Well, it’s funnier than “Gulliver’s Travels” anyway

After presenting the disaster of a trailer mentioned in the title of this post, last night, I thought long and hard about this one for “Hall Pass.” This trailer for an all-star comedy bringing us Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as a couple of married buddies who are granted a temporary suspension of their marriage vows by wives Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate isn’t very consistent and just generally feels below par and tired.  At least that’s my take. See what you think.

There’s good juvenile and bad juvenile and this isn’t the good kind — though it’s nice to see the hilarious Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove, and the sometimes just as funny Richard Jenkins in anything.

H/t /film.

  

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Exclusive Clip — “Cemetery Junction”

It’s annoying but true: in the current blockbuster-driven film climate, an increasing number of films which are clearly worthy of a look are not even getting theatrical releases. You’d think that the directorial debut of the widely acclaimed team behind the original UK version of “The Office” and HBO’s outstanding “Extras,” not to mention “The Ricky Gervais Show,” would at least get a limited arthouse release in the good old U.S.A. The fact that Ricky Gervais has become a well-known figure here as a comic in his own right should help, even if his movies as a writer-actor have so far failed to set our world on fire. If even Gervais’s equally mirth-inducing but less well known professional partner, Stephen Merchant, were to wander into, say, a random Santa Monica or Hollywood-area coffee house, he might well be mobbed.

Nevertheless, the DVD of Gervais and Merchant’s cinematic directorial debut, “Cemetery Junction,” was released yesterday and we have, I’m told, an exclusive clip from the film. As you’ll see, this appears to be a slightly jaundiced coming-of-age comedy-drama in the mold of something like “Diner,” “American Graffiti,” Fellini’s “Il Vitelone,” and innumerable other nostalgic-yet-brittle films made in Britain and all over-the-world.  It stars young Christian Cooke as the requisite dissatisfied local, dividing his time between hanging out with his more complacent mates (Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan), a theoretically dead-end job selling life insurance (hey, that’s what my dad did!), and falling for the boss’s beautiful but engaged daughter (Felicity Jones). Supporting turns are filled by Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode and, of course, Ricky Gervais. He just happens to appear in the rather amusing clip below.

  

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Watch “The Ricky Gervais Show”

This should go without saying for fans of the original version of “The Office” or “Extras,” but Ricky Gervais is back on HBO in “The Ricky Gervais Show.” The show is based on a series of podcasts that Gervais and Stephen Merchant (co-creator of “The Office” and “Extras”) did with Karl Pilkington, a weird little man with a round head and a bunch of strange ideas.

The show premiered on Friday, and I was laughing so hard I was literally crying during the opening segment, where Karl explains his idea for how death and birth should proceed. Check out this clip from “The Late Show.”

  

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Zzzzz….”Avatar”…zzzz

We’re deep, deep into the January doldrums this week with the studios putting out three new movies that will be lucky to be fodder for late night cable or very hard trivia questions after a few weeks. We also, of course, have one true-blue blockbuster dominating the box office for the sixth week in a row.

Sam Worthington in And so THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio is beyond certain that James Cameron will, by Sunday, not only be the director of the #1 and #2 moneymakers of all time (not adjusted for inflation) but also will be matching his own “Titanic” record of six consecutive #1 showings at the U.S. box office. He also says “Avatar” will make roughly $25 million. That sounds about right to me, but all I can really say for sure is that it does seem reasonably sure to wipe the floor with the three fairly lackluster looking films on tap for this weekend.

The Tooth Fairy,” at least, benefits from a quickly understandable premise which has some comic potential, as well as a very strong supporting cast. Dwayne “no longer ‘the Rock'” Johnson is an unpleasant hockey star forced to become the winged pixie of everyone’s childhood. Playing M to his emasculated James Bond is a slightly stern Julie Andrews, with Billy Crystal and Stephen Merchant of “Extras” as his Q branch operatives, while Ashley Judd performs love interest duties. The consensus on this one is that, while  it’s the very rare critic who will go so far as to admit to actually liking the thing — it has a lousy 11% “fresh” Rotten Tomatoes reading — it could have been worse. Talk about faint praise. The trailer isn’t exactly huge on laughs, but Crystal variation on his old Miracle Max shtick got a chuckle out of me. Considering the family factor and Johnson’s appeal, I suspect this Fox comedy will stand up nicely to the weak competition of the other new releases.

Speaking of weak competition, every review I glanced at, including the one from our own David Medsker, compared “Extraordinary Measures” to a TV movie. This fact-inspired maiden voyage for the newly formed CBS Films stars Brendan Fraser as a corporate executive with two children suffering from a rare disease who joins forces with Harrison Ford‘s curmudgeonly scientist to find a cure while battling the medical and corporate establishment.

Brendan Frasher and Harrison Ford take

This type of material can work in theatrical films as was proven by both Steven Soderbergh with “Erin Brockovich” and, before that, George Miller with the underrated “Lorenzo’s Oil.” (Nick Nolte’s Italian accent wasn’t all that bad, besides, he got the emotions right.) The consensus here, however, is that pedestrian execution destines this film to fairly instant obscurity — a familiar face and an aging superstar won’t be enough to attract major audiences to a film that really could have used a few some good reviews. Instead, it got only 23% percent of critics at Rotten Tomatoes admitting to even a mild liking for the film.

Only one critic we know of has even seen “Legion.” Released by Sony and made by a first time director with a background in effects work, this one sounds to me like an action/horror remake of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” or “Wings of Desire” gone very, very wrong. The film has very literal killer angels besieging a diner — because hashhouses are always the best place to start an apocalypse. Starring Paul Bettany as the week’s second ass-kicking winged mythological being and Dennis Quaid as a sick looking middle-aged guy, DiOrio says this is “tracking best among young males” and I can’t imagine who else would see this one. Judging by Mr. One Critic’s ultra-harsh review, even they may find better better things to do. As for what religious people will make of a film which has angels wielding machine guns, I can only imagine.

  

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TCA Tour: The Ricky Gervais Show

If you’ve never listened to the podcast that Ricky Gervais does with his writing partner, Stephen Merchant, then you’ve been missing out on one of the funniest things that’s available for download. Part of it comes, obviously, because of the well-established quick wits of the aforementioned two gentlemen, but the show’s X-factor, if you will, comes from the third man in the recording studio: Karl Pilkington. Although he’s still pretty much a non-entity in the States, you can count on him achieving – at the very least – full-fledged cult status when HBO debuts their new animated series, “The Ricky Gervais Show,” which, despite its title, easily features Pilkington as heavily as Gervais.

There’s no real way to make sense of the way Pilkington’s mind works; we can but marvel at the way he perceives the world and the comments that he makes about it. Here are five moments from the panel which demonstrate what I’m talking about:

1. When asked about Pilkington’s absence from the panel, Gervais explained, “He’s on his way to Rio, I think, to do a documentary called ‘Seven Wonders,’ which we have arranged. We send him around the world to see what he thinks of the seven wonders, and he’s not impressed so far. He thinks the pyramids are overrated. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘It’s a bad design. It’s a bad design.’ He said, ‘The lounge is going to be huge, but the bedroom is going to be tiny.'”

2. “Some of the things that Karl has come up with are incredible,” said Gervais. “I mean, he thought Anne Frank was just avoiding paying rent.”

3. “His serious understanding of evolution,” said Merchant, “is that…he went, ‘Yeah, I know evolution. It starts germ, fish, mermaid, man.'” Said Gervais, “I was trying to get the rudimentaries of evolution to him, and I was explaining to him that we are closer to chimps than chimps are to the gorillas. He was going, ‘No, we are not.’ I go, ‘No. We are.’ I said, ‘We are 98.6 percent genetically identical to a chimpanzee.’ I said, ‘That’s 1.4 percent difference between us and a chimp.’ And he went, ‘That’s got to be the ass.’”

4. “I call him every day, three or four times a day, just to find out what he’s doing,” revealed Gervais. “I called him the other day, and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he went, ‘Just walking in the park.’ I went, ‘All right.’ We went, ‘Oh.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘A worm just fell from the sky.’ And I went, ‘What do you mean?’ He went, ‘He just fell out of the sky.’ I said, ‘Well, a bird probably dropped it.’ And he went, ‘Oh, yeah, there is a bird.’”

5. “We did one podcast,” said Gervais, “I think it was in December 2006, and I said, ‘What was the highlight of the year? Looking back at this year, what will stand out for you?’” And he said, ‘Probably that time I saw a grub eating a biscuit.’ I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He went, ‘Well, I was eating a biscuit. I put the rest on the windowsill. I looked around, and there was a grub eating it.’ I went, ‘Why is that an event?’ He went, ‘I never thought I would see that that year. It made me think, ‘We couldn’t be more different, us and the grub, but we both like a biscuit.'”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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