Category Archives: Michael Cera

Emmys 2013: The Snubs


Perhaps genre confusion was one of the reasons “Enlightened” was robbed. Yes, it’s a half hour show, but it’s often more serious than funny. “Enlightened” was part of a select group of shows committed to reinventing the half hour format. To call it a failed experiment would be unfair though; it now belongs in the pantheon of great shows cancelled too soon. Co-creator Mike White did something that was nearly unthinkable by making a bunch of unlikable characters, including one who’s basically the equivalent of the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party, very likable through his kind touches of empathy. Until the show’s legacy kicks in, at least we have Laura Dern’s nomination for Best Actress to carry us through.

Key Episodes: Higher Power, The Ghost Is Seen, Agent of Change

New Girl

At first, “New Girl” was nothing special. Two seasons later, it’s the funniest sitcom on network television (RIP “Happy Endings”). I could cite it’s rapid fire dialogue, or the mere presence of Schmidt (Max Greenfield) alone. But the real triumph of season two was that it brought new life to the “will they or won’t they” arc. The moment where Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) finally kiss is surprisingly electrifying. It is so well done that I found myself watching it over and over again and feeling just as surprised on each viewing. If season one of a TV show is all about introducing us to the characters, season two is about building character history and further familiarity. In that and many other regards, “New Girl” triumphed where others would fail.

Key Episodes: Fluffer, Cooler, Virgins

Michael Cera (Arrested Development)

The new season of “Arrested Development” was a mixed bag that didn’t really take off until its final stretch. While it’s great to see Jason Bateman up for an Emmy, he wasn’t the only one worthy of the prize. I didn’t want to fill the list up with “Arrested Development,” and it was hard to choose from the likes Will Arnett, David Cross, and Jessica Walter. In the end, I decided to go with Michael Cera. Those who say that Cera always plays the same character should look no further than this current season of “Arrested Development” to see his incredible range. In the episode “It Gets Better,” it is such a joy seeing Cera turn George Michael from timid and awkward to a confident liar of a Bluth man. Cera is not just good comic support; he is a full fledged leading man.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)

It’s okay I guess that the Emmy voters have snubbed the man who plays Ron Swanson for five years. He already wins at life anyway.

Movie Review: This is the End

Movies can teach us a lot about ourselves. For example, “This is the End” taught me that I will actually enjoy the site of Michael Cera being impaled. As long as it is preceded by him slapping Rihanna’s ass and trying to give drugs to McLovin. Maybe what I’m trying to say here is that I am a terrible person. Or maybe it is that celebrity is whatever you make of it. I don’t know, I’m not a celebrity.

Much has been said in the press about “This is the End,” but nothing could prepare for this one shocking twist: the star of the movie is actually Jay Baruchel. While his leading role in “Undeclared” might not have helped, perhaps this will finally give him the recognition he deserves as an actor. 

“This is the End” is a Hollywood satire where all of the actors play themselves. That would seem incredibly self-congratulatory, if it wasn’t for the fact that the actors don’t try and make themselves look like saints. The film begins as Seth Rogen walks through an airport to meet his best friend Jay Baruchel. Seth is accosted by a man with a camera (who I assume is from TMZ). The man asks Seth why he plays himself in every movie he’s in. Rogen co-wrote the film, and is clearly aware of what people think of him, as does everyone else involved.
In the film, Seth and Jay’s relationship is based off of them drifting apart. Seth has new friends now, and Jay wonders whether or not he is still in the picture. This is the same separation anxiety that made up “Superbad,” another film that was co-written by Rogen and his best friend Evan Goldberg. Every film they write together also serves to show how their friendship grows and changes. In a film that contains a lot of false perceptions, the truest part of it is this friendship.

Seth and Jay’s first stop is James Franco’s house. Here, Franco is as weird and artsy as everyone thinks he is. However, he’s more obsessed with Seth Rogen than he is with himself. It’s equal parts creepy and hilarious. Franco is both earnest and funny all while being a huge dicknose. Who knew someone could show such range while playing themselves?

While Rogen and Goldberg are pro writers, “This is the End” is their first stab at directing. The two blend together as directors as well as they do as writers, which is why it always seems like a singular vision. The two of them strongly embrace buildup. The apocalypse doesn’t happen for a little while, which provides plenty of time to understand Jay and Seth’s friendship as well as both of their relationships to everyone else around them. It is in this time period where the film truly gets its heart. Action films, comedies, and well, most films in general could learn a lot Rogen and Goldberg: it’s good to know the characters before you let the bodies hit the floor.

“This is the End” is a great Inside Hollywood comedy because it never goes meta. It’s less about the wink and more about the inviting nod. For every joke about “Flyboys,” there is also an extended riff about Danny McBride’s use of James Franco’s bathtub. In fact, by making a bunch of celebrities face the apocalypse, the film shows that they aren’t that special after all. What also keeps “This is the End” from becoming too much of an in-joke is how carefully crafted all of these fictitious personas are. Clearly Michael Cera doesn’t treat Rihanna like that. I’ll have to get back to you on James Franco’s weird taste in art.

At a time when Hollywood is creepily obsessed with the end of the world (see: “Oblivion,” “After Earth”*), it is refreshing to see a film that doesn’t take ridiculous apocalyptic scenarios so seriously. Yet, Rogen and Goldberg still manage to lay out all of the rules of this new world with so much detail. And the vision is so inspired. Just take the demons: they look exactly like the beasts from “Ghostbusters,” but with one major exception (you’ll understand when you see it).

“This is the End” clocks in at just under two hours and the length feels neither too long nor too short. In terms of its characters, it gets nearly as much done in that running time as any season of any TV show. Plain and simple: this is high concept comedy at its absolute best.

*Actually, don’t see “Oblivion” or “After Earth”

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

There are some movies that, no matter their subject matter, just give you a new sort of energy after walking out. With its hilariously gimmicky comic book inspired universe, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” did just this.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” felt so fresh and inviting because it simply did its best in trying to achieve so many things. It made use of action and comedy quite effectively because it comes from a director who can mash both genres like few others working today.
To like “Scott Pilgrim” and Scott Pilgrim, it is your task to throw away all of your hatreds you may have toward the film’s star. The titular hero is portrayed by Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim is a timid bassist playing for a struggling Toronto band. Pilgrim doesn’t have as much trouble getting girls, as he does keeping them.
Pilgrim can’t get over the horrible way his last relationship ended. His relationship with a girl (Ellen Wong), who’s quite a bit younger is a bit troubling. But then, Scott sees Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and knows he has found the one.
Ms. Flowers doesn’t come easy though. The girl with the constantly changing hair color has also had quite a number of bad breakups in the past. In order to win her over, Scott must battle her seven evil ex-boyfriends. With such competition as skateboarder Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), tough lesbian Roxy (Mae Whitman), and powerful record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), the task will prove to be just as hard as it sounds.
I wouldn’t call “Scott Pilgrim” flawless (some scenes ran on slightly longer than they needed to), but I still found so few things I could complain about. Everyone involved, whether writer, director, or actor, fulfilled their roles to the highest of their abilities. When this happens, a strange sort of tangible magic occurs. It is one that can’t easily be broken.
Cera made a name for himself early on as the teenager who’s too awkward for words. From “Arrested Development” until “Juno,” this image worked in his favor. Then of course, the backlash formed. Anyone who won’t give “Scott Pilgrim” a chance because they think it’s just another awkward performance will miss the point entirely. Cera has been developing a new character since “Youth in Revolt.” It’s basically a slightly deeper extension of his old one. It is awkward with a mix of pretentiousness and a lack of respect for both himself and others. Cera is no longer just playing himself. He knows how to be a comedic actor.
While the film is all about Scott Pilgrim, it is not just centered on him. “Scott Pilgrim” does an excellent job developing its entire ensemble. All of the characters have very well established backgrounds and traits. Each band member and everyone else in Scott’s life have at least one certain odd defining characteristic.
Aside from Cera, some of the cast highlights include Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay and gossipy roommate Wallace. He manages to steal every scene he’s in. Then there’s Anna Kendrick, who manages to prove herself a better actress with every role. Aubrey Plaza, as the always present Julie Powers, continues to find a perfect dry humor in her monotone voice and even more monotone attitude toward life.
“Scott Pilgrim” is following a new series of graphic novel adaptations that are almost jokes on the whole comic book genre itself. In addition, its the first comic book movie I’ve seen that truly felt like a comic come to life.
This story is complete with onomatopoeic sounds bursting out in word form. Just like a comic book, the audience sees every Boom! and every Bam! The characters can see every one of these effects as well, giving the film a much more self aware element.
The film also ties in elements from video games. Every evil ex is like a level from a video game. “Scott Pilgrim” could best be described as “Mortal Kombat” meets “Kick-Ass.”
I hope to credit as much of this as possible to the film’s co-writer and director, Edgar Wright. Wright has garnered a great reputation over the years for tongue-in-cheek satire of various entertainment genres. Perhaps he’s so good at it because he truly seems to know his stuff. Within all of the jokes about video games and comic books, Wright infuses a dose of satire of everything from the typical action film to the tired rom-com.
Like his past efforts, Wright shows great talent for getting big laughs out of such small details. To really laugh at an Edgar Wright film, one must have a very keen eye for detail. Take for instance one moment in “Shaun of the Dead,” where if you look close enough in the background, you might spot a homeless man about to eat a live pigeon.
Wright also constantly challenges what the human brain can laugh at. Wright can hurt his characters without being mean and tell jokes about gay people without seeing homophobic in the slightest bit.
The action in “Scott Pilgrim” is directed in a way that is both silly and serious. As hilarious as it can be, it is also a feast for the eyes. So much effort was put into every little shot. Much of the action feels like a hybrid between a video game and a comic book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In this way, the action can be seen as a comment on our current fast-paced, video game obsessed culture. It’s better though to ignore this fact and just see the film as the hilarious product of entertainment that it truly is.
For a film that is so unique and inventive, “Scott Pilgrim” ends almost exactly the way anyone could have predicted. Yet, how it gets to that moment is a bit surprising, and extremely mature for a film like this. “Scott Pilgrim” is a film that truly cares about its characters. Think of it as the most thoughtful video game movie ever made.
To all of you die hard “Arrested Development” fans out there, watch out for a few very good references.

Movie Review: Youth in Revolt

January is that time of year when the only movies people are going to see are December holdovers and Oscar contenders. So studios dump bad movie upon bad movie on us. It seems more like at this time of year, they release movies with so much potential, yet don’t even try. A perfect example of this is “Youth in Revolt.”

“Youth in Revolt” had the ingredients for a solid film: good cast, (supposedly) good source material, and great trailer. In the end, all of these adding up to only a decent product.
As the title suggests, “Youth in Revolt” is the story of teenage rebellion. The teen in question is Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), a sixteen-year-old virgin and an aspiring writer. His lonely existence is not helped by his cash-strapped mother Estelle (Jean Smart) and her loser boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis).
After Jerry gets into some trouble, the three hide away in a remote lake town. There, Nick falls in love with Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). In order to prove to her that he is more than just a good boy, he creates a destructive alter ego named Francois Dillinger. Then, Nick destroys some property and that’s pretty much it.
“Youth in Revolt” had two main problems: weak story, and weak humor. The problem with the story is that it hinges on to one plot detail and never seems to make any new developments from there. Why not delve deeper into Nick’s destructive impulses? While Nick is by far the most developed character in the film, why not show some depth on the other characters? “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” was able to tell a story for each character in its huge ensemble in under two hours, so why couldn’t “Youth in Revolt” do the same?
Also, throughout the film, Sheeni refuses to go all the way with Nick unless he does something really bad. However, director Miguel Areta makes absolutely no attempt to turn her into any sort of rebellious child. She seems more like the kind of girl who’d like a more civilized boyfriend than one who destroys his parents’ cars.
Other parts of the story seem very unfocused, such as the sporadic narration. Sometimes we see the story from Nick’s perspective, and other times we don’t.
Perhaps something I’m most upset about is the poor use of Zach Galifianakis. He’s given few funny lines (and practically no depth) here. They could’ve at least given him something funny to say but “The Hangover” did prove that Galifianakis doesn’t need a good one liner to be funny; all he really needs is a jock strap and a ridiculous laugh. Galifianakis had less screen time in “Up in the Air,” yet he still managed to make something hilarious out under two minutes of screen time.
Despite these flaws, the film does have a few redeeming qualities. It does manage to have a few funny scenes, not to mention that actors Fred Willard and Ray Liotta manage to steal every scene they are in. The main attraction here really is Cera. During his short career, Cera has turned himself into the nice, awkward teenager through his roles in “Arrested Development,” “Superbad,” and “Juno.” Here, he slightly throws George Michael out the window. What was so impressive about his performance was not merely that he was playing good as opposed to bad, but that he was playing a character with truly complex emotions. You never know when he’s going to be good, and when he’s suddenly going to snap. This unpredictability is a rare talent, and I hope in the future he sticks to complex roles like this. Next time, lets hope he does it with better material.
“Youth in Revolt” represents what happens when a massive heap of potential is given no effort at all. The film’s director and writer seem to treat it more like an ignored child than a baby that needs to be nurtured to grow. What the people of Hollywood need to realize is that even though moviegoers must realize that January isn’t the best time for movies, we aren’t suckers. So please, stop treating us like we are.