Tag Archives: Judd Apatow

Movie Review: Trainwreck (2015)

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Trainwreck is a dangerous title for a movie because there’s always the risk that it’ll turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fortunately for Judd Apatow and star comedian Amy Schumer, the film has turned out to be the opposite of its name, cruising past expectations for an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And I can definitely understand the appeal. The film is a star vehicle for Schumer, who is following in the footsteps of comedianness like Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in getting an opportunity to break into the mainstream. Schumer is self-deprecating, edgy, raunchy, overtly sexual and an expert at making people uncomfortable, and if you like her style of humour you’ll likely enjoy this film.

The other section of the market the film targets is Judd Apatow fans. He’s been associated with just about every “dramedy” over the last decade, but he’s only really directed a handful of movies — The 40-year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, This is 40 and now Trainwreck. A lot of people love how he blends edgy comedy with serious dramatic themes, and now looking through this list I have to admit I am a bigger fan than I thought I was (it’s all those other crap movies which he produced that dragged him down in my mind).

For me, Trainwreck lies somewhere in the middle of Apatow’s movies, which is a little strange considering there are a lot of things I like about it. I like that Amy Schumer makes for a very unconventional protagonist — she’s crass, she’s promiscuous, she likes to drink, and she’s not as skinny or attractive as typical Hollywood female leads (even among the comedians) — which makes for a experience not a lot of us are used to. I’m a big fan of Bill Hader (especially after seeing him in The Skeleton Twins just a couple of months ago) and it’s also interesting to see him — also atypical in many ways — play the romantic lead in a film. On top of that, LeBron James makes his film debut as himself, and shocks because he has a sizable supporting role as opposed to just a cameo — and he’s actually a pretty good actor and quite funny.

The plot is as follows. Amy (Amy Schumer), works at a men’s magazine and gets forced to do a profile on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) by her boss (Tilda Swinton). Having been raised by a father (Colin Quinn) who doesn’t believe in monogamy, she finds it difficult to have a relationship with a man that’s not purely sexual. Though she had just been dating a beefcake who is obviously homosexual (wrestler John Cena), she soon finds herself falling for Conners and becoming just like her more stable sister (Brie Larson), a cliche she has always avoided. But is she willing to change her ways and take a risk to find happiness?

The premise is nothing groundbreaking and feels quite familiar, though usually it’s from the male perspective. Still, I’m surprised by how many people there are calling Trainwreck an “anti-romcom”. Yes, the jokes are sharper, smarter and often very funny, but at the end of the day the film uncontrollably steers toward romcom tropes and typical Apatow character development arcs — you know, the break-up lull just before the grand realisation spurring the character growth needed for the lovers to live happily ever after.

In this sense, Trainwreck is somewhat overrated. It’s not the revolutionary romcom or Apatow dramedy some have made it out to be. And if you know Schumer’s comedy you’ll know she can come across as a little racist (I don’t think she crosses the line though), which can be fine in a standup routine but offend people in a movie scenario. Having said that, I easily cracked the six-laugh quota for a good comedy while watching the film and there were even a couple of times when I laughed as hard as I have for any Apatow movie, no mean feat considering the majority of laughs came from improvised lines and off-the-cuff remarks as opposed to elaborately planned jokes.

Then there’s the LeBron factor. He definitely didn’t choke this time and held his own against some of the most popular comedians in the world. I don’t want to raise expectations too high because it’s still an athlete playing a caricature of himself, though it’s safe to say he blows Shaq’s Kazaam out of the water. Clutch performance. He might not be “da real MVP”, but LeBron certainly deserves to be on the All-Rookie Team.

It was also good to see Amare Stoudemire play himself as one of Dr Conner’s parents, especially considering that he was willing to be in a storyline in which he needs, um, career-saving knee surgery (again). There are plenty of other eye-catching cameos, from Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei to Marv Albert, Chris Evert, Tony Romo and Matthew Broderick. The good thing is that none of these felt like they were forced into the film for the sake of there being a lot of celebrity cameos.

As with all Apatow movies, Trainwreck is about 15-20 minutes too long, and there are dramatic scenes that drag on. While it may not be the most well-rounded of films, when it comes to delivering laughs and comedy from a woman’s perspective, Trainwreck is anything but. It may not have been as good as it could have been, but it’s still better than the majority of comedies and romcoms that get released these days.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Good comedies are so hard to come by these days, so I was very excited to hear that the buzz on Bridesmaids has been overwhelmingly positive.  It has been described as a female version of The Hangover, though I personally think Bridesmaids was actually better.

Co-written by and starring comedian Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids tells the story of Annie (Wiig), a former cake store owner who becomes the Maid of Honour to her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph).  And as the Maid of Honour, Annie is entrusted with various tasks associated with the wedding and the bridal party, which comprises the wealthy, perfect wife of the groom’s boss Helen (Rose Byrne), the groom’s crazy sister Megan (Melissa McCarthy), and friends Rita and Becca (Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper, respectively).

The best parts of Bridesmaids are hilarious.  Bawdy conversations, outrageous situtations, a couple of which rely on gross-out humour — but nonetheless worked because of the surprisingly good execution from director Paul Feig (which became less of a surprise when I discovered he had directed episodes of Arrested Development, The Office and 30 Rock) and excellent comedic timing from the actresses, in particular the trio of Wiig, Byrne and McCarthy.  John Hamm (from Mad Men) was also brilliant in a small but memorable role.

Despite the praises, I still thought Bridesmaids could have been better and funnier.  For starters, at 125 minutes it was far too long for a comedy of this kind — though strangely it left a few loose ends.  The film worked best when it was focused on the bridal party and especially the rivalry between Annie and Helen, but for some reason the second half put excessive emphasis on Annie’s depressing personal issues and a sweet, sappy romance, both of which were adequate but seldom funny.

Since it was titled Bridesmaids, I was really hoping for more interaction between the bridesmaids, where there was so much potential for laughs, but instead there ended up being too many typical ‘rom-com’, ‘chick flick’ and ‘personal growth’ sequences that made the film’s humour somewhat choppy and uneven.  I put the blame on Judd Apatow, who was a co-producer of the film.

Having said all that, this was just my personal opinion and probably reflected my wishes and expectations more than genuine shortcomings of the film.

Ultimately, it may fall quite a fair way short of a classic, but Bridesmaids was at least a fresh idea that’s clever, entertaining, sometimes funny and occasionally hilarious.  And this is coming from a guy.

3.75 stars out of 5

10 Worst Films of 2010!

Now you’ve seen my top 10 films of 2010, it’s time to go through the worst.  And there were plenty.

As per the best films’ list, the movie must have been released in Australia at the cinema or on DVD in the year of 2010.  You can click on the movie title for my full review.

Here goes, in descending order.

(to see the list click on ‘more…’)

Continue reading 10 Worst Films of 2010!

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part IV

I guess this will be the final part of my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’, considering it is the new year, after all.  Four more here, then I’ll have to start my ‘Start of Year DVD Blitz’ (since I still have a bunch to watch).

Machete (2010)

Apparently Machete is a character from the children’s film Spy Kids and stemmed from a fake trailer in Grindhouse, but this Robert Rodrigue (and Ethan Maniquis) film stands on its own just fine.

In Machete, Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican badass that likes to use, uh, machetes to hack people up.  And there’s plenty of that intentionally fake, gory violence that was employed in Grindhouse, though for me it was still cringeworthy watching limbs and heads hacked off.  The film features of trio of sassy ladies — Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan — and excellent bad guys, such as Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey and in probably the best role of his career, Steven Segal.

Machete is fun, entertaining and loud-out-loud funny at times, though the ‘fake exploitation’ angle does get a little old quickly.  It’s a movie you’re likely to remember a few years from now, though you’ll probably have no idea what it was all about.  I actually have trouble remembering right now, but I do recall it was fun while it lasted.

3.25 stars out of 5


The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

Perfect example of a tight, well-written script and excellent direction (by J Blakeson).

Gemma Arterton is the titular Alice Creed, who is kidnapped by two goons (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan).  It seems like a standard kidnapping film, except that it’s not.  The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an intelligent film full of thrills, tension, and twists and turns.  Shows that you can make a great film that doesn’t have to be lengthy (96 minutes) and has a limited set and budget (most of it takes place in a couple of rooms), as long as it has a good script, a good director and good actors.

This film might have gotten most of its press from the fact that Arterton gets her kit off but it’s definitely one of the better thrillers I’ve seen this year.

4 stars out of 5


Skrek Forever After (2010)

I liked the first Shrek and liked the second, and I can’t remember whether I saw the third (and don’t care).  I kind of approached this fourth, and supposedly final film in the franchise with the same indifference — thinking that it would be pretty funny but wary because I was afraid they have milked the same jokes too far.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.  In this one, Shrek, married with children, is bored with living ‘happily ever after’, and in a moment of weakness hastily signs a contract that turns his world upside down.  By creating an alternate universe and a brand new villain (Rumpelstiltskin — played by Walt Dohrn), DreamWorks has reinvigorated an otherwise stale franchise.  A lot of the jokes have been recycled, but there are some new ones to keep things fresh and funny.  The magic and the excitement may no longer be there, but the laughs certainly are.

It may be because my expectations were relatively low, but I think this one was definitely better than the third film, whether or not I actually watched it.

3.5 stars out of 5

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

I’ve always thought any movie with a Judd Apatow connection has been overrated.  Some of them may have been pretty good, or at least different to a lot of the same old crap we had been seeing over the last few years, but none of them have been, in my humble opinion, as great as they have been made out to be.

Get Him to the Greek is, and I don’t say this lightly, the WORST movie I have seen this year.  Maybe not from a technical standpoint, but I truly loathed this film, to the point where I had to challenge myself to finish the damn thing.  This is incredibly rare for me as I’m usually known to be quite generous when it comes to reviewing movies.

Where do I start with this crap?  It’s a comedy-drama that is brutally unfunny for the vast majority of its 109 minute running time.  I wasn’t even in a bad mood, so I can’t blame it on that.  I actually thought Russell Brand’s character Aldous Snow was the highlight of the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall (from which this film spun off), but here he was just an annoying prick.  And despite his girth, Jonah Hill, whom I’ve never been a big fan of, simply cannot carry the film as the protagonist.  Maybe he tries too hard, but neither him nor Brand are likeable or sympathetic characters.  And don’t even get me started on P Diddy, who received rave reviews for his performance as a foul mouthed record company head.  His act got old on me real quick too.  Only Rose Byrne’s character, Jackie Q, cracked me up a couple of times.

Am I being too harsh here?  I dunno.  All I do know is that I have rarely felt such passionate distaste for a film.  If people being incredibly obnoxious and vulgar, constantly swearing (in an unfunny way), constantly vomiting and being obsessed with anuses is your idea of humour, then maybe you might like it better than I did.  The randomness worked well in Sarah Marshall because Snow was a minor character, but here it felt contrived.  I just didn’t get this one.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: She’s Out of My League (2010)

I heard some good things about She’s Out of My League before I went to see it — so I had reasonable expectations.  It seemed like one of those Judd Apatow-esque films, with a quirky premise, everyday characters, and lots of funny (and sometimes outrageous or vulgar) dialogue and interactions.  Well, it pretty much was, and while it’s not bad, there’s nothing to really separate it from other similar films in recent years.

Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder), a very underrated actor in my opinion, plays Kirk, a regular guy who works in airport security.  British Actress Alice Eve plays Molly, a pretty girl Kirk meets by chance, and who seems too good to be true.  The name of the film says it all, so there’s no need to elaborate much further than that.  Of course, there are the wacky friends, the crazy family, the rival, and a bunch of embarrassing incidents — all things you could have probably guessed.

For what is essentially a vulgar-ish rom-com, She’s Out of My League actually offers some interesting and honest insights into human nature and relationships.  At times, the story can be sweet and display some heart, but it never really gets there in my opinion.

Is the film funny?  Yes, but nothing that had me rolling in the isles.  To be honest it was too “hit and miss” for my liking, and there was an over-reliance on swearing for comedic effect.  When used correctly, it’s awesome, but too often in this film it comes off as contrived and obnoxious.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some genuinely funny moments, whether it’s a casual conversation or a cringe-worthy incident.  But sadly, this was another one of those films where the trailer revealed all the best jokes.  When will I learn to stop watching them?

She’s Out of My League is a decent film capable of making you laugh, especially when in the right frame of mind, but ultimately it’s not a standout in this type of genre.

3 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Funny People (2009)

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Judd Apatow is a name that gets thrown around a lot these days when it comes to comedies (as writer and producer), but in reality, there have only been three films where he has been the director – The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and his latest, Funny People, starring his former flatmate Adam Sandler and a mid-weight-loss Seth Rogen (I believe he’s lost more since).

Very loosely based on some of Apatow’s experiences as a struggling comedian, Funny People is about stand-up comedians and, basically, their lives, from those battling at the bottom, to those living it up at the top.  I don’t want to reveal much more than that.  If you haven’t seen the previews, then good for you, because as usual, it reveals some of the best parts and spoils the surprises.

You hear the names Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, and you may be thinking ultra-hilarious, stupid, vulgar comedy, but Funny People is more accurately classified as a drama-comedy.  Put it this way – it’s more Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love than Happy Gilmore and Pineapple Express.  That said, the film has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, often coming from unsuspecting cameos, of which there are many.  The film did a splendid job of combining people acting as other characters and people playing themselves (or at least public versions of themselves).  Things such as fictional movies and movie posters (some just in the background) mixed in with real-life archive footage added an extra layer of comedic complexity to the film.

The stand-up routines were also apparently written by the actors themselves, performed and shot in front of live audiences and then edited for the movie.  I suspect there must have quite a bit of improvisation too.  It makes me wonder how many of the actual lines were ad-libbed, because some sounded too spontaneously brilliant to have been scripted.

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However, it is the dramatic elements of Funny People that set it apart from Apatow’s earlier films.  There are some pretty emotional scenes in there, and I was surprised how well Apatow pulled them off.  Not all of them scenes may have worked, but enough did to make Funny People an engaging drama as well as a clever adult comedy.

As for the cast, Apatow employs the usual suspects to support Sandler and Rogen – Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann (his wife in real life) and even  his two daughters Maude and Iris Apatow.  The addition that may seem out of the blue to some is of course Eric Bana, who demonstrates his comedic talents to the world (outside of Australia) for the first time.  To fellow Aussies, his hilarity comes as no surprise (as he was a comedian before he turned serious), but I think those who only know him from Hulk and Troy are going to be pleasantly surprised.  Oh, and I must say, I usually find Jonah Hill rather irritating, but he’s actually funny here.  Jason Schwartzman was excellent too.  I knew Adam Sandler was capable of being a great dramatic actor, but was pleasantly surprised by Seth Rogen.  He was very very good.

My main complaint with Funny People is its running time, which at 136 minutes is far too long, even for a drama-comedy.  The ending was also a bit ‘meh’.  Nevertheless, overall this is still a quality film, definitely worth your time.

4 stars out of 5!