Dutiful readers may recall that OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is one of my favorites from 2008. The movie’s humor stems from its titular hero, a French spy also known as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, who is a charming moron. He has no idea just how racist/misogynistic his running commentary can be, and relies on spy movie clichés to accomplish his goals. Now France’s answer to James Bond returns with OSS 117: Lost in Rio. Don’t think the locale switch from Egypt to Brazil dampens the brazen humor. With cha libre Nazis and protracted sight gags, this hilarious comedy is comfortable with wit and stupidity.
After a successful mission in Gstaad, OSS 117 (Jean Dujardin) heads to the famed Brazilian city. His mission? Obtain a list of French Nazi sympathizers from the dastardly Professor Von Zimmel (Rüdiger Vogler<. Along the way he meets Dolores (Louise Monot), a beautiful mossad agent who wants Von Zimmel tried for his crimes in Israel. First the unlikely duo must capture Von Zimmel’s son Heinrich (ex Lutz), who now lives as a hippie by the beach. The operation goes smoothly, except when CIA operative Bill Trumendous (Ken Samuels) and pesky Chinese henchmen are getting in the way.
Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Filed under:Movies | Comments Off
Russell Brand is an actor who consistently surprises me, and after his superb work inGet Him to the Greek, my expectations of him are higher. Brand reprises the role of Aldous Snow, the scene-stealing rock star from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and adds even more lunacy and over-the-top machismo. Whereas director Nicholas Stoller used Brand in FSM as the wackiest part of a funny ensemble, now he adds a fitting comedic foil: Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), a record company executive whose sole job is to get Aldous from London to LA’s Greek Theater.
Like the funniest moments of Almost Famous, the musician’s fame and penchant for excess get in the way of the uncool guy’s job. To the chagrin of Aaron’s girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss) and boss (P Diddy), horny co-eds and various narcotics erode his sanity/resolve. Only after harrowing experiences and fleeting moments of vulnerability can Aldous and Aaron establish a rapport that will help revive the musician’s career (Aldous’ latest single, “African Child,” rightfully bombed).
With partying abound in four major cities (London, New York, Las Vegas, LA), the movie is a booze-soaked travelogue, one that looks undeniably fun and insane. A noteworthy sequence is Aaron’s disastrous backstage behavior at The Today Show (which includes a welcome, unlikely cameo). Another is when record exec Diddy joins Aaron and Aldous in Las Vegas – the rap mogul isn’t known for his comedic timing, yet he steals the show with deadpan one-liners and manic zeal. Though an out-of-control bender dominates the plot and humor, there are times for interesting character moments. Aldous’ lovelorn call to his former flame (Rose Byrne) is disarmingly tender, even when the couple shares a vagina-based inside joke. And a would-be threesome between Aldous, Aaron, and Aaron’s girlfriend ends with familiarly awkward humor, as well as well-earned moments of clarity.
Because Get Him to the Greek uses second-tier talent from the ubiquitous Apatow brand, it runs the risk of being disregarded as such, which is a shame since it’s easily one of funniest movie’s he produced. Unlike earlier entries which rely too heavily on gross-out gags and bro-centric pop culture references, character is the primary focus here. Between this and Hot Tub Time Machine, comedies this year have been a uncommonly strong. I only hope the trend continues, and later releases have me laughing so hard I miss half the jokes.
Splicecombines psychological horror and a riff on the Frankenstein tale to create something that’s, well, really goddamn creepy. Unlike most modern horror which focuses on gore first and character second, Vincenzo Natali’s effort has depth. It may fall short in the final fifteen minutes, but there is enough here to please even non-genre fans. There are few gotcha scares (which I despise), and several scenes of sustained curiosity/discomfort. With one moment that’ll make audiences recoil is disbelief and disgust, here is a movie that knows where the line is and how to cross it effectively.
Scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are a far cry from the “It’s alive!” proclamations of classic horror. We know the couple is edgy because they dress loudly, listen to Holy Fuck while they work, and were on the cover of Wired magazine. When funding on the human aspect of their experiment gets shot down, they decide to go rogue and create a humanoid life-form without telling anyone. Initially Clive has more concern about moral/ethical ramifications, whereas Elsa is more eager to play God. It’s a success, so they begin to nurture their experiment Dren (Delphine Chanéac) as something between a child and pet. I won’t reveal all the mysteries of Dren’s biology, except to say one wouldn’t want to be on the business end of her poisonous tail. Focus on Dren detracts from the couple’s other scientific pursuits, the potentially profitable ones for which they were hired, so when a shareholder meeting goes awry, their personal feelings towards Dren get weirder. And by the time others get whiff of the creature, any semblance of control is completely lost.
Not since Alien has a creature mutated in such an intriguing way, and it’s fun to see how Dren develops. The make-up/creature artists crafted Dren into something that walks the line between human and monster perfectly, so the audience’s feelings towards her are always uneasy. There are times where her joy is heartwarming and her otherworldliness is chilling, and they often occur together. Without strong central performances, such a creature could easily grow tedious, so thankfully Brody and Polley are not a disappointment. As protectors and de-facto parents, they must make difficult leaps and absurd behavior plausible, and they cannily accomplish said goals with an understated approach and a dead-serious delivery. Earlier I alluded one especially creepy moment (you’ll know it when you see it). It runs the risk derailing the entire movie, yet Natali and his screenwriters justify it with complex motivations and a greater message about scientific exploration. There’s an ongoing conversation about the proverbial line and the implications of crossing, and while it’s impossible to say when Elsa and Clive crossed, it’s undeniable that they eventually sprint from it.
On the cab ride home from Splice, I stared out the window and reflected on just how uncomfortable I was made to feel. The driver even noticed and asked if I was alright. My reaction may be different from yours, but I must recommend any movie that provokes one so visceral. With attention to detail and complex character motivations, Natali made a movie with deeper ambition than most horror schlock. There are ideas and sinister implications here, even if it concludes with an all-too-familiar chase sequence. Overall the number of successes outweigh the shortcomings, so for those who are unafraid of being creeped the fuck out, Spliceis important viewing.
Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Filed under:Theater | Comments Off
In Dakota’s coverage of the Capital Fringe fest last summer, some of the more memorable photos were of Zed Headscarf, a hijab-wearing prankster who assaulted Ra Ra Rasputin’s Brock Boss with a bottle of yet-to-be-determined lube. Zed is not a real-life lover of all things haraam, but the alter ego of playwright/performer Zehra Fasal, whose show Headscarf and the Angry Bitch won Best Solo Performance at last year’s Fringe. And for a one-night performance, Fasal reprised her role at Theater J, where she added new material to her already successful performance.
All photos by Graeme Shaw
With a playful reimagining of America’s “Horse with No Name,” Zed sets the tone almost immediately. Imagine Weird Al, except as a cute Muslim woman whose pop parodies detail Pakistani American life, not Amish Paradise. Zed’s songs are a small part of her outreach program, one in which she sets out to clarify any misunderstandings we the students may have. Though never seen on stage, it’s not surprising Zed’s employers question her methods. In her six “lessons,” Zed gently gibes the aspects of Islam that aren’t hip to Western minds, and cheerfully discusses the state of her reproductive system. Slowly the audience learns her playful irreverence has a deeper purpose. She wants to reconcile modern American life with the behavioral restrictions of her faith, and folk-rock parodies are a better outlet than, say, an earnest lecture.
Parody or not, acoustic renditions of Michael Jackson run the risk of being excessively twee, yet Zehra cannily wins over the audience with Zed’s perky attitude. Her high voice and razor-sharp timing are the bedrock of the performance, and the songs/sight-gags keep things rolling along (the way she introduces Islam’s holy book is worth the admission price alone). The material, particularly the business of an OB/GYN visit, is familiar to those who have seen one-woman shows, but Headscarf’s handling of religion adds layers of subversion and risk. Many of the biggest laughs are from outright shock at how far she goes. There are other kinds of jokes such as sharp observational humor, and off-kilter caricatures (her exaggerated body language during these is both amusing and helpful). All this adds to an important identity-in-conflict message, one made serious by educated references to Islam and South-Asian culture.
Before Fazal took the stage, a Theater J representative informed the nearly-packed audience that after more than fifteen drafts, an additional song is making its debut. It comes in the form of a glam-tastic encore, and while it’s performed with energy, the song lasts a verse too long. Such is the danger of inserting new elements, and while the denouement doesn’t quiet work, I’m sure Fazal will work out the kinks and costume annoyances in future performances. It’s unfortunate Headscarf and the Angry Bitch only ran for one night – I’d quickly recommend the play to fans of comedy and theater. After so many rewrites, there is plenty that is fresh and fun, so be sure to check out Fazal’s show at the New York City International Fringe Festival this August!