Not Funny, Funny — the Mamet/Gandhi edition

Every once in a while I see something that I think isn’t funny and am moved to find something that I think actually is. Since humor is so notoriously hard to quantify, I’m not going to attempt to really learn anything from my little game, I just present the contrasting videos and let you, the audience, contemplate the difference.

Today, we start with a Funny or Die video that has been making the rounds written and directed by none other than David Mamet. We’ve had our political and cultural disagreements, but I consider myself a fan and I find a lot of his stuff extremely funny. I also think Danny DeVito is pretty cool. As for this collaboration which has been making the blog rounds, however, perhaps the less I say, the better. Watch for yourself.

Inside The Actor’s Workshop with Danny DeVito from David Mamet

Okay, now I’d never compare the dramatic talents of Mr. Mamet with those of Weird Al Yankovic, but in this somewhat similarly themed clip from Yankovic’s all but forgotten “UHF,” I find that the funny edge definitely goes to Weird Al.

  

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Six Preview

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The gang from Paddy’s Pub is back for more demented shenanigans when “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” returns to FX tomorrow night. Of course, if you had told me back in 2005 that the comedy series would even make it to a sixth season, I probably wouldn’t have believed you, because while the show has always been funny to a certain degree, it wasn’t until around Season Three (a year after executive producer Danny DeVito joined the cast) that it really began to find its groove. I’ve also always been surprised to learn how many people watch the show considering its un-PC brand of humor, but the numbers don’t lie – “It’s Always Sunny” continues to grow in viewership every year, conceivably because fans are getting their friends hooked in the same way that many found out about the show themselves.

After what was arguably their most successful season to date (thanks to episodes like “The World Series Defense,” “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” and “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry”), fans will be happy to learn that Season Six is just as perversely funny as before. Though they had to work actress Kaitlin Olson’s real-life pregnancy into the story this year, they’ve done so in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. In the aptly titled season premiere, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?,” we discover that the gang’s lone female member not only has a bun in the oven, but that one of the guys might be the father.

The rest of the episode revolves around Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Frank recalling the night of conception (a booze-filled Halloween party with plenty of twists and alternate versions of the story) in order to figure out which one of them is the father. I won’t ruin it for you here, but I will say that they definitely throw you for a loop after messing with your mind in true “It’s Always Sunny” fashion. Check out the video below for more about the season premiere, and then tune in tomorrow night for the answer.

  

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Weekend box office: “Shrek Forever After” #1 with diminishing returns; “MacGruber” explodes, but in the bad way

Shrek Forever AfterThe fourth and, I’m guessing, probably final theatrical bow for the soulful green troll with the Scottish accent grossed an estimated $71.25 million this weekend for Dreamworks and Paramount, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo chart. That’s a lot more than enough to make “Shrek Forever After” the top movie in the country this week, and a substantial take for any movie. It is, however, significantly below the $121.6 that the widely unloved last entry in the series earned on its opening weekend back in 2007 — without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices.

It’s even further below the  numbers that were being bandied about by writers, if not, studios, earlier on. I mentioned last time that Carl DiOrio thought the film could hit $100 million, but failed to note the breakdown at the Numbers. It said that while “analysts” (whoever they may be) were suggesting a $90-$95 million opening, the studio was pimping a more modest $80 million while trying to diminish expectations. They should have diminished them a little bit more.

The week’s other major opener, “MacGruber,” proved my hunches to be at least as wrong as DiOrio’s. While steering clear to some extent of the $15-20 million guess at the Numbers, I doubted the single-digit numbers that DiOrio mentioned. As the singer of the obscure Difford and Tilbrook tune says, let’s face it, I’m wrong again. As it turns out, even DiOrio’s lowest figures weren’t low enough. The incompetent MacGyver-like bomb diffuser only earned a fairly pathetic $4.1 million in 2,551 theaters for the #6 spot. I think it’s safe to say that the poor reputation of SNL-derived films clearly preceded this one, which actually has garnered reviews that are a bit better than most other films in this long-running franchise.

Grim faced Ryan Phillipe, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig face the b.o. music

Still, considering that most SNL sketches, even at their best, never seem to sustain until the end of the bit, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the movies derived from them have a hard time holding attention through feature-length running times. If “MacGruber” suffered from a bit of movie guilt-by-association, it’s just too bad for anyone who was hoping for a quick A-list status for the off-kilter Will Forte — a performer who I think would fit in really nicely in a David Lynch movie. (I mean that as a compliment, I think.) On the other hand, every time I check Rotten Tomatoes, even it’s now-meh-to-bad (once kind of okay and maybe even almost good) critical numbers keep dropping, with “Top Critics” being a bit more brutal.

The #2 and #3 spots, respectively, were held by “Iron Man 2” with an estimate of $26.6 million for Marvel and Paramount, and “Robin Hood” with $18.7 million estimated for long suffering Universal. Probably helped by weak competition, both movies managed to keep their weekly drop to just under 50%. Still, I think it’s safe to call the $200 million “Robin Hood” a disappointment that won’t do much for the careers of either Russell Crowe or Ridley Scott, not that they’re in any danger of obscurity just yet.

A paucity of movies for women of any age probably also helped grow some legs for the #4 cross-generational rom-com, “Letters to Juliet,” which dropped only by 32.8% and earned a solid $9.1 million for the probably fairly modestly budgeted film. That should help young Amanda Seyfried cement her growing credibility as a box office draw, at least for young-female-skewing films and even if her most challenging film role so far has been ignored. Of course, that lack of female-friendly major draws will change next week with the arrival of “Sex and the City 2.”

Jesse Eisenberg is probably okay for the JewsOn the limited release circuit, it was actually a pretty good weekend for Jesse Eisenberg and the talented young actor’s efforts to prove he’s something other than a Jewish knock-off of Michael Cera. His high-concept drama with mixed reviews, “Holy Rollers,” performed fairly strongly in its opening weekend on three screens with a solid per screen average of $13,003 from an audience that probably discussed after the film whether the drama about a drug-running Hasid was good or bad for the Jews. Doing even better was the all-star comedy, “Solitary Man,” top-lined by Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (let’s not talk about how long it’s been since “Romancing the Stone” and ‘The War of the Roses”),” and also featuring mid twenty-something Eisenberg. On the strength of strong reviews and the cast, it managed an estimated $22,250 on four screens. As usual, Peter Knegt at Indiewire has the details.

  

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Monday night at the movies, the post TCM Fest edition.

I’m recovering from the fest and doing other stuff as well, so I’m going to try and keep things fairly short tonight.

* The non-extra initial Blu-Ray/DVD release of “Avatar” has, guess what, done very, very well.

* Thanks, Hef! He saves the world for heavily retouched naked women, pays writers more than just about anybody, and now he ponies up the missing funds to save the Hollywood sign.

* One item I don’t actually have to link to report on is that the TCM Classic Film Festival is going to be back next year, with the idea of being an annual event. I can do that because I was present at last night’s big screening of “Metropolis” where none other than Robert Osborne announced it to the assembled multitudes at the more beautiful than ever Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

What was interesting about the way this festival was marketed is that people who live in Los Angeles were clearly not the primary target. Individual ticket prices were roughly double what film geeks like myself are used to paying to see similar presentations — actually more than double when you consider that most repertory programs are actually double bills. With the exception of fellow press and a USC film student who had picked up one of thirty free tickets that has been donated, everyone I spoke to was from elsewhere, and usually a place where the opportunity to see such frequently revived cinematic warhorses as “Casablanca” and “Some Like it Hot” on the big screen are nevertheless beyond rare.

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas

The trio behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has cooked up some of the most unpolitically correct humor in the history of TV, but for “A Very Sunny Christmas,” they’ve dialed it down considerably, instead relying on more gratuitous tactics – like language, nudity and gore – to score laughs. Split up into two stories, the holiday special follows the gang as they prepare for Christmas Day. While Dennis and Dee try to teach Frank a lesson by taking him through his own version of “A Christmas Carol,” Mac and Charlie try to cope with the fact that their Christmas memories aren’t as great as they remember them. The episode culminates with a Claymation musical number that features Hermey the Mischief Elf, Sam the Snowman, and the California Raisins dressed up as KKK members.

Though the former subplot definitely has its moments (a sweaty, naked Danny DeVito not being one of them), the latter is easily the funnier of the two, whether it’s Mac losing his temper or Charlie going nuts on a mall Santa. Still, for a show that’s just beginning to earn an audience beyond its cult fanbase, it takes a lot of nerve to release a 42-minute Christmas special straight to DVD. Though you can’t really blame the creators for making this kind of executive decision (this has Fox’s greedy little fingerprints all over it), the show itself really could have been a lot better. Instead, you get a mediocre extended episode for about five dollars less than the cost of an entire season. It’s not exactly a great way to win over new viewers, and certainly not the way to treat old ones either. This is strictly for diehard fans only, but even they may have issues with ponying up the cash for something that FX is bound to air for free eventually.

Click to buy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas”

  

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