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🎬 "You tell those pigs to f*** off"

I thought about skipping this newsletter. It has been an awful week for the country, and I've sought
🎬 "You tell those pigs to f*** off"
By Eric Johnson • Issue #72 • View online
I thought about skipping this newsletter. It has been an awful week for the country, and I’ve sought comfort and distraction at night in the comedy movies reviewed below.
That I am able to safely distract myself at home right now is a privilege. If you are protesting this weekend: Wear a mask, be safe, and Godspeed. If you’re staying home like me: More than ever, it is our responsibility to be good allies in whatever way we can. Please join me in supporting causes such as the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp; New York Magazine’s The Cut has rounded up a much longer list of places to donate here.
Money doesn’t fix everything, though. Ending the systems of repression, harassment, discrimination, and police brutality will require a lot of all of us: We need to educate ourselves, talk with our friends and loved ones, contact local leaders to demand common-sense police reforms, vote for representatives who take this seriously, and more. We are living through history and could be on the precipice of a new Civil Rights movement — but only if we can commit ourselves to doing more than optical allyship.
It feels weird to be so serious in this usually-frivolous newsletter, but these are serious times. Black Lives Matter.

👗 Bridesmaids
I missed the cultural wave when Bridesmaids first came out and hadn’t made time to go back and check it out. The good cast is led by two actors I really like, Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph, and there are several funny scenes, but unfortunately, the movie didn’t work for me overall.
Like a lot of modern comedies, there are long stretches here with no laughs as the talented actors try to improv their way out of a subpar script. I didn’t buy the chemistry between Wiig and her love interest, an Irish cop played by Chris O'Dowd, and the promising bridesmaid group — especially Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey — is only a marginal part of the story, with the exception of Rose Byrne’s antagonist, Helen.
It also irked me that the movie is ostensibly set in Milwaukee, but there is no effort made to situate the characters or their story in that place. I know this movie matters to women who have been sorely under-represented in mainstream comedies, but even the much-maligned all-female Ghostbusters reboot — directed by the same guy, Paul Feig — made me laugh more.
Bridesmaids - Trailer
Bridesmaids - Trailer
Bridesmaids is currently streaming on HBO Go/Now/Max and DirecTV. You can also find it on all the big video sites — $3.99 to rent and $9.99 to $16.99 to own (Fandango Now currently has the best price).
🐠 A Fish Called Wanda
The first time I saw A Fish Called Wanda, I was deep into my first binge of everything the Monty Python troupe had ever done. Although this film features only one-third of the Pythons (John Cleese and Michael Palin), it radiates with the same anarchic, unpredictable, gleeful humor that powered their best work.
What I didn’t appreciate all those years ago is how incredible the rest of the cast is, too: Kevin Kline is unforgettable as the human embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect, while Jamie Lee Curtis is a great example of how smart characters don’t have to be boring stiffs (see Ace Ventura, below), and, in fact, can be dazzlingly funny.
I’m hesitant to say much more because I don’t want to give away the surprises. But if you watch only one film mentioned in the newsletter this week, make it this one.
A Fish Called Wanda Official Trailer #1 - John Cleese Movie (1988) HD
A Fish Called Wanda Official Trailer #1 - John Cleese Movie (1988) HD
A Fish Called Wanda is currently streaming on HBO Go/Now/Max and DirecTV. You can also find it on all the big video sites — $3.99 to $4.99 to rent and $12.99 to $14.99 to own (Amazon and Google/YouTube currently have the best price).
🇬🇷 My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Did I mention that I watched a lot of comedies this week? My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a fun and breezy romcom that does one thing brilliantly: It can make everyone laugh, whether they relate to Nia Vardalos’ protagonist or not.
Before seeing the film, I was apprehensive that some jokes might go over my head because my understanding of Greek culture is limited to the Parthenon and spanakopita. And I’m sure I missed a lot! But this is a crowd-pleaser that knows how to balance the very specific story of its writer/star with the comprehension level of a mass audience.
Vardalos is instantly likable as an unlucky-in-love waitress named Toula Portokalos, who happens to serve coffee to a hunky schoolteacher, played by John Corbett. His character is basically just an audience stand-in for a viewers who don’t know what it’s like to have an intense tight-knit immigrant family, which is a nice way of saying he’s boring.
But that doesn’t really matter because it means we get to spend more time with the incredibly not boring Portokalos family, including Toula’s father Gus — who, played by Michael Constantine, belongs in the movie dad hall of fame alongside Cher’s dad from Clueless and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) Official Trailer #1 - Nia Vardalos Movie HD
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) Official Trailer #1 - Nia Vardalos Movie HD
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is currently streaming on HBO Go/Now/Max and DirecTV. You can also find it on many of the big video sites — $3.99 to rent and $9.99 to $12.99 to own (Amazon, Vudu, and Google/YouTube currently have the best price).
🚬 Thank You For Smoking
The 2005 comedy Thank You For Smoking is the ultimate cynical Washington DC movie. Every single person in a position of power or influence is some degree of untrustworthy, from an anti-smoking Vermont senator to the tobbaco industry’s chief lobbyist Nick Naylor, played to perfection by Aaron Eckhart.
I’ll be the first to admit that this movie is not for everyone. But Nick is sort of like Emperor Peter in the new Hulu series The Great (also recommended!): You sort of have to like him, even if he is responsible for the deaths of 1200 people every day.
One of my few problems with this movie, directed by Jason Reitman and adapted from the book by Christopher Buckley, is that it perpetuates a pernicious myth — that journalists sleep with their sources to get scoops. The reporter character played by Katie Holmes is charming enough that I would have liked to see her behave like an actual journalist; of course, that would go against the movie’s “don’t trust anyone” ethos.
Thank you for Smoking Trailer
Thank you for Smoking Trailer
Thank You For Smoking is currently streaming on DirecTV and MaxGo (which is, incredibly, a Cinemax thing and not HBO Max or HBO Go — the streaming wars are stupid!). You can also find it on all the big video sites — $3.99 to rent and $9.99 to $14.99 to own (Amazon and Google/YouTube currently have the best price).
🐬 Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
It must have been thrilling in 1994 to see Jim Carrey for the first time.
His face and body are so elastic, one might think he’s an escaped Looney Tune in human clothing, and I can respect how hard he is working in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
However, I finally got around to watching this movie and it’s just … bad. The script is barely funny and Carrey’s outsized character is only relatable to a five-year-old. Not to mention that Ace Ventura engages in some lazy jokes about gay/trans panic and mental health that go out of their way to be mean.
The talents of Courtney Cox, playing a buttoned-up publicist for the Miami Dolphins who inexplicably finds Carrey’s man-child sexy, are totally wasted here; no one watching this in February 1994 would have thought she was destined to do anything special. How surprising that September would be!
The filmmakers should have paid closer attention to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: When you have a super-annoying character, even if his name is in the title, a little bit goes a long way and you need a fully-realized straight man to carry the story forward.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) Official Trailer - Jim Carrey Movie HD
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) Official Trailer - Jim Carrey Movie HD
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is currently streaming on Netflix. You can also find it on all the big video sites — $3.99 to rent and $12.99 to $13.99 to own.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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