Michael Showalter

Michael Showalter

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Two Night Stand Review


OK

Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton are smart enough actors to make the most of this uneven romantic comedy, which never manages to disguise the standard formula, even with a gimmicky premise. So while the plot and characters are simplistic and artificial, at least there's some charisma on the screen to keep us entertained. There's also a spark of lively chemistry that makes the hokey romance somewhat amusing.

It's set in New York, where Megan (Tipton) has moved in with her loved-up friends (Jessica Szohr and Scott Mescudi) to recover from a bad break-up. After a run-in with her ex (Josh Salatin), she goes online in a moment of desperation and then heads to Brooklyn for a one-night stand with Alec (Teller). But when she tries to sneak out in the morning, she finds that they're snowed-in, unable to leave the building. Super-defensive for no real reason, she creates a war-zone in the flat, and they eventually agree to be ruthlessly honest with each other. If they're going to be trapped together, they might as well learn something useful.

There's never a question of where this is heading, although the script makes Megan such an angry shrew that we really don't like her at all for much of the film. She only calms down when Alec produces some weed (a misogynistic plot point), and as they finally begin to communicate Tipton and Teller are able to inject an enjoyable mixture of intelligence and wit into their rambling conversation. This makes them feel more realistic, and lets the film make some sharp observations about the nature of courtship in the world of dating apps. Yes, looking for a partner online is difficult even when "the bar is set so very low".

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They Came Together Review


OK

How do you spoof a genre that's already a joke? Filmmakers David Wain and Michael Showalter clearly think the answer is to go for broke with a nonstop barrage of silliness, because some of the jokes are bound to stick. They did the same thing for teen summer-camp comedies more than a decade ago with Wet Hot American Summer, which stars many of the same actors. And while this movie is just as hilarious, it never quite transcends its own jokiness. Because as a rom-com it's never very engaging.

The story plays out as Joel and Molly (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler) meet up with their friends (Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) and regale them with the story of their romance. Everything about their courtship is just like in the movies, from the meet-cute to the fact that New York is another character in their story. Molly runs an adorable candy shop, while Joel is a "not too handsome or too Jewish" corporate raider sent to shut her down, but they hit it off, engage in a wildly energetic first sexual encounter, then go through the usual montage sequences on their way to the usual rough patches ("Your dreams don't pay the rent!"), breakups and mad-dash reunions.

Since it's told in flashbacks, the film feels almost like a collection of comedy sketches, most of which are ridiculously funny. The jokes are clever and pointed, with riotous side characters including sassy best friends, inappropriate relatives, idiotic coworkers and clingy ex-lovers. So every scene is a zany mixture of goofy slapstick, surreal visual gags and hysterically overstated emotion. Thankfully, the cast is more than adept at wringing every moment for laughter. Rudd and Poehler have impeccable timing, and they're supported by a terrific cast of seasoned comical actors, including amusing cameos from the likes of Adam Scott, Michael Shannon and Norah Jones.

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Wet Hot American Summer Review


Excellent
It will be a long, hard stretch until the summer movie season finally arrives. Until then, we must endure a series of likely theatrical flops that Blockbuster will sell for $2.99 in six months. Life isn't fair.

But there is hope at your local video store -- Wet Hot American Summer, a hysterical spoof on 1980s pop culture featuring several members of The State, the sketch comedy troupe which had its own, brilliant MTV show in the mid-1990s. (Note to younger readers: That was before Cribs and The Real World were run in a continuous loop.)

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The Baxter Review


Weak
We've all seen the romantic comedy where the fair blonde heroine is in the church, at the altar and just about to marry the absolute wrong guy, when the right guy (handsome, charming, maybe a little unorthodox, but romantic as all hell) comes charging in and brings things to a screeching halt. Girl marries right guy and everybody goes home happy. Only what happens to the other, not-so-right guy? Michael Showalter's promising, quite funny, but ultimately underwhelming The Baxter is the film about that guy, starting with that quintessential wedding moment and then flashing back to what led up to it.

The guy in question here is Elliot Sherman (Showalter), a dishwater dull C.P.A. whose grandmother had a word for nice guys like him who never got the girl: a Baxter. Played by Showalter as a nerdy bore with a basically decent disposition, Elliot is on the verge of starting a minor flirtation with Cecil (Michelle Williams), the temp filling in for his sick secretary, when in walks his WASP-ily gorgeous new client Caroline (Elizabeth Banks), who promptly sweeps him off his feet with her Ralph Lauren-ad-ready looks. Although it's difficult to see why such a bombshell as Caroline would fall for a guy the film spends so much time trying to make look like a first-degree schlub, the oddball pairing does make for some decent comic contretemps, and easily sets up Elliot's downfall when Caroline's ex-boyfriend, Bradley, shows up. A darkly handsome, adventurous, and wealthy scientist who likes to quote Keats and isn't afraid of showing his sensitive side, Bradley (Justin Theroux, slyly magnificent) is like kryptonite to a Baxter, and the rest of the film is just biding time until the inevitable happens.

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Wet Hot American Summer Review


Terrible

Never before have I seen a movie try so hard to be deliberately awful -- and succeed so wildly -- as "Wet Hot American Summer," a nickel-budget sketch-comedy spoof of early '80s teen sex-at-camp romps like "Little Darlings" and "Meatballs."

Created by veterans of cable "Saturday Night Live" knock-offs "The State" and "Upright Citizens' Brigade," it's a loose jumble of too-obvious jabs at the genre through stock characters in grossly under-rehearsed vignettes that are absentmindedly filmed and edited together without rhythm and apparently at random.

You've got your dorky virgin (Michael Showalter) making an ass of himself for the unattainable girl (Marguerite Moreau). She prefers the inimical, self-styled stud in the jean jacket (the under-appreciated Paul Rudd in the movie's only truly funny performance). He, in turn, prefers the company of your ubiquitous pubescent sluts in tube tops.

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Michael Showalter

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