Sunday, April 10, 2011

Netflix Catchup

Funny People. Judd Apatow's "Funny People" is an epic comedy - not epic in the sense of being like "1941," but in the sense of being really, really long. It clocks in at a little over 2.5 hours, which by my reckoning is at least 30 minutes too long. In fact, it's really two movies in one - both starring Adam Sandler as a famous comedian who discovers he has a fatal disease. In the first story, Sandler decides to return to his roots as a stand-up comedian, and hires Seth Rogen to write jokes for him. Rogen plays a would-be comic who works behind the deli counter at a local grocery store, who along with his buddies frequents the Improv and tries his hand at stand-up. This part of the movie is genuinely funny - Sandler's interaction with Rogen and Rogen's roommates (Jonah Hill as a fellow comedian, and Jason Schwartzman as an actor who's hit it big on a terrible sitcom) are sometimes mean-spirited, but frequently laugh-out loud funny - and never less than amusing.

The second movie, which is far less successful, tells the story of Sandler and Rogen's road trip to Marin County to allow Sandler one last chance to rekindle a romance with his ex-girlfriend, who is now married with children. While this part has some funny moments, overall it's a waste of time because it doesn't add anything to what we've already learned about these people, and it's really not possible to care enough about Sandler's character to root for him in this situation. There's little doubt that, even if he is successful in winning her back, he's going to figure out some way to fuck it up.

Worth seeing? Yes. Less than the sum of its parts? Definitely.

Charlie Wilson's War. Now, here we have a movie that was only 97 minutes long, and probably could have been much longer without losing any of its impact. Based on a true story about the hard-drinking, fun-loving congressman who played a key role in the U.S. intervention in the Soviet-Afghanistan war of the late 1970s-early 1980s.

For the most part, the movie is sharp as a tack, as one would expect from a film directed by Mike Nichols with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. The acting is first rate, with sharp performances from Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson, and Amy Adams as his loyal assistant. But the movie is stolen by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is spot-on amazing as Gust Avrakotos, a disheveled, profane misanthrope who just happens to be a brilliant CIA operative and analyst.

As with just everything written by Sorkin, there are times when the dialogue seems almost too good to be true. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it sounds unrealistic, but I'm not sure that everyday conversations are supposed to sound this good.

The movie struck me as a comedic version of Jonathan Kwitny's "Endless Enemies," a book written in the early 1980s by a Wall Street Journal reporter that recounted how American foreign policy decisions in the last half of the 20th century consistently resulted in unintended consequences that ultimately worked against American interests. And what happened in Charlie Wilson's war was the perfect example of that - we may have won that battle, but we paid for it for many, many years.

No comments: