Movie review in the Friday, Aug. 26 Oregonian....
"Our Idiot Brother" is a comedy so relaxed, it barely registers any laughs -- but it's enjoyable as an R-rated parable about what happens when an open-hearted hippie disrupts the lives of a bunch of privileged New York narcissists.
The hippie is Ned (Paul Rudd), a man so willing to put his trust in others that he'll sell pot to a uniformed police officer at a farmer's market if the cop asks nicely. This leads to a jail term for Ned and the loss of his sustainable-farming gig, his passive-aggressive dreadlocked girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) and his dog "Willie Nelson." (This is the sort of laid-back comedy that thinks saying the dog's full name over and over constitutes a legitimate running gag.)
Suddenly homeless, Ned crashes the lives of his three sisters, who've carved out Gawker-post-worthy lives for themselves in the Big Apple. Zooey Deschanel is an alternative comedian cheating on her hipster lawyer girlfriend (Rashida Jones) with a sleazy painter (Hugh Dancy). Emily Mortimer is an overprotective Park Slope mom so fixated on getting her kid into the best schools that she doesn't notice the lovelessness of her marriage to a documentarian (Steve Coogan). And Elizabeth Banks is a Vanity Fair journalist who strings along her doormat neighbor (Adam Scott) while trying to advance her career by prying into a countess' private life.
The movie's satire of haute-bohemian New York is gentle but authentic-feeling -- co-writer Evgenia Peretz is an actual Vanity Fair journalist, married to a documentarian, and her brother Jesse Peretz directs. Rudd finds a sweet nobility in his character, who's more naïve than idiotic; Ned's interactions with his ex's equally mellow replacement boyfriend (T.J. Miller) provide the film's funniest moments. "Our Idiot Brother" lives in a sort of relaxed in-between place where it doesn't really bite as drama or comedy, but the movie's world-class cast and big heart push it over.
(90 min., rated R) Grade: C-plus
'Our Idiot Brother' (The Oregonian, Friday, Aug. 26, 2011)
(Image courtesy The Onion.)
I had a visceral reaction to Maud Newton's New York Times Magazine short essay, "Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace" -- yet another in a growing number of backlash pieces against the late author.
On a stylistic-attack level, Newton's piece (or "riff," as the NYT labels it) hurts. When Newton tries to expand that into a larger condemnation, it annoys. My reasoning after the jump.
We were joined on the Friday, Aug. 19 "Cort and Fatboy" podcast by Adam Rosko and Jesse Graff -- a.k.a. Kirk and Spock of "Trek in the Park" fame. They talked about the show and their Aug. 21 indoor performance of "Mirror, Mirror" at the Bagdad, on a double feature with "Galaxy Quest."
Also discussed: "Fright Night," "Conan the Barbarian," "Serenity" for charity, the Rolling Stones, and the long-hidden death of Charlie Watts. It's a densely packed episode.
Cort and Fatboy (Friday, Aug. 19, 2011)
BECKY OHLSEN (via e-mail, just after I'd seen a Wednesday preview screening of "Conan the Barbarian" in 3-D): ...all I really want to know is if there's a scene where [Conan] pushes a wheel around and around until he's huge.
MY REPLY: There is not! Though young Conan does kill an entire scout party of Mohican-looking warriors who snarl like jaguars (literally -- they make what sound like foleyed jaguar sounds), all without breaking the bird's egg in his mouth. (Long story.)
The movie is pretty lousy, noisy, assaultive, muddily shot, straight-to-video trash -- but I would argue that's its sort of FUN straight-to-video trash, for a little while, because it's so hilariously violent. Imagine "Centurion" on a meth binge. The first scene is Conan the Fetus being cut out of his mother's womb by Ron Perlman during a battle, from the POV of the fetus, ghost-narrated by Morgan Freeman. Perlman then lifts the fake baby in the air and yells "GRAAA!"
But after a while the whole thing degrades, or maybe I just got numb, and it just starts feeling like everyone got bored and/or some Bulgarian pickpocket ran off with a bag full of the budget -- so the last half just sort of feels like a generic, hard-to-follow knockoff you could rent at Blockbuster in the '90s, or maybe it feels like one of those sub-par "Xena" TV knockoffs, only with no sense of humor.
It also drove me nuts that Jason Momoa and Rachel Nichols have no vocal presence; they both sound like they work at a surf shop in Malibu.
Still, I can only get so mad at a movie that features [spoilers]
But yeah, the movie's total crap.
Movie review in the Friday, Aug. 19 Oregonian....
The best surprise in the surprisingly entertaining "Fright Night" remake? How much fun Colin Farrell has playing a vampire.
The actor injects a million little bits of unnecessary-but-welcome business into his performance as Jerry, a 400-year-old bloodsucker who moves into a Las Vegas suburb -- pinballing between glares, grins, hisses, moments of pure animal sleaze, and sudden transformations into the sort of fratty neighbor who keeps calling you "guy."
In many ways, Farrell sets the tone for the rest of the movie, which is quite a bit more carefully constructed than the average horror-remake cash-grab. (And I write this as a fan of the 1985 original, which holds up well.)
Director Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") stages several witty, patient suspense set-pieces -- and uses 3-D for trashy, splatter-in-your-face laughs -- as he pits Jerry against the recovering-nerd teen next door (Anton Yelchin). A break-in at Jerry's house and a single-take siege on a moving car are standouts.
The screenplay by former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" scribe Marti Noxon hands several "Buffy"-style moments to a strong ensemble that includes Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots and David Tennant.
I'd argue there's only one element here that doesn't meet or exceed the original: Tennant reinvents the great Roddy McDowall's role -- a burned-out horror host dragged into vampire-slaying -- as an absinthe-gulping, Criss Angel-style stage magician, and his role feels sort of half-baked, with none of McDowall's tweedy charm. Otherwise, "Fright Night" joins "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" as proof that you actually can do this sort of thing correctly.
'Fright Night' (The Oregonian, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011)
During the Friday, Aug, 12 "Cort and Fatboy" podcast:
It’s a bad week to be a zombie Fan, Frank Darabont, a little girl on a plane or a geologist. It’s a great week if you’re a Stephen King fan, or someone who likes comedies loosely based on horrific real-life capers gone horribly wrong. Mike Russell opens the show with a slippery grasp on how caves work, and from there, the show slides into a discussion on whether sequels really can retroactively hurt the work they spawned from. This touches on, of course, "The Matrix," "Star Wars," "Alien" and "Torchwood." The news about AMC’s mishandling of "The Walking Dead" is discussed, as is Paramount’s strange decisions on "World War Z," and the continuing rediscovery of Stephen King by Hollywood. Also discussed: "30 Minutes or Less," alternate futures, kung-fu, Geek Trivia, and more.
Cort and Fatboy (Friday, Aug. 12, 2011)
Slightly longer version of a review in the Friday, Aug. 12 Oregonian....
With "30 Minutes or Less," director Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland") tries for an odd structural variation on the late-'80s/early-'90s buddy action comedy. He follows two pairs of buddies -- one on each side of the law -- giving them nearly equal amounts of screen time. (The filmmakers actually cite "Heat" as an influence.) It's a brisk, though laugh-imbalanced, B-comedy with a hard R.
The script is getting some bad press for bad taste. It appears to lift its premise from the real-life 2003 Brian Wells case, in which pizza driver Wells was forced to rob a bank by men who shackled a bomb to his neck. The bomb killed Wells on live TV. But beyond the setup, "30 Minutes" isn't really all that dark -- it's mostly a punches-pulled humor exercise, plainly nostalgic for the bickery mayhem that flooded multiplexes two decades ago.
Here, two idiot slacker scuzzballs (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson) strap the bomb on a slightly less slackery delivery driver (Jesse Eisenberg), who draws his schoolteacher buddy (Aziz Ansari) into the plot.
Fleischer brings his "Zombieland" action chops to bear. At a tight 83 minutes, the movie isn't a frame longer than necessary. The car stunts are cool, the movie wallows amusingly in its blighted strip-mall landscape, and the scenes with Ansari and Eisenberg pop -- particularly during their laugh-out-loud amateur robbery.
But the McBride/Swardson half of the movie, while slightly more sinister, doesn't enjoy the same desperate stakes, tight repartee, or Ansari's manic energy -- even after Michael Peña shows up as an offbeat, hyperviolent wild-card.* This leaves "30 Minutes" feeling fairly (but not fatally) lopsided, dramatically and comically, whenever it leaves the sweaty pizza guy.
* I'm an avowed McBride fan, but between his lowered energy in this and "Your Highness," I'm starting to wonder if he's best enjoyed in smaller doses when it comes to mainstream comedy. (We discussed this on "Cort and Fatboy" today, actually. Fats' theory about Jody Hill sort being the secret Scorsese to McBride's DeNiro is interesting.)
'30 Minutes or Less' (The Oregonian, Friday, Aug. 12, 2011)
(One of my teammakes remarked that we're sort of clowning on that "Hood to Coast" documentary. Oops I guess we are.)
At right: the small badge that will appear on the front of the shirt.
Here's a comic I did in 2004 about running Hood to Coast with the Crabmen -- my first H2C in 15 years.
We were joined on the Friday, Aug. 5 "Cort and Fatboy" podcast by cartoonist (and Stumptown Comics Fest founder) Indigo Kelleigh for a chat about webcomics, the online art economy and what online comics and podcasts have in common. Also: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (surprisingly good!) and my weird Tuesday morning (surprisingly Lynchian!).
We also recorded a "Midnight Movie Commentary" for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Featuring reminiscing, behind-the-scenes trivia, arguments and nerd-outs from Cort, Fatboy, Erik Henriksen, Dave Walker & yrs. truly.
Cort and Fatboy (Friday, Aug. 5, 2011)
The Midnight Movie Commentary: Raiders of the Lost Ark (CortAndFatboy.com)