Cinematic Spillover: Short Reviews of Between Two Ferns: The Movie, Auggie and Corporate Animals 

click to enlarge KIKO MARTINEZ
  • Kiko Martinez

Here are a few short reviews of movies that will be released on Netflix or on VOD platforms September 20.

Auggie

click to enlarge SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS
  • Samuel Goldwyn Films
Longtime character actor and voice-over talent Richard Kind (Inside Out) gets his shot at playing the leading man in the sweet albeit minor picture Auggie, an intimate sci-fi romance in the same vein as Spike Jonze’s 2013 Oscar-winning film Her and 2017’s Marjorie Prime. Kind stars as Felix Greystone, a recent retiree who is given a pair of augmented reality glasses that let his mind configure an AI-entity he can interact with. When Felix puts on the glasses, Auggie (Christen Harper), a beautiful, young woman is sitting right in front of him ready to converse and basically do whatever Felix wants. While Felix initially brushes off the glasses as a very expensive distraction and only uses them for a few seconds at a time, he begins to wear them more after his wife Anne (Susan Blackwell) gets a promotion at work, and his daughter Grace (Simone Policano) starts spending more time with her boyfriend. Now alone, Felix decides to attempt to make a connection with Auggie and, in turn, falls in love with her. He even purchases another piece of technology, the Auggie Touch, which allows him to be intimate with her. Auggie’s script isn’t groundbreaking, but first-time feature director and co-writer Matt Kane and co-writer Marc Underhill present some compelling enough questions for audiences to ponder about the ethics of AI. Is Felix being unfaithful? Is forming an emotional and physical relationship with an artificially intelligent being crossing a moral boundary of some kind? Kane and Underhill don’t have the answers, but watching Kind and Harper develop their bond (with the exception of their awkward sex scenes) is an earnest endeavor. Auggie hits VOD platforms September 20. 3 out of 5 stars (recommended)


Between Two Ferns: The Movie
click to enlarge NETFLIX
  • Netflix

If the dry, mockumentary-style humor of the Zach Galifianakis-hosted web talk show Between Two Ferns tickles your fancy, Between Two Ferns: The Movie will likely do the same, but it’ll take a little longer to hit all the right spots. As some might’ve guessed, it just wasn’t a good idea to change the Ferns format from hilarious three to six-minute online episodes on the Funny or Die website to an inconsistently funny feature film. Directed and co-written by Scott Aukerman, who co-created the original web series, BTF:TM is at its best when Zach does exactly what he does on the shorter web versions – interview celebrities in the most awkward and obnoxious ways possible. In film form, there are plenty of laughs when Zach sits down with stars like Matthew McConaughey (spelled Matthew McConnogay on screen in perfect Fern fashion), Keanu Reeves (Keanu Reefs), David Letterman (David Lettersmen) and Brie Larson (Brie Lars’ Son), who drops the biggest laugh-out-loud burn in the movie when Zach makes fun of her Captain Marvel character. Besides the solid interview segments, BTF:TM pads its 82-minute run time with a story about Zach and his crew taking their show on the road after their public access studio floods. Their final destination: Los Angeles, where Funny or Die video website founder Will Ferrell awaits to give Zach his own network TV talk show if he is able to fulfill his contract and deliver 10 new Fern episodes. It’s a good thing Netflix provides an option on your phone to fast forward in 10-second increments. Just keep tapping on the button until you see misspelled celebrity names … and two ferns on each side of your cell. And don’t forget to stay for the outtakes, which end up being the most entertaining part of the movie, mostly because of Zach’s full-throat wheeze. Between Two Ferns: The movie debuts on Netflix September 20. 2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)


Corporate Animals

click to enlarge SCREEN MEDIA FILMS
  • Screen Media Films

Director Patrick Brice, who did a noteworthy job blending wit and horror in his films Creep and Creep 2, doesn’t take full advantage of his talented cast in Corporate Animals, a dark comedy that plays out like one of those reality shows where all the characters annoy each other (and the viewer) until they all crack one by one. Demi Moore (Margin Call) stars as Lucy, an egocentric CEO of an edible cutlery company who drags her employees to a team-building retreat only to get them trapped in an underground cave where they are forced into cannibalism. If that doesn’t sound like a hilarious scenario on paper, it’s only because screenwriter Sam Bain’s (Four Lions) random gags feel like a desperate attempt to be shocking. Even though Corporate Animals is only clocked at 86 minutes, the last act is devastatingly dull. Comedians like Jessica Williams (Booksmart), Karan Soni (Deadpool), Nasim Pedrad (Aladdin), Martha Kelly (TV’s Baskets) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Cedar Rapids) deserve better material. Corporate Animals hits VOD platforms September 20. 2 out of 5 stars (not recommended)

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