Tag Archives: comedy

Guys and Balls (2004)

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Guys and Balls might not win any awards for groundbreaking comedy, but the affable attitude and feel good atmosphere makes it one of the better exports of late. Maximilian Bruckner is Ecki, an awesome soccer player in a small German town hiding the deep dark secret that he’s gay. After he is accidentally outed in front of the whole town, and kicked off the squad by his angry arch nemesis and fellow teammate Udo (Carlo Ljubek), Ecki calls his ex-team to a game of homos against heteros. He’s got four weeks to pull together a motley group of misfits and turn them into a team to be reckoned with. One guess as to who wins, but that’s beside the point, because along the way, Ecki and his teammates learn a little about being a band of brothers and, for some, becoming comfortable and proud of who they are.

A simplistic story that relies more on entertainment than teaching any profound lessons, Guys and Balls never comes close to the camp of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but instead it falls somewhere between that and the other feel good soccer flick Bend it Like Beckham.

here! Films seem to have found a nitch for themselves with otherwise formulaic storytelling broadened by a gay slant. It sure worked for HellBent, the fantastic homage to slasher flicks, only in drag, and it’s well suited here too. Guys and Balls feels familiar but never fails to please with its engaging story and fine acting, especially from Christian Berkel as Rudolf, the previously-married-leather-fetishist who just wants his son to know who he is. It’s a touching moment when he first meets up with Jan (Marcel Nievelstein) after a few years of separation. Guys and Balls is full of these quiet moments, giving it an extra oomph that pushes it ahead of the current assembly line of gay themed films.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, Jeffrey Boam
Cast: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann

There are a lot of people who love the 80s. Some of us actually grew up in the era of pastel blazers and sockless shoes, while others are fascinated with the upbeat music and glossy film and television. Then there are those who think it’s only kitsch and therefore really “cool” and “ironic” to be into something they consider silly and throwaway. I can’t stand those people. And you know who you are. You are the ones who think people dressed really poorly back then, but you wear skinny jeans tucked into ankle boots (and you’re a dude!). You are the ones who text during films at revival houses and laugh at stuff that isn’t even funny just in case you might have missed the joke (god forbid). I think a lot of those people watch The Lost Boys and laugh to themselves about how trite the horror/comedy is while never appreciating why it is in fact a great film.

Confession: I saw The Lost Boys eight times in the theater all the way back in 1987. I went every week and spent the hard earned $3.35 an hour I made at my gross fast food gig on vampire splendor. Back then I thought The Lost Boys was more of a horror film for girls because of the four gorgeous vampires and the equally hot vampire-in-training, but I guess I wasn’t accounting for the comic book geeks known as the Frog Brothers, who were the envy of every nerd. When I watched the movie recently, for the first time in many years (at the AFI in Silver Spring, no less), I realized it’s a flick for everyone. From hot dudes to decent splatter to silly hijinks, it’s a work of pure fantasy, all the way down to presenting 1987 as a place of post-hippie glitter and stonewashed glamor.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are quite familiar with the story. Jason Patric is Michael, the uber-stud who finds he’s being converted into a “Lost Boy” by super hottie Kiefer Sutherland, who plays David. Michael’s little brother Sam (Corey Haim) enlists the help of the Frog Brothers, Edgar and Allan (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander who is quite a cutie pie in his own right) to help get Michael back to the normal, annoying sibling he was. And of course there’s Starr (Jamie Gertz, who kind of rocked the late 80s), the beautiful half-vampire Michael wants to help but who could be his undoing.

As I previously mentioned, when The Lost Boys was originally released in 1987, it felt like it was more horror than comedy. I mean, I adored the Frog Brothers and everything, but it was Sutherland’s super serious David that I was drawn to. What can I say, I was a serious kid… Back then, at the tender age of 16, The Lost Boys had everything I desired – squirting blood, gorgeous guys and a rawkin’ soundtrack. But as the years passed, I have come to find it less scary and more of a fun comedy. There are guffaws galore here, mostly due to Sam and his vampire killing cohorts, the Frog Bros. And believe it or not, the humor still works. Now that I’m pushing 40 I can also see all the teen angst I was relating to. It’s so obvious what these kind of vampire movies are symbolic of, and it’s why people connect to them and to movies like The Craft (another favorite of mine). It’s all about the process of changing (and changing immensely) while finding your niche in this world. Michael is obviously easy prey because he’s the new kid on the block (Ah, The New Kids on the Block…) and he longs for acceptance. The Lost Boys are definitely the coolest studs in Santa Carla (and they’ve got the hottest girl in their gang), so it’s easy to see why Michael is drawn to them. His mother (Dianne Wiest) thinks it’s all about girls, and although that’s partly true, it’s evident she doesn’t get why he’s becoming different. Take out the vampire element and you have any teenager in any high school. How often do we not confide in our parents because we fear they can’t relate to us? A lot. And you can boil down almost any monster movie featuring a teen in the state of metamorphosis to this very element. That’s why I think they’re timeless.

And let’s face it, The Lost Boys is just good. Considering I’ve never been a huge fan of Joel Schumacher, I think he made the perfect 80s horror film. It’s sorta superficial, but it’s also got just enough substance to make it a classic in the genre. The art direction alone is amazing. Santa Carla, the abandoned hotel the vamps live in and Grandpa’s house are to die for! There’s so much to look at and soak up, the locations are almost a film in itself. However, I still wonder what exactly was up with that sexy Rob Lowe poster in Sam’s bedroom… There’s also some nice atmosphere and the creepy scenes may feel a little dated, but are genuinely eerie, and have remained that way. Some of the dialog is priceless. The famous “Death by stereo” line elicited applause from the pleased audience at the AFI screening.

However, for those of us who saw The Lost Boys when it first hit theaters, the movie leaves a bittersweet feeling. For me, it warmly recalls a time when I would watch a movie and thought it was representative of the world. No, I didn’t think there were sexy vampires running around, but I did think there was a Santa Carla, a place teeming with super cool punk rock kids who rode roller coasters all day. Sure, they exist, but in those numbers? Nah, and they’re never that clean anyway. Also, this is the year we lost Corey Haim and seeing him here at the prime of his acting career tugs at the heart strings. While most of the actors did well for themselves – Sutherland became Jack Bauer, Patric carved out a niche as the serious arty guy, Alex Winter went on to become a good director and Billy Wirth got even hotter –  Haim fell by the wayside. Unlike Corey Feldman, he was unable to pick himself up and he truly became a lost boy. One thing the lame hipsters will never understand is that those of us who grew up in the 80s aren’t that old (yet) and we’ve already lost Haim and River Phoenix, not to mention John Hughes, Michael Jackson and even Andrew Koenig. While these “kitsch-lovers” sit back and laugh at what I consider the greatest decade to grow up in (of course, I’m biased), they’ll never fully understand what it was that was, like, so totally awesome, and that’s what is so sad. For those lame-oids, the joke is on them.

This review originally appeared on Pretty Scary.

Prison-a-Go-Go (2003)

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Can any movie sporting sexed-up nymphets, ninjas, mad-scientists and a countdown clock to the shower scenes be anything but fabulous? You’re right again, Prison a Go Go is slapstick spoof of several genres and by and large, it works. And it works well.

Sweet but not too smart Janie vows to find her sister, who’s being turned into a porcupine in a Philippine prison (yeah, you heard me right… a porcupine!). So Janie decides to kill a homeless guy and next thing you know she’s America’s next T&A export to this dung heap of a pokey. Once inside, she meets Jackpot, a horny Rhonda Shear who basically rapes the entire male prison guard staff, and the warden, Wilbur Thorn, a recent college grad who sips coffee and thinks his office is pretty cool. As Janie searches out her sister/porcupine, she encounters chicks with a Freon addiction, ninjas and just a few zombies to keep her on her toes. Oh yeah, and she showers A LOT.

Prison-a-Go-Go is a riotous comedy that gets it right more times than it misses.  Made by Barak Epstein with heart and an obvious love of the genre as well as silly slapstick, I was impressed by how fun this movie was. And that’s the key word here… fun. Barak and his cast of players, especially the co-writer and star, Mike Wiebe, a man who shows an amazingly natural knack for comedy, are up to the challenge of playing it straight while surrounded by hysterical chaos. Ms. Shear is also hilarious and still looks amazing. It looks like they could only get Mary Waranov for one or two days but she delivers her lines with the same sinister zeal that made her an icon after Rock and Roll High School.

If you like your Women in Prison movies mixed with a bit of Airplane, then you’ve just got to see Prison-a-Go-Go.  And if you’re not, then I feel kind of sorry for you.

She’s The Man (2006)

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She’s the Man showcases a silly but intriguing premise that needs to rely heavily on the strength of the actors to displace some of the disbelief of Amanda Bynes clumsily going incognito in the newest Teen-Movie-Does-Shakespeare.

Bynes plays Viola, a soccer-loving teenager whose team is disbanded due to lack of numbers.  Viola thinks it only natural to join the male soccer team but after her boyfriend (soon to be ex) pulls out some ham-fisted chauvinism, and after her twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk) asks her to cover for him at the rival school (and his new school) while he heads to London with his band for two weeks, Viola decides to take Sebastian’s place at school, wow the soccer team, go toe-to-toe with her sexist ex in the big game and prove that girls are just are good as guys. Of course, she manages to fall in love with her new roommate, the hunky Duke (Channing Tatum) who is also on the team.

For those of us who were of any age in the late 80s or even the early 90s when Just One of the Guys ran endlessly on Comedy Central, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two films.  However, Dreamworks isn’t marketing this film to a generation now in their mid-30s.  It’s just as well, since although there are some scenes in She’s the Man that practically duplicate its predecessor, this is an entertaining, if hollow, comedy. It doesn’t capture any of the teenage nuances that Amy Heckerling’s Clueless did, but She’s the Man seems happiest when it’s at its silliest. Granted, Bynes mugs it a bit too much when she first makes the gender bending transition but she grows more comfortable as Viola’s life grows more chaotic.

There are several laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of some purely over the top humor lacking any subtlety, yet She’s the Man is a pleasant surprise. Glossy Hollywood films looking for an older audience could do worse than to follow in She’s the Man steps.  Keep it simple-stupid; make us laugh and the audience will come.

This review originally appeared in Entertainment Today.