Tag Archives: Amy Poehler

Blades of Glory (2007, Will Speck and Josh Gordon)

A couple things are immediately interesting about Blades of Glory. First is Will Ferrell. While Ferrell’s top-billed, it’s really Jon Heder’s movie. It isn’t a question of likability–Ferrell, being funnier, is more likable–but of the script’s focus. It’s Heder’s story, with Ferrell along to make things a little more interesting.

But Blades isn’t a serious attempt at a narrative. The film occasionally attempts to talk about deadlines (for figure skating competitions), but the timeline accelerates to fit the pace. Blades is only ninety minutes and it probably could have shaved some of the love story between Heder and Jenna Fischer. None of the primary cast exactly gives a performance, just embodies a persona, and Fischer doesn’t have one. She’s boring, if mildly appealing.

It’s also a problem since Heder’s better opposite Ferrell than anyone else in the picture. When he’s on his own, Blades flounders a little.

There’s no reality–internal or otherwise–to Blades. But directors Gordon and Speck are careful to curb the absurdism with real figure skaters cameoing. At the beginning, with William Fichtner and William Daniels both showing up, it seems like they’re going to use character actors to amplify Blades‘s absurdism. But both actors disappear, Fichtner way too soon, and Craig T. Nelson–coaching Ferrell and Heder’s male figure skating pair–is sillier than he needs to be.

There are a lot of good jokes and some great ones. It’s a lot of fun, but Ferrell’s easily the best part of it.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon; screenplay by Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, based on a story by Craig Cox, Jeff Cox and Busy Philipps; director of photography, Stefan Czapsky; edited by Richard Pearson; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Stephen J. Lineweaver; produced by Stuart Cornfield, John Jacobs and Ben Stiller; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Will Ferrell (Chazz Michael Michaels), Jon Heder (Jimmy MacElroy), Will Arnett (Stranz Van Waldenberg), Amy Poehler (Fairchild Van Waldenberg), Jenna Fischer (Katie Van Waldenberg), William Fichtner (Darren MacElroy), Craig T. Nelson (Coach), Romany Malco (Jesse), Nick Swardson (Hector), Rob Corddry (Bryce) and William Daniels (Commissioner Ebbers).


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Wet Hot American Summer (2001, David Wain)

One of the best gags in Wet Hot American Summer is having the twenty and (some) thirty somethings play teenage summer camp counselors. One big problem? Not making the gag clear until the end of the movie. It would have gotten a lot more mileage throughout.

Summer goes out on an awkward note–almost an homage to “M*A*S*H”, which is cute (director Wain loves the eighties homages) but it can’t disguise the lack of an ending. There’s no great finish; instead, there’s a weak exit for erstwhile protagonist Michael Showalter. He’s not the most compelling part of the film, though he’s a fine enough (erstwhile) protagonist, and Wain needs a stronger closer.

Showalter’s story arc involves lusting after Marguerite Moreau and trying to win her from her dolt of a boyfriend (an awful Paul Rudd). It’s nothing compared to Ken Marino’s crazy wilderness trek to meet up with a girl or Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce saving the camp from a falling piece of Skylab.

Other great little arcs include Molly Shannon’s divorcée getting life coaching from her charges and a camper “running” a radio station.

Moreau is okay. She’s better without Showalter or Rudd. Garofalo and Hyde Pierce are both excellent. Their skill works a little against Summer‘s absurdist nature, however. It’s just not as funny when it’s so well-acted.

Marino’s great, so are Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler. Christopher Meloni’s fantastic as the deranged cook.

Summer isn’t completely successful, but it’s close enough.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Wain; written by Michael Showalter and Wain; director of photography, Ben Weinstein; edited by Meg Reticker; music by Theodore Shapiro and Craig Wedren; production designer, Mark White; produced by Howard Bernstein; released by USA Films.

Starring Janeane Garofalo (Beth), David Hyde Pierce (Henry Newman), Michael Showalter (Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg), Marguerite Moreau (Katie), Michael Ian Black (McKinley), Zak Orth (J.J.), A.D. Miles (Gary), Paul Rudd (Andy), Christopher Meloni (Gene), Molly Shannon (Gail von Kleinenstein), Ken Marino (Victor Kulak), Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), Amy Poehler (Susie), Bradley Cooper (Ben), Gideon Jacobs (Aaron), Liam Norton (Arty ‘The Beekeeper’ Solomon), Marisa Ryan (Abby Bernstein), Elizabeth Banks (Lindsay), Gabriel Millman (Caped Boy), Kevin Sussman (Steve), Kevin Thomas Conroy (Mork Guy), Christopher Cusumano (Medieval Kid), Cassidy Ladden (Mallrat Girl), Madeline Blue (Cure Girl), Nina Hellman (Nancy), Peter Salett (Guitar Dude), Judah Friedlander (Ron von Kleinenstein), Jacob Shoesmith-Fox (Bert ‘Moose’ Flugelman) and Michael Showalter (Alan Shemper).


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The Ex (2007, Jesse Peretz)

The Ex reminds me of a 1980s comedy, but maybe not. Maybe more a 1990s comedy. I knew it did, but I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized it’s all about the information given the viewer. The Ex starts in New York and moves to Ohio in the first seven and a half minutes and there’s no establishing and no confusion. Regardless of the title and the trailer–the film’s original title, Fast Track, is better but not quite right either–the film doesn’t have a gimmick. It’s a slight, amusing comedy about a couple orienting themselves with a baby. I wasn’t expecting Amanda Peet to be in the film much as a lead, but she and Braff are really partners. Their days are juxtaposed and The Ex has got a really nice present action too–it takes place over about a week. Five days, not seven.

As a leading comedic actor, Zach Braff is amazing. I’ve never seen him in anything before (I tried watching “Scrubs,” but after five minutes I was dislocating my shoulder going for the remote) but from the first second, he runs this film. I can’t even think of a comparable leading comedic actor (except maybe late 1970s Chevy Chase). It’s a joy to watch him. But then Peet shows up and she’s got her own thing going and she’s fantastic too. I always say how much I like her but before The Ex, I’d only seen her in two things. Now it’s three. They’re perfect together.

Jason Bateman. Remember when one thought “The Hogan Family” hearing his name? Now, it’d be “Arrested Development.” It’s never going to be The Ex one thinks about, but it’s going to be something in the future. Bateman acts with this ease and self-assurance–it’s like a comedic De Niro (back when De Niro was good).

Maybe the performances are why The Ex works as well as it does. Charles Grodin shows up as Peet’s father and he’s got some funny moments, but mostly it’s just a Charles Grodin supporting role. Donal Logue’s funny in his bit. But the three leads command the viewer’s attention like leads are supposed to command a viewer’s attention.

The Ex is so fleet-footed it races past some bad traditional comedy snags, but also some requisite storytelling ones. A lot is inferred in a few moments, including things like character motivation. I think the filmmakers realized it too, because they take care of it real quick at the end.

I’d complain it should go longer, but the film’s thin–it has maybe three subplots, with one of them contributing heavily to the main action–and it gets out at just the right time.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Jesse Peretz; written by David Guion and Michael Handelman; director of photography, Tom Richmond; edited by Tricia Cooke, Jeff McEvoy and John Michel; music by Ed Shearmur; production designer, John Paino; produced by Anthony Bergman, Marc Butan, Anne Carey and Ted Hope; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Zach Braff (Tom Reilly), Amanda Peet (Sofia Kowalski), Jason Bateman (Chip Sanders), Charles Grodin (Bob Kowalski), Mia Farrow (Amelia Kowalski), Donal Logue (Don Wollebin) and Amy Poehler (Carol Lane).


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