Latest Reviews

Entries in Jon Hamm (3)

Friday
Jun242011

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

In June 2009, Conan O’Brien, longtime devotee of NBC, finally nailed his dream job. He was going to be the host of The Tonight Show, the long running late night comedy show begun by Steve Allen and made famous by Johnny Carson. No longer would he be playing second fiddle to Jay Leno, or so he thought. Conan’s version of The Tonight Show (as well as Leno’s new program) weren’t receiving the ratings the network execs had hoped for. In response, they decided to move The Tonight Show back to 12:05am with Leno preceding it in a new half hour show. Conan refused to continue if this happened, arguing that The Tonight Show isn’t The Tonight Show if it is moved into the next day. So Conan and NBC reached a contractual agreement that ended his tenure at the network. He was to step down and not appear on television or radio until September.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is about this transition period, after the fallout and before his resurgence on TBS. If you think it doesn’t seem like a topic with much ground to explore, given that the NBC debacle is common knowledge, you’re mostly right. The film feels less like a probing documentary that gets to the heart of an issue and more like a concert DVD where we get to see our favorite performer behind-the-scenes. And that’s probably because it is. Between television gigs, in the period when he was prohibited from making broadcast appearances, he went on a 30 city tour, humorously called The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. The film, in its admittedly limited scope, follows Conan through the planning and execution of that show and little else.

However, the reason Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop still works is because Conan is simply funny. He knows how to make people laugh and has been doing it since the 80’s as a writer on shows like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. He’s a natural comedian who can take random situations and milk them for comedy at every possible chance. Because of this, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is hands down the most consistently funny movie of the year, outshining Bridesmaids and usurping fellow documentary, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

Nevertheless, those looking for a previously unseen side of Conan are going to be disappointed. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop isn’t as emotionally raw as some will expect. While you will hear him say a few choice words not allowed on broadcast television and see the occasional burst of anger, it never feels genuine because that anger never goes further than sarcastic joking. For the most part, Conan stays cool, calm and collected when in front of the camera. Despite vocally detailing his emotional turmoil at the way he was treated at NBC, you never actually see it. Since this is a very pro-Conan documentary, you can’t help but feel like the more controversial footage may have been cut to preserve Conan’s image.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop isn’t the slickest documentary and sports occasionally rough audio that features a faint whirring in the background, but when your movie is as funny as this, the audio and video begin to feel less important. Conan is a performer and, like the title suggests, he needs to entertain. It’s true that documentaries never fully capture real life because its subjects are constantly aware of the camera filming their every movement, but Conan is such an amiable fellow, you get the feeling he’d be acting out backstage with his crew even if the cameras weren’t there. It can’t really be defended as anything particularly special, but Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is flat-out hilarious and is a must-see for Conan fans.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop receives 4/5

Friday
May132011

Bridesmaids

If you’re a fan of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up or pretty much any raunchy R rated comedy to come out in the last few years, pay attention because this movie is for you. Bridesmaids is easily the funniest movie to be released since Get Him to the Greek and could prove itself to be the funniest movie of the year if The Hangover II fails to reach expectations. Coming from Apatow Productions and channeling much of what made his movies so popular, Bridesmaids nails it. It’s a filthy movie with a cast of strong females that can easily stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. While it is certainly nice to see a film of this ilk filled with strong, prominent women rather than big, loud men, focusing on that would be a mistake. Regardless of gender, Bridesmaids is flat out hilarious.

Kristen Wiig plays Annie, an approaching-40-years-old woman who has yet to settle down. She fools around with Ted, played by Jon Hamm, but he isn’t anywhere close to making a commitment and more or less kicks her out of his house after they’re done having sex. One day, her best friend Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph, surprises her with an announcement. Her boyfriend just popped the question and she wants Annie to be her maid of honor. She accepts, but a fellow bridesmaid named Helen, played by Rose Byrne, starts a competition and does everything she can to take the coveted title from her.

If there was ever a cast worth mentioning, it’s this one. On top of those already mentioned, Bridesmaids stars Jill Clayburgh (in her final role), Melissa McCarthy from TV’s “Mike & Molly,” Wendi McLendon-Covey from Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!” and Ellie Kemper, best known as the always smiling secretary from “The Office.” While I can’t speak for their comedic talents solo, putting them together is magic. All of these women bring their own unique style to the show, which creates comedic diversity and keeps the movie from becoming stale too quickly.

Most importantly, however, is that each character is likable, even when they have tantrums that may or may not be warranted. The girls aren’t written like generic romantic comedy females who embarrassingly drown themselves in ice cream and complain about not having a man. Rather, they are three dimensional characters with real problems and emotions that ring true. The parts are written so well and played so convincingly that you’ll find yourself engaged even when you aren’t laughing.

And that’s good because it has stretches where the laughs just don’t come. Many of the jokes stem from the feud between Annie and Helen and they play out for far too long, like an early scene at Lillian's engagement party where they take turn giving speeches in an attempt to one-up the other, passing the microphone no less than six times. Another example comes on an airplane where Annie’s fear of flying, an overused screenplay fear that is boring to begin with, creates a string of unfunny jokes that run on for what feels like at least a good 10-15 minutes. Thankfully, these don’t-know-when-to-quit moments are few and far between. Just when it looks like it’s going to lose itself, Bridesmaids bounces back, usually thanks to the lovely Kristen Wiig, who is so affable and funny you can’t help but fall in love with her.

But just like most other movies with Judd Apatow’s name attached to it, Bridesmaids is too long, running all the way to two hours. Along with the scenes already mentioned, there are plenty of moments that could have easily been cut, tightening the picture and making it that much better. But to complain about such short stretches of tedium seems frivolous considering that the rest of the movie is so wonderful. It’s funny, it has a big heart and it ranks among the best comedies of the last few years. And that’s saying something.

Bridesmaids receives 4/5

Friday
Sep172010

The Town

A few short years ago, hating Ben Affleck was the cool thing to do. Gigli, Daredevil and an astoundingly bad performance in Pearl Harbor all provided enough ammunition for Affleck haters to spread their contempt for the man. But in 2007, he released his first directorial effort, Gone Baby Gone, an intense, dramatic and wonderful little gem that should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Although questions remained about his talent in front of the camera, he showed he was more than capable behind it. Now three years later he releases his sophomore effort, The Town, which, though flawed, should dispel any remaining doubt.

The film takes place in Boston, the bank robbery capital of America (at least according to the opening text). Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is one of the reasons why. Along with his partners James (Jeremy Renner), Desmond (Owen Burke) and Albert (played by rapper Slaine), Doug is a professional thief and he is on his way to rob a bank. Although he hopes to do it swiftly and safely, they run into a snag and are forced to take a hostage named Claire (Rebecca Hall). After they get away, they let her go thinking she saw nothing, but as Doug gets closer to her, eventually developing a romantic relationship, he learns that she has seen more than she lets on. To make matters worse, local FBI agent Adam (Jon Hamm) is on their trail and is doing everything he can to bring them down.

It is now evident. Ben Affleck is multi-talented. He can write, he can act and he can direct and he gives a terrific performance here while honing his craft behind the camera. Direction wise, The Town is a step up from Gone Baby Gone, but its effect is, unfortunately, a bit flat. Its story isn’t as interesting—coming off as a bit derivative of other heist movies—while the thought provoking, morally ambiguous ending of Gone Baby Gone is replaced with a silly, overly dramatic one. At over two hours, The Town runs out of steam and by the time the out-of-place ending arrives you’ll find yourself slightly disappointed.

That, however, is not an indication of its overall quality. It’s not one of the best movies of the year as many will hope, but it’s still solid, anchored by a stellar cast and fluid writing. While the pacing is a bit off, awkwardly transitioning from heavy laden scenes of dialogue to slam bang action scenes, it’s that dialogue that keeps it afloat. The authentic exchanges between the characters coupled with spot on Boston dialects from the actors makes for an engaging experience. The dialogue is well written and believable and is hampered only by a few too many long, overwrought speeches on the characters’ seemingly irrelevant histories.

In fact, only one of those history speeches ever plays a major part in the movie, and even then its inclusion can be argued. A scene partway through shows Doug as he goes to visit his father Stephen (Chris Cooper), who is serving a life sentence for executing two people. Some may relate this scene to the opening text that explains how the business of felons is passed down through generations, but it felt like filler to me. It’s an emotional scene where you sense that Doug is disappointed in his father, as if Doug is a perfect example of an upstanding citizen.

And that may be the film’s biggest problem. These are bad men. There have been movies that depict bad men while still giving the viewer something to latch onto, but The Town isn't among them. There’s no reason to care for them or fear for their plight. They are established almost as antiheroes, but they don’t do enough good to warrant that label. Still, even with all of that taken into consideration, The Town is a worthy movie, even if it does fail to realize its own potential.

The Town receives 3.5/5