Skip’s Quips: Help! My Ears Got Punished During ‘The Trip to Italy’

Blog Sketch 082813Who doesn’t like movies about a couple of guys taking a trip to Italy to dine at fancy restaurants while doing interminable impersonations of assorted celebrities?

I don’t. And consequently, I didn’t care for Michael Winterbottom’s disastrously unfunny The Trip to Italy at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Trip, the film’s picaresque predecessor, but at least the concept, which involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing impressions during meals at various restaurants in England, was somewhat novel at the time. Its sequel, however, is not so lucky. In fact, many of the impersonations (Michael Caine, Al Pacino) seem to be rehashed from the original film, leaving the viewer wondering if they have anything actually new up their sleeves to bring to the table.

It’s quite an awkward mix, this picture, what with the “comedy” (basically Coogan and Brydon talking over each other without offering much context) juxtaposed with shots of food and Italian landscapes … though the cuisine and scenery seem to be extraneous, playing second fiddle to the duo’s tedious, presumably improvised schtick.

I’m sorry, but I like my comedy cooked throughout, not half-baked. And The Trip to Italy is so underdone it’s raw.

One of the biggest problems with the flick is that it’s not cinematic. It’s a collection of episodes punctuated by flat humor and pseudo-philosophical asides. You’d be hard pressed to find another picture in recent years that dwells so much on quotes provided by Shelley and Byron. But you’d also be hard-pressed to find one that trivializes their work so frustratingly by making fleeting references to them and not following up with any further insight. That’s pretentious, fellow viewers, and makes for problematic movie-watching. I like my Shelley and Byron well-done, too. Not the way The Trip to Italy cooks them up.

I’m not sure what the market is for this kind of thing; it can’t be too large. It’s definitely not my kind of comedy. All I can say is I hope a third installment isn’t in the works. Making this series into a trilogy would just be too much cinematically to bear.

Skip’s Quips: Nothing Funny About ‘Penguins of Madagascar’

Blog Sketch 082813I didn’t find the original Madagascar amusing. It was broad, forced, in love with its own smugness.

Now we have a spinoff: Penguins of Madagascar. To that, I say: “Humph.”

Those not-so-adorable penguins. Full of comic mischief. And little to no humor.

I realize this kind of thing isn’t geared to grown-ups with elevated tastes and sensibilities, but why must Hollywood insist on spouting out sequels to movies that weren’t very good to begin with? It’s a rhetorical question; I know it’s to make money. But the industry could at least try to put forward a strong project … not one that’s easy to dismiss.  And I suspect Penguins will be the latter.

Some things you don’t have to see to know they’re of low quality. This film is one of them. And as I’ve already suffered through Madagascar, I have no doubt that the avian addition to its dreary family will be just as bad.

I’m gonna miss its debut. On purpose. My prediction is: I won’t be missing much.

Skip’s Quips: ‘Bad Words’ Dials ‘O’ for ‘Obnoxious’

Blog Sketch 082813I sure wish the movie Bad Words was a lot funnier.

It wasn’t horrible. In fact, it was eminently watchable, this story of an obnoxious 40-year-old no-goodnik out to prove himself on the children’s spelling-bee circuit. But it felt like a lot of humor was either left on the cutting-room floor or forgotten. The movie tried so hard to be outrageous that it lost out on a lot of laughs.

Director and star Jason Bateman steered the flick with more assuredness than I expected, and the cinematography had an interesting washed-out quality. Still, there was something unsatisfying about this picture, as if it was attempting to be two things at once: a broad comedy and a sensitive drama delving into the protagonist’s background.

I think the film took some easy routes. It’s hard to be funny. Perhaps the thought process was that the wackiness of the plot would generate laughs on its own. It didn’t, though. So in that regard, the movie misfired.

Oh, well. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. I’m sure Bateman will try for more success with other projects. Bad Words is definitely one to learn from.

Skip’s Quips: Je Refuse … to Watch ‘The Boxtrolls’

Blog Sketch 082813Gosh, The Boxtrolls looks horrible.

Saw a preview for it recently. Not funny. OK, maybe the funny bits were cut out of the trailer. But wait a second … aren’t the trailers supposed to include the funny bits? You know, to make people wanna see the movie?

The lack of humor in the preview suggests to me that the film is going to be a dud. Yes, I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. Yes, the trailers aren’t always a foolproof way of determining the worth of a picture. But for some reason, this rubs me the wrong way.

It has to do, to a certain extent, with the dearth of good children’s movies out there today. Kids’ fare is often loud, cartoony, with flashy visuals and little heart. The soul that is instilled into much of the pictures for tykes today is junky, flat, clichéd. I get the feeling that The Boxtrolls isn’t going to be any different. Its splashiness seems superficial. And it won’t hide the fact that the plot is ordinary.

So I’m not going to see it. I already know what it’s going to be like. Sure, you can say that I shouldn’t judge a picture before I see it, but I can tell I won’t enjoy this one. It’s a box I refuse to open. And I’m proud to say I’m doing just that.

Skip’s Quips: Watching the Fur Fly in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Blog Sketch 082813Let no one accuse me of not enjoying a bit of popular moviemaking now and then.

I did just that yesterday in Times Square during a showing of Guardians of the Galaxy, the hit sci-fi spectacular from Marvel about mismatched con-creatures battling a blue warlord who wants to take over the universe or something.

Yeah, that was about what it was about.

Honestly, part of the fun was not caring what it was about. This is a light, special effects-laden romp featuring, among others, a hulking tree-beast and a trash-talking raccoon, so you know it’s going to be snarky. Yet there was a good dose of sensible humor as well, plus a tender moment toward the end that nearly transcended the picture.

I wouldn’t say it’s a classic. Some of the flashy battle scenes moved slowly and were hard to follow … not that following them would’ve made a big difference. And I did feel the flick missed a few choice opportunities to be funnier, though the aforementioned raccoon was a splendid creation. Plus, it did feel incredibly derivative. It hadn’t exactly been where no one has gone before.

Still, it was diverting, and I enjoyed most of it. Would I see it again? Not sure. It was quite imaginative, however, and that’s a plus. In this day and age, you don’t always get that in the movies.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: How Glib Was My Movie

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Trying to watch Celeste & Jesse Forever is hard.

I don’t like movies like this. Glib, smug, self-conscious. Snarky, unfunny humor.

Tough flick to get through. Oh, and it’s something about a couple in the process of divorce who still behave like a married pair. What a concept. Bleah.

Too bad, too, because there’s talent involved in this Lee Toland Krieger film, including Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones as the not-so-doomed lovers. The components, however, just don’t seem to mesh, and they end up making for tiresome viewing. Too bad.

Is there a comedy in the house? Well, there is … once I decide to watch something better.

Comics, Film Criticism and the Zany Side of Life

Everyone may be a critic, but not every comic strip features one. This fledgling blog showcases two: Godfrey “Skip” Lexicon and Mopwitz “Setter” Burbling, cartoon characters with a love of the movies and an affinity for contrasting opinions. They’re imaginary, sure, but they have some unusual takes on cinema old and new…and hopefully, they’ll provide perspectives that haven’t been encountered before. So let’s welcome Skip and Setter–perhaps even give them a hand–and await the next installment of their Cinema Blogishkeit.