Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Having lots of cake and eating it too...mmmm, cake.

Pineapple Express: This year's best (and only) stoner action picture.

Pineapple Express is the much hyped, much advertised stoner action comedy by Superbad's Seth Rogen that comes to us with the Apatow comedy seal of approval. Seth Rogen's process serving high school girl dating Dale Denton witnesses a drug lord hit after buying a bit of a rare batch of weed from Saul Silver played by a bewigged and filthy looking James Franco. He drops his doobie at the scene of the crime after he's seen, allowing the bad guys to track him and hilarity ensues as Dale and Saul go on the run from a Gary Cole and Rosie Perez, the murderous rival drug lord and dirty cop respectively. Mr. Rogen deserves much credit for knowing how to set limits and knowing when to embrace the unbelievable with abandon. Pineapple Express manages to genuinely capture the Non sequiturs and hilarious shit that comes out of stoned people's mouths, convey the standard drug mob war story so common in more serious movies about illegal substances and succeeds in warping a few genres in the process.

James Franco, Danny McBride (totally looking like Horatio Sanz) & Seth Rogen. The shit has really started to hit the fan now.

The main reason for its success is the size of the picture. It's really small. So, when folks fight like real men or get shot and when things explode or crash - it seems really big and dramatic. Oh, and hilarious. Danny McBride is an unexpected addition to the duo on the run and delivers one of the most touching lines of the flick, "Aww, I used to use this gun when I was a prostitute." (Or something like that.) The film's events are confined to a few days and this keeps nearly all of the main characters in the same clothes and only having a handful of principals can produce gold. With this economy comes an emphasis on character, dialogue, and action and let's face it - that's how we like our summer movies. Pineapple Express definitely has an abrupt but far from unpleasant transition from buddy comedy to action movie as the duo makes poor decision after poor decision. But these decisions stay true to the characters and madcap-ery ensues, because if they were smarter dudes the movie would be boring. But, this is far from Dude Where's My Car, a movie that Seth Rogen calls a stoner movie without any pot (Fresh Air last week). It's a tale of a budding friendship and what happens when we dare to follow our dreams or at least briefly talk about planning to follow them. Pineapple Express is a surprisingly smart and heartfelt effort that manages to present likable characters even while the whole ride enters into the completely ridiculous and unbelievable.


Pineapple Express
Dir., David Gordon Green (George Washington & All the Real Girls)
Screenplay, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg (Superbad)
Story, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, & Judd Apatow (very comedy that came out since 1937)
Producer, Judd Apatow (duh.)
Rated R
111 min

Tropic Thunder: This year's only (thank goodness) Hollywood insider flick disguised as an action movie parody.

Stiller, Downey & Black in action.

Tropic Thunder is the story of a novice director-of-the-moment (Steve Coogan), an aging and out of fashion action star (Ben Stiller), an insane ultra-method Australian actor (Russell Crowe - I mean, Robert Downey Jr.) setting out to make an adaptation of an autobiography of a Vietnam vet (Nick Nolte). The picture is in shambles, over budget and clearly sucks so the studio head (Tom Cruise in a bald capt and fat suit) are ready to pull the plug when the vet convinces the young director to take the film into the jungle and shock some good performances out of these pansy actors by dropping them in "the shit". Accompanying Stiller and Downey in this foray into "the shit" are Jack Black as a super crappy movie making white Eddie Murphy type, the rapper/clothing designer/energy drink mogul turned actor (Brandon T. Jackson), and the actor looking for a break and a date (Jay Baruchel). Danny McBride is a ray of profane sunshine as the Southern explosives FX expert. Unfortunately, the result of this good cast and great set up is mix of Austin Powers' sensibility (you know replacing actual jokes with so many pop culture references that folks over 30 can't keep up) a barrage of Hollywood insider nods and an extremely chiseled Ben Stiller doing what Ben Stiller does and not much else. The picture is not without a few really funny moments, mostly provided by Robert Downey playing the Australian actor playing a black soldier, but the rest of the time it relies to heavily on gross-out gags and cliches. Oh and Apocalypse Now has official become too referenced. Let's move on, people. Admittedly, with Stiller writing and directing, I was expecting more Zoolander less Gold Member. Except for Steve Coogan's untimely exit and the casting choice for the leader of the Lao heroin camp, nothing else is really surprising. It's just a parody and in the end not really funny.

Tropic Thunder
Dir., Ben Stiller

Screenplay, Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux & Etan Cohen (NOT Ethan Coen. According to IMDB, this dude also wrote something called My Wife is Retarded. Awesome.)

Producer, Ben Stiller and load of others
107 min

That said, the audience we saw it with was laughing almost constantly. But to be honest, I was often confused by what they chose to laugh at making it clear to me that I just didn't get this film even though I really wanted to. 15 minutes in I turned to Adam and whispered, "I don't think I like this movie." Never a good sign. I've heard others have a similar reaction to Pineapple Express. But those people are just plain weird.

10 more minutes, ma!!

OK, so as you can see, fair reader, I've not reviewed Pineapple Express yet AND I just scored free tickets to see Tropic Thunder tonight, so expect two short reviews this week. Promise.

And now for the shameless self-promotion portion of my posting...

As most of you know, I've been volunteering for MANNA here in Philadelphia for the last year and our little Tuesday night clique was just featured on the MANNA Blog and in this week's newsletter. So, for proof that I and a bunch of other people I know are awesome, click here.

Oh, yeah, and MANNA's mission is sort of great too.

Me, Andy & Katie. Hairnet envy? Yeah, I thought so.