Some movies are hilarious and even endearing because of their silliness. Take, for example, Napoleon Dynamite by Jared and Jerusha Hess. Other movies are just plain stupid. Don Verdean, also written by Team Hess and directed by Jared, is the latter. Too bad, because the premise has potential: Verdean (Sam Rockwell) is a “biblical archeologist” hellbent on proving Christianity—apparently through science. When he accepts a patronage of sorts from aggressive Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride), founder of an evangelical church named after himself, Verdean is slowly sucked into a big fat lie that spirals out of control. He goes along with it for the purported not to mention dubious aim of “inspiring” faith. Needless to say, things get sticky.
There are some funny moments here, like an Israeli police officer (Yaniv Moyal) reading Verdean the riot act for digging in the desert without a permit; a cringeworthy date between Verdean’s assistant, Carol (Amy Ryan), and his Israeli guide, Boax (Jemaine Clement); and ex-hooker Mrs. Lazarus (Leslie Bibb) performing an outrageous ditty about not ending up like Lot’s wife. Ryan plays Carol with the right balance of sweetness and tragedy, and Will Forte as Pastor Fontaine, former Satan worshipper and Lazarus’s nemesis, is a breath of comic fresh air. Everything else– the story, the execution, even the acting– falls flat. Clement is a terrible Jew, and his weird French-sounding accent is fucking annoying. The jokes are not funny, the characters are tiresome, and the story gets old fast. Don Verdean feels like a lame ripoff of Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show). Easter mass is more entertaining than this. Yawn.
A gentle and engaging sorta-comedy about breaking up, starting over, and hanging onto what’s important. If that sounds sappy, it is—“sentimental,” “sensitive,” and “bittersweet” are words that describe this film.
People Places Things has a good share of nice, quiet moments and truths, although a few bitingly cynical and hilarious scenes succeed in balancing it out. Regina Hall and Jessica Williams steal the show in their secondary roles as a mother and daughter who get involved in the life of protagonist Will Henry (Jemaine Clement). While People Places Things no doubt tugs at the heartstrings, it manages to avoid falling headfirst into “schlock.” I doubt it’s something I’ll ever seek out to see a second time, though.
Ever wonder what This Is Spinal Tap might look like mixed with Big Brother and, oh, say True Blood? Me, either, but the result, evidenced by this little gem, is pretty damned funny.
A group of vampires of varying ages– Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), and Peytr (Ben Fransham)– share a house in a New Zealand city. They have the typical housemate drama: one mate fails to clean up the blood from victims and another gets his roomies into tiffs with rival werewolves. The usual stuff. The storyline here involves the cute but annoying Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a newbie in need of adapting to the ropes of vampire life, and his best bud, Stu (Stuart Rutherford), on whom the housemates develop a little man crush. Wicked fun!