Friday, June 29, 2007

Black Snake Moan (2007)

Director: Craig Brewer

With reason pitched clearly out the plate glass window, this film will keep your eyes glued to it, even though they may be rolling in disbelief. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching “Black Snake Moan,” but I can’t help but think that it may overstay its welcome. Unabashedly showcasing in-your-face metaphors, writer/director Craig Brewer (writer/director of 2005's "Hustle & Flow") makes his bid for cult status. I guess people already know what this film is about, and if not: A nympho-girl gets chained to a radiator by a has-been musician, in an attempt to cleanse her of her "sinfulness." Together they conquer their respective demons and learn to give each other the things they had been missing (no, not those things).

I think this film is really brave, and was glad to see that it didn’t simply use its gimmick in an excuse to just film scenes of a girl in her underpants chained to a radiator (a noble cause in its own way, I guess) in order to merely shock viewers. Viewers that get a kick out of the premise will be delighted and snicker (obviously the reaction the film was stoking) as they see Lazarus (played by Samuel L. Jackson) taking his captive, Rae (played by Christina Ricci), for a walk out in his field like a bloodhound. This shows that Brewer knew the film he wanted to make, respected the sensationalism genre he was dabbling in, and wasn't afraid to push the limit, or comment on the audacious premise. All the performances were really strong, and rose to the heights they were required to reach in a charmingly hammy way. They would reel it in when they needed to convey emotions, and be over-the-top when they needed to hammer a point home (the latter type of performance works beautifully hand-in-hand with the visuals, which are used like exclamation points on the overly dramatic scenes). It’s all drenched in a dark, exploitative and surrealistic "Southern" feel, with blatant Biblical overtones that’s reminiscent of Russ Meyer’s “Mudhoney,” and comes across as more of a nod to exploitation films, much the way Tarantino’s “Death Proof” used the grindhouse cinema as a springboard to explore new territory. Incidentally, this film could have easily been included as part of the movie "Grindhouse" to create the ultimate, modern day schlock triple-feature.

This film won’t bore you, which is more than I can say for most movies, and the performances make it that much better. A lot of it seems superfluous, however. There’s a love story involving Lazarus and another woman that basically plays itself out the way you think it will from the moment the two characters begin conversing. There are a lot of iconic images in this film that I loved. There’s a scene where Lazarus plays Rae a song on his guitar amidst a lightning storm in his old abandoned house that’s really quite impressive and memorable. Another musical interlude involves Lazarus playing his first gig in years, and the characters all converge for a great scene. I think this films main problem is that it needed another trip through the editing room. There are some characters and plotlines that didn’t seem necessary, and the philosophy of the film would have been more effective if the story moved along a little smoother. It's almost like it tries to cram in too much to what should have been a simpler story, and that causes it to lose a little of its effectiveness. On the plus side, Brewer creates a great Southern atmosphere (You know, the kinds of places where people have cigarettes surgically attached to their hands, and speak a language that's almost as intelligible as Klingon).

There’s a lot of good stuff in this film (i.e. the music, the performances, and the stylish imagery), and it’s definitely worth sussing through to find it. The characters are all handled with care, and aren't there to simply amuse us. They go through honest emotions, and trials and tribulations amidst an equally chaotic setting and premise. It feels a little odd barely even mentioning the whole chained-to-a-radiator section of this film, but that’s not even the reason to see it at all. It’s just used as an homage to sexploitation grindhouse films, and the imagery that they utilized that really works in the deep South backdrop that Brewer creates so authentically (except for the whole "prostitutes-getting-chained-up" thing -- at least I hope that's not authentic, but what do I know?). Realistic dialogue and a mixture of stock characters and truly original and brave ideas make this film very rich and entertaining. I say, “See it,” and keep and eye out for Craig Brewer, whose best work is, I think, yet to come, and probably going to be quite a ride.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Once (2007)

Director: John Carney

Ive always thought that my ideal film would be a great documentary about music and, at the same time, have excellent music in it. And while “Once” isn’t a documentary, it’s filmed in such a way as to provide a filmically minimalistic and voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of these two seemingly anonymous musical talents. Set in Dublin, Ireland, this film stars non-actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova as the respective “guy” and “girl" -- they’re listed as such in the credits. That only adds to the candid look we get into their lives by giving us a safe distance to watch the events unfold as strangers. There’s not a lot of (hardly any) back story, or shameless character development that would bog it down. Nothing that we wouldn't overhear at a dinner party is revealed to us, and thus, the story floats peacefully along like Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise" meets "Lost in Translation" set to music. The characters meet and fall for each other, and establish a real connection through the music they create.
Hansard plays a street musician working for change part-time, and working for his father in his vacuum repair shop the other part of the time. It’s during one of his performances that he meets a charmingly scatter-brained, street merchant girl, who is immediately intrigued by him. And as the events unfold, he turns his intrigue towards her (a musical savant, herself). Together they experiment with a sound that’s both haunting and powerful, that grows organically like their relationship. Soon after, they form a makeshift band for a weekend in a recording studio, and create something beautiful that's, although fleeting, captured forever in the music. Some of the most powerful and effective scenes involve the couple's first collaboration together in the music shop, and "the guy's" usually stoic father's reaction to the recordings: "It's fucking brilliant," he simply states. That reaction hits you much the same way as the scene where the musically elitist recording engineer is immediately endeared to the band's sound hits you. He's not a character by any means. He's realistic and believable. He's not the greedy studio head that they have to grapple with, or that tries to capitalize on their sound. They collaborate, and it works. It throws unconventional, and not at all unbelievable, "twists" like that at you that make it feel familiar and yet refreshing, all at the same time.

And even though it may not end the way most hopeless romantics would want it too, it's not bleak by any means -- in fact, it's the opposite. It's very hopeful and inspirational. It’s the tragic story of a great band/love that never was, but only once, came together to create something truly beautiful. Last, but certainly not least, the music in this film is, thankfully, excellent (if it wasn't, this film probably would have been forgettable), and the main reason for experiencing it. It may not be perfect, and overall, I felt, a little uneven, but there aren't nearly enough problems with it that should ultimately deter viewers… or listeners for that matter, since, as writer/director John Carney describes it, it’s a “video album." I don’t think I could have phrased it any better.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kill-bot (ART)

King Kong (2005)

Director: Peter Jackson

No, it’s not too long. It’s long, yes, but not too long. Got it? Good. Now I can proceed with my review. With Peter Jackson at the helm this time around, we know it’s capable of reaching giant action adventure status. It truly is all about Kong, and we never forget that as the film unfolds. He's heroic, but he is just an ape acting out of instinct after all. It’s more than a re-imagining, it’s a love letter that Jackson finely tuned to honor a great piece of cinema.

I realize that if I read this review many years from now I’ll sound like a moron, but the special effects in this film have neared perfection for the industry. It’s seamlessly blended into a beautiful canvas of huge backdrops such as the mythic Skull Island and a depression-era New York City. From the boat that our protagonists board, to Kong himself, there’s a fitting sense of scale throughout this film. And that really pays off when the action takes center stage. Peter Jackson’s a big fan of close ups, and he really showcases that “I’m seeing/realizing something that you’re not” technique that Spielberg pioneered. There are a lot of ominous zooms, and eye-widening stares that help this film not get drenched in emotion, but retain a sort of “comic book” surrealism. After all, we are dealing with a giant ape fighting dinosaurs here. The actors push back against this, by delivering realistic and “non-winking at the camera” performances. With all that said, I think they pulled off the emotion quite well. Kong comes off as a real character, and it delves into poignant, inter-species scenes between Naomi Watts and Kong that would make even Ted Nugent weep.

So what does it all add up to? It’s a high flying action film that, dare I say, has meaning behind it. And even though we know what will happen in the end, we’re stunned by how Jackson can flawlessly recapture and re-imagine it, without bastardizing it, or turning it into a film solely about computer generated images. The relationship between Watts and Kong grows naturally as we see them become friends and look out for each other through really unique scenes. (Yeah, I can be sappy too.) Now when I recommend it as an action flick, I know action fans will grow weary of the love story, but it’s a nice blend that I think works. It’s always a challenge in fantasy films to try to ingrain some realism while fantastic thing are occurring. Certainly effects that don’t take you out of the picture help, but the universal emotions will kinetically guide you through this entertaining adventure.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Director: Clint Eastwood

This movie is all about heroes, and our definition of the word “hero”. It's like a behind the scenes story of a classic World War II film. Jumping back and forth between the real events and it's aftermath, we get to see what most war films leave out -- the war at home and the intense moral ambiguities everyone wrestles with while simply wanting their loved-ones back in one piece. At times it weaves around, not entirely flawlessly, but each part has a lot of meaning. First off, it looks beautiful. It’s realistic and epic in scale. The three main characters (played by Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford) return from planting the famous flag on Iwo Jima, and they’re carted around the country like a rock group by their "label". But instead of albums, they’re promoting war bonds. And much like most "rise to fame" stories, they find out it's not all it's cracked up to be.

I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but the main characters aren’t given a lot of big scenes to show off their acting chops, like you would expect in an epic and emotional war film. It's more concerned with just getting the story right. I thought there were great performances (less is more), but I think it was done this way to create a surrogate character for the audience. We see things through their eyes, and we’re forced to think of what we would think or do in each situation, with great effect. In the end there is no right or wrong, and it doesn’t really matter who raised which flag, or who was in the photograph. Once the details of the famous photo begin to surface, people find out that what they had envisioned was much easier to digest than what the true facts were. The soldiers may have had to blur the lines of what actually occurred on that island, but they're trying to raise money for their comrades in arms. They try to balance using their fame to help a noble cause, all the while trying to let people know the truth, which could undermine their social status as "heroes". Nobody ultimately knows what will result from their decisions. They just feel this is the right thing to do at the moment in order to help save the lives of their fellow soldiers. And in the end, that is what makes it an intelligently crafted (and not to mention an extremely relevant) story.

The best scene (for me, anyway) is where Doc (played by Ryan Phillippe) is asked to point out to a grieving mother where her son was in the photo. He knows her son wasn’t really in it, and it seems as though she might know this too. It doesn’t matter though, because it was real to her. I think that scene probably best encapsulates this film. Be forewarned that this film is, in a sense, a flashback within a flashback. It jumps back and forth, and it’s a little unclear at times when and where things are happening, and who’s who. Ultimately, it’s balanced well, and there aren’t dull areas that could have used a little punching up in the script department. It’s a little like “Citizen Kane” meets “Saving Private Ryan.” Much like “Kane”, it uses an interviewer in the shadows (at first) asking about the true events of one man’s life (in this case, Doc’s) in order to unravel a secret as its main plot thread. And in comparison, the “Rosebud” in this film is the famous photograph. In both films, the actual object means almost nothing, but what it represents is what the entire film revolves around.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)

Director: Ishiro Honda (Japanese version), John Beck (U.S. version)

Release Year: 1962 (Japan), 1963 (U.S.)

Well, let’s see. What do we have here? It looks like a guy in a lizard suit wrestling around on the ground with a guy in a monkey suit. Now either this is a “Furry” convention gone horribly wrong, or it’s a Japanese monster movie... gone horribly wrong. Ah, Toho. Where would cinema be without you? This is the film whose mythic reputation precedes it, and will most likely make the actual film end up being a colossal disappointment. Despite urban legends about its finale, “King Kong vs. Godzilla” has only one ending. There is only one apparent victor, and it’s not the viewing audience.

So this is my first (one hopes there will be many) attempt at reviewing a Godzilla movie. First off, I love Godzilla, but his films can be frustrating to watch. We all know what people want to see, but unfortunately we’re treated to interminable scenes featuring scientists and Army officials yammering away in dull office buildings, surmising which attack will best stop a giant fire-breathing lizard (Somehow the ineffectual answer is always tanks and airplanes). It’s hard not to grow restless as the supporting characters are carelessly crammed into the many open areas of the plot like foam packing peanuts. The film attempts to be self-aware by commenting on the ensuing battle, and providing characters that are taking bets on which monster will come out on top. They gather around for ringside seats as their commentary falls harder than Kong does. The dialogue seems grossly unnecessary, since we all know why we're watching this film. We get it, the underlying themes aren't hard to pick up on. The plot is pretty implicit in the title.

Godzilla is freed from an iceberg, and King Kong escapes from a crew that wanted to exploit him for fame and money… hmmm, that sounds strangely familiar. Oh well. The following scenes involve various scientists tracking Godzilla and King Kong as they each make their respective ways towards the always vulnerable Tokyo, as if they were tropical storms (Incidentally, watching this film is about as exciting as watching the weather channel). Godzilla is the guy we all know and love, but the Japanese rendition of King Kong makes Godzilla look like a work of art. A good hour into the film, the two meet. Kong throws a rock at Godzilla, and that’s it. And am I crazy, or did I see Kong bat his eyelashes at Godzilla? God, I hope I’m mistaken, otherwise this film’s gunna take an ugly turn… or uglier turn, as it were.

The final battle is the only thing that saves this movie, and is the only reason for its existence. After the embarrassingly hapless, and perpetually in-over-their-heads Japanese Army essentially “throws” Kong at Godzilla, (No, I’m not kidding) the two behemoths finally have it out, or at least their costumes do, on a Toho soundstage. There are several scenes of empty Godzilla and Kong costumes rolling down mountains, and stop-motion characters kicking at each other that look not unlike when a toddler mashes together two action figures, engaging them in imaginary fisticuffs. Kong actually knocks himself out after rolling around and taunting Godzilla. I won’t go into too many details of this melee, since it just needs to be seen. In the end, there is only one that comes out on top (and no, that's not meant as a double entendre), but you’ll have to watch it to find out who wins… or I guess you could just take a stab at it. You’ve got a 50/50 shot. Go ahead, I guarantee you any resolution you can picture in your head will be more satisfying than what actually happens. I can’t speak for the Japanese release, but the U.S. version (which was re-dubbed, re-edited, and re-tarded) is quite possibly the worst of the Godzilla films. Sorry, Godzilla. I didn't really mean it. I still love you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hostel part II (2007)

Director: Eli Roth

I guess going into this review I should say that I thought the first “Hostel” movie was lame, and a missed opportunity. I’m trying to be open minded, and play devil’s advocate for a film that may or may not deserve such representation. In a way, “Hostel part II” wants to have its cake and eat it too, but never finds a good balance of terror and fun. I say that because I think that what writer/director Eli Roth was setting out to do was to create an entertaining film for people who love the campy aspect of splatter-fest films, and still genuinely induce horror. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of cheap shots used to induce a visceral reaction, instead of trying to build up the tension as you would expect in a torture film. I guess I would applaud him for trying a different approach, if only I felt that it worked.The cast of mostly unknowns does a good job. I can’t say I had a problem with any of the performances, merely what they were doing and saying. I think it was more of a script problem.

Taking a page from “Friday the 13th part II”, the film begins by offing the last surviving member of the previous film. This is probably the most anticlimactic, and ridiculous part of the film. In this film we begin to see the inner workings of a previously enigmatic company that provides you with youngsters to torture for a weekend getaway. Once the curtain is pulled back, we see the inner workings, and can’t help but feel disappointed. You see, sometimes this big corporation is very diligent and intense, and sometimes appears to be run by cartoon villains, complete with inept guards. Blanks that needed no filling in are revealed. This time we see the creepy bellhop make a photocopy of the passports - wow. I was shocked and horrified. Characters from the first film pop up again, but have nothing to do except cause a reaction of “Hey, that’s the guy from the first one.” They’re still up to their old tricks at that ole’ Hostel. This time it’s with chicks, though.

I was pleasently surprised by the the way this film departs from the first film, and doesn’t in any way try to remake it simply by replacing the male protagonist with females. The three main American girls on a trip through Europe meet a foreign girl who convinces them to accompany her to a spa in Slovakia. From the spa, it's just a hop skip and a jump to the torture room, and the fun begins. There's less of a sense of being isolated from your own culture, which I thought the first film did so well. You actually felt like you were a long way away from someone who would help you. We get a sense of that on the train in part II, but not nearly enough to create any tension that pays off. Assisting this lack of tension is the ever-presence of the villains of the film. It’s an interesting thought to try and peer into the lives of the people that would want to torture for money, but in the end it only amounts to them being rich guys with way too much disposable income (something we could’ve figured out already), as depicted in the bidding scene, where potential buyers vie for a girl to torture. There’s no insight as to why these characters are the way they are. That may be too heavy handed to try to portray in the film, but it shouldn’t have been introduced if they weren’t willing to go all the way with it. The characters begin to lose their menace when we see them jogging and actually talking to the girls beforehand. It just seems less creepy when they unnecessarily peel back the layers of something that was fine on its own. The unknown is always scarier -- everyone knows that.

It also annoyed me that the villain's emotions seemed to turn on a dime; trying to shock us, but not really making sense. The guy lets one of the girls go, pretending to rescue her, then knocks her out and begins torturing her. Was he faking his compassion? Did he have an epiphany of “Maybe I SHOULD kill this girl?” I dunno. Needless to say she’s able to get the upper hand and escape. There’s a nice twist where our heroine gets to do some torturing of her own, and becomes a member of this sometimes secret, sometimes not so secret society. But again, it’s like they couldn’t make up their mind as to what was supposed to be going on. They let the girl go on the technicality of, “No one leaves the killing bunker without killing someone.” Once she meets this requirement, along with the cash, she’s free to go. She simply buys her way out of this insane cult. Do they even care about getting caught? Are they just convinced this girl is a new sadistic buddy who's welcome to the club now? Because I wasn’t convinced at all. It was a nice attempt at a twist ending, but it was like Roth had written himself into a corner and that was the best he could come up with, and it ends up feeling tacked on. It feels like it was written as it was filmed, or as just an excuse to gross people out. The girl holds the organization at bay by holding one of their clients as hostage. Why would they care if she killed or hurt one of their clients? Sometimes they're business-like, and other times they're balls-to-the-wall insane. I guess I just didn't get what the torture organization was all about. That wouldn't have really even mattered to me if the film's didn't go out of its way to make the behind-the-scenes action the main focus of what the film was all about. It went out of it's way to show us stuff that wasn't interesting at all, or that we could have figured out on our own.

I do think there were effective scenes that genuinely worked, though. The first torture scene involving the nerdy girl and the sadistic, nude female client builds well. As we see the victim naked and upside down being hung into position, reality sets in for a second, and we start to think that maybe we don’t want to see what’s about to happen. It actually creeped me out as we hear the perfectly realistic noise of the blade being dragged slowly across her skin. No music or sound, save for a droning rumble adds to the tension. It was very original, and creative, but can’t save the rest of the film. There's a nice addition to the story of the husband who wants to live out his fantasy of killing his wife by using one of the girls as a stand-in for her. That added a new spin on the stereotypical killers that we see in the rest of the film. The actors were good, and well cast, but the plot was sort of all over the place, the overall mood was really uneven, and the humor falls embarrassingly flat.

Ultimately, it ends up feeling more like one of the abysmal “Saw” films than the original “Hostel”. It’s good that it wasn’t a retread of the old material, but never earns it’s shock elements that it flashes like a badge of honor before the screen. Young audiences will leave feeling like they’ve just scene an insane film; the likes of which they’ve never scene before. But there has got to be more to a film than just being different and shocking. There needs to be thought behind it, even if that thought is merely, “I just want to show the audience some nude girls and decapitations, and create a fun and terrifying experience.” Give ‘em what they want, right? On the other hand you should probably give the audience what YOU want to give them, and not simply what they want. Too much gore can be like too much sugar. If not used sparingly, or within the right mixture, it can rot your teeth. A good filmmaker knows what’s good for you, and looks out for your best interest. It’s like being a protective parent. This makes me sound like a prude, but that’s not the case (I enjoy a good castration scene as much as the next guy), but I just think it could have been done in a much more clever way; done in a way that earns its shocking scenes, and can build up to its intense moments, and doesn't simply push the envelope on what hasn’t been seen before. Pushing the envelope is fine, and even admirable to do, but it needs to have a little more structure to it than what “Hostel part II” had.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Knocked Up (2007)

Director: Judd Apatow

Utilizing the same techniques he pulled off so successfully in “the 40-Year-Old Virgin”, Judd Apatow showcases his unique brand of wit in a comedy that no one else could have made. Unlike “Virgin”, “Knocked Up” bravely trades in comedic material for more realism, and a much stronger plotline. This isn’t to say it isn’t funny by any means -- it's very funny, but not in an overly obvious way. It's just that it’s smarter. “Virgin” may be a funnier film, but “Knocked Up” is a better film.

If you wanted to make a film about everyday life, it would almost have to be a comedy, and no one understands that better than writer/director Judd Apatow. No topic is taboo, or can't be a jumping point for a barrage of jokes. Funny things happen, even at the gynecologist's office. Seth Rogen plays Ben Stone. Ben’s a prototypical slacker in every sense; no job, no ambition, and pounds of marijuana strewn about his house shared with his roommates. Alison Scott (played by Katherine Heigl) seems to have her life together, with a big promotion on the horizon. The two meet in a non-serendipitous way that’s almost a snub to most romantic comedy plotlines. It’s not a series of goofy coincidences or mistaken identity that bring these two together. They meet, get drunk, and have sex; plain and simple. Now a few weeks later, Ben gets a call from Alison, wanting to meet up again. The meeting doesn’t go as Ben would like, and she tells him she’s pregnant. All of this is out of the way quickly, so the story can unfold. Anybody who had seen the previews must have been thinking, “What now?” once all the information provided by the previews is out of the way. That's when "Knocked Up" shines.

Alison lives with her older sister, Debbie (played by Leslie Mann, Apatow's wife), Debbie’s husband Pete (played by Paul Rudd) and their two young daughters (played by Apatow's real-life children). Alison's world is now completely different, and she tries to get along with Ben for the upcoming child’s sake. Ultimately she realizes he’s a good guy. Apatow wants to talk about relationships, and rolling with the punches, and doesn’t want to make a movie that would seem like a sitcom. It’s real, and unfolds naturally. They fight, they get back together, they try to make it work, and they go to the doctor appointments. Pretty simple stuff, and yet it’s often hilarious. The situations aren’t overly funny, as modern day comedies are, but the characters are. The scenes are merely a stage for the acting and dialogue to take over and twist your emotions and make you laugh out loud, or feel a little awkward; like maybe the dialogue is strangely familiar to you. It’s more successful at that than any of its brethren. In “Anchorman”, to me, the funniest scene is where they discuss amongst themselves the crazy and overly silly street battle they had with the competing television news teams. I think most people would be amused by the battle itself, since they’re chopping limbs off and throwing nets and spears around. But later in their office they discuss what just happened. “Brick killed a guy.” Will Ferrell says in an almost calm way, while nursing a beer. “You might want to lay low for a while; you may be wanted for murder.” But enough about “Anchorman”, I just wanted to point out my bias towards more subtle and nuanced comedy, rather than the slapstick, pie-in-the-face type of stuff. “Knocked Up” is a smart and witty take on families and everyday life, and cares more about what its characters are saying than what they’re doing.

“Knocked Up” examines family life even more detailed than “Virgin” examined sexuality. Most critics complain that it’s too long, but I have to say I didn’t notice that at all. They just say that because comedies are typically 90 minutes, and can’t hold audiences for longer than that, but kudos to Apatow for challenging that and showing that it can be done, and done well. The only thing that they may fumble on is a few plot threads that take a back seat to non-integral scenes. But these scenes are funny in and of themselves, so I can’t really complain much. I found myself wondering where Alison was for a while in the middle, but right when I thought that, she was back in the story. I mean, the part where Pete and Ben take a drug fueled trip to Vegas doesn’t have anything to do with the relationship that’s the focus of the movie, but it works. Again, it’s something that could happen, and regardless of whether it moves the story along, it’s something that happened to the characters, and it’s included in the story. That could be good or bad, depending on if you’re in good hands with the filmmaker -- I can assure you, you are. Debbie and Pete are going through a difficult time as well, and bicker in a very realisitc way. Both sides of every argument in this film have good points. All the while the dialogue is peppered with witty banter and references that will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the emotional overtones. It’s never presented in a way that we see Pete, Ben, Debbie or Alison behaving one way, and we hate or love them for the rest of the film. We don’t think “Okay, he’s the bad guy, she’s right", or vice versa. It’s left up in the air, and Debbie and Pete’s problems are not really resolved in the end. They get along, and they fight, but they love each other (we think). They say and do mean things sometimes, but so does everyone. Ben and Alison have a huge argument in a doctor’s office about a lot of things, such as Alison refusing Ben’s engagement, and wanting to take their time. Ben then reveals the sex of the baby that was supposed to be a secret to Alison, and leaves while flipping her off. Sounds terrible, right? I’ve gotta say that I’ve heard couples argue worse than that, it probably shouldn’t be so shocking. It’s just off-putting when you hear it in a film where the characters aren’t painted out to be all terrible, or all perfect. They all have flaws and try to manage them.

Ben tries to figure out what he should do by consulting his friends (obviously no help) and his father (played by Harold Ramis). He’s never given a good answer, and much like “Virgin’s” philosophy, there is no right or wrong answer. If there is, it’s to take responsibility for your actions... or lack of actions in Ben's case. But that’s never delivered in a self righteous speech at the end by Ben or his dad; we merely see it demonstrated. Ben attempts to pull his life together, gets a job, and his own apartment, and reels in his party behavior. It doesn’t say that this is the right way to do it, because his friends still smoke pot and laze about their house all day looking for nude scenes in movies. This is just what Ben does. He doesn’t tell off his friends, or become a different person; he just adjusts to what he caused. He doesn’t need someone to tell him that he should take care of this child, he just wants to. There’s something simple and beautiful about that. It’s not an overly dramatic point, or a pretentious one. Ben’s a good guy, and has been a good guy his entire life. In a line that echoes “Virgin”, Ben speaks to his newborn child, saying that it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. Ben and Alison drive off to Ben’s apartment to start their life together, while Ben stays well below the speed limit. It's a perfectly simple, funny and endearing way to end the film.

I give writer/director Judd Apatow a lot of credit for being absolutely fearless and honest in this film. We get discussions about abortion, shots of an actual birth, and simultaneously real and hilarious dialogue; all within the confines of a comedy. It’s consistently funny… I guess I should say it’s consistently effective. When you’re not laughing, you’re feeling something. Seth Rogen carries this film alongside Katherine Heigl in a way that doesn't flaunt the talents of each person. We can see for ourselves how talented they are, since it’s obvious. Rogen doesn’t need to fall down and bang his head on something to make an audience laugh (although he can do that) he needs merely to discuss Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” There’s something really refreshing and brave about that, and really admirable too; comedians that know that their ideas are funny enough to not really care if everyone gets it or not. That's not a new idea by any means, but it's new for mainstream, big-studio comedies, and hopefully people will take a look at what Apatow does. There's no pandering, and it’s not dumbed down to appeal to everyone. I loved this movie, and can’t wait to see what else this creative team has to say.