wealthy parents, like Allison and Bill (Kate Micucci and Chris Gethard), two comedians who have hopes and ambitions of getting their comic-book careers off the ground, and especially like Samantha and Jack (Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key), the couple of the group who, despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, have stuck together through it all. However, one of the members is now getting a shot at stardom and it puts every other member’s lives and careers into perspective.

We get it, you improv.

We get it, you improv.

Comedies about comedians are kind of hard to do. For one, you have to be funny, but at the same time, you also have to do so in a way that’s smart and relateable enough for the audience to get and understand just where it is your coming from. For writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia, it’s clear that the comedy world, can be a very sad one, where missed opportunities and chances occur on a daily basis and no matter what, it’s going to be a constant push-and-pull; some days, you’ll think that you’ve finally been noticed and all of your wildest hopes and dreams can happen, whereas other days, you’ll feel as if you screwed the pooch and lost all hope and promise for the world. At the same time, Birbiglia also knows that the comedy world, if you’re lucky enough, can be a place to meet all sorts of lovely and kind people who not only make you laugh, but also are there to give you a hug when you need it the most.

Don’t Think Twice is the kind of movie you expect to be all sorts of corny, preachy, and not all that funny; like improv itself, you can only go so far to the point where you’re hitting every obvious convention on the head. But Birbiglia, who made an impressive directorial debut in Sleepwalk With Me, seems to understand that there’s a certain level of heart to make the humor work, as well as vice versa. Sure, we can laugh at some of the things that these characters do and say, whether on the stage or not, but sometimes, what makes the humor more compelling and fun is that we know these characters, understand their personalities, and see exactly where they’re coming from.

May not sound like much, but trust me, in the comedy world, it means everything.

That’s why Birbiglia improves on his debut here, as he not only shows a skill in taking all of these different subplots and giving them their own spotlight, but also knows how to make them all somewhat important enough to where we do care about this troupe, what happens to them when one of them leaves, and just what each and everyone of them bring to the world of comedy. It would have been incredibly easy for each one of these characters to be as nauseatingly annoying as the next, but somehow, Birbiglia makes us care and most of all, laugh with them. Like with his debut, it’s clear that the story comes from a soft place in Birbiglia’s heart and he wears his heart on his sleeve, almost each and every scene he gets the chance to, whether the scenes be funny or not.

But it’s not just Birbiglia’s movie and it’s not just his performance – there’s a whole slew of others that make this movie well worth it and make us understand better why these stories matter. Because every character gets their own personality/subplot/hobby, they all come off as three-dimensional characters, even if there are a few that could have been dispensable in the long run. Sure, Micucci’s, Gethard’s, Sagher’s characters don’t really shake the movie quite as much as Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia do, but there’s time and dedication to them, that makes them more than just the side-performers who are around just because Birbiglia wanted to work with them.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn't really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Cheer up, Mike. Your life isn’t really all that sad and miserable in reality.

Then again, Key, Jacobs and Birbiglia truly are astounding in this movie and it’s hard not to think about them long after.

Birbiglia, despite giving his ensemble plenty to do, still comes off as heartfelt and humane as the pathetic Miles, who has long reached his expiration date in the comedy scene and is hanging on to it by a thread. You feel bad for him, even if, at the same time, you want him to grow up already. Then, there’s Jacobs as Samantha, who really understands how to make a sometimes unlikable character, seem sympathetic. She does some silly, downright idiotic things throughout the flick, but Jacobs makes you feel for her, more and more as the flick goes on and it’s hard not to fall in love with her, as if the world hasn’t already been doing so for the past few years or so.

But really, it’s Keegan-Michael Key who steals the movie, showing us that, yes, beyond all of the wacky impersonations, the screaming, and the joking around, he truly can act. As Jack, Key has the hardest role to pull-off, because he has to be both a nice guy, as well as a bit of a dick at the same time, and honestly, we never hate him as much as we should. During the comedy scenes, Key is on fire as always, but when it’s just him, laying his heart out, it’s surprising, because it all works so well. We like this guy and we feel for him, even when he’s thrown into a corner and has to do something that may hurt those around him. It’s a great performance that I hope to see more of from him in the future.

Hopefully, that’ll also give Birbiglia an incentive to make more movies.

Consensus: Funny, smart, and heartfelt, without ever overdoing it, Don’t Think Twice finds Mike Birbiglia expressing his love for the comedy world, while also realizing the pain and heartbreak that can come along with it.

8 / 10

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Funny friends stick together and annoy each other mercilessly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

The Cobbler (2015)

Soles and souls. Get it?

Small-time cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) lives a simple life to where he goes about everyday the same. He goes to work; fixes shoes; has coffee; talks to a neighbor of his (Steve Buscemi); and continues the same pattern, the next day and so on and so forth. It’s not great, but Max is a very relaxed dude, so he doesn’t fret about it too much. That’s why, when suddenly, he puts on his father’s old pea-coat and jumps in somebody else’s shoes and realizes that he can look, sound and be somebody that’s not him, but the shoe’s owner, then he can’t help but give this newfound trick a whirl and have some fun with it. However, what starts out as a little bit of fun to get him out of his somewhat boring, uneventful life, Max then finds himself way in over his head when he gets involved with some shady gangsters, and even shadier real estate agents who might be looking to destroy his old neighborhood. This then leads Max to spring into action and use his talents for the greater good of not just those around him, but society as a whole.

It’s understandable why a lot of people despise Adam Sandler and what he’s become. At one point, he was the brightest, best thing to hit the comedy world, but slowly but surely, he began to take on vanity projects that literally just became humorless paid-vacations for him and his buddies, that people, for some reason or another, would still throw shackles of money at, just so that they could see what variation Sandler and co. would make on the fart joke next. However, with last year’s Blended box-office receipts not being exactly what he maybe originally had hoped for, Sandler seems to be, ever so slightly, heading back to his old ways, taking up smaller-projects that not only challenge his audience to see him in a new light, but also challenge him as an actor.

You've been caught, Crawley!

You’ve been caught, Crawley!

And I, for one, am all down for this. Punch Drunk Love is not just one of the better rom-coms of the past decade or so, but also shows that Sandler isn’t just a good actor, but one that can really take over a film, while also showing us darker, more frightening sides to his persona that may have not been there before. Of course, in the years since, Sandler’s hands at drama haven’t always paid-off, but more often than not, he finds his own ways back to the genre, reminding us all that Sandler, first and foremost, is an actor. Even if Men, Women, and Children wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but you can’t discredit Sandler for that, as he was fine in it.

So, with all that being said, I think it’s obvious to know that I was definitely looking forward to the Cobbler. Not because it featured a premise that didn’t seem something out of Sandler’s wheelhouse, but because it was directed and co-written by none other than Thomas McCarthy himself; the kind of film maker that doesn’t just take a paid-gig for the hell of it. He takes time with his movies, which is why a huge part of me had high hopes for this movie and seeing where it took Adam Sandler, the actor, next.

Sadly, it all blew back in my face.

See, the Cobbler may seem like it has promise on the surface – it’s a whimsical take on the old saying that your mom, dad, grand-parent, teacher, inspirational-figure has said to you in the past, “Walk in another person’s shoes and then judge them.” Well, the premise here is that saying, but told literally. Adam Sandler gets in people’s shoes, turns into them, and goes around all of New York City causing all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes, this leads to him just walking around with a shit-eating grin on his face and dining and dashing out of fancy restaurants, but for awhile, it’s entertaining.

Then, things get real weird, real quick. There’s a possible murder that may or may not happen in the middle of this movie and as soon as it occurs, the tone totally changes from being light and lovely, to dark, disturbing, and even mean. Without saying too much, the murder that occurs is bloody and in-your-face, which then hints at there being a more dangerous story to be told underneath all of this goofiness, but soon, the movie abandons that. Instead, it keeps itself going with the humor and wacky hijinx, that have all but lost their favor; in fact, they feel like a cop-out to get past the fact that we literally just witnessed some character’s murder on the screen. Now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to laugh it off as just a simple whatever?!?

Uhm, sorry. Last time I checked, when a character suddenly gets killed in a movie, it should be treated as drama, and not just as a passing-joke amongst pals.

So, after this, the movie then decides it needs to have baddies for Max to defeat and by this point, the comedy is so far gone that it’s not at all funny, even if it tried to be. The one-joke premise of this character walking in other people’s shoes and turning into them, turns stale and gets old by about the third time he tries to steal somebody’s bundles of money. But then, the movie gets darker when we’re introduced to violent street gangs and Ellen Barkin’s character; who are both connected in a convoluted manner that I didn’t even bother to think about the second it was introduced to me. All I knew is that both sides owed each other money somehow and we’re both looking to do bad things, to seemingly innocent people.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

But, like I said before, by this time, the movie had already lost me. Which makes me wonder: Just what the hell was Thomas McCarthy doing being stuck with this junk? Better yet, why did he write this to begin with? It would make sense if he was just enlisted to be the director solely for money purposes (although I generally think this was considered “an indie”), but the fact that he actually co-wrote with this with somebody else, already shows that he had some hope in these uneven, uninteresting material to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind McCarthy’s decision to take this movie and make it his own, is totally left up in the air, but all I have to say is that I’m really looking forward to Spotlight later this year.

Which brings me to the next aspect of this movie worth discussing, and that’s Adam Sandler himself. It’d be hard to hate on Sandler here, because he’s literally doing what it seems like the director’s calling on for him to do: Act bored. That’s the way his character is written and I guess that’s exactly how Sandler plays it. Not to mention, it’s a tad hard to really judge Sandler’s performance here, considering that the majority of this movie features his character playing other character, which means that Sandler’s presence gets thrown to the sidelines in favor of some recognizable character actors.

Oh, and Method Man.

Yes, Method Man is in fact a key supporting player in the Cobbler, which actually works against and for the movie. It works for the movie because Method Man’s actually a solid actor, but least when you expect him to be here. Sure, he’s good at playing an a-hole gangster that constantly seems like he’s about to beat the crap out of someone if he doesn’t get his way, but when his character’s soul gets taken over by Max, it’s actually where most of the humor of this movie comes from. Method Man has to play a sweet, more nerdier-version of his character, which is both interesting and odd, but still worth watching because he does well with it.

Then, on the other hand, the movie doesn’t know whether they want to make this character a good guy, or a bad one. He’s a dick that beats his wife, robs people, and threatens lonely, little cobbler’s like Max, but at the same time, there’s still not enough backing-information to make it okay for us to see him get treated the way he does in the later-half of this movie. And even though there’s many more supporting players in this movie (among them are the likes of Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and even Dustin Hoffman), when Method Man ends up becoming your most memorable one, you’ve got something of a problem.

But you’ve got a bigger one when Method Man actually becomes the best part of your said movie.

Consensus: Promising in its premise, the Cobbler wants to be light, funny, and whimsical, yet, goes through so many tonal-transformations, that it makes it very hard to get involved with what happens, let alone actually laugh.

2.5 / 10 

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich prick, you.

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich mofo, you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images