Tag: judd apatow

MOVIE REVIEW | Misery Loves Comedy (2015)

Misery Loves Comedy

“You don’t have to be miserable.  But there has to be something wrong with you.”

I’d say most people who recognise Kevin Pollock, recognise him as an actor.  In the 90s, he had an amazing run.  He was in big budget, big prestige movies like Scorsese’s Casino.  He was in massive money makers like Grumpy Old Men.  And he was in one of the quintessential indie-movie-becomes-blockbuster of the 90s, The Usual Suspects.  But before his acting career took off, during his acting career since, and seemingly with no sign of slowing down, he’s always been a stand up comedian.  Which is why he seems like as a good a person as any to make a documentary examining what makes comedians tick, with Misery Loves Comedy.

Through a series of talking heads, Pollock takes us through a kind of life cycle of his subjects.  Who was the first person they recognised as funny?  When was the first time they realised they were funny?  When did they start using that skill to their advantage?  And eventually, he gets to the title with his final question, do you need to be miserable to be a successful comedian. (more…)

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | This is the End

The End

There’s nothing worse than a trailer for comedy that shows all the jokes, so once you’re in the cinema, the only things left are the exposition and awkward struggle for an emotional payoff.  Well, This is the End is not that.  The trailer is hilarious and packed with solid jokes.  And even with all the teasers, sneak peeks and pre-release extras that come with an Apatow affiliated movie, that mountain of promotional material is still only a fraction of the non-stop jokes hurled at you every second of This is the End.  And the best part is, almost all of them hit their mark.

The trailer sets up what you’ll be dealing with.  Most of the Apatow crew, playing themselves, with a few pop culture cameos thrown in, are at a party at James Franco’s house.  The drugs, drink and douche baggery flow thick and fast until rudely interrupted by the apocalypse.  In what has the be one of the biggest mass character killings in comedy film history, almost everyone is offed in the first third, then the real movie kicks in.  How do entitled, spoilt, selfish, pampered, useless movie stars deal with a crisis?

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the movie focuses on Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robertson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jay Baruchel playing heightened, not so flattering versions of themselves.  But that’s just the beginning.  What drives the story, the laughs and even the heart of This is the End, is how it uses preconceptions about these guys, and Hollywood stars in general.  It reinforces some stereotypes and character traits, overblows others to insane levels and flips a few completely on their head in ways that make sure there are plenty of surprises long after you expect the premise to have run out of steam.  It’s also great to see that nothing, including dubious film choices the actors have made in real life in the past, seems to be off limits.  The Green Hornet, Your Highness and their shared success based on playing Apatow-style man children all come under fire.

Writers (and first time directors) Rogen and Evan Goldberg have clearly learnt a lot under Judd Apatow and his fingerprints are all over this.  Especially in the vulgarity to heart ratio.  It’s a tried and tested recipe, plenty of swearing, insults and consistent aggression throughout, that somehow makes the heart and emotional climax seem totally earned and not at all schmaltzy.  I really was surprised at how invested I was in the “lesson” the heroes need to learn to survive the end of the days.   And even though I knew what was coming and had predicted exactly how it would happen the first time I saw the bright blue beams of light, Rogen and Goldberg manage to find plenty of ways to add twists and turns before you get there.  Especially through their use of the core characters.  I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say not all of them learn a lesson, find redemption or get a happy ending.

This is the End is exactly what I was hoping for going in.  I’m a fan of the Apatow stable and got what I wanted.  Rogen and Goldberg prove jokes can be profane and smart at the same time, they prove the third act of a comedy doesn’t have to lose all momentum just so they can wrap up the plot, and they prove that they might have the healthiest perspective of anyone in Hollywood about how lucky they are the live the lives they live.  It takes real talent to highlight how much better you have it than your audience, but still make your characters sympathetic.

This is the End
Directed By – Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan
Written By – Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan

MOVIE REVIEW | The Five-Year Engagement (2012)


Jason Segel is the “other guy” from the Apatow stable.  He doesn’t pop up in three or four movies year like Seth Rogen and James Franco, has hasn’t taken any writer for hire gigs like Rogen did in Green Hornet and he’s probably more well known for his TV day job on How I Met Your Mother than he is for movies.  But he did write and star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is more than enough goodwill to get me to watch The Five-Year Engagement.

This is a standard rom-com in a lot of ways, but it subverts enough of the expected sameness to stand out a little from the crowd at the same time.  Firstly, Tom and Violet, played by Segel and Emily Blunt are already together when the movies starts.  So even though we’re not saved from a sickeningly sweet meet-cute (we get that through a flashback), it does mean there’s no torturous “getting to know you” portion to sit through.

In case the title doesn’t give the conceit away, the opening minutes do as Segel’s meticulously planned romantic proposal planes by the San Francisco Bay are disrupted every step of the way.  But the major upset comes later, when Blunt accepts a job in snow covered Michigan.  Segel is happy to delay wedding plans, and his career as a chef to follow Blunt and her dream.

Here’s where the one major problem I have with this movie kicks in.  Blunt’s dream job is working in the psychology department at a university, conducting seemingly pointless tests.  That’s harsh, there is a point.  The point is to make us, the audience, laugh at the half-assed, ever-so-rediculos experiments Blunt and her colleagues come up with.  Aren’t psycho-babble funny and wacky experiments funny?  Yeah, they are.  And The Five-Year Engagement wrings some of its best laughs out of these scenes, but I found it hard to suspend enough disbelief to accept that Segel’s character would give up his flourishing career to indulge in Blunt’s pointless flight of fancy.

But, he does, and they move to Michigan.  Once there, Segel’s Tom gets the typical “fish out of water” story arc.  He hates it, he meets some interesting new friends, he grudgingly accepts it, he accepts things a little too much and goes a little too deep into his new lifestyle.  And because this parallels the standard rom-com arc, it all has to lead to a break up at the end of the second act.  Amongst all of this are Chris Pratt as Segel’s dumb best friend and Alison Brie as Blunt’s uptight sister.  Even with all this by the numbers, box ticking standard stuff, Segels’ script still found enough ways to surprise me along the way.

Segel and director Nicholas Stoller scored a big hit with Forgetting Sarah Marshall…  Emily Blunt is crazy hot and a great actor…  At more than two hours, it’s little long for a comedy, but there are more than enough laughs to get you through.   Yet, from what I can tell, The Five-Year Engagement was really overlooked and kind of just came and went.  That’s a shame, because it really is different and interesting in its approach to being a romantic comedy.

The Five-Year Engagement
Directed By – Nicholas Stoller
Written By – Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller