Monthly Archives: April 2008

Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Would it be a turnoff to tell you that the first five or so minutes of Forgetting Sarah Marshall involves a totally naked Jason Segal? And Segal has no intention of shunning the audience from anything. This though is one of the funniest scenes of the movies, and one that even shows such emotion and vulnerability in it’s main character.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is nothing of what its advertisements have made it to be. Instead of being a slapstick and predictable romantic comedy it’s a romantic comedy that’s both unpredictable and extremely original. The jokes are graphic but hilarious and in the end, like all Judd Apatow movies, it’s a movie about forgiveness, self-transformation and maturity.
Songwriter Peter Bretter (Segal) is going through what seems to be a perfect five year relationship with actress girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). One day, she comes in unexpected and dumps him in one of the most awkward breakups I’ve ever witnessed. Seems now she’s fallen for singer Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), creator of such popular hits as “Inside of You”. No further explanation needed there.
Feeling depressed, Peter decides to take a nice, relaxing week off in Hawaii. Things just get worse as Peter ends up in the same hotel as Sarah and her new boyfriend.
Segal wrote this film along with his starring role, and he proves himself as one of the funniest and most promising members of the Judd Apatow gang. He began his career as a leading role on Freaks and Geeks. There, he played a basketball player once full of promise who’s become a stoner obsessed with an impossible dream of becoming a drummer. In Sarah Marshall, his character isn’t so different. It’s his own problems and laziness that lead to his downfall.
The most effective part about this movie is the treatment of its characters. If made by anyone else, Sarah and Aldous would be turned into villians and Peter would try to get back with her despite her evilness. Peter would then be made into ultimate good. This would not work out, because Peter has his flaws. Him and Sarah both have great reason to be angry at each other, neither side is right or wrong. This is what makes the movie stand above all other romantic comedies: the characters feel like real conflicted human beings, not caricatures. The world of film would be a better place if more comedies were like Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Weekly Top 10

It’s been a rough week settling back into the Westport/Staples style of life after spending a week in the Guatemalan rain forests. Now with the summer weather, homework and school are feeling less important in my life. It’s more just an obstacle. High school doesn’t make much sense while you’re in it, or even after you’re done with it. Movies have tried best to understand the hell, the emotions, the awkwardness, and even humanity of these four years of childhood. Here now, are the top ten best movies about high school:
1. Dazed and Confused- What is the purpose of high school? What can you do to make it better? Dazed and Confused captures the high school experience all in one night from every angle: those new to it, those leaving, those staying, and those already out. It’s free flowing banter and plotless storyline captures those pointless moments as the greatest of our lives. Affleck and McCougnahey turn in career best performances for two actors who usually can’t act. Overall this film teaches you to believe that no matter what just say “I did the best I could when I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could when I was stuck in this place.” When I’m stuck in this place, at least I’ll have Dazed and Confused to turn towards.
2. Superbad- It’s full of penis drawings and dirty porn talk but this isn’t just some crude teen sex comedy. This is near the closest that anyone will ever get to portraying the real high school experience. It’s about the kids who are never invited to a party rather than the ones who are. In most movies when outsiders attempt to become popular it always unrealistically works. Here, it just backfires. Despite all that, it’s such a moving look at how one strong bond of friendship can make everything better and the inevitable fate of disaster as it gets torn apart. And please tell me, how many times have you tried to flee someone in the hallway mid-conversation? Superbad knows your pain.
3. Fast Times at Ridgemont High- Two words: Sean Penn. Before he became so serious, Penn was Ridgemont’s Spicoli, a totally fried stoner who hits a shoe on his head and orders a pizza in class. Stretching over a full school year, the audience gets a truly intimate look at each characters lives and learns to love them, no matter their flaws. Their conflicts become our own. We too wonder what to do in the face of tests, dating and abortions.
4. The Breakfast Club- Adults don’t know us. They can’t tell us who we are. That is the timeless message of The Breakfast Club. John Hughes’s movie shows kids from each social class (jock, nerd, beauty, rebel, recluse) stuck together on a Saturday detention for different reasons. Every stereotype is totally shattered and the audience gets to understand that no matter how different these characters are they all share the same fears and troubles. It makes me wonder, could we ever get rid of our differences and all just get along? Deep down, we’re not so different.
5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- Bueller? Bueller? I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen this movie, but it never gets old. I wish I was Ferris, someone who could enjoy life that much. But you can’t just blow threw life that easily. Every once in a while you’ve gotta stop and look around or you’ll miss something good. Even in the worst of times, there’s always a little fun to be had. Bueller?
6. Election- We all know kids have a hard time through school, but what about the teachers? Teachers may be torturing us…but we may be torturing them just as much. Alexander Payne’s spot-on satire of high school life is hilarious, truthful, and as painful as a movie can get. Payne’s film is about a teacher, who only wants to do the right thing as he tries to crush the school president election of a way too brainy girl. This is the closest I’ll ever get to understanding what goes through a teacher’s mind. The freeze frames, flashbacks and other directoral marks make the movie even funnier and yes, pretty perfect.
7. Rebel Without a Cause- The only drama on the list. The best of the only three films legend James Dean made before his untimely death. It’s a tragic and deeply moving look at teen angst. It’s a film that understands the mind of a teenager and that teen trouble and rebellion come from the world around them.
8. Juno- What can make high school worse? Getting pregnant. Juno isn’t as much exploring high school politics and cliques but just how one girl (Ellen Page) views the world around her. Juno is a girl who doesn’t follow the crowd and is her own person. She becomes a girl who’s forced to act like an adult too young even though she’s still pretty childish and therefore matures in the greatest way imaginable.
9. Donnie Darko- Well, it’s a dark psycological thriller about a schitzophrenic teen who sees a rabbit that tells him the world is going to end. But it also a hilarious satire on suburban and high school life. It explores censorship, English, and Physics. The funniest moment of possibly any high school film comes from this movie: Donnie tells his crazy bitch teacher to shove a book up her ass. Man, I wish I had the courage to do that.
10. Napoleon Dynamite- Some love it, some hate it. But me, I love it. It’s a classic revenge of the nerds story and the victory is as sweet as his dance moves. He may not be too popular but Napoleon doesn’t seem to mind. He’s just glad to be himself and to do what he wants. Life would be easier if we all listened to the words and thoughts of Napoleon Dynamite. Now, Vote for Pedro?

What’s your favorite high school film? Any others I forgot?

Going to Guatemala

Well, I’m not going to be here for the next few days. I’ll be in Guatemala until the 21st. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon after that for even more reviews. Once I get back, I will be fully prepared to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Baby Mama, and Harold and Kumar 2 as well as multiple viewings of my newly purchased There Will Be Blood DVD (it really gets better on every viewing). For now, enjoy my Narrative Film Production group’s great new movie. Thanks to director Jon Karmen for the creation:

Movie Review: My Own Private Idaho

It all starts and ends with a road. A road surrounded by blank, yellow plains and towering mountains. It’s totally empty except for one soul, snoozing in the middle of the road. This is My Own Private Idaho, a hypnotic and haunting character study of disoriented youth.
Despite the title, the film mainly takes place in Portland, Oregon. Mike (River Phoenix) is a hustler living on the streets. He’s a narcoleptic, waking up in random places and disilllusionized about his life and childhood. Scott (Keanu Reeves, by far his best performance) is a fellow hustler. He’s the mayor’s son and is rebelling against his controlling father. While Scott can go home anytime, Mike has no place to go. On the rough streets of Portland, they do drugs, steal, and seel their bodies to men and women for money. Soon enough, they hit the road for a journey of self discovery which just leaves them more confused than ever before.
Watching this 1991 masterpiece, I was reminded of everything from Bob Dylan to the Coen Brothers. Like the Coen Brothers, director Gus Van Sant uses the landscape to tell the stories of these characters. The cloudy, cold environment of Portland sets a dark and cold mood for the characters doomed lives. The huge, yet empty landscapes of Idaho show the vast loneliness in Mike’s soul. The characters of Mike and Scott feel like they came out of Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, rolling with no direction home, like complete unkwowns.
Reeves performances usually consist of blank, lifeless stares. Here, he becomes his complex character who is just trying to escape the path of life his father wants for him. But the main great performance is River Phoenix. He is a troubled youth the audience feels for. He embodies the confusion and aimlessness the character experiences on a daily basis. We see a character whose life is destroyed by narcolepsy. It was not long before the actor’s real life death. One of the great young actors of this generation who died to young. In a way, Phoenix’s real life tragedy can be reflected by the struggles of Mike.
My Own Private Idaho is stunning visual poetry. It ranks up with Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy as one of the best road trip films. It’s so great because it explores as far into the human soul as the road goes. And as Mike says “this road probably goes all around the world.”

When I’m too Lazy to Write Reviews…

…I’m gonna let my friend Sexman do the job. Haven’t heard of him? His profile leaves very little about him that seems to be true but what I can tell is that he must be around 11 or 12. At such a young age, he’s hit internet and Youtube fame for his foul mouthed film reviews. I hear there are even plans for him to guest host on Ebert & Roeper (I wish). I’m trying to find his email adress so I can get him to submit a film into WYFF JR and post a Michael Bay rant video (after his incredible rant on Carlos Mencia). If you don’t believe me, here’s a sample review from him.

This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse

News has come out about a new comedy called Goodie Two Shoes. Why is it this week’s sign of the apocalypse? One thing, it’s from those morons who made Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, and Date Movie. These men are the destroyers of comedy. Most importantly about this project, it’s a spoof of Superbad. I’ll repeat, a spoof of Superbad. How can you spoofa comedy? On that matter, an amazing comedy? Based on their other movies in this Scary Movie like spoof trend, it won’t be original or have any form of insight/satire: it’ll just be imitating the movie it parodies scene for scene but with different actors. So basically, Two Shoes will include two guys who look exactly like Jonah Hill and Michael Cera talking about the exact same things, except it won’t be funny. According to my man Lance at Filmdrunk, the movie will also be spoofing The Love Guru. Um, how exactly do they plan to spoof a movie that hasn’t even come out yet? Hmm, these guys may be idiots, but it’s very possible that their psychics as well! Imitating a movie that hasn’t been released? What’s next? Can these guys also see dead people?
If you’re looking for an excellent example of satire, check out some of Mel Brooks’ work. It mananges to imitate what it spoofs but yet has jokes of its own and is actually trying to say something. His spoof on westerns Blazing Saddles, looked like a classic western yet was mocking the utter ridiculousness of racism in modern society. I think the douchebags behind Goodie Two Shoes need to watch and learn.

Update on the Michael Bay Boycott: Still going strong, refusing to give into Transformers. For more encouragement on why Michael Bay sucks, please watch this video: