Tag Archives: Mary Lynn Rajskub

Delicious and Nutritious

Dinner in America

by Hope Madden

It’s not often you watch a film about a fire starting, drug dealing, lying man on the run from police and his romance with a woman with special needs and think, this is delightful.

But it is. Dinner in America is a delight.

Writer/director Adam Rehmeier delivers an unexpected comedy, sometimes dark, sometimes broad, but never aimless. Simon (Kyle Gallner, remarkable) is a punk rocker hiding from the cops. Patty (Emily Skeggs) is a 20-year-old punk rock fan who lives at home and isn’t allowed to run appliances when she’s alone.

Their stories collide, but by that time Rehmeier and his cast have crafted memorable, believable characters with their own fascinating worlds. Where they go together becomes a little unnerving at times, but Dinner in America surprises with warmth as often as it does with profanity-laced edginess.

Rehmeier’s film calls to mind other misfit romances — Buffalo 66, Eagle v Shark — but sidesteps cliché at every turn. More importantly, or at least delightfully, it embraces the punk rock ethos rather than seeing a coming-of-age opportunity to grow out of it.

Gallner’s magnetic. Whether stalking through suburbia or surrendering to love, he delivers buzzing vitality and surprising depth. Skeggs offers a brilliantly unselfconscious counterpoint. Her awkward, endearing performance is an absolute blessing.

A top-to-bottom impressive ensemble including Pat Healy, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Lea Thompson buoy the central performances. Rehmeier’s sharp yet somehow tender script doesn’t hurt, offering startling opportunities for castmates to shine.

By the time the film digs into its musical numbers, you’re already hooked. In a nice turn of events, the songs are absolutely worth the wait.

Rarely does a film feel as genuinely subversive and darling as Dinner in America, the punk rock rom-com you never knew you needed.

Killer Set

Too Late

by Brandon Thomas

Horror comedy is the cinematic equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter. It makes so much sense that they go together. And every subgenre of horror has been touched. The slasher? Multiple times! Zombies? Oh yeah. Podcasters turned into sea creatures? Umm…that too. With Too Late, director D.W. Thomas adds bad bosses to the mix, and also the world of stand-up comedy.

Aspiring comedian Violet (Alyssa Limperis) has what seems to be a great gig as the assistant to comedy great Bob Devore (Ron Lynch). Devore’s weekly variety act Too Late is legendary, and Violet’s job makes her the envy of her comic friends. The problem? Bob is a literal monster, and Violet is in charge of bringing young, fresh-faced comics to satisfy his hunger. 

Thomas leans harder into the comedy than she does the horror. The tone is kept quite light throughout, and Bob’s more ghoulish moments are hidden off-screen (probably due to budget concerns). The make-up effects used on Lynch are quite good, but never come across as too grotesque. It’s just enough to get the point across and let Lynch’s performance shine through.

Too Late draws a lot from the real world in constructing its story. For years, Lynch hosted a variety show of his own in L.A. called Tomorrow! The film also peppers in real-life comedians who help with authenticity. And authenticity is key here. The strength of Too Late is how natural everything feels. Some of the more elaborate digs at the stand-up world might be a little too “inside baseball” for most of the audience, but it’s still relatable enough to be more of a winking satire. 

The cast is universally good. Limperis is fantastic as the long-suffering Violet. It’s the kind of role that could’ve easily gotten bogged down with “woe is me” speeches and attitude, but Limperis, like the film itself, keeps things light and snappy. You can see the burgeoning comic underneath the stressed-out and overworked assistant. Likewise, Lynch is an absolute delight as Bob Devore. He never hams it up during Bob’s transformation. Bob is as much of a monstrous asshole when he’s a regular person as he is when he’s in his creature form.

SNL alum Fred Armisen and notable stand-up Mary Lynn Rajskub show up in small parts as the “names” of the film. Rajskub’s appearance is more of a glorified cameo with Armisen having a more significant role. Neither makes much of an impact on the overall film, but it’s nice to see them, both adding value to an already wonderful film. 

Through charming performances and a look at a more niche part of the entertainment industry, Too Late stands out as one of the better horror comedies in recent memory. It’s not a gut buster, but you’ll have a smile on your face the entire time. 

School of Hart Knocks

Night School

by Hope Madden

The endlessly likeable Kevin Hart and the undeniably talented Tiffany Haddish join forces, which sounds like a solid plan except that Night School is a Kevin Hart movie, and when was the last time one of those was any good?

Sure, Jumanji had some laughs. In fact, Hart’s films almost always boast a few chuckles, mainly because of the actor’s infectious energy and self-deprecating humor. But they’re not good.

Neither is Night School which, even with Haddish and a handful of other proven comic talents, isn’t funny, either.

Hart plays Ted, a good-hearted hustler, talking big and spending bigger, pretending to be more than he is to compensate for his own insecurities. Of course he is, it’s a Kevin Hart movie.

Haddish is Carol, the overworked, underpaid night school teacher here to believe in Ted and the collection of losers in her class. It’s tough love, though, because Haddish is funnier when she’s mean.

What the film does well could have been packaged into an enjoyable 15-minute short. Hart gets off a few laughs working for a Christian fast food chicken joint, and the camaraderie among his late blooming classmates sometimes draws a giggle.

The actors portraying those night school chums work hard to establish memorable, funny characters with limited screen time and an even more limited script. Still, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Rob Riggle, Al Madrigal, Anne Winters and especially Romany Malco work wonders. Taran Killam amuses on occasion as the uptight principal with a grudge.

But there’s only so much they can do. Director Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip) drags every gag out about 8 minutes longer than necessary. The script, penned by Hart and five other writers, does Lee no favors. Even Haddish struggles to be funny with flat dialog and pointless, contrived physical comedy bits.

While you’re not laughing you might notice that Night School does make a few surprising choices. Its comedy is good hearted. This is a film that likes all its characters—the females, the losers, those with success and even the parents whose coddling and/or verbal abuse may or may not be to blame for the whole night school problem.

Those are small successes in a film that squanders a lot of talent and all of our time.