Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baby Mama

2008 directorial debut of Michael McCullers, whose better known as the writer of many episodes of SNL from what I think of as the golden days of the mid-90's. Well, he teams up here with two famous SNL'ers in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in an attempt to harness their combined comedic energy that made Weekend Update great a few years ago and the Sarah Palin and Hillary/Katie Couric skits on SNL now. I hate to say it, as I do love these comediennes, but McCullers simply doesn't pull it off. Fey plays a 30-something executive who's succeeding in everything she does, except procreating. Since she's tried just about everything and isn't willing to wait on an adoption (b/c she's seriously obsessed with reproducing), she's enlisted the help of a surrogate, who, as it turns out, is a pre-teenager in a 30-year-old's body. She's loud, rude and supposed to be the ingredient for comedy gold. The problem is the filmmakers go in too many directions, introduce too many characters and don't take the time to get any depth out of any the relationships. I never felt sucked into this movie and I don't think I actually, audibly laughed at any moment. Fey does well with what she's given, as does Greg Kinnear, but they don't have enough and don't do well enough to carry this movie from trinket into treasure. Just about everyone in this movie is a stereotype. The single executive is, gasp, desperate to find a man and have a baby. The black door man is brash, listens to crude rap and talks mostly about all the baby mama's he has around town. The owner of the nature food store does little more than yoga stretches right on the boardroom conference table. It's all too predictable and not funny. I say skip it. Instead, rent the best of Chris Farley and wonder at the glory of some good McCullers writing. That said, there's a moment where Steve Martin rewards Fey's character with five minutes of un-interrupted eye-contact, and I gotta admit, that's pretty funny. God bless you Steve.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Burn After Reading

2008 return to form by the brothers Coen, those two Austinite filmmakers who've made a career of cinematic alchemy. I mean, I hated the book No Country for Old Men when I read it, but their adaptation to the screen was simply fantastic. Well, here they've done it again. This movie is, seriously, about a woman who sees an opportunity to make some money for four, count 'em, four plastic surgeries by extorting it out of an ex-CIA analyst. How could she extort him? Well, her and a co-worker got their hands on some "raw intelligence" that was found on the women's bathroom floor at the gym where they work. Problem is, it's not intelligence at all, in fact, it's part of the rough draft of the memoir a mid-level analyst is writing. Problem is, they just have a CD with some of it on it. He still has it all on his hard drive. In other words, they have nothing. Are you a Coen brothers fan? Do you like it when they tell a story of a couple idiots who inadvertently open up a Pandora's box of chaos? Did you like their movies like The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona, for example? Then you are going to love this one. These two morons, played wonderfully by Francis McDormand and Brad Pitt, have smacked what they thought was an easy target but turns out to be a bee hive. They start a chain of event that just spins totally out of control by the end. And it's a fun thing to watch. The other great thing about this flick is all the subtle spoofing the Coen brothers lay on the political spy genre. Whether it's Patriot Games or the Bourne Identity or Enemy of the State or...well the list goes on and on doesn't it, the style is mocked perfectly here. The film begins with a shot of Earth from far off, it clicks in closer and closer like a computer program, until eventually coming in on the CIA headquarters in Langley. All the while, the music is haunting and ominous and little words are coming up on the screen with that old school computer sound beeping off with each letter. Then inside the headquarters the shot is of black leather dress shoes as they clop down a long empty hallway. And so on and so on. Their understanding of the vibe of this genre is spot on and it lends a humor to the movie it wouldn't otherwise have.
The language is pretty foul, the jokes sometimes crude and the very rare violence is graphic and intense, but if you know the Coen brothers and are expecting one of their movies you won't be suprised to see these elements. If you're not a fan of their work, or are a fan only of their more dramatic stuff like Miller's Crossing or No Country for Old Men, then you may not dig this one much. The only exception would be if you are someone who simply loves movies like Hunt for Red October and would totally dig on the spoof like James Bond fans loved Austin Powers.
It's a stupid comedy done by some brilliant actors and filmmakers and the results, I think, are totally worth watching.

Worth Watching (but maybe a little bit ME)