July 31, 2009, - 3:22 pm
“The Collector” and some other releases out this weekend were not screened for critics . . . or I skipped them because life’s too short. Do you really want me to sit through “The Cove”–about airhead celebrities like Hayden Panettiere, fighting to save the dolphins? Sorry. Shoulda named the movie, “The Coven,” and then I’d be interested. But here’s what I did see.
* “Funny People“: The title is a lie. It should have been called, “Sometimes Funny People Who Are Mostly Sad, Selfish, Crying, Yelling, and Mostly Annoying People.” While this movie wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, I set the bar very low for Judd Apatow flicks. They’re always raunchy and vulgar, and sometimes, they’re actually funny.
This one had some really funny lines and scenes–most of which were uttered by the very funny Jonah Hill (ne Jonah Hill Feldstein), who is not used enough in this movie. The other really funny parts were the scenes with a Swedish doctor (Dr. Lars, played by Torsten Voges) who sounds German. I laughed my butt off at both of these actors’ scenes and lines. They rocked. Ditto for rapper RZA’s scenes as a very “ghetto” deli counter employee. Hilarious (though extremely vulgar–beware). Same for jokes about MySpace and Facebook. Funny stuff. Could have done without all the self-hating Jewish jokes. (Yes, Seth Rogen, we know you’re a Jew. Sadly, we can’t return you to the Jew-Store to get our money back.)
But at almost two-and-a-half hours, I found this movie to be waaaay toooo long. It went in a million directions and was a mess. When you thought it was finally gonna end, it didn’t. That’s not to mention that it was too much like watching a reality show–too much drama, too much screaming and crying. If I wanted to see that, I’ll watch “Divorce Court.” Way too melodramatic for a comedy.
The story (which had nary a plot): Adam Sandler plays a famous successful celebrity comedian, who finds out he has leukemia and likely not long to live. While feeling sorry for himself, he goes to a comedy club to do a set and meets an aspiring comedian/supermarket deli counter employee (Seth Rogen), whom he hires to write jokes for him and be his personal assistant. At first, Rogen finds this exciting. But he’s really being used by a selfish, alone man who has no friends in his dying days because he’s mostly a miserable person.
Sandler seeks out the love of his life–his old girlfriend (Leslie Mann), whom he cheated on and drove away. Halfway into the movie–when the movie should have already been over–that leads to a new story line: a ridiculous soap opera-like scenario that mirrors a chick flick or Harlequin Romance, more than it does a guy flick. When even the bromance of this flick degrades into a chick flick, I had it.
Like I said, there really isn’t a plot in this movie. It’s just a stream of consciousness bro-reality show about what happens when star-wannabes become personal assistants to real stars who are asses. Except this one also has a lot of celebrities thrown in for cameos, like has-been comedians Ray Romano and Paul Reiser, and a scene with Eminem.
For me, the most interesting “cameo”–which you’ll miss if you don’t look–is the appearance of Ernest Thomas, who played Raj on the 70’s comedy “What’s Happening!” He has a two second appearance as a high school principal on a “Saved By the Bell”-esque school TV show, “Yo! Teach,” in which Rogen’s roommate is starring. Very old school.
But “Raj”‘s brief appearance wasn’t enough to make you pay to sit through 2.5 hours of comedy that mostly isn’t funny and is very slow in between the times that it is.
* “Departures (Okuribito)“: This is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I loved it and cannot say enough positive things about it. It’s that good. A Japanese language film, this comes with English subtitles, and don’t let the foreign movie thing scare you off. This movie is funny, extremely touching, sentimental, very interesting, and even a good deal creepy. It’s extremely entertaining.
A plus: This movie won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film, beating out “Waltz with Bashir” (read my review), the anti-Israel BS animated movie made by Israelis.
The story: a 30-something Japanese man plays cello in an orchestra in Tokyo, but his orchestra is sparsely attended and goes bust. So, he and his wife–both of them of modest means–return to his hometown in small town Japan. They take up residence in the home he inherited from his mother when she died.
He applies for a job in a newspaper add, labeled “Departures.” He thinks it’s a job with a travel agency, but it’s actually something far different: a job as an encoffinment agent, fulfilling the Japanese funeral tradition of washing the body of the deceased, applying make-up to the deceased and helping it look beautiful, while loved ones watch during the funeral. The movies is very moving, showing how the man’s older, wiser boss has compassion for him and helps him deal with his troubled wife. It also shows us that we don’t always know what we think we do. The man’s father left him as a kid, and what he believes isn’t necessarily the case. We’re also shown how the man deals with friends and even his wife when they discover his seemingly creepy–but actually very loving–job.
I loved this movie for so many reasons. It demonstrates movingly how sometimes a father’s for his son is far stronger than the child knows or believes. It shows us how sometimes work that no-one else will do can actually give us meaning and meaning to those who normally look down upon it. And it’s about love and respect for traditions, the deceased, and our memories of loved ones.
The ending had me in tears.
This movie is showing in arthouse theaters in many major cities and is soon to be released on DVD. A must see. Rush to the theater!
Tags: Adam Sandler, Departures, Eminem, Ernest Thomas, Foreign Films, Funny People, Hayden Panettiere, Japan, Jonah Hill, Jonah Hill Feldstein, Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Marshall Mathers, Movie Reviews, Okuribito, Paul Reiser, Raj, Ray Romano, RZA, Seth Rogen, The Collector, The Cove, Torsten Voges, Waltz With Bashir, What's Happening, Yo Teach