Vice 2019 ***


After the information dump of The Big Short, Adam McKay continues his post SNL career as a political activist with this scabrous portrait of US vice president Dick Cheney. As played by Christian Bale over several decades, Cheney is viewed here as the man behind, happy for others to take the limelight while getting what he wants behind the scenes. With make-up rendering him all but unrecognisable, Bale seems to submerge himself into the part to great effect, and Amy Adams matches him as his wife. McKay is an anything-goes director, and it’s no surprise to hear that an elaborate musical scene was cut; there’s also scenes which don’t quite land with relation to the Halliburton scandal and the final obsession with heart problems is the film’s weakest suit. But some of the comedy is proper satire and it works, notably Albert Molina as a waiter offering a menu of corruptions, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and a interesting footnote on the creation of Fox News. As satire, Vice didn’t have much chance of reaching an audience, but it’s much more than just a glorified SNL sketch.


Brigsby Bear 2017 ****


Seemingly a holiday project for various members of the Saturday Night Live team, Brigsby Bear is a touching comedy-drama about a nerd’s obsession with sci-fi. That’s a fairly universal phenomenon, but Brigsby Bear triples down on it by having James (Kyle Mooney) kidnapped from his parents and raised on nothing but the Brigsby Bear tv show, which is created especially for him by his father (Mark Hamill). When James is rescued, he misses the show of his formative years so much that he enlists the help of his fellow teenagers to direct a concluding episode and bring the cycle to a close. The casting of Hamill is a nod towards where Dave McCary’s film is going, and a comic highpoint is Greg Kinnear, whose initially sceptical cop ends up playing the Obi Wan Kenobi role in the fantasy saga. Cameos from Andy Samberg, Clare Danes and Beck Bennett help move things along, and Brigsby Bear manages to be uplifting while also offering a cautionary tale about the stories we consume and why they were constructed.

Hot Rod 2007 ***


The success of Brooklyn 911 seems to suggest that Andy Samberg has finally caught a break; the Saturday Night Live star has struggled to find the right outlets for his talents; contrast his appalling turn in the equally appalling That’s My Boy to his fragrant work as part of The Lonely Island. His 2007 vehicle Hot Rod demonstrated his latent talent; as Rod Kimble, he’s an aspiring stunt-man, punch-drunk on his own hubris, who undertakes a dangerous motorcycle jump in a bid to make money for his father’s operation. With a strong ensemble, including Ian McShane, Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Will Arnett, Akiva Shaffer’s film is a deliberately low-brow comedy with more laughs than many big-budget efforts.