Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jason Schwartzman’

Judd Apatow’s Funny People, a film about a comedian/celebrity George Simmons – confused me. As the end credits rolled, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. I ended up on middle ground, which was really annoying, given my aversion towards the neutrality of things. Indifference is the ultimate insult a common man can assign to a work of art and since cinema (and the love I have for it) is something I hold near and dear, I hated feeling inadequate about either recommending it or shitting on the essence of its being. Here’s the problem first. Adam Sandler (who plays George Simmons) must have hoped Funny People would do for him what JCVD did for Jean Claude Van Damme. I guess it’s alright for celebrities to seek therapy through self-caricaturizing; at least it beats going down to some river to pray. It worked for the Belgian muscleman because the public had never before thought of him as a man who suffers, let alone muse eloquently over all those crappy films he starred in. After watching his insecurities come alive on-screen, no longer did people think Van Damme’s first reaction to anything would be to do a seriously gay version of the splits or position his limbs for a Judo crane kick. The self-loathing characterization in JCVD hit a nerve (in me, at least) because it made for a chilling catharsis of the actor. Even Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce sort of worked, with the cult legend more than willing to laugh uproariously at his delusions of grandeur while secretly grinning at how fame once pulled a fast one on him about his place in cinema.

Despite not knowing if the director Judd Apatow intended to caricaturize Adam Sandler, I can’t but help nurse suspicions about it. Going by this alone, his film fell a little flat. The only musing I have ever done about Adam Sandler was whether or not the man is truly retarded. The characters he played in films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmour and Waterboy seemed to be an extension of his real self minus the extraordinary savantism. His stand-up comedy too is centered on funny accents, childish cussing and penile jokes, something I’m sure his mates back home would testify to as a weekend by the couch with a couple of beers activity. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d hate to think this didn’t affect my liking of this film. So, seeing his character supposedly bare his soul on the canvas didn’t do much for me.

Here’s what worked. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana and the ten or so brilliantly executed cameos. Rogen and Hill – who play standup comedians Ira Wright and Leo Koenig – are probably the most sought-after comedians in Hollywood right now. They’re pretty funny, if only they didn’t indulge in so much toilet humour (conveniently, George Simmons makes a mention of it). Here they are in form, especially Rogen with his man-child impersonations. Now I know that if Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell ever had a child, it’d be really funny. Hollywood’s nerdiest prodigy Jonah Hill is going places with his obnoxious anti-frat boy comedy and he knows it; the arrogance is evident and well-deserved.

As for Jason Schwartzman (he plays Wright and Leo’s egomaniacal roommate), he has a little Bill Murray thing going for him. No matter how similar most of the characters he portrays seem to be, he still manages to make them engaging. In Funny People, the sympathy he shows for his roomies is subtly hilarious. There’s a scene in which he sits next to Rogen’s character and explains why he slept with his date…look at the expressions on Schwartzman’s face, I’m telling you, Mr Murray would be proud.

Leslie Mann’s character (Simmons’ love interest) was well crafted too. I really dug the confrontation scene, with the three men standing there, jaws open and fists raised, unsure of who to blame and for what. Eric Bana provides standard fare as the sweet and sour-tongued Aussie husband who has read too many self-help books. For me, the true highlights of Funny People were the cameos. The scene in which Marshall Mathers (Eminem) confronts Ray Romano (from Everybody Loves Raymond) is just about the funniest scene I have watched in a mainstream movie in a long time. Rap outfit Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, Andy Dick, James Taylor, Paul Reiser – all provide rib-tickling fastfood humour, with quick and to the point punchlines. The Sarah Silverman stand up bit about Kanye West and Obama also qualifies as a laugh out loud moment. (if you find it offensive, you’re a bigger jackass than Kanye).

I’ll say this too…Funny People could be the first step towards changing the public (for all those who care, at least) perception of Adam Sandler’s talent as an actor. Truth be told, it’s probably the most intense he has even been. Even in the vastly underrated Paul Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, the tragedy of his character’s life seemed more odd than actually moving.

In Funny People, George Simmons desperately tries to take a step back, lose the jokes and get a bit more serious about his place in the world. I guess, in 2009, Adam Sandler tried that too. To quote one of his classically retarded characters – Billy Madison – “Well, I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one”.

Well, you decide if you want to see this blue duck (I’m aware that at some level, I’m making no sense whatsoever).

Read Full Post »

Since the influx of new music is killing time, I have had to delay posting the weekend movie reviews. I have got three Werner Herzog films and a couple of others by Jim Jarmusch left to watch, so next Monday I would be posting the complete reviews of both DVD box sets.

Dead ManDead Man: Jim Jarmusch films are bitingly funny. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hires genetically jacked-up vampire bats to write dialogues for his films. People like Jarmusch and Wes Anderson are brilliant in the way they use humour to drive home a particularly gray point. Quite unlike the more theatrical mainstream comedies that rely on execution of humour rather than its actual content. There is more of an onus on making funny faces than actually saying something funny. Case in point, the American Pie series and the decade of retardation it spawned. However, in Dead Man, there is enough deadpan existential humour to tickle seven generations of Nietzsches. And it’s not one of those “you’ve got to be Kevin Smith to understand the one-liners” comedies either. For instance, take the storyline. Johnny Depp plays William Blake, an accountant on the run who ends up meeting Nobody, a large and morose Red Indian in a desolate industrialized small town. After a brief discussion between the two, they decide to kill as many white people as they possibly can; there’s also Lance Henriksen who plays a cannibalistic bounty hunter out to get them by any means necessary. You might wonder, what in the blue hell is this shit? But I assure you…everything works really well.

The William Blake references, the black and white cinematography, Neil Young’s original compositions, Henriksen’s game face, John Hurt’s accent, Iggy Pop’s cross-dressing…gasp, yes…everything.

Spun_posterSpun: Jonas Akerlund’s Spun is a cocktail of few druggie films of the past two decades. Take half a cup of Trainspotting, add a large dose of Requiem For A Dream, squeeze a few drops from Go and throw in a few pieces of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, as well. But the thing is Spun is way more fun (not necessarily better) than any of them. I guess you can thank Renita Whited, the casting director, for that. The energy and exuberance that the Spun’s cast showcase seem so infectious that you almost get the impression that a strange concoction of mashed ecstasy pills and cough syrup was passed around during the shooting of this film. Jason Schwartzman, Mena Suvari, Brittany Murphy and John Leguizamo – all of them do a fantastic job of playing meth-heads looking for a fix and quite possibly, an off-the-road path to serenity. Props to them for going beyond what we thought they were capable of.

One particular scene stands out as a testament to how gloriously fucked up and fun Spun can be. Watch out for the conversation that takes place inside the car between Ross (Schwartzman) and Nikki (Brittany) towards the end of the film. Such twisted fun! For the sake of NOT sounding like I’m gassed up on a few concoctions myself, I’m going to downplay the awesomeness that Mickey Rourke brings to Spun as Cook. A serious challenger to the Michael Madsen’s Cool Cat Of Cinema Award.

Midnight Meat Train

Midnight Meat Train: Midnight Meat Train is one of the short stories in Clive Bakers’ Books of Blood, a collection of literary screams. I haven’t read the book yet so I’ll hold back personal biases about interpretations. For what it’s worth, director Ryuhei Kitamura’s film about a serial killer tearing through the heart of city metro subways leaves little to be desired. I say this because nobody should watch this, expecting the sort of subtle titillation that serial killer films such as Elements Of Crime, Cronicas and The Gray Man quietly stir up through visual metaphors and striking passages of dialogue. Watch this as you would those slow-burning, violent and strangely Lynchian Eighties movies.

Matter of fact, grab John Raffo’s Johnny Skidmarks and watch that first. You will have newfound respect for John Lithgow and Peter Gallagher. As for Midnight Meat Train, Vinnie Jones and Bradley Cooper are sort of alright but I’d say Jonathan Sela, the director of photography, should rightfully take most the credit. Who says gore can’t be stylish?

high_fidelity_1High Fidelity: Nick Hornby’s book is better. Much much better. And Catherine Zeta-Jones is as awful as always. With those clichés out of the way, let us focus on the positives. The music is friggin great. I mean, really really great… like one kickass garage mixtape. Featuring tracks by The 13th Floor Elevators, The Kinks, Velvet Underground, The Beta Band and Stereolab, High Fidelity’s OST is one of the finest of its kind. Oh and Tim Robbins is really funny with his character’s “so hip I’m square” douchebaggery. Wellllll…uhmmmm…uh huh…so much for the positives. Many have opined that the film had a brilliant cast and while the jury is still out on that, I must say that it sort of felt like the actors and actresses were sleepwalking their way through this film. Catherine Zeta-Jones continues to amaze us with her impersonation skills. Once again she plays a role of a woman who thinks she can act. Jack Black plays an over-excitable Pomeranian. Both John and Joan Cusack are wasted yet again (see Grosse Point Blank to see just how good they can be). The mediocrity of observation has started to hurt, so read more about the storyline here.

P.S: Mickey Rourke’s character Cook has been given a lifetime ban in three countries for the sheer amount of awesomeness he exudes every two seconds

P.S.S: Da Bear has reviewed one of my favourite independent American films – Shane Caruth’s Primer. Read it here.

Read Full Post »