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Film Review: I Used To Be Funny offsets its humorously-adjacent title with a dark, heartbreaking temperament. – The AU Review

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Film Review: I Used To Be Funny offsets its humorously-adjacent title with a dark, heartbreaking temperament. – The AU Review

After showcasing her stellar comedic delivery across 2022’s Bodies Bodies Bodies and last year’s Bottoms, Rachel Sennott continues her dominance as one of the industry’s most exciting talents with a more dramatic flex in Ally Pankiw‘s I Used To Be Funny, which offsets its lead’s comedic capabilities and humorously-adjacent title with a dark, heartbreaking temperament.

Flipping between the past and the present – which, admittedly, takes a bit of time to garner which time period is which – Pankiw’s narrative bases itself around Sam (Sennott), a stand-up comedian, who was once a promising and rising talent in the Canadian comedy scene.  An event has taken place in her life, however, that has drastically altered her outlook, and we first meet her in the “after” phase, where she is shrouded in a sea of depression.

She barely eats, she’s hesitant to leave the house, and when she does she’s unable to move ahead with the plans she half-heartedly commits to; we know her emotional and psychological situation is dire when her friend (Sabrina Jalees), and roommate, applauds her for simply taking a shower.

Over the course of its 105 minutes, Pankiw’s script slowly clues us in as to what exactly took place in Sam’s life, and our first nugget of information comes from a news report that tells of a young girl, Brooke (Olga Petsa), and how she’s gone missing.  Brooke’s disappearance and who she is in relation to Sam is dropped in fragments over time, and I Used To Be Funny balances its whodunnit-like mentality with a coming-of-age tale that, initially, builds quite a masterful sense of tension.

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What the film ultimately reveals regarding Sam may be triggering to some, and though I Used To Be Funny maintains a mostly sombre personality, Sennott’s default remains in a comedic, yet reflective, space.  By no means does she make light of the material by staying “on” as a comedian – which very much suits her at-times sarcastic character – and her chops as a dramatic performer shouldn’t be undervalued, with the film’s most important scene garnering an effectiveness that speaks to her ability to organically sell her character’s pain.

With Sennott as the headliner, some may be caught off-guard that I Used To Be Funny seldom delights in humorous moments.  Whilst there’s a peppering of genuine wit throughout, Pankiw keeps this as grounded as possible, with any levity coming from her character’s natural instincts and observations.  The seriousness of its narrative keeps this from ever being a pleasant experience, but the pain one can hold onto, and the consuming crippling aftermath, means this drama garners an unfortunate relatability.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

I Used To Be Funny is screening in select New York locations from June 7th, 2024, followed by Los Angeles on June 14th and on Digital June 18th.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.


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Movie Reviews

Clear Cut (2024) – Movie Review

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Clear Cut (2024) – Movie Review

Clear Cut, 2024.

Directed by Brian Skiba.
Starring Clive Standen, Tom Welling, Stephen Dorff, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Metcalfe, Lochlyn Munro, Lucy Martin, Chelsey Reist, Tom Stevens, and Mike Dopud.

SYNOPSIS:

A team of loggers discover a meth cook site in the middle of the forest and are forced to fight for their lives while being hunted by a drug cartel.

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With a title such as Clear Cut, one might think director Brian Skiba is trying to be cutely vague and intentionally jumbling since his narrative distractingly jumps back and forth in time with no grace. The reality is that what the film is trying to do with its story is fairly obvious after roughly the second flashback, executed with such outright poor editing technique (Skiba also performs those duties) that one sits there in shock at the ineptitude when it cuts back to a scene with Alec Baldwin who was recently killed at the beginning.

Dead characters appearing in flashbacks is inherently fine, but watching it play out here is baffling; you could reconfigure the scenes chronologically, and this already lousy film might play better. Alec Baldwin isn’t a recurring presence after that; the movie is just pointlessly like this. At the very least, the not-so-smooth attempt at (I think?) trying to trick the audience regarding what is happening with its central plot could have been avoided. It’s hard to tell since the editing makes everything come across as more confusing than the story is. Furthermore, the fact that I have so many questions about the filmmaker’s intent mostly already proves whatever he was trying to do with structure didn’t pan out. That’s an understatement.

The story itself concerns Clive Standen’s Jack, taking on logging work en route to a job site with his superior and mentor (Alec Baldwin.) Now, if reading this brings about some interest that there might be some positive and earnest deforestation messaging at the heart of the action, let me remind readers that this is one of those super cheaply made Lionsgate VOD entities that somehow slides its way into a few theaters across America. Jack is seeking revenge on some criminals running a meth operation out here in the woods, which also brings up several questions of logistics that the film never bothers to take a stab at answering.

Unsurprisingly, the one cooking up the meth gives the zaniest performance, which basically means Lochlyn Munro is playing clichéd psychopathic redneck running around with a crossbow, murdering anyone who might throw his shady business out of whack. Bringing an inexplicably large amount of money to a deal where the one cooking up the meth lives in a camper, presumably in the middle of nowhere, the leader of the buyers conveniently leaves the money in the back of a truck for Jack to steal and run off with. Stephen Dorff also plays a Park Ranger who gets involved in the two battling sides. The less said about the women who pop up in this movie is probably for the better.

For as much as Clive Standen gives a passable performance regarding both the emotional toll recent tragic events have taken on him and the close-quarters action, it’s also undermined by the film (written by Joe Perruccio) concocting scenarios that tastelessly ramp up that drama. Regarding the direction, nothing here stands out aside from one or two moments toward the end of Clive Standen letting loose some of that bottled-up anger and sadness. There’s a chance that if you show someone the final 10 minutes of Clear Cut, they will wrongly assume you just watched a decent movie. Fortunately, what is clear-cut is that this is anything but worth checking out.

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Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

 

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Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'Twisters' – Catholic Review

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Movie Review: 'Twisters' – Catholic Review

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Back in the early days of the Ford administration, disaster movies were all the rage. A capsized cruise ship, a skyscraper aflame, airplanes imperiled — the genre ran the gamut of mishaps before fading away at the end of the 1970s.

Two decades later, advances in computer capabilities led to something of a revival, one product of which was 1996’s “Twister.” Director Jan de Bont’s film had separated spouses Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton working through their marital tensions while trying to make a breakthrough in early storm warning.

Flash forward nearly 30 years and a standalone sequel, “Twisters” (Universal), looms on the horizon. While moviegoers need not take shelter from this long-distance follow-up — which is only loosely connected to its predecessor — neither will it transport them over the rainbow.

The main flaw in the production, helmed by Lee Isaac Chung, is its consistent air of Hollywood phoniness. Its main asset is the mostly appealing antagonism-turns-to-love tale that unfolds amid the rising winds.

Haunted by an experiment during a tornado that went fatally wrong, meteorologist Kate Carter (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has spent the ensuing half-decade practicing her craft from the safety of a desk. She’s reluctantly drawn back to storm chasing, however, when her old friend Javi (Anthony Ramos) suddenly appears on the scene seeking her help.

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Javi is out to launch a potentially beneficial new technology. But he’s convinced he can only succeed with the aid of Kate’s expertise and intuition.

Once back on the plains, Kate — who quickly becomes the guiding force of Javi’s team — crosses paths with a squad of apparently reckless thrill seekers led by cocky self-proclaimed “tornado wrangler” Tyler Owens (Glen Powell). Kate and Tyler initially clash, then develop a relationship of mutual respect that eventually deepens into a romance.

Like the burgeoning bond between the principals, the hairbreadth escapes chronicled in screenwriter Mark L. Smith’s script are entirely predictable, the sacrifice of the odd extra notwithstanding. So much so, that viewers may emerge from the Cineplex humming that old standard, “Just in Time.”

“Twisters” does promote compassion for catastrophe victims, making concern for them the moral standard by which its characters are to be judged. And objectionable ingredients are mostly kept out of the mix, so mature adolescents may be given the go-ahead to reap the whirlwind.

Yet human interaction comes in a poor second throughout the proceedings, which are focused instead on the wizardry of special effects. So audience reaction to the picture will largely depend on each patron’s interest in large-scale displays of Mother Nature’s fury.

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The film contains some medical gore, several mild oaths, occasional crude language and a couple of crass terms. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Movie Reviews

Movie Review| ‘Despicable Me 4’

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Movie Review| ‘Despicable Me 4’

In the last 14 years, Gru has certainly been through a lot. The reformed super villain put aside his dastardly ways to become a family man, and now sits pretty with three “gworls”, a wife, and a bouncing baby boy. Life couldn’t be better for the bald-headed former bad guy, but some habits die hard. Such as the desire to embarrass his villain school rival causing said rival to swear revenge against Gru and his entire family, forcing them into their most frightening challenge yet: Life in the suburbs.

Taking the socially awkward Gru and placing him in scenarios where he has to act like a bumbling sitcom dad is a fine premise for the fourth instalment in the Despicable Me franchise. Unfortunately the movie compounds the conceit by adding Gru’s desire to connect with his newborn, as well as turning the moronic minions into superheroes. There’s also the neighbour’s daughter, whom Gru takes under his wing to teach her his ways of thievery and deception.

Too much story spoils the cinematic experience, especially when the film grinds to a halt just to give the minions an opportunity to spout mindless jabber and engage in antics. It can’t be understated what a blight the minions are to the senses, but credit where credit is due: their newfound abilities give the movie a chance to showcase some slick animation and, admittedly, laughs. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Despicable Me 4 lacks a sense of necessity. Nothing that occurs in the film feels very consequential, and despite seemingly taking the characters in new directions, it ultimately feels like more of the same.

I can’t say I would ever watch this film of my own volition, but I must admit it’s not exactly made with me in mind. For the intended audience, they’re sure to be pleased paying full price, or at least asking their parents to. For myself, there’s enough to enjoy to warrant seeing it in the cinema, but only at a discount. A few roller coaster sequences are genuinely entertaining, and for the target audience of kids in 4DX cinema, it was a thoroughly engaging experience from start to finish.

Rating: Half Price

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Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies. entertainment@gleanerjm.com

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