Monday, March 23, 2009

I Love You, Blog: I LOVE YOU MAN Review, Plus: FOX Sunday Night and MORE!

What's up? Back with your regularly-scheduled blogging, and wanted to take a minute to catch up on some things. For one, despite going into the weekend on a down note, I managed to have a fun / relaxing couple of days that included stopping by Howl at the Moon to celebrate Kyle O's birthday, having lunch at The Grove / Farmer's Market with my old BU roommate Dan L., who was in from Australia, and seeing I Love You, Man with Lauren S.. I even found some time to watch Brazil on DVD, which I had been meaning to do for months now, and got in some reading and writing as well.

- I also never got a chance to talk about a cool event that I got to attend last Wednesday - an OFFICE panel held at the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences that featured an interesting Q&A with the entire cast and crew of the show. Yep, everyone from Steve Carell to Rainn Wilson to Jenna Fischer to Greg Daniels was there. And, randomly, the panel was moderated by none other than Andy Richter. Andy seemed a bit awkward / uncomfortable in the role, but despite that it was a pretty cool event to be a part of, and I got a sneak peak at the ep that would air later that week to boot. Now, the crappy part was that due to an overwhelming crowd looking to get into the first-come, first-serve event, I was part of the group that made it into the building but not into the main auditorium ... so I was actually stuck watching the whole panel via a closed-circuit TV in a room just outside from where the panel was taking place. So close ... and yet so far. Again, a pretty cool event though - any chance to get some insight into the behind-the-scenes stories of a great show like THE OFFICE is always a valuable experience.

- I also want to take a second and follow up on Obama's appearance on Leno last week. In retrospect, I think the it was a bad move on Obama's part to participate. Thinking back, Obama's strong suite has never really been talk show appearances - and off-the-cuff humor has never been Obama's forte. Leno's tendencies as an interviewer don't really help things either - Leno can be so awkward with his dumb questions that he practically begs you to reply with appropriately dumb answers. Suffice it to say, I was already cringing throughout much of the interview, but as soon as Obama made his now-infamous "special olympics" comment I knew he was in trouble. As much as the interview should probably have never even been steered in that direction in the first place, Obama still screwed up, bigtime. I am honestly shocked that he would let a comment like that slip out, and in a way I think the media and the public has actually let him off pretty easy, all things considered. It really is the kind of thing I would have expected from George W. Bush, not Obama. It pains me to say it after having just written up a whole blog post in praise of Obama the other day, but the fact is: this is a step down for our President on the ol' dignity meter. Is it the biggest deal in the grand scheme of things? No, definitely not. But is it disappointing? You betcha'.


- Very interesting article on The AV Club today talking about the Top 10 Simpsons episodes of the last 5 years. Basically, the article looks to point out that there have been some real gems even in this latter-period of the once-great show. I agree, and always try to go out of my way on the blog to highligh a new episode that I felt showed signs of channelling that old-school comedic magic. Still, I don't 100% agree with the article's selections in terms of Top 10 episodes ... Stay tuned, folks, for I may have to dedicate an entire blog post to this subject in the very near future.

- As for last night's SIMPSONS ... umm, definitely not a Top 10 episode of this or any era. There were some moments of humor as The Simpsons travelled to Ireland so that Grandpa could visit his favorite Irish pub one last time, but overall things felt rushed, and many of the jokes fell flat. Best joke may have been on Abe's bucket-list, where one of his life goals was to see the destruction of NBC ... bwahaha ... give it a few more years, Gramps. Otherwise, despite some decent gags here and there, nothing really jumped out as being all that funny or memorable. And the thing that really got me about this ep was that it had waaay too many gags that are far more Family Guy than Simpsons. The Simpsons has always embraced the absurd ... but this ep's Q*Bert cutaway was way out of the Simpsons' typical range. Same goes for the Irish judge randomly being Mr. Potatohead. Um ... what?! Since when is that a Simpsons joke?

My Grade: B-

- Speaking of FAMILY GUY, last night's ep continued the string of sub-par episodes that we've seen from FG of late. It's really getting depressing, to the point where I wonder if FG is simply slumping or if it is permanently in the proverbial crapper. I guess the nature of these animated shows is such that the quality can really be up and down from episode to episode, especially with FG where so many jokes and gags are thrown up against the wall. Even a mediocre episode might still have one or two classic jokes that prevent me from feeling like I just wasted half an hour of my life. But last night's ep was just boring, repetitive, and seemed to be grasping at straws to make some kind of political / social point before degenerating into typical FG randomness. Having Fred Savage be revealed as the mastermind actor who actually is both Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh ... well, it could have maybe been funny if it wasn't basically a throwaway gag. But Family Guy of late has had basically two kinds of jokes -- ones like this that are so random that they are just kind of there, or ones that are just riffs on old gags - ie that Stewie is gay, or the one where someone falls and hurts their knee. I mean, man, when they first had Peter fall and say "aaaah ... my knee! aahhh ... my knee!", I kid you not, it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Has it been funny any of the times they've tried to repeat it since? NO. Hot damn, Family Guy, give us something new!

My Grade: C-

- Meanwhile, as I often think to myself after sitting through FOX's Sunday Night lineup these days ... thank god for KING OF THE HILL. While last night's ep was not anything spectacular, it at least provided some solid laughs and told a nice little character-based story. I do think that we've seen better and less jumpy Nancy-based stories before, but I've always thought that the whole Nancy-Dale relationship is one of the show's most interesting facets, so I was happy to see it in the spotlight once again. The actual plot - Nancy moving up the ladder and finding short-lived success - was something that's ben done, but again, all in a all a fun episode that had some great Dale moments. I loved, for example, Bill's impressed reaction to Dale's hare-brained scheme of turning is house into a veritable igloo in preparation for the apocalyptic ice-age to come. Classic.

My Grade: B+

- I also never got a chance to talk about last Wednesday's episode of LOST. Last week was one of those episodes that all of those big on the show's more relationship-y aspects inevitably got a big kick out of, because the focus was so heavily on Sawyer and his reaction to being reunited with his old castaway friends, including his long-lost love, Kate. Personally, I wasn't blown away by the ep but found it to be a nice little character piece before, hopefully, things ramp up once again. I did really like the stuff with Ben and Sun though, and I loved Sun's brutal double-cross. I thought it was a bit contrived that Lapidus just ended up ditching the crew of his plane to tagalong with Sun, but the subsequent Christian Shephard scene was pretty creepy and badass. Who exactly is Christian? That is one of Lost's many mysteries that I'm eager to see addressed.

My Grade: B+

- Alright, time to talk about the movies. So here we go, baby:


-  Here we have one of those movies that, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed. I laughed a lot, enjoyed typically-hilarious performances from a cast of talented actors, and got a kick out of a lot of the little references and jokes in the script. And yet ... even though there's not a lot of glaring faults with I Love You, Man, it's still a movie that ultimately left me feeling slightly underwhelmed. Perhaps it was simply that my expectations were too high - after all, Paul Rudd and Jason Seagal did star in two of my absolute favorite comedies of last year - Role Models and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In fact, the two actors have participated in some of my all-time favorite comedies  - from Freaks & Geeks to Wet Hot American Summer. So I couldn't help but feel slightly let down by the fact that I Love You, Man feels like a slight step below what I've come to expect from these two. It's also really the first time that I've seen either actor seeing to play to type. It felt strange seeing two actors known for playing quirky and unique characters now big enough stars where you have Paul Rudd basically playing Paul Rudd, and Jason Segel playing Jason Segel. 

But at the same time, it's a credit to how naturally funny these guys are that they can take what in lesser hands might be an unappealingly generic comedy and turn it into a pretty hilarious movie. Because this movie is funny, and a lot of the humor is simply from Rudd and Segel riffing with each other - from Segel's Andre the Giant impression to Rudd's many awkward attempts to come up with manly catchphrases, these two are really just fun to watch. In addition, they are surrounded by a totally top-notch supporting cast. Rashida Jones is clearly in her comfort zone, as a similarly hip and well-meaning girlfriend / fiance to Rudd. Jon Favreau and Jamie Presley are hilarious as a constantly-arguing couple. JK Simmons, well, he's pretty much the man, and is awesome here as always. Andy Samberg gets in some good lines as Rudd's younger brother, and there's even a mini THE STATE reunion as both Joe Lo Truglia and Thomas Lennon show up for pretty funny bit parts. 

That's some good stuff right there. And sometimes, the material is strong enough to match the great cast. There are certain aspects of Rudd's quest to find a best friend that really do ring true. Obviously, I loved Rudd and Segel bonding over what is probably the ultimate "guy band," RUSH. I thought Segel's "man-cave" was hilarious. I thought everything with Rudd and Favreau (again, hilarious as a beer-swilling asshole) was spot-on and really well-done. 

Still, a couple things bothered me about the movie. One was that it just felt formulaic and sappy at times. As funny as the film was, sometimes the various story beats felt ripped right out of some crappy comedy like YOU, ME, AND DUPREE. What I'm getting at is - Rudd's quest to find a male friend is funny and unique - but once the story shifts into the whole, overdone "overbearing and creepy friend is driving me insane" thing, you can't help but roll your eyes a bit. Because that's when things go from novel to "we will now hit you over the head with every Hollywood comedy cliche known to man, including but not limited to a last-minute make-up scene that takes place just as our leading man is about to take his wedding vows." Um, didn't I just see that in STEP BROTHERS?

I guess the only other thing that annoyed me about the movie is that parts of it struck me as having a kind of semi-obnoxious, yuppie vibe. Something about Rudd's well-to-do, sweater-vest-wearing character began to grate on me a bit after a while ... Sure, the character is *supposed* to be misguided when it comes to hangin' with the bro's, but the fact that half of his "man-dates" consist of going to fancy restaurants in trendy areas of LA just seemed off, especially in these tough economic times. I don't know, maybe that's just me.

But again, the great cast here, especially Rudd and Segel, elevate the film and bring the funny. The movie is worth the price of admission alone just to see the two leads jam it out to various Rush tunes (in what I can only deem a new Rush renaissance - the band and their prog-rockin' songs have played a major role in the TV show Chuck, in the movie Fanboys, and now here in the span of mere months!). So, the final verdict: Not up to par with the last couple of Apatow-produced movies, but still well worth checking out.

My Grade: B+

- Alright, time to go watch Jack Bauer open a can of whup-ass. PEACE.

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