by Kris Katz
Brief spoiler-free entertainment reviews

Friday, April 24, 2009

Arrested Development (TV Series 2003 - 2006)

Rightfully hailed as one of the best and most under appreciated sitcoms of the decade, Arrested Development is, like Firefly before it, yet another brilliant show canceled by Fox. At least this one made it three seasons before the ax fell. To be fair, it's the kind of show that takes a few tries to really sink its hooks into you, and the sense of humor on display is a bit off the mainstream, but anyone with a taste for strong, ensemble-driven storylines featuring some brutally funny banter and situations owes it to themselves to see this show. The program follows the Bluths, an extraordinarily dysfunctional family whose land developer patron is unexpectedly carted off to federal prison leaving the youngest son in charge of the company and his family's finances. In-fighting ensues. It isn't your standard sitcom by any stretch, but the show succeeds brilliantly with its near-constant barrage of smart, deadpan laughs, hysterically awkward moments, and longterm setups. The setups deserve special mention in particular, as some situations presented as early as the second episode don't see a payoff until entire seasons later, and every one of them is an absolute home run—it's extremely rewarding for those who stick with it. Similarly, the cast is completely perfect for the material in every way possible, including a raft of surprising cameos in fantastically weird places. It's simple: if you are a fan of smart comedy with exceptional timing and acting, don't mind a little awkward with your hilarious, and aren't prone to walk away from something if it doesn't entertain you in the first few seconds, you owe it to yourself to see this. It really was one of the best shows in the last decade.

10 out of 10.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Observe and Report (2009)

Anyone going into this film expecting yet another Seth Rogen raunchy comedy is in for a rude awakening. Likewise, anyone going in for the more sick and twisted side of the film will also be left wanting. You have to wonder exactly what kind of film writer-director Jody Hill set out to make. It starts out innocent enough for the genre, as Seth Rogen's foulmouthed, bipolar, gun-obsessed rent-a-cop decides to make to make it his mission to track down a serial flasher terrorizing a shopping mall. But instead of leaving things at surface-level shenanigans and predictable laughs, it instead dives further and further down the rabbit hole of Rogen's self-delusion. Except the comedy gives way to an uneasy and unsure drama and by the end the whole thing is just creepy. It evolves from 40-Year-Old Virgin into Taxi Driver. There's no denying that it's a brave decision but the end result is extraordinarily uneven, featuring left-field joke setups that don't fit into the drama, and dramatic choices that don't work with the comedy. The real shame of it is that Rogen does show some decent acting chops here. In the hands of a more certain director with a more balanced script, this film could have explored some genuinely interesting places, but what's on hand is unfortunately just as choppy as it's lead's mental state.

5 out of 10.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

So that happened. It's difficult to determine where to start on this one; I mean, it's a musical about a repo man collecting organs as payment. Think along the lines of Sweeny Todd, but more gruesome, trading in period gothic for future industrial gothic, where the music settles between terrible and neutral. There's an air of cult all over the film, from the casting to the generally emo and screamo style music, to the bloody, yet-comically fake, gore. And it's clear that the producers knew where it was headed as well, with some obscure casting decisions featuring faces you would never have heard of unless you weren't already deep down the rabbit hole. The shame here is that most of them are not very good singers, or are at least not properly equipped to try their hand at the styles of music being thrown at them. Not that it matters with such inconsistent quality in the composition. Strictly as a film, then, it's a frustrating mess. Maybe with the right company and the right mindset there is some energy and verve to be gleaned—there certainly seems to be a feeling of “almost!” throughout—but without the right mental state this whole damn thing will probably just make most people walk away.

3 out of 10.