Knocked Up Accused Of Plagiarism

Knocked Up When Grindhouse was released, there were accusations that Quentin Tarantino had lifted the premise from a small indie film. By the evidence there didn’t seem much to take seriously. However this week some major press is being made accusing Judd Apatow of lifting the concept of “Knocked Up” from well known Canadian journalist Rebecca Eckler, who wrote a memoir called “Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be”, released months before Apatow made his movie pitch. Eckler has enough credibility to make some noise here, and there are indeed similarities – a young journalist who had too much to drink only to be impregnated by a Jewish Canadian, aided by her sister. The Toronto Star has a piece today, and this week Canadians’ favorite waiting room time killer Maclean’s has this extensive piece by Eckler herself detailing her full rationale for believing “Knocked Up” was well, knocked off. Personally, I would think Apatow would be smarter than blatantly ripping off a story, especially with the same title – and the tale is simple and universal enough (and really, from the slacker male point of view – of a Jewish Canadian actor who has always gone out of his way to make this part of his character in every Apatow production he’s been a part of) that I would have a hard time seeing this hold up in court. Take a look at the article and judge for yourself.
UPDATE – I’ve discovered this blog keeping close tabs on this story.

Huh? Were These Supposed to Be Funny?

She Spilled My CoffeeWhile at a screening for Pan’s Labyrinth last week (best movie of the year, by the way), this advertisement ran for a group called “Equality Rules”. Half the audience laughed at the over the top “Clerks”-ish situation, the other half was quite upset and even spoke against other people in the audience for laughing. You can count me among those that found the situation, choices of words and the presentation funny. You have to admit, with that setup and the way advertisements try to throw people, it could have turned into an ad for any number of things. The question is, was this first section of the ad intended to be funny, or were advertisers serious yet just too dumb to realize you dont mix PSAs explaining the horrors of abuse with clever or funny situations/presentation. Whatever it is, these ads are not the sole example of this “its not okay when X does it” goofiness. These other abuse ads for example, could easily have been a segment of “Family Guy”:

“She Spilled My Coffee”
“The New Numbers are Right”
“Pick that Thing Up!”

I’m used to drunk driving commercials for example, both trying to traumatize a person as well as trivialize the situation with humor. The talking head against a white background PSAs have had their own kitschy value. So what do you think is the best method of putting forth a message, and are these types of advertisements appropriate to show in theaters? I can imagine the superb ironic value of one of these ads running before a James Bond film.

Michael Richards Fallout Hits Crappy Comedians Hard

Andy Dick TMZ.com, the website that initially broke the Michael Richards story a few weeks ago, reports now on a few separate pieces of fallout directly related to the n-word debacle. Andy Dick, unfunny man of TV and film, apologized Tuesday for over the weekend using the term at an L.A. improv. After making fun of Richards on stage he yelled to the crowd “You’re all a bunch of niggers”. Says Dick: “In an attempt to make light of a serious subject, I have offended a lot of people, and I am sorry for my insensitivity. I wish to apologize to Ian, to the club and its patrons and to anyone who was hurt or offended by my remark.”

Meanwhile at the now infamous Laugh Factory, Damon Wayans was fined $320 dollars for dropping the n-bomb on stage. The club has decided to fine comedians $20 dollars for any use of the term, and during a Sunday event called “Chocolate Sundaes”, Wayans for example said: “Give yourselves a big round of applause for coming down and supporting ‘Nigger Night’ ” .

Read the rest of this entry »

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny

Starring: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Jason Reed, Dave Grohl

Tenacious DDespite being around approximately a decade (showing up in “Bio-Dome”, and later in their own HBO series), Tenacious D are known for their 2001 self titled album which also spawned a DVD containing their well known music videos and shorts. Since this time Jack Black has become a much bigger celebrity, who relies on the same type of personality just often enough that he’s in the middle of a backlash. If you ask me, Jack is still funny, but he is definitely overexposed. So now at what seems like a bad time, a Tenacious D feature length movie has been released, following the same generic road movie plot we’ve seen in everything from “Dumb and Dumber” to “Borat” (traveling, meeting weirdos along the way, the two break up and then get back together just in time to reach their goal). If it were funny all this would be forgiven, but with 5 years of expectations, the decks seem to have been stacked against the D.

One of the films greatest strengths is arguably also its biggest weakness. While director Liam Lynch has put together some of their popular videos, and in his own experiments has repeatedly shown to be creative and bizarre enough, he simply does not have the experience to carry the film in its non-musical sequences. The CD soundtrack was 30 minutes long, and with 1 song cut entirely and 2 in the credits, that makes around 20 minutes of material Lynch excels at and around an hour of movie that he simply does not have the skill to make work. The script itself is not all that strong – while the recycling of jokes from the TV show is not all that great an idea, whats worse is the number of people in this film that could have positively contributed who were wasted entirely or whose cameos did not go anywhere – including Ben Stiller, Amy Poehler, David Koechner, Amy Adams, Colin Hanks, David Krumholz as well as many of Jack Black’s former castmates from Mr. Show. A few cameos do work, namely Meat Loaf and Dio in the strong opening sequence, Dave Grohl as the devil, and Tim Robbins in his (not first but) second appearance in the film, but otherwise the film suffers from a lot of filler material where there were opportunites for comedy but jokes simply were not even attempted. It seems to me that perhaps someone like a Jay Roach or a Todd Phillips should have been brought on for the non-musical sequences and Lynch left to focus on what he does best. Either this or maybe a better idea – using some of the self titled albums’ songs and making the full movie a bizarre rock opera, one big long music video instead of a half assed action comedy with occasional music. For a rock movie it doesn’t rock hard enough, and for a comedy it isn’t funny enough.

Tenacious DYet somehow it is difficult to dislike. When the film does work, as in the drug induced sasquatch sequence and a few other moments, it works quite well. Black and Gass really do seem to be having a lot of fun throughout the film, and so if you aren’t expecting too much, there is fun to be had. It would be hard for me to see a big fan of the band not at least finding the whole thing silly and cute. Overall, “The Pick of Destiny” is destined for cult success, but I don’t know about “cult classic” status. My decision whether or not to pick up the DVD will pretty much rest on the quality of the bonus features. A mild recommendation to those this has been specifically marketed to, and a recommendation to avoid for most others. – Goon

Steve Irwin – dead at age 44

Steve Irwin 1962-2006Steve Irwin, conservationist and host of the popular television show “The Crocodile Hunter” (as well as the 2002 film of same name), died Monday at the age of 44 off the Great Barrier Reef. While shooting a new documentary he was stung by a stingray, which by most accounts is usually very painful but rarely actually fatal. It’s barbed tail pierced his chest and put a hole in his heart. There was a time during the peak of his show’s popularity where his death at the hand of one of these creatures seemed inevitable, however over the years it basically sunk it that this guy might seem crazy, but either knew exactly what he was doing or was the luckiest person in the world, or both. Steve Irwin will always be remembered for his enthusiasm. He is survived by his wife Terri and his children Bindi Sue and Bob.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Directed by : Adam McKay
Written by: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amy Adams, and many more…

Talladega NightsEven with “Anchorman” director Adam McKay on board, producer Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell on board, I had this in mind as a ‘fingers crossed’ comedy I didn’t anticipate way too much in advance. Would it truly play up how ridiculous NASCAR is? I don’t know why I questioned, but I did, and I was wrong – “Talladega Nights” is the funniest comedy of the year thus far – memorable, quotable, and rewatchable.

What makes the McKay/Ferrell team work yet again is not so much the story or the subject matter, it is mainly how it is told and the little things, diversions and one-liners. A strong supporting cast means surprising revelations of character, silly responses to events, and twists along the way that keep the interactions between them unpredictable. The story is the generic sports comeback, however you never know how any character is going to react to any situation – everything from using a knife to remove another knife from a leg to kissing each other. The joke hit to miss ratio is drastically favored towards ‘hit’, with very little not at least generating a smile at how smartly written a stupid comedy can be.

As for the supposed NASCAR parody, it seems to celebrate the sport and make good use of the car scenes while at the same time poking fun at the admittedly easy target that it is. NASCAR culture truly is ridiculous, everything from the over-the-top product placement and its reflection of American culture as a whole (“Wonderbread” as a top sponsor is particularly great) .

I love Will Ferrell in this time of comedy as he has both free reign to spontaneously riff on the scene, and it showcases a type of character he is best at – one with undue cockiness and willful ignorance. The supporting cast in this film is even stronger than “Anchorman” and more is done with them – such as the underrated John C. Reilly as his number two/best friend, Gary “Lumbergh” Cole as his father, his bratty children, even Molly Shannon is tolerable in short segments. A non-surprise but major contributor to this film is Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as Ali G and Borat) as the films villain, Jean Girard, a Formula 1 racer who bests Ricky Bobby and throws his life into chaos. There are no filler scenes – even expository moments have jokes.

Overall, to anyone who enjoyed “Anchorman” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, I can’t recommend “Talladega Nights” highly enough. It will probably be the first film of the year I see twice in the theater. Now if you excuse me, I have to text message a friend a line from the movie regarding Playgirl Magazine. – Goon

Lady in the Water

Lady in the Water
directed by M. Night Shyamalan
starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban

LITWM. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of attention as a ‘hack’ these days – while many hail him as a filmmaking genius, there are many that write him off as a one-trick pony whose stories rely entirely on a twist ending that redefines the entire film (forgetting that “Signs” did not have a twist ending, but rather a deux ex machina one). “The Village” was considered weak by a majority of critics and fans, and now “Lady in the Water” is suffering an even worse thrashing, many even calling it among the worst films they’d ever seen.

I don’t consider Shyamalan’s films very rewatchable, I even agree that they are rather pretentious, but throughout each of his films is a deliberate craft, great casting, and more than anything, true ‘movie moments’ that show M. Night is probably just as interested in being the new Spielberg as he is being the new Hitchcock as he is often called.

So I’m gonna say it right now – I really really liked this film, and I know I’m in the minority. I actually even thought “The Village” was somewhat interesting and had a bad rap as well. Why? I think people have conditioned themselves to his films to wait for an ending that they expect to no less than blow them away, ignoring the actual film in the process. As well I think some are on to his bag of tricks – every character’s little quirk does come back to mean something later.

“Lady in the Water” is a fairytale set in a completely mundane environment which no character leaves at any point in the film. I think right here people find something they can’t get over. Ridiculous plots and themes are acceptable to people when its in a mystical land with demons and winged beasts and elves, but unacceptable when it’s a plain old apartment complex whose central character is the landlord. But it works for me, everything unfolds nicely, the reasons these characters so blindly accept the strange goings on, the complaints about it are all moot – It’s a fairytale, and it is not meant to be taken seriously. I don’t take any great moral from the film, it’s just a nice story I enjoyed.

Furthermore, this film has been taking hits from critics, in my opinion, specifically for 2 reasons – One, M. Night has cast himself as a writer whose work will change the world, and Two, the villain of the film is – a film critic. Critics take themselves very seriously, and I think the character says some things that poked them a little too hard, leaving them to think – who the hell does M. Night think he his? The reviews for “Lady in the Water”, to me anyways, are at least partly a punishment for biting their hand, and partial honesty/lack of understanding of the film’s intentions.

So…. back to the actual film – Paul Giamatti carries this film on his shoulders, supported by a largely unknown cast peppered by good actors like Freddy Rodriguez and Bob Balaban here and there. Bryce Dallas Howard is a sea nymph/narf who very simply, has come to rely a message, and then needs to get back to the Blue World from which she came. The problem though is that she needs to catch an Eagle home, and theres some strange wolf-like creature out there waiting to destroy her. Together, the residents mysteriously have to figure out how to arrange conditions favorable for her departure. It really isn’t all that ridiculous at all if you can accept that this is a fantasy film. Giamatti’s performance in particular is reason enough to see this film itself, as while he is funny and Jimmy Stewart-ish at times, he carries a real pain at the same time that truly comes to a moving climax. This film really cements my opinion of Giamatti as my favorite actor working right now.

So ultimately you’ll have to judge for yourself, I just hope you can tap into a childish mindset and just accept whats happening rather than thinking too realistically. – Goon

Ebaumsworld Manipulates Animator to Settle Controversy

It’s no secret that on the Internet content tends to be stolen without consent all the time. But very few people make the living that Eric Bauman, owner of Ebaumsworld.com does by making his site THE major hub on the Internet for funny pictures, games and flash animations. Whether its from SomethingAwful, YTMND, or individual phenomenons, Bauman has made a killing through his unethical theft, and the cherry on the cake is the Ebaums watermark, lack of credit to the works’ authors, and refusal to remove stolen content even after authors contact them requesting its removal (which they claim to do in their policy). It was no surprise that once again Bauman was up to his old tricks. In early June, this animation appeared on AlbinoBlacksheep (with permission) , and a day later… magically appears on Ebaumsworld, Read the rest of this entry »

X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand
directed by Brett Ratner
starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammer and oh so many others

X-Men: The Last Stand (or should you prefer, X3) has been long dreaded ever since it was known Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films of the franchise, had left the project in favor of the upcoming Superman film. Since then we’ve seen multiple director changes, worries and leaks about the script, as well as concern and gripes that certain characters would be getting too much screen time (Halle Berry as Storm, who had threatened for more time or she’d walk) or none at all (the continuing lack of fan fave Gambit as well as Alan Cumming’s choice not to return as the equally popular Nightcrawler). I haven’t seen a film become the subject of such nerd rage in some time, and this is saying a lot considering the negative reaction to Hulk, Fantastic Four, Elektra and other superhero films. Having now seen X3, I don’t think I’ve ever been more annoyed with the nerd community. While X3 to me may not fully live up to its potential, it is certainly not the disaster which was predicted. In fact, I’d put it on par with the other X-Men films – in some ways it is better, in other ways it is not.

X-men 3
The story of X3 is no more or less stronger than the first two films. Once again the mutant community is in danger, this time by a “cure” for mutants – attractive for some whose powers are a burden, a threat to others, such as Magneto, who view it as an act of war, especially after it is found the government has developed ‘cure guns’ which can be used against mutants. This plot point isn’t really whats driving the fanboys nuts though – more or less it’s the actions of both heroes and villains they don’t agree with, as well as the killing off of a few key characters most everyone is attached too – and we all know – shocking moments, especially ones involving beloved characters – do not rub people the right way at all, leaving many to react angrily before thinking objectively about how it fits into the film.

It is this that maybe pushes me to defend X3 more than I might have had I not known in advance some of the major spoilers which were leaked in advance. It is important for people to judge a film by its own merits, not by what did or did not happen in the comics 30, 20 or 2 years ago. Do the characters act and react in the ways they have been developed two over the past two films? In my opinion, yes. Is it sad to see certain characters die or be “cured” – somewhat, however in my opinion these decisions work within the story, and if you manage to stay after the credits, some of these supposedly disastrous decisions are open enough that the fans can sit tight knowing maybe things are not as bad as they seem for their heroes.

Getting away from the angry mob’s reaction, I can best characterize the film in one word: action. While the first two films were balanced more towards mutant issues with occasional action, X3 has it in droves, and since there are more new characters introduced into the series, the talky scenes dont seem to be repetitive of the themes explored in the first two films. The standout action sequence of course is the films “Last Stand” scene itself, where each mutant gets to have its time to show off their powers in an aggressive and tactical manner, rather than the somewhat restrained “show offy” approach employed by X-Men 1 and 2. In X3 the one-liners continue to pop up – some groaners, some clever, and one in particular references an underground internet video, a possibly shocking moment for Internet addicts who’ll watch the movie.

If there is one major flaw with the film it is its running time. At around 100 minutes, it’s not exactly enough time to really flesh out the story arcs of so many characters. Considering the action driven story that’s not the worst thing in the world, however it does leave you wanting a little more. I for one in this case would actually encourage the oh-so-trendy Extended Version treatment when it hits DVD.

So if you’re a fan of the X-Men films but not necessarily a comic fanboy, I think you’ll be more pleased with X3 than those who have wasted wayyyyy too much time analyzing its potential in advance of seeing it, and certainly more than the vocal minority who decided they hated it before they saw it. Just please, judge it on its own merits. – Goon

Patton Oswalt : No Reason To Complain (DVD)

Patton Oswalt : No Reason To Complain (DVD)

Patton DVDStand up comedy has seen a number of so-called “alternative comics” pop up to acclaim and success over the last few years – Mitch Hedberg, Eugene Mirman, Sarah Silverman and especially David Cross and Dane Cook have had popular projects, whether they be one-person shows, DVDs or multi disc albums. One comedian that has not received nearly enough notoriety or respect is one Patton Oswalt, perhaps (unfortunately) best known for a recurring role on “King of Queens”, rather than his amazing album of a couple years back “Feelin’ Kinda Patton”, or its 2 and a half hour extended version known as “222”. Some think his troll-ish appearance has kept him back from being more widely known, however he’s just too funny for this to be a good excuse.

For my money, Patton is actually the best going, as he constantly kills while never getting preachy or pandering or resorting to observational humor that just barely separates itself from your average local club hack. Oh, he’ll do observational humor, however Patton has a more flowing, natural, almost conversational style that feels like storytelling, yet is punctuated by several memorable and quotable one liners and phrases. Bits about Black Angus’ angry menu, 80s music videos where Ted Nugent deflects bullets, and open mic nights contrast nicely with political segments that put jokes over a message.

Comedy Central in the past has paired comedy specials on DVD with some comedians’ albums (such as Hedberg and Cook) for a bonus value. Instead of a re-release of Patton’s record, which I was hoping for, we have a straight 45 minute feature presentation of Patton’s special for the channel. On the plus side, as he does on record, Patton constantly kills even though some of his bits have to be censored for TV. If you can’t get the record, the DVD is a great introduction to the man, and well worth the money despite the low running time. But there is a downside – Comedy Central could have easily shown the full uncut performance, but instead there are a number of unnecessary commercial cuts.

Patton liveOn the extras front, 15-20 minutes of these deleted scenes are there for you, and they’re just as good as anything on the special. You can’t hear the legendary “battered chapped pussy” on the feature, but you’ll get it, and a nice riff on how he can’t use that part, in the deleted section. A half hour special Patton made around 5 years earlier (looking uncomfortable in a suit) is also on there, and while its nowhere near as good as Patton’s newer material, its enjoyable. Finally a series of short films starring Patton and Blaine Capatch, known as host from “Beat the Geeks”, are provided. These short films are terrible, but have a strange cult appeal that must appeal to someone somewhere.

So it’s not what it could have been, but Patton is a comedian that’s so undeservedly overlooked that hopefully this DVD will gain him more of an audience. He deserves it. – Goon

V For Vendetta

V for Vendetta

Directed by James McTeigue

Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt

posterIn the year 2020, the world is ravaged by war, and specifically England has been overrun by a fascist dictator who guarantees the public safety, but denies them freedom. Civilians are ‘black-bagged’, raped by ‘finger men’ who patrol the streets, and not surprisingly, fed propaganda by the media on a regular basis.

A man in black who calls himself “V” roams the streets undetected. He is artistic, insane, clever, and driven. Throughout the entire film, he bears a stylized mask meant to resemble Guy Fawkes, who attemped to kill the King and both houses of Parliament in the 1600s, (and is still popular enough to be named among the top 100 Greatest Britons in a recent public opinion poll). Within a year he plans to carry out Fawkes’ plan on the anniversary of his arrest, November 5th. In V’s mind, the ends justify the means, so long as the ends is the downfall of the current government. So, basically… he’s no more or less a terrorist as Braveheart.

It’s the kind of story that’s been told many times before in science fiction, but one that given current world events (and having been released just days before the 3 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War) is subject to all sorts of accusations about its motives. But while the movie makes no bones that V is an insane extremist (and also bluntly says the evil dictator came from the conservative party) this doesn’t live up to the hype as the Bill O’Reilly bait it seemed to be running up to its release.

I had figured with the Wachowski Brothers (known for the Matrix and its sequels) involved as producers, the film would cut back and forth between action scenes and talky philosophical moments. It sort of does, however V is nowhere near as much an action film as I had figured it would be, and I mean this in the best way possible. The film is carried by its dialogue, which more than anything is used to paint the situation these characters have been put in, and why they feel they have to do what they do to get out of it. Because V has so much ‘splaining to do, he is clearly the most developed and interesting character. Initially it might be tough for some to sit and watch a man in an unchanging mask for over 2 hours, however Hugo “Agent Smith” Weaving uses body language and his voice so well he truly brings this character life, so much that you could look at V’s unchanging mask as one to be feared, sympathetic of, one that’s both happy, sad and angry all at different moments.

The future London McTeigue has constructed, in my opinion, was among the weaker points of the film. While I haven’t read the graphic novel and assumed it was kept at least somewhat like it, I felt its presentation kind of jumped back and forth between a very realistic, very modern world, and a more comic-ish one that seems to better fit V’s character. Government workers looking to find them are presented in a somewhat realistic, crime drama fashion, while government leaders are more over the top evil. I didn’t feel this gap was so wide to put me off, but it’s noticeable and one of many of the small imperfections of the film which add up to a very fond but not ‘in love’ recommendation. It’s worth noting that while Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea and John Hurt sometimes clash with each other in these different stylized settings, they are each enjoyable in their performances. While Portman is often considered overrated, I didn’t expect her to be as good (not great, but good) a fit as she turned out to be.

V for VendettaAnother example of the sort of thing that could have been improved were the few action scenes that did exist. While they were entertaining in their own right, the style has been overused lately, and considering V’s fondness for “the Count of Monte Cristo” as a recurring theme, a more swashbuckling style might have suited the film better. A scene towards the end too clearly unravels the entire evil plot by the government, which had been nicely assembled like a puzzle before. And while V’s constant alliteration, ‘not of this world’ gentlemanly actions are often charming, once in a while they are a little cheesy.

The author of the book on which it is based, Alan Moore, has come out against the film, however don’t let that influence your opinion. With all due respect to Moore (and sympathy for having to put up with the big screen adaptation disaster that was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), he’s one of those people who is immediately suspicious and insanely critical of anyone who touches his work. – Goon

26 New Futurama Episodes On The Way?

FuturamaFor some time there has been talk that due to strong DVD sales for the show, Futurama would be resurrected for some direct to DVD releases of new material. Family Guy fans might remember this was the initial plan for that show as well, but it was decided to go the extra step and commission more episodes for TV. Well it turns out Futurama might be up for this same treatment, depending on how reputable you think Billy West, voice of Fry, is. Yesterday on his website’s (billywest.com) forum, Billy left this message:

“I’m this close to selling my show–”Billy Bastard–Amateur Human Being,” And the other good news is that they’re doing 26 new episodes of ”Futurama” for TV and we’re hammering out the deal now.The original plan was to have the DVD’s first but that’s no longer the case. I’m totaly (sic) jammed dude. Greetings from the year 3000! It still sucks! Billy”.

While I’d suggest Futurama fans avoid dancing in the street just yet, I’d say hearing this from Billy himself is a very good sign. Keep your fingers crossed, gang.