George and Harold are two fourth graders with a penchant for potty humor, hanging out in their treehouse, and creating their own comic books. The cream of their crop is Captain Underpants, a broad knock-off of Superman, right down to his exoplanetary origin story, bizarre mishmash of superpowers, and proclivity for dressing in – you guessed it – underpants. George and Harold are just a little more to-the-point with their superhero.
Are you re-watching episodes of QI and startling yourself with how often you remember the answers? Do you have a VPN set up to watch 8 Out of 10 Cats? Are you slightly angry that my previous question didn’t conclude with “Does Countdown”? This hackneyed rhetoric is just a way for me to say that if you enjoy British comedy, then Sean Foley’s Mindhorn is definitely for you. Even if you’re not crazy about the Brits and their particular brand of whimsy, you’re likely to find something to enjoy in this weird little farce.
Guardians of the Galaxy was always the most overtly comedic franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Vol. 2 follows in those footsteps. Most films in the MCU employ humor, but none are governed by the success of references, call-backs, meta-humor, and jokes quite like Guardians. As a result, one’s appreciation for this sequel is going to be heavily dependent on whether or not these attempts at humor land. If you feel like some of the jokes are a little forced, are over-reliant on pop culture reference, or attempt to recreate similar gags from the original, then you’re going to find Vol. 2 a little derivative and strained. Otherwise, you’ll have a good time.
In a strange paradox, executing a proper farce demands preternatural planning. Stray but a little from the knife’s edge, and the tone can spiral out of control as the conflicting elements of the film separate like a broken sauce. Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire suffers such a fate, though it isn’t for lack of effort or a gripping central idea. The film tries to position some idiosyncratic characters in a bottle, shake everything up, and let them shoot guns at each other for 75 minutes, but too many of these elements are just a bit off the mark. The characters and the performances mostly hit, and the inciting event feels reasonable, but the organization and the length of the fight strains comprehension and ends up being to repetitive to hold the spectator’s interest. Free Fire does a better job than most genre-bending farces, but ultimately it just feels too boring for a movie centered around a free-for-all firefight.
Is there anything in life more enigmatic than the haphazard paths that lead us into the another’ arms? Makoto Shinkai’s anime Your Name. (Kimi no na wa) explores these paths by way of a fantastical body-swap comedy. But, there is a genuine seriousness at the heart of the film that coalesces romance, connectivity, memory, and identity into a cohesive story about time, space, and the hidden strings that surround us all. Your Name. sports a lavish animation style, energetic soundtrack, and intelligent use of imagery and metaphor, all of which contribute to an absolutely breathtaking experience. Shinkai’s film amazes constantly, and is right at home alongside other pinnacles of this oft-celebrated style.
There is a superficial idea championed by some movies that dishonesty sells. Heist films like Hell or High Water or Ocean’s Eleven suggest that a caper can handsomely reward the protagonist, if it’s properly executed. White lies can tell a person, “exactly what they need to hear” as a plot contrivance for furthering a character’s confidence, like Neo in The Matrix. And even films that deride dishonesty often do so by showcasing the extreme fall that accompanies an ill-gotten rise, even though the character doesn’t necessarily need to consider their lies to be a transgression at all; think The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me if You Can, or other examples of hubris-infused justice. Rare is the film that showcases the psychological destruction that a lie can wreak on a person’s life. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is a fascinating exploration of precisely that idea.