(On Cable TV, December 2018) Let’s be clear: There’s nothing in Cuban Fury that’s all that original, but it’s still a nicely handled romantic comedy with a substantial dancing component. Nick Frost stars in a role that’ generally less comic and more romantic than many in his filmography, and it generally works. Rashida Jones is fine as the object of his affection (with a deliciously slimy Chris O’Dowd completing the triangle), although Ian McShane and Kayvan Novak are highlights as (respectively) a cranky dance instructor and a flamboyantly gay dancer. The plot is as by-the-number as they come, what with past trauma, romantic interest, training montages and to-thine-self-be-true message complete with a triumphant ending. Still, the protagonist is endearing, the entire film is fun and it fits squarely in the kind of gentle British comedy that we’ve grown accustomed to. Cuban Fury may not be challenging, innovative or meaningful, but it doesn’t have to be.
(On Cable TV, May 2014) In theory, science-fiction doesn’t always require a big budget: you can set a pretty good science-fiction story in a mundane present-day location, just by evoking the impossible. Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel takes up the gauntlet of delivering a low-budget, high-concept SF comedy by trapping its characters in a localized time-loop centered on their neighborhood pub. Add a sympathetic lead character (played with modest charm by Chris O’Dowd), a fetching spatiotemporal agent (Anna Faris, in a role that asks for interesting scene transitions), impending apocalypse, self-aware genre commentary from a screenwriter who’s obviously up to his classic SF references and the film becomes a bit of a hidden gem. Not everything works: the opening takes a bit of time to rev up, some of the hidden temporal surprises can be seen coming well in advance and the means at the film’s disposal aren’t quite up to the task of portraying the latter-movie revelations. Still, for an obviously limited budget, Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel has a welcome charm to it, and does good things with what it has at its disposal. Don’t expect a classic, but do expect a decent time.