Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Laugh-a-lot: My 10 best comedies of 2008

The inspiration for this post is actually two-fold, from one thing that made me laugh and one that just made me cringe.

The former comes courtesy of the surprisingly great MTV movies blog, which currently has an interview with David Fincher in which he discusses plans to take "Fight Club" to Broadway as a musical. I just have to assume he was playing the prick with them, but it was delivered as straight news, with him saying he had talked with Julie Taymor and others about what it would involve. Simply bizarre.

The second was something I saw on Variety, and I'll have to take their word for it because I'll never, ever - under penalty of torture, even - tune into anything on my TV featuring Frank Caliendo (I got way more than enough of that during the baseball playoffs anyways.) I mean, does anyone in the world think this guy is actually funny? To me he's just extremely annoying.

He did, however, apparently last night host a special about the funniest movies of 2008, or at least I think he did, since I didn't tune in. Well, if this seriously unfunny guy can say he knows funny, I can too, so here goes: My votes (simply in alphabetical order) for the 10 funniest movies of 2008 (I considered including M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening" here, which indeed made me just laugh out loud and often, but it is the holidays after all, so I'm trying to be civil.)

Be Kind Rewind
Michel Gondry's movie just didn't charm me too much at all the first time I saw it, but I've seen it twice since on DVD and it's now quickly moving up the charts. Silly? Sure. Extremely. But the movie re-creations are almost uniformly funny, the last half hour is a sweet tribute to making movies and Mos Def's explanation of why he doesn't want to do "Driving Miss Daisy" is just priceless.

"Burn After Reading"
This is another one that I think will grow in my estimation once I watch it for a second time, but on the first go-round it still has plenty to laugh about in what is certainly one of the Coen brothers' slighter films. I'm not convinced there's any kind of real commentary about our current state of constant surveillance, but Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt and my new favorite Richard Jenkins still bring the funny.

"Hamlet 2"
Steve Coogan throws himself so completely into this portrait of a serious loser that you'll either cringe or laugh along with his misery in spite of yourself. I was often in the latter category when this flick made it to my little corner of the world for exactly one week. It's worth it for that "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" finale alone, but Coogan, Elizabeth Shue (yes, that Elizabeth Shue) and Catherine Keener also were all just a delight to watch.

"In Bruges"
I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, but writer/director Martin McDonagh's flick just keeps getting crazier and crazier until a finale that will just leave you scratching your head. Along the way, however, he gives hitmen Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell easily the funniest dialogue of 2008, and they just run with it.

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist"
I certainly don't mind crude or even occasionally cruel comedy, but to me it still works best when a director has affection for the subjects he's poking fun at, as Peter Sollett clearly did here with New Jersey's bridge-and-tunnel kids. When I hit the IMDB to make sure I was spelling his name right I found out he was unfortunately now writing a remake of "Footloose," but don't let that stop you from watching Michael Cera and Kat Dennings in this sweet little flick that soon will find a home on my list of the 10 best flicks of 2008.

"Pineapple Express"
Of all the movies on this list, I suspect this stoner comedy will have the shortest shelf life (not unlike even the best buzz, I suppose.) Even so, it's well worth watching for James Franco's performance as the happy-go-lucky dealer, just a comic hoot, and the most painful looking amateur fight scene I've seen in years.

"Soul Men"
I don't know exactly why I was so convinced that the late great Bernie Mac and Sam the Man Jackson palling around as aging "Soul Men" wouldn't be funny, but I'm glad I finally got over that barrier before it left the theaters (though it's still, somehow, playing at our Regal branch yet again in the coming week. Amazing.) When it's crude, director Malcolm Lee's flick is too often also just stupid, but when it's just the Mac man and Mr. Jackson riffing it has a definite appeal, and it's a fitting if way too early way for Bernie to leave us.

"Tropic Thunder"
This was the flick in which Jack Black just reached the saturation point for me, and he'll have to do something really funny (and a lot less annoying) to win me back. That said, Ben Stiller still managed to craft an almost razor sharp satire on Hollywood action flicks, and if you haven't seen Robert Downey Jr. in black face yet, I have to wonder if you even like to laugh at all.

"Vicky Christina Barcelona"
Though there are a lot of heavyweight contenders coming in the next week as I hit NYC with my parents, I'm still fairly certain Woody Allen's lighter-than-air flick will also find a home on my 2008 top 10 list. Even with the thoroughly unnecessary narrator, Rebecca Hall is enchanting, Scarlett Johansson is a lot less annoying than usual and Penelope Cruz is just manically entertaining in every bit of the brief time she gets on screen.

"Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
It's been far too long since Kevin Smith showed up on a list like this, but he certainly deserves it for this mostly satisfying flick. Like, I suppose, an actual porno, it loses it charm before the finish, but along the way Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen make a great comedy duo, the high school reunion is very funny and the money shot (sorry, I had to) comes with an anal sex joke that will make perhaps even the most prudish comedy fans laugh out loud as they are simultaneously blushing.

So, there you have it. Please feel free to add any 2008 comedies I may have missed, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. In an effort to make that more attainable, here's a shot of the simply stunning Carla Gugino in the upcoming "Women in Trouble," which certainly doesn't need to be spoiled by any more words from me. Peace out.

9 comments:

Chris said...

Wow...new look for Gugino there. She looks like Rachel Weisz in this photo. I don't think I even need to see a preview, I'm there.

Moba said...

OMG!!! Zack & Miri make a porno in the top 5. I honestly felt like crying after watching the movie. & I really did after I fast forwarded through Pineapple express. There only so much "Oh maannns" & "fucks" & "balls" & stoned looks that I can take in a 2 hour interval. If that is the top list of 2008, I'll have to join the club of folks who cry "they don't make 'em like they did them in our times"
I shudder to think what you'd have in top 10 movies of 08 that sucked big time.

Reel Fanatic said...

Glad to hear from a fan of Kevin Smith ... I'm not sure I'll do a "worst of" list this year, but if I do, it will pain me to put Steven Soderbergh's "Che" on it, which was just the most extreme act of directing hubris I've ever seen, even with the fairly performance of Benicio del Toro

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