Volume 77 / Number 50 - May 14 - 20, 2008
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Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (+)
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this film, albeit grudgingly. It is filled with lowbrow, buffoonish and slapstick humor, which appeals to the child in most of us, but a work of art it is not.

The plot is simple and direct. Peter (Jason Segel who wrote the script) composes music for a television crime show staring his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). When Sarah tells Peter that she is leaving him for another guy, Peter goes into a state of depression and decides to take a Hawaiian vacation. Would you believe that he not only ends up in the same hotel where Sarah and her new English boyfriend, Aldous (Russell Brand), are staying but he is booked in an adjacent room?

During his vacation, Peter meets and has an affair with a hotel employee, Rachel (Mila Kunis). Along the way slapstick scenes include his half-brother, Brian (Bill Hader), a surfing instructor, Chuck (Paul Rudd), and a restaurant employee, Matthew (Jonah Hill), who wants to write rock music.

How it all ends and who ends up with whom will only be known to you if you decide to see this limited soap opera. I questioned why I enjoyed this picture containing lewd scenes and coarse dialogue and came to the conclusion that there is a little low brow in most of us; hopefully, not too much. I believe you will enjoy the movie as well.

The cast was totally unknown to me, but one of my movie companions recognized a number of the actors from television programs. They all played their parts superbly, with Russell Brand being the best in the flick and the one with the best one-liners. None were required to elicit anything from the audience but laughter, which is not always an easy assignment.

HS said: “Sarah Marshall” is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. It is a great feeling to laugh without forcing yourself, and this movie gives you a chance to do that. Of course, it’s ridiculous, but that’s part of the show. In jokes, animals talk. You know they really can’t, but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying the joke. The Hawaiian scenery is lovely, the young actors are enthusiastic. The Brit rocker is great, the lead actor, Jason Segel, who wrote the original screenplay, is endearing, both before and after his towel drops. The women are suitably kindly or tough as the occasion requires. The best line begins, “You broke my heart…”, but that’s all you’ll get from me. See if you pick up on it. Enjoy.

“Redbelt” (-)
Three words describe this David Mamet film: awful, awful, and awful. Of the movies that opened this week, it rivaled “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey, Jr., for attention. Since I usually find flicks featuring comic-book-type superheroes disappointing, I decided to see “Redbelt.” I’m a reasonably intelligent person, but I did not understand the plot or subplots of this ridiculous picture.

The lead character, Mike (Chiwetel Ejiofor), teaches the Japanese martial art of Jujutsu at a Los Angeles martial arts academy which he runs with his wife, Sondra (Alice Braga). Other characters include Mike’s student, Joe (Max Martini), a Hollywood actor looking for thrills, Chet (Tim Allen), his wife, Zena (Rebecca Pidgeon), and businessmen Jerry (Joe Mantegna) and Marty (Ricky Jay).

Mike, a man of high moral character, is troubled by personal and financial problems. When a stranger enters the gym and shoots out the window, the action begins Only one person in my party, HG, understood the underlying connection of the disparate parts which he said was a “Salute to Honor Above All.”

When deciding to see this film, I was taken in by the Times critic, Manohla Dargis, who wrote: “In Redbelt, David Mamet has taken a sturdy B-movie conceit – a good man versus the bad world, plus blood – tricked it out with his rhythms, his corrosive words and misanthropy, and come up with a satisfying, unexpectedly involving B-movie that owes as much to old Hollywood as to Greek tragedy.”

If you like martial arts films, rent or see a Kung Fu picture which usually has an understandable plot and an excellent display of the Chinese martial arts. You’ll enjoy it more than this Mamet movie.

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