The Other Guys

Culture Warrior

Will Ferrell is a funny man. This seems to be a fact undeniable even to those who don’t otherwise care for his brand of comedy. Even though his schtick has become reliably familiar – he often plays variations of an over-privileged adult child who is hopelessly naïve in certain categories of social life and prone to random bursts of livid anger – its regularity has yet to prevent Ferrell’s comic talents from growing stale. There seems to also be some indescribable aura at the core of Ferrell’s comic talent, something about his appearance and demeanor that can’t be explained through analyses of timing and punchline, as evidenced by his strange appearance on Jimmy Fallon last May. For many, Ferrell’s comic appeal has been this essential, indescribably funny core since his SNL days. Ferrell is funny not exclusively because of his physical comedy or imitable characters; he, as a force of nature, is pure farce (a farce of nature?). But as his film career continues to accumulate titles and as his unique comic sensibilities become better-known with his roles as producer and writer, it’s clear that, beneath his farce, Ferrell has a confrontational political and satirical streak underlying much of his work, which has naturally led to him portraying a politician in Jay Roach’s The Campaign. Ferrell’s roles, however, often exercise a fascinating and occasionally self-defeating tension between satire and farce, with one element substituting, rather than laying the groundwork for, the other. Here’s an overview of the politics of Will […]

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Culture Warrior

One of the great misconceptions about Hollywood is that it is a liberal institution. Several false assumptions inform this misconception: thinking of “Hollywood” as a monolithic entity in any way besides its shared corporate infrastructure, confusing public endorsements of celebrity politicians by celebrity movie stars as political activism, thinking that left-leaning consumers of movies see Hollywood as representing their political beliefs in any way, selectively reading a limited number of texts (e.g., Green Zone “proves” Hollywood’s liberalism, but every superhero movie ever isn’t proof of its conservatism), and, most importantly, thinking that the most public figures associated with Hollywood (i.e., stars and filmmakers) are Hollywood. This last point I think is one that has continued to be the least considered when such straw man critiques are drawn, because Hollywood here is equated only with its most visible figures who overshadow its intricate but also not-so-shrouded political economy. It’s no mistake that despite the fluctuating numbers of major and minor Hollywood studios in the past 100 years, the most powerful studios, like the biggest banks in the nation, have been referred to as “The Big Five.” And indeed, to the surprise of no one, both Big Fives have had and are continuing a lucrative relationship with one another. Hollywood’s agenda, of course, has always been profit, and the representatives of this ideology are not George Clooney and Matt Damon, but Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal (Chairman/CEO & Co-Chairman, Sony/Columbia), Stephen Blairson (CEO, 20th Century Fox), Brad Grey (Chairman/CEO, Paramount), Ronald Meyer […]

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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This Week in DVD

Most DVD Tuesdays see a random smorgasbord of titles released with no discernible pattern, and this week is ultimately no different. But it does feature a fairly hefty sampling of one genre in particular… documentaries! Who’s up for some true stories and real life drama, mystery, and comedy? Don’t turn your nose up so fast people. There are some fascinating true stories below, yes, even the one on Joan Rivers, and they’re all worth a watch or two. Titles out this week include The Other Guys, Cyrus, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Town, Gasland, and more.

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Buddy cop flicks are a genre unto themselves, and while the details change from film to film the basics stay the same. Two cops. Feuding. With laughs. The best ones create a perfect balance between action and comedy, but most tend to lean heavily one way or the other. Which brings us to Adam McKay’s The Other Guys. The film pairs Will Ferrell with Mark Wahlberg on a case about something or other (I still don’t really know what they’re investigating), but all you need to know is that the movie is funny as hell. My review from this past summer is here, but you should already know if this movie is for you. Want to win a free copy of the DVD? Of course you do. So here’s how… tell us in the comments section below what your favorite buddy cop flick is and why. The ‘why’ is important because that’s usually what wins these things. As always the contest is open to US residents only ages 18 and up. Be sure the email address associated with your comment is correct as that’s how we’ll notify the winner. Good luck! The official synopsis is below. Misfit NYPD detectives Gamble and Hoitz (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) are sentenced to life behind the desk. They hate each other and the monotony of their meaningless jobs, as they’re forced to live in the shadow of the two biggest and most badass cops on the force (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson). […]

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Culture Warrior

I was living in New York in September 2008, and took some time a couple of days after the stock market crash to visit way downtown Manhattan and see what was going on. The quietude was shocking, as the alarms being sounded on cable news networks made it sound like I shouldn’t be surprised to see brokers peddling on the street, people running around on fire for no apparent reason, or CEOs segway-ing off of cliffs. As I rarely visited the Financial District, I had no idea whether or not this was normal. Maybe the crash had invoked a necessary meditation or speechlessness, a rare time of reflection for capitalists-run-amok. But the truth was that such panic wouldn’t be visible on the street amongst the common folk (houses around the country owned by low and middle-income families told that story), rather the chaos was happening inside the buildings themselves. Oliver Stone’s latest entry into his “W” trilogy dealing with major 21st century American events (alongside World Trade Center and W.), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, is an attempt to inquire on the conversations that may have gone on in those buildings.

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Culture Warrior

For better or worse, this summer of movies is over, and now we’re in the early-Fall transition into the inevitable season of so-called “serious” awards-friendly films, films that supposedly say a lot about human nature and our time and place as a culture. However, I’ve always contended that it is often the films that seemingly exist only for “entertainment’s sake” that have the most to say about culture, mainly because they operate in such a way that allows us to turn our minds off, passively consume them, and therefore go along unquestionably with the socio-political presumptions explicitly or implicitly embedded within their narratives. Such films that purport to exist solely for entertainment value often end up telling us a lot about how and what we think about the present, and it just so happens that these types of films are most often relegated to the summer months. Summer movies in 2010 ranged from highbrow to lowbrow, blockbuster to indie to sleeper, with head-scratchers and brain-cell-killers alike, but many of these films, intentionally or not, had something to say or assume about the present cultural moment.

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With The Other Guys, director Adam McKay walked a fine line of not making another cop spoof and has instead turned in a straight-faced comedy. But it’s really more of an action movie. It follows the tropes, the story structure and the whole cop movie formula we all know… except it has an oblivious non-hero duo at the center. Mean-spirited is possibly the best way to describe most of McKay’s protagonists. They’re usually completely oblivious and seem to have no guilt for what they do and say. While McKay slightly disagrees with that stance when it comes to Allen and Terry for The Other Guys, he agrees there are still sprinkles of cruelness to them. McKay and I talked about this at length:

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The Reject Report

And somewhere in that world waits Julia Roberts, hiding in the shadows, waiting for her chance to pounce and eat, pray, and love the competition back into the nether worlds from whence they came. Scott Pilgrim might be fending off a league of evil exes for his true love, but he’s going to have a tougher time going up against not only Roberts’ popularity among the fairer sex but the testosterone-heavy multitude that will be pouring themselves into theaters to see Stallone and his posse rip people’s throats out. It’s going to be an all-out war at the box office this weekend, and The Other Guys might as well stay at their desks. They don’t have a shot of repeating.

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Culture Warrior

No doubt you’ve read about it if you haven’t seen it. The Other Guys, the latest collaboration between masters of the sophomoric Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, concludes with an animated chart-and-graph sequence over its end credits detailing the inner workings of Ponzi schemes, the exponential disparity between the wages of corporate CEOs and their average worker, and the rather comical eventual release date of currently imprisoned white-collar criminal Bernie Madoff. It seems startling at first, for one of the most hilariously dumb comedies of the summer (I certainly don’t mean this as an insult, as true silliness is hard to come by and McKay/Ferrell routinely pull it off masterfully) to conclude with something of a visual lecture. It’s confounding for a film that asks the bare minimum of its viewer to conclude with what seems to be a message built from populist outrage, a message for which there seemed, on the surface, little if any buildup toward. The best course of action – for most critics, anyway – has been to read and enjoy The Other Guys wholly separate from its end credits (films, after all, are often misread as ending before their credits; we’re conditioned not to any pay attention to them). I find this reading of The Other Guys too selective, and its end credits – as didactic and ill-placed as they may seem at first to be – paint a rather different film in hindsight to the one we think we have been seeing.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, Peter Hall and John Gholson stop by to drop the Cinematical tag team on me, and we discuss the finer points of Pedobear advertising. They also destroy my anticipation for two films, and we manage to discuss the worst buddy cop cliches while admitting to the ones we can’t get enough of. All of this, plus you learn what movie is like Inception meets Dora the Explorer.

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The Reject Report

Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell have guns. With bullets. Bullets that can kill. And their sights are set on Inception‘s top spot. Only two films open in wide release this weekend, and one of them is about dancing. The other film stars the two A-listers named above, so it seems fairly evident if any film is going to take over the #1 spot it’s going to be The Other Guys. Their time is now. Their guns are poised. Their aim is true.

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It would be easy to say The Other Guys is the funniest ‘buddy cop’ movie of the past several years. Or that it’s the most consistently entertaining action/comedy since Hot Fuzz. Or that it’s easily the best Will Ferrell movie since Anchorman. Or that even if Kevin Smith’s Cop Out was remade as a comedy the result still wouldn’t be anywhere near as as hilarious as The Other Guys. All of that’s true, but you won’t catch me saying it here because the hyperbole (and cheap digs at Smith) can’t hide the fact that the movie also has a glaring problem with plot and an overly long running time. But then again, those problems can’t hide the fact that The Other Guys will have you smiling and laughing aloud from beginning to end either. Detectives Danson and Highsmith are heroes in blue. They catch every criminal, they break every rule, and both their co-workers and the public view them as NYPD super-cops. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are not Detectives Danson and Highsmith.

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Comic-Con 2010

Last weekend was the crucible of Comic-Con, and no fewer than one billion trillion news stories came out of the convention aimed directly at your sensibilities as an audience member. We weren’t the only site on the block that had coverage of course, and hopefully you read more than a few of our peers (because there really are some great sites out there). You were most likely inundated with new information about the movies hitting theaters soon or in the next year. Did any of it change your mind? Was there a movie you were dying to see that you cooled on? Was there a movie that landed on your radar for the first time? Is your confidence renewed in anything?

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The Other Guys is a bit of a change of pace for the Mark Wahlberg we all know. For one, he’s become known particularly for his “tough guy” onscreen persona. And two, have we ever seen Wahlberg go full-on comedic? No, we have not… but in about two weeks we all will. Apparently, it’ll be a nice welcome for Wahlberg. If The Other Guys lives up to the buzz coming from the press screenings or can stand amongst Adam McKay’s other comedies, then expect something good. How does Wahlberg feel about this so-called change? Well, Wahlberg didn’t see it entirely that way. While he’s correct that plenty of his previous roles have had comedic elements, he did agree upon this being his first straight comedy.

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Summer Movies 2010

It’s that time again. Every year, Film School Rejects is looked to by readers the world over to be the guiding light for summer movie-going. What can we say? We just have a knack for it. And this summer, we’re excited…

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The Other Guys

Without knowing anything else about The Other Guys other than seeing this trailer, you might very well think that it’s going to be just another dumb comedy. But there’s a reason why you should be optimistic about it…

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McKayBrennanInt

The director and producer behind The Goods discuss 19th-century American bearded philosophy, the joy of telling jokes at funerals, and talk about the dangers of doing comedy.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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