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“The Other Guys” Review

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The previews for this movie make it look like possibly one of the funniest movies in a long time. While I’m not sure it quite lives up to this accolade, it is definitely a quality film and well worth seeing.

The make or break factor of any Will Ferrell comedy is how funny Ferrell is himself. “Anchorman” and “Talledega Nights” were great because Ferrell’s portrayals of Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby were so over the top and funny. Conversley, “Semi Pro” was mostly a disappointment because Ferrell’s character seemed a bit unoriginal and just didn’t deliver enough good jokes.

Will Ferrell’s character, Allen Gamble, in “The Other Guys” is a big success. He is unlike most of Ferrell’s previous characters in that he is more of a nerd. He is a good foil to Mark Wahlberg’s character who is always angry and yelling. There’s something about Will Ferrell wearing glasses that is automatically hilarious. We also meet Allen’s alter ego “Gator” who is a drug addicted pimp. Ferrell yelling “Gator don’t play that!” is among the movie’s funniest lines.

Also, one of the movie’s coolest scenes in my opinion is where Ferrell and Wahlberg go drinking. It’s just a series of progressively more ridiculous still shots (in the last one Ferrell is biting a priest’s arm) with awesome music in the background. This scene only lasted a minute or two but to me it was one of the coolest and most memorable of the entire film.

There are many other aspects of this movie, some that worked and others that were less successful, but I think the main thing people want to see when going to a Will Ferrell comedy is him being funny. And he is, and you will laugh, so see it.

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Funniest Person of the Year

July 23, 2010 1 comment

This is an excert from Bill Simmons’ mailbag (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/100722/mailbag2) that peaked my interest. It’s based on the fact that in sports, there is a definitive MVP each season, but in entertainment this is much harder to quantify. Simmons does a great job breaking it down, and I’ve added my own thoughts at the end.

1975: Richard Pryor
Best stand-up comedian alive (and the most respected). Also crushed his only SNL hosting gig ever with its first legitimately great show and water cooler sketch.

1976: Chevy Chase
SNL’s first breakout star as it became a national phenomenon. He also made the worst move in Funniest Guy history by leaving the show as he was wrapping up his Funniest Guy season. Even “The Decision” was a better idea.

1977-78: John Belushi
Replaced Chase as SNL’s meal ticket in ’77, then had the single best year in Funny Guy History a year later: starred on SNL (during its biggest year ever, when audiences climbed to over 30 million per episode); starred in “Animal House” (the No. 1 comedy of 1978 and a first-ballot Hall of Famer); had the No. 1 album (the Blues Brothers’ first album). No. 1 in TV, movies and music at the same time? I’m almost positive this will never happen again. And also, if you put all the funniest people ever at the funniest points of their lives in one room, I think he’d be the alpha dog thanks to force of personality. So there’s that.

1979: Robin Williams, Steve Martin (tie)
“Mork and Mindy” plus a big stand-up career for Williams; “The Jerk” plus a best-selling comedy album plus “official best SNL host ever” status for Martin.

1980: Rodney Dangerfield
His breakout year with “Caddyshack,” killer stand-up, killer Carson appearances, a Grammy-winning comedy album, and even a Rolling Stone cover. Our oldest winner.

1981: Bill Murray
Carried “Stripes” one year after “Caddyshack.” Tough year for comedy since cocaine was ruining nearly everybody at this point.

1982-84: Eddie Murphy
The best three-year run anyone’s had. Like Bird’s three straight MVPs. And by the way, “Beverly Hills Cop” is still the No. 1 comedy of all time if you use adjusted gross numbers.

(Random note: Sam Kinison’s 1984 spot on Dangerfield’s “Young Comedians” special has to be commemorated in some way. At the time, it was the funniest six minutes that had ever happened and could have singlehandedly won him the title in almost any other year. It’s also the hardest I have ever laughed without drugs being involved. Sadly, I can’t link to it because of the language and because it crosses about 35 lines of decency. But it’s easily found, if you catch my drift.)

1985-86: David Letterman
Went from “cult hero” to “established mainstream star,” ushered in the Ironic Comedy Era, pushed the comedy envelope as far as it could go, and if you want to dig deeper, supplanted Carson as the den father for that generation of up-and-comers and new superstars (Murphy, Leno, Seinfeld, Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks, Howard Stern, etc.) … and on a personal note, had a bigger influence on me than anyone other than my parents. One of two people that I could never meet because I would crumble like a crumb cake. (You can guess the other.)

1987: Jay Leno, Howard Stern (tie)
Seems like a million years ago, but Leno’s frequent appearances on Letterman’s show and enjoyable “Tonight Show” guest host spots stole the ’87 title from Letterman just because he seemed newer and fresher. (Note: The Leno-Letterman spot always delivered the goods. They were unbelievable together. That’s what made it so unbelievable when Leno backstabbed him for the “Tonight Show” job.) Meanwhile, Stern’s morning show had become a tri-state phenomenon and reached the point that people were trading cassette tapes; he even landed a Fox pilot that year.

1988: Eddie Murphy
Reclaimed the throne with “Coming to America” one year after “Raw.” Also, Arsenio Hall’s show had taken off and Eddie was a frequent guest. The last great Eddie year. Alas.

1989: Dana Carvey
SNL’s first breakout star in five years thanks to the Church Lady, his Bush Senior impersonation and a bunch of other things that didn’t really hold up. What’s weird is that Phil Hartman’s SNL stuff held up much better, only it took Carvey leaving for people to realize how great Hartman was.

1990: Billy Crystal
Never had a career year but accumulated enough momentum from his stupendous SNL stint (1984-85), “City Slickers,” his HBO comedy special and his late-night guest spots that his 1990 Oscars host job (the best ever to that point) wins him the award in a weak year. FYI: You could make a decent Bill Hicks case here, but he just wasn’t well-known enough.

1991: Jerry Seinfeld
The year his show started taking off, much to the delight of everyone who loved him from his Letterman/Carson spots and the four episodes from the previous summer. I will never forget me and my buddy Kurt Sanger trying to convince everyone else we knew in college to watch the first episode of Season 2 with us (January 1991) and only a couple biting.

1992: Jerry Seinfeld, Mike Myers (tie)
Seinfeld’s show became a smash hit; Myers was SNL’s biggest star during a resurgent era and also made a hit movie (“Wayne’s World,” now the most dated comedy of all time and totally weird to watch, although the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene remains funny).

1993: Mike Myers
Weak year. Myers had SNL, “Wayne’s World 2” and “So I Married An Axe Murderer.” You could talk me into giving the entire “Simpsons” writing staff this spot just to get them on the list.

1994: Jim Carrey
“Ace Ventura,” “The Mask” and “Dumb & Dumber.” Has anyone ever gone three-for-three with smash hits in one year? Now he’s just a crazy person on Twitter.

1995: Chris Farley
His long-awaited “I always loved Chris Farley and now I feel totally vindicated because I knew he was going to be famous” year with “Tommy Boy.” Which still holds up, by the way. Silver medal to Norm MacDonald for crushing it on “Weekend Update” during and after the O.J. trial.

1996: Chris Rock
He underachieved on SNL to the point that, when he switched to “In Living Color” for one year, nobody gave a crap. By 1995, he had fallen into the “doing guest spots on ‘Martin’ and ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air'” stage of his career. And then, out of nowhere … “Bring The Pain” happened. The best stand-up special since Eddie in his prime. Who knew?

1997: Garry Shandling
The best season ever (Season 5) of one of the greatest comedies ever (“The Larry Sanders Show”) peaks with “The Roast” (the single funniest episode in the history of the show). Good enough to win a weak year.

1998: Adam Sandler
Became an A-List comedy franchise with “The Wedding Singer” and “The Waterboy.” Weak year otherwise.

1999: Mike Myers, Chris Rock (tie)
“Austin Powers 2” (and A-List celeb status) for Myers; “Bigger and Blacker” special and an inventive weekly HBO show for Rock.

2000: Will Ferrell
At the height of his SNL powers at this point thanks to his Dubya impersonation. You could make a very strong “Will Ferrell was the greatest cast member in the history of SNL” case.

2001: Matt Stone, Trey Parker (tie)
A seminal season for “South Park” (Season 5) peaks with the ballsy Osama episode just eight weeks after 9/11. Weird year for comedy in general. You could make a strong case for Ricky Gervais here; I would give it to him except for the fact that I hate British people.

2002: Larry David
His best “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season (Season 3) and it featured my single favorite episode (the one with Krazee-Eyez Killa).

2003: Dave Chappelle
Season 1. Enough said. The last unequivocal, there-is-no-doubt-whatsoever-that-he-has-the-title comedy season.

2004: Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart (tie)
Season 2 for Chappelle and a breakout year for Stewart (the 2004 election, his “Crossfire” appearance, the release of his book and his Peabody Award).

2005: Steve Carell
“The Office” takes off and “The 40 Year Old Virgin” hits theaters. Good enough to take a splintered year. Thanks to the Internet boom and cable boom, comedy now became so specialized that it became infinitely more difficult to say one person was “The Funniest Man Alive.” My personal choice: Ferrell again, just because of “Anchorman.”

2006: Sacha Baron Cohen
Borat. More than enough.

2007: Larry David
Comeback year for “Curb” as the Blacks move into Larry’s house. Runner-up: Judd Apatow.

2008: Tina Fey
“30 Rock” takes off and Palin falls into her lap. Our first and only woman!

2009: Zach Galifianiakis
His “Hangover” role was funnier than anything anyone else did … right?

What Simmons does not answer is the original question: who is the funniest person alive? As well as who is, or will be, the funniest person of the year 2010. Here’s my selections.

2010

Daniel Tosh – His Comedy Central show Tosh.0 has been a surprise hit and is continuously increasing in popularity, beating out both the Daily Show and Colbert Report in this year’s ratings. This fall he will be performing a sixty city tour. Nothing about what he does is overly extravagant, he is just genuinely funny. His on point, often over the top, style of making fun of the people in the videos on his show is hilarious and seemingly effortless. As his success continues and his popularity rises, Tosh is turning a small, niche form of comedy into mainstream.

Funniest Person Alive

Will Ferrell – Simmons appointed him comedy MVP of 2000, but you could really make the case for him in almost any year. His presence onscreen is undeniable, rarely missing a beat. He also shows that he can be extremely funny in less traditional forms. He’s had numerous internet sensations on the website funny or die. He recently had great appearances at the MTV Movie Awards, hilariously ruining Draco Malfoy’s award acceptance speech, and even joining the commentators in the Home Run Derby (http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=9909547), at one point shouting, “It’s home run o’ clock,” and breaking into his classic Harry Carey. Judging from the trailer for “The Other Guys,” it has all the makings of another Ferrell classic. His use of the “bad cop, bad cop” rutine produced some of the loudest laughs I’ve heard in a movie theater in a long time, and that was just a preview. All in all, Will Ferrell has held the title of Funniest Person Alive since Anchorman, and he doesn’t look like he’s about to give it up any time soon.

Honorable Mention

Norm MacDonald – For someone who has never really been in a good movie or TV show since SNL, which seems like ages ago, I would still have to put Norm up there with the funniest, though not accomplished, people in the world. Any talk show appearance of his is solid gold; as Simmons would say, “the highest of high comedy.” Case in point

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLkdSDAw1gU

Inception Ending

July 19, 2010 1 comment

Spoiler Alert…Obviously

In the last scene of Inception, Cobb makes it back home and is finally reunited with his children. The last shot shows the metal top (his totem) spinning on the table. It starts to shake and swivel a bit, and then the movie cuts to black and the credits.

What is the significance of this final image? Earlier in the film, Cobb had said that this totem, which had previously belonged to his wife Mal, would continue spinning forever in the dream world. Also, in the previous seen with Cobb and Mal together, she is trying to convince him to stay with her in the dream world.

The question, therefore, is did Cobb actually return to the real world, or did he decide to remain with Mal in this subconscious alternate reality? Christopher Nolan does not show us whether the top falls or keeps on spinning, so it is up to the audience to decide.

This is a Matrix-esque idea that is definitely an interesting one: how do we define reality? What makes the world we live in any more “real” than the dream world? Mal says to Cobb at the end that he has been going back and forth between the two realms for so long that they are both equally real to him, and in which case, why not remain in the dream world with her? If you feel you are stuck in a dream, do you accept it or jump out of a window to escape from it? This idea is well reflected by the old men who come to Yusef, not to be put to sleep, but to be woken up. They are more at home in the dream world than in “reality”.

Just like the Matrix, Inception has some great action and special effects, but it is the central ideas that define the film. This subject matter is great for philosophical questions and debate. Try this one on for size: what if we are all “dreaming” now and when we die we are awoken into an entirely different universe.

Sweet Dreams

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