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Non-Review Review: Funny People

Funny People is the very definition of “self-indulgent”. It’s a series of comedians from both the big leagues – movie stars – and the smaller circles – the improv stand-up circuit – reflecting on how difficult life is for an entertainer. Be it the generalisation that showbiz types are all cynical and disconnected to the point of being anhedonic, or the observation that fame and success typically come with a high personal cost. Of course, coming from director Judd Atapow – who carved out his earlier career with comedies centred on everyman (okay, maybe “slacker”) types like Knocked-Up or The Forty-Year-Old Virgin – a film about the types of circles that he moved in was a risky venture, one which would definitely represent a move away from the “common man” appeal of his earlier films. And at least those films had the gift of brevity.

My girlfriend would like you all to know that apparently I wear shirts like this...

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Why Not Every Superhero Has To Be “Dark and Edgy”…

News surfaced earlier in the week that reported Sony are reportedly less than pleased with how The Green Hornet is turning out. What are they unhappy about? Oh yes, the fact that the movie from Seth Rogan and Michael Gondry about a man who fights crime in an emerald business suit with a domino mask and a Japanese man-servant might not be delivered with the poe-faced gravitas that the very concept deserves. Apparently, it’s campy.

Wait, what?

Darker and edgier, what?

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Non-Review Review: Observe and Report

It seems that, despite Watchmen and Avatar, 2009 may not have been the year of the almost completely naked blue people. Between Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report, it was the year of the shopping mall security officer. There was a lot of discussion branding this as the ‘grown up’ Paul Blart movie. If ‘grown up’ means in awful taste and incredibly soul-destroyingly depressing while featuring a heap of sex, violence and drug use, then yes – this is a grown up film. And when it works, it does beautifully. But it simply doesn’t work consistently enough.

Ronnie really needs to 'cop' on to himself... no?

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Non-Review Review: Pineapple Express

Ah, the almost forgotten stoner movie subgenre. Well, except for Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies and its sequel. Okay, well, you get the idea. Pineapple Express isn’t the best movie to emerge from the Judd Atapow machine, nor is it the worst. Despite a lengthy introduction and setup, it did manage to illicit a few giggles and to amuse for the bones of two hours (which may have been just a little too long).

Their bark is worse than their bite...

Their bark is worse than their bite...

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Welcome to the Academy!

Wow.

The Academy might actually be serious about changing things. I was indifferent about the expansion of the Best Picture category, and a bit miffed about the demotion of the Honorary Awards to an event outside the regular show, but today’s list of new members of the Academy gives me a little cause for hope. These are the people who will vote on the nominees in coming years and I’m actually surprised: I recognise most of the names. Don’t get me wrong, these are only 134 new members in an organisation of 5000. This announcement by itself won’t move the Oscars back to the centre of popular culture where they belong, but – if the Academy can stick to its guns on this one – it may prove a better way of incorporating mainstream tastes than simply doubling the size of the Academy’s net.

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

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Non-Review Review: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

In short, if the title doesn’t offend you, give it a go. There are worse things to do with your time.

Kevin Smith has come on miles as a director. What’s really notable about the film is that Smith manages to draw fantastic performances from just about every member of the ensemble. This is particularly evident with performers who have worked alongside Smith over a long period of time – Jason Mewes and Brian O’Halloran – both of whom give better performances than I’d have thought they could. It helps that Smith knows them both well enough to hide their weaknesses (O’Halloran does better as a supporting player than a lead) and play to their strengths. The performances in the film are all top-tier. Not one performance feels forced or awkward. True, some like Seth Rogan or Brandon Routh play within their comfort margins, but it’s Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes and a scene-stealing Justin Long that are revelations.

The film is populated with the kind of uniquely crazy individuals that seem to inhabit Kevin Smith movies, but he writes them and casts them so well that we don’t consider their money-generating scheme as bizarre as we should (given I doubt it would have occurred to anyone watching in similar dire straits – otherwise Ireland would be a low budget porno haven at this stage). It’s odd when the inevitable “emotional complications” that always pop in on Smith’s third act seem more oddly out of place than the two acts of audacity that proceeded it, but it feels a little out of place here. Maybe it’s because while we expect Smith to mix the crass and the romantic, we don’t expect the extremes to be so far apart. In a comparison to crass-comedy forefather The 40 Year Old Virgin, Zach and Miri manages to be both cruder and sweeter. It’s jarring mix that doesn’t necessarily work, but the comedy is fantastic.

So, yep, if you’re not too prudish for it, it’s a damn funny film that maybe gets a little too sacchrine towards the end, but features several fantastic performances (Long’s extended cameo as an actor who star in productions with “all-male casts” is too amazing for words). Banks in particular shows a growing range which makes her one to watch in the years to come.

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Zach and Miri Make a Porno is a film directed by Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Clerks). It’s on his second major film (after Jersey Girl) not to feature his trademark characters Jay and Silent Bob. It stars Seth Rogan (Observe and Report, Knocked Up) and Elizabeth Banks (Scrubs, W.) with supporting turns from Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma), Brian O’Halloran (Clerks, Clerks 2), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) and Justin Long (Live Free and Die Hard/Die Hard 4.0).