Monday, July 30, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

Over the weekend, the Reno 911!: Miami DVD was in the house. Amused by the genre (you know the kind: slapstick situational comedy with a host of social stereotypes played-out by an ensemble representing a institution we generally trust each day in real life, such as paramedics, security guards, or in this case, the police). So, being a childhood fan of such movies, and loving the work of much of the cast in the 90's sketch comedy troupe The State, (still one of the best TV shows in my lifetime, I do declare), I simply couldn't resist.

Well, maybe I should have. Sometimes the sum isn't greater than the parts. There were some laugh-out-loud funny elements of this movie (most revolved around sexual double entendres and situations that make the viewer cringe). But the most redeeming aspect of the film is that it plays up its own genre in a self-referential style that is at once reverent and self-deprecating. It doesn't take itself seriously, and well, as for the plot: plot be damned. Reno 911! is just silly... and a bit perverse. Teenagers will love this. But watch out for that "unrated" version - it's there are a couple scenes that might make a parent upset, even if our kids already know what's up.

2 out 5 stars (but that's about right for the genre)

You Might Like These Titles Too:

Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
Maybe Reno is a send-up of this movie, but it never achieves the humor or character of this modern classic. There's some real comedy talent here - and I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's almost wholesome. Maybe Police Academy 4: Citizens of Patrol is more of a personal favorite, but at this point (since I'm not talking about Ingmar Bergman) it probably doesn't even matter.

Disorderlies (1987)
Remember the Fat Boys? Yeah, me too. Well, there was a movie in the 80's about a group of bumbling orderlies that played on the genre of the moment. I vaguely recall thinking it was funny at the time, and wonder if it holds up today as well as the Fat Boys' brand of hip hop.

Paramedics (1988)
Now this film was fast-paced, as I recall. The plot centers on a duo of cocky med-school kids who work South Central LA as parameds and stumble upon a fiendish conspiracy that deals in harvesting internal organs from unwilling donors. There's also a part of me that wondered if the PG-13 weren't a little light for some of the, er, adult content. The minor characters were the real draw.

and finally, one of my personal favorites...

Armed and Dangerous (1986)
John Candy and Eugene Levy are washed up cops and lawyers, respectively. They decide to change gears and become security guards... and zaniness ensues. Oh, how I loved the "Born to be Wild" traffic jam sequence as a kid... "Well, climb on in, Slim!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

August Film Discussion

Heeding an excellent recommendation from our group members, the next film we will discuss is actually 2 films... both based on the play The Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorky. The first adaptation comes from 1936, from the acclaimed French director Jean Renoir (of Grand Illusion fame). The second version arrived in 1957, from Japan's finest director Akira Kurosawa. Both directors have been clearly moved by the themes of the play in their different renderings, in particular their exploration of humanity's ongoing challenge of accepting harsh truths versus living with the comfort of lies, and how most of the characters in this play choose to deceive themselves from the bleak reality of their condition. Criterion issued a two-fer DVD set of both films packaged with a fine booklet... and for extra credit :) some group members are also reading the source play. How exciting!

See you all on Wednesday, August 1, at 7pm.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Children of Men

I love a dystopian tale. Originally written by P.D. James, Children of Men is the hauntingly real story with a "what-if" of epic proportions: What if next year every woman in the world became infertile?

Set in an apocalyptic United Kingdom of 2027, the film explores a grim world in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Societal collapse, terrorism, and environmental destruction accompany the impending extinction, with Britain, perhaps the last functioning government, persecuting a seemingly endless wave of illegal immigrant refugees seeking sanctuary. In the midst of this chaos, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) must find safe transit for Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a pregnant African refugee - the first pregnant woman in 20 years and perhaps the last hope for humanity.

Few films are so grippingly palpable in forecasting the future. Children of Men (expertly filmed by Alfonso Cuarón, whose Y tu mamá también (2001) was one of my favourite recent coming-of-age tales), turns the mirror on our current political landscape and predicts an all-too-real chaos informed by xenophobia and terror. Clive Owen is convincing in his role, while Julianne Moore (whom I ordinarily admire) was abysmal, flat and detached. Look for a great hippie role for Michael Caine - he's brilliant here. One of finer, more intelligent films I've seen of late. High recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

Knocked Up

Well, I caved-in and saw a movie that ordinarily isn't my "type." There was something about the promotion of this film that caught my eye and I couldn't resist. Having seen The 40 Year-Old Virgin, by the same writing team and also featuring this film's leading actor Seth Rogen, I was prepared for outrageous humor and oddly-poignant socio-cultural commentary. I was not disappointed.

Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is a 23-year-old slacker. He passes his days working without compensation on a website and getting high with his friends. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a responsible, career-minded woman on a fast-track course in Hollywood media correspondence. One night, Alison and Ben find themselves at the same club, and have a one night fling. After a follow-up date they discover they have little in common and go their separate ways. Eight weeks later, however, Alison discovers that she is pregnant... and that Ben is the father. The resulting story, while clearly predictable by any standard, is hilariously satisfying and illuminating. It's worth the price of admission alone to see Ryan Seacrest (of American Idol fame) play himself as an off-camera loather of the cult of celebrity. Genius.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars