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Non-Review Review: David Brent – Life on the Road

Perhaps David Brent: Life on the Road represents the edge case for the current wave of nineties nostalgia.

The Office premiered in July 2001. It was the first year of the twenty-first century, but spiritually near the end of what might be termed “the long nineties.” The mockumentary sit-com was something of a novelty at the time, building upon the rich history and legacy of British comedy personalities like Alan Partridge, with Ricky Gervais introducing the character of David Brent. Gervais did not invent cringe-comedy, but he certainly pushed it forward. Gervais’ work in The Office and Extras would inspire a whole generation of awkward social comedy.

He's got a t-shirt gun and he's not afraid to use it.

He’s got a t-shirt gun and he’s not afraid to use it.

David Brent is an interesting beast. On the one hand, it seems like a nostalgic return to familiar ground for a comedian who has long evolved past this persona. Barring a brief reprisal of the role for Red Nose Day in March 2013, Gervais retired the role of David Brent more than a decade ago. In some respects, David Brent finds the comedian retreading old ground that had been ceded to a generation of imitators and innovators years earlier. Gervais slips effortless back into the role, but there is a sense that the world has changed around him.

Despite Gervais’ best efforts, there is an awkwardness to David Brent. It is hard to tell whether Gervais has soften in the intervening years or whether the world has gotten harder, but David Brent feels trapped between two extremes. The feature film adaptation feels at once too mean-spirited and too kind-hearted towards its protagonist, offering a version of the character who is as awkward and offensive as he has even been while constructing a film that coddles the obnoxious former manager. The result is a film that feels off-balance, an old standard played out of tune.

Get Brent.

Get Brent.

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Non-Review Review: Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa successfully brings the BBC icon to the big screen. He’s come a long way from a sports desk persona on a BBC4 parody radio show, and modern British comedy owes a lot to Coogan’s creation. Partridge has been around for over twenty years at this point, in many ways becoming more recognisable than Steve Coogan himself. It’s surprising that it’s taken this long to shepherd Partridge to the big screen.

Partridge is the king of what might be termed “cringe comedy”, and is a clear forbearer of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. As such, it’s possible to feel that Partridge is a little dated. Certainly, there are times when Alpha Papa plays out like it could be an extended holiday special featuring North Norfolk’s most famous radio DJ. To be fair, that’s not a bad thing. Coogan is on fine form here, the comedy is broad and the wit is quick enough that there’s never a dull moment.

It’s a giant-sized helping of the comedy character, one which stays true to his roots even if it does occasionally feel like it over-simplifies him a bit.

On the air, and on the line...

On the air, and on the line…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Chris Cooper Raps (The Muppets)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #1

If you ever need proof of how delightfully absurd The Muppets was, the sight of Oscar-winner Chris Cooper dancing and rapping across his desk, only to unleash a storeroom full of chorus girls while Jason Segel looks on in confusion should do the trick. It’s a fantastic moment because it’s so ridiculously surreal. Cooper is rapping for about a minute of screen-time, meaning that it’s over before it has really begun – leaving both the characters and the audience wondering what the hell just happened.

In a great way.

themuppets10

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Check Your Listings: The Displaced Cast List…

It happens every once in a while when I view a poster, or a DVD, or even browse the end credits of a film. I’m sure you’ve noticed it too. There’s a certain actor, who happens to be relatively well known (even in a particular geographic region) whose name happens to be featured rather prominently on those lists, ranking just below the leads of the given film. The only problem? Well, the person in question only appears in the film for a scene-and-a-bit, and actually warrants inclusion towards the end of the cast list… if at all.

One of these is the UK poster. Guess which one. Go on.

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Non-Review Review: The Invention of Lying

What a fantastic concept. Imagine a world where nobody lies. Now imagine a world where some cheeky bugger – oh, look, it’s Ricky Gervais, who would have thought? – invents the concept of lying, an un-truth. Doesn’t it sound like comic dynamite in the right hands? I mean, humour is always about exploring and subverting social conventions, so removing all the little ‘white lies’ must surely be the stuff of comedy gold? Not so much, it turns out.

"look into my eyes, can't you see they're open wide? Would I lie to you baby, would I lie to you?"

Note: This review will probably mention some stuff that might spoil the movie for you – in some small way. We won’t be discussing the ending or such, but there’s a significant tonal shift in the middle you might not want flagged. If you want a quick opinion on the film, here it is: it isn’t worth your time, it doesn’t go anywhere with the concept and insists upon its own brilliance just a tad too much. If you want some reasoning, read on. If not, consider yourself forewarned.

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Non-Review Review: Ghost Town

I love Sky Anytime. It gives me the opportunity to watch stuff I would normally miss at a time that suits me. This weekend, for example, I sat down for Saturday lunch and decided to see what was available to watch. I found Ghost Town, a movie which never really became large enough to warrant a cinema trip and my family’s Gervais-aversion ruled out a rent. So, I switched it on and I was reasonably impressed with this modern spoof on the ghost story subgenre. There’s nothing too strange or startling or new here, but it’s a solidly entertaining comedy and a more than pleasant diversion.

Dead people see him...

Dead people see him...

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