TV Review 1.8 Pam & Tommy “Seattle” (dir by Gwyneth Horder-Payton)


Pam & Tommy comes to an end, not with a hard bang but instead with a flaccid whimper.

The final episode of Pam & Tommy opened with Seth Rogen’s Rand Gauthier wandering around with a pained expression on his face.  Apparently, this was the one thing that Rand was good at.  Rand has been beating up people who owe Butchie money but it’s starting to trouble him.  Rand believes in karma and thinks that being a glorified mob enforcer will turn karma against him.  Or maybe being a glorified mob enforcer is karma’s way of punishing Rand for stealing a sex tape and trying to sell it online in the first place.  It’s hard to say.  All I know is that there was way too much Rand and way too much karma talk for me.  The show may be based on what Rand claims actually happened to him but the idea of Rand, with his mom jeans and his mullet, becoming a feared debt collector is simply a bit too much.  Perhaps because he was just as sick of listening to Rand whine as the rest of us, Butchie offered to let Rand off the hook if Rand would simply pay him $10,000.  Rand, of course, doesn’t have $10,000, despite being responsible for coming up with the most profitable and lucrative use of the internet ever.  Loser!

Meanwhile, Tommy attempts to make a musical comeback by imitating the 90s Seattle sound while an actual resident of Seattle, Seth Warshovsky (Fred Hechinger), offers to buy the rights to Pam and Tommy’s sex tape.  On the one hand, selling the rights to Warshovsky will allow Warshovsky to sue anyone who is distributing and making money off of bootlegged copies.  On the other hand, it will also lead people to assume that Pam and Tommy were behind the video’s initial release.  Pam wants to do it.  Tommy refuses.  Their marriage starts to crumble.  The episode insinuates that the tape caused Pam to miss out on opportunities to appear in both L.A. Confidential and Austin Powers which …. yeah.  I’m honestly going to say that, as far as Pam not becoming a movie star and losing roles to Kim Basinger and Elizabeth Hurley, there may have been factors in play other than the sex tape and hypocritical American puritanism.  One can sympathize with what Pam went through while also still being honest about the fact that she was never a particularly good actress.  If anything, her talent and persona were perfect for television.

After 8 hours, the finale of Pam & Tommy didn’t add up too much.  We start to see that Pam is getting sick of Tommy’s immaturity and that Tommy can’t control his temper, even around Pam.  But it’s not until the end title cards that we’re informed that Pam and Tommy divorced after Tommy was arrested and did jail time for spousal abuse.  (We’re also told that both Pam and Tommy consider each other but the love of their lives, which is kind of a bold statement to make when neither Pam nor Tommy had anything to do with the production of Pam & Tommy.)  Seth Warshovsky pays Rand a total of $10,000 for the original copy of the sex tape and then goes on to make several million dollars off of it.  Rand considers using the money to settle his debt with Butchie but instead he gives the money to his ex-wife because that’s what karma would want him to do.  (One has to wonder if anyone involved with Pam & Tommy ever watched a little show called My Name Is Earl.)  Those helpful title cards inform us that Rand moved to North California and now works as a marijuana grower and that he still struggles to get people to believe that he’s the man who actually stole the tape.  It doesn’t mention whether he did anything about his hair.

The main problem with Pam & Tommy is that the story itself just wasn’t interesting enough to demand 8 hours of screen time.  The second biggest problem, and this is a problem with a lot of streaming miniseries, is that the show itself never really settled on a consistent tone.  Was it a drama or was it a live action cartoon?  The show couldn’t seem to make up its mind.  Themes were raised and then abandoned, as if the show itself was desperately trying to justify its existence.  Lily James gave a good performance as Pam.  Sebastin Stan has a few good moments as Tommy Lee.  Seth Rogen, Taylor Schilling, Andrew “Dice” Clay, and Nick Offerman all gave their characters one-note interpretations that didn’t add up too much.  Considering the talent involved, it’s all a bit of a shame.

Oh well.  It’s over now.

TV Review: Pam & Tommy “Destroyer of Worlds” (dir by Lake Bell)


After two blissfully Rand-free episodes of Pam & Tommy, Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) returned to dominate this week’s episode.  As soon as things opened with a close-up of Rand looking like someone had just run over his favorite pet, I groaned very loudly.  Rand is such an unlikable character and the show insists on trying to make us feel sorry for this loser.  Even if Seth Rogen wasn’t both miscast and intent on giving the worst performance of his career in the role, Rand would make Pam & Tommy difficult to watch.

Rand (or Reed or whatever his name is supposed to be) was basically upset because he wasn’t making any money off of the Pam and Tommy sex tape.  Instead, the bootleggers were making all the money.  Rand/Reed also got upset because cocaine addict Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman) turned out to be a bad business partner.  Meanwhile, Butchie (Andrew “Dice” Clay, acting up a storm with little to show for it) wanted his money and demanded that Reed/Rand turn into a debt collector.  “I AM THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS!” a frustrated Rand declared as he collected a debt and seriously, what the heck?  (Folks, I gave up cursing for Lent.  Just go with me here.)  The episode’s best moment was when Rand tried to blackmail Tommy and Tommy reacted by setting the money on fire while Randy Reed watched.  What made this scene so great was that Tommy called Reedy Rand a loser.  Again, I got the feeling that we were supposed to feel bad for Rand but …. eh.  Who cares?  Rand is a loser and the mullet isn’t making him look any better.

If the highlight of the episode was Tommy setting that money on fire while taunting Rand, the show’s second best moment was Pam appearing on The Tonight Show and having to deal with a series of disrespectful and infuriatingly sexist questions from Jay Leno.  The actor playing Leno essentially played him as being the devil, which was kind of amusing.  Watching the scenes with Leno acting like a member of the Spanish Inquisition, I found myself thinking about how Ken Russell probably could have done something amazing with this material.  The scene ended with Pam having to talk Tommy out of beating up Jay Leno, which again was kind of amusing.  Just imagine if Tommy had stormed onto the Tonight Show set and thrown a punch while Jay was introducing Hugh Grant.  That would have been classic television.

As the Tonight Show debacle indicated, the release of Barb Wire was overshadowed by Pam and Tommy’s court case against Penthouse.  The judge ruled that the 1st Amendment gave Penthouse the right to publish still from the tape.  Tommy was too stupid to realize that the judge had ruled against him.  Pam responded with a monologue about how the judge was actually saying that it was okay to exploit her because she wore a swimsuit on Baywatch and she also previously appeared in Playboy.  Pam had a point but, as so often happens on this show, that point was somewhat negated by the fact that the real-life Pamela Anderson never signed off on having her life dramatized in Pam & Tommy and, as a result, the show is itself a bit exploitive.

The show also continues to feel a bit pointless, despite Lily James’s frequently excellent performance as Pam.  Again, it’s hard not to wonder why exactly this story demands the limited series treatment as opposed to the 90-minute movie treatment.  Indeed, by stretching thing out over 8 hours, Pam & Tommy just reminds us of how superficial this story really is.

One final note: early on in the episode, Butchie is shocked to discover that there’s a new coffee company in Seattle that’s called Starbucks.  I’ve noticed this is a joke that’s popped up in a lot of movies about the 90s and it feels rather lazy.  They should have made an AOL joke instead.

TV Review: Pam & Tommy 1.4 “The Master Beta” (dir by Lake Bell)


“I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

That was my thought after I published my review of the first three episodes of Pam & Tommy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I stand by everything that I wrote in that review.  The first three episodes were relatively well-made and they captured as specific point in time and Lily James was likably earnest as Pam.

Instead, my concern came from the fact that, by reviewing the first three episodes, I had now committed myself to watching and reviewing the entire series.  And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was no way that Pam & Tommy could remain interesting for a total of 8 hours, not unless the show abandoned its Ryan Murphy-lite approach and did something really unexpected with its recreation of the story.  There’s just not enough there.  This is a good 2-hour story but Pam & Tommy is an 8-epiosde miniseries.  That’s 8-plus hours of Pam getting upset, Tommy acting like a dumbass, and Rand being every creepy guy who has ever approached you in a bar and started asking you about the book you’re reading.  (It would, of course, never occur to him that the main reason you’re reading the book is to avoid talking to guys like him.)

Having now watched the fourth episode, it’s hard not to feel that I was very much correct in my concerns.  Don’t get me wrong.  The fourth episode had its moments.  It featured an enjoyably intense performance from Don Harvey as the legendary Hollywood private investigator, Anthony Pellicano.  Once Tommy finally discovers that his safe has been stolen and Pam reminds him about the videotape, Pellicano is the man who they approach to track down the perpetrator.  This leads to a scene of Pellicano beating the crap out of Rand and it’s fun to watch.  Some of that is because Don Harvey is a master of portraying urbane menace.  But I have to admit that a lot of it is because Rand himself is such an annoying character.  This episode opened with Seth Rogen, as Rand, wandering around a porn set and trying to reconnect with his estranged wife (Taylor Schilling), who significantly was just trying to read Anne Rice’s latest book when he approached her.  Just the sight of Rand, with his mullet and his sad-sack facial expression, was so annoying that it was actually cathartic to see him get tossed around his apartment.

The problem is that the show wants us to feel some sympathy for Rand but there’s nothing sympathetic about him.  He’s a loser and the fact that he still loves his wife and still wants to take care of her doesn’t make him any less of a loser.  He’s a thief, a guy who accidentally stole a sex tape and then decided to put it online.  The fact that he later feels guilty doesn’t change the fact that he did it.  There’s as scene in the fourth episode where Rand is upset to see someone else selling bootleg copies of the tape.  On the one hand, it’s not a bad scene.  There’s an enjoyable irony to Rand discovering that someone has essentially stolen the tape from him after Rand went through so much trouble to steal the tape from Tommy.  But the show doesn’t seem to be sure whether it wants us to laugh at Rand’s misfortune or to sympathize with him as he realizes that the consequences of his actions are out of his control.  As a character, Rand is not compelling enough for both to be an option.

As for the title characters, both Sebastian Stan and Lily James do their best but I get the feeling that we’ve already learned all the we need to know about them.  There was one good moment that examined Pam and Tommy’s different reactions to the release of the sex tape but otherwise, neither Tommy nor Pam are really that interesting as characters.  I ended the fourth hour of Pam & Tommy very much aware that there were still four more hours to go.  What else, I found myself wondering, could be left to be said?

TV Review: Pam & Tommy Episode 1-3 (dir by Craig Gillipsie)


Currently (and, presumably, forever) available on Hulu, Pam & Tommy is a miniseries about …. well, it’s about many things.

It’s about the mid-90s, a time when people still used terms like “World Wide Web” and where no one thought twice about having to wait two or three minutes for one lousy web site to finish loading.  It’s about a time when dial-up internet was still considered to be something of an exotic luxury.  It’s about a time when the number one show in the entire world was the critically derided Baywatch and the show’s star, Pamela Anderson, was trying to make the jump from television to film.

It’s also about the early days of online porn and how it was first discovered that people would pay money to watch celebrity sex tapes.  It may seem strange to consider that this was something that needed to be discovered but, if you believe Pam & Tommy, apparently no one thought there was an audience for celebrity sex tapes before 1996.  Today, of course, celebrity sex tapes are so common place that they’re often leaked by the celebrity themselves.  Where would the Kardashians be if not for the celebrity sex tape industry?  Could it be that Kim owes as much of her success to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee as she does to O.J. Simpson?  Perhaps, which is a polite way of saying yes.

Pam & Tommy is also about the brief marriage of Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan).  When Pam & Tommy begins, Pam, as mentioned above, is the star of the number one show in the world.  Despite being a star, she’s not respected as an actress.  Instead, she’s usually treated as just being a body.  The show’s producers and directors have no trouble cutting her big monologue on a whim but they spend several minutes discussing just how tight her red swimsuit should be.  (After cutting her monologue, they condescendingly thank her for being a team player.)  Pam has a very earnest and somewhat heart-breaking desire to be taken seriously as an actress.  She describes Jane Fonda as being her role model.  Meanwhile, Tommy Lee is, for lack of a better term, an idiot.  He’s also a drummer for a band that used to be big.  He travels with an entourage.  His body is covered with tattoos, the majority of which have no meaning to him beyond, “I just thought it looked cool.”  Tommy is usually an arrogant bully, the epitome of the spoiled rock star.  Occasionally, with Pam, he’s sweet but if this miniseries stays true to what actually happened during Pam and Tommy’s marriage, that sweetness is not going to last.

Finally, Pam & Tommy is the story of Rand Gautheir (Seth Rogen).  Much like Tommy, Rand is a moron.  However, Rand has neither Tommy’s looks nor his swagger.  Instead, he’s just a schlub who works as a carpenter and tries way too hard to present himself as being an intellectual.  After Tommy humiliates Rand by firing him from a remodeling job, Rand retaliates by stealing a safe from Tommy’s garage.  (Tommy doesn’t even notice that it’s missing.)  Inside the safe, Rand finds a sex tape that Tommy and Pam made on their honeymoon.  With the help of gangster Butchie Periano (Andrew Dice Clay) and adult film veteran “Uncle” Miltie (Nick Offerman), Rand puts the video on the internet and plans to make a fortune.  Rand tells himself that he’s doing it because Tommy didn’t pay him for his work but it’s clear that Rand’s main motivation is jealousy.  Why should Tommy get a huge house and a beautiful wife while Rand is stuck in his little apartment?  Rand is at least as smart as Tommy.  Of course, the same could probably be said of the dog that Pam purchases when she and Tommy return from their honeymoon.

In other words, Pam & Tommy is about a very specific cultural moment.  So far, the series is taking a stylized approach to the material, mixing occasionally broad comedy with more dramatic moments.  Needless to say, it’s a bit uneven.  During the second episode, Tommy actually has a conversation with his penis about whether or not he should marry Pam.  It’s a funny idea but the scene itself goes on forever and, ultimately, the whole thing says more about the importance of generating twitter buzz than it does about why Tommy and Pam ended up getting married after knowing each other for only a handful of days.  The first three episodes were directed by Craig Gillipsie, who also directed I, Tonya.  Much like that film, Pam & Tommy is occasionally insightful but it also sometimes seems to get bogged down in its own condescending attitude towards the people who are at the center of its story.

And yet, there are also enough moments that work in Pam & Tommy that I’ll definitely watch the rest of the show.  So far, this is a series that is largely saved by its cast.  Seth Rogen has recently been so intent on presenting himself as being the only man in Hollywood with integrity that it’s easy to forget that he’s always been at his most entertaining (and sympathetic) whenever he’s been cast as a complete loser and it’s hard to think of anyone who could be a bigger loser than the character he plays in Pam & Tommy.  Sebastian Stan plays Tommy as being a destructive manchild and, for the first two episodes, he’s pretty obnoxious.  By the third episode, though, Stan is given a few quieter scenes and he manages to suggest that there’s something more to Tommy than just rock star bravado.  And finally, Lily James gives a wonderfully empathetic performance as Pamela Anderson, capturing her earnest desire to be something more than just a sex symbol.

The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy dropped on Hulu this week.  The remaining five episodes will be released on a weekly basis.  I don’t really know how you get 8 episodes out of this particular story but I guess I’ll find out soon.  Hopefully, the show will continue to focus on the best thing that it has going for it, its cast.

Love on the Shattered Lens: Long Shot (dir by Jonathan Levine)


2019’s Long Shot is a film that truly took me by surprise.

I have to admit that, when I first saw the trailer for Long Shot, I had my concerns.  First off, it was an American political comedy and it’s been a while since there’s really been a good one of those.  There’s been many attempts, especially after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.  But, for the most part, the American films are always at their weakest when they try to be overly political.  There’s always a disturbing lack of self-awareness that, when mixed with the type of strident tone that can only be maintained by people who have never seriously had their ideas challenged, tends to make for a very boring viewing experience.  And, no, don’t you dare say, “What about Vice?” because Vice was freaking terrible.

Secondly, the trailer emphasized that Charlize Theron was playing the Secretary of State and that she was running to become the first woman elected President.  This led me to suspect that the film might essentially be Hillary Clinton fanfic.  Over the past few years, there’s actually been quite a few films and television show that have featured idealized versions of Hillary Clinton — i.e., all of the accomplishments without the albatross of her husband or the reputation for being casually corrupt.  (For six seasons, there was a TV show called Madam Secretary that basically only existed to present an idealized version of Hillary.)  Hillary fanfic, with its attempt to rehabilitate the image of a candidate so inept that she actually lost to Donald Trump, is always cringey.

Finally, as much as I hate to admit it, I was concerned that the film not only starred but was produced by Seth Rogen.  And don’t get me wrong.  I love Seth Rogen.  Seth Rogen is literally my favorite stoner.  I think that, with the right material, he can be one of the funniest performers around.  The problem is that, in the past, Seth Rogen has always been brilliant as long as he wasn’t talking about politics.  Whenever he started talking politics, he just turned into every other wealthy and rather self-righteous progressive.  While Rogen’s political tweets were never as banal as the thoughts of uberboomer Stephen King, there was still nothing about them that suggested that Rogen would be capable of producing one of the funniest and most good-hearted political comedies to come out in the past few years.

And so, like a lot of people, I skipped Long Shot when it was playing in theaters.  I waited until it was released on video to watch Long Shot and you know what?  It turned out that almost everything that I had assumed about Long Shot was incorrect.

Yes, it’s a very political movie but it’s also far more self-aware than I was expecting it to be.  Seth Rogen apparently knows that he has a reputation for being a very loud, knee-jerk leftie because he actually does a very good job of poking fun at his own image.  Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a loud and crude journalist who quits his job when he discovers that the underground newspaper that he was working for has been purchased by Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis, playing a not-at-all disguised version of Rupert Murdoch).  Fred is about as far to the Left as one can be and he tends to assume that all of his associates agree with him, even though he never bothers to ask them.  One of the best scenes in the film comes when his best friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), reveals to a stunned Fred that he’s not only a Republican and a Christian but that he’s been one the entire time that he’s known Fred.  Fred never caught on because he just assumed that Lance, being black, would naturally be a Democrat.  When Lance asks Fred why he thought Lance wore a cross around his neck, a befuddled Fred can only reply that he thought it was “cultural.”  It’s a great scene and one that’s wonderfully played by Rogen and Jackson and it works precisely because it remains true to what we’ve seen of both characters.  Almost everything that Lance says over the course of the movie does reflect a traditionally conservative mindset but, like Fred, we don’initially don’t notice because Lance is being played by Ice Cube’s son.  When Fred discovers that Lance is a Republican, it doesn’t change Fred’s mindset but it does teach him that progressives can be just as guilty as conservatives when it comes to making assumptions about people based on where they’re from or what they look like.  As a stunned and chastened Fred puts it, “I’m a racist, you’re a Republican, I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.”

Secondly, the film’s romance is incredibly charming.  Charlize Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State who used to be Fred’s babysitter.  After they run into each other at a reception, Charlotte hires Fred to work as a speech writer for her nascent presidential campaign.  You would not expect Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen to have a ton of romantic chemistry but they do.  Theron is an underrated comedic actress and there’s a lot of fun to be had in just listening to her and Rogen bounce lines off of each other.  In fact, as funny as Rogen is, I’d have to say that Charlize Theron is even funnier.  One of the highlights of the film is when Fred and Charlotte sneak away to a club, where they dance and end up taking ecstacy.  Over course, as soon as the drugs kick in, a major diplomatic crisis breaks out and an extremely high Charlotte has to deal with a hostage crisis.  Theron appears to be having a ball with the role and really, this is the film for which she should have been Oscar nominated.  Theron convinces us that 1) she’s a masterful diplomat, 2) that she could be elected President of the United States, and 3) that she could fall in love with someone as messy as Fred without sacrificing her own ambitions.

Long Shot has its flaws, of course.  Andy Serkis is a bit too over-the-top in his villainy and the film has a 125-minute running time, which is way too long for what is essentially a fairly simple romantic comedy.  Some of the scenes of Fred and Charlotte traveling around the world probably could have been cut without harming the story.  There’s an environmental subplot that feels a bit too obvious and there’s a joke about Fred accidentally ejaculating on his own face that’s never as funny as the film seems to think that it is.

That said, Long Shot is often a surprisingly charming film.  (I know what some of you are saying: “Yes. Lisa Marie, Seth Rogen ejaculating on his beard sounds really charming.”  I know, I know.  But the majority of the film is charming.)  If you missed it when it came out the first time, give it another chance.

Belatedly, Here’s The First Teaser For The Disaster Artist!


Hi, everyone!

Well, look, I’m just going to admit it.  I failed you last month.  Usually, I try to keep this site up to date with all the best trailers.  However, last month, I got very busy with another one of my summer projects and, unfortunately, I ended up running behind on keeping up with all the latest trailers and teasers.

So, if you’ll indulge me a little, I’m going to try to get caught up.  Admittedly, some of the trailers that I’m going to share today are going to be old news.  But I still want to share them because they’re films that we’re excited about here at the Shattered Lens.

And who knows?  Maybe I’m not the only one who had a busy July.  Maybe you missed some of these trailers as well.

For instance, check out this teaser for James Franco’s latest film, The Disaster Artist.  Now, if you’re like me and you love getting together with friends and tossing around plastic spoons while watching Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, then you can’t wait for the chance to see The Disaster Artist.  Telling the true story of Greg Sestero’s friendship with Wiseau and his involvement in the production of The Room, The Disaster Artist was one of the best books of 2014.  Rumor has it that The Disaster Artist is also one of the best films of 2017.

If nothing else, James Franco is getting Oscar buzz.  If James Franco wins an Oscar for playing Tommy Wiseau, my life will be complete.  If it happens, I might even take a year off so that I can bask in the glories of fate.

The teaser below features the filming of one of The Room‘s best-known scenes:

Playing Catch-Up: Sausage Party (dir by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan)


Sausage Party opens with a scene that could have come straight for a heart-warming Pixar film.  It’s morning and, in a gigantic grocery store called Shopwell’s, all of the grocery items are excited about the start of a new day.  The hot dogs are singing.  The buns are harmonizing.  The produce is bragging about how fresh they are.  Everyone is hoping that this will be the day that they are selected to leave the aisles of Shopwell’s and that they’ll be taken to the Great Beyond.  At Shopwell’s, shoppers are viewed as being Gods and being selected by a God means…

…well, no one is quite sure what it means but everyone’s sure that it has to be something good.  Surely, the Great Beyond couldn’t be something terrible, right?  At least, that’s what everyone assumes until a previously purchased jar of Honey Mustard returns to the store and tells a hot dog named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the film) that the Great Beyond is a lie.  The Great Beyond is not a paradise.  Instead, it’s something terrible.  Before Honey Mustard can be persuaded to give more details, it leaps off the shelf, choosing suicide over being restocked.

What could it all mean?  Well, there’s not too much time to worry about that because, even as Honey Mustard is committing suicide, a customer is selecting both Frank and Frank’s girlfriend, a bun named Brenda (Kristin Wiig).  They’re going to the Great Beyond together!  Yay!  Except…

…calamity!  A shopping cart collision leads to both Frank and Brenda being thrown to the floor.  While their friends are taken to the Great Beyond, Frank and Brenda are left to wander the store.  It turns out that Shopwell’s really comes alive after the lights go down and the doors are locked.  All of the grocery items leave their shelves and have one big party.  Frank seeks answers about the Great Beyond from a bottle of liquor named Firewater (Bill Hader).  Firewater has all the answers but you need to be stoned to truly understand.  This is a Seth Rogen movie, after all.  Meanwhile…

…Frank’s friends, the ones who survived the earlier cart collision, are discovering that the Great Beyond is not what they thought it was…

I apologize for all the ellipses but Sausage Party is the kind of movie that warrants them.  This is a rambling, occasionally uneven, and often hilariously funny little movie.  (I know that there were allegations that the film’s animators were treated horribly.  That’s sad to hear, not least because they did a truly wonderful job.)  Sausage Party was perhaps the ultimate stoner film of 2016, a comedy with a deeply philosophical bent that plays out with a logic that feels both random and calculated at the same time.

(If you’ve ever had the three-in-the-morning conversation about “What if our entire universe is just a speck of dust in a bigger universe?”, you’ll immediately understand what Sausage Party is trying to say.)

It’s also an amazingly profane little movie but again, that’s a huge reason why it works.  Yes, a lot of the humor is juvenile and hit-and-miss.  (I cringed whenever the film’s nominal villain, a douche voiced by Nick Kroll, showed up.)  But for every joke that misses, there’s a joke that works perfectly.  Interestingly, for all the silliness that’s inherent in the idea of making a film about talking grocery items, there’s a strain a very real melancholy running through Sausage Party.  Sausage Party may be a dumb comedy but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a lot on its mind.

Since it’s a Seth Rogen film, the cast is full of familiar voices.  Yes, James Franco can be heard.  So can Paul Rudd, Danny McBride, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson.  They all sound great, bringing vibrant life to the film’s collection of consumables and condiments.

Sausage Party.  After watching it, it’s possible you’ll never eat another hot dog.

Cleaning Out the DVR Yet Again #37: The Sound and the Fury (dir by James Franco)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Thursday, December 8th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

the_sound_and_the_fury_2014_film

James Franco’s 2015 adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel, The Sound and The Fury, aired on Starz on November 2nd.

You know what?  Haters are going to hate but James Franco does more in an hour than most people do in a month.  Not only is James one of the most consistently interesting actors working today but he’s also a writer, a painter, a teacher, an activist, and a film director.

Indeed, it’s his work as a director that might be the most overlooked part of James’s prolific career.  Since making his directorial debut in 2006, with The Ape, James Franco has directed over 30 movies, television episodes, and short films.  As a director, James Franco has shown a talent for strong visuals and a willingness to take on difficult material.

For instance, can you imagine any other director who would have the guts to try to make a film out of The Sound and The Fury, the classic novel that may be the most unfilmable literary work this side of Finnegan’s Wake?

Told through the perspective of four related but very different characters, The Sound and The Fury details the fall of both the once mighty Compson family and the old South that the Compsons represent.  Benjy Compson is developmentally disabled and sees the world in a disjointed, nonlinear style.  Quinton Compson is fragile and sensitive and, while his section of the book starts in a fairly straight-forward enough manner, it quickly becomes nearly incoherent as Quinton’s mental state starts to deteriorate.  Jason Compson is cruel and evil but, because of his ruthless and self-centered personality, his section is the most straight-forward and the easiest to follow.  And finally, there’s Dilsey, the Compson family servant who is the only person to understand why the Compsons are in decline.  Faulkner utilized stream-of-consciousness throughout the entire novel, to such an extent that readers and critics are still debating just what exactly is happening and what Faulkner is actually saying.

In short, it takes courage to adapt a novel like The Sound and The Fury.  It takes even more courage when you’re an actor-turned-director who has his share of jealous haters.

Now, I should admit that James Franco was not the first director to attempt to make a film out of The Sound and The Fury.  In 1959, Martin Ritt made a version of the film, which reportedly did away with the nonlinear structure and centered the film around the straight-forward Jason.  (I haven’t seen the 1959 version.)  James Franco, on the other hand, not only adapts The Sound and The Fury but also adapts Faulkner’s style.

James Franco replicates the novel’s nonlinear structure and even takes on the role of Benjy himself.  It makes for a film that is occasionally frustrating and difficult to follow but which is also undeniably fascinating.  Filled with haunting images, James Franco’s The Sound and The Fury is a visual feast, one that perfectly captures the atmosphere of a decaying society.  The South, in this film, is trapped between the possibly imagined glories of the past and the harsh reality of the future.  There’s a dream-like intensity to the film.  It sticks with you.

As well, James Franco does an excellent job casting his film.  Tim Blake Nelson brings an enigmatic combination of grandeur and threat to the role of Mr. Compson and Jacob Loeb is haunting as the fragile Quentin.  Scott Haze dominates the film as the cruel Jason.  Though you never sympathize with Jason, you can understand how he became the man that he is.  Jason may not be a good man but, unlike the rest of the Compsons, you never doubt that he’s going to survive in one way or another.

James Franco took a big chance directing The Sound and The Fury and he succeeded.

 

Back to School Part II #54: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (dir by Nicholas Stoller)


(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)

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How many times can the same thing keep happening to the same people?

That’s a question that you may be tempted to ask yourself while watching Neighbors 2.  Neighbors 2 is, of course, a sequel to the original Neighbors.  In the first film, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne played Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as new parents, they are now officially adults.  When a crazy and wild fraternity moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

In Neighbors 2, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne again play Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as parents who are awaiting the arrival of their 2nd child, they are now officially adults and may have to finally move into a more family friendly house in the suburbs.  When a crazy and wild fraternity sorority moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

Yeah, it’s all pretty familiar.  Not only are many of the same jokes from the first film repeated but they’re often repeated at that exact same spot in which they originally appeared.  To the film’s credit, it does occasionally acknowledge that it’s repeating itself, though it never quite reaches the self-aware heights of something like 22 Jump Street.  Even Zac Efron returns and, again, he is initially the Radner’s enemy before eventually becoming their ally.

That said, the familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing.  Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne both know how to get laughs, even when they’re telling the same joke that they told a year ago.  Zac Efron tends to try too hard whenever he has a dramatic role (like in The Paperboy, for instance) but he’s got a real talent for comedy.

Ultimately, though, the best thing that saves Neighbors 2 from just being a forgettable comedy sequel is the sorority.  As opposed to the first film’s creepy fraternity, the sorority in Neighbors 2 is partying for a cause greater than just hedonism.  Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz, finally getting to have fun in a movie) starts her independent sorority in response to being told that official sororities are not allowed to throw parties and, instead, can only attend misogynistic frat parties.  When Shelby and her sorority buy the house, it’s not just to make trouble.  It’s because they need a place where they can have a good time without feeling that they’re in constant danger from drunk and perverted frat boys.  A subtext of empowerment through partying runs through Neighbors 2 and it elevates the entire film.

Neighbors 2 is an entertaining film, even if it never leaves as much of an impression as you may hope.  (I have to admit that, whenever I try to list all the films that I’ve seen this year, Neighbors 2 is one of those that I often have to struggle to remember.)  That said, it’s not a terrible way to spend 97 minutes and it’ll make you laugh.  And, ultimately, that really is the most important thing when it comes to comedy.

As for the question of how often can the same thing happen to the same person…

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait for Neighbors 3 to get our answer!

Quick Review: Kung Fu Panda 3 (dir. by Jennifer Yuh & Alessandro Carloni)


imagesHaving become the Dragon Warrior and the Champion of the Valley of Peace on many occasions, Po (Jack Black) has reached a point where its time for him to train others. All of this becomes complicated when Kai (J.K. Simmons), a former enemy of Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) returns to the Valley to capture the Chi of the new Dragon Warrior and anyone else that stands in his way.

The Legend of Korra geek in me hears the character of Tenzin whenever Simmons speaks in this film, only it’s Evil Tenzin vs. The Dragon Warrior. That alone was awesome.

Picking right up from Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is reunited with his birth father (Bryan Cranston), and discovers there are also other Pandas in the world. This, of course, causes a bit of tension for Po’s Goose Dad (James Hong) who raised him up until now. Can Po find a way to stop Kai? The theme of this film seems to be dealing with self discovery (as did the other films), but this focuses more on what we consider our Identity. Are we the role we take on from day to day at work or the role we have at home, or even a little of both? There’s also a nice family element to it as Po discovers what Panda life is like and deals with his Dads. Really young audiences may not exactly catch on to the theme, but there’s enough action and playful moments to keep them occupied.

On a visual level, the animation is beautiful. If you get a chance to see it in 3D, the Spirit Realm is a treat, with rocks and buildings floating around. The action scenes also move in a comic strip format, with the screen split in different ways to catch different elements. If you’re quick enough, you can catch it all. It can be jarring to anyone not used to it, I’d imagine. The Furious Five don’t have too much screen time in this one, save for Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, though it’s cute when you realize that some of the panda children in the village are played by the Jolie-Pitt kids. That was a nice discovery in the credits.

Musically, just like The Dark Knight Rises, Hans Zimmer takes what was a dual scoring effort (at least in the 2nd film) and makes it his. Though he’s assisted by Lorne Balfe (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi), and drummer Sheila E. (Who worked with him on the Man of Steel score), it’s all Zimmer, really. Kai is given a nice theme to work with, one I can only describe as “Jazz Badass with Kung-Fu Swagger” and I enjoyed the music for the Panda village.

The only problem I had with Kung Fu Panda 3 was that it didn’t feel particularly epic in scope for me. In the first film, Tai Lung wanted to harness the power of the Dragon Scroll. In the second, the Peacock Shen brought cannons to decimate the Valley. This one was more personal and I enjoyed that, but it also felt like it could have been one of the Legends of Awesomeness episodes on Nickelodeon. It moved that quickly. Though it clocks in at an hour and 35 minutes — the same as the other films — it really whizzed by. It’s not a terrible thing at all, really, but I think I wanted something a little more.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda is a fun treat for the kids. While I didn’t go blind out of exposure to sheer awesomeness this time around, it gave me some inner peace and smiles.