Posts Tagged ‘Kristen Bell’

A Love Letter to Fanboys

Fanboy: noun-  A geek; a fan of science fiction, comic books, or some specific element there-of.

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I’m tempted to begin with a joke about Fanboys being made a long time ago, in a land far, far away.  Because sometimes it feels that way.

The story of getting the film Fanboys on to the movie screen is nearly as epic as the journey contained within.

Fanboys is the story of 5 high school friends who travel across America to steal a copy of Star Wars: the Phantom Menace before it is released; fulfilling the last wish of Linus who is dying of cancer.   Despite the heavy subject matter, Fanboys is a comedy which was prepared to celebrate the joys of geekdom and the reality of being a fanboy.  The film was originally set to be released in August of 2007.   The trailer had debuted months earlier, leaving geeks across America salivating at the thought of a film of their own.   Sadly the movie was pushed back for nearly a year.  And then even further.  And further.   And of course their were cuts and recuts of the film.  It seemed like the film would never  be released.  And when it was, the studios gave it so little advertising and so limited a release, it came and went like a phantom.  … I swear that wasn’t an Episode One pun.

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It took me 2 and a half years to see Fanboys, oddly paralleling the wait that the characters– and indeed, all of us— felt for the coming of the newest Star Wars movies.   So was it worth it?

Yes, and no.    The film suffers from a lack of clear direction.  It doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be.   Is it a story of  best friends who reconnect before its too late?  Is it a road movie?   Pop culture comedy?  Geek-umentary?    The identity crisis can be distracting at times, as each scene feels fundamentally different from the next, making the quality of the movie a bit uneven.

I suspect that fact is due in large part to studio interference.   harvey Weinstein famously attempted to cut the story of Linus’ illness just before it’s final release, leading to fan protest and threats of boycotting Weinstein Company films.   I agree that scenes and elements of it needed to be cut, but that isn’t among them.  Linus’ story is the driving force (swear these aren’t puns) for the story.  And many of the scenes that address the illness are among the finest in the piece.    Rather than bring the story down, it brings a touch of humanity to it.   A comedy is a great thing, but if there is no heart in it, then it ultimately becomes irrelevent as soon as it leaves theatres (or DVD, I suppose).

I hate to say it, but what needed to be cut were the extraneous nerd elements and unnecessary cameos.  For instance, there was a scene which introduced Seth Rogen as the villainous Trekkie leader.  Now, I’m sure many a Star Wars fan has dreamed of roughing up some Trekkies (“That is a derogatory term.  The proper word is Trekker.”)— but the truth is the Trek/ Wars battle just feels cheap and amateur.  And while I dig Rogen, he wasn’t even mildly funny in any of his scenes.

Similarly the Harry Knowles scene feels weird. Harry Knowles is the creator of Ain’t It Cool News, and something of an web-media demigogue. He’s also notoriously over-weight and Hobbit like.  Here, he’s played by Ethan Suplee, who is a fantastic addition to any film, but appears much tougher than Knowles could ever hope to be.  Was Harry trained to fight at the Jean Claude Van Damme school of fake fighting?  The scene just doesn’t work.  Instead it feels like the filmmakers are kissing Harry’s rear in an attempt to get a favorable review.  Instead they make him violent and even more Hobbit-looking than ever.  These scenes could easily have been cut and abridged and it would have been better for it.

However, some of the cameos are great and not nearly as distracting.  The Star Wars cameos lend a bit of geek cred here, and even feel fitting.  Also, icons like Kevin Smith and even the SHAT himself feel a more natural fit.

And lastly, I take umbrage to the PG-13 rating.  This is another element that clearly is the result of studio interference.  When you strip away the cancer and the Fanboy dressing, it’s a road trip movie.  This is a genre that begs to be rated R.  And as you watch the movie, there are moments that were clearly intended to feature the gratuitous nudity that we all know and love.   By teasing the nudity and then neutering the shot, they’ve merely disappointed their audience.  I understand a desire to make a movie more available to a broader audience, but this is a movie set in 1998 and glorrifying scifi and comic book geeks— it’s target audience is clearly not the Jonas Brothers fan club.  And considering they basically tanked the film in advertising anyway, I don’t see the point.

Okay, so those are my —and I stress this— minor complaints.  So what did I like?  The casting for one.

Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Chris Marquette and Sam Huntington embody every brilliant facet of geekdom.  They never once made me ashamed to be a Fanboy.  And as I mentioned, many of the cameos were great, and hilarious.   But the real gem of this film was only in it for about half of the running time.    The movie is at its best when Kristen Bell is on screen.

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Bell is, in my mind, the new Geek Goddess.  She’s Veronica Mars.  And there is no movie that cannot be made better by her presence.  I’ll even go a bit further. When George Lucas eventually remakes the original Star Wars trilogy — and don’t kid yourself, IT’S COMING— I think Bell should be the new Leia.   It’s not just that she wears the Slave Leia outfit better than anyone since Carrie Fisher.   There’s a scene wear she leans over in front of R2-D2 and says those famous words:

“Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

And just for a second, I felt like I could have been back watching A New Hope.   Additionally, she gets some of the best lines and scenes in the movie.

The script was a bit of a mixed bag, but when it works, it really works.  The jokes are hit or miss, but that is to be expected.   But most of the elements are there for greatness.  And thats the real tragedy.  It could have been great.  It could have been a big hit.  All Fanboys needed was a little more attention, a little less interference and a lot more faith.  “{Don’t}tell me the odds.”

But it wasn’t perfect.  Even so, it was a love letter to Fanboys.  It’s the sort of praise that we deserve.  Sure, they made fun of Trekkers, but — look at those people.  It’s okay to be a nerd, or a geek or a Fanboy.  It doesn’t matter if you spend 2 years debating whether Luke had the unholy hots for his twin sister, which is sort of like being gay for yourself.  (He totally did, by the way.)  Maybe you’ve mapped out the Summers/ Grey family tree or know every episode of Doctor Who and which version of the Doctor starred in it.  You might even be obsessed with Kristen Bell.   It’s okay.   Fanboys is a film about living life on your terms, and not letting society tell you who to be.

It’s a good message.  And a film worth seeing.

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Seeing another man’s penis makes me uncomfortable. Which is funny because when I see one in porn, it doesn’t bother me at all. I get why seeing a guy’s dick in a locker room freaks me out. It’s got nothing to do with a fear of homosexuality or the like. It’s because all the naked men at the gym are nasty as fuck. If you have to show me your cock, at least lose some fucking weight. Otherwise, slap a towel over it, Tiny. Movies are another story though. I think what bothers me most is that in the invisible set of commandments in my head, there’s one that says “Thou shalt not show a man’s cock in a regular film.” This is going to be the only semi-spoiler here, but you will see dick at some point in this movie. But at least it’s a nice looking dick, so even if you’re offended morally, you won’t be offended aesthetically.

How’s that for an opening paragraph?

I’d been waiting to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall for a long time. Part of that is because I’ve been a fan of the movies that Judd Apatow has written and the ones that he’s produced (for the record, he only wrote two of them). And of course I’m a fan of Jason Segel (star of How I Met Your Mother and the film’s writer and lead), Mila Kunis (star of That 70s Show) and Paul Rudd (everything from Clueless to most of Apatow’s films) who has to be my favorite comedic actor working today. Seriously, that guy is cool as fuck.

But the biggest reason is that the eponymous Sarah Marshall is played by the new Goddess of all Geeks, Kristen Bell.

Allow me to go off on a bit of a tangent for a minute. Bell;s initial claim to fame was the sorely under-watched UPN/CW show, Veronica Mars. In it, Bell played a quirky, funny modern day take on Nancy Drew, except that the stunning Miss Mars, could not only out-solve Drew, but kick her ass as well. Veronica Mars is one of those show that just wasn’t afraid to “go there”. One of the shows central premises dealt with the delicate issue of teen rape and another theme that came into play was child abuse. Bell took a character which could have come off very whiny and unlikeable, and made her into a three dimensional superhero.

For every moment where it seemed as though Mars was invincible and limitlessly talented, there was another moment where she would nearly be killed for failing to recognize her limitations (which we the viewer even manage to forget). And it becomes evident that for all her many gifts and all her strength, Veronica was drowning in her pain. But it wasn’t a depressing show. It was funny as hell and each episode was worthy of multiple viewings. I have very high standards of taste when it comes to fiction, and believe me I have no qualms about listing Veronica Mars as one of my favorite shows of all time. Since it was criminally killed off after one season The CW Network, Bell has moved on. She did a horror film whose name escapes me. And she recently did a stint (which she may reprise) as Elle, the villainous bolt caster (she throws lighting) on NBC’s Heroes.

Now back to our regularly scheduled review.

As much as I wanted to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I admit that the trailer didn’t look that good. And at first, while watching it, the film didn’t seem too promising. But one thing that you need to know about this film is that it starts off slow, but gets much better as it goes along, gaining momentum quickly. At the end of a film I always decide to myself whether it’s worth getting the DVD. And I will definitely be buying FSM.

the story

The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Jason Segel plays Peter Bretter (Sp?), a composer for a hot CSI-style show, which stars his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall. Peter has been living a hermit like lifestyle for a while. They don’t explicitly say it (which is cool, because it seems like films don’t know how to function without exposition anymore), but it is apparent that Peter has been depressed for a while. One day he comes out of said depression, only to be thrown into a deeper one when his girlfriend Sarah leaves him for another man. That other man? Aldous Snow, lead singer of Infant Sorrow, who appears to be a combination of every Brit lead singer ever (including George Michael)… except good looking. Peter falls apart. His step-brother (played by SNLs Bill Hader) convinces him to go on vacation. Peter decides on a resort in Hawaii (Turtle Bay, which is actually supposed to be one of the best resorts on the islands) which Sarah used to talk about. Of course Sarah and Aldous are already there. Hilarity ensues. But so does romance, as the resorts Social Activities Director, Rachel (played by Mila Kunis), catches Peter’s eye. Beyond that, the plot is a by-the-books date movie, right down to the ending. But that isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if this story has been rewritten a thousand times, it’s the execution that makes it great.

the cast

Well, to start with, there are a lot of little characters here that add a subtle level of charm to the movie, some of which comprise Peter’s surrogate family. Several of them are unnecessary, but brilliant. One such character is a puritanical young man (played by the usher on 30 Rock) on his honey moon. He and his wife remained celibate for their courtship, but now that they’re man and wife, she wants to FUCK… and he has no idea what he’s supposed to do. That has absolutely nothing to do with the central plot or theme, and yet it is both hilariously executed and helps to justify your love of this movie. Subplots don’t always have to synch up with the rest of a story, as long as they add something to the story. But I digress… As I mentioned earlier, I love Paul Rudd. And while this isn’t the best role I’ve ever seen him in (that honor probably goes to his guest role on Veronica Mars), I’ve been quoting his faux British accent for 3 days now. He’s so awesome. Maybe the funniest character in the film is Aldous Snow played by Russell Brand. He was absolutely perfect for this role. I bought every second of his looney hedonist persona, and like one of the characters says, I have to agree, he’s cool as shit and never once comes off like a prick. That fact in itself defies the standard of movies like this. The guy who steals the girl is ALWAYS an unrepentant asshole. Here, Snow brings an aire of childish simplicity that makes us feel that this is a man living a life we wished we could as kids, and is not at all fake about that fact. He is who he is. And I think that reflects on one of the themes of the film. Accept people for who they are, not who you think they should be. Jason Segel does an excellent job as Peter, but that should come as no surprise considering he wrote him. Segel has proved his acting chops throughout his career, but here he is forced to make a whiny, pathetic character likable, and I think he does that as well. I could see why Rachel and Sarah both fell for this honestly plain-looking, sad man. And speaking of the ladies…

Bell is perfection here. She is once again funny, smart and vulnerable. And like Brand’s performance, she manages to sidestep conventions, by making you like her. And that may be contrary to Segel’s intentions, but it works. Towards the end, there is a point where you know you’re supposed to hate Sarah Marshall as an evil, selfish harpie… but I didn’t. Honestly I would have been equally happy whether Peter ended up with Rachel or Sarah, and in fact, had Segel gone another way with the script, it would have set his movie apart even further from all the other date movies. I truly hope this film gives Bell the attention she deserves, and makes her a household name. And the fact that she is so adorable made Mila Kunis’ job a thousand times harder, no matter how unbelievably gorgeous she is. In fact, not many actresses would have had the stones to go up against Bell in this. But Kunis did the dirty j-o-b and made it work. She wasn’t little Jackie from That 70s Show anymore… she was a grown woman doing a damn fine job as the film’s female lead. God-damn she was sexy. And despite my earlier comments, I was rooting for her to end up with Peter.

the profanity

I loved Superbad. Thought it was hilarious and well written. But I understood the people that thought it leaned too much on filthy language and sketches of cocks as a comedic crutch. There was much more to the story that that, but I get why people couldn’t see past it. Compared to Superbad, FSM really wasn’t all that dirty, but that isn’t saying much. It’s still dirty. And yes, there are still dicks (real ones this time), but Segel didn’t lean into it nearly as much as Seth Rogen did. It was profane where it should be, rather than all over the place.

One thing that didn’t work as well without the dirtiness is Jonah Hill. It seems he’s only funny in two ways. Either as an unrepentant potty mouth or as a wierdo (see his role in 40 Year Old Virgin). I’m not sure he cursed in the whole film. Fortunately there were moments where he got be creepy, which made seeing him in this worthwhile. Still, he might want to look into that problem, lest he be pigeon-holed as a poor man’s Seth Rogen (who at least appears to have some range).

the extras

Stay a few seconds after the credits roll to see a cute little piece that seems to be a shot at Jennifer Love Hewitt. Also… it’s not a part of the film, but there is a viral marketing campaign associated with FSM, just like all of Apatow’s productions.

Click HERE to see The McLovin fund starring Kristen Bell.

And HERE to see Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

I’m hoping Apatow does more of these. Especially more Know More Things spoofs.

overall

Despite the slow start, I have to give it 8 out of 10. There are films far less worthy of your attention and money on the market toady. This is a movie for anyone who has ever been dumped by someone they love. Or anyone who wants to marry Kristen Bell. (Back off motherfuckers, she’s mine.)