Monday, June 30, 2008

It Only Takes a Moment/For Your Eyes to Meet and Then

Andrew Stanton's Wall-E is, like the bulk of its Pixar brethren (Cars aside) an exquisite, gorgeous, thoughtful piece of art that helps elevate its genre and continues to demonstrate that its studio is one of the most progressive in the entire entertainment industry. Yet there is a part of the film that gnaws on me and halts me from declaring Wall-E an absolute perfect film or the best that Pixar has yet to offer audiences, but oh it gets so close.
I will say this for the film, director Stanton and his team of writers, animators and sound designers have created perhaps their most emotionally resonant film yet. That they manage this with two central characters that speak a mere four words between them is nothing short of miraculous. When I first heard of Wall-E my mind immediately jumped to the perplexing and inaccessible world of Cars, wherein the anthropomorphized machines kept me at a distance. Then once I was introduced to the titular Waste Allocation Load Lifter (Earth Class) via the trailer I tossed all my fears out the window for good. Utilizing a tremendous economy of visual and body language that has its roots in the silent films of Chaplin, Keaton and Tati, Stanton has created a pair of robots (the boxy Wall-E and the sleek EVE) who manage to convey the entire breadth of human experience, moreso than the actual humans that appear in the film. I'm most struck by Wall-E's eyes and hands. In the preview the filmmakers cannily provided us with Wall-E gazing up into the night sky, the infinite wonder of the cosmos reflected in his Jonny-5 like binocular eyes. This immediately communicated that this being had, for lack of a better term, a soul.

The premise is a decidedly unconventional one for a family film. On the garbage strewn remains of Earth (gorgeously lit, colored and shot under the supervising advisement of legendary DP Roger Deakins) a lone robot works tirelessly at his task; crumpling up all that garbage and processing it into cubes. Wall-E works virtually alone. Humanity has abandoned the planet after the take-over of a Wal-Mart analogue called Buy'n'Large (CEO'ed by a live-action Fred Willard) has covered the planet and now humanity has evolved into over-sized babies completely dependent on automatons, staying the course on a space-ship that's five year mission has gone on for seven hundred years. His only company is a not at all cute looking roach type thing. Day after day Wall-E works beside holoscreens that fill the viewer in on the fate of humanity (living in automated luxury among the stars aboard the pleasure yacht the Axiom) and the remains of all the other broken down Wall-Es. Wall-E doesnt understand the futility of his task but he does know he's lonely, heartbreakingly so. Every day he comes home to his "apartment" deposits any particularly interesting junk (like all good nerds he's something of a collector) and pops in an old VHS copy of Hello Dolly. He watches a live action Michale Crawford sing "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment." He's completely captivated by the figures dancing and singing and attempts to bust some moves himself. He also sees humans holding each others hands and then looks at his own, he sighs mournfully. Your heart breaks and I won't lie to you readers it was here that I started bawling, not just crying a few little squirty tears but just big buckets of emotion for this poor thing. If you can pair a strong emotional idea with a musical theater song you've got the Sickness in the bag.
Wall-E isn't bound for loneliness much longer when quite out of nowhere he meets the sleek and most certainly Apple approved EVE. EVE has been deposited on Earth in search of vegetabble matter. She sophisticated, she's as high tech as it gets and in Wall-E's eyes she is gorgeous. I can't speak to the realism of a robot falling in love but if there is such thing I can't imagine it looking different than this. She also packs some serious firepower so Wall-E has to approach with care. Wall-E eventually gets her back to his place and clearly having observed how I do my romancing shows EVE his favorite movie and even tries to hold her hand. It doesn't go well. Wall-E does think he's scored big time when he shows EVE the tiny sapling he found in one of his garbage runs. EVE however puts the sapling in her chassis and shuts down, sending a retrieval signal to the Axiom. Wall-E tries desperately to revive her but it's no good. The montage of Wall-E taking care of EVE, trying to entertain her, just even being with her is both hilarious and oddly melancholy. The inert EVE makes her way back to the Axiom and Wall-E boldly follows.
It is here the film goes from being a masterpiece to merely great. The humans aboard the axiom are lazy corporate blobs. They've all but lost any ability to be self-sufficient and most of their fundamental concepts of human interaction. It is the arrival of Wall-E, in desperate pursuit of EVE that starts a sort of social revolution. There are forces on teh ship that don't want EVE to deliver that plant and much chasing (some good, some bad) ensue. What unquestionably works about it is that the filmmakers at this point have you so invested in EVE and Wall-E that you flinch at the slightest thought of anything happening to them. It's what happens along the way that only sort of works. The idea of a robot teaching humanity is a good one, but in making the humans inhuman the filmmakers may have made them a bit too childish. Powerful emotional moments get punctuated and deflated with moments of slapstick. A plea for ecological awareness, a wariness against superstores and a request for a return to more genuine human interaction are all noble and worthwhile ambitious for family entertainment but they dilute the love story by being expressed with a degree of didacticism that had heretofore been unseen in the film. Don't get me wrong, the slapstick works exceedingly well with the robots, it's just that I found it difficult to sympathize with humanity. It was also jarring to go from seeing live-action humans to their more portly animated counter-parts. There is also the lingering dissonance about the sheer volume of Wall-E merchandise being produced and then sold in our own Buy'N'Larges available now.

At the end of the day though the core of Wall-E remains pure, emotionally compelling material. Pixar maintains its sterling reputation and as always makes me wonder how they will be able to build on their latest success.

Oh I've completely forgotten the colossal contribution of the voice of R2-D2 himself, Ben Burtt, who created the sound design for Wall-E. Gooooooood move.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Site Report

For a long time I've attempted to maintain a post a day (or at least an average of a post a day) but since my fellowship program is starting officially tomorrow I really want to focus the bulk of my time and concentration there.


I will still be seeing movies, reviewing movies, bitching about movies, advocating on behalf of movies and my favorite just plain old referencing movies right here on the blog. I just can't guarantee every day. Who knows I've got some long bus rides in my future maybe if I'm done with my other work I'll start writing ON the bus. Just think, I can ask the transients what they think about Jim Jarmusch and Sam Fuller. So don't cry cause this is hardly goodbye. I'm not Cary and totally WANTONLY abandoning my blog like a little bitch.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Missed it by THAT much

The above line perfectly encapsulates Peter Segal's recent modernizing of the Mel Brooks and Buck Henry collaboration Get Smart. I liked Get Smart but I wanted to love it. The film pitches itself too broad, too mainstream. It does physical comedy well, even very well at times, but the editing often feels disjointed. The film zings in its character humor but I would've enjoyed more satire on the interplay of intelligence agencies rather than vomit or nut-shot jokes. Also missing is the rat-tat-tat of Borscht Belt style humor that only picks up every once in a while like when Steve Carrell's Maxwell Smart gives the alias of Nudnik Shpilkes.

Mind you for my qualms about the over-reliance on physical comedy are undone when that physical stuff focuses solely on Carrell. Carrell is a deft physical comedian, he manages to spin laughs out of something as simple as slowly moving his eyes while at a urinal. Carrell though is hardly the films only asset. The film utilizes it's ensemble very well (way better than Indiana Jones and the Old People Standing Around) everyone gets a chance to shine which is fitting given that one of the themes that seems to be running through the film is that every person has value. Alan Arkin will no doubt make Peter and Frank stand up and cheer when he sails a cross a boardroom to beat up the petulant vice-president. He also has a line at the end that is absolutely killer. Anne Hathaway gives just enough fun, slink and eventually warms into something resembling the incarnation of Barbra Feldon's Agent 99. Dwayne Johnson is fun as super Agent 23, though I wish given the twist about his character he had even more to do. In addition to these core four there is a never-ending parade of comic ringers who all get some good moments. Ken Davitian redeems himself for Meet the Spartans as the sidekick of the slick Sigfried. As for my favorite cameo? It's a two way tie between the shocking appearance of Agent 13 (played by a certain Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch regular) who is pretty sad about being stuck in a tree and then Patrick Warburton RULING COMPLETELY in an all too-brief appearance as a Brock Sampson-esque Hymie the Robot.
If there is one scene that perfectly encapsulates what works about the film it is a scene at about the film's midpoint that features Hathaway and Carrell competing on the dance-floor. She's with a Russian arms dealer and he is with a significantly larger female dance partner (Lindsay Hollister, who was actually at my screening at the Sherman Oaks Arc Light, I KNOW). A lesser film would make Max's partner weight the object of the joke. Instead it becomes a matter of which partnership can dance more impressively and we're on Hollister and Carrell's side. It's sweet and underlines an ongoing theme of rooting for the under-dog that the film has a penchant for.
In the end Get Smart is a good natured, solidly funny but not a classic. It rather smartly plays it's action straight so when Carrell does gun down a baddy or Alan Arkin heroically pilots a bi-plane, you can't help but chuckle. If the characters were constantly winking at the audience it would get pretty tedious pretty fast. Get Smart works more than it doesn't and that is enough for me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Link Guru

Here are some distractions from even thinking about watching Mike Myers rape the corpse of Peter Sellers (I cannot WAIT until that comes up as a google search term for the blog).

Tribute:
AICN has contacted some of Stan Winston's friends and family for an incredibly moving tribute (and has subsequently reminded me why I like the site in the first place). Come read stories from the like of James Cameron, Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman (the K and the N in KNB), Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Jon Favreau and Monster Squad director Fred Dekker.
Joblo also put together a nice video montage for the late great Mr. Winston.


Hype:
Speaking of AICN Moriarty got a hold of writer Brian K Vaughn's (Y the Last Man, Pride of Baghdad, Lost) script of Roundtable and the movie sounds AMAZINGLY great. A Brian K Vaughn movie that draws comparisons to Ghostbusters and Back to the Future and written with Simon Pegg and Ricky Gervais in mind?!?!?!!?!!? I'll buy twenty tickets right now!

Funny:
So with rumors of a possible Anchorman sequel swirling about some VERY disturbed, but funny fans have tale the liberty of creating an entire blog of what basically amounts to Anchorman slash fic. ANCHORMAN SLASH FIC!

List:
Wired magazine has a quick run down of great movie metamorphoses.

Etan Recommended:
In conjunction with the upcoming release of the amazing look David Fincher directed, original cast of the fountain starring, Curious Case of Benjamin Button someone is letting you read F. Scott Fitgerald's original novel in chapter installments for the cost of FREE! Bone up your Button and be one of those pretentious know-it-alls who read the book before seeing the movie here.

My friend Ian has spent years writing and directing (and I think even financing) his very original film Invisible Cities. The trailer just went up today and I must admit it looks pretty awesome. Ian has come a long way from hiding dead guys under tables while pretending to be a mother with the world's largest handlebar mustache. Check it out below. I can say I knew him when and of COURSE he'll grant the Sickness Cinema his first exclusive interview.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Here's looking at you Cyd

The late Cyd Charisse will not go down as one of the great actresses of her time, but when it came to dancing, well there was simply no one who could match her in the 1950's in sheer intensity, grace and raw feminine sensuality. Still, talking about dancing (or music) is like singing about architecture (or whatever the expression is).

Better you should see for yourself. The essential Charisse can be seen in the following
Singin' in the Rain:

The Band-Wagon:


Brigadoon:

See them, know them, love them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You don't have to be an A student to be an A-List Star Part 2: The Women

Hey remember when I tried this a week ago? Well sadly Stan Winston died, which is a colossal bummer and then I saw what felt like four movies in a row and they all needed/need to be reviewed AND then Cyd Charisse died (a short show don't tell piece will be coming for her soon). But I don't want to be one of those web guys that eaves a project (however trivial) unfinished. So without further ado (there has been far too much ado lately):
Amy Adams- Let's see, gorgeous, talented, great taste in projects, no longer allowed to be talked about in front of my girlfriend (for an extended period of time). She should also be addressing her squeaky clean cutesy poo resume with the dark indie comedy Sunshine Cleaning and the dramatic heavy hitter Doubt with no less than PSH and La Streep. Then it's back to cute lovable Amy for a turn as Amelia Earheart (PERFECT CASTING!) in (shudder) Night at the Museum 2 and then the cooking comedy Julie and Julia (again with Streep, way to pick a role model).
Is she A-List material yet?: A+++++(see me after class :))
Ellen Page-Honest to blog the real deal, she has a good reputation for picking clever material, I have no doubt whatever success Smart People had was from the bump of showing her off in the advertising. For all the ridiculous ire leveled against the film, Juno is really popular for a reason and Page has a real talent for grounding scripts ina real, emotionally honest world. She also took part in three of my favorite SNL skits this year. Her projects choices continue to be as quirky as she is, she'll be directed by Drew Barrymore (really?) in the roller derby comedy Whip It (alongside Zoe Bell, maybe), then a rural drama about a train accident, Peacock. Then a major costume drama, Jane Eyre. I'm sure she always has a place with the X-Men too, though she'd be crazy to go back there.
Is she A-List material yet?: To anyone who saw Juno yes, she's yet to connect with the mainstream the way Adams has though.
Katherine Heigl-Ugh, this bitch on wheels is so hot right now, though it can probably be attributed to all the bridges she's burning in her wake. Calling the movie that made you a star "dumb and sexist." DICK MOVE! Especially when you turn around and star in a treacly stereotypical romantic comedy that offers not one new thing to the genre. Then she withdraws her emmy nomination in the most condescending way possible insulting Grey's Anatomy's writers and producers. She's pretty and likable and can deliver drama and comedy well but her personal life attitude is starting to bleed over into the public's perception of her. She seems content sticking in romantic comedy along with King Leonidas in the upcoming Ugly Truth.
Is she A-List material yet?: She's super recognizable cause of her TV gig but methinks the lady doth protest too much and is on the road to a serious Carusso-ing.
Anne Hathaway-Well I've heard from a reliable source that she's not so cool in real life. Which is a bummer cause before A-Dubs came along she had the market cornered in sweet, bubbly and princess-y. She also once did a stage show with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Doug Sills which makes me kind of super jealous of her (and yes Frank also makes me super gay). Regardless of stuff I've heard (Ugh I feel so dirty bad mouthing her based on conjencture, is though how it feels like to be a Fox News person all the time?) Hathaway seems to be on her way out f the profitable but not particularly critic friendly young adult ghetto. I have heard good things about her turn in Get Smart. She apparently does vixen very well, plus being able to compete for screen presence with some of her co-stars in that movie is no simple task. I mean seriously, I defy anyone to make me able to look away from a scene that involves David Koechner. I'm completely serious.
Is she A-List material yet?: For twelve and under girls, certainly, but two or three more big films should do it for grown-ups.

Yeah, that was fun albeit prolonged and got kind of lame at the end (kind of like the Pirates movies). Coming up: a tribute to the late great Cyd Charisse, a quick check in to the Israeli film festival, an explanation of why seeing Get Smart will be bitter-sweet, Friday links and should all go according to plan a Get Smart review.

Substance SMASH!


If the new Marvel Studios reboot of the Incredible Hulk is proof of anything, it's a case that strong substance will win out over style in the eyes of the theater going public every time. Louis Leterrier's film is big on action, medium on plot and low on character, but frankly that's just what it needs to be. I am no great fan of Ang Lee's (and my former Prof. James "Jimmy Scham" Schamus's) original film which is bogged down with didactic symbolism and egregious stylistic outbursts, but I admire it's daring and willingness to go against standard comic book movie formulas, even if it fails. Leterrier's film in contrast plays it safe, hewing closely to the source material that makes the Hulk a popular pop-culture icon; namely, that the Hulk is a misunderstood force of nature that Dr. Bruce Banner is struggling to keep in check while forces all around him conspire to do the opposite. The film delivers on the promise of solid action, some nice dramatic moments and moves the story along at a good clip. The result is supremely entertaining if not quite as fun or seem as big as Iron Man or as stylistically assured as say Hellboy, X-Men 2 or Batman Begins.
When Stan Lee created the Hulk he borrowed from Shelley's Frankenstein and Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde and Leterrier manges to evoke this through the strength of his lead. Despite the much publicized feud between star Ed Norton and the producers, Norton's performance is excellent. I can see what attracted him to the part. banner is a man trying to keep his demon's in check, attempting to master his physicality and mental acumen. The first third of the film is largely bereft of dialogue (at least in English) and Norton establishes his character with ease and grace through his action. Being that physicality, whether trying to keep it in check or trying to reattain it, is one of the film's central themes it's fitting that the film revolves around the aegis of action. After a deft introductory sequence that quickly establishes the character's origin (a welcome relief), we find Banner training in a Brazilian faevela, training himself to control his pulse rate and communicating with the mysterious Mr. Blue via computer trying to find a cure. Banner's solace is short lived when he is discovered by the malicious General Ross (William Hurt a surprisingly worthy substitute to pitch perfect Sam Elliott) and pursued by Super Soldier Serum junky Emil Blonsky (a menacing Tim Roth). Banner and his former love Betty Ross (a game Liv Tyler) are constantly on the run and the film well illustrates the challenges and sacrifices of having a destructive force like the Hulk inside you (there's a particular fun scene in a bedroom that will entertain and then embarrass parents who have brought their kids with them).
However with all this running and dour sacrifice with few moments of brevity the film drags for a bit in it's second to last quarter, at least until the introduction of Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson). Nelson's sycophantic enthusiasm gives a fun oddball flavor to the proceedings and his transformation into future Hulk villain the Leader bodes well for the likely sequel. A late appearance by Tony Stark (hero of the summer Robert Downey Jr.) was a clear audience favorite moment and also seems to portend that crossing over it's characters is a trick that will serve Marvel very well in the long run.

A solid summer action film with some nice emotional moments, Hulk may not have enough depth to be a classic but it is certainly a fine film to be enjoyed for a weekend and then forgotten when the next big thing rolls around.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stan Winston Passes Away

When I was a young little blogger my love of sci-fi and fantasy prompted me to ask my parents for a book entitled Cinema Secrets-Special Effects by Dan Millar, as a gift. The book featured explanations behind various camera illusions, make-up, animation and model making from popular genre films. One of the names that popped up in the book several times was Stan Winston. One of those great below the title names every movie geek worth his salt should be familiar with, Winston was an fx pioneer that helped create some of the most compelling screen icons of the twentieth and twenty-first century including the Aliens, the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, the Terminator, the Predator and most recently Iron Man (oh and the monsters from Monster Squad for goodness sake). At only sixty-two years old Winston leaves behind an incredible body of work, part of the tragedy here is that I believe the man's best work was still to come. My condolences to Winston's family and friends.
Expect many more internet tributes up today this week like this one here and here, I'll post more on Friday if I see them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Special Reminder:

Just because you have a different approach to parenting doesn't mean you're a bad parent.


Did I ever tell you to eat up? Go to bed? Wash your ears? Do your homework? No. I respected your privacy and I taught you self- reliance.
-Henry Jones Senior

Why the hell didn't you make him finish school?-Henry Jones Jr.


HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There's something Happening here/But what it is ain't exactly clear

Warning: Some spoilers to follow

M. Night Shyamalan's newest film, The Happening, is a silly-ass mess. This is hardly the worst thing in the world, the right group of people or the right amount of chemical intoxication can make a silly-ass mess a fairly enjoyable experience, but oh how the mighty have fallen.

Shyamalan has been trying to do damage control making comments to the effect of:

"I wanted it to be a fantastic, fun B-movie. The No. 1 thing is I want people to say: 'That was a really fun B-movie."


and

"If something happens during the movie and you think, 'That's dumb,' it'll be because whatever happened was actually too amazing for you to fully understand, or possibly a metaphor for something really crazy and cool."
-M. Night Shyamalan, (courtesy of Reuters)

Really Night? Really? Want to tell me what stilted Marky Mark delivery is a metaphor for? Or why I just watched people run from wind for twenty minutes and your dumb-ass arbitrary rules effect everyone BUT our protagonists? Or shaky footage of a guy getting his arms badly pulled off by lions was "TOO AMAZING" for me to understand? Really? Or Marky-Mark cradling the body of a very dead child telling him it's going to be ok? Oh, I get it, he's really telling the audience that we too will soon be released from the film much like the child was released from life by his senseless, cheap means to elicit sympathy. Or how about as a giant group of unaffected people just stand there allowing themselves to be killed. Bitch I know they weren't effected cause they held hands and clearly still had a coherent line of thought. Also, when a soldier starts ranting and raving about never abandoning their gun, I think anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows it's time to vamoose.
At best The Happening is a very mean-spirited horror film for an audience who must be willing to give themselves over to the flimsily envisioned premise. Shyamalan hasn't lost his knack for creating terror out of the mundane but the film is largely inconsistent in this regard. The opening mass suicides are chillingly effective, but suffer from diminishing returns. I've said it time and time again but the man needs to abandon the word processor and stay behind the camera. If he could write as well as authentically demonstrates fear and confusion then I wouldn't be writing this particular review. There's a huge disconnect between the way actual people act, the way people in your standard b-movie/horror movie act and then the way people in this movie act except when they're confused and frightened. The staggering amount of child endangerment in this film proves it. What father would honestly abandon their child when their wife was almost certainly dead?

This movie has a real ax to grind about the unpredictability of science and the way nature can bite back. I do think there is a decent b-movie to be made out of a toxic retribution on humanity for our abuse of the planet, but this sure as hell ain't it. Night undercuts his message by abandoning his more r-rated tendencies about half-way through the film. It should've committed to being a more PG-13 sort of parable about humanity learning from the "event" as it is called (often) and finding redemption on the other side or taking it in the opposite direction, a brutal hard R that never lets up as humanity is completely doomed and too late to do a damn thing about it.
If I've been notably muted about the acting it's because the performances on display are pretty rough or outright laughable. Mark Wahlberg would be convincing as a gym coach but as a science teacher? Did he get his degree at the University that gave us Dr. Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough? My adorable Zooey Deschanel is saddled with the weakest "affair" in the history of cinema and is frequently called upon to stare with her gorgeous doe eyes right into the camera. John Leguizamo tries his damnedest and I think manages to conjure a good deal of audience sympathy at least until he has to spit out a ridiculous speech where he has to calm someone down with a word problem. I don't know about you but at the moment of my near-death the last thing I want to think about is math. Theater legend Betty Buckley easily plays the most batshit crazy old woman I've seen in a movie in a long time. She's so damn strange she doesn't even call it lemonade, she calls it "lemon drink" (shudder).

Will I still go see M. Night Shyamalan movies post-The Happening? Yes. But we're getting father and farther afield of his original "good movies." I will say this for The Happening, it's a damn sight better than Lady in the Water, but never quite reaches the campy hysterics of the Village.

Friday, June 13, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan's The Linkening

Friday already? Time for links:

News & Rumors: What will PTA follow up the masterpiece There Will Be Blood with? Big Screen Little Screen's got an idea right here.

Interviews: Working comic actor Tim Meadows has a very illuminating interview about his career over at the AV Club. His reaction to people saying that the Bill Evengall show is beneath him are incredibly amusing.
Meanwhile joblo.com discusses all things Rogen with the man himself (and there's a lot on his plate right now). My favorite is him mentioning how much he loved Speed Racer, if that's not validation I don't know what is.

Lists: The Nerve discusses the 50 worst sex scenes in cinema history. Fun to discuss but not so fun to watch. Lots of youtube clips on this one if you're brave.
The PETA blog lists 10 films that will make you go vegetarian. Probably the first time Soylent Green and Babe have ever shared list space.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The RIGHT name for adventure

The reason my Kung-Fu Panda review got pushed back is because last night I finally got my hands on the 2/3 approved (Spielberg and Ford liked it, Lucas didn't) draft of Indiana Jones IV by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) and proceeded to stay up late reading the entire thing in one excited sitting. Having now read it and digested it for a bit I don't know if I can't say that it's the most perfect Indiana Jones script that ever was, but I will say that it is a damn sight better than the sloppily constructed hodge-podge that David Koepp helped usher into being.

The script, entitled Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods (already we're well out of the gate with a way better title) is a sharp, exciting romp that is respectful of the Jones legacy and feels a bit more grown-up then the Star Wars prequel-esque, explain everything to you as it's happening coarseness, of Crystal Skull. Yes the crystal skull is still in the movie as are aliens, but they're better balanced (and the skull can really only give off vague psychic emanations, it isn't an all purpose McGuffin like it is in the film). The biggest loss, there's no Mutt in this version of the story, though Marion's role is vastly beefed up. As in Raiders she's not just a side-kick to Indy, she's his "damn partner." The story contains similar elements but they are very differently explained and solved. Also this movie has colossal amounts of action where Indy, Marion and their pursuers get to show their stuff.

Like the film, the script begins in the desert as kids race by listening to Bill Haley, however this time the car they are passing contains a driving Dr. Jones and his companion Yuri Markovsky. Yuri is sort of a conflation of the Mac and Irena characters. He betrays Indy revealing himself to be a communist but Darabont let's us get to know him and see his and Indy's friendship first so his betrayal actually means something to the audience. The two are out in the desert digging up native ruins but Yuri is secretly helping a group of soviets infiltrate an army base in order to obtain plutonium (no skull, no magnetism, no alien corpse and no prairie dogs in this version). Indy gets involved and this leads to a similar but not identical sequence to what we see in the film. There's no whipping, just a lot of clever sneaking around followed by a larger scale truck and foot chase through the warehouse as Indy has to dodge jet engines going off. Indy again finds himself at the nuclear test site and that plays out exactly as in the film but since the previous scene just featured a plutonium hand-off it doesn't feel disconnected.

What follows includes Indy's interrogation (this time done by seven men in shadows as opposed to the janitor from Scrubs) but now his blacklist has actual repercussions. In addition to losing his job Indy gets an FBI tail to follow him around and most of the characters he encounters doubt him, as he is now an outlaw. He bids a sad goodbye to his class and proceeds to get drunk off his ass and chat with a statue of the late Marcus Brodey (all the while still being tailed). After a very amusing scene which calls back the opening of Raiders (except set in the university museum) Indy must fend off an assassin who before dying sends him off to a locker in Grand Central Station. Before going though, Indy stops at home to grab his things and encounters Henry Senior. Yes Sean Connery's character is still alive in this version of the script. Henry chides him for being a drunken mess but when Indy explains his night Henry helps him escape from the cops (who think Indy killed his FBI tail when in fact it was the aforementioned assassin). The Grand Central lead puts Indy in position of the crystal skull which in turn points him to Peru where he is supposed to make contact and find the fabled lost city of the gods. In Peru he meets his contact, one Marion Ravenwood. The script really pops here as Darabont completely gets the patter of Indy and Marion. Marion is one pissy, albeit very competent broad, something that was kind of shrugged off to the side in Skull. Indy's delight at the reunion is cut-short however upon discovering that Marion has married a handsome, rugged archaeologist, author and European royalty, Baron Peter Belasko. Belasko is this story's Belloq, a dark version of Indy and competitor for Marion's affections. Marion and Indy must charter a plane to get to their expedition crew in the jungle and this leads to what could have been one of the most thrilling set-pieces of any action movie (let alone any Indiana Jones movie) I have ever seen. A mid-air battle between Indy and Marion in one plane and Yuri and a communist confederate in another. Passengers get switched, planes swoop, gun-fire is traded and there is a whole lot of free-fall and there's even a monkey (who is not biased in who he attacks). Once Indy and Marion reach "safety" and encounter Peter and his search team there are plenty of threats, switched allegiances and Indy constantly has the shadow of his blacklisting hanging over the proceedings with an agent of the state department present. There are not just giant ants in this draft but over-sized hummingbirds and a very different, VERY funny snake encounter. Professor Oxley shows up but it is always Indy who is leading the group forward and solving the challenges (though Peter somehow keeps getting credit). A lot of brutal action follows and the ending, while similar features a much more vocal (he speaks through Oxley's body) and nasty alien who wants to grant several of the characters wishes. It's exciting readable stuff but never forgets that Indiana Jones is the star of the movie. The make a wish stuff gets a bit saccharine but there's enough gory stuff happening around it it's not so jarring.

The movie ends with the wedding where Sallah shows up with some bear hugs and Henry Senior gets to drunkenly croon some Sinatra (oh I would've paid a hundred buck to see that). It's an Indiana Jones movie I would recommend without reservation instead of just kind of scrunch up and get angry about. Do you have specific questions or thoughts on the script if you've read it yourself? If so, please ask away in the comments.

There is no charge for awesome

This is shaping up to be a very strange summer. So far the only movie that has met my expectations was Iron Man. The stuff I was hoping to like (Indiana Jones-more on this later today)has disappointed and the stuff I wrote off (Speed Racer) has been a lot of fun. Well chock another write-off into the liked it a lot category with my viewing of Kung-Fu Panda.

I'm unbelievably pleased with this film from Dreamworks Animation, which is endlessly visually inventive, full of original and exciting action sequences and some very solid celebrity vocal work. For the most part Dreamworks has had a nasty run of mediocre to bad films where the pastiche of pop culture references plus hot celebrity turns into a mish-mash that makes a moderately decent baby sitter to anyone under the age of eight but hardly qualifies as genuine entertainment for anyone else watching it. I'm enormously pleased to report that the scatology and pop-culture reference returns are nowhere to be found in this film. The plot itself is the standard believe in yourself and your dreams and don't quit stock parable that populates dozens of children's films, however Kung-Fu Panda separates itself with a distinct voice and visual presentation from its first frames.
Oh and what frames they are. The film opens with an elaborate dream sequence where the young panda, Po (Jack Black) dreams of himself as the ultimate martial arts master, rendered in a stylized two-dimensional animation. The sequence is narrated by Black and immediately establishes his character as a sort of goofy but earnest and enthusiastic fan-boy. When the bunnies he save ask how they can repay him he responds in an attempted burst laconic cool that "There is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness." It was about here that the movie had me. Po is quickly woken from his dream though to face the reality of him being the tubby, clumsy son of a goose noodle vendor (James Hung). But Po is soon thrust into the spotlight of in front of his idols the Furious Five, under the tutelage of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman as some sort of squirrel/lemur thing), one of whom is about to be named the Green Dragon Warrior, the hero of the valley these characters inhabit. When Po is picked, seemingly by accident, by the sage turtle Master Oogway (a canny, all to brief performance from Randall Duk Kim) everyone is shocked. The Five (made up of a variety of animals who fight in the style of their animal) resent and reject Po and Shifu is worried sick as Po is meant to defend the valley from the recently escaped villain Tai-Lung (Ian McShane), Shifu's previous and deadliest pupil. Will Shifu find a way to train the seemingly hopeless and blundering Po and will Po learn that he has the confidence and skill to be the new dragon warrior?
Obviously. While the story is never in doubt, it's execution zips along in scene after scene of animated splendor and rousing action taken in equal parts from the Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu films and the wushu ballet of films like Crouching Tiger and Come Drink With Me. Scenes like the escape of Tai-Lung are filled with gorgeous moments such as when the sky goes red with arrows and the evil snow leopard must leap to the underbelly of a platform or when Shifu learns to motivate his student and the subsequent chopstick battle that ensues. Even small moments like the reveal and departure of Master Oogway the animators find innovative ways to present what in a lesser film seem very pat and predictable. Does the film have the weight, heft or depth of a Pixar film? No. The Furious Five, while impressively animated and given lots of build-up aren't particularly well-established as characters despite the talented ensemble on hand to voice them. However, given the film's appropriate run-time the audience is better served with Master Shifu and Po, both characters written charmingly enough to give Hoffman and Black enough motivation to prevent them from falling into each actors typical routine. Kung-Fu Panda is a film of simple visual pleasures and a surprisingly fun way to pass the time until we're graced by the inevitable genius of Wall-E.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You don't have to be an A student to be an A-List Star Part 1: The Men

Ah nothing like basking in the afterglow of a reference like three people will get in the title.

This past week's Entertainment Weekly (#997 June 13, 2008) featured a cover-story about their picks for the next Hollywood A-listers. As my friend Etan pointed out at the Academy Awards several years ago we're well into the beginning of a transitional period where the big stars of yesterday; the DeNiros, Pacino, Nicholsons and Fords (or what have you) are giving way to the Seymour Hoffmans, the Crowes, the Phoenixs and so on. So now ET is making some predictions about the names you'll be seeing above the title in coming the years and here are my thoughts about them.
Dwayne Johnson-Having officially (and seamlessly) retired his "Rock" moniker Johnson seems primed to really tackle the worlds of action, comedy and hopefully drama. Even back in his wrestling days the Rock was one of the most charismatic and articulate of brawlers (I've been a fan for a long time). I've maintained that ever since he got into movies that had the Rock been around in the 80's he would've been the most successful of all his action peers and subsequently become one of the biggest stars in the world. He's ten times more charismatic and amusing than Schwarzenegger, Segal, Van Damme or any of those guys. Also the guy is sexy. Yeah that's right, I said it. Johnson has not been in the best movies but he never gives less than 100% in them and I still maintain that the Rundown is one of the better pure action films of the twenty first century. Johnson has had his first major success in The Game Plan (which I skipped because I saw the movie for free in a three minute nugglet known as a trailer) so now he's going to be in family films for a bit (hence the forthcoming Escape from Witch Mountain, I guess he plays the mountain). Johnson's appearance in Southland Tales wasn't enough to save the film but it showed me that he doesn't always have to be the tough guy and that he's willing to do unconventional material. I have high hopes for his work in Get Smart (a movie I'll be writing about with great enthusiasm shortly). If he can get a little more selective in his scripts and stretch once in a while he could be like no performer we've seen before.
Is he A-List?: Not quite yet, but if Get Smart does well (and no reason it shouldn't) then he's well on his way.
Shia LaBeouf-LaBEOUF! In two disappointing hours LaBeouf went from beinga decent young actor to my favorite thing about the new Indiana Jones movie. Breathing more life into Harrison Ford then any other actor on screen, the new Spielberg wunder-kid has real presence and two huge potential franchises under his belt. I like this kid, but I'd like to see him in some indie (not to be confused with Indy) films. I don't mean Hitchcock retreads but a Fox Searchlight sort of thing.
Is he A-List? material: Very close, but he needs to do a quality film where he is the main attraction, not an energy cube.
Seth Rogen-At the moment he can do no wrong. His projects always feel fun, cutting edge and tend to be hilarious. I've heard that he doesn't have much of a presence in Kung-Fu Panda but then again the movie is hardly his to own. Pineapple Express looks sensational and both Rogen and Gordon Green are benefiting from each-others company. Zak & Miri looks cute and Monsters versus Aliens sounds incredible. Then there's the Green Hornet that he and friend and co-writer Evan Goldberg wrote. Rogen is constantly making cool, exciting creative choices, I just hope he doesn't neuter himself like Will Ferrell was doing for a while there.
Is he A-List material?: Yes and has been since 40 Year Old Virgin as far as I'm concerned.
Robert Downey Jr.-He's the elder statesman of this list but he definitely belongs on it. He's straightened out his life AND he looks poised to make 2008 the summer of Downey. Let's see, a colosally successful on all accounts franchise (Iron Man)? Check. Fun, edgy looking comedy he looks poised to steal from more accomplished comedy co-stars (Tropic Thunder)? Check. Schlocky sounding awards bait ready for the fall (The Soloist)? Check. Just stay clean and keep being awesome.
Is he A-List material?: If you look up A-List in the dictionary do you know what you see? A picture of Robert Downey Jr? No, the definition of the word a-list, idiot.
James McAvoy-I love him in press conferences and award shows where he seems fun and impish and playful. His movies are a bit of a mixed bag though. I like him in Atonement but he mostly just walks around looking dour. Last King of Scotland was good to him but in the eyes of the public that's Forest Whitakers movie. I'll see Wanted but I'm going to be pretty pissy through it because it looks NOTHING like the comic. As of right now the movie that best shows off what he can do is Starter for 10, but like three people saw it. Maybe he should try to hook up with the Apatow guys or another comedy clique.
Is he A-List material?: Not for another three or four successful movies at least.
Michael Cera: I talked a lot about what makes Cera great a few posts ago. I think that right now if you're an even remotely media savvy person between the ages of 15-28 you love this guy. His upcoming film slate looks pitch-perfect.
Is he A-List material?: Unquestionably. I hope he has a very sexy time.

Well that's it for the men. Tomorrow (or Thursday) I'll write up my thoughts on the women (and hopefully have a review up of Kung-Fu Panda). Stay awesome.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yisrael Hazaka Eim Zohan

As my previous post may have tipped you off, You Don't Mess with the Zohan is a fairly silly film set in the world of a very serious issue but fails to tackle it in any sort of interesting way. There is plenty of silliness in Adam Sandler's newest film but it's message is as saccharine and lame as any in a mainstream Sandler comedy. Furthermore Sandler gets peanut-butter in his thematic chocolate making the movie more about the dangers of gentrification than about the socio/political divide between Israelis and Arabs. The film is at it's sharpest (and I use the word generously) when it's speaking to the immigrant experience or commenting on the conflict comedically, the moment director Dennis Dugan puts the breaks on the gags and the sentimental music comes trickling in the movie is as flat and inert as can be.
The film follows Sandler's Zohan, a legendary, super-heroic counter-terrorist who tires from constantly battling Palestinian terrorist the Phantom (a game John Turturro not given too much to do) . He'd rather pursue his dream of cutting and styling hair in America. After faking his own death, Zohan makes his way to NYC under the unlikely alias of Scrappy Coco (named for the two dogs he stowed away) where his dreams of working at the Paul Mitchell salon are quashed by his lack of formal training and his lack of awareness of any hair-style past 1987. Zohan finds a dwelling when he saves the wimpy Michael (Nick Swardson sporting an awful haircut but consistently funny) and starts shacking up with the young man's zaftig mother (a free-of-shame Lanie Kazan). Zohan eventually finds employ and love in a Little Middle East part of town working for (gasp) a Palestinian hairdresser played by the hot but bland Emmanuelle Chiquri. Zohan is a sensation for his confident, sexual favor filled styling sessions but he endangers himself when he is recognized by a Palestinian cab driver (Rob Schneider) who wants to make a name for himself. All this gets sidetracked when a real estate developer (Michael Buffer in a role that SHOULD have gone to Christopher McDonald) threatens both sides of the neighborhood with his plan to by up the local business and open a mall.
I will say this for the film, it is unashamedly silly and Sandler 100% commits himself to his intense but ultimately sweet character. There is no end to how far the gags in the film go and while the various story frames don't fit the style, Apatow and Smigel should be commended for unleashing this kind of unabashed stream of ridiculousness. The film especially loses steam when it becomes about fighting off gentrification. A scene where Mariah Carey makes an appearance is even worse, the film doesn't just stop, it basically keels over and dies as Carey tries to determine whether or not there is in fact a bee in her dressing room. Ugh. Providing no real insight on Israeli or Palestinian culture (Israelis are basically macho shysters in the film, while it doesn't take much for the Palestinians to be terrorists, just a phone call) the film could've stood to provide some more humorous bits on the culture clash between Middle Eastern immigrants and an American populace who is incapable of distinguishing them from one another. I don't dislike the movie for what it is, but here was a missed opportunity for some very smart writers to make a really sharp comment on an important modern day conflict in front of a large mainstream audience but instead we get multiple butt shots and hummus on everything.

A quick and handy primer for You Don't Mess With the Zohan

If one is going to see You Don't Mess With the Zohan for insight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict then chances are this was the most academically challenging thing you've done in quite some time, so good for you. Before we continue any further let me clear up a few misconceptions you may now be harboring now that you've had your first sampling of political information in a mainstream entertainment. Please consider the following:

Israeli Mossad agents do not have actual super-powers (though the Mossad is one of the premiere intelligence and counter-terrorist agencies in the world).

Much of the slang used in the film is neither Hebrew nor Arabic, it is however silly.

Hezbollah does not have a hot-line though it is a fairly media savvy terrorist organization.

Yes, Palestinian children throw stones as a weapon but they tend to only do it when cameras AREN'T watching.

There is no terrorist fast-food chain, though Burger Ranch may cause explosive diarrhea.

Israeli men are in reality fairly sexually discriminating and will not wantonly screw anything they see.

Hacky sack is NOT traditionally played with a goal.

Humus, while a popular staple of the Israeli diet, does not go on everything. Chocolate spread on the other hand...

Discoing is a popular form of entertainment but now the word is analogous to clubbing not actual 70's style disco-dancing.

Yes, a large number of Israelis do work in electronic stores but many also work in construction and Jewish education.

Israeli and Arabs do not have huge weapons caches hidden away in their places of employment but many Israelis (as part and parcel of their mandatory military service) are proficient in small arms.

Can my more knowledgeable friends point out some other factual discrepancies in the film that you're worried about the Sandler fans walking away from this movie actually believing?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Awesome Birthday Guys

Two Sickness Cinema favorites celebrate their birthdays today. First up is the Arrested Development alum that has taken the world by storm, Mr. Michael Cera who is turning 20. Mr. Cera's colossal talent and nice-guy persona make him a fan favorite of the highest order. No one just likes Michael Cera, they love him. In addition to rocking the aforementioned AD as the demure, sweet and cousin-loving (maybe...maeby) George Michael Bluth Cera had a huge 2007 starring in Superbad and making me cry giant dorky tears in Juno. Cera can also be seen as a giant douchey version of himself in clarkandmichael.com. Cera has a bright future ahead of him with an awesome slate of films including Year One (think the Apatow version of History of the World Part One). He'll be romancing the well-endowed daughter from 40 Year Old Virgin in the sure to be popular soundtrack having Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, playing very much against type as the titular Youth in Revolt and then kicking the most ass ever in the Edgar Wright (YAY) helmed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Double YAY). Then there's those rumors of an Arrested Development movie. Oh I hope there's a ribbon cutting at the premiere.

Cera's co-star in the sensational (and maybe best directed of the Apatow stable) Superbad turn 30 today, Mr. Bill Hader. Hader, in addition to being a huge comic fan and movie buff in his own right, is probably one of the most talented cast members on SNL right now. A talented impressionist and avant-garde scenarist, Hader has quickly asserted himself in the Akroyd, Hartman, Farrell role of SNL utility player. He's the guy who can be brought and play it straight but still manage to be hilarious. The man also does superlative impressions of Daniel Day Lewis (as Daniel Plainview), Vincent Price, Peter O'Toole, James Mason, Al Pacino, The Emperor from Star Wars, Tony Blair and Gregory Peck. Hader is also an Apatow regular in addition to appearing Superbad showed up in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up and will be seen in Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. I am of the opinion that his Vincent Price show, Comic Chat and Captain Hook sketches are some of the best that have ever been on the show in the last decade.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Don't Mess With the Link

Lists: The AC has a list of the ten best (or worst depending on your mileage) James Bond double entendres.
In honor of the surprisingly well-reviewed Kung Fu Panda (guess I'll be checking it out after all) Cinematical has a list of the least annoying Jack Black performances (you missed King Kong and Saving Silverman guys, but I am glad you remembered Jesus' Son).

Humorous: Collegehumor has a fun piece on what taking a class with Tim and Lex Murphy from the original Jurassic Park might be like today.
Steve Carell is very down for an Anchorman sequel. If it's set in the characters' future (which is to say the present) I'll be too.

Analysis & Appreciation: The AV Club did a nice sort of euology to the King Kong that was lost in the Universal Studios fire this last week. There's a video of the Kong encounter at the end. Reminds me I should go back to Universal one of these days.
The County Fair has an intriguing piece about the types of deaths in Disney animated films.

And finally here is something I think all my old New York theatre fan friends will enjoy. If this video did anything it reminded me that A) Nathan Lane doesn't always have to be over the top to be funny and B) It's been way too long since I've seen a show on Broadway, hmm maybe if I were to come visit in say...December?

No Fair Lady

Nuh uh. No way, sorry Columbia Pictures, that dog don't hunt. Behold the source of my disappointment and frustration here. Moriarty of AICN raised a good point the other day. What's supposed to happen in twenty years when the well is dry and every movie in existence has been remade? Remakes of remakes? How will a public raised on a generation of slushy retreads react to (wonder of wonders) an ORIGINAL idea? It's especially frustrating when a studio thinks they can or should touch a fairly established film classic. What the hell is wrong with the original My Fair Lady? And yes before the rain and thunder comes down on me in the comments I am aware that y Fair Lady is itself a re-telling of Pygmalion (which itself takes cues from Ovid's Metamorphosis) HOWEVER it should be noted that something entirely different was done with the material, it was musical-ized. When one compares the two works one is not looking at a carbon copy. There already exists a perfect film telling of My Fair Lady which works with audiences of any age or generation. George Cukor's clear, direct presentation combined with Lerner and Lowe's lush score and Edith Head's gorgeous costumes present a singular experience. If one is going to remake a film why not pick a film that wasn't particularly good to begin with (Ocean's Eleven) or re-contextualize it (The Thing) or pick one that is obscure to modern audiences (3:10 to Yuma). But remaking My Fair Lady with Kiera Knightley? Really? Surely there must be a good, NEW script out there?
To paraphrase Professor Henry Higgins:

Why can't the studios leave well enough alone
Another wretched remake making audiences groan
Why not a new idea to make the coffers full
Instead of this endless remake bull-

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I get around, round, get around I get around

Living in LA now means I do a lot more driving. A lot more driving. Considering I didn't own a car and public transportation is the norm in my beloved NYC I'd say about 100% more. As a result I often find myself driving a long stretch of highway (yes, HIGHWAY) blazing my iPod from it's auxiliary hook-up. This is all a roundabout way of asking what's your favorite road trip movie (or even road based scene in a movie).

For sheer fun I'd be hard pressed to name a film that tops John Landis' (the most LA director I've ever had the good fortune of seeing speak in person) Blues Brothers. Jake and Ellwood Blues are cool, confident customers with a solid, intriguing motivation to drive (they're on a mission from God, duh), lots of fun pit-stops along the way (MUSICAL NUMBERS!) and lots of Illinois Nazis and cops on their tails. But that's just one man's opinion, what's your favorite pick for a road trip; will it be the thoughtful journey of sexual awakening in Y tu Mama Tambien, the unprepared journey of Alexander Supertramp in Into the Wild, the dysfunctional fun of Little Miss Sunshine, maybe you prefer the open rebellion of the men in Easy Rider or DJ Qualls finding some queen sized love in Road Trip or a different movie entirely? Put your favorite road trip movie in the comments and a word or two about why it's your favorite if for no other reason than to give me something to think about when the 101 gets congested.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Youth in Revolt

In the midst of the overcrowded blockbuster season it's always advisable for one to try to seek out something a little smaller, less noisy and thoughtful. The newly released Norwegian Reprise is just such a film. I wouldn't go so far as to call it this summer's Once, but it fulfills a similar niche. Directed by the talented and promising Joachim Trier (probably not related to Lars Von as I actually liked this film)* Reprise is the story of two young friends who submit their manuscripts to a publisher from the same mailbox at the same time. What follows really ought not to be spoiled but of the two, one finds immediate success and is published the other takes a little more time. Though merely being published is hardly the end of the various complications life throws at both young men.

Before the narrative of the film can formally start the audience is launched into a brusque alternative version of what "would" happen had the two. This version of the events is false, but possible. This word "would" comes up again and again in the film as Trier repeats this stylistic move which neatly underlines the world of limitless possibility (or seeming limitless possibility) of young men. The film is aggressively edited and brusquely shot serving as an excellent example of style informing content as it befits the overall restless energy of the film's leads and their clique of angry young men. There is a grand tradition of confused and angry young men in European cinema; I, Viteloni, The 400 Blows and La Haine to name a few. Reprise works as a sort of bourgeois spin on those films and their themes. These nice young men want some intangible quality from life and struggle to find it but ultimately don't know what they're looking for. The success they find leads them wanting more, not any sort of broader satisfaction. To this end the film works well as a character piece. The two leads Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie-think a Norwegian James Franco) and Erik (Espen Klouman-Hoiner) have a real natural charisma and a sort of naive intelligence.

The film is at it's best when it's staying in the realm of a propulsive portrait of the two men, when it takes on poetic aspirations it flounders a bit. Trier, perhaps uncertain of his own confident storytelling and character building throws in a number of flourishes in the film's third act that don't quite gel with what the audience has seen before. It's not so glaring as to render the film bad, far from it, but it sticks in the craw. Trier even has one of the character's meta-textually comment on his trippy ending. I will be following Mr. Trier's career with interest as he has made a very intriguing alternative to American summer fare. I would eagerly recommend it to those looking to an antithesis for explosions, interested in the world of writing and publishing and to get some sterling insight into the minds of young men.


*JK Lars, we cool though MAN were you dickish to that guy in Five Obstructions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Judd Apatow's world and I'm just living in it


The other day MTV.com broke the news of Judd Apatow's next directorial effort which will focus on the challenges and drama of the world of stand-up comedy. Being described as a funny drama
(fair enough) the film will star Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann and long-time Apatow friend Adam Sandler. Also announced the other day was Eric Bana joining the cast. This is awesome for two reasons 1) before being a big-time dramatic actor in America, Bana was an Australian comic and it'll be cool to see him flex his comedic muscles here and 2) as you may remember Knocked Up is predicated on Rogen's boost of confidence by seeing the Bana starring Munich. Small world, eh? The movie remains untitled and will likely have a hilarious poster with a close-up of the lead's (I'm still unclear whether it's Sandler or Rogen) face.

Speaking of Sandler and Apatow, I was pretty confident that I'd be skipping Don't Mess with the Zohan but after having read this eye-opening interview with Apatow co-writer and comic genius Robert Smigel I'm having serious second thoughts. It would seem there is a bit more going on with the film thematically and character-wise than the very broad slapstick-y ads would have me believe. Don't believe me? Read the interview. I should've known better that a Smigel project would be a bit more politically minded than your run of the mill studio comedy (this is after all the brain behind the consistently excellent TV Funhouse segments on SNL and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). It frustrates me that it wouldn't take much to counterbalance the trailer and make it appeal to a slightly savvier audience and thus broaden their profit, but no no let's go for the idiots and under-tens.