Tag Archives: Comedy

CAPSULE: KUNG FURY (2015)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: David Sandberg

FEATURING: David Sandberg, Jorma Taccone, Leopold Nilsson

PLOT: After his captain is murdered via telephone, policeman Kung Fury must travel back in time to kill the assassin, Kung Führer (AKA Adolf Hitler).

Still from Kung Fury (2015)

COMMENTS: Kung Fury is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen. It is also one of the funniest. Even more impressively, it is that rarest of silly comedy films: one that has the wherewithal and willpower not to overstay its welcome. Apart from its other (considerable) qualities, I’d tip my had to Sandberg for shutting up shop and spinning the closing credits well before he wore through the already well-worn tropes that are the bread and bullets of the genre. From the opening skateboard car-flip to the smugly defiant Hitler soaring amidst the high-rises of 1985 downtown Miami on his mechanized Nazi eagle, it never felt forced, fatigued, or unfunny.

Even before (or… after?) Hitler’s appearance in downtown Miami, the city’s not a pretty sight. Street toughs hassle cops with impunity, flipping their squad cars like skeet discs for target practice. Arcade machines flash a nasty “Fuck You!” to the unhappy gamers who kick it after their sky unicorn is shot down on-screen. And transformer death machines spring to life, smashing up passing motorists and menacing passing canines. These hassles are all in a day’s work for… Kung Fury: a super cop who does not play by the book. The chip on his shoulder is as real as his sardonic gruffness is fake: years back, he lost his partner and mentor at the hands of a Kung fu master; before young Fury could pull the trigger on the assailant, he was “…hit by lightning and bitten by a cobra.” The rest is history.

And there is quite a lot of history: ancient Vikings astride their dinosaur mounts, the mighty god Thor (who utters his immortal words, “Stop! Hammer Time”), and, of course, the requisite hundreds of Nazi goons ready to fall under the righteous bullet spray sof Hackerman, Triceracop, Barbarianna and Katana. Oh, and a second welcome appearance from Thor and his epic pecs. Added to all this inspired lunacy is Jorma Taccone’s performance as a martial arts fascist; the actor perfectly captures the bizarre speechifying articulations of the erstwhile Führer.

Kung Fury is first and foremost a lampoon of ’80s crime/martial arts television and film. The creative team is spot on with everything—gaudy New Wave score, “futuristic” Tron-style animations, and even a seamlessly included advertisement for a newfangled mobile telephone. It’s as resourceful as it is silly. Leaning heavily on the retrowave vibe, occasional “tracking” issues conveniently crop up to disturb the image just when the most expensive effects sequences might take place. The fight choreography is masterful, too; during the Nazi fight, it switches to a long uninterrupted side-scroller video game ballet. Absurd surrealism pops up as well, as when Fury’s boss is shot through a telephone. (A similar stunt from a classic ’70s film comes to mind.) Sandberg is informed, witty, and has an eye for action timing. Kung Fury is, admittedly, no “Must See”, but I would be hard-pressed to recommend it enough.

At the time of this writing, the producers have made Kung Fury available for free (see below).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an insane and ultra bizarre film…”–Martin Hafer, Influx Magazine

CAPSULE: INSPECTOR IKE (2020)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Graham Mason

FEATURING: Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Matt Barats, Grace Rex, Jessica Damouni, Ana Fabrega, Anthony Oberbeck, John Early

PLOT: Inspector Ike investigates a murder at an avant-garde theater group.

Strill from Inspector Ike (2020)

COMMENTS: Inspector Ike is a parody of a very specific subgenre— 1970’s mystery-themed “movies of the week,” a la “Columbo”—from the nearly extinct Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker-Mel Brooks school of tomfoolery. Presented as a faux episode of a ongoing movie-of-the-week series, complete with animated intro with a magnifying-glass carrying, trenchcoated sleuth, the movie drops us into a world where Inspector Ike already exists, catching new crooks week after week with his signature finishing move: hiding handcuffs near some incriminating piece of physical evidence, then toasting the perp with a wink and a glass of champagne.

This “episode” (“Audition for Death”) follows an struggling actor who kills his mentor so he can take the lead in his troupe’s production of the one-man musical “Mannie.” In “Columbo” fashion, we see the murder first, and suspense comes from watching Ike try to put the pieces together, while the killer tries to cover his tracks. The theater world setting allows the film to poke some gentle fun at the off-off-Broadway scene (the mythical “Avant-Garde Alley,” where you find mimes and kabuki actors smoking on stoops in-between rehearsals); that milieu, after all, is not all that different than the world of New York’s underground comedy scene from which Ike‘s cast was drawn. Like a true TV villain, murderer Matt Barats hams the hell out of his part, all sideways glances and sly grins before the heat turns on, then big-eyed and twitchy, like a hack in the Scottish play seeing an imaginary drop of blood on his corduroy sleeve. By contrast, Ufomadu’s Ike is totally deadpan; suave and quietly competent whether he’s fixing a tilted picture with his shadow or cooking a pot of chili in a nervous suspect’s apartment. A wide range of always humorous supporting actors occupy the spaces between these two combatants, most notably scene-stealing Deputies Hawthorne and Dinardo, who can never seem to stay on topic during their consultations with Ike.

Inspector Ike gets the fond camp tone exactly right—possibly because there’s not a lot of well-worn tropes to overparody in this extremely specific subgenre, which allows the script freedom to simply wander in the direction of whatever joke it finds most amusing at the moment. Despite the minuscule budget, Ike seems like a relic of the era, based mainly on accurate 70s wardrobes (Harry’s mustard turtleneck, Ike’s powder-blue suit with wide striped tie) and appropriate touches like commercial fadeouts. The film was shot on the streets of Brooklyn, carefully avoiding anachronisms. Casting such a project with local stand-ups rather than full-time thespians was a wise choice; low-budget comedies often fail because the actors lack comic timing and instincts, which is never an issue here. I’ll confess that I rarely found any of the gags laugh-out-loud funny, but that wasn’t a problem, because the likeable cast carries the movie along on a pleasant current of low-key absurdity that never becomes either boring or upsetting.

So it’s fun, but is it a weird movie? Well, mildly so, in at least in its general conception. In his director’s commentary, Mason says that he was trying to create something that “nobody asked for,” an artifact that would leave the audience wondering “why does this even exist?” but glad that it does. He succeeds in this goal admirably, and I’d love to see more stuff from the Mason/Ufomadu team that I never asked for.

It’s a shame that Inspector Ike did not land a streaming deal so that more people could see it, but the Blu-ray package is well worth the purchase for comedy fans. It features a commentary track by director/co-writer Mason, and a booklet with more Graham commentary, an “Inspector Ike” episode guide, and a word search puzzle. Along with the memorable trailer, two comic Ufomadu/Mason short collaborations round out the package: “Words with Ike” (a “word of the day” TV parody) and “The Photos of Ana” (with “Detective Hawthorne” Ana Fabrega). Both shorts have the same underplayed, off-kilter comic sensibilities as Inspector Ike. The package even includes an official Inspector Ike recipe card, which you can use to jot down ingredients and directions for Ike’s detailed chili recipe when prompted.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“As pop culture deep cuts go in 2022, ‘Inspector Ike’ certainly has the weirdest inspiration in recent memory… Ufomadu is terrific in the part, and the rest of the cast commits to the weirdness of the effort. Not every joke lands, or is even attempted, but there are spirited, dryly hilarious performances to enjoy throughout the endeavor.”–Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com (Blu-ray)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE (2022)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Incroyable mais vrai

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux

FEATURING: , , Benoît Magimel,

PLOT: Unlike his wife, Alain isn’t impressed by the dazzling feature hidden away in the basement of their new home, and his boss Gérard can’t believe that neither of them are impressed by his new penis.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Dupieux takes on two absurd premises and runs with both in tandem, and in so doing explores some lofty themes by way of a time-travel plot device and a “steerable” iPenis.

COMMENTS: Please believe me when I say there was a legitimate reason why I began earnestly checking my watch two-thirds into this (*gasp*), and for hoofing it out of the auditorium before the end credits had finished (double-*gasp*). Incredible But True filled me with such enthusiasm that I felt it imperative to return to my hotel room as quickly as possible to write this review. So, here I am. I made good time—and that is a perfect segue.

Dupieux’s latest film is predominately about time, and its passing. About aging, and aging’s ramifications. Alain (Alain Chabat, in full-on mellow) is an insurance functionary, and he and his wife purchase a new home featuring an odd basement amenity that, as the realtor explains after much breathless “You won’t be believe this…”, defies the laws of space and time. The upshot of it is a slooooow path to youth. This prospect leaves Alain amused, but fairly indifferent; his wife Marie becomes obsessed. Before the domestic feature takes over her life, the two have dinner with Alain’s boss Gérard, and his girlfriend Jeanne. These dinner guests explain, after much delay in the reveal, that Gérard got an upgrade.

The deadpan comedy trundles along to a plucky score, with the surrounding absurdity perfectly bouncing off Alain Chabat’s unflappable demeanor. His character is older, and content with it; has his limitations, and is at peace with those. Marie becomes obsessed with youth, Gérard is obsessed with being perceived as masculine—exemplified most obviously by his implant, but also by his penchant for fast cars and firing ranges, where a nasty recoil incident triggers his first run-in with technological fallibility. In many ways, Alain is more like Jeanne, an avidly sexual being who lives for the now and neither makes nor demands apologies from others living their lives.

Having set this plot in motion, Dupieux lets it roll nicely until…

Until…

Until… it just kind of ends. I like to think that I understand, as much as one might hope to, what Dupieux is about. I love that no idea is too crazy, and that someone out there is making comedies that are clever and outlandish. But too often, his movies just seem to stop. He’s got the middles nailed, and is good enough setting his various gears in motion (maybe he’d do well to talk with Steven Penny), but though I don’t necessarily demand a punchline, or, Heaven forbid, a nicely wrapped-up narrative complete with expository ribbon, RubberKeep an Eye Out, and now Incredible But True all feel like they cop-out on the finale. That said, I can still full-throatedly recommend this movie—as could the hundreds of fellow viewers who laughed along with me through the feature. Indeed, watching a Dupieux film in a theater full of avid enthusiasts was almost as surreal as the film itself.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Throughout the film’s lean 74 minutes, Dupieux coaxes four strong core performances, while the jaunty bounce of Jon Santo’s synth-led score mirrors the film’s cheerful weirdness.” -Lou Thomas, Sight & Sound (festival screening)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: GLORIOUS (2022)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Rebekah McKendry

FEATURING: Ryan Kwanten, J.K. Simmons

PLOT: Wes finds himself unable to leave the company of a mysterious, genial stranger in rest stop bathroom.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Sam Beckett, eat your heart out. Glorious is a two-man show where no philosophy is too heavy and no fate for mankind is too abominable. Never before has such unspeakable horror emerged through a glory hole.

COMMENTS: Rebekah McKendry’s one set comedy leaves me hamstrung in a number of ways. First, it steals the word “glorious” from me. Second, and more important, it’s a movie best seen without any foreknowledge to speak of. But, as the director overcame the challenge of crafting a manic thriller set almost entirely in one dingy, four-walled room, I shall do my best to overcome my challenges of discussing the merits of this Glorious film.

The set-up can (and should) be revealed: Wes’ only traveling companion through the backwoods highways of Nowhere, Middle America is a teddy who utters “I love you bear-y much” at the squeeze of a paw. This cloying recorded-phrase could be enough to drive a man around the bend on its own, but Wes (oh, poor poor Wes) has other things on his mind. Among them, he’s lost his girlfriend, the “one” he had not been anticipating to be the love of his life. Stricken with grief, panic, and fatigue, he pulls off the road into the parking lot of a highway rest stop. While chugging his bottle of definitely-not-Jack Daniels, he blasts his car radio and burns most of his meager possessions—including his slacks. Waking up the next morning, he crashes into the men’s room, vomits copiously, and a kindly voice inquires if he’s feeling better.

It becomes clear later on that this cordial question is one of the few instances a stranger has expressed concern for Wes, and he latches on to it, indulging the eccentric conversationalist in the neighboring stall. This voice belongs to J.K. Simmons, so you know you are in for a treat. Simmons is a natural speaker: someone we can imagine—no, scratch that—someone we’d love to inquire after our health having heard us spent a solid minute puking our guts out. His voice is key to relieving much of the claustrophobic (but never static) anxiety that bubbles up and over as Glorious proceeds. Part historian, part therapist, and all-parts good humored, Simmons’ unnamed character is a perfect foil to Wes’ broken, scumbag beardo. One of the strangest things about the movie is how compelling discourse between two fellows in a rest stop bathroom can be. The other strange thing about this movie is [redacted].

Hmm. I suppose you’ll just have to trust me: you haven’t seen a conversation-core comedy like this once since requested of André Gregory, “Encore, mais avec une puissance cosmique ultime cette fois.”

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:

“…one of the more unique movies I have seen come out of the Fantasia Film festival… While it can be a strange sit at times, for fans of cosmic horror, Glorious delivers in odd ways.”–Brendan Frye, CGM Backlot Magazine (fetsival screening)

CAPSULE: ALIENS, CLOWNS, & GEEKS (2019)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Richard Elfman

FEATURING: Bodhi Elfman, Rebecca Forsythe, Steve Agee, French Stewart

PLOT: Clown aliens, green aliens, Chinese gangsters, and government agents are all keen to get their hands on a mysterious obelisk that emerged from Eddy’s ass; Eddy would gladly be spared the bother.

Still from Aliens, Clowns & Geeks (2019)

COMMENTS: Depending upon your threshold for staggering silliness, Aliens, Clowns, & Geeks will either repel you right away, or draw you in like a frisky fly to a custard pie. The menu is baked in the title, and the chef of this mad meal is spray-painted in candy right there for all to see. This is an Elfman film. Oingo Boingo’s Richard Elfman wrote and directed it, Richard’s boy Bodhi stars in it, Bodhi’s uncle Danny composed the score, Danny’s sister-in-law Anastasia co-stars, and assorted B-movie luminaries flesh out the surrounding cast to deliver as non-stop an outing into fun-time idiocy as I’ve seen since the ’90s.

Overcoming the threat of further nostalgia, I’ll nip it in the bud with this: that innocent decade is where AC&G belongs. This film exists in a permeating atmosphere of un-thought-out nonsensicality and naïve whimsy, teetering along the slicked edge of guffaw and “Good God, why…?” Eddy Pine is a charmless actor and—scratch that, I’ll let him speak for himself: “My mother’s a junkie whore. My father’s an alien from outer space. Killer clowns are out to get me. My asshole’s the portal to the Sixth Dimension – and they cancelled my fucking series! Do you really think everything’s going to be ok?” The first part of Eddy’s lament summarizes the story. As for his question, I spoil no thinking-person’s anticipations by stating here and now: Yes, everything’s going to be okay. Because the Elfmans (Elfmen?) are in charge here.

There were innumerable moments where I half-conceived the thought, “Oh, just move on from this stup-”; but, by the time I had nearly formulated my kvetch, they had moved on. On the outside chance that the on-screen clowning, both literal and figurative, wasn’t enough to keep kicking the antics along, the score reliably schlepps the actors and audience into the next schtick. (Some quick math has just informed me that 83% of the proceedings have full-blown Elfman scoring, heightening the descent into Elfmania.)

Further reflection on ACG does summon hazy complaints about how very little of it actually works; but for this film, reflection is the enemy. While watching, one does not have time to think about what’s going on—such as why the two smokin’ hot Swedes fall for -lite Bodhi, or how Doctor von Scheisenberg (“sh*t mountain”) knows so much about the 18” plinth from Eddy’s posterior—and that is for the best. Just kick back and let the Elfman clan administer an invigorating seltzer-blast into your eyeball.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Elfman’s Aliens, Clowns, & Geeks is 86 minutes of weird, strange silliness.” -Alan Ng, Film Threat (contemporaneous)