Monthly Archives: April 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 5/5

Rated R. Click here to see the trailer.

Here are seven reasons why Forgetting Sarah Marshall is easily my favorite movie of the year so far:

1. A Cake song plays over the opening credits.
2. Billy Baldwin pretends to be David Caruso from CSI: Miami
3. It co-stars Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock).
4. There is a shot of Japanese tourists posing with silverware.
5. The main character and I have the same model MacBook.
6. Jonah Hill is funny… for once. The same goes for Bill Heder.
7. The main character is writing a rock opera… for puppets… about Dracula.

Jason Segel is Peter, a loveable sad sack Everyman who composes the “dark, ominous tones” for a crime drama starring his smokin’ hot girlfriend, Sarah Marshall, played by Kristen Bell. She dumps him while he is… um… in a very vulnerable state and to get over her, he jets off to Hawaii where nothing can remind him of the past.

Of course Sarah shows up with her new rocker beau in tow, Aldous Snow, played by a very funny Russell Brand. This makes Jason more than a little bit weepy, but things begin to look up for him as the hotel staff takes him under their wing, especially Mila Kunis’ Rachel (Rolling Stone calls her “illegally adorable”). Mahalo!

The plot sounds a little cliché and you can more or less figure out where things are going to end, but Segel’s script is so darn tight and consistently funny, you really don’t care. That’s the best praise I can give a movie: it’s consistent. I laughed out loud probably ten times at jokes from ten different characters.

If you want to be a jerk about it, it does feel a tad too long and the Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill characters aren’t necessary. However, one should never cut Paul Rudd from a comedy, no matter how long it is and if Jonah Hill is actually being funny, I say let ‘im in. Everyone here is funny, that greatly helps the aforementioned consistency. I hated Jason Segel’s slimeball in Knocked Up, but in this movie he’s a funny, relatable guy. His goofy normalness wins you over. Even Sarah’s new boyfriend, the lothario rocker from the UK is likable and very, very funny.

It’s rated R for a reason. The only things that keeps the movie from being among the upper reaches of my all-time favorites list are two instances of male nudity that are inexplicably gratuitous and absolutely unnecessary (there are also a few very brief bits of female nudity). The scenes in question are so brief and oddly edited that I have no idea why they were included. They’re not funny and they aren’t sexy and that’s just sad.

I don’t recall all that much offensive language, but that’s not to say it’s not there. If you’re ready and willing to cover your eyes for a few seconds, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a can’t miss.

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Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay 2/5

Rated R. Click here to view the trailer.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was one of my favorite movies of 2004, even if it was one of the dumbest. Kal Penn and John Cho have teamed up to bring us a sequel but this one just couldn’t give me the high that the first stoner comedy did.

The action in Escape from Guantanamo Bay picks up mere seconds after White Castle left off. Our dynamic duo are on their way to Amsterdam to pursue the girl of Harold’s dreams. Due to some racism and some truly idiotic actions on the part of Kumar, the pair are arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as terrorists (“North Korea and Al Qaeda working together!”). They eventually escape (along with some real terrorists, but never mind that) and must work their way to Texas to bust up the wedding of Kumar’s old flame and obtain legal help from her federal official fiancé, with homeland security official (Rob Corddry) bumbling along behind them.

It’s more or less the same movie as its predecessor. Both movies are buddy travel comedies and both involved significant scatological humor. The jokes were funny the first time around, but this time it just seems like the writers weren’t trying. Both movies involved more or less the same stopovers too… a party, a stay at a scary redneck’s house with his hot wife, and of course a glorious extended cameo Neil Patrick Harris.

Ah, NPH. He was truly the highlight of the first Harold and Kumar flick and was well on his way to shining bright in this one when… well, something goes wrong at a whorehouse (isn’t that always the case?). I’ll leave it at that.

The movie tries to get political with its “racially charged, unjustly imprisoned” plot line, but it’s too stupid to be taken seriously. I certainly wouldn’t have been the jerk that Rob Corddry’s character is, but I definitely would have arrested them and locked down the airport given their behavior and the evidence in their possession (Although he does have a great line while interrogating Harold: “Hey! Zip it, Hello Kitty!”). The movie’s George W. Bush impersonator could have at least fired off of some liberal shots, but his impression of the president is so poor it’s kills any humor that might have grown from it.

Still, Kal Penn and John Cho make a great team. I doubt there will be a Harold and Kumar III, but I’ll probably go ahead and watch anything they do together.

Ultimately, given the choice of Guantanamo Bay and White Castle, I’ll pick White Castle every time.

Smart People, 3/5

Rated R. Click here to view the trailer.

Smart People could just as easily be named Dysfunctional People. While the former is probably more marketable (and perhaps more ironic), the latter is probably more accurate.

The dysfunctional father, Lawrence (played by a severely bearded Dennis Quaid), is a jerk of an English professor who is shopping a book with the gentle title, You Can’t Read. His dysfunctional daughter, Vanessa (Ellen Page), is a pot-smoking uber-Republican who gets a 1600 on her SATs and develops an inexplicable crush on her dysfunctional adopted uncle (the fun as always Thomas Haden Church) and his dysfunctional haircut.

Why are they dysfunctional? It’s partly because Lawrence’s wife died several years ago, but mostly it’s because it makes for a fun movie and give them an opportunity to Grow. It also allows Sarah Jessica Parker, a doctor/former student of Lawrence’s, to meet cute and develop a dysfunctional romance that more or less gave me the willies. Does Vanessa approve of her father’s relationship with a former student? I’ll give you three guesses.

The actors are mostly superb, but it’s still just not quite enough rescue the movie for me. Quaid’s gravely voice, exhausted eyes, and screw you way of walking (and parking) through life let you know there is some serious heartbreak in his life. Thomas Hayden Church is at least as good as he was in Sideways and Ellen Page is, well, amazing.

But, like I said, it just wasn’t quite enough for me. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character was very flat and uninteresting, while the movie never succeeded in setting a tone. It’s funny, but not hilarious. I’m not even sure what genre you can put this movie in. it certainly isn’t a comedy in the traditional sense. It’s a little like Sideways (they have the same producer), but it isn’t near as sharp at that 2005 film. I was never sure how I was supposed to feel and I’m pretty sure the screenwriters were just tired when they came up with the ending. Maybe that’s appropriate. Maybe a movie about dysfunctional people should be dysfunctional.

Road Trip ’08 – Day 7


Jefferson City, MO to STL and back again
______ miles, ______ hours
Total miles so far:
Total time on raod: 39 hours, 11 minutes
States driven through: Missouri
Dead deer seen on side of road: 32
Dead mice: 1
Smokies: 52

Cranky Canadian Border Guards: 1
Royal Canadian Mounties seen: 0

Leslie’s flight didn’t leave until 4, so we were able to sleep late before attacking the final leg of Road Trip ’08.

I got up a little early and cooked us some breakfast: sausage and pancakes with our special Canadian syrup. It wasn’t up to say, Keeneland’s standards, but it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

Leslie made her flight no problem and I made it back home no problem.

A few stats:
My car drove: 2664.1 miles
We averaged: 28.6 mpg
We averaged 55.1 mph
We used: 93.5 gallons of gas

Road Trip ’08 – Day 6

Cleveland, Ohio to Jefferson City, MO
______ miles, ______ hours
Total miles so far:
States driven through: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri
Dead deer seen on side of road: 31
Smokies: 48
Cranky Canadian Border Guards: 1
Royal Canadian Mounties seen: 0

What a nice, sunny Ohio morning! It’s perfect driving weather, or at least it would be if three quarters of Ohio’s highways weren’t under construction and being patrolled by 8 gazillion cops.

Speaking of cops, I’m actually kind of digging the Ohio Highway Patrol’s logo.

I drove the first two hours, then Leslie took over, then I promptly proceed to almost choke to death on a Nerd Rope.

For lunch, we stopped off at the Cracker Barrel on exit 104 (Leslie’s fav). It was good, although the pre-meal game (“Skip the Tee”) knocked my self-esteem level down a few notches. Apparently, despite my high ACT score, I am an egg-no-raw-moose (I left four tees). Leslie, on the other hand, succeeded in removing all but one, thus earning the title “genius.” I wouldn’t put too much stock in it though; it’s just a wooden triangle’s opinion.

I climbed back in behind the wheel and Indiana and Illinois went by fairly quickly. Before you knew it, we were in Missouri and soon enough were pulling into my driveway.

My roommate moved out the day after we left and he didn’t clean his dishes or his bathroom before he left, but other than that and my now-overgrown lawn, Leslie seemed to like my house.

There was also the small matter of the mouse in the mouse trap, but better a dead mouse in a trap than a live one in her bed.

Road Trip ’08 – Day 5


Niagara Falls, ON to Cleveland, Ohio
______ miles, ______ hours
Total miles so far:
States driven through: Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio
D
ead deer seen on side of road: 23
Smokies: 28
Cranky Canadian Border Guards: 1
Royal Canadian Mounties seen: 0

I didn’t want to wake up today. My pillow and bed at our hotel was just too awesome. But alas, all good things must come to and end and we packed up shop and said goodbye the Falls.

We crossed the border and drove through New York, Pennsylvania and into Ohio with little fanfare.
Once we hit Cleveland, however, things got a little rougher. Downtown is all one way streets and exactly half of them are closed for construction. It made navigating to the Holiday Inn Express a less than pleasant experience. We finally made it, and it was a good thing because a few more minutes and I would have shifted in to Angry Brian Mode. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (hereafter referred to as “HoF”), our real reason for the trip (forget Syracuse), was only a seven-minute walk from the hotel so we set out to find it and bask in its glory as its waves of Rock and Roll goodness washed over us in an auditory baptism of guitar riffs and drum solos.

OK, so it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was pretty darn cool. So cool, in fact, that it warranted that 63-word sentence above.

The HoF (not to be confused with The Hoff) is a very large amalgam of a Louvre-like glass pyramid, some wicked spiral staircases and any building designed by Frank Gehry. It looks like it should be housing great works of art instead of the relics of rock and roll. Not that those aren’t art. You get my point.

We each paid our $22 and checked our cameras because of the HoF’s stupid policy. I’m not aware of the Hoff’s policy on photos.

If you imagine the HoF to be like visiting a Hard Rock Café on crack, you’d be wrong. First off, most rockers these days prefer heroin. Secondly, no one is pressuring you to order cheese fries. Thirdly and most importantly, this place is actually a museum.

From the very beginning, the HoF is very overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s not just a collection of guitars and drumsticks. It’s a very academic place, if you can imagine that. The basement level is especially so. It traces the birth and growth of Rock and Roll from the 40s all the way today. The displays were largely set up to depict the regional growth of Rock and Roll.

One of my favorite exhibits were interactive and allowed you to trace a certain artist’s influences. For instance, you could click on Janis Joplin and hear a certain song, then click on her influences and it would play two songs by here influences and mashed together they pretty much equaled Janis Joplin.

The other exhibit I thought was really fun offered you an interactive map and you could trace how different disk jockeys and radio helped spread certain subgenres of rock and roll through out the country, region by region.

I’ve never really been a huge Jimi Hendrix fan, but I really enjoyed looking at his childhood drawings (he was really into drawing football scenes) and reading some of his early poetry. Had he not become a guitar god (or choked on his own vomit), he probably had a future in art.

I really enjoyed that they reached back way further than your typical VH1 rock-umentary, mentioning hundred of rock and roll forefathers from the 30s and 40s.

The second and third floors were largely dedicated to the technology of rock (wax cylinders, records, transistor radios, TV, Walkmans, iPods, eletric guitars, amps, etc.

The fourth floor (it’s a porch, really) is all about Pink Floyd’s The Wall and is creepy.

Up the stairs to the fifth floor was a special exhibit about The Beatles’ movie, HELP! It was fun, but would have been more interesting if I had actually seen HELP!

One more spiral staircase and we were on the final floor, which housed a special exhibit on The Doors. I enjoy Break on Through, Touch Me, Light my Fire and of course Riders on the Storm, but beyond that Jim Morrison scares the crap out of me. While Leslies cruised the exhibit, I watched a concert performance and… wow… I can’t even describe it.

Our Rock and Roll odyssey at an end, we browsed the gift shop. Aside from HoF stuff, they also had a very large music selection. I escaped having only purchased some postcards and a fridge magnet.

My only real complaint with the HoF is that there isn’t a wing dedicated to Queen. Yet. Also, I’ve become keenly aware just how inadequate my iTunes collection is.

We went back to the hotel ordered some pizza and watched E!, marveling at how dumb it is and wondering what kind of idiots watch it.

Oh.

What else is there to say? Cleveland rocks!

Road Trip ’08 – Day 4



Syracuse, NY to Niagara Falls, ON
?? miles, 3 hours, 19 minutes
Total miles so far: ??
States driven through: New York, Ontario
Dead deer seen on side of road: 14
Smokies: 23
Cranky Canadian Border Guards: 1
Royal Canadian Mounties seen: 0

Today we woke, bid a fond farewell to Syracuse, and hit I-90 West. A couple tolls and some insanely tall bridges later, we were in Canada (America’s Hat), ready to soak in the glorious splendor that is Niagara Falls (get it? Soak?).

I must admit that I am impressed. Even as I sit in my hotel room I can see the Falls, feel the spray and hear the roar. And now I need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me.

Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls + American Falls) is pretty darn big. It’s very overwhelming and hard to get the scale of everything, but I can definitively say it/they is/are bigger than the only other waterfall I’ve ever seen, Price Falls. The spray from Horseshoe Falls alone rises twice the height of the Falls itself. I can’t imagine anyone thinking they could stuff themselves into a barrel and survive. Crazy Canuks.

We parked upriver from Horseshoe Falls and walked past it about a half-mile to face American Falls. We were going to ride the Maid of the Mist and get a close up view of both Falls, but they weren’t running for some reason. Oh well, we got a pretty spectacular view anyway and saved that $12. I’ll just zoom in on my pictures and have Leslie flick water at me.

EDIT: We asked Pat about the Maid and Mist (you’ll meet Pat in a second) and she told us it’s closed until the end of May because of ice in the river. Leslie and I both visited the Maid of the Mist’s website multiple times and we read nothing about it being closed for the winter.

My poor, bald forehead is sunburned. That makes me a sad panda.

We walked up the Niagara “strip” and did some shopping and had a snack at Wendy’s, then went shopping some more so I could stock up on postcards. The lady who sold me the postcards asked me if was ready to “check oot,” which made me happy. We went through a fun Hershey’s chocolate store and proudly passed by the Hard Rock Café, confident in the knowledge that we were both way too cool for that place. Besides, we have to save our Rock and Roll memorabilia quota for tomorrow.

One of the biggest things here is maple syrup. I’ve never really made a connection between Canada and Syrup, but it makes sense: Canada = maple leaf = maple tree = maple syrup. I may have to buy a bottle.

I know it’s “just” Canada and Niagara Falls is pretty darn American, but I enjoy the fact that I’m technically driving in a foreign country.

Speaking of foreign countries, the dude at the “immigration” booth was cranky. I had an easier time and faced fewer question getting into Russia. Oh, and he totally stiffed us on the passport stamps.

We’re on the 10th floor and have a great view of both Falls, so long as I don’t look straight down.

For dinner, we decided on the buffet at the top of our hotel, but to kill some time we sat in the room and watched an Animal Cops marathon. Many kittens, puppies and horses were saved. Oh, and while we were watching, the window washer “rappelled” down past our 10th floor and cleaned our windows for us. They are now quite clear. I expect wayward gulls from the Falls (there are millions of them) to start flying into the glass any second.

Up on the 18th floor in the “Riverview Restaurant,” Leslie and I each ordered the Chef’s Buffet for $39.95 (Canadian… which equals $43.94 US. Curse the weak dollar!). It was pricey, but hey, you only live once. It wasn’t AMAZING, but I ate my fill and enjoyed pleasant conversation while watching the falls from mine lofty perch on high amongst the soaring eagles and the whispers of the heavens. Sorry. I got hit with a wave of poetry there. Giant water falls have a tendency to do that to a man.

Leslie’s favorite part of dinner was without a doubt Pat, our server. I’m not sure why or how Pat charmed her way into Leslie’s short, Korean heart, but dagnabbit she did. How much did Leslie like Pat? This much: We were steps away from the elevator when I jokingly suggested we should get a picture with Pat. I turned around and Leslie was chasing Pat down. Memories. Sweet memories.

We’re having to make this leg of the trip sans Internet, so after dinner we grabbed the laptop and took a short walk to see if we could pirate a free signal and hook in to the Matrix. No such luck.

We did, however, succeed in getting me a bottle of Canadian Coke to add to my collection AND awesome bottle of the aforementioned maple syrup. I’m hoping I can convince someone it’s very expensive fine Canadian bourbon and make them drink a shot.

Back in the room, we’re watching the Best of Chris Farley. That’s one of the things I like most about Leslie: she is so smart and appreciates the highest exploits of human culture, yet she can rock out to Britney Spears and laugh her head off at Chris Farley.

Leslie’s superhero-like crime-fighting sense of smell detected the telltale scent of pot in the hallway and she let hotel management know. That’s another thing I like about Leslie: she’s a model citizen, no matter what country she’s in.