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Ben Stiller Tag





We snuggled on the big chair as the Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare played.

“Drun dun, drun dun, drrrrrrrrrrrrr, drun dun. Ba pa da da, babababababaaaaaaah!”

It was one of those rare mornings- Memorial Day, no less- when my daughter and I were the only ones awake. She was an early riser back when she was 8, even on holidays. As it didn’t seem like her mom or brother would be up anytime soon, she requested to order a movie on demand. Her choice was Night at the Museum, the fantasy comedy starring Ben Stiller. For her seeing the film was about the adventure and humor; for me it was watching Stiller, an actor I’d admired ever since his Color of Money parody aired on Saturday Night Live in the late 80’s. For both of us it was about having some father/daughter time while the rest of the family slept.

Jeff Giles: So…is Brett Ratner going to make Eddie Murphy funny again? Let us discuss.

David Medsker: I saw this in front of Cowboys and Aliens (which is all sorts of boring), and I have to admit I’m looking forward to this one, Ratner be damned.

Jack Feerick: I’m afraid that nothing short of a working time machine, the blood of a hundred virgins, and a Harry Potter-style mass amnesia spell will be anough to make Eddie Murphy funny again.

Jeff: I would have said the same thing yesterday, but I caught myself laughing at this trailer more than once. I mean, it sucks that Eddie has to play another freshly sprung ex-con to make it happen, but hey…

Jack: Oh, I think the trailer is amusing. But Murphy is the least amusing thing about it. He’s phoning it in, again, right down to his little trademark chuckle. Gabourey Sidibey is wiping the floor with him.

There is no subtle way into this post, so let me just grab the band-aid and rip it off.

Last year, editor-in-chief Jeff Giles wrote a television review about the show Glee. In case you are a reader who hasn’t seen the piece yet, you can check it out here. If you’re not all that interested, the long/short is that Jeff found it pleasant but not thoroughly engaging. It was something he would get back to when the mood strikes him. Overall, it was a positive but not necessarily enthusiastic summation.

That post is on track to become one of our most popular posts ever, in the history of the site, just behind the Beatles Remasters posts. It’s even breathing on the neck of the Front Page as our most viewed item. The recent GQ Magazine photographs made things worse; where “Glee” was the second most grabbed search engine term, now we had “Glee Pics,” “Glee Photos,” “Glee Pictures,” and “Glee Images,” all squatting in our top ten like Okies and Arkies tenting out by the orchard.

So I have to ask the question, I can’t deny it any longer, and I’ve been trying to be the shepherd. I’ve been trying REAL HARD. tamp down the curiosity. Frankly, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies have been getting a workout from my abstaining, but like a tiny kid with a tiny bladder and a Super Big Gulp, I can’t hold it any longer.

What do you see in Glee?

soul-menIf I’m going to remain true to the movie, then the only way to describe Soul Men is to call it one motherfucking funny film.  If that statement in any way offends you, you shouldn’t watch Soul Men, because Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson use that phrase — and other colorful language — freely in their very R-rated buddy film.  But it’s funny…man, is it funny.  This was Mac’s final film before his death last year, and he went out on top.

Mac and Jackson star as Louis Hinds and Floyd Henderson, a couple of ’60s backup singers in a Miracles-type group called Marcus Hooks and the Real Deal. Their Smokey Robinson-esque lead singer, Marcus Hooks, is played by John Legend (who continues to impress me with his willingness to poke fun at his cool image).  As the opening prologue explains, the group stays together through the late ’70s, until Hooks breaks up them up to embark on a solo career.  Hinds and Henderson go on to record one album as a duo before something comes between them and they split up for good.  Floyd winds up in jail and Louis becomes a used car salesman.  Twenty years later, Floyd is retired, living in a gated community and popping Viagra to get it up for his randy neighbors, while Floyd is working as a mechanic.  The news of Hooks’ sudden death causes Louis to try and bury the hatchet so that the Real Deal can stage a memorial concert at the Apollo Theater.

And what came between the two men was what? A woman, of course; their former backup singer, to be exact.  She was Floyd’s girl, but Louis wound up marrying her.  Floyd wants nothing to do with his old friend and he sure as hell wants nothing to do with paying tribute to Hooks.  Still, Louis won’t relent and convinces Floyd that there is money to be had by appearing at the concert.  The two men embark on a cross-country trip from L.A. to Detroit, making stops in small towns to rehearse in crummy dive bars and country joints.   Along the way they pick up Cleo (Sharon Leal), the daughter of Floyd’s ex-wife (and possibly his daughter).  She accompanies them to Memphis and then Detroit, along the way proving that she inherited her mom’s gift for singing.

Okay, look, the plot isn’t very original, and the script seems to jump ahead at some spots, causing you to go, “huh?”  Soul Men is a road movie, so I’m not sure which parts of this haven’t already been covered to death since Hope and Crosby did their road movies back in the ’40s and ’50s.  But the point of this movie was to get Mac and Jackson side by side so they could work off of each other like Abbot and Costello (Director Malcolm D. Lee’s words, not mine), with Jackson playing the straight man perfectly and Mac taking up the role of the bumbling goof.  The two men were good friends before the film, and that personal comfort comes through in their performances.  The on-screen chemistry between Mac and Jackson in Soul Men is comparable to that of the comedy legends already mentioned, as well as such modern duos as Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau.  When watching the film, I had to stop myself from laughing too loud for fear of waking the house.