Archive for September, 2008

“Get Smart” Offers Up Consistent Hilarity

September 12, 2008

PG-13, 110 minutes, Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ve never watched a single second of the television series on which this new film version of Get Smart is based on, so I had no images or thoughts to go back and compare its modern remake with. One thing that I was guaranteed of by my father, though, is that Steve Carell was a spot-on choice for the lead character of Maxwell Smart, from look to demeanor it was all there and they couldn’t have made a better decision. Once again, I can only judge the casting choice based on my appreciation for an actor’s body of work and sense of humor in a role like this, and the Carell choice easily helped me decide that I did in fact want to see Get Smart, because he always manages to bring a witty feel to anything he takes part in. There was also the clever fashioning of a rather enticing trailer that had been playing for many months before the film’s release, and also a worthy supporting cast – minus Dwayne Johnson, who still had yet to prove himself before this project. I was surprised that there were plenty of reasons to get me in a seat to see this one, and little did I know at the time of seeing it in late June, that I would come to absolutely adore this film.

Besides Carell’s outstanding portrayal of Maxwell Smart, what lies at the forefront of this film’s smash success are two key things. One major factor is that its director, Peter Segal, who is no stranger to comedic projects, finally finds all the right notes and is at the top of his game. Almost ten films into his career, Segal has been consistent in his ups and downs, but it is in the films where he gets a dynamite lead performance (Farley in Tommy Boy) or terrific chemistry (Sandler and Barrymore in 50 First Dates)  where they become recommendable. He has had to rely on the talent of his cast to make his films fly to this point in his career, otherwise they turn into duds like My Fellow Americans and Anger Management, with material so bad that not even legends like Matthau, Lemmon, and Nicholson can overcome. Finally, though, with Get Smart, his eighth film, Segal not only receives a great cast, he orchestrates them all extremely well, resulting in one of the best comedies of the year. It’s certainly the most worthwhile comedy of 2008 that’s under an R rating.

Among the cast of players that are so rightly used throughout this hysterical film, are Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, the aforementioned  Dwayne Johnson (who does manage to find the right notes and become likable for once), Terrence Stamp, James Caan, David Koechner, Kevin Nealon, Larry Miller, and the incomparable Bill Murray, who has the smallest screen time possible but uses it well. Everyone in the movie works off of each other and the material about as well as you could hope for and beyond, but what comes as the biggest surprise of the entire thing, at least for me, is how Hathaway holds her ground alongside Carell. This is the second key factor in the movie’s ability to flow so well. Hathaway is now proving that she is ready to transition into a diverse actress, and in Get Smart she is not fooling around. She is arguably the best part of this film, although it’s hard to argue against Carell. Let’s just say that the two together are comic chemistry gold. 2008 is going to prove to be the launching point for an inevitable longevity in Hathaway’s career, because later this fall it looks like Jonathan Demme has given her a dramatic breakout role in Rachel Getting Married. If you haven’t heard of it yet, check out the trailer here. I saw this film twice on the big screen, and I consider it a comedy very worthy of seeing even more than that. Pretty much everything goes right here, and it’s a pleasure to sit back and enjoy.



Black Cab Sessions – Damien Jurado

September 10, 2008

Before I whip up an early review of “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, not to mention an early DVD review of David Gordon Green’s spellbinding “Snow Angels”, I wanted to post this tremendous Black Cab Session with one of music’s most underrated artists, Damien Jurado.

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Okkervil Covered by Ola Podrida

September 5, 2008

If you weren’t aware already, heading up to the release of Okkervil River’s new record entitled “The Stand-Ins”, different artists are covering each track in order. Only four days until the album is releasing, here is #7 from it, “Calling and Not Calling My Ex”, performed by Mr. David Wingo of Ola Podrida, one of my absolute favorite groups.

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Let it be true. Please, let it be true…

September 5, 2008

It’s only been one year since the incomparable Kanye West released his Graduation, yet I’ve still found myself pining for more out of pure greediness. Luckily, my stubborn appetite could be fulfilled VERY soon.

Predictable Direction Taken For Newest “Hulk”

September 4, 2008

PG-13, 114 minutes, Universal Pictures

Okay, so here I am finding myself trying to play major catch-up on a lot of summer films I saw over the last three months, and it all starts with The Incredible Hulk, a new version that pleased most of the audience members that LOATHED Ang Lee’s 2003 take on the mental dilemma of Bruce Banner, although I was one who really appreciated the thoughtful work of that film. Most of the flack that Lee’s version got back then was that it was boring, too talky and without the right dose of bashing action that would normally be guaranteed by a Hulk project. I have continued to back that film in heated arguments that have so frequently arose in the five years since its release, giving my argument in favor of the film’s audacity to take it in a more psychological uncovering direction, but I still also felt it had plenty of action sequences, it’s just that the conversations and contemplative portions were the main focus. That obviously spells disaster commercially if you’re taking on a comic book summer project, but kudos will forever go to Lee for daring to keep with his choice. With that being said, it was obvious from the many trailers of this new one, called The Incredible Hulk as opposed to simply Hulk, was promising to be a 180 of Lee’s film, delivering action upon action at breakneck pace.

Even knowing that I would ultimately end up preferring the previous take on Hulk, I was still sort of psyched to give a chance to this new one, and solely because of the excellent choice of actors all around. Edward Norton was an intriguing and good choice for Banner, and down the line the cast is filled with respectable names, like Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, and Tim Blake Nelson…so this sort of easily became something to give a chance to. What’s really sad, however, is that this is such a typical money-hungry Hollywood superhero movie, that it focusing entirely on effects and action, even managing to leave outstanding actors behind to eat dust, with nothing to make their characters interesting at all. There are unexplainable sequences in this film where dialog is basically halted in mid-development to step aside for arrogant, interruptive action extravaganzas…and believe me, this movie is on steroids, which is why it became ten times more of a hit than Lee’s version. Shortly before this film was released in theaters in late June, there was a statement that came out that Norton was so unpleased with the fact that they cut out scenes that he felt were important to the overall development of the story, that he refused to include himself in any type of publicity for it. Whatever respect I had for Norton as an actor who appreciated his craft before knowing that, which was quite a lot, I have loads more now. Watching the film it is easy to understand his irritation with it, and I can even imagine how frustrated he must be, knowing that he spent months of his time giving his all to the film.

In an era that seems to be the defining one for thoughtful superhero movies to finally find a wide, marketable avenue, this new Hulk is the complete opposite, but still pleases people across the world, and I suppose that’s because grown people still do enjoy wrestling and baffling things like that. The first half of the film is nearly bearable, but as it all chugs along to a finale that becomes repetitive and like a Hollywood-sized, HGH version of the Rampage video game on the silver screen, the characters (and the wonderful actors who try so hard to inhabit their hollowly-written selves) are designated to pawns in a game that becomes as senseless as most anything I’ve seen all summer. Now I’ve realized just why I haven’t written about this film until now.

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