Friday, June 29, 2012

A Funny Person Review

Funny People
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann
Release Date: July 31st, 2009

    Adam Sandler was at one point my life the funniest person in the world. "Billy Madison" came out when I was eleven and danced the line of being a PG 13 movie and I loved every minute of it. "The Waterboy" came out when I was fourteen and what fourteen year old boy couldn't relate to being an undersized misfit who somehow manages to find the strength to take on the bullies and be the hero. Not to mention hiding copies of his popular(yet R - rated) comedy CD's or Tapes from my parents. However sometime after 1999's "Big Daddy" I began to lose interest in Mr. Sandler. I never saw "Punch Drunk Love" and while movies like "Mr. Deeds", "Eight Crazy Nights" or "50 First Dates" were enjoyable time wasters, I seemed to lose my love for the man who I would quote throughout my teenage years. In fact his movies became so cookie cutter that I stopped getting excited by seeing Adam Sandler's named being associated with a movie. The movies I did have some hope for all too often let me down. "Grown Ups" was disappointing, as it could have been something special, but not nearly to the same extent that "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" let me down. Which explains why it took my nearly three years to see "Funny People".

    In "Funny People" Sandler plays comedian George Simmons who is a megastar in the comedy world and is essentially a parody of Sandler. George is diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia which is normally terminal but a new set of experimental drugs has been shown to work in eight percent of patients. It's George's only hope. Once diagnosed George takes to the stand-up stage to work out the emotions he's hiding behind his "always on" persona. He befriends a young and very green comedian Ira(Seth Rogan) who he hires to be his personal assistant and, in a lot of ways, his friend. George has to come to grips with his impending doom and take stock of his life. This of course leads us to "the one who got away", Laura(Leslie Mann). Will George rectify his life and give himself the happy ending that has avoided him all these years, or will he die an unhappy, unfulfilled thirty something year old man?

    Writer and Director Judd Apatow has been responsible for bringing us some of the best comedies in the last ten years and his affection for those who make us laugh is very real and can be felt from beginning to end in this movie. He gets the absolute best out of Sandler and Rogen and gives the audience more than just another comedy. This movie ventures into the "dramadey" realm and on more than one occasion I felt a tear swelling in my eye.

    "Funny People" does have it drawbacks and it is not without fault. The 146 min running time is at least fifteen minutes too long and there are moments that could have been left on the editing floor. Also, there are times when the comedy feels forced as if the movie had been too serious for too long and Apatow felt compelled to lighten the mood.

    All that being said this instantly became one of my favorite movies of all time. It has a subject matter that I can relate too and fantasize about(this would be the equivalent of me being chosen to work for Louis C.K.),  and it gave me a reason to root for one of my childhood idols again. Most importantly it moved me in a way I was not expecting and any movie that can do that deserves to be seen. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stephanie's Comedy Chat

Starts July 3rd 2012!
Each episode will air for a full week Tuesday to Friday at 11:30pm
Rogers TV

    It's been a while since I last did any sort of shameless self promotion because, quite frankly, there's been nothing to promote but today is a new day.

    Approximately two months ago I was honored to receive an invitation from Stephanie Herrera to be apart of a television show she was filming called "Stephanie's Comedy Chat". The premise was perfect: a panel discussion, a one on one interview and then an improv scene attempting to include everything that had been talked about during the show. The goal of the show was to have a bit of an edge and judging by how the director and crew reacted as the conversation inevitably turned to oral sex it has that edge we were looking for.

    Starring: Stephanie Herrera(@DurhamImprov), Darren Pyle(@Pyledriver1969), Kyle Lucey(@KyleLucey), Ryan Eastman(@Rynosaurez), Michael Lake(@themichaellake), Ian Sirota(@comicdad1), Adam Wilkinson and Paige Bartley. You will see well established talents like Stephanie, Darren and Ian as well some of the funniest rising stars this province has to offer talk about everything from the value of a soul to duck rape.

    Be sure to tune in and give Rogers TV more viewers than ever before in the history of their network.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Hungover Review

I've been rather sick for about a week now and I've been growing tired of my television routine so today I thought I would do something a little different and watch "The Hangover" followed by "The Hangover II" and give you fine readers a couple of reviews.

The Hangover
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis and Justin Bartha
Release Date: June 5, 2009

    I will always have a special place in my heart for "The Hangover" and it's partially because it lived up to all the hype I had built up in my mind. I can remember when and where I first saw the trailer and got the feeling that the movie going public would soon be in for something special. I was with some fellow store managers from Starbucks(where I was working at the time) and we were seeing "Fast & Furious". The trailer came on and the audience erupted into laughter at nearly every scene. The fact that the trailer was more memorable than the movie I went to see goes show the type of impact it had on me.

    When "The Hangover" did eventually come out I was there opening night and one hundred minutes later my comedygasm(comedy orgasm) was over and I was satisfied. I have since seen "The Hangover" countless times and it was fun revisiting it as it has been at least a year since I've last watched it.

    For the five or so people who may have not seen "The Hangover", it stars Bradley Cooper as "Phil", Ed Helms as "Stu", Zach Galifianakis as "Alan" and Justin Bartha as "Doug". "The Hangover" tells the story of four friends who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party only find that the next morning, one of them is missing(Doug) and the other three cannot remember anything that has happened. Phil, Stu and Alan then set about trying to find Doug by retracing their steps from the night before.

      It's hard to discuss "The Hangover" without giving away the main points of laughter that are consistent throughout the movie. I will say this though, the setting of Las Vegas suits the film aptly as it lends a level of credibility to the insanity that these four friends go through.

    In addition to the superb screenplay(written by Jon Lucas, and Scott Moore) and solid direction from Todd Philips, the thing that makes this movie come alive is the cast of characters. The lead four characters have tremendous chemistry and you almost get the sense that these four individuals could be real and you root for them as they try to get back in time for Doug's wedding. Finally the locals that interact with Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug just as often steal the spotlight in this film, whether it's the owner of the local wedding chapel, the eccentric police officers or Mike Tyson, there are enough laughs for everyone.

    There really isn't anything not to like about "The Hangover". It's an original story, it's not very long, it's setting is one of the most vibrant places on earth, the characters are lovable, even the soundtrack will have you bobbing your head and most importantly IT'S FUNNY! In this day and age when there is nothing to the idea of "shock value" in comedy(despite many comedies attempting it) it's nice to see a well written comedy that relies on the basic fundamentals of comedy and executes them perfectly.

The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis and Justin Bartha
Release Date: May 26, 2011

    With my self proclaimed love and admiration for"The Hangover" out of the way it may come as a surprise to you that when I heard they were making a sequel I cringed. Catching lighting in a bottle is such a hard thing to do and my fear was that they would ruin a perfectly good movie by cluttering it up with extra characters and unnecessary story-lines(much in the same way they did with Shrek). In fact I have been so against the idea that up until today I had made the decision not to see it. Which leads me to my review:

    "The Hangover Part II" picks up a few years after the first one ended. Not much has changed in the lives of our lovable drinking buddies with the exception that Stu is now engaged to a Thai women(Lauren played by Jamie Chung) and it's his turn to have a bachelor party. This time around the party takes place in Thailand and while Doug remains safe and sound in this movie, Lauren's sixteen year old brother, has gone missing after a night of partying and just a like a few years ago nobody seems to know what happened the night before. Phil, Stu and Alan then set about trying to retrace their steps and hilarity ensues.

     "Hilarity" might be a bit of an overstatement. It is not hilarious but it will make you laugh. The trouble with this movie is that it feels far too familiar. I am confident that you will notice that they even rehashed some of the same sight gags. This cannot be blamed on the actors as they are just as lovable this go around(their chemistry is the only thing that makes this movie worth watching more than once) and for that reason I feel I cannot blame the director(Todd Philips). I will however blame the writers and/or executives that put this screenplay together. That being said, I couldn't help but notice that this movie had five writers(the same two from the original and three new ones) and considering this is very much the same movie I cannot figure out what those additional writers did.

    There is a concept in economics called "The law of diminishing returns" that states "any rate of profit, production, benefits, etc., that beyond a certain point fails to increase proportionately with added investment, effort or skill." There is a similar concept in comedy, if you have one joke and continue to use it without altering the timing, delivery, or punch line eventually the joke will stop being funny. While "The Hangover Part II" does not hit the point where it is no longer funny I am concerned that by the time "Part III" is released(May 2013) we may be looking at a group of buddies we no longer want to hang around with because they keep telling the same old jokes.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Jerk reviewed by a Great Guy

The Jerk
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams and Jackie Mason
Release Date: December 14, 1979

    Okay one more thing regarding Steve Martin and then we'll try to leave him alone for a while. It may seem odd that this is the third thing in less than three weeks regarding Mr. Martin but I guess that's how things go. I saw "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" which inspired me to take "Born Standing Up: A Comics Life" from the book shelf which caused me to want to see Steve Martin's "The Jerk". I've just started reading "Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman" written by Bill Zehme(so you can expect that review soon and then we'll likely review "Man on the Moon" while we are at it.) but I digress.

    The first thing that took me a bit aback was the fact the title "The Jerk" never seemed to cause any controversy in the media. All of my research turned up nothing. Apparently to refer to someone as a "jerk" didn't carry the same weight that it does today.(For the record my rule of thumb is if a child referred to someone as a "jerk" I would correct them and help them pick a different demeaning term). The second thing was the "R" rating it received. Now after viewing the movie there is definitely some coarse language and probably enough adult themes to warrant that same "R" rating today, so kiddies beware.

    "The Jerk" is a work of love and it shows from beginning to end. Written by and starring Steve Martin "The Jerk" is based off of a bit he used to do while performing stand-up in which he would say he was born "a poor black child" (this set-up leads to one of the best laughs in the whole movie). The movie itself is essentially the classic coming of age/rags to riches story line but with an imbecile as the main character.

    Directed by Carl Reiner(he also makes a cameo as himself) the "The Jerk" moves along with solid pacing.  He does a good job of introducing all the lead characters in a timely fashion and, although this is an absurdest story, he does a great job of keeping things consistent and in the realm of reality.

    This movie did extremely well the year it came out becoming the 9th highest grossing film that year and I can understand why. Steve Martin is near the peak of his popularity performing stand-up and I'm sure a fair amount of people were drawn in based upon his name alone. In addition to the star power of Martin the movie is very, very funny and worthy of seeing multiple times. Finally, like a good wine, the movie seems to be getting better with age, it is consistently named one of the Top 100 Comedies of all time regardless of the organization and I suspect a hundred years from now they will still be talking about the classic comedy "The Jerk".