I liked this. From the plain look (courtesy of Mike Judge’s cinematographer) to the relaxed line deliveries to the dated mid-tempo pop songs it seems like they set out to make a lightly pleasant comedy and have succeeded there. I liked the comedian supporting characters (Louis CK, Jeffrey Tambor, Tina Fey) and the comedian cameos (Jason Bateman, John Hodgman… Ed Norton?). I like how they presented religion as an outright lie and didn’t back down from that. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie, but I wouldn’t say there are more than two studio romantic comedies a year worth watching, so this is in rare company, probably higher up than the Will Ferrell thing with the Spoon soundtrack

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But most of all, I’m sorry I watched this without Katy. I’d had a bad day, there was no heat in the house, and as night fell and I got colder, I thought a comedy was in order. This was on my laptop, and I watched it. Without Katy. Sorry!

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All the IMDB knows about Ricky’s codirector is that he’s from L.A., younger than me, and married to a nude singer.

One of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year. And it’s the kind of humor that makes the film nerd in me very happy, lovingly referencing 70’s cheapie Blaxploitation movies, even down to the shitty edits, overacting and pointedly sloppy dialogue, such as “your mama would turn over in her grave if she were here to see this.”

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Beautiful lines like “Ain’t nothing in the world get Black Dynamite more mad than some jive-ass sucka dealin’ smack to the kids” are just icing on the cake.

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That’s Tommy Davidson, the only star of In Living Color who didn’t go on to much of a movie career (unless Booty Call and Bamboozled count). Our star is Michael Jai White, Spawn himself, finally back on top where he belongs.

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Plot isn’t important. BD avenges the death of his brother, wipes smack off the streets, foils Fiendish Dr. Wu’s evil chemical plot and then defeats Richard Nixon in a nunchuck battle.

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Obviously destined to be a cult video classic alongside Wet Hot American Summer.

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Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! Nonstop talking for ninety minutes! If someone pauses to take a breath, they quickly cut to someone else so the talking won’t stop!

For some reason I listened to the commentary for a while. Paul and Penn are very proud of their interviewee picks and of their independent filmmaker status. Big Hollywood never would’ve dreamed of filming The Aristocrats!

I guess it was good to see some of my favorite people hang out and talk about The Joke and each other and performing and everything. Jon Stewart, Drew Carey, Richard Lewis, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher and Rip Taylor were all in there. I didn’t realize how much of a big deal they were gonna make about Gilbert Gottfried doing The Joke a couple weeks after 9/11/01. It’s the dramatic climax of a movie that had no drama or story up to that point, and while it’s true that humor was in a sorry state for those few weeks and it’s true that Gilbert is hilarious, they overblow the whole thing.

Anyway I didn’t mean to write so much because this was hardly even a movie, but here are some fun screenshots I took where you can see the cameraman in something reflective:

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What a wonderful coincidence that I watch You’re Never Too Young, and then find out the next day that the film it remade is on Turner Classic.

Robert Osbourne introduced as a screwball comedy, but the only thing screwball here is the premise. Movie is played as a straight, semi-romantic comedy. Same story as the Lewis flick but minus the jewel thief and with a sex reversal (and predictably there’s no equivalent to the Dean Martin character). So Ginger Rogers is the scalp-massager lured to an apartment under a false premise which gets her to leave town and have to pose as a kid to afford a ticket. She hides out in Ray Milland’s room, same thunderstorm and morning discovery scene, then has to keep up the ruse so Ray won’t get in trouble and kicked out of the military. Again, a happy ending with Ray getting his wish to be sent on active duty (makes more sense in the nationalistic war-ragin’ 40’s than in the 1955 remake) and happening to meet a finally-acting-her-own-age Ginger on the train platform (where she gives him a Katy-disapproved line about how all some girls want is a letter from their husbands-abroad every couple weeks).

Cute movie, with some major Creepiness Issues (Ginger cuddling up to Ray, wanting him while pretending to be a little girl and calling him “uncle”). Not the madcap funhouse of the remake, though… no Dean songs (they’re not missed) or speedboat chases, choral performances or marching band shenanigans. Turning the all-girls school into a military academy surprisingly doesn’t change much. Some scenes are very similar, like the long-distance call at the phone switchboard (though Jerry ups the humor with his nutty dancing and a voice-dubbing stunt). I’m sure there’s some auteurist reason why I should prefer the original to the remake, but sorry, I sorta don’t.

This came out a full decade before Ginger Rogers had a lot more fun playing a little girl in Monkey Business (another movie comparison which does this film no favors), and TWO decades before Ray Milland acquired his X-RAY EYES. Back in the 40’s he was cast not for the x-ray eyes but because he is an effective leading man, and an exact cross between Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Wilder sez: “I wrote the part of the major for Cary Grant. I always wanted him in one of my pictures, but it never worked out.”

15-year-old little Lucy would grow up to play the love interest in the remake. Ray’s meddling fiancee (and Lucy’s big sister) was Rita Johnson (The Big Clock, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The strict colonel (Lucy’s father) was Edward Fielding, who managed to portray military men, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers in over 70 films in the 1940’s despite a fatal heart attack halfway through the decade. Ginger Rogers’ mom, in her only screen appearance, played Ginger Rogers’ mom. Guy who gets a scalp massage at the beginning was Robert Benchley, the Jaws author’s grandfather. The young high-school age kids were actually 22, 21 and 16 (x2). That’s more accurate casting than the remake managed to get. The one familiar-looking boy had played Rudy in Shop Around The Corner, the kid the shop owner takes out for Christmas dinner in the final scene.

And what do I know about Billy Wilder? Not very much! Just enough to see plot parallels between this and Some Like It Hot. Saw none of the cynicism for which he’s known, but Wilder explains: “I was very careful. I set out to make a commercial picture I wouldn’t be ashamed of, so my first picture as a director wouldn’t be my last.”

Internet says the screenwriter invented the bad pickup line “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”.

Trying to clear my head of CJ7, I grabbed the first Stephen Chow movie I could find at the store, and hit paydirt. Not as artistically ambitious as most of the movies I like, but as entertainment it is supreme, better than Michael Bay’s filmography to date and probably a thousandth as expensive. Plus these are only two of the six films Wong is credited with directing in 1992 alone. Take that, Mr. Bay.

I’d check the IMDB every ten minutes during part one trying to keep characters straight and to locate superstar Brigitte Lin… finally figured out that she shows up at the very end (the final shot!) of pt. 1 to set up her starring role in pt. 2. But then she’s not even that big a deal in 2 – it’s another jumble of too many characters (sometimes crossdressing to make it even more confusing for me). Just a ton of penis jokes, more than I think I’ve ever heard in one place before. Supposedly very clever wordplay in the dialogue, but I don’t guess that translated very well in the subs. I found it funny anyway. Not the greatest most showoffy action scenes, but they’re alright. Just so much going on, impossible to get bored while watching this. Trying to lay out all the plots and alliances here would take longer than re-watching the movies, but in short…

Stephen Chow is Wei Shu Bo, works at a brothel or someplace, rescues the lead dude (Chan) of an anti-government organization, joins their group and is sent to the emperor’s palace to do some shit, but befriends the emp (Ning) and his sister (Princess Kim). In each movie he tries to protect them from a traitorous super-powerful white-haired dude, first Obai then Fung (who works for King Ng of Ping-Si whose son Prince Ng is to marry Kim, who is in love with Stephen Chow, who is also having sex with Brigitte Lin and the Swan twins, but I get ahead of myself). Actually Chow is powerless but lucky throughout part one (the empress or queen, the one who later transforms into Brigitte Lin, kills Obai but Chow takes credit), working as apprentice to eunuch Hai, then when Chow has sex with Lin in pt. 2 he gets most of her powers. Chow has a friend Dor Long who shows up a lot, and there’s a girl named Ah Or or maybe Sister Bond who I never figured out who she was and nobody else seems to know either. Oh and Lin’s teacher the one-armed nun is a big deal in the first half of pt. 2.

Stephen Chow had been in 30 movies by now so I assume he was pretty well known. He started his writer/director career a couple years after this.
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Lin starred in Police Story, Zu Warriors and Peking Opera Blues, Swordsman II & III, New Dragon Gate Inn, Bride With White Hair, then she pretty much stopped acting after doing two Wong Kar-Wai films and getting married in ’94.
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I didn’t get screenshots of the first movie, but the queen was Sharla Cheung (costarred with Stephen Chow in a bunch of things), the eunuch was Stephen Chow fave Man Tat Ng (also in Happy Together), and Obai (hilariously credited as O’Brien on IMDB) was Elvis Tsui of the Sex & Zen movies and a hundred others.

The emperor’s sister, Chingmy Yau (below), costarred with Jet Li in some other Jing Wong films in the 90’s as well as the HK version of Street Fighter. The emperor, Siu-Lun Wan, hasn’t been in much else. The mysterious Sister Bond, Sandra Ng Kwan Yue, has been in a hundred movies with titles I recognized from the other filmographies I looked at.
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King Ng is Paul Chun (appeared with Chow Yun Fat and Jackie Chan movies back in the 70’s), his son the prince (who gets castrated by the princess if I haven’t mentioned) is Ken Tong (of a bunch of movies with knockoff titles of more famous movies, incl. a semi-sequel to Royal Tramp starring Tony Leung).
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Lan Law, the one-handed nun, has been acting since the 50’s, appeared in Wayne Wang’s Eat a Bowl of Tea.
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The puppetmaster Fung, Shi-Kwan Yen, was in a lot of stuff in the 70’s, some high-profile films in the 90’s, and hasn’t done much since Iron Monkey in ’93.
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Oh wait, forgot to mention the best part. At the end of part one, it freeze-frames on Brigitte Lin, and the credits come up, declaring “PEPSI / SEVEN-UP”. A soda advertisement in the credits!

Happy 10th anniversary to the funniest comedy of the 90’s!

In honor of this anniversary, I intended to post pictures of Jeff Bridges’ smiling eyes, but the DVD crashes my VLC player on both computers, so I will abandon this post before I am tempted to start quoting lines.

I’d heard this was one of those forgotten comic masterpieces, have to say I was underwhelmed. Humor and references seem state-of-the-art to 1957 – I got Groucho’s “you bet your life” cameo but probably missed a lot more.

an alarmed Tony Randall:
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In high cinemascope color, a cross between Tashlin’s cartoony style, an advertisement (since our protagonist is an ad-man) and a regular 60’s comedy (Tash was ahead of his time). Tony Randall (from Let’s Make Love) is our ad-man, who makes a deal with superstar Rita Marlowe (Jayne “The Girl Can’t Help It” Mansfield). She’ll do a bunch of ads for his makeup company client, saving him his job (and eventually earning him an unwanted promotion to president) if he’ll publically pretend to be her new boyfriend to make her ex, Bobo Branigansky, want her back. The ex, also a TV star, sort of a Hercules/Tarzan type, is played by Mickey Hargitay, a bodybuilder who would play Tarzan for real three years later. Betsy Drake (not a big star, best known for being Cary Grant’s wife throughout the 50’s) plays Tony’s pissed-off fiancee who threatens to leave him over the whole Rita thing, and 16-yr-old Lili Gentle (one of her only movie roles) is Tony’s excitable niece, a bit Rita fan.

a very red Lili Gentle:
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It’s all about knowing where we belong, being happy with our lot in life, finding true love, and making fun of television. Tony and the president of the ad company (John Williams of Dial M For Murder) end up a farmer and a gardener, and Tony’s boss (Henry Jones of 3:10 To Yuma and Vertigo), a born ad-man, ends up an ad-man. Joan Blondell (star of 1930’s musicals, Nightmare Alley) has an interesting part as Rita’s washed-up assistant who yearns for the life she could’ve had with the love of her youth, a milkman, and gets Rita thinking about her own young love, George Schmidlap (Groucho, below).

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Katy somewhat liked it, but I have a feeling she’s about done with Frank Tashlin comedies, so I’ll save Artists and Models for another time and go back to the always reliable Billy Wilder (although she didn’t like Ace in the Hole either, hmmm).

check out Rita and her matching poodle:
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I think Gregg Araki has nothing to do with Arakimentari, the photographer doc I kept almost-renting a couple years ago. Rather he’s the director of hottt indie films Mysterious Skin and The Doom Generation.

A talked-about hit of Sundance 2007, this predictably turned out to be a breezily likeable little comedy which relies on the idea that watching someone act extremely stoned will stay funny for 90 minutes. It pretty much does. Mostly I liked the bummer ending and the rest was pretty okay, a time waster. Rented it as a palate-cleanser after Redacted, which was rumored to be crappy and which I feared would put me in a bad, bad mood like Road to Guantanamo and The War Tapes did… but I kinda loved it so there was no need.

Anna Faris with her mouth hanging open:
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Watching someone who is very stoned is, of course, hilarious. Anna Faris (who I do not remember from Brokeback Mountain) is very good, but could leave her mouth hanging wide open less often. There are also hilarious cameos by actors I mostly don’t know. In reverse order of how well I know them, they were:
– Danny Trejo, who doesn’t have much to do here
– Brian Posehn, who plays a big pothead on the Sarah Silverman Program
– John Cho, Harold himself
– Danny Masterson (Hyde in That 70’s Show), awesome as Jane’s roommate
– Adam Brody (skydiver in The Ten) as the dealer
– John Krasinski (The Office U.S.), who I’ve never seen before but I’ve heard his name a lot, in a good role as Jane’s duped love-interest
– Jane Lynch (Christopher Guest movies) as an unimpressed casting director
– late 70’s star and Hitchcock actor Roscoe Lee Browne as the narrator

Anna Faris with her mouth hanging open:
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Actually I had a better time wandering the IMDB looking up names than watching this movie. Get this, Anna Faris is gonna star in Kids In America this year. Her co-stars are a different guy from That 70’s Show, a different guy from The Ten, a guy who is playing Hitchcock in a fakey bio-pic, and someone from the previous Gregg Araki film.

Anna Faris with her mouth hanging open:
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Some shots from the ending:

Hedwig-Hansel as Gnosis-Corgan. It’s complicated.
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That’s songwriter Stephen Trask on the left.
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Yitzhak unleashed! I will look out for her next time I watch Shortbus.
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An Emily Hubley moment:
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edit August 2011:
I finally got Katy to watch this, after five years of trying.
I don’t think she hated it, either.