Little Movies, Big Casts: Spring Breakdown (2009) & The Air I Breathe (2007)

The combination of Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch sold me on watching Spring Breakdows as I’m not much of Parker Posey fan. It seems fairly obvious from watching the movie, though, that Posey wasn’t the first choice to play Beck St. Germaine as she basically plays a Tina Fey character. I would like to think that if Fey was in this movie it would be a lot better, but then again I was pretty disappointed and I find Poehler and Dratch to be great comediennes. The story follows three friends as they head to spring break to keep Posey’s boss’s daughter out of trouble, but as it turns out, the daughter is just a big nerd. There’s a current of lameness that seems to run under this movie at all times that seeps into the performances, dampening all of them except for Seth Meyers’ which is solid throughout his few scenes as Dratch’s gay fiance. But even his performance can’t elevate this very been-there-done-that movie. And again, this cast is crazy stacked with talent. Aside from the three leads, you’ve got Amber Tamblyn, Mae Whitman (Anne from Arrested Development), Sarah Hagan (Buffy, Freaks & Geeks), Jane Lynch, Will Arnett and even a brief cameo by Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock). And it still falls flat. Laguna Beach fans might want to take note that Kristen Cavaleri’s in the movie, but I’m guessing the director wasn’t too pleased with her performance as I, a recovering  LB fan, didn’t even notice her until about 3/4 of the way through the movie where she finally says something. There’s even a sexy talent show dance where she barely appears because, I’m guessing, she can’t dance.

Anyway, avoid this one. It’s played way too goofy and not in an ironic way, though it is nice to see Poehler playing a smarter character than Leslie Knope. I guess there’s a reason that some movies go straight to video.

While still not a great movie, The Air I Breathe was much better than Spring Breakdown, though comparing a goofy and boring spring break movie with a drama about emotions and people and how those people and emotions are connected probably isn’t an even one to make. Before getting into the plot, which I probably don’t completely understand, I want to give you a cast list. Ahem. Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Emile Hirsch (completely didn’t recognize him, but knew he looked familiar), Forest Whitaker, Kelly Hu and John Cho are all in this movie. Okay, so here’s the deal as far as I can tell. Brendan Fraser can see the future. He works as muscle for Garcia’s mobster. Fraser kind of convinces Whitaker to try and rob a bank which goes wrong. Fraser then has to show Hirsch, playing Garcia’s visiting nephew, how not to get killed while being a mobster. Fraser sees Hirsch getting killed in a vision but somehow prevents it. Then, in exchange for not killing a guy, Garcia gets SMG’s pop star managing contract and puts Fraser in charge of her safety. They fall in love. It gets weird from there and a little circular, but I don’t think the way the movie ends makes sense compared to what you just saw a little while before. Basically, I’m not sure what happened to Fraser because I was working while watching.

Did anyone else watch this movie? I’m kind of surprised it didn’t make it to theaters with such an impressive cast and it’s not a bad movie by any means, but just more confusing that it should be. Fraser also plays his roll a bit too over dramatically for my taste, but everyone else seemed on point.

Conan, Ricky Gervais & Kenneth The Page

I wanted to watch Conan’s Tonight Show last night with all the craziness that’s been swirling around him and Jay Leno. If you’re interested, you can check out the whole episode here, but I pulled out a few fun clips I liked. I’ve got to give it to Conan for being as ballsy with this whole thing as he is. Making fun of the boss on the boss’s dime takes guts and he, Andy Richter and guest Ricky Gervais went at it like crazy. Here’s a few of my favorite moments.

Obama weighs in on Conan (I’m guessing he’s talking about another Conan, but really have no idea).

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Conan suggests some changes for NBC to make in their Olympics coverage.

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Conan’s monologue gets interrupted by Kenneth The Page from 30 Rock giving a tour through the Tonight Show studio. He gets a lot of good ones in like “It actually took NBC longer to build the set than they used it for.” Good, good stuff.

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And, finally, here’s the four clips from Gervais’ interview. Conan keeps trying to ask Gervais about his projects, but Ricky keeps bringing it back to Conan and the late night situation.

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My New Favorite Recurring SNL Skit: What Up With That?

SNL has been pretty hit or miss this season, but we just saw a rerun of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I realized how much I love the Keenan Thompson-starring What Up With That? skits. They’re pretty simple and the same almost every time. Keenan is the host of a BET talk show. There’s always three guests, two of which are real celebs (not the hosts) playing themselves and then Bill Hader playing Fleetwood Mac frontman Lindsey Buckingham. Keenan keeps breaking into song, getting inspired by whatever the first guest is talking about all the while, more and more people jump out dancing, singing or playing instruments. My favorite is Jason Sudekis who is always decked out in a red Adidas track suit and doing 80s hip hop moves. It’s fairly nonsensical, but it kills me every time. Here are all three skits available on Hulu in chronological order.

Of course, the very first clip actually ruins my above description because only James Franco plays himself in this one from October 17th which Gerard Butler hosted. This was the first one I ever saw and it killed me.

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Here’s the episode from the Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted episode on November 21st. Al Gore and Mindy Kaling from The Office are the guests.

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This is actually the dress rehearsal from the episode that premiered on December 19th. This was the James Franco episode and the talkshow guests are Mike Tyson and 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer. I used the footage from the dress rehearsal because it has some sick dance movies by Tyson himself.

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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.

Season Premiere: 30 Rock

It’s no secret that I love 30 Rock. Damn, that’s a good show and tonight it was finally back! I read a few reviews that said the season premiere was kind of lame, but I had a great time with this episode. Yes, it stuck with a lot of the same things we’ve seen before: Jack being a right wing tough guy, Tracey being, well, crazy, Kenneth being naive and innocent, and Jenna being a dunce. But isn’t that what we love about the show? In addition to the wicked sharp writing.

But even considering the familiar territory of the characters, I still laughed like crazy at Tracey outside of 30 Rock trying to make friends with people. My buddy Zach works there and I was really hoping to see him in the background, alas it wasn’t meant to be. I also really liked Jenna’s song about off season tennis, the video at the very end and how it kicked into Jay Leno’s show. I wonder how many people got the joke? And even though Kenneth played the sweet innocent mountain boy (did anyone understand his crazy mountain person speak?), I liked how he played hard ball, did the Alec Baldwin voice and stuck it to Jack at the very end, even though it didn’t get very good results. I’m hoping that Jack promotes Kenneth to some high level position at some point.

I was hoping that we’d get to see some of Liz and Pete’s search for new performers mining some of Tina Fey’s SNL experience, but maybe next episode. It was funny to see the long-missing Josh quit, fail to do the table flip (a long running inside joke amongst those of us who used to work at Wizard) and get the kind of meta commentary on how he had been missing last season (did anyone else notice when he showed up in a commercial during 30 Rock? That was pretty funny).

A few other quick notes. Tracey’s name for Nobody’s wife “Susan Walters-hyphen-nobody” is one word away from my mom’s last name. That’s just weird. Maybe it’s because we took a picture in front of the big Christmas tree outside 30 Rock last Christmas Eve. Next quick thought, Steve Buscemi looks really, REALLY creepy with a blonde lady-wig on. Seriously. They used a lot of what’s not in this episode for the promos and I can’t wait to see Liz’s encounter with the dude in the bookstore window, the return of Will Arnett and him talking to Obama’s daughters. Needless to say I’m jazzed for the rest of the season.

For whatever it’s worth, I also really enjoyed the rest of the Thursday NBC comedy line-up. Good stuff all around, especially how funny Chevy Chase was on Community. Also, did anyone else think that The Office was testing the waters in case Jim and Pam got their own show? Just saying.

30 Rock and Roll All Night

2009-01-08
4:31:26 am

I’ve got to apologize again for my lack of posts. Things have been crazy, but I’ve been spending most of my free time watching movies and reading comics, so hopefully that will translate into more posts (if I don’t fall asleep first).

So, one of the first things I did when I started watching Netflix stuff on Xbox Live was add the first season of 30 Rock. When 30 Rock premiered I wasn’t all that into the show, which is strange because most of you know of my love of Saturday Night Live and I also watch The Office and My Name Is Earl which are on the same channel at the same time. I think part of the reason is that I started watching and REALLY liked Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip which is basically SNL on the west coast (as written by Sorkin). So, for whatever reason, it was hardly on my radar and I missed out on most of the first season. But I’ve been watching it since then and am a huge huge fan (I think it makes me laugh more than The Office now).

The one thing that struck me the most is that I had no idea how the series started. I just assumed it was an SNL-like show with a smaller cast and more dancers and that Liz and Jack were always friendly. Well, that’s not the case, as the first episode shows Jack’s first day, coming in and changing the Jenna-starring The Girl Show into TGS Featuring Tracey Morgan. Even though the series has been a lot of fun anyway, this made everything make a lot more sense.

There’s a lot of great episodes, including the one where Tracey goes on Conan Obrien’s show, but my favorite episode of the season has to be the one about Cleveland. As an Ohioan, it’s always great to see one of our cities on TV (especially Cleveland where my mom is from and my Grandma still lives). It’s what hooked me to the Drew Carey Show too. Anyway, I like that they kind of flip the script and make Cleveland out to be this cool, great place to run away to. The funny thing is that, according to Grandma (mine, not a character on the show) Cleveland and its suburbs used to actually be the hot spot for wealthy New Yorkers to summer at because of Lake Erie and it’s relative proximity to NYC. Go figure, huh? It’s kind of like hearing how many people went on their honeymoon to Niagra Falls. But anyway, I laughed for pretty much the whole episode and all the rest. If you’re a fan of smart comedy, you can’t go wrong checking out the first season. Some people say it’s a little slow in the first disc, but I’m not one of them. Definitely give it a disc, though, to see if you’ll like it. I ended up burning through the whole series in about three days.

Oh, also, I love Tina Fey. She’s the cat’s pajams as far as I’m concerned.