Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jul 30, 2010
The premise promises things that the French just aren't ready to address. While not always successful in doing so, at least the US remake takes chances.

It’s a question of farce vs. formula, a really old school comedy prototype against tailoring a property to the current humor couture. In 1998, celebrated French filmmaker Francis Veber reinvented the fabled Parisian pantomime with Le diner de cons, otherwise known as Dinner for Idiots or The Dinner Game. In it, he offered asshole publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) taking advantage of his latest moronic find - a Ministry of Finance agent named François Pignon (Jacques Villeret) who builds famous facades out of matchsticks. Needing him for a weekly get together of his fellow smug businessmen, he thinks he’s landed a gem. When his bad back goes out, and Pignon begins meddling in his complicated marital affairs, Brochant realizes he’s in way over his head - and may not survive this madcap evening.


Now, 12 years later, Hollywood has stepped in and turned a likeable single room burlesque (complete with complicated misunderstandings and rampant mistaken identities) into a starring vehicle for current comedy aces Paul Rudd, Zack Galifianakis, and Steve Carell. Entitled Dinner for Schmucks and expanding the storyline significantly, director Jay Roach has parlayed his Meet the Parents/Austin Powers bankability into a gig giving life to this wholly unusual idea. Instead of staying within the traditional tenets of the original, the filmmaker follows his own unique muse, allowing Carell to simply walk away with the movie - and it’s a damn good thing that he does. While the overall effect is superior to the rather somber French offering, it’s also indicative of how far Hollywood feels it has to go for a laugh.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 29, 2010
While he may return to the artform he conquered one day, for now Giuseppe Andrews has been transformed. His new music is sensational. His film work, as always, will be and remains steadfastly brilliant.

“My greatest joys making the films were when scenes I created gave one of the actors a heightened experience that took them away from their pain, loneliness, and fears for a moment..for me that’s why they’re important.”


- Giuseppe Andrews


Months ago, it didn’t seem possible. Outsider auteur Giuseppe Andrews, the Godard of the Trailer Park, had announced that he was giving up on making movies to concentrate on his other love - music. At first, the statement made little sense since he had always balanced the two before. For every film or two, he would then deliver a CD filled with his unusual (and almost always amazing) song stylings. Now, with the release of Love Birds: Chapter 1, the unthinkable has indeed become reality. Thanks to a spiritual awakening that now sees the famous actor shunning the celluloid spotlight in order to celebrate his newfound sense of peace, his website has reprinted a prepared avowal explaining his decision. In addition, he has three new short films in the ready, the exclamation point on a career that’s seen him literally rewrite the long lexicon of established cinema.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jul 6, 2010
Certainly, the studio will shoulder most of the responsibility. You can't make all the decisions -- both financial and creative -- and not share in some of the culpability.

When good ideas go bad, everyone looks for a specific scapegoat. In the case of a movie, there are several usual suspects - the first typically being the viability of the creative concept in the first place. When it comes to Summer blockbuster wannabe Jonah Hex and its underwhelming performance at the box office, the violators read like a who’s whom among the cast and crew - the studio, lead Josh Brolin, vapid sexual sidekick Megan Fox, underwhelming villain John Malkovich, director Jimmy Hayward. There’s even recent reports surfacing that filmmaker Francis Lawrence stepped in and handled some massive reshoots, most of which ended up destroying the original “vibe” of the story.


Oddly enough, about the only individuals to come out unscathed - at least from the standpoint of those who geek out on anything remotely related to “FIP” (films in production) - are the screenwriting team of Neveldine and Taylor. Perhaps best known for their deliciously absurd Crank franchise, the duo appear to be the beneficiaries of some massive Messageboard Nation goodwill. It also helps that little of what they created wound up on in the final version of the film. Anyone who’s seen the cobbled together mess Warners considers entertainment could probably already attest to that fact.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Jun 21, 2010
It's rare when a modern movie doesn't answer all of its lingering questions. It's the daring piece that puts elements out there without wrapping them up in a nice, neat narrative bow.

It’s rare when a modern movie doesn’t answer all of its lingering questions. It’s the daring piece that puts elements out there without wrapping them up in a nice, neat narrative bow. Though it has issues of its own (especially a sloppy first third which seems to meander on endlessly) and characters that take a long time to care about, the latest film from mumblecore experts Mark and Jay Duplass—Cyrus—actually offers such an open-ended finale. Of course, to discuss this subject, and at least three interpretations on what could potentially happen next, we have to delve into SPOILER territory. If you’ve seen the film, the information won’t be new. If you haven’t, it might not ruin the experience for you, but it will definitely divulge at least some of how the filmmakers views their comic drama.


The movie centers around an unusual love “triangle” between a divorced 40-something free-lance editor named John (John C. Reilly), a similarly aged single mom named Molly (Marisa Tomei), and her veal like 21 year old New Age musician wannabe son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). At first, the relationship seems muddled by secrets on both sides. He doesn’t want to divulge his part in his past break-up as well as a life in desperate search for a sensible partner. She thinks having an adult son still living at home will put off any potential suitor. Luckily, John like Cyrus and, at first, it looks like the feeling is mutual. But slowly, over time, we see Molly’s onerous offspring lie, connive, and manipulate the budding relationship to the point where our couple calls it quits—if only temporarily.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Jun 21, 2010
When it comes to comedy's current cyclical nature, the dork is the new dreamboat, while the good looking loser is the lynchpin for every possible punchline.

Last time anyone checked, The Bible didn’t state that the “geek” would inherit the Earth. Yet when it comes to comedy’s current cyclical nature, the dork is the new dreamboat, while the good looking loser is the lynchpin for every possible punchline. We have gone from jocks going gross-out to garner a laugh or two to feebs feeling marginalized by a society that embraces their smarts but balks at their bodies. While we are still striving to find a balance between the hotness and the guy/gal with the good personality hook-up, movies have always made the case for love conquering all—or at the very least, conquering romantic comedy expectations.


Such is the case with the innocuous if spry and sunny She’s Out of My League (new on Blu-ray from Paramount). Instead of the wimp washing out here - in this case, a mild mannered airport security worker named Kirk (Jay Baruchel) - he actually gets a chance at the girl - an incredibly sexy party planner named Molly (Alice Eve). What happens next both entertains and aggravates, the storyline so pie in the sky that bakers are getting vertigo. Yet what we eventually learn is that Ms. Maxim will embrace the socially stagnant when she discovers that they have much more heart (and a lot less headaches) to give.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.