Tag Archives: Jason Segel

SLC Punk! (1998, James Merendino)

SLC Punk! is controlled chaos. Or chaotic control. Director Merendino is incredibly careful about everything–how he uses crane shots to open up the low budgeted film, how he and Esther P. Russell cut scenes, which flashback footage goes where, how protagonist Matthew Lillard’s narration works (hint: it’s in an Austenian sense), how the film fits together. SLC runs just over ninety minutes and the first twenty-five of them are precisely layered flashbacks and flash forwards. Merendino’s meticulous.

But the secret of SLC Punk! isn’t how its not really an extreme comedy or how its Jane Austen with eighties punks, it’s the film’s sincerity. Merendino structures the film–and Lillard’s character and performance–to force an investment and an interest from the viewer. SLC isn’t a passive viewing experience; it isn’t set up to function as one.

The film gets serious once Merendino runs out of fast jokes–not even cheap ones, just fast ones. At the same time, Lillard gets serious too, only since he’s narrating in the past tense, Merendino’s forcing an examination of the previous (comedically played) events. The film’s final flashback, ostensibly promising the great reveal, instead just further shows Merendino’s sincerity and his dedication to it.

Great performances all over–Lillard, Michael A. Goorjian as his best friend and alter ego, then Jason Segel, Adam Pascal, Til Schweiger as their sidekicks. Merendino’s enthusiastic about the actors and in how he showcases them.

SLC Punk! is excellent. Merendino, Lillard and Goorjian do outstanding work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by James Merendino; director of photography, Greg Littlewood; edited by Esther P. Russell; production designer, Charlotte Malmlöf; produced by Sam Maydew and Peter Ward; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Matthew Lillard (Stevo), Michael A. Goorjian (Bob), Annabeth Gish (Trish), Jennifer Lien (Sandy), Jason Segel (Mike), Adam Pascal (Eddie), Til Schweiger (Mark), James Duval (John the Mod), Devon Sawa (Sean), Summer Phoenix (Brandy) and Christopher McDonald (Stevo’s Dad).


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The Muppets (2011, James Bobin)

The Muppets is confused.

The screenplay from Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller oscillates between being this lame story about Segel and his brother, a Muppet named Walter (indistinctly performed by Peter Linz), and his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and a better story of the Muppets reuniting.

The better story is, unfortunately, not exactly good. There are some good moments, but Segel and Stoller take a very serious approach to the Muppets. Kermit is a, well, hermit. Gonzo and Piggy have sold out. Fozzie’s working in Reno. Rowlf doesn’t even get a backstory; it’s hard not to read into that slight, since Rowlf was previously the symbol of Jim Henson’s legacy.

But the good stuff in The Muppets can’t outweigh the bad. Segel gives a weak performance, but he’s still leagues ahead of Adams. Adams is shockingly bad and creepily artificial. Neither character matters to the film and much of The Muppets is Segel and Stoller forcing their story into the picture.

Most of the human performances are bad. Chris Cooper is awful, maybe even worse than Adams.

Only Rashida Jones is good and she’s barely in it.

Watching The Muppets, I tried to imagine watching it again and could not. Segel and Stoller have some really stupid details and, until Kermit shows up, the film is pretty dreadful. Bobin is a bad director.

As for the Muppets… Without the original performers, Muppets feels even more like a corporate construction.

It’s not a complete failure, but it’s too close to being one.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by James Bobin; screenplay by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, based on characters created by Jim Henson; director of photography, Don Burgess; edited by James M. Thomas; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Steve Saklad; produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Peter Linz (Walter) and Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman and Matt Vogel as the Muppets.

Starring Jason Segel (Gary), Amy Adams (Mary), Chris Cooper (Tex Richman), Rashida Jones (Veronica) and Jack Black (himself).


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I Love You, Man (2009, John Hamburg)

Could Paul Rudd make less of an impression in I Love You, Man? Even before Jason Segel shows up, Rudd is completely ineffectual. He’s supposed to be ineffectual, of course, but he’s also the protagonist of the movie. He doesn’t garner sympathy, he garners pity.

But Hamburg’s whole approach is peculiar. He opens the movie with Rudd proposing to Rashida Jones. It kicks off the plot–Rudd’s search for a best man. The structure is awkward. Hamburg seems to acknowledge people will mostly be watching Man on home video and so he doesn’t need to make the opening at all cinematic. It’s defeat from the opening Los Angeles montage.

Hamburg does have some secret weapons. First is Segel, who’s hilarious as the sort of bumbling, sort of charming potential best who throws Rudd’s boring life for a spin. A measured spin (Man‘s rather boring overall). Second is Jon Favreau, who has a small role as Jaime Pressly’s husband. He’s astoundingly great. Pressly (one of Jones’s friends) is surprisingly good too. Hamburg gets these excellent supporting performances, but not one out of Rudd. It hurts the movie.

There’s also Jones. She’s quite good, but her character has absolutely no backstory. It’s like Hamburg didn’t want to give her white parents, but wasn’t willing to confirm she’s biracial. It screams cop out.

Other good supporting turns from Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons and Andy Samberg as Rudd’s family.

I Love You, Man‘s only really funny twice. But it’s genial, if uninventive, throughout.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John Hamburg; screenplay by Hamburg and Larry Levin, based on a story by Levin; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by William Kerr; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Andrew Laws; produced by Hamburg and Donald De Line; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Paul Rudd (Peter Klaven), Jason Segel (Sydney Fife), Rashida Jones (Zooey Rice), Jaime Pressly (Denise McLean), Sarah Burns (Hailey), Andy Samberg (Robbie Klaven), J.K. Simmons (Oswald Klaven), Jane Curtin (Joyce Klaven), Jon Favreau (Barry McLean), Lou Ferrigno (Himself), Rob Huebel (Tevin Downey), Joe Lo Truglio (Lonnie) and Thomas Lennon (Doug Evans).


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Get Him to the Greek (2010, Nicholas Stoller)

From Nicholas Stoller’s writing credits, I wouldn’t have thought him capable of such a funny movie. I hadn’t realized he’d directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Get Him to the Greek is a spin-off more than a sequel (though Kristen Bell shows up for a cameo). Stoller’s third act problems–when Greek becomes painfully unfunny and life affirming–aside, it’s almost the funniest movie in years.

Stoller does luck out to some degree, given his two leads. In one lead, he’s got Jonah Hill, who plays the Jonah Hill persona (Superbad grown up with girlfriend) and whose quiet delivery is perfect. The other lead, the absurdly extroverted Russell Brand, has a perfect loud delivery. Brand infuses his drug-addled rock star with these occasional moments of sarcastic clarity, which really adds to the experience.

Both Hill and Brand stumble through Stoller’s anti-drug message at the end, however. And while Stoller recovers the ending, he doesn’t resolve lots of issues he raises after turning it into a friendship drama.

For the majority of the running time, Greek‘s the funniest human comedy in a long time. Brand’s character is great for allowing absurd situations firmly set in reality. It never feels artificial… even with Sean Combs showing up.

Combs is hilarious in the film but gives one of the worst acting performances I’ve ever seen.

The rest of the cast–Rose Byrne (until the dramatics) and Colm Meaney in particular–are great.

It’s good. It should have been a lot better though.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Nicholas Stoller; screenplay by Stoller, based on characters created by Jason Segel; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by William Kerr and Michael L. Sale; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Jan Roelfs; produced by Stoller, Judd Apatow, David L. Bushell and Rodney Rothman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jonah Hill (Aaron Green), Russell Brand (Aldous Snow), Elisabeth Moss (Daphne Binks), Rose Byrne (Jackie Q), Colm Meaney (Jonathon Snow) and Sean Combs (Sergio Roma).


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