Friday Movie Roundup: Seth Rogen Strikes Again

Apr 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Seth Rogen’s rapid rise atop the comedic heap has been a welcome reprieve from the well-scrubbed, chiseled faces that dominate Hollywood’s leading-man landscape.

But how will Rogen handle success? Can he keep from going down the road of the similarly unconventional, increasingly one-note Jack Black? —- Rogen’s first big role since his breakout triple-header of Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express failed to give me confidence: Zack and Miri Make a Porno was painfully unfunny, and Rogen’s performance in it was his worst to date. (To be fair, the blame largely goes to Zack and Miri writer/director Kevin Smith, whose idea of funny involves a tone-deaf combination of overheated pop culture pontificating, sexual shenanigans and vapidly rendered relationship entanglements.)

Well, if the early reviews of Rogen’s latest, Observe and Report, are any sign, the big guy is back in good hands. Cole Smithey’s review compares Jody Hill’s caustic satire to Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, a hilarious, ultra-black comedy that remains Robert DeNiro’s (and Scorsese’s) most overlooked achievement.

Anna Faris and Seth Rogen get close in Observe and Report.

Tangentially (in that the following guy worked with Rogen’s buddy Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), did anyone catch Russell Brand’s interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air earlier this week? I’ve only seen Brand in Sarah Marshall (in which he basically played himself) and as a guest on a few late-night talk shows, but apparently the guy is famous in his native England for a daring, often controversial brand of humor (he dressed as Osama Bin Laden the day after 9/11, an incident he discusses in the interview).

Russell Brand is the man.

Funny and surprisingly profound and articulate, Brand talked about everything from his firing from the BBC to public nudity to his unique visual aesthetic (he looks like he just stepped off the set of an ’80s Hair Metal video). My favorite Brand answer came in response to Gross saying that he seems supremely self-assured: “In spite of being deeply flattered that I could be described as a living-moment-to-moment, hedonistic, bacchanalian warrior for truth and beauty, I’m as neurotic as the next man.” The phrase comes off even better when heard via his distinctive, playfully delivered accent.

Elsewhere on the new movie front, Miley Cyrus’ 15 minutes in the spotlight continues with yet another Disney-driven Hannah Montana cash cow, and Chow Yun-Fat — whose 15-minute window ended a few years back — appears in a sci-fi adventure that’s sure to suffer a cruel box-office fate.

Opening films:

DRAGONBALL REVOLUTION — Director James Wong (Final Destination, The One) guides this sci-fi adventure based on Akira Toriyama’s popular Japanese manga series from the 1980s. The narrative centers on Son Goku (Justin Chatwin), a baby-faced warrior who sets out to collect a set of seven magical orbs that will grant their possessor unlimited power. He specifically wants to keep them from the evil King Piccolo (James Marsters), who wants the balls so he can rule the world with his iron, vengeance-driven fist. The cast also features Chow Yun-Fat, Emily Rossum and Jamie Chung. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG.) Not screened for review

HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE — Miley Cyrus’ metaphysical, double-identity (or is it triple?) hijinks come to a head in this big-budget movie version of her popular Disney television show. The movie’s premise seems a convenient way for the husky-voiced 16-year-old singer/actress to bury her kid-friendly past: Cyrus’ television series character Miley Stewart must choose between her “real-life” TV identity or her Pop-star alter-ego Hannah Montana when a trip to her hometown in rural Tennessee puts her life in perspective. Does that make sense? Now I’m confused. What happened to simple kids’ shows like Leave It to Beaver? (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated G.) Review coming soon.

OBSERVE AND REPORT — Writer/director Jody Hill makes a quantum leap from his low-budget 2006 debut The Foot Fist Way with a hilarious, subversive black comedy about America’s post-9/11 culture of authority-abusing misfits, commonly referred to as security guards. Seth Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, a racist, sociopathic security guard who is far more Travis Bickle than Paul Blart. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: A