Tag Archives: Craig Robinson

Say My Name

Dolemite Is My Name

by George Wolf

Can’t you just hear Dolemite now?

“I’m so m*&^@f#$@!^*’ bad they got that m*&^@f#$@! Eddie Murphy to play me in a m*&^@f#$@!^’ movie!”

They did, and Murphy could very well ride it to an Oscar nomination in this brash, funny, and often wildly entertaining look at the birth of a cultural icon.

“Dolemite” was the brainchild of Rudy Ray Moore, who created the character for his standup comedy act in the early 70s. Moore’s raw material was much too adult for record companies at the time, but the success of his early underground comedy albums (sample title: “Eat Out More Often”) finally gave Moore the cheering crowds he longed for – and the urge to take Dolemite to the big screen.

Moore’s string of so-bad-their-good blaxploitation classics not only became important influences in the expanding independent film market, but also for rappers and young comics like Murphy himself.

Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who penned the scripts for The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ed Wood and Man on the Moon among others, are certainly at home fleshing out the stories behind creative legends, and their script fills Dolemite Is My Name with heart, joy and raunchy laughs.

Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) keeps the pace quick and energetic, crafting a bustling salute to the creative process that never forgets how to be fun.

Two pivotal and very funny scenes bookend the film’s biggest strengths.

Early on, Moore and his crew leave a movie theater dumbfounded by the white audience’s love for a popular feature that had “no titties, no funny and no kung fu!”

Then, during filming of the original Dolemite, Moore doesn’t feel right about his big sex scene until his character’s prowess is pushed to ridiculous levels. We’re laughing, but there’s no doubt we’re laughing with Moore, not at him. And while we’re laughing, we’re learning how Moore took inspiration from the world he lived in, and why he wouldn’t rest until his audience was served.

At the Toronto International Film Festival last month, Murphy said he wanted this film to remind people why they liked him.

Done.

Leading a terrific ensemble that includes Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Kodi Smit-McPhee and a priceless Wesley Snipes as the “real” actor among these amateurs, Murphy owns every frame. This film wouldn’t work unless we see a separation between Moore and his character. Murphy toes this line with electric charisma, setting up the feels when Moore’s dogged belief in himself is finally rewarded.

Dolemite Is My Name tells a personal story, but it’s one that’s universal to dreamers everywhere.

And it’s also m*&^@f#$@!^* funny, suckas!

Save Your Tears

Tragedy Girls

by Hope Madden

Heathers meets Scream in the savvy horror comedy that mines social media culture to truly entertaining effect, Tragedy Girls.

Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) are looking for more followers to improve their brand, and they have been doing a lot of research to make their content more compelling. The Tragedy Girls plumb their small Ohio town’s surprising death toll with more insight than the local police seem to have. Where do they get their knowledge?

Provocative.

Tyler MacIntyre directs a screenplay he co-wrote with Chris Lee Hill and Justin Olson. The trio wade into the horror of a social media generation with more success than anything we’ve seen to date. A great deal of their success has to do with casting.

Hildebrand and Shipp (both X-Men; Hildebrand was the moody Negasonic in Deadpool while Shipp plays young Storm in the franchise proper) nail their characters’ natural narcissism. Is it just the expectedly shallow, self-centeredness of the teenage years, or are they sociopaths?

Mrs. Kent (Nicky Whelan) would like to know. The spot-on teacher character offers the film’s most pointed piece of social (media) commentary when she points out the traits encouraged in a snapchat world, where shallowness and parasitic, even psychotic behavior is a plus.

The film is careful not to go overboard with its commentary, though, and the final product is the better for it. MacIntyre’s affectionate, perhaps even obsessive, horror movie nods receive at least as much of his time and attention.

The result is both mean and funny. Josh Hutcherson’s small, image-lampooning part is an absolute scream proving that MacIntyre and company have pop cultural insights to spare, and proper comedic timing to boot.

McIntrye loses his snidely meta tone briefly with a lengthy sidetrack focusing on Craig Robinson, which becomes more zany and broad than anything before it. The director can’t entirely find his footing again, as the resolution of the film gets mired a bit too much in the genre tropes.

Still, the details are priceless (she lends him a copy of Martyrs! Dig that ringtone!), the performances impress and the whole thing is a hoot.





Table of Misfit Toys

Table 19

by Matt Weiner

If you sit a group of strangers together at a wedding reception, you’ll find out that each one of them is a brain… a basket case… a criminal… and of course a perky princess to propel the story forward.

Yes, the romantic comedy Table 19 gets its something (heavily) borrowed from John Hughes, especially The Breakfast Club. After an unceremonious breakup with the bride’s brother, now ex-maid of honor Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) gets banished to the table of rejects and outcasts at the reception.

Eloise, still pining for her Teddy (Wyatt Russell), is unsympathetic to the quirks and sad stories that bind their table together. But as backstories get revealed, the tablemates quickly learn they are united in their profound misery.

If this sounds a little bleak for a brisk (like, 87 minutes brisk) romcom, just wait until the themes take a sharp turn from cake-related slapstick to everyone’s favorite comedy subjects like unplanned pregnancy, infidelity and death.

The story, written by director Jeffrey Blitz with indie darlings Jay and Mark Duplass, gets into dark territory, in particular the cautionary tale of Bina and Jerry Kepp (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson). The married couple don’t even care enough to hate each other anymore, and their apathy is like a jarring memento mori for a lighthearted wedding romp.

So many of the casual asides and throwaway lines are streaked with this sort of misanthropy, and it’s a shame that the movie lacks the audacity to see it through to the finish. It doesn’t help that the comedy part of the romantic comedy is light on laughs—with the exception of Stephen Merchant, who commits above and beyond to finding both humor and pathos in his thinly sketched character, cousin Walter.

Instead, we’re left with lessons learned and lukewarm nostalgia, complete with 80s covers from the wedding band. Sure, you could just stick with the original article and fire up a John Hughes marathon. But if your tolerance for formula is already that high, and you like watching a great cast make the most of an inconsistent premise—and you have 80-odd minutes to spare—you could slog through a lot worse. Like an actual wedding.

Verdict-2-5-Stars





Yes, It’s a Weiner

Sausage Party

by Christie Robb

I was expecting to hate this movie. At worst I was anticipating a series of increasingly forced dick jokes and at best a munchie-induced fever dream. Instead, I gotta say, Sausage Party stands up with the South Park movie as a pretty offensively entertaining animated movie for adults.

The film is set in a Shopwell supermarket where every morning the products sing about their desire be chosen by “the gods”—those big things wheeling the carts—and travel to the Great Beyond (via a song composed by Alan Menken—the guy who co-created the songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin).

Little do the foodstuffs know what terrors await them on the other side of the pneumatic doors. It’s not nirvana. The Gods fucking eat you.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Frank—a hot dog voiced by Seth Rogan—eagerly anticipates hooking up with his honey bun (Kristen Wiig) in the Great Beyond. But after they are chosen, they and a bunch of other products are separated from their packaging and fall to the supermarket floor.

Forced to traverse the enormous grocery, the fellowship has to navigate the aisles to get back to their packages, interacting with their fellow foodstuffs in various ethnic-food aisles, partying in the liquor aisle, and generally trying to evade the villain—a vampiric and increasingly unhinged literal douche.

The movie certainly employs a fair amount of wiener-based humor and a variety of food-centric ethnic stereotypes (for example, the sauerkraut jars are a bunch of fascists bent on exterminating “the juice”, the bagel’s voice is a Woody Allen impression, and a Peter Pan “Indian”-style pipe-smoking bottle of firewater dispenses wisdom), but the movie turns to a surprising exploration of faith vs. skepticism and the extent to which religious belief fosters divisions, hostility, and repressed sexuality.

Although the movie manages to provide enough offense to go around, the majority of the jokes are actually quite funny. The cast is certainly strong. Rogan and Wiig are joined by Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Edward Norton, Craig Robinson, David Krumholtz, and Paul Rudd, and the sex-positive food porn scene exceeded my expectations of what was bound to happen once the wiener and the bun finally got together.

Seeing Sausage Party ain’t a bad way to pass the time. But, for the love of God, please don’t take your kids.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 





Let’s Not Do the Timewarp Again

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

by Hope Madden

Every year or so there’s a film that simply should not work, but does. Machete. Kick-Ass. Hot Tub Time Machine. And every year or so, Hollywood leeches what it can from the fresh, silly, undemanding body of that film with a lifeless and inexplicably mean-spirited sequel. I give you: Hot Tub Time Machine 2.

Lou (Rob Corddry) turned his miserable life around at that ski resort in 2010/1986. Or not. Turns out, Lou is still a big problem in that he’s a toxic asshole, so someone shoots him and it’s up to his remaining friends (Craig Robinson, Clark Duke – John Cusack is noticeably, wisely absent) to fire up the hot tub and stop the murder before it happens.

The fact that the hot tub sends them to the future hardly matters in this lazily scripted semen joke of a film.

Gone entirely, along with Cusack, are the charm and good nature of the original, the light heartedness that offset the darker edges and made the toilet humor and sex jokes almost endearing. It was a nostalgiafest, complete with “I want my two dollars!” shouted at John Cusack from a ski slope. Priceless.

With no such built in fondness for 2025, and Corddry in the lead, the sequel is just a smattering of self-referential gags held together with homophobia and misogyny.

Corddry is a magnificent, unseemly talent, but he’s not a lead. With Lou in the center of the film, rather than the charming, curmudgeonly everyman of Cusack, the movie substitutes an anchor for flailing misanthropy. That’s hard to build on.

The lack of a lead is one of the film’s larger concerns. Corddry, returning time-tripper Craig Robinson, and new 4th wheel Adam Scott are all comic talents, but also all side characters.

With Steve Pink returning to direct another script from Josh Heald, you might think lightning could strike twice, right? No. Let’s be honest, no one thought this film would be any good. We’re all still stunned that the lightweight goofiness of the original was as entertaining as it was. Who knows how that worked, but whatever ingenious, low-brow magic put Crispin Glover (two arms or one) at that ski lodge, it’s missing from the sequel.

But rape jokes are always funny, right?

Verdict-1-5-Stars





Dead Man’s Party

 

 

by George Wolf

 

You know what This Is the End made me think of? Dear, departed Father Art from my church.

Stay with me.

Father Art used to surprise the faithful by occasionally dropping Howard Stern’s name into the homily, citing Stern as someone who, underneath the raunch, had a positive message:  do what you’re supposed to do.

This Is The End also has a positive message, stressing selflessness as a key to salvation. Sure, this message is mixed with heapin’ helpings of sex, drugs and profanity, but it’s a combination that produces some pretty funny shit.

Your reaction will most likely depend on how much you enjoy the comedy stylings of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, seen at their peak in films such as Pineapple Express, Superbad and Knocked Up. Co-writing and directing This Is the End, they’ve expanded their 2007 short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse into the funniest film of the year.

Seth is Rogan, and Jay is his buddy Jay Baruchel, who comes to LA hoping for a low-key visit. Instead, Rogan takes him to a rockin’ party at James Franco‘s place where, amid plenty of famous faces, the rapture begins.

As the final battle rages outside, Franco, Rogan and Baruchel are joined by Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride for a star studded celebrity survivor sleepover!

Things get pretty crude (so much so that Rogan has said he expected an NC-17 rating instead of the R they received), but the result is far from dumb humor. Self-deprecation is always endearing, and the gang uses it well, lampooning their films, their images, and the self-absorbed nature of celebrity culture.

It’s a wild ride featuring great cameos (well done Channing Tatum and Michael Cera) and fine ensemble work from a bunch of funny guys who play themselves with undeniable comic chemistry and a sense of camaraderie that makes them fine company for the end of days.

Remember, they have a plan to be among the chosen, and you’ll most likely be laughing too hard to argue with it.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars