August 8th, 2009

FUNNY PEOPLE (2009) ** ½

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a famous comedian who learns he has a rare blood disease.  He goes on a comedy club tour to try to get back to his stand-up roots and takes a shine to a struggling comic named Ira (Seth Rogan).  George hires Ira to write jokes for his act and be his assistant and they gradually become friends.  When George kicks the illness, he tries to get it on with a former flame (Leslie Mann) who is married to an aggressive Australian (Eric Bana), much to the chagrin of Ira.  


I highly enjoyed director Judd Apatow’s previous flicks 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up so Funny People was a bit of a letdown for me.  Things started off rather well and the scenes of George and Ira bonding had a lot of heart to them (think Punchline meets Terms of Endearment).  I also loved all the famous comedian cameos (everyone from Norm MacDonald to Sarah Silverman) too.  The third act is where the movie really shits the bed.  The Lifetime Channelly romantic triangle is trite and there is very little for Rogan’s character to do by that point.  (He’s basically a substitute for the audience as he just wants the whole mess to be over with so he can go home.)


Sandler does a fine job in the flick and handles himself well in a dramatic role.  He’s not as good as he was in Punch-Drunk Love but solid just the same.  I can’t definitively tell what his dramatic range is like since I didn’t see him in Spanglish or in that other drama he did.  (I think it was called 9/11 Sucked.)  I’m sure there are a lot of autobiographical touches in the film (Sandler and Apatow were roommates before they were famous) that helped add extra dimension to his character.  Rogen comes off best out of everyone in the cast yet his character more or less just becomes an innocent bystander for the latter half of the film.  Mann is also quite good as the foxy object of Sandler’s affections.  Since she’s the director’s wife, there is a No Ta-Ta’s Clause in her contract, which is unfortunate cuz she’s pretty banging.


Out of all the celebrity cameos, hands down the funniest was when Eminem wanted to fight Ray Romano.  Luckily, Rogen broke it up by delivering the best line of the movie:  “I thought everybody loved you!”

ENTER THE NINJA (1981) ***

Franco Nero stars as Cole, the Great White Ninja who in the opening scene passes his Ninja Final Exam by Kung Fuing lots of dudes in red pajamas.  Cole’s teacher then sends him off into the world so he can help “less fortunates”.  That means Cole has to hop the next flight to the Philippines to help out his old war buddy whose plantation is struggling to make ends meet on account of a slimy businessman (played to the hilt by Christopher George) who is trying to strong arm his property away from him.  After Cole turns two dozen of his best men into shredded wheat, the bad guy then sends out for the Great Black Ninja (Sho Kosugi) to put an end to the Great White Ninja once and for all.


Enter the Ninja is a worthy entry in Cannon’s line-up of cheesy 80’s action flicks.  It’s popularity led to a glut of Ninja movies, some better (Revenge of the Ninja), some worse (American Ninja); all of which have their moments of sheer Cannon insanity.  This is the one that started it all though so it’s a bit more laid back than subsequent Ninja movies.  At 100 minutes, it’s probably about 15 minutes longer than it really should’ve been and the thin plot; which is more or less just like every episode of The Incredible Hulk (except with ninjas of course) doesn’t really help either.  I'll admit that this baby does have a good half dozen or so things wrong with it.  I’m cool with that though because when it cooks, it cooks with grease.


Director (and Cannon co-founder) Menahem Golan has never been known for subtlety.  (He is after all the man who gave us The Apple.)  This is a good thing when it comes to making a Ninja movie.  The scenes where Nero dons white pajamas and turns people into living shish-kabobs are fairly gnarly and Golan films them with gusto.  Arms get severed, heads get lopped off, faces get tacks thrown into them, ninja stars get planted into people’s chests, and spikes get put into people’s skulls.  Enter the Ninja also features a lot of testicular trauma as boots, hooks, and nightsticks all end up in some poor Joe’s groin at some point in the movie. 


I think my favorite Golan touch though was when Nero ripped the henchman’s hook from off his stump and the soundtrack played the stock comic relief Waa-Waa-Waa-WAAAAA music.  Yes folks, this movie has Waa-Waa-Waa-WAAAAA in it.  And you thought that music was only reserved for Saturday morning cartoons or when a clown gets a pie in the face.


I think the tip-off that I was destined to like this movie was the fact that Christopher George was in it.  Enter the Ninja pretty much solidifies the Video Vacuum Movie Rule that states:  If It’s From the 80’s and Christopher George Was In It, It’s a Damn Good Movie.  If you don’t believe me then check out The Gates of Hell, The Exterminator, Graduation Day, Pieces or Mortuary.  This guy set the bar high when it came to B Movies in the 80’s.  It’s a shame that he died in ’83 because he could’ve made so many more classics.  Golan obviously knew George had loads of talent, that’s why he gave him the best line of the movie:  “This is 20th century Manila not feudal Japan!”


AKA:  Ninja I.