Tag Archives: Theodore Shapiro

Arthur (2011, Jason Winer)

My Thin Man affection aside, I’m not against sobriety. However, Russell Brand movies integrate the glory of AA to the point it hurts the film (Get Him to the Greek made a similar move at a similar time). The development hurts Arthur, somewhat significantly. It’s good the film has Greta Gerwig, as she pulls it through.

The film is a very pleasant surprise; Brand has shown he can be endearing while still being raucous, but this film is the first I’ve seen where it suggests he might actually be able to act as well. He’s mostly acting opposite Helen Mirren or Gerwig, so he definitely has a lot of support.

The approach helps. Of course it’s nowhere near as good as the original, but it doesn’t compete. Between Brand, Gerwig and Mirren, it engenders a totally different response.

A lot of the film is Mirren’s show—it’s funny because of her responses to Brand. Her career’s gotten so much more interesting as she’s taken these varied roles.

Gerwig’s excellent. Since I’d never seen her before, I was pleasantly surprised, but Arthur has two other big surprises. First, Jennifer Garner’s fantastic. It’s like she was born to play a (realistic) heartless harpy. The other surprise is Nick Nolte (in a small role as Garner’s father). He’s atrocious. I’m not sure they even bothered making sure he was awake.

Winer’s direction is good, very calm and self-aware.

I was hopeful for Arthur, but it’s better than I thought it could be.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jason Winer; written by Peter Baynham, based on the film by Steve Gordon; director of photography, Uta Briesewitz; edited by Brent White; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Sarah Knowles; produced by J.C. Spink, Russell Brand, Larry Brezner, Kevin McCormick, Chris Bender and Michael Tadross; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Russell Brand (Arthur), Helen Mirren (Hobson), Greta Gerwig (Naomi), Jennifer Garner (Susan), Geraldine James (Vivienne), Luis Guzmán (Bitterman) and Nick Nolte (Burt Johnson).


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Idiocracy (2006, Mike Judge)

Idiocracy has one fundamental flaw–and plenty of little ones, but the fundamental one is too glaring and too fixable–the two leads do not have a romance and the film pretends they do. Foul-mouthed prostitute Maya Rudolph all of a sudden starts talking without slang and doing sweet things. Then, at the end, there’s supposed to be some romantic connection between her and Luke Wilson, who spends the movie thinking she’s a painter (one who’s really scared of her art manager). The romantic element isn’t part of Idiocracy because it doesn’t fit with what Mike Judge is trying to do (which is to mix Sleeper with some Fight Club cynicism–with a handful of fart jokes) and so he avoids it. But in the end, when Rudolph is finally acting–Wilson acts the whole time–the mix needs to work and it doesn’t and Idiocracy goes out with a whimper. The ending is similar to a 1960s educational film reel about… moths or something. It doesn’t just stop, it crumbles away.

Wilson gives a really good comedic leading man performance in Idiocracy, except he comes off as way too smart for the guy who’s supposed to have a hundred IQ. He’s not one of Idiocracy‘s litany of problems. And the most apparent problem, the one starting from the first minute, is the narration. Idiocracy is fully narrated (lending to the educational film reel comparison) and that method, in addition to the ludicrous fade-outs, suggests there wasn’t enough story. Even if the narration and the fade-outs were in Judge’s first draft of the screenplay… there wouldn’t have been enough story in it either. Fully narrated films are either The Magnificent Ambersons or they are not. Idiocracy is not (also because the narration doesn’t make any sense… the narrator is talking to the audience in the present day, not the people who would be listening to it in the year 2700 or whatever).

Other significant problems are the special effects. Lots of futuristic movies are made cheaply and well. Idiocracy instead goes with video game level (and not state-of-the-art) CG and it looks silly. At first I thought Judge was doing a Planet of the Apes homage, which would have been funny, but he wasn’t.

Dax Shepard and Justin Long are both funny in the easiest roles in the history of cinema (idiots), but Terry Crews does a great job in the role of the best elected official (the President of America) since the Duke of New York.

The movie’s funny (I laughed every two minutes or so… good fart jokes, anti-corporate sentiment, and a general mockery of red state Americans)–and, compared to other current comedies, it’s still inexplicable why Fox hid the theatrical release–but as Judge’s follow-up to Office Space, an incredibly thoughtful, if flawed, film, it’s an abject failure.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mike Judge; screenplay by Judge and Etan Cohen, from a story by Judge; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by David Rennie; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Darren Gilford; produced by Judge and Elysa Koplovitz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Luke Wilson (Joe), Maya Rudolph (Rita), Dax Shepard (Frito) and Terry Crews (President Camacho).


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