Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

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Discussion Night #1 – “The Invention of Lying”

May 29, 2010

The Invention of Lying Wow. I just realized exactly how much time has passed since my last update. It truly is amazing how fast time goes by. When I look at my dashboard, I see all these unfinished entries that I began putting together over the course of the last eight months. Perhaps someday in the near future, I might post them all as is. That is, if there is enough interest in seeing such poorly written drafts. Unfinished entries include: Inglourious Basterds, The Men Who Stare at Goats, my Top 10 Most anticipated films of 2010, and I think I might still have a Star Trek post lying around somewhere that never got published.  But anyways, let’s get on with the true subject of this post. Before we get started, however, I want to offer my apologies for not writing about something new. The truth is, it has become difficult for me to keep up with new films. Plus, I really hate going by myself. So it’s a catch-22 of sorts.

Those of you who have taken the time to get to know me will recall that I attend a church called Crossings. It meets in the Square Room on Sunday mornings. Cory Mounce decided to host a film discussion in the conference room last night, and the film he chose was The Invention of Lying. I thought this film had a lot to say if you were able to look past the surface.

Note: There are spoilers below, so do not continue unless you have seen the film or unless spoilers do not matter to you.

The general synposis of the film is that Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a screenwriter for a company called Lecture Films. They produce documentaries. He is quite unsuccessful at his job, not to mention other aspects of his life. At the beginning of the film, he is meeting up with a woman by the name of Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner). The two have a date planned, and oh…did I mention in this fictional world, nobody can tell a lie? Imagine the awkwardness of a first date where you’re just not feeling any chemistry and you have to be brutally honest with the other person. But I digress. Mark meets up with Anna, and after a really awkward scene in her apartment (bear with it, that really is the worst part of this film) they proceed to dinner. Anna admits that she finds Mark unattractive, doubly so since he’s financially unsuccessful. Later, she e-mails him and tells him that while she did have a good time with him, she can’t be with him because they aren’t a genetic match.

To make matters worse, Mark loses his job which leads to him being evicted. As he’s going to withdraw the rest of his money from his bank account, he realizes that he alone has the ability to tell a lie and everyone will believe what he says, no questions asked. Over the course of the film, he gets a second date with Anna that leads to the two of them becoming best friends, unintentionally creates a religion which is a shallow facsimile of Christianity, saves a guy’s life, gets his job back, and becomes wealthy and successful. All by lying.

Problems arise, however, because he falls in love with Anna, and Anna realizes that he makes her happy. Despite this fact, she clings ever so tightly to her preconceived notion that she can only be with someone who is her exact genetic match because she does not want “fat, snub-nosed kids.” Her mother only makes the problem worse by reinforcing the notion. During the course of Mark and Anna’s friendship, she meets his rival Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). Brad is the perfect match, according to her standards: he is very successful as well as very attractive to her. She views him as her genetic match. Her mother agrees.

The turning point of this film is when Anna and Brad decide to get married. Mark goes into a deep depression and won’t even talk to her. She finally shows up at his home and gives him an invitation to the wedding. He asks her, “Why do you want me there?” and she replies, “Because it would make me happy.” So, Mark tosses the invitation aside and Anna leaves. The wedding is the next day, and he has no intention of going. Fortunately, Mark has friends such as Greg (Louis C.K.) that care about him and make him get up and get himself together. Greg, as he shows Mark his suit and a razor says, “You haven’t lost yet.” and convinces him to go to the wedding.  When all is said and done, he manages to make Anna realize that her standards were unimportant next to her own happiness and she marries Mark instead.

If only the real world worked like that, right?

The first question asked last night following the film was, “Does it change your perception of the film knowing that Ricky Gervais is an atheist?” Well, I was unaware of that, but the answer is no, it does not. As I said last night, I think sometimes it takes someone who does not share our beliefs to slap us in the face and make us wake up. If everyone believed the exact same thing, there would be no reason for us to seek answers, no reason for us to discuss important issues, and without challenges to our faith, I think there would be no way for it to grow. Personally, after viewing the film, I think Gervais at least has a decent knowledge of religion. I also think he has a measure of respect for it because despite the tongue-in-cheek jabs, he really wasn’t blasting it as much as he could have. It wasn’t outright disrespectful.

Another point was the subject of moral ambiguity. If we could make things better by lying, is it justified? Mark saved Frank’s (Jonah Hill) life in the film by lying to him and convincing him that he had no reason to commit suicide. Bill Wolf even brought up a few Biblical points where lying had been used to save lives (I wish I could remember them, but I’m drawing a blank). Does it make it right? I’m not sure. I don’t have an answer for that. I’m an honest person. That’s not to say I don’t have my secrets, but if asked outright, I’m an open book. If it came between telling a lie or knowing someone would commit suicide, I think I would tell a lie. I believe a life is more important.

The religion that was created in this film was the result of a lie that Mark told to his mother as she lay on her death bed in order to help her find solace. The doctor and nurses overheard it and believed it, of course, because lying was unheard of. It got passed along to the media, and before he know it, it got blown out of proportion and he was forced to write ten truths down on pizza boxes and deliver them in a scene reminiscent of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments. His main issue was convincing people that “The Man In the Sky” was responsible for the bad as well as the good, something the people had trouble wrapping their heads around. And don’t we all? One thing that stuck out to me later in the film was when Mark was walking down the street and there was a street-preacher who said, “We can do two wrong things and still be rewarded when we die!” (Mark had previously said in his rules that it was a three strikes and you’re out sort of deal). While according to Mark’s rules, that was certainly true, it just goes to show you how we as humans twist and corrupt things around to serve our purposes and mislead people. It quite honestly disgusts me.

Another point along the same subject is when Greg, Frank, and Mark are sitting around the pool and the subject of why Frank hasn’t tried to better his life comes up. He responds by asking what the point is if he’s going to be rewarded in the afterlife? He figures he could just endure a bad life and speed things up by drinking excessively and wait for the better rewards. Don’t we all know people who are like this, though? People who just sit around and expect rewards but they never get out and do anything that involves effort on their part? Then when questioned about his line of thinking, Frank blurts out, “F*** ‘the Man In the Sky!'” Have you ever felt that way? Despite his faith, I imagine Job must have at one point. I can honestly say I felt that way as recently as three weeks ago.

But now I want to get to the last point. Anna is only looking for a perfect genetic match. That’s her standard. Forget true happiness. Over the course of the film, Mark falls in love with her, and she develops feelings for him, but she’s never going to be with him because of his genetics. And then we see her mother, and she’s exactly the same way. It begs the question: is Anna holding onto that belief because she really believes it, or is she holding onto it because it’s what she got from her mother and it’s all she’s ever known? Has she ever taken the time to come to her own conclusions? We can kind of see something happening to her during the course of the film as she begins to realize that Mark makes her happy. There’s an inner struggle going on with her character as Mark tries to show her that you have to look past the things that people can’t change and look at who they are.

At the end of the film, Mark goes to Anna and Brad’s wedding and essentially forces her to choose between her standards and true happiness. Sometimes someone or something comes along that forces us to re-evaluate what we think we want for ourselves. So, Anna finally comes around and goes against what her family thinks and what she thinks she wants and chooses happiness.

In conclusion, sometimes we have to come to the realization that the standards we create for ourselves, when placed side by side with God’s plans, are complete rubbish. We have a saying at Crossings that I think illustrates the point quite nicely: There is a God. His name is Yahweh. He has a plan, and it will not be thwarted.

I’ll close with what my usual closing: don’t take my word for it, make up your own mind.

Shalom.

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There and Back Again: A Blogger’s Tale

August 8, 2009

Alright, everyone, I’m back. I’m sure those of you who check this blog regularly have wondered where I’ve been for the past month. Well, wait no more. I’ve spent the past three weekends on the road, and it interfered with my movie watching.  The first weekend I was absent was spent in Nashville, TN visiting friends and listening to some friends’ band play.  The second weekend was spent as the videographer for a friend’s wedding in Corbin, KY.  Last weekend I found myself unexpectedly making a trip to Louisville, KY to shoot a Cool Hand Luke show.  Despite being busy last weekend, I did manage to make it to the theater to watch Funny People, however.  But before I get to that, I feel it wouldn’t be fair to completely ignore the movie I watched just before leaving for Nashville.  And I do apologize for not giving Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the full review it deserves, but the past month has been quite busy.

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So, yeah, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince…I watched this one the day before I left for Nashville and I enjoyed it.  Keep in mind that I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book and I don’t intend to.  Sorry to all of you fans out there, but it’s just not my type of reading.  However, even though I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, I did get the distinct impression that a lot of information was left out of this movie.  The most notable instance for me was when Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince.  It just happened kind of out of nowhere and what relevance that has is never explained, despite being the title of the film.  I can only hope that it gets explained for us non-readers in the final two films.  Overall, though, I found the movie entertaining, and even went to all the trouble of watching the other Harry Potter movies before going to see this one so that I’d at least have some clue as to what I was talking about for the blog.  Too bad that unseen forces conspired to prevent me from doing a full review.  It’s definately worth watching in the theater, and I’d even suggest seeing it in IMAX if you have the chance.

funny-people-posterNow…on to Funny People.

Let me start by saying that I was thrilled to see Adam Sandler doing a funny movie again.  While I enjoyed some of his serious films such as Spanglish and Reign Over Me (I never watched Punch Drunk Love), comedy is definately his element and I think he should stick with it.

This film is about a stand-up comedian named George Simmons (Adam Sandler) who learns that he has an untreatable blood disorder and is put on an experimental drug treatment.  At one of his performances, he meets aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen).  George offers Ira a job writing for him as well as a chance to become his opening act.  The two form a genuine friendship and Ira is the first to learn about George’s illness.  Ira convinces George to tell someone else, and in doing so, he attempts to rekindle his relationship with his now-married ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann).

I’ve read mixed reviews about this film.  But I honestly thought it was good, if not ridiculously long for a comedy with a runtime of 2 hours 26 minutes.  Most comedies tend to average at about 1 hour 30 minutes. Funny People is Judd Apatow’s (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) third film as director.  It’s a little different than his previous two films in the sense that it tries to be serious and funny simultaneously.  I’d phrase it as being “a serious story about a funny guy.”

The humor is pretty much what we’ve all come to expect from Adam Sandler.  I also appreciated how they even worked some video footage of Sandler’s old comedy routines and prank phone calls into the movie.  Good use of old material.  Seth Rogen is pretty good in this film as well.  His character comes off as a guy who’s not really as funny as he thinks he is but finally ends up finding something that works and getting a break when he meets George.

Overall, it’s a good movie. I laughed. I felt bad for George at times, and was happy for him at times.  It’s a film where two people find humor even in the worst of situations.  The worst part is that it was a little long, but it had a lot of material to cover. I know it’s been out for a week already, but if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, go check it out.

I know this isn’t as in-depth as some of my other posts, but I’m having to condense and get caught up this time around.  Expect my review of G.I. Joe soon…

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What Happens In Vegas…

June 25, 2009

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So, I went and watched The Hangover a few days ago.  This movie was pretty much what I expected: not extraordinary, not thought-provoking, but good enough for a guilty-pleasure, make-you-laugh movie.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit leery when it comes to comedies because the trailers tend to show the funniest parts of the movie and when you actually go to watch it, you expect more comedy but really only get stuff that doesn’t quite measure up.  So, all things considered, this one was actually worth watching.

Basically, you’ve got four guys who go to Vegas for a bachelor party and have a crazy night.  They wake up the next day to quite the scene in their villa and have to backtrack to figure out exactly what happened to them…and that’s when they discover that it’s worse than they first thought: the groom is missing.  And so, the three remaining guys set off searching for clues in an attempt to figure out where they may have been the previous night in order to (hopefully) locate their missing friend while finding themselves in increasingly ridiculous shenanigans along the way.  It makes for an interesting story and it isn’t so ridiculous that it’s completely unbelievable as is the case with most comedies. 

The storytelling approach worked well in this film: they took a page from J.J. Abrams and used his signature “start in the middle of things and explain how the characters found themselves in this situation” approach (fitting since Bradley Cooper portrayed the character of Phil).  Eventually the story comes full circle and returns to the scene in which the audience views at the beginning of the movie although we see it from a different angle.  Then it proceeds from there as our protagonists continue to look for their friend and attempt to make it home before the wedding.

And a final note…the slideshow with the pictures from the trip to Vegas that plays during the credits is actually quite funny.  I found myself wondering if those were staged or taken while the cast was actually out partying.  Quite frankly, I don’t see how even a great actor can look that wasted without actually being wasted.

Overall, The Hangover is not a great comedy but the situation is believable.  It’s not overly stupid with ridiculously exaggerated situations as are most comedies and it’s worth watching.  I won’t say that it’s worth paying the price of theater admission because I’d imagine most of my readers would say that this movie is worth the price of a rental but not a trip to the theater.  Honestly, I’d have to agree, but I took one for the team.

I suggest giving it a watch, whether you pay for theater admission or wait for it to be released on DVD.  If you’ve seen it (or even if you haven’t), feel free to share your thoughts.