Category Archives: Comedy

I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.

Greaser’s Palace (1972) is an (Unfulfilling) Weirdo’s Paradise

This is installment one in our “Psychotronic Cinema series.

The films in this series are “psychotronic,” a term borrowed from Michael J. Weldon’s magazine and encyclopedia. Psychotronic covers the wide swath of cinema that is either slightly out there or entirely bonkers – horror, science fiction, fantasy, exploitation, blockbusters, flops, low budgets, no budgets, thought-provoking, brain dead, beautiful, grotesque, bloody, breezy, sleazy, and so on. At the end of the day, what is considered “psychotronic” might come down to the eye test – you know one when it crosses your path.

After watching last year’s Sr., a Robert Downey Jr.-led documentary about his father, filmmaker Robert Downey (Sr.), I was enticed into catching up on some of the director’s offbeat filmography. It wasn’t the documentary itself that invited me to see Greaser’s Palace — neither the clips from the film nor the doc’s father-son bonding moments did it for me. Frankly, the doc felt a few ticks overdone, with its black and white cinematography and Robert Downey Jr. puppeteering some of the would-be heartwarming scenes.

What works about Sr. is the same thing that works (for me, at least) about Sr.’s films, and that’s Continue reading Greaser’s Palace (1972) is an (Unfulfilling) Weirdo’s Paradise

M3GAN (2023) Movie Review

Nothing says kicking off a new year at the movies quite like an AI-driven robot toy singing a haunting lullaby rendition of a Sia song a few hours after said robot violently attacks a mopey child bully.

Before the pandemic caused the movie industry to throw out the playbook on theatrical releases, January was a month notorious for its low-quality new releases. Traditionally, January fare includes Continue reading M3GAN (2023) Movie Review

Triangle of Sadness (2022) Movie Review

Ruben Östlund’s previous two films, The Square and Force Majeure, do one thing with effective idiosyncrasy, and that is to showcase and revel in the profoundly uncomfortable and awkward. Force Majeure centers its entire action around such an uncomfortable premise: what if you abandoned your family in a moment of crisis, only to realize too late that the crisis was no crisis at all? The Square, meanwhile, adds a leaden layer of class commentary to the mix, pessimistically pointing a mocking finger at the literati of the art world.

Triangle of Sadness, Östlund’s latest, does not fall far from this tree. In fact, at most turns in the plot he doubles down on Continue reading Triangle of Sadness (2022) Movie Review

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Best Night Ever (2013) and Superfast! (2015)

This is the sixth and final installment in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single Handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.”

In pursuing this project, I did not set out to unilaterally pan the Friedberg and Seltzer oeuvre (as much as the hack, clickbait adjacent title might suggest). Sure, I find almost all of their work indefensible. But I endeavored to get closer to the heart of who these two writers are and what they wanted to get out of their filmmaking. Unfortunately, this is difficult knowledge to gain, considering they are on the record as being almost entirely off the record. The duo almost never give interviews, and, aside from a great Matt Patches piece at Grantland, I could not find a source where they were seriously interviewed.

All the same, I wanted to move beyond the easy insults that have been hurled their way. I wanted to move beyond the perception of them as Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Best Night Ever (2013) and Superfast! (2015)

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Vampires Suck (2010), The Starving Games (2013)

This is the fifth installment in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-Handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.”

In this penultimate installment, we will examine two of the late career parodies of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer: Vampires Suck and The Starving Games. As I see it, Friedberg and Seltzer’s career can be separated into two distinct phases. There are two reasons why I think about it this way.

For one, there is an easy delineation one could make between the writers’ 2000s output and their 2010s output. As I outlined in previous articles, the 2000s saw a healthy resurgence of the spoof movie, but by the end of the decade it was starting to become clear that the poor quality of these films were catching up with them. Through the 2010s, parody films grew increasingly less popular at the box office.

As such, Vampires Suck serves as a crucial turning point in Friedberg and Seltzer’s career. It was the last of their films to Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Vampires Suck (2010), The Starving Games (2013)

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. (2022) Movie Review

Adamma Ebo’s Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. places its viewer at the intersection of capital and religion. For pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) and Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall), this intersection has broken traffic lights. From the beginning, there is a fissure between the two forces, and a clear favoritism in this mega-church community toward capital. And at this broken traffic stop, problems are bound to occur.

Rather, a collision has already occurred at the point in which we meet the church owners. A scandal has rocked the church, which has caused Lee-Curtis to disappear from the public eye. But he sees Easter Sunday as the perfect time for his big comeback. With the church reopening set for that Sunday, Lee-Curtis commissions a documentary film crew to chart his return to prominence; his resurrection, if you will.

regina-hall-in-honk-for-jesus-save-your-soul

You could think about Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. in one sense as a tone piece. What is an occasionally humorous satire of commodified religion also carries a darker Continue reading Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. (2022) Movie Review

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Meet The Spartans and Disaster Movie (2008)

This is the fourth installment in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.”

Following the profitable Epic Movie in 2007, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer saw two of their films released in 2008. If one was skeptical about the over-saturation of spoof films at the box office in the second half of the 2000s, that sentence should alleviate any further suspicion.

These parodies were being churned out like a factory assembly line product. Mere months after Meet the Spartans opened, it was announced that the pair were in pre-production on what would become Disaster Movie (the project started life as an ill-advised Superbad send-up). Disaster Movie filmed in late spring and was released before the year was out.

One could theorize that studios were eager to rapidly produce and ship to theaters these parody films while someone (anyone) was willing to Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Meet The Spartans and Disaster Movie (2008)

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Epic Movie (2007)

This is installment three in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.”

Here we go. This is the point after which discussing the works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer becomes an arduous chore. Epic Movie signals the beginning of the end for the blockbuster parody film. This is not to say that the Friedberg-Seltzer movies stop making a profit after this movie. But Epic Movie embodies all of the things that detractors of the parody genre point to when they argue for its extinction. And while Friedberg and Seltzer (mostly) weather the severe backlash to their films through the 2000s, the parody genre as a whole starts to fade away.

Since 2007, major spoof releases have grossed the following worldwide, in millions (Friedberg and Seltzer titles in bold):

  • Epic Movie (2007) – $86.8
  • The Comebacks (2007) – $13.5
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) – $20.6
  • Meet the Spartans (2008) – $84.6
  • Superhero Movie (2008) – $73.0
  • Disaster Movie (2008) – $36.7
  • Dance Flick (2009) – $32.2
  • Vampires Suck (2010) – $81.4
  • Casa de Mi Padre (2012) – $8.4
  • A Haunted House (2013) – $59.9
  • Scary Movie V (2013) – $78.6
  • A Haunted House 2 (2014) – $21.2
  • Fifty Shades of Black (2016) – $22.1
  • Meet the Blacks (2016) – $9.1
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) – $9.5

There hasn’t been a major theatrical parody since Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Epic Movie (2007)

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Date Movie (2006)

This is installment two in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.”

In the first installment of this ill-conceived series, which shamelessly adds on to the immense online discourse that has made writer-directors Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg Hollywood’s favorite punching bags, we took a look at the 2000 film Scary Movie. The film was a massive financial success, and the amount that Seltzer and Friedberg contributed to that success is debatable. Some have questioned whether they had any creative hand in that film, at all.

No matter the case, the duo certainly used the writing credits they received on the film to launch themselves into the comedy film game. Date Movie, the pair’s first directorial effort, proudly displayed a slightly disparaging poster tagline: “From Two of the Six Writers of Scary Movie.” The home video release would go one step further in comically diminishing the writers’ prior credit by placing “2 of the 6” as a parenthetical caret above the tagline.

At the same time as this tagline downplayed the writers’ contribution to Scary Movie, it also reinforced that Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: Date Movie (2006)

The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-Handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre

This is installment one in “The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre.” The series, a career retrospective on the works of parody film writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, aims to put their heavily maligned work into perspective. Why were their films equally successful and hated? And why did the pair disappear from Hollywood? Moreover, can anything good be said for the directors, whose films are widely considered to be some of the worst of all time.

Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer achieved their first credit as a writing team on Spy Hard, the 1996 Leslie Nielsen espionage spoof. Their names appeared in the credits for the hit horror parody Scary Movie. Then, they went on to write and direct some of the worst comedy movies of the 21st century. Date Movie. Epic Movie. Disaster Movie. Meet the Spartans. Vampires Suck. The Starving Games.

Let’s not dwell on these parody clunkers, though. Not yet, at least. Let’s begin with Scary Movie, a very successful film that had a hand in reinvigorating the parody genre for a new generation. It launched a franchise. It launched the career of Anna Faris. It was truly influential in steering the broad comedy into the 21st century, at least in the short term.

Scary Movie was an ambitious pitch. Not because it was a parody of the entire slasher genre with the audacity of having a name as blunt as Scary Movie. But because it is a beat-for-beat broad comedy re-enactment of Scream, which had already Continue reading The Friedberg-Seltzer Massacre: How Two Men Single-Handedly Destroyed the Parody Genre