Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Rating:  2.5/5
Viewing:  initial, On Demand

Basic plot:    British rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) has a failing career after the release of his song "African Child," his girlfriend breaks up with him, and he starts using drugs and alcohol again...heavily.  Meanwhile, Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) works for a record company run by Sergio Roma (Sean Combs), who is looking for the next big idea.  Aaron, being a huge fan of Aldous, suggest that they get him to do a concert at the Greek Theater in L.A. for a 10th anniversary show from when Aldous played there at the top of his career.  So, Aaron must go to England to retrieve Aldous and bring him back to L.A. to 3 days.  Along the way, Aldous struggles with his demons (failed relationship, excessive drug use, etc.), Aaron questions the state of his own life (having recently broken up with his girlfriend as well), and Aaron and Aldous develop a friendship over the hijinks and hurdles along the way.  "Hilarity" ensues.

Rather, hilarity allegedly ensues.  Get Him to the Greek is a sort of indirect sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in that Russell Brand plays the same character.  While Jonah Hill was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as well, he does not play the same character in Get Him to the Greek.  I'm a fan of Russell Brand, and I thought that he was hilarious in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  So I was actually looking forward to Get Him to the Greek, hoping that it would maintain Russell's brand (pardon the wordplay) of comedy throughout, regardless of whether or not he was in the scene.  But sadly, that was not the case.  Aside from some rare moments involving other characters (mostly those involving Rose Byrne, playing the role of Aldous's girlfriend Jackie Q, who I think was supposed to be a lampoon at Katy Perry, who ended up having a real life relationship with Brand), the only times that I really laughed were during Brand's scenes.  So, while Russell Brand was once again hilarious, the movie itself wasn't really all that funny.

I typically haven't liked Jonah Hill's character in too many movies, but I think that usually has to do with the type of character he usually plays.  I like it when his character is more of an actual person, rather than the over the top stereotype of the Chris Farley-esque character.  I liked his character in Get Him to the Greek more than I have liked him in other movies, but he was still a bit of a tool (especially to his girlfriend).  Like I said above, even though Jonah Hill was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he did not play the same character.  I remember seeing an interview with the director around the time that Get Him to the Greek came out in which he said that they picked Hill because of the chemistry that he and Brand had in their scenes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  And it was a pretty great chemistry.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall is actually one of the few movies that I actually liked Hill's character.  But if that chemistry is why they chose to put Hill and Brand together again, why would they mess with the formula and change Hill's character?  Or, if they were going to change Hill's character, then why keep Brand's character the same?  But, this is only a minor gripe.  Brand and Hill still had pretty good chemistry.  I just think that it could have been even better if they had kept Hill as the same character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

My biggest problem with Get Him to the Greek is that it seems to suffer from what I call the Dane Cook effect.  That is, vulgarity, profanity, etc. is heavily used and is supposed to be funny.  But, just because something is vulgar, profane, offensive, etc., that does not make it funny.  Think, for example, of comedians like Louis C. K., Brian Posehn, Patton Oswalt, Daniel Tosh, or Bo Burnham.  I think that each of those comedians are pretty funny/hilarious, but they are all certainly very offensive/profane at times.  The profanity/offensiveness is certainly a part of their comedy.  But when I talk about them to people, I describe them as being very funny, but offensive.  Now compare that to comedians like Dane Cook.  In my opinion, he is just loud, profane, and offensive, but not all that funny.  But, for some reason, people still think that because he is being offensive, he must be funny.  (On a side note, don't think that I am bashing Dane Cook.  I actually think that he has been pretty funny in the roles that he has played in movies.  And I think that he has the potential to be a very funny comedian.  But, because he keeps getting reinforced for the type of stand-up that he does, he keeps doing it without challenging himself to create better material).  Anywho, back to the movie...many of the scenes rely very heavily on profanity as the source of humor, but it just isn't all that funny.  It's just swearing.

Overall, I thought Get Him to the Greek was ok.  Russell Brand made me laugh enough, and I cared enough about his character.  Actually, his character was really the only one that I cared about.  Aside from Brand, the rest of the movie was "meh."  If other people were watching it, I would stick around.  But I probably wouldn't watch it again on my own.  I watched it On Demand, so I didn't have access to any of the extras.  If the extras include a good/funny commentary, it might make the movie more watchable.  If I ever get around to watching the extras (it is still in my Netflix queue, but at the bottom of the queue, and would be one of the ones I delete if I need to make room for other films), I will let you know if they add any quality to the movie.

Recommendation:  somewhere between rent and pass, depending on your personal preference.  Russell Brand delivered the laughs and the emotion, and was the only thing that made this movie enjoyable enough to watch.  So, if you are a big fan of Brand and want to see everything that he has done, then go ahead and rent (queue)'ll enjoy his performance (just don't expect much from the rest of the movie).  But if you are just watching it for Brand, then why not just watch his stand-up special (which is on Netflix instant).  If you are wanting to see Brand and Hill paired up, pass on Get Him to the Greek and just rewatch Forgetting Sarah Marshall (it is, by far, a much funnier movie overall).  Also, Get Him to the Greek contains some nudity, and lots of swearing.  So if you are offended by either of those, you will definitely want to probably won't find the humor funny enough to make up for the offense. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie Review: The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells (2009)
Netflix streaming
Viewing: second
Rating: 3.5/5

The basic plot: towns/villages are being ransacked by Vikings in search of gold. One of the towns attacked is that of Iona, home of the legendary Book of Iona. One of the abbots (Aidan) who was working on the book managed to escape with his life, the book, and his pet cat. Aidan arrives at Kells, where he continues to work on the book. Meanwhile, the inhabiitants of Kells work on the town wall, attempting to establish protection against the impending invasion of the Vikings. The story focuses on the young character of Brendan, who is the nephew of abbot Cellach, the town's leader. Brendan is fascinated by Aidan and the book of Iona, but also tries to honor the rules and requests of his uncle (there's a bit of a conflict between the two). During the process of learning more about the book, Brendan meets and establishes a friendship with a forest fairy (Aisling) who is the protector of her forest.

Brendan's conflict of learning more about the book, or following the order of his uncle, embodies the larger conflict of the town: is faith or might more important? Aidan places importance on finishing the book, while Cellach places importance on finishing the town wall. As Aidan and Cellach talk, Cellach says "it is with the strength of our walls that they will come to trust the strength of our faith." But much of their faith is influenced/tied to the book. So if the book is not finished, then what is protecting their faith? Of course, if the town is not protected, then there will be no one to complete the book. But still, as they talk, you can't help but feel like the Aidan is right and that Cellach is focusing too much on just the wall. Cellach's focus is intensified by the setting in his tower. The tower room is covered with designs of the town and the wall. It is part beauty, part meticulous planning, and part overwhelming obsession.

I originally saw this movie a couple years ago. I remembered that I liked it, but I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the visual style and how gorgeous I think it is! The animation has a very classic/gothic style, very clearly drawing inspiration from early Celtic art and literature, while still having a fresh take on it. Much in the same way that some movies based on graphic novels try to emulate the visual style of the surce material, while still trying to put a unique spin on it. I should note that I'm not actually sure if this movie is drawing off of any specific source material, or just Celtic art in general. Either way, I loved the visual style and I think that it was the strongest aspect of the film. Some of the scenes were so intricate that they conveyed much more about the characters than the characters themselves, such as the tower scene mentioned above. And The use of repeated visual themes (primarily circular patterns) helped to establish a connection between the town and the forest, illustrating that they were both experiencing very similar situations (Aisling did not want the townspeople destroying her land).

The visuals were definitely the strong point (practically every frame, especially in the forest, was a work of art), but the music is pretty solid as well, helping to establish and maintain the setting in each scene. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the visuals and the musical score were the creative force driving the production of the film, with the story and dialogue added in to tie it all together. There were some highlights of the story (the fairy is delightfully quirky, but with an air of mysterious danger about her. The interaction between childlike curiosity and aged wisdom. Aidan's lovable cat. The delicate balance of power and knowledge between good and evil), but overall I felt like the story and the voice acting were the weakest parts of the film. They weren't entirely bad (the voice actors of the main characters were good), but they definitely could have been developed more to make a much more solid film. But the story and the acting aren't really why I felt this movie was worthy of a repeated viewing. It's the visuals, aided by the constant soundtrack, that make it so enjoyable to watch.

Recommendation: it's worth a rent. If you appreciate art and/animation, you'll enjoy the stylized visuals. I enjoyed the visuals enough for a second viewing, and will probably watch it again in the future. But the somewhat underdeveloped story (it kind of feels like they got tired of writing towards the end and just skipped to the ending), and some pretty poor voice acting from some of the minor characters keep me from suggesting that you add it to the top of your queue. Aside from a few scenes that might be upsetting to kids (when the Vikings attack), it's very family friendly. So if you're running out of movie options to watch with the entire family, and you want something a bit more visually unique, give this one a shot.