Friday Fisticuffs: The Green Hornet (2011)

I had zero expectations for The Green Hornet. I was intrigued by Seth Rogen’s attempt to be an action star as well as Michel Gondry’s involvement, but it wasn’t the kind of course material that I’m either familiar with or nostalgic about. I questioned what the point of bringing back a character that hasn’t been in the spotlight for 40 years and assuming he’d have any kind of cache with audiences. But hey, that’s what Hollywood does.

We’ve actually had this DVD sitting around from Netflix for longer than I care to admit (or can remember, but it’s been awhile). Originally the missus and I were going to watch it, but with more and more passing weeks and our recent downgrade from two discs at a time to one, I wanted to get some new blood in my player.

Oh man, did I have fun with this flick. For some reason, I had assumed that Rogen’s Britt Reid was actually some kind of legacy, that he was picking up the Green Hornet mantle from his father who had passed away, but that’s not the case. Reid’s dad does die, but he wasn’t GH. After a day of hanging out with his father’s mechanic/genius/martial arts expert Kato, Britt and him wind up doing something stupid that leads to them becoming heroes. From there it’s a matter of Reid’s fortune supplying Kato with what he needs to build their supercar the Black Beauty and come up with the Hornet’s gas gun.

I know there have been several movies lately about what it would be like for a real person to become a hero, but I haven’t seen them. I refuse to watch Kick Ass and just haven’t gotten around to seeing the others. I know from reviews and source material that they focus on the potential hero getting the ever loving shit kicked out of them before they get to be worthwhile protectors of peace and justice. I’m glad they skipped over most of that stuff with this movie. Kato’s got the Green Hornet’s back, so you don’t really have to worry about him for the most part. There’s a few close calls, but overall Reid handles himself alright. There are real life like events, like a few killings, that reflect the seriousness of the situation, but overall, Rogen’s quips keep things light and had me laughing a lot. It did seem like a lot of them were ADRed in which got to be a little distracting and reminded me of Patton Oswalt’s routine about writing jokes for movies that had already been written.

But that’s a minor problem and one that you only really notice if you watch too many movies like me. The real question from a Friday Fisticuffs perspective is: how were the fights? Pretty cool. I know there was some hesitation online about Gondry’s way of showing how fast Kato moves and thinks (it was called something, but I can’t remember what), but I thought it came off pretty cool looking if not very video gamey. He essentially scans the entire area, notes weapons and sometimes targets in red and then does a series of moves to take them all out. There’s also a kind of stretching effect here and there that reminds me of some of the effects used in Flash comics. Had it been overused, the effect would have quickly become annoying, but Gondry used it sparingly, so it was fun to watch. Plus, Jay Chou’s got pretty good moves for a pop star.

There weren’t that many hand to hand fights, but the ones that were, using Gondry’s method were a lot of fun to watch. You don’t often see people thinking of new ways to actually show fights and it’s a heck of a lot better than that quick-cutting, hand held camera work that has become so popular. The other action scenes were pretty great, especially the huge epic fight that lead into a chase and then into yet another fight at the very end.

Overall, I’d recommend The Green Hornet to pretty much anyone. There’s enough comedy in there to keep non-action fans entertained as well as something of a love story. The movie also did something that I didn’t think was possible: made me more interested in the Green Hornet. I kinda want to check out the original old time radio show as well as the TV series (though Bruce Lee’s involvement as always intrigued me) and even the Kevin Smith comic based on the screenplay he wrote a while back. So, I guess the movie did it’s job. Well, it could have done better at the box office, but it did it’s artistic job by being entertaining, fun, innovative and intriguing.

Judd Apatow DVD Commentaries Are Pretty Fantastic

Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.

In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.

The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.

The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.