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Movie reviews from Bob Garver

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Full review
Forgetting Sarah Marshall – An Early Frontrunner for Funniest Film of ’08.

By Bob Garver

It’s becoming trendy to knock Judd Apatow. The writer, director, and producer has been responsible for some of the funniest movies in recent memory. Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad – Apatow has had a hand in all of them. This success is staggering, and many people seem to be ready to see him flop for a change. He may flop eventually, he may flop soon, but he does not flop with Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The film is directed by Nicholas Stoller, but produced (and clearly influenced) by Apatow. The reviews for the film thus far generally read something like this: “The film is funny, but familiar. Apatow has gone to the same well too many times.” I am here to say that Apatow has by no means worn out his welcome. Not only does Forgetting Sarah Marshall hold its own when compared to the films mentioned above, it just may be the best of the group.

Like many of these films, Forgetting Sarah Marshall stars a former supporting player making a flawless jump to lead. Actors who have done this in the past include Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill. This time, it’s Jason Segel. Segel has a bright future in heartfelt comedies, as he knows how to get that perfect balance of funny and sympathetic. Of course, the other Apatow leads do this too. But how many of them do full-frontal nudity as much as Segel does in this movie? The answer: None.

Peter (Segel) is often nude when he’s upset. And he’s upset a lot in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The struggling musician has to go through a tough breakup with his actress girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell). At first, he thinks getting a new girlfriend is the quick-fix answer he needs. But this doesn’t work because he’s still too upset. At the urging of his stepbrother (Bill Hader), he decides to take a break from his life and go to Hawaii.

Unbeknownst to him, Sarah is also vacationing in Hawaii with her new rocker boyfriend Aldous (Russell Brand). The worst nightmare of any vacationer is that, by sheer coincidence, they end having to face the very thing they are trying to escape. Peter does end up staying in the exact same hotel as Sarah, but the circumstances aren’t as contrived as the ads would have you believe. They do end up in the same lobby by coincidence, but it is only then that Peter decides that he must stay in that hotel. The room doesn’t even come easily, desk attendant Rachel (Mila Kunis) has to pull some strings to let him stay in a $6,000-a-night suite.

Peter knows he needs to get closure in his relationship with Sarah. He just needs to figure out how. Maybe if he sees that she’s happier with Aldous? She’s clearly affectionate, but somehow she doesn’t seem truly happy. Aldous himself doesn’t make things any easier. He’s an inauthentic “humanitarian” who loves the sound of his own voice – the kind of person you’d pity if he didn’t make it so obvious that pity is exactly what he wants. Aldous puts on a lot of charm, but it’s easy to see through it. In a movie like this, it’s really easy to see through it.

Perhaps some of the meditative activities in the island will help Peter figure out what he needs? Alas, none of these work too well. He tries surfing, but he can’t quite get the movements down. He tries hiking, but he’s too out of shape. He even tries cooking a pig for the roast at a luau, but is too upset when he’s forced to kill it. Meditation is not the answer for Peter, at least not on this island.

Finally, a winning answer seems to emerge. He and Rachel hit it off really well when he checked in, and they have become fast friends. She sympathizes with him since she has recently gone through a tough breakup as well. She’s also a fun, exciting (if a bit dangerous) person, and Peter sees a future with her. Frankly, I imagine that every person she meets sees a future with her. The secret to getting over Sarah might be a new girlfriend after all.

There are twists, fights, and hard decisions along the way, but the film ends the way you’d probably expect. What you probably don’t expect is that it ends with an all-puppet musical version of Dracula. It’s so great that a movie like this can end with that. That’s the beauty of Judd Apatow films – they can have so many scenes that have almost nothing to do with the plot, yet the scenes function as priceless looks into how the characters live and think.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall has plenty of these scenes. For example, we are introduced early on to a young honeymoon couple staying at the same resort as the main characters. The husband (Jack McBreyer) is finding himself initially scared by his new role. He interacts with both Peter and Aldous, and we learn surprisingly much about them from the advice they give. Other characters function in the same manner, such as a waiter (Jonah Hill) who desperately wants to impress Aldous and the local surfing instructor (Paul Rudd). These actors would be considered scene-stealers in lesser films, but here they add something to the main characters. Thus, they are more like scene-sharers.

Of course, some things are just silly for the sake of being silly. Aldous is established early on as a shallow character, and his music just accentuates that point. But it’s still funny to see the film make fun of “caring” and “worldly” musicians like Bono and most of the emo movement. Also, Sarah’s TV shows don’t tell us much about her character, but they are still dry, hilarious takes on CSI and Medium.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall does have many of the elements that Judd Apatow comedies are known for: a breakout star, consistent laughs, several surprisingly touching moments, and a high amount of blue humor. If that last part is a deal-breaker for you, do not see the film. But don’t pass just because some critics have said that this film is the same as Apatow’s other movies. Films as good as Forgetting Sarah Marshall don’t just fall off the assembly line.
2:07 pm edt 

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall   Capsule Review

Judd Apatow continues his recent hot streak with what may be his funniest film yet. The wonderful Jason Segal and Mila Kunis head up a hilarious all-star cast that includes Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Jack McBreyer. The best film of the year so far.

Do not see it: if you're turned off by crude humor or don't like Apatow's other movies.

Do see it: if you're an Apatow fan ready to see one of the funniest films of the year.
3:36 pm edt 

Friday, April 11, 2008

Smackdown Coverage - Massage Segment
Edge and Vicky Guerrero are getting a massage together. Edge tells her this is just what he needs right now. Vicky lovingly tells him he deserves a rest after the tough schedule he's had lately. Theodore long stands bored in the background holding a towel. Point of segment is to establish how Edge is getting favors from Vicky.
8:31 pm edt 

Smackdown coverage - Miz and Morrison over Yang and Moore (Non-Title)
Good to see Yang and Moore going after the chamnpions again. That mini-Iron Man they had a few months ago was one of the best matches I've ever seen on ECW TV. Typically exciting match between the two teams. Maybe a little too typical. Maybe having such a great series earlier in the year isn't such a blessing if matches like this seem boring by comparison. Miz and Morrison win, which makes it even more unlikely that Yang and Moore will win the titles anytime soon.
8:26 pm edt 

Smackdown coverage - opening
Great Khali is out for a party. The announcers say he's about to make a "Punjabi Peace Offering." His new spokesperson (not Runjan Singh) explains the concept, but I can't understand him. Khali takes the mic and I can understand him even less. Big Show comes out and he and Khali have a staredown. Khali mumbles some more. His spokesperson (now understandable) tells Show that the peace offering is water from the Ganges River. He says it's pure, but it looks gross. Maybe he's going to try and get Show to drink some of it and then laugh at him. There's also a bottle of perfume in the mix, and then a chicken and a goat. Big Show seems thankful of the gifts and extends his hand to Khali. Then he smacks him to the ground. And we're supposed to cheer for this, smacking Khali after he presented him with gifts. I guess the logic is that the gifts were weird and from a different culture, so they're automatically insulting.
8:13 pm edt 

Pre-Smackdown thoughts
One thing I already like about tonight's show is the booking of the Undertaker/Festus main event. This is what a television main event should be: a well-established superstar agsinst a mid-carder who is not yet on the main event level. It allows the midcarder to test the waters in a main event situation without having to carry the weight of a Pay Per View on his back. WWE used to give midcarders opportunities like this all the time and it made the whole roster look stronger. The main eventers established their dominance, and the midcarders proved that they were at least hungry. These days, there are too many tag team main events with established stars in various combinations. The matches are rarely memorable, and the booking creates a glass ceiling that keeps midcarders stuck in the midcard.
7:43 pm edt 

Smackdown tonight
I'm going to try live-blogging tonight's edition of WWE Smackdown. This will be my first live blog, so needless to say it will be a learning experience for me.
4:48 pm edt 

3:55
One more test blog.
3:54 pm edt 

3:53
I'm still trying live blogging
3:53 pm edt 

3:51
I'm trying live blogging
3:52 pm edt 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Just testing out the blog feature
Yeah, what I said up there.
6:42 pm edt 


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