REVIEW: ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

CAST

Seth Rogen (Bad Neighbours)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Craig Robinson (This Is The End)
Jason Mewes (Dogma)
Jeff Anderson (Clerks)
Traci Lords (First Wave)
Tyler Labine (Antitrust)
Tisha Campbell-Martin (House Party)
Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Now You Know)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Long (New Girl)
Katie Morgan (Triptank)

ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates who have known each other forever, so living together is purely platonic. That they haven’t done much with their lives and rely on each other to keep their home, heat and water bonds them much further than any romantic attraction could. But when their bills catch up with them, they have to figure out a way to make some money, and a chance encounter at an awful high-school reunion introduces them to an answer to their problems, they may have to complicate their situation and make a porno movie.

Sure, it’s a bit of a leap, but as Miri notes, their debts are at the point when people start having sex for money, so they gather some friends and local exhibitionists and plan out a pretty marketable idea for a porno. Of course it’s not as easy as turning on a camera and going at it, but the roadbumps the film faces are matched by the issues that arise for Zack and Miri, who thought their friendship wouldn’t be something sex could change.

With Banks playing Miri, and Rogen as Zack, the film is stacked with funny up top, but Smith’s films have always been loaded with memorable roles from top to bottom, and this movie is no different, except that his usual cast, aside from Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson, isn’t there. Instead, the casting was influenced by Rogen, and resulted in the freshest cast Smith’s had since Mallrats. Craig Robinson (“The Office”) is brilliantly funny as Zach’s put-upon pal, in a performance that tells me he can definitely lead a film on his own, especially when he argues with his wife (an excellent cameo by Tisha Campbell.) Also fun is Ricky Mabe’s turn as wide-eyed Barry, the young actor, and porn star Katie Morgan, who plays her part with a sweetness that, combined with Mewes’ hard-edged innocence, cuts the harsher elements of the story and helps the romantic angles.


In watching this movie, it would be harder than usual to finger it as a Smith movie, at least if Mewes and Anderson weren’t involved, as it looks far more polished visually (like Jersey Girl), the dialogue is far less dense, and the characters escape the Askewniverse ghetto.

REVIEW: WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

CAST
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Jenna Fischer (Slither)
Raymond J. Barry (Cold Case)
Margo Martindale (Mike & Molly)
Kristen Wiig (Paul)
Tim Meadows (Mean Girls)
Chris Parnall (Anchorman)
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
David Krumholtz (Serenity)
Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express)
Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory)
Martin Starr (Adventureland)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Ed Helms (The Hangover)
Jane Lynch (Role Models)
Odette Annable (The Unborn)
Frankie Muniz (Big Fat Liar)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Jack Black (King Kong)
Justin Long (New Girl)
Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgram vs The World)
Patrick Duffy (Dallas)
Morgan Fairchild (Roswell)
Jack McBrayer (30 Rok)
Molly C. Quinn (Castle)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)
Patrick J. Adams (Suits)
Olivia Taylor Dudley (The Vatican Tapes)
Paul Feig (Sabrina: TTW)
Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy)
Briana Venskus (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Dewey Cox begins his quest for stardom in Springberry, Alabama in 1946.
While playing with his brother Nate, Dewey accidentally cuts his brother in half at the waist with a machete. This leads Dewey’s father to frequently repeat the phrase “The wrong kid died” throughout the film. The trauma causes Dewey to lose his sense of smell – “you’ve gone smell blind,” states Dewey’s mother. After his brother’s death is announced by a physician making a housecall, Dewey’s mother sends him to the local store to buy some butter and a candle. There, he meets a blues guitarist, who lets Dewey play his guitar. Dewey is a natural. In 1953, after a successful, yet oddly controversial, talent show performance, then 14-year-old Dewey decides to leave Springberry with his newly identified 12-year-old girlfriend, Edith. They soon marry and have a baby; Edith begins to criticize Dewey and insist that his dream of being a musician will never happen. While working at an all-African American nightclub, Dewey gets a break when he replaces singer Bobby Shad at the last minute, much to the delight of the Hasidic Jewish record executives attending the show.
Dewey then is brought to the studio where he is interrupted while recording a rockabilly rendition of “That’s Amore”. The recording executive berates Dewey as talentless. Backed into a corner, Dewey makes the first recording of “Walk Hard”, the song inspired by a speech Dewey gave to Edith.
Within 35 minutes, the song becomes a hit, and Dewey begins to get caught up in the fame of rock and roll. When Dewey stumbles upon a room of groupies smoking with drummer Sam, Sam introduces Dewey to marijuana. Sam tells Dewey to leave because he “don’t want no part of this shit” (a running gag throughout the film) but Dewey eventually tries it and continues to do so every time he finds Sam with a new drug. His attitude and drug problems cause him to become unfaithful to Edith. Dewey’s father then returns to inform Dewey that Dewey’s mother has died. Pa manages to make Dewey feel responsible for her death, contributing to an already high level of inner turmoil. Dewey is then introduced to cocaine, which leads to a change in his music to a louder, “punk” type. With the addition of backup singer Darlene Madison, Dewey produces several more hit records. However, they become attracted to each other, and Dewey weds Darlene while still married to Edith, which leads to both women leaving him. He then snaps at his monkey companion, who is “only concerned with fruit and touching himself”. Dewey is eventually busted after purchasing drugs from an undercover cop, serves time in jail, and spends time in rehab before Darlene returns. They move to Berkeley, California in 1966 at the beginning of the ’60s counterculture movement. Dewey writes protest songs for midgets. His singing style is then compared by a reporter to that of Bob Dylan, which Dewey angrily denies. In the next scene, a music video shows that Dewey’s new song mimics Dylan’s style, including opaque lyrics (“The mouse with the overbite explained/how the rabbits were ensnared/ and the skinny scanty sylph/ trashed the apothecary diplomat/ beating the three-eyed monkey/ within inches of his toaster-oven life.”).
During a band visit to India, Dewey takes LSD with The Beatles, which causes Dewey to lose touch with reality yet again and have a Yellow Submarine-esque hallucination. Dewey becomes obsessed with every aspect of the recording process and is consumed with creating his masterpiece entitled Black Sheep (an homage to Brian Wilson’s Smile). The band does not appreciate his insane style of music and his continuous abuse of the others in the group. As a result, the band breaks up; Darlene is also unable to deal with Dewey’s insanity and drug problems and leaves him. Dewey goes through another stay in rehab, where he is visited by Nate’s ghost. Nate ridicules Dewey’s self-pity and tells him to start writing songs again.
Dewey is next seen jogging into the 1970s, and hosting a CBS variety television show. But his song-block prevents him from writing a masterpiece for his brother. (In the director’s cut, Dewey remarries again, this time to Cheryl Tiegs). Nate appears again and tells Dewey that he needs to tell Pa that he loves him. Although Dewey’s father appreciates his courage, he challenges Dewey to a fight to the death with machetes. However, Pa accidentally cuts himself in half. Just before he dies, the senior Cox forgives Dewey, and tells him to be a better father than he was. His death causes Dewey to have an emotional breakdown and he destroys almost everything in his home.
Dewey accepts that it is time to focus on spending time with his numerous children. Darlene returns to him in 1992. Dewey talks to Darlene about what he has done since they last met. After finally understanding what is most important to him, Dewey regains his sense of smell.
In 2007, Dewey becomes popular with younger listeners through rapper Lil’ Nutzzak’s sampling of “Walk Hard”. Dewey is upset about this at first, but pays it little mind when he is informed that he is to receive the lifetime achievement award. Dewey is reluctant to play a song at first, fearing the temptations he once succumbed to, but his wife, children and grandchildren put their full support behind him. Dewey reunites with his band, and he is finally able to fulfill his dream of creating one great masterpiece that sums up his entire life with his final song, “Beautiful Ride.” A title card notes that Dewey died three minutes after the performance. After the credits roll, a short black-and-white clip titled “The actual Dewey Cox, 2002” is played. The complete film is laugh out loud hysterical, especially for anyone that appreciates the many cliches of rock and roll history, and some steaming hot girls.

REVIEW: KNOCKED UP

 

CAST

Seth Rogen (Bad neighbours)
Katherine Heigl (27 Dresses)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Leslie Mann (17 Again)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Jay Baruchel (This Is The End)
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Martin Starr (Veronica Mars)
Charlyne Yi (Cloverfield)
Harold Ramis (Year One)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Kristen Wiig (Zoolander 2)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Craig Robinson (Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Paul Feig (Spy)
Jessica Alba (Machete)
Steve Carell (Evan Almighty)
Andy Dick (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
James Franco (Spider-Man)
Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Dax Shepard (Hit and Run)

Film Title:

The 40 Year Old Virgin took more than two hours to get its main character laid. In Knocked Up…? Fifteen minutes flat. It’s not that Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) was on the prowl or anything; fate just kinda got hammered and passed out in his lap. See, Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) landed a gig as on-air talent at E!, and after celebrating a bit too hard, she wakes up the next morning to Ben’s hairy, pasty, bare ass poking out of her bedsheets. Ali groans to her sister (Leslie Mann) about making such a shameful mistake, while Ben darts home to brag to his stoner roommates as they slowly get their topless celebrity database off the ground.

Writer/director Judd Apatow doesn’t use Knocked Up as an excuse to toss in whatever dick jokes he’d been stockpiling for the past couple of years. He genuinely likes and respects these characters, and so much of what happens is drawn from his own experiences as a father-to-be that as hysterical as the movie often is, it also feels surprisingly real and sincere. Knocked Up treats pregnancy with quite a bit of gravity, and the way its characters fight — particularly between on-screen husband and wife Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann — can be unflinchingly cruel. Most filmmakers would water down the less glamorous side of love, romance, and parenthood or use them as a springboard for cheap, easy laughs, but Apatow is sharp enough to deftly balance the comedy with the drama.

The movie is perfectly cast. Katherine Heigl is a buxotic Amazon cut from the Russ Meyer cloth, sure, but she’s also sweet, somehow sympathetic no matter how much her character’s hormones may be raging, and sharp enough to hold her own with the rest of the cast. Seth Rogen joins a small army of Apatow regulars — name just about any project the prolific producer has shepherded over the past decade and chances are at least six people from it are in here somewhere — and it’s a breakout role for him. Ben is slovenly but kind of endearing at the same time, enough so that I could almost buy someone with Heigl’s good looks succumbing to his charms. His jaunt into adulthood feels natural and believable too, not just something in a montage penned by a screenwriter collecting a seven figure payday. There’s something about the fact that Ben’s roommates are played by actors who are all friends in real life that gives their loose, improvisational energy that much more spark.MV5BMTU3MTIzOTU3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwOTM3ODc2._V1_Knocked Up didn’t strike me as the sort of instant classic so many people heralded it as, but I did enjoy it, and I’m kind of left with the impression that the movie will grow on me more and more its viewed.

REVIEW: DRAGON WARS

 

CAST

Jason Behr (Roswell)
Amanda Brooks (Flightplan)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Craig Robinson (This Is The End)
Aimee Garcia (Robocop 2014)
Chris Mulkey (Whiplash)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Holmes Osborne (Donnie Darko)
Matthias Hues (Star Trek VI)
Derek Mears (Friday The 13th 2009)
Geoff Pierson (Dexter)

Jason Behr and Amanda Brooks in D-War (2007)

Here in the UK it is called DRAGON WARS, although confusingly it is called D-WAR in North America and WAR OF THE DRAGONS in the Far East.


The plot, as you may have guessed by now concerns Dragons, although you don’t actually see a “proper” one until the final few minutes of the film. The Blu-Ray casing boasts that it cost over $75 million to make, although a few minutes watching confirmed my suspicions that a very large proportion of this went on the large quantities of CGI used with whatever pocket change was left over going on the actors.

Jason Behr in D-War (2007)
Basically the plot is as follows. In order for a wyrm to become a dragon, it first has to be chosen by heaven then wait for a chosen girl to become 20 so her lifeforce can merge with it. This is great for the dragon, but not so great for the girl who then as far as I can see dies.


As is revealed in a flashback within a flashback the last time this could occur was 500 years ago, but followers of a bad wyrm attack the village where she lives to try and grab her first. Oddly they only check for the woman after nearly wiping the village from the surface of the earth, obviously not thinking that the chosen one is just as likely to get flattened by a giant fireball from the skies as anyone else.  Although she is captured, she and her lover take their own lives before she can give her life force to anyone, and so the stage is set for a rematch 500 years later in what is presumably Los Angeles. Things start ominously with a giant snake munching down elephants at the local zoo, then it appears elsewhere in the city (how does it get around without being seen?) Then a man dressed a bit like Shredder in TMNT attacks Sarah after she is rescued by the hero from the hospital where she has been incarcerated but fails in his attempt when he is hit by not one but two automobiles in what is one of the films funniest moments.


Undeterred by this failure, he raises an army of obese lizard things with missile launchers strapped to their backs and of course many smaller dragons, which appear to be Raptors with wings and finally the bit that the entire audience has been waiting for begins – the US Army Vs The Dragon Ninjas.Robert Forster in D-War (2007)The computer-generated birds breathe fire on people. The computer generated helicopters empty round after round on the relentless computer generated snake. The snake lunges at computer generated cars and slings them hundreds of feet. The cameras whoosh between skyscrapers and plummet with burning helicopters and dying flying raptor-thingies, and the audience can relax and realise that they are finally getting their money’s worth. If only the quality of the CGI was matched by the real life extras which are surely the worst that I have come across in a modern film. They scream, run waving their hands above their heads and in general look very pleased to be on the big screen. Equally poor is the script and continuity, neither of which make any sense as the plot leaps from one scene to the other and plotholes big enough to swallow several dragons whole – the FBI manage to find the girl within a few minutes of entering the city and its crowds of fleeing citizens and the evil snake which may look impressive but passes up several easy opportunities to eat the heroine and achieve immortality. Observant viewers may notice that the same helicopter pilot appears to die several times…


The ending is pretty bizarre, the means by which the main bad guy being defeated being down to his stabbing the hero in the relatively small mystic pendant hanging round his neck as opposed to anywhere else in his body and ends pretty suddenly leaving the audience both baffled and slightly unsatisfied.