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Get Him to the Greek and My Love of Aldous Snow

8 Jun

Aldous and Aaron, BFF.

I could not tell whether Russell Brand was acting during Get Him to the Greek.  The latest comedy offering from what appears to be a growing Judd Apatow and friends dynasty, Get Him to the Greek is the second film to feature Aldous Snow, the character that made Russell Brand kind of famous.

Aldous Snow is a character created by Jason Segel for the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Aldous is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic British rock star, hovering somewhere between stupidity and total genius. The concept of Get Him to the Greek is quite simple – Aaron Green, a young, ambitious intern at Pinnacle Records has an idea to get Aldous Snow, lead singer of the band Infant Sorrow, to perform at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles to mark the tenth anniversary of Infant Sorrow’s Live at the Greek Theater. Coming off a disastrous record, “African Child” (called “the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid”), which involved a terrible video in which Aldous wanted to look like a “white African Jesus from space,” Aldous is in desperate need of a comeback, and Pinnacle Records is looking to make some serious money.

The only problem is that Aldous, after splitting from his pop star wife Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, who hilariously sings a song about how tight her, you know, is.), has gone off the wagon and is living recklessly in London. Aaron is then sent by his boss Sergio (Diddy, who actually does a good job) to London to escort Aldous to the Greek. What follows is nothing short of the sort of mischief and mayhem that is expected in the Apatow family of films. Aldous brings Aaron along for a no-holds-barred 48 hours of drugs, sex, and debauchery, in turn complicating Aaron’s relationship with his girlfriend Daphne (a very awkward-acting Elizabeth Moss).  The film later turns into a commentary on the importance of love and how it far outweighs the fast-paced rock star lifestyle. This message would have been fine with me, if I weren’t in a perpetual state of romantic cynicism at such a young age.

I’ve decided that Aldous Snow could be one of the greatest characters ever created, even though Russell Brand appears to never be acting. At a key moment in the movie, Aaron points out to Aldous, “you’re nothing more than a junkie, but you’re smart, so you make it sound good.” Indeed, Aldous is a raging idiot with a drug problem, yet very lovable. I’ll expect to see more of him in what I’m dubbing “the Judd Apatow Universe”.

My favorite part of the movie involves a failed drug run, but I left the movie wondering if a “Geoffrey” was a real thing. Please see this movie to find out what I’m talking about.

Grade: B+

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Newly Victimized by New Moon

28 Nov

Last night, after a successful though horrific day of Black Friday shopping, my friend Anna* dragged me (literally, by the belt loops of my jeans) to see the second installment of the Twilight saga, New Moon. I’ve been able to avoid reading the books due to my general lack of enthusiasm for everything that teenagers enjoy. Recently I have started to feel old in spite of being young by the standards of those who actually are older.  Last week when I watched the American Music Awards (which were terrible), I had no clue as to who some of the presenters were. I kept asking, “Who the F is that?”

When I was finally detained by the Twilight cult for two hours of what some people may call a movie, I was transported to a world of sparkles and nonchalant shoulder shrugs.  I am unsure of whether this is intentional, but the movie’s main protagonist, Bella Swan, seems to hate everyone and everything, except for Edward Cullen. And she even talks to him like he’s trash.  Each time Bella spoke, her words came out along with a large breath. This, combined with consistent mumbling, made it difficult for me to understand what the hell she was saying.

In spite of this annoyance, the film made up for it with fancy F/X scenes of giant wolves chasing vampires through vast stretches of forest so beautiful that they simply must be fake. Oh, and there was also a certain shirtless teenage boy, Taylor Lautner.  I do question how Taylor built up such muscles at such a young age. No one in my high school ever had a body like that; Lautner makes the boys I went to school with look like distant cousins of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Most of the women in the theater were in their mid-twenties and older, and flashes of Lautner’s eight-pack set off all sorts of frightening reactions, some of which I would like to forget.

One thing that definitely annoyed me about New Moon were its deviations from standard vampire fare. I HATE that Edward and his family can stand outside in the sun and do nothing more than look like  a Mariah Carey stage costume. And why are vampires in movies always rich? Edward’s sister Alice drives a cute little Mercedes and his father is a successful doctor. (Other fare with rich vampires: Interview with the Vampire and True Blood.) I would like to see a vampire on welfare, just for diversity purposes.

The highlight of this movie came when two women began fighting in the back of the theater when one threw a bottle water at the other for talking. More blood appeared at this moment than throughout the entirety of New Moon. I was hoping to hate this movie as much as possible, but I can confirm it is not the worst movie I have ever seen (that still remains The Sweetest Thing with Cameron Diaz).  The story seems to lack a primary purpose; I did not care for scenes of Bella’s night terrors, spurred on by the absence of Edward. In many ways, this movie is just about a young girl having her heart broken, though not just by anyone: he’s the sparklingest, palest, most dreamy vampire EVER. And oh my, woe is me when I have to choose between him and my ripped half-werewolf best friend. Life is so hard for Bella Swan.

Grade: C

*Names have been changed to avoid pestering.

Precious: Once Will Be Enough for Me

20 Nov

I went to see Precious with a close friend of mine.  When we got the chance to discuss what we had just seen, we agreed on a key point: we never want to see this movie again. The story of Clarice Precious Jones, an obese, black sixteen-year-old living in 1987 Harlem, is peppered with fetishisms of poverty.  Precious, though hopeful at its conclusion, often panders to those who like to gawk at abuse and impoverishment.

The film introduces us to Precious as a daydreaming 8th-grader with dreams of getting out of Harlem. Unfortunately for Precious, she has a horribly abusive mother (Mo’nique, who may very well receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress) and is pregnant with her second child by a disgusting rapist of a man, her own father.  When her school principal learns that she is pregnant, Precious is expelled and referred to an “alternative school.” There she meets kind Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), who seems as though she will stop at nothing to help Precious.

At first it was a bit difficult for me to feel any empathy for Precious. However, I did quickly realize that my life is beyond ideal when compared with that of Precious’. There are numerous scenes in which Precious does mean, horrible, stupid things: she steals a 10-piece bucket of chicken, she kicks a frying pan at her mother, only receiving more wrath in return, and refers to her first child as a mongoloid (the little girl has Down Syndrome).

The climactic scene in which Precious reveals a secret to her teacher and classmates oozed with sickly treacle; Ms. Rain continues to urge Precious to write, but realistically, who would ever want to write at such a low point? The forced histrionics of the scene made me cringe.

There are constant reminders of Precious’ poverty everywhere in the film. The food Precious is forced to cook for her mother is dripping in grease (in one scene Precious’ mother forces her to eat pig’s feet that she deems “too hairy”). Perhaps, most importantly, Precious is virtually illiterate. Intermittent fantasies Precious plays out in her mind show Gabby Sidibe dolled up in makeup and elegant gowns, a far cry from the uniform of a sweatshirt and Adidas that Precious dons. The escapism that Precious finds within her mind is the only reward she can conjure.  By the end of the film, Precious is living in a half-way house, reading at an 8th grade level, and trying to raise her children on her own. This may not seem an ideal situation, but for Precious, hope has finally surfaced in the doldrums of Harlem.

I am unsure of whether this film made an impact on my worldview; it did make me momentarily more conscious of the perils of physical and sexual abuse, but as soon as we exited the theater, my friend and I exchanged the same words: “Our lives are great compared to Precious.” If one can take something away from this film, it may as well be that the awareness that someone has it worse than you (no matter how bad things seem to get).

Other than granting me with a moment of selfless mental clarity, Precious is full of lively performances that are in definite need of recognition.  All of the hype over Mo’nique’s performance is well-warranted – she plays hateful, manipulative, and predatory all in one shot.  Gabby Sidibe was also great (in her film debut), and even Mariah Carey turned in some hard work as a plain Jane social worker. All that was Glitter may be soon forgotten.

If you are contemplating whether you should see this movie and you are lucky enough to live in a city with a theater playing it, do it already.  Everyone is talking about it anyway and at Oscar time you will have a better grasp on the nominees.

Grade: B+