Zack and Miri Make a Porno – A Movie Review

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Apr 262009

Zack and Miri Make a Porno PosterTwo lifelong platonic friends, strapped for cash and in debt, decide to make a porno.

Genres: Comedy; Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.; Release Date: October 31st, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language.

Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Jason Mewes, Katie Morgan, Craig Robinson

Directed by: Kevin Smith

I had downloaded this from Amazon’s Unboxed service last week, and we just got around to watching it last night. What a treat it was. We laughed all the way through the movie.

As Jackie Treehorn laments in The Big Lebowski, pornos these days lack plot, and production values, and feelings. Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” would make Jackie quite proud. It’s easy to see how it got an R rating (and it was nearly rated NC-17), but you just really don’t think about the sex, as it’s really all about the story. That’s not exactly how I want to say, but I can’t think of the words.

Seth Rogen proves he can convey emotion and still be funny. Elizabeth Banks provides the perfect on-screen mate for Rogen. However, Craig Robinson (Darrell from The Office) steals nearly every scene he is in.

Rogen plays Zack and Banks plays Miri, two best friends living in a crummy little apartment in Pittsburgh. The bills are stacking up , the heat and electricity have been turned off and they’re about to be thrown out. What do two struggling thirty-somethings do? While attending their High School reunion, they discover that the school’s former Quarterback (Brandon Routh) is actually gay and the boyfriend of gay porn star Brandon (Justin Long). This gives Zack an idea and after ruminating over it for a night, he and Miri both decide that a porno is the only way to solve their money woes. They enlist the help of Zack’s coffee shop co-worker Delaney (Craig Robinson) to be producer and also bring on a rag tag team of actors (Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, and Ricky Mabe), first to shoot the movie “Star Whores” with such characters as R2-Teabag, Hung Solo, and Darth Vibrator and then when the have a shooting problem, they decide to do a coffee shop porn called “Swallow my Cock-Ucinno”.

Rogen is funny and enthusiastic. And Banks is adorable with good comedic chemistry with Rogen but most importantly both actors bring a gentle and heartwarming romance to the screen. The rest of the cast is a big help, starting with Craig Robinson, who nails every line the character has, whether it’s defying what he believes to be racism (which is everything), talking about his wife, or nervously auditioning porn stars, he’s the funniest character in the movie. A close second is Justin Long, hilariously flamboyant and filled with gay pride to the point of being applause-worthy. Jason Mewes is at his crude best in every scene he’s in. “Zack and Miri” gets very good performances from everybody and it manages to do what a lot of romantic comedies this year have not been able to do, which is earn the laughs and earn the love of it’s two characters. It’s funny and fun and worth every minute.

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W. – A Movie Review

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Feb 232009

W Movie PosterW. takes viewers through Bush’s eventful life — his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Biopic and Politics/Religion; Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.; Release Date: October 17th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Produced by: Elliot Ferwerda, Albert Yeung, Matthew Street

Lay and I watched this movie at home on DVD last weekend. It was more interesting than I expected. The film hopscotches through Bush’s life in an effort to compile all the seminal moments. Because of the number of “events” the film attempts to chronicle, this just all happens too fast.

Brolin, though he doesn’t look that much like W., creates a memorable character that might be W. with vitality in his certitude and confusion. The same goes for Cromwell, playing H.W. Bush,  who catches the patient, patrician nature of a family scion. Richard Dreyfuss is scary good as a Machiavellian Cheney. Wright’s Powell and Toby Jones’ Karl Rove are dead-on. Yet Glenn doesn’t quite get the smugness of the former secretary of defense. Ellen Burstyn doesn’t seem to know what to do with Barbara Bush, but has only one or two minor appearances.

We come into the story with a bull session in the Oval Office with speechwriters and top advisers that produced W.’s “Axis of Evil” speech about Iran, Iraq and North Korea.Here we are introduced to  Brolin as W., Dreyfuss’ as a dark  Dick Cheney lurking in the corner, Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice, Scott Glenn’s Donald Rumsfeld and Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell. They all hit their parts well as they act, bluster and argue just like we thought they would — only they seem like figures in a wax museum. As one reviewer put it, “It comes perilously close to a Saturday Night Live sketch.”

A critic for the Hollywood Reporter wrote:

“W.” is not really a political movie per se; rather, it’s a movie about a man who went into politics but probably shouldn’t have. It’s about how a father can misread a son, how a son can suffer in the shadow of a famous dad and how temperament gets molded by events both internal and external.

I loved reading the viewer reviews on Yahoo Movies. Clearly people viewed the movie through the lense of their political persuasion. The user reviews had titles like: “Pointless Leftist Drivel;” “The liberal dumbocrats at it again;” and my personal favorite:

How Dare HE!
I cannot believe that a man would openly mock a sitting president, and a christian one at that!!!

Stone put up a website listing his sources for the events portrayed in the film, and I thought that W.’s “to-the-manor-born” arrogance came through well enough for me the find the film believable. And if the wingnuts are so up in arms about it, I’m guessing it hits too close to home for them, so I like the politics.

What I would say is that it showcases some decent acting with a mediocre script. It probably want have a lot of historical significance, as it will be many years before the final truth of this man and his administration comes out. Until then, we’ll have to settle for some “truthiness.”

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 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Invincible
Oct 152006

Invincible.jpgFrom the producers of “The Rookie”, this inspiring sports movie will star Mark Wahlberg as a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has just lost his wife and his teaching job. He decides one day to show up for an open tryout for his favorite NFL team, only to see his wildest dreams come true.

Directed by
Ericson Core

Drama, Sport

Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Conway, Michael Rispoli, Kirk Acevedo, Dov Davidoff, Michael Kelly, Sal Darigo, Nicoye Banks, Turron Kofi Alleyne, Stink Fisher, Michael Mulheren, Michael Nouri, Jack Kehler

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

Never underestimate the power of a good story, decent acting and a great soundtrack. That’s what Disney’s “Invincible,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear, brings to viewers.

“Invincible” is the biographical tale of down-on-his-luck Vince Papale (Wahlberg), who is a pretty fair street football player in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s. He is also a substitute teacher, but when he loses that gig, is forced to tend bar part-time.

Meanwhile, his team, the NFL Eagles – mired in several seasons of last-place finishes (making the franchise the joke of the NFC East) – hires a new head coach, Dick Vermeil (Kinnear), who decides to hold an open tryout for players. It’s looked upon as a joke, and hundreds of untalented and out-of-shape clowns show up at Veteran’s Stadium for the event, even Vince (who never played college ball and is sure he is not good enough to get a second look). On a fluke, however, he is the only walk-on allowed to go to training camp.

Meanwhile, he becomes sort of a neighborhood celebrity, and develops a sweet love affair with his boss’ cousin, Janet (Elizabeth Banks), a die-hard New York Giants fan.

He impresses Vermeil enough to make it down to the final cut, but what happens after that, you’ll have to find out yourself.

Wahlberg might be a tad bit small for an NFL player (he’s much smaller than the real Papale), but he is appropriately well-built; and his low-key performance gives real pathos to his character.

Lastly, since the story takes place in 1975 (the year my old favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, won the NFC East), you would expect the soundtrack to blast some high quality tunes. In this respect, the film does not disappoint. Tunes from The Who, Jim Croce, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Canned Heat, Edgar Winter Group, Grand Funk Railroad, Rod Stewart, Elvin Bishop, Rare Earth and others, highlights this movie-going experience.

A bit sappy, at times, but overall, a nice little biopic that is one of the more inspiring movies of 2006.

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