Two Comedies from Image
Dead .Fish (November 25/13)
Exceedingly tedious and hopelessly generic, Dead .Fish follows affable locksmith Abe Klein (Andrew-Lee Potts) as he accidentally swaps phones with a sinister assassin known only as Lynch (Gary Oldman) - with the remainder of the proceedings detailing the battle of wills that inevitably ensues between the two men. Filmmaker Charley Stadler has infused Dead .Fish with a pervasively (and persistently) off-kilter feel that grows tiresome virtually from the word go, and there's little doubt that the movie's fast-paced yet uninvolving atmosphere is compounded by a lack of engaging characters - with star Potts' criminally flat turn as the one-dimensional protagonist ranking high on the film's list of underwhelming elements. (It's worth noting that even the movie's talented supporting cast, which includes, Robert Carlyle, Billy Zane, and Jimi Mistry, is left floundering here, as they're given little to do but overact and chew scenery.) The movie's frenetic sensibilities grow more and more exhausting as time progresses, with the hands-off vibe ensuring that the viewer has absolutely nothing invested in the protagonist's ongoing exploits. The end result is as mindless (and needless) an endeavor as one can easily recall, and it's ultimately difficult to comprehend just what drew the various actors to this worthless project.
Paradise (November 26/13)
Written and directed by Diablo Cody, Paradise follows Julianne Hough's Lamb Mannerheim as she loses her faith after a terrible accident and embarks on a rule-breaking journey to Las Vegas - where she befriends a sketchy bartender (Russell Brand's William) and a jaded lounge singer (Octavia Spencer's Loray). First-time filmmaker Cody has infused Paradise with a middling (yet watchable) vibe that, for the most part, prevents the viewer from wholeheartedly connecting to the material, and there is, as a result, never a point at which the three central characters become as three-dimensional and authentic as one might've liked (ie these are stock stereotypes more than they are fully-realized people). The movie's distressingly generic atmosphere is perpetuated by an emphasis on been-there-done-that sequences, while Cody's restrained screenplay - ie the film isn't, as anticipated, awash in stylized, ultra-quirky dialogue - only exacerbates Paradise's less-than-innovative feel. (There are, having said that, a number of chuckle-worthy bits of dialogue, including a hilarious throwaway line in which Spencer's character is referred to as "Sherri Shepherd" by a random passerby.) And although the movie does improve somewhat as it passes the one-hour mark - Cody offers up a handful of unexpectedly touching moments (eg Lamb's affecting encounter with a weary prostitute) - Paradise is ultimately a fairly disappointing directorial debut for the woman responsible for (the far superior) Juno and Young Adult.