Does this bromance deliver the laughs? Paul Rudd & Jason Segal star.
It's been just over ten years since John Hamburg's "Safe Men" was released. If you haven't seen that film, it's on DVD right now, and I highly recommend tracking down a copy. It's a great small quirky comedy with Steve Zahn, Paul Giamatti, and Sam Rockwell, and it's one of those movies that I've probably pushed on more friends over the years than I can count. And every single time, the person who I give it to ends up loving it. As a result, I've been interested in whatever Hamburg's up to since then. He's co-written both "Meet The Parents" and "Meet The Fockers," and right now, he's working on a draft of "The Little Fockers." But him as a writer/director is what interests me more, and this weekend, he's got a film in general release that I think justifies that ongoing interest on my part, and which confirms Paul Rudd as one of the most deranged and subversive mainstream male leads working right now.
"I Love You, Man" is about a guy named Peter Klaven (Rudd) who has managed to go from girlfriend to girlfriend his entire life, never really forming any close male friendships as a result. I know guys like this, serial monogamists. And they do vanish into their relationships, almost as if they're afraid that any outside influence will destroy whatever relationship they have with the girl. When Klaven pops the questions to his girlfriend Zooey (the preposterously cute Rashida Jones), he realizes he's going to need a best man, and that's what kicks off his quest to find a new friend, someone he can legitimately ask to stand next to him on the most important day of his life. If you've seen any movie ever in your entire life, you can guess that it won't be easy, and that Sydney Fife (Jason Segal) isn't going to be the easiest guy in the world to deal with. And, admittedly, narrative innovation isn't what "I Love You, Man" is all about. Instead, the film provides a simple framework to explore the idea of how we define "normal" masculine behavior, and whether or not there's some value in playing the social roles that we're supposed to play. It's a smart comedy with plenty of broad, outrageous moments to keep things light.
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Kathryn Bigelow's disturbing portrait of war as a drug opens this summer
Writer Mark Boal spent time as an embedded reporter in Iraq, specifically with the men who are tasked as many as twelve times a day to defuse explosives. And in that time, he came to realize that the men who were best at it were wired differently than anyone else, which makes sense. I truly believe that man y of us end up where we do in life because we couldn't end up anywhere else if we tried. We are at the mercy of our own nature, and if you're lucky in this life, you are able to find the job that brings out all your best qualities.
But what if that job put your life in danger a dozen times a day?
That's the main thrust of Kathryn Bigelow's dynamic new "The Hurt Locker," a film that is fact-based, character-driven, and tense from the opening frame to the last. It's a hell of a picture from this director who has always had a hard time sustaining any sort of commercial momentum. Her last feature was 2002's "K-19: The Widowmaker," a Harrison Ford movie that wasn't great, but that certainly shouldn't have killed a career dead. I mean, has it really been 20 years since she made "Near Dark"? Seems unbelievable. And in that time, she's made several films that have emphasized an almost immersive quality, and it's that aesthetic that she brings to "The Hurt Locker" to fantastic effect. This is the best overall film she's ever made, and it manages to fit neatly into the voice she's already established as a filmmaker while hopefully also opening new doors for her as well.
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The heroes suit up and Nic Cage gets batty
In my first "Kick-Ass" set visit article, which was posted over at Ain't It Cool, I was talking about being on-set for the one scene in the film where all the real-life superheroes are together in one room, in costume, at the same time. Let's recap who was there:
The Red Mist. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, famous from "Superbad," looking to redefine how people think of him. The most outrageous of the costumes, looking like he wandered off the set of "Velvet Goldmine."
Hit Girl. Chloe Moretz. Huge iconic character. When you see the purple wig and the leather battle armor under the schoolgirl exterior, and the sneer this 11-year-old rocks with all the authority of a young truck-drivin' Elvis, you will understand. Hit Girl is a star.
Kick-Ass, of course, played by Aaron Johnson, and he's the one this entire film rides on. If the audience identifies with him and really feels like they know this kid, then they'll take this fairly dark and crazy ride with him. I think Aaron's work that I saw reminded me of what young Michael J. Fox did so well... he's playing a kid who is sort of not quite in control, but there's a precision to what he does in that performance.
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Jody Hill and Seth Rogen thrown the year's most twisted party in this comedy featuring no Pauls and no Blarts
Something's happening in comedy right now, something really special, and I feel genuinely lucky to have watched it unfold for the last few years.
Anyone who just refers to this new explosion of comedy talent as "that Judd Apatow stuff," as a guy in line in front of me did the other night, isn't paying attention. Yes, Judd's been a big part of that, but it's richer and stranger than just his work, and the talent pool is deep enough that everyone's bringing something different to the table.
Consider the North Carolina Posse, for example. When David Gordon Green released his acclaimed early films "George Washington" and "All The Real Girls," I doubt anyone who saw them was thinking about them as calling cards for a huge comedy career. But after seeing "Pineapple Express" and his episodes of "East Bound and Down," a part of me hopes he never goes back to working in drama again. "East Bound," if you're not aware of it, is an HBO series that finishes its soon-to-be-legendary run this Sunday night. Co-created by Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best, it stars McBride as Kenny Powers, an ex-major league baseball player who is in free fall in his personal life, but who always manages to remain gloriously, idiotically unaware of his own ridiculousness.
That's actually a signature of the work of Jody Hill, another big player in this North Carolina mob. I find myself more and more impressed by each fresh project from these guys. "The Foot Fist Way" made my top ten list in 2007, the year before Paramount Vantage finally released it theatrically. I felt bad about that, though, because by the time Vantage finally put it out, they'd messed with it. The cut that made my list was the festival cut of the film. It was shaggier, meaner, with all sorts of rough edges. The eccentric details are what made the film great, and I was frustrated by the theatrical cut as a result.
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Austin's biggest festival wraps the film program with awards as the music kicks off
Wow. Looks like the festival is now halfway finished. Actually, it's officially over as of tonight, while the music festival is just kicking off. I'm not seeing a ton of movies like I did at Sundance, because I've been trying to do press for a few films. I've got reviews coming tonight, but the big news right now is that the festival has just announced its awards.
I wish I could offer more perspective here, but at a festival like this, it's such a crap shoot, and this time, I think I completely had a different festival than these juries.
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Yep. We're at that point.
Last night was the "Observe & Report" premiere and party here at South By Southwest, and as much fun as all of it was, I'm reminded this morning why I don't attend many festival parties. My throat is thrashed. And I'm weary in a way I haven't been so far this week.
I'll have more on "O&R" later today (it's sort of amazing), as well as reviews for a few other films. I'm on my way to a press event right now, so I'll have to hold the posting until right after, but rest assured... lots more SXSW coverage ahead as this exceptional week continues...
Sam Raimi brings his new horror film to Austin and rocks the house
Sam Raimi took the stage tonight with a pratfall flat on his face, followed by some fumbling around with his speech that managed to somehow end up with his necktie threaded through his glasses and over his face, leading to a wistful, "Who turned out the lights?" from the beloved film geek icon. His playful demeanor helped set just the right tone for the work-in-progress screening of his brand-new self-described "spook-a-blast," a nasty little bit of cyanide fun called "Drag Me To Hell." It is a new Sam Raimi horror film, something many of his fans probably thought they'd never see.
And it is an indecent amount of fun.
Alison Lohman's had a hard time getting traction in her career. Although she'd worked quite a bit beforehand, it was "Matchstick Men" where I first noticed her, and although she was in her mid-twenties when she made it, she looked like a fifteen year old. She's never really had a great role since then, a movie-star role, the sort of role that helps define an actor for the public. She may have finally found it as Christine, the put-upon hero of this film. She's a loan officer at a small bank, bucking for a promotion, competing with a co-worker. She's a former farm girl, a once-fat girl who managed to drop the weight, move to the city, start a career, and find a perfect boyfriend named Clay.
Sacha Baron Cohen turns up the crazy in our first look at this summer's most dangerous comedy
In the first of the two special events that Universal hosted at South By Southwest tonight, we were shown 20 minutes of "Bruno," which will be released on July 10th. Sacha Baron Cohen, putting on an exaggeratedly posh version of his own English accent, appeared onscreen seated in front of an Avid, and he explained that what we were seeing was still rough, and that not all of the footage we saw would end up in the final cut of the film.
Short non-spoiler version first: amazing. It appears that he has dramatically upped the stakes from "Borat," and I truly expect that this will be THE social conversation of July. If you do not see "Bruno," you will be on the outside of that conversation, and it's one that will encompass thoughts on race, religion, and (of course) sexuality. It is a conversation that is already in progress in much of America, one that was spurred on in California last year with the passing of Proposition 8, one that continues to affect the daily lives of millions of people. Seems like a lot of weight to hang on a wacky comedy, but after the footage we saw tonight, I'm confident that Cohen's more than up to the task.
Okay... now let's talk specifically about what they showed us. Cohen explained a bit of the story. Evidently, Bruno's TV show in Austria is the "biggest German-speaking show on television in every single German-speaking country. Except Germany." So it's a shock to Bruno when he's fired from his job. Distraught, he decides to move to Los Angeles to reinvent himself as "the biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler." After talking to Bono, he decides to go to the Middle East to solve the peace problem there. On the way home, he swings by Africa to adopt a black baby, Madonna-style, and when he gets back to LA, he starts trying to figure out a way to properly demonstrate how much he loves his brand new son.
That leads to the idea to do a photo shoot. And as part of the photo shoot, Bruno needs extras. Specifically, he needs babies. And he's got a vision, so he needs to explain the particulars of what he wants to the parents of the babies that he's looking at for the shoot. That set-up led into the first clip, which was simply a montage of Bruno interviewing parents.
Okay... before I leave the house today, a quick update.
Yesterday started with a Jon Favreau/Jaime Pressley interview, and I'll have that piece up later this week. I saw "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "American Prince," then "Black" at midnight. The "Black" review just went live, but I'll have those other reviews for you, too. Before that, though, you'll be reading my reactions here later tonight to both the 20 minutes of "Bruno" that we'll be seeing and Sam Raimi's "Drag Me To Hell." Those are going live as soon as I get in this evening, so make sure to check back here tomorrow morning for my report on two of the hottest tickets of the whole festival.
Gotta run downtown now for my first movie of the day, the very indie and very local "The Overbrook Brothers," so expect to hear more from me later.
It's a French blaxploitation film set mostly in Africa. And it's awesome.
I guess I'm going to have to finally write my review of "Black Dynamite" from Sundance after this. Seeing "Black," the French film that played as one of the midnight movies on Saturday at SXSW in Austin, I think I'm finally able to articulate why that earlier Sundance sensation didn't quite sit right with me. No matter, though... for anyone who genuinely enjoys black American cinema of the '70s in all its forms, high and low, is in for a huge treat as soon as an American distributor steps up to acquire what could easily be a breakout hit, a movie that manages to mix African mysticism, blaxploitation, and the heist thriller into something that felt truly original. I loved it... and I'm willing to bet others will, too.
MC Jean Gab'1 (any fan of Jean Gabin's work has gotta love that rap name) is probably most familiar to American genre fans as one of the bad guys from "District B13," but based on his work here, I'd love to see the guy break out as an international movie star. He's got a great face, and he's able to convincingly handle all the action while always bringing a sly, subtle humor to everything. He's not just a presence... this guy's the real deal, a very good actor in the body of an action hero. Carole Karemera is just as visually striking, just as powerfully built, and she makes a fitting female lead opposite Gab'1. She plays Pamela, a woman whose fate it completely tied to the fate of Black, Gab'1's character. The chemistry between these two is a big reason the film works. They don't really meet until about a third of the way into the movie, but once they do, it's immediate, almost electric, and the film (which is already very good at that point) gets a jumpstart that carries it even higher.
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