Jared McMillan // Film Critic

A lot of movie titles come through the pipeline in any given week. With the many streaming options now available to go with wide releases, it’s good to know about the smaller titles in case they are better entertainment options. This week, we take a look at three comedies that range in style and execution, two which are good surprises and one that misses big.

Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong and Rebel Wilson

The latest from over-the-top comedy auteur Sacha Baron Cohen tells the tale of two brothers separated at youth, who are reunited under unfortunate circumstances. Knobby (Cohen) is a drunken hooligan that sloughs it in the blue-collar town of Grimsby. After years of looking for his brother, he finally finds Sebastian (Mark Strong), who is a secret agent on mission to protect a philanthropist (Penelope Cruz) from assassination.

Knobby cares so much about reuniting with his brother that he has no peripherals in terms of the situation. For instance, he hugs Sebastian as he’s about to kill the assassin. Sebastian accidentally shoots someone else and is now wanted as the assassin. Knobby is in the big brother seat as they try to figure out everything before they are killed.

As the movie goes on, it’s clear that Cohen and his team of writers had really outlandish set pieces without caring about any sort of narrative structure, character development, or all-around continuity. For instance, Knobby finds Sebastian without any sort of sound reasoning; if Sebastian can be found by some drunk, then he’s not credible as a badass spy. Also, Strong is supposed to play the straight man to Cohen’s buffoon but he blindly goes against any logic as Knobby does. They’re both idiots at the end.

Those outlandish set pieces though are pretty hysterical, including the main shocker involving wildlife. But all of the huge laughs can’t compare to the laziness with the rest of the jokes (save the pedophile jokes for never), and can’t save the movie from being palatable.

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY is playing in theaters everywhere today.

Director: Robert Carlyle
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson and Ray Winstone

Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle) is a no-nothing milquetoast of a man who has nothing but his job as a barber in the Scottish town of Bridgton. However, being a sad sack has finally gotten to him and his attitude leaves Barney clientless. As he pleas for his job, he accidentally kills his boss with scissors and now his life gets less boring. The problem is that there has been a string of murders by The Body Parts Killer, and the head detective (Ray Winstone) sees Thomson as a suspect. Barney finds solace in his mother (a scenery-chewing Emma Thompson), who tries to help keep his accident a secret.

The winner of two BAFTA Scotland Awards (Best Feature and Best Actress for Thompson), BARNEY THOMSON is elevated by its stylish direction and dark humor. Everything that happens to Barney is purely by accident, but, the narrative is told by Barney to even make it more lighthearted given the serial killer circumstances.

The lives of our protagonist and his antagonist detective are mirror images of two people stuck in a town they despise. We never once question Barney’s character as a good guy trying to get out of a deep pit of despair. It has its flaws, but its wit and character never loses its grip on the audience.

BARNEY THOMSON is playing in select theaters and streaming on various VOD services.

Director: Jordan Galland
Cast: Jemima Kirke, William Sadler and Carol Kane

Most horror movies that deal with demonic possession mainly look at the possession itself, and ends with said demon getting exorcised or expelled somehow. They never look at the aftermath, the result of the carnage/anguish caused by the possessed (you are dead to me EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC). In this dark indie comedy, we meet Ava (Louisa Krause) as she comes to after her exorcism. She is ordered by the court to attend Spirit Possession Anonymous, which is a secret support group kept by the Vatican, while she figures out what happened in the past month during her possession.

AVA’S POSSESSIONS does a nice job of keeping its cynicism on its sleeve. It takes a lot of the rules with demonic possession narratives and turns them on its head. For instance, just because they were exorcised, the demon can still come back. The whole point is to regain control of yourself to keep your demons at bay. It plays like a neo-noir more than a horror, with the mystery being its central theme. Some of the acting can be a little shaky from the supporting cast, but it’s a nice little gem to come across. If you’re a fan of meta horror or wry comedies, give this one a shot.

AVA’S POSSESSIONS is streaming on various VOD services.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.