This is really just an excuse to play a track from Estelle’s sophomore album, Shine, one of the year’s best pop soul records. Shine is as infectious as my worn through copy of Lauren Hill’s debut, before she picked up a guitar and decided to join the ranks of the tortured and sermonizing. It’s not the ideal track to pick (for that see the Cee-Lo collab “Pretty Please”), especially since Kanye’s flow consistently deflates his musical surroundings and his “moon/June” rhymes are fairly low hanging fruit. Actually that’s an overstatement, Kanye’s rhymes are, more often than not, of the “moon/moon” variety. As a video, it lacks coherent art direction and narrative, especially in the split-screen montages of various typical American boys, all of whom look like they’re doing ads for the Gap’s new edgy urban Ivy-leaguer line. Sure, black and white is always carries a certain entry-level morsel of cool cache, but for this song it’s cold and comparatively drab. The only part that captures some of this song’s buoyant Summer energy comes from the disconnected dance play between Estelle and her shadow, which provides sexy liquid movement in a video with static pictures of men backdropped with the kind of white void you’d expect from a near death experience. She’s too vibrant to be framed by such McArty deserted space that could just as easily sell a parka, a cheeseburger or Windsong perfume. And, if you can get John Legend in the video, why not have him pick up Kanye’s half of the duet. Just saying.
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A book of poetry by Philip Larkin. I’m a latecomer to his work, and I don’t usually do this, but a combination of his awesomeness and a hangover made me cry. On the train. Everyone thought I was weird.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Hmm, maybe Sal Paradise from On the Road. That’s what I’d like to think anyways. A recordist for the madmen of this world.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Almost impossible question. Possibly Springsteen’s Nebraska.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, but no way the new episodes.
For the weekend beginning 18 April, here are the films in focus:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall [rating: 8]
Written with a sensationally smutty Woody Allen expertise and loaded with big fat bawdy barrel laughs, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another wacked out winner
Apparently, Drillbit Taylor was just a fluke. After a year which saw comedy giant Judd Apatow score with Knocked Up, Superbad, and the highly underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, 2008 sure started off with a stumble. Though the former Freaks and Geeks creator who literally resuscitated the dying big screen laughfest played a small role in the Owen Wilson flop, some saw the underperforming picture as an indicator of a fleeting 15 minutes. Apparently the funny business funeral was scheduled a little early. Instantly becoming one of this year’s best films—humorous or not—the hilarious Forgetting Sarah Marshall shows that this satire sage and his gang of comic compatriots are not going anywhere anytime soon. read full review…
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? [rating: 7]
While premised on a search for the infamous terrorist kingpin, this is really more of a Lonely Planet for the limited attention span.
The information is eerily the same. A lack of education, unemployment, limited opportunities, rampant poverty, and future prospects that seem dim at best drive the problem. These young men, lives marginalized by a majority that doesn’t care, have no other outlet for their aggression. As a result, they become easy targets for gangs, groups that prey on such a disenfranchised feeling, using the rage to wage war on society. No, this is not some overview of the urban crime scene circa 1988. We’re not dealing with South Central Los Angeles or downtown Detroit. Instead, this is what Morgan Spurlock, famed documentarian (Super Size Me) learns when talking to people in the Arab world. He wants to figure out why Al-Qaeda is so seductive to supposedly sensible individuals. The answer, sadly, shocks no one. read full review…
88 Minutes [rating: 3]
While the actual ending does give audiences a reason to cheer, it’s the final fade out that will make viewers the happiest. It means this tepid terror is finally over.
Sometimes, the creative writing is splashed all over the workprint walls. Anyone seeing John Avnet’s name on the directing credits should take a moment to contemplate asking for their money back. After all, he’s been responsible for mindless dreck like Fried Green Tomatoes, The War, Up Close and Personal, and Red Corner. Not the greatest big screen resume. To make matters worse, he has teamed up with screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson, whose poisoned pen scribbled slop like K-911, K9-PI, Hollow Man, and The Fast and the Furious. What made either man think they could take on the by now stale serial killer thriller begs the question of their individual sanity. How they conned one of our greatest actors to lower himself to such a paycheck cashing conceit borderlines on the criminal. read full review…
Other Releases—In Brief
The Forbidden Kingdom [rating: 6]
One of the glorious things about Hong Kong action films is their unusual cultural conceits. Aside from all the butt kicking, the ability to see another tradition’s myths and legends brings a necessary surreal suspension of cinematic disbelief. So when West meets—and then mimics—East, the result is typically an awkward mishmash of misinterpretations. This is exactly what happens in Rob Minkoff’s routine rip-off of every Chinese folktale ever told, The Forbidden Kingdom. Representing the only time that martial arts icons Jackie Chan and Jet Li have appeared together in a film, the sloppy set up has the Monkey King frozen in time, waiting for a prophesied pawn to bring him his magic staff. Naturally, the immortal Jade Warlord wants to prevent his resurrection, so he sends out his many minions, including a white-haired witch, to battle our heroes. Chan and Li are magnificent, their big confront one of the most amazing fight scenes of all time. But it’s the American presence—Minkoff behind the lens, lame male lead Michael Angarano in front of it—that constantly countermands the action. We expect nothing but brilliance from our kung fu gods. Sadly, they are surrounded by entertainment-sapping stooges.
Apparently, Drillbit Taylor was just a fluke. After a year which saw comedy giant Judd Apatow score with Knocked Up, Superbad, and the highly underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, 2008 sure started off with a stumble. Though the former Freaks and Geeks creator who literally resuscitated the dying big screen laughfest played a small role in the Owen Wilson flop, some saw the underperforming picture as an indicator of a fleeting 15 minutes. Apparently the funny business funeral was scheduled a little early. Instantly becoming one of this year’s best films—humorous or not—the hilarious Forgetting Sarah Marshall shows that this satire sage and his gang of comic compatriots are not going anywhere anytime soon.
After five years of heartfelt togetherness, TV actress Sarah Marshall and her cop series composer boyfriend Peter Bretter are breaking up. She’s started seeing UK rock sensation Aldous Snow. He’s suddenly alone, devastated, and lost his will to live. Luckily, Peter’s stepbrother Brian suggests he take a trip. Our hero picks Hawaii, one of Sarah’s favorite destinations. Sure enough, the star is there with her cocky British boy toy. Undercut by the coincidence, he sinks into himself. Quite by accident, he ends up befriended by sympathetic hotel clerk Rachel Jansen. As their relationship blossoms, Peter still carries a torch for Sarah. Somehow, he believes, the feeling may be mutual—and he just might be right.
Written with a sensationally smutty Woody Allen expertise and loaded with big fat bawdy barrel laughs, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another wacked out winner. It continues the solid ‘buttheads getting hot babes’ formula that fueled last year’s Seth Rogen hit while proving that Apatow remains the MSG master of crudity. Everyone he works with—in this case, writer/actor/friend Jason Segel—sees their game enhanced ten-fold. This is a wonderful film, a foul-mouthed fiesta of heart and true human emotions. One of the things that critics constantly miss when musing on the Apatow-supported oeuvre is that the dialogue is never overly cute or purposefully ‘written’. Instead, the characters communicate like real people do, from the sex-obsessed teens of Superbad to the depressed dramatics here.
Casting is crucial to making a movie like this work, and first time director Nicholas Stoller does an amazing job in choosing his actors. Segel, who usually sinks into the background as a second banana’s second banana, is wonderful as Peter. He is just pathetic enough, wussed out and whiny without completely getting on your nerves. When things start to turn around for him romantically, we instantly root for him. We want to see him happy. The same can’t be said for Kristen Bell. Her title tart is the film’s most complex part. She has to be selfish without being totally self-centered, driven without seeming drastic. Her break-up scene works well since it comes right up front, before we learn more about Sarah’s flaws. By the end of the narrative, we’ve grown to both hate and pity her.
On the supporting side of things, Mila Kunis is incredible as Rachel. Her demeanor has to be faultless in order for us to champion Peter’s ultimate choice. She works the focused freespirit angle expertly, and we sense a real chemistry with Segel. Indeed, Stoller’s major achievement is finding performers who are both individually fearless and totally in sync with each other. No one catches a break here—all the characters are uncloaked, purposefully presented warts (STDs) and all. About the only awkwardness comes from Russell Brand’s Snow. He’s such a Brit band cliché, a worldview wimp who believes sex is a God given bad boy birthright that we just want to smack him silly. Luckily, Segel’s script takes him down a notch to a semi-human level before simply restating his repugnance.
But the humor here goes far beyond the plausible personal interaction. Apatow typically champions an “anything for a giggle” dynamic, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall follows this mandate magnificently. Some of the best moments are derived from genitalia based putdowns and sexual pantomime, but there’s also some very inside wittiness (Bell’s actress gets blasted for being in an unsuccessful horror film in which cellphones kill people ala Pulse) and a brilliant puppet musical spoof that ends things with a bravura bang. Toss in gratuitous male nudity, a wonderful sibling rivalry between Peter and Brian (Bill Hader is brilliant in the role) and you’ve got the standard Apatow cocktail—heavy on the vulgarity, incredibly light on the lameness.
Perhaps the most stunning part of Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t how clever or unconventional it is. No, what really sets this film apart is its dark and rather desperate tone. Peter is not the fun-loving loser who just can’t get lucky in the love department. He’s a self-loathing lump who uses rejection and domination as a means of emotional connection. When he learns to have fun, to simply sit back and let life have its way with him (for bad and for good), he finally finds freedom. He’s still a bitter man, and this is a narrative that definitely thrives on such acidity. The Woody Allen allusion is totally apropos. This is a film filled with angst-driven head cases hoping to avoid the classic “dead shark” analogy. Watching them try is what makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall work.
With the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly effort Step Brothers coming out in July, and the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg scripted Pineapple Express arriving in August, Apatow shows no signs of slowing down—and if either of those films is as funny and fresh as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, here’s hoping he never does. This is the movie last years horrendous Heartbreak Kid remake wanted to be. The only things missing then were nerve, talent, foresight, and intelligence. A broken heart can be a bitch. Thanks to Jason Segel and his sensational screenplay, it can also be a beautiful, laugh out loud thing as well.
// Moving Pixels
"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.READ the article