Simon Pegg

MAN UP

man-up-movie

2015 – When chronically single Nancy (Lake Bell) is mistaken for divorcee Jack’s (Simon Pegg) blind date, she decides to play along.  

If you’re looking for a clever, touching alternative to the execrable Silver Linings Playbook – a movie that doesn’t coddle its characters or talk down to its audience, a movie that’s dialogue-heavy but never feels tedious, a movie about real feelings and not trite Hollywood angst – look no further.

The real enjoyment of watching a romantic comedy is being able to picture yourself as one of the leads. If done properly, you should be thinking, “Hey, I’m not terrible-looking and have a sense of humor! If I played my cards right, this same thing could happen to me!” Man Up presents a dating scene that should be all too familiar to 30-somethings, a place where disappointment, divorce, and the inevitable cynicism are all too common.

Just about everyone can relate to Nancy’s situation in the opening scenes: forced into a disastrous blind date by a few well-intentioned friends. Her sister Elaine (Sharon Horgan) encourages her to keep her chin up and be impulsive. After an encounter with an obnoxiously chipper 20-something (Ophelia Lovibond), Nancy decides to do exactly that and allows an improbable string of circumstances to connect her with Jack. As you might expect, their date goes better than either of them could have expected… until an obsessed ex-neighbor and a vindictive ex-wife arrive on the scene.

The film takes place pretty close to “real time,” encompassing the events of one afternoon and evening. While a modest run-time helps keep the movie taut and crisp, it also helps itself by continually upping the stakes. While we enjoy watching the two leads move through their awkward first date conversations, we’re also kept in suspense by one sub-plot after another: will Jack find out that Nancy isn’t the “Jessica” he was expecting? Will creepy stalker Sean (Rory Kinnear) mess things up? Will Nancy make it in time for the speech at her parents’ 40th anniversary party?

Man Up is definitely written with a certain Generation X audience in mind – people in their 30s and early 40s who have been through the dating ringer, have faced ruined relationships and even failed marriages, and are yearning for the kind of connection their parents seemed to have. Millennials, a lot of whom live in broken households and think a “relationship” is three dates with someone you met on Tinder, won’t get it.

It also toes the line between a traditional romantic comedy and the more popular gross-out humor of today. There are a few scenes, mostly featuring the Sean character, that just don’t jive with the  overall tone of the movie. These slight inconsistencies are like the off notes that the doomed flutist was playing in Red Dragon in that they made me take notice, but fortunately not enough for me to want to butcher and eat someone.

Things recover quickly, though, thanks mainly to how charming Bell and Pegg are in their respective roles. There isn’t a lot of screaming and wailing, but there is a lot to appreciate about the acting. Paired with an overall positive tone and a strong cast of supporting characters, it’s enough to push Man Up into the must-see echelon on Netflix.

Advertisements

KILL ME THREE TIMES

Kill Me Three Times dune

2015 – Various unsympathetic characters get involved in a surprisingly uncomplicated series of violent crimes.

On the off chance that he gets drunk one night and decides to peruse obscure blog reviews of movies he was involved with, I’m going to lead off by saying that I’m a huge Simon Pegg fan. The entire “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy rank among my favorite movies of all time. If there was one guy I could pick to hang out with and talk movies, writing, and comedy with, it’d probably be him.

So, when I saw that he’d be playing a ruthless hit man (with an absurd mustache), I went all in on Kill Me Three Times. Even the title had me pumped – it just sounds so COOL. I envisioned a slick, funny, violent crime film – something like Grosse Pointe Blank (another one of my favorites… although I wouldn’t want to hang out with John Cusack because his tiny little mouth is very unsettling).

It didn’t take long for mild disappointment to sink in. The movie wasn’t bad, mind you. It was just… unfulfilling. It has the trappings of a black comedy but fails to deliver the laughs. It has the characteristics of a crime thriller but presents a simplistic, unexciting plot. Perhaps worst of all, it mimics the look, sound, and feel of an early Quentin Tarantino flick while feeling even more empty and derivative.

Here’s the plot: a Bar Owner (I’m skipping the character names since they all blended together after a while) hires Pegg to kill his Cheating But Virtuous Wife (CBVW for short). At the same time, Gambling Dentist and his Bitch Wife (who is Bar Owner’s sister) are being threatened by Corrupt Cop because they owe him money. They decide to kill CBVW in a staged car wreck, disguising the body as Bitch Wife so they can collect on an insurance policy. But there’s a twist: CBVW doesn’t die.

That is the movie’s ONLY twist. For all the promise of its amazing title and charismatic star, Kill Me Three Times barely qualifies as a thriller. The only characters out to get each other are exactly the ones you’d expect – there are no surprise double-crosses, hidden schemes, or mind-blowing revelations. Along the way we get plenty of 60s-sounding music, retro cars, and swearing, but nothing to really hold the attention.

Instead of a clever and engaging plot, the movie just does the Tarantino show-the-events-out-of-order thing. The only mild surprises the movie provides come from it being shown in a sequence of 2-1-3 instead of 1-2-3. The other day I was doing possibly the whitest thing ever and watching a Youtube video of Peter Bogdanivoch talking about Orson Welles… I mean, look at this:

Kill Me Three Times whitest thing ever

THE EXCITEMENT!

Peter (the slightly more boring-looking guy on the right) says: “I really hate films that they make now which are told backward, or from the ending forward or from the middle, or you have to really be a genius to follow it…” You don’t have to be a genius to follow Kill Me Three Times, but what does the movie gain from being shown out-of-order? It’s a crutch to cover up the fact that, if we actually watched everything in the proper sequence, there would be no interest at all.

One of the few things I really enjoyed was the Hot Fuzz stabbing reference:

"How's the hand?" "It's a bit stiff."

“How’s the hand?” “It’s a bit stiff.”

I must also note that, although the movie is called Kill Me Three Times (the “me” being the wife everyone’s trying to kill), there’s really only one murder attempt (and it’s only shown twice, from two different perspectives). So what’s with the “three times” thing?

This movie gets a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has a 6%. Come on, people. Have a little perspective.