Review – It’s A Comet!! Eh, Never Mind (“Don’t Look Up”)

From the mind of Adam McKay (The Other Guys, The Big Short, The Ron Burgundy films), this Netflix movie is a delicious black comedy send-up of all those impending doom disaster movies (Meteor, Deep Impact, Armageddon, When Worlds Collide), mixed with scathing social satire like Network, Wag the Dog, and Idiocracy.

Staring out like Deep Impact, a humongous killer comet is headed for Earth in six months! It’s discovered by two astronomers: prone to panic-attacks Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and shy Dr. Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence). After double-checking their numbers they, along with fellow scientist Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), tell the attention-seeking POTUS, Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her idiot son (and Chief of Staff), Jason (Jonah Hill). But since she’s busy at present, she tables the crisis for now. Randall & Kate decide to go on The Rip, a popular TV news show (like Good Morning America) helmed by super-perky anchors Jack Bremmer & Brie Evantee (Tyler Perry & Cate Blanchette).

But their words of doom & gloom fall short as they’re viewed as crackpots all over social media which, by the way, is run by a bizarre sociopath named Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance, doing a hybrid of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and his James Halliday from Ready Player One), a tech billionaire who owns BASH (think Google, Amazon, and Apple all rolled into one company). Anyway, the POTUS decides to finally act on the comet to deflect her own sex scandal and initiates a bold plan to blow it up using a suicide space shuttle and looney Cpt. Benedict Drask (Ron Perlman). BUT! Isherwell has other ideas. That comet is worth $132 trillion in valuable minerals, so why not use his huge tech drones to drill into it, slice it up, and retrieve the goodies?

While the POTUS thinks this a great idea, Randall & Kate are appalled at the lunacy, voicing their opinions to anyone who’ll listen to them. Kate even confides to a punk skateboard kid (Timothee Chalamet), who is surprisingly deep. But will anyone care what these scientists say or will they listen to the clearly insane POTUS telling everyone to ignore the comet and to “don’t look up!”? And what about Isherwell’s penis-shaped rockets? Will they do their job and save the Earth? And how about the new movie being released the same day as the comet’s impact called Total Destruction. Will it ever recoup its $300 million budget?  

Written, co-produced, and directed by McKay, this movie is a hilarious look at our ridiculous society, how we deflect (or ignore) bad news, and unapologetically makes fun of a certain 45th POTUS. In fact, the whole movie can easily be seen as Trump vs Fauci and when the Covid-19 virus was first reported, right down to the “comet-hoaxes”. The black humor is solid and can be dark at times, and then LOL the next. But the biggest complaint I have is McKay’s direction in this movie. I’ve seen almost every film he has ever made, but this? WTH!? It’s as if he was 10-years-old and was handed a camera for the first time. And do NOT get me started on that crazy, chainsaw editing!

Waaaaay too many close-ups, really bad camera angle choices, terrible edits that defy logic and understanding (was he going for some avant-garde sorta thing?), and segues that were amateur at best. Seriously, did McKay even direct this? Ugh! Ghastly! Thank goodness the acting and, what appears to be a lot of ad-libbing, sell this movie. DiCaprio finally gets to do some comedy (laced with seriousness) and shows off his wonderful comedic side. Lawrence is terrific as the frustrated and sarcastic astronomer and gets in some nice barbs aimed at Jonah Hill, who is hilarious as usual.

You don’t often get a chance to see Oscar-winning Meryl Streep doing nutty comedy, but she nails her part with wild abandon. And you gotta give credit to Mark Rylance for his truly weird Isherwell, although I wonder if it was his choice to replicate the voice and cadence of his character from Ready Player One. And for pure laughs, singer Ariana Grande has a small, but LOL part as diva pop-star Riley Bina that sings a “we’re all gonna die” song in concert! Really funny! The same for Perry & Blanchette. They are priceless! If you can ignore all the awful camera direction and WTH edits, you’re gonna find a darkly funny movie inside this egg.

**Now showing in selected theaters; available for streaming on Netflix on Dec. 24

Idiocracy (2006)

A little like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court meets Sleeper, this quirky, hilarious, and sharp-edged sword dig at American society was co-written & directed by Beavis & Butthead creator Mike Judge, who knows a thing or two about ripping social satires!

No one knew, back in 2006, just how apocalyptical this movie’s plot and some of its characters would turn out. We begin with an average Joe, whose name really is Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), a U.S. Army Librarian selected for a suspended animation experiment. Needing ANY suitable female candidate, the military hires a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph) and the test begins, but goes horribly wrong. We fast-forward to the year 2505 and Joe & Rita’s capsules are found after an earthquake and boy! Are they in for a surprise! The entire population has reproduced, throughout the centuries, dumb and dumber generations to the point where Joe is now the smartest person alive!

In this new Utopia, people speak in odd forms of English, crass commercialism and over-consumption is entertainment, technology is hampered by constant malfunctions, and Joe thinks all of this is some kind of hallucination. After a while, Rita disappears and Joe gets arrested for not having a bar code tattooed on his arm. His totally incompetent lawyer, Frito Pendejo (Dax Shepard) gets him convicted in a ridiculous court case that is more like a WWE show. A bar code machine names Joe “Not Sure” and he’s sent to prison, but Joe easily escapes as the guards are really dumb. Joe finds Frito to clear his name and then discovers that there’s a time machine inside the local (and city-sized) Costco!

After hooking back up with Rita, Joe and Frito go to Costco, but Joe gets arrested again, but this time he’s sent to the White House because President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews wearing a very silly wig) thinks that, since Joe is so smart, he can solve the current food crisis and why the crops aren’t growing (hint: they’re using Mountain Dew instead of water!). Joe’s plan of watering the crops with (duh!) water comes under question by Camacho’s moronic staff and he’s sentenced to die. How? Arena style against a Monster Truck! But Joe, being of average intelligence, wins the day and things turn out okay.

A ripping parody of the American people, one can easily draw parallels between the dim-witted and narcissistic President Camacho and a certain recently twice-impeached ex-prez! It’s a scathing indictment of how we live, what we consume, how we buy, and we just don’t care about things. Joe represents the sane every man who tries desperately to convince and dumb-down stuff to others in some futile attempt to make things make sense, but failing miserably. You really feel for this guy and Judge, with co-writer Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Men in Black 3), has captured it perfectly.

Check out all the hilarious props, matte paintings, and fake TV shows. They’re half the fun of this dystopian world where you can sit and watch your favorite cable show on a combination E-Z chair and toilet! Broken buildings are held together with rope, planes crash with alarming frequency, and to get out of prison all you gotta do is tell the guard that you don’t belong there! Wilson plays this first with such wide-eyed wonderment, then contempt, and finally pity for the people who have to live in this world. Rudolph is great as the hooker who is right at home in this new world, but it’s Crews that steals the movie with his outrageous performance as the hammy, over-the-top, AK-47 toting POTUS who loves to be cheered. Rent/stream this!! 

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