Tag Archives: Jack Black

The Set of 400: #29 – My Favorite TiVo Contract Clause

Today! Because the one man who made a difference five times before is about to make a difference again. Only this time, it’s different –

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller (x2), Robert Downey Jr. (x10), Jack Black (x7), Jay Baruchel (x2), Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise (x5), Nick Nolte (x4), Steve Coogan (x2), Matthew McConaughey (x2), Danny McBride, Bill Hader (x3), Brandon Soo Hoo, Reggie Lee, Maria Menounos, Christine Taylor, Tyra Banks, Tobey Maguire (x5), Yvette Nicole Brown, Jennifer Love Hewitt (x2), Jon Voight (x3), Lance Bass

Hang on a minute – a movie about movies and it was in the epic summer of 2008? There was no way Tropic Thunder wasn’t making this list, right? Maybe it seems a touch high to you? Are people still talking about this film a dozen years on? I think it’s safe to say that even though this movie isn’t all that old, it already feels like something that wouldn’t be made today. I mean, it’s got the universal comedic concept of egomaniac actors and how completely out of touch with reality they can be, but it also has legitimate black face throughout the movie, even if RDJ got nominated for an Oscar in the role. Could this get made right now, given the changes in the world over the past decade? I’d say maybe, but only a 50/50 chance.

Because the movie really does work hard to handle this issue as being actor ridiculousness, and not even remotely a cool thing to do. Brandon T. Jackson’s rapper-actor Alpa Chino is there half the time to keep Downey’s Kirk Lazarus in check, even as he effectively steals the movie. And while this character seems to popularly be the movie’s lasting cultural impact, it is stuffed with tremendous comedic turns – from Matthew McConaughey’s loopy agent Rick Peck to Danny McBride’s special effects expert Cody to Steve Coogan’s Brit director Damien Cockburn. Stiller’s work as over-the-top action hero Tugg Speedman is spot-on, but a touch thankless, as the nominal lead more or less swallowed in the plot, by being the de facto damsel in distress. Jack Black’s Jeff Portnoy gets largely overlooked, which I think is really unfair, as his typically hyper-invested work as this wacky, drug-addled Z-grade comedian delivers a bunch of great moments. And none of this is to ignore the literally amazing work of Tom Cruise, unrecognizably transformed into the vulgar uber-producer Les Grossman – by far the funniest role Cruise has ever played.

His end credits dance sequence is incredible

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The Set of 400: #42 – My Favorite Barbershop Quartet

Today! Because that’s nothing, I once waited a whole year for September –

The Muppets (2011)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring Jason Segel (x3), Amy Adams (x2), Steve Whitmire (x6), Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz (x6), Bill Barretta (x3), Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, David Rudman (x2), Chris Cooper (x3), Rashida Jones (x3), Jack Black (x6), Alan Arkin (x6), Zach Galifianakis (x2), Bill Cobbs (x2), Mickey Rooney, Ken Jeong (x3), Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal (x2), Sarah Silverman (x3), Donald Glover, Emily Blunt, James Carville, Whoopi Goldberg (x6), Selena Gomez, Dave Grohl, Neil Patrick Harris (x2), John Krasinski, Judd Hirsch (x2), Rico Rodriguez, Eddie Pepitone (x2)

Man, it is disconcerting seeing full-body Muppets with legs, right? Like, sitting is okay, but standing like that? Gah! Muppets on bicycles is such a cool trick that it was never visually an issue seeing their whole body, so why is the above picture so strange? And this was an actual poster for the movie – maybe not the most common one, but still!

It’s pretty ingenious puppeteering!

The 2011 Muppet film was the first big screen adventure for the gang in twelve years. They’d popped up in a bunch of TV specials, and started a pretty decent YouTube channel for music videos and song parodies and the like, but the days of major pop culture relevance were long behind them. Thus, when rumors started that there was this new, glossy Disney film with big stars attached and one-half of Flight of the Conchords doing the songs, I was excited but pretty skeptical. Would this actually see the light of day? Could a new Muppet film truly come to pass? There have been whispers of a Fraggle Rock movie for over a decade now, so it’s not like these things tend to materialize. And serious, the best Muppet product from the previous decade was a somewhat nausea-inducing Playstation game, Muppet Race Mania, so what kind of hope could I have?

Significant as being Frank Oz’s last full project with the Muppets, it was also a pretty fun game.

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The Set of 400: #92 – My Favorite Jazz Flute

Today! Because the Human Torch was denied a bank loan –

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Directed by Adam McKay

Starring Will Ferrell (x5), Christina Applegate (x2), Steve Carell, Paul Rudd (x4), David Koechner (x2), Fred Willard, Chris Parnell (x2), Vince Vaughn (x3), Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Paul F. Tomkins (x3), Bill Kurtis, Jack Black (x5), Luke Wilson (x3), Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins (x4), Missi Pyle (x2), Jerry Minor (x2), Ian Roberts (x3), Danny Trejo, Seth Rogen (x3)

Meeting Sarah in 2004 as I did, the comedies of those early years of the relationship that stuck really stuck. I’ve mentioned #134 Wedding Crashers, #130 Napoleon Dynamite, #189 Team America, #184 Super Troopers, to a lesser degree #313 Fever Pitch – but at the core of the entire era was Anchorman. Not unlike your Austin Powers and Napoleon Dynamites, Anchorman suffers somewhat as the years go on due to its endless quotability. Sure, it stays in the public consciousness and thus sells t-shirts or whatever, and afforded us that okay-ish sequel, but really, I think the details of the original film get a bit lost in the “Scotchy scotch scotch,” “I love lamp,” “Afternoon Delight” of the whole thing. Does everyone recall the whole panda plot of the film? I mean, the less said about pandas the better, just as a general rule for living, but that’s actually the driving through line of the story. Sure, it doesn’t really matter, but it gives a little structure to the wild Burgundy/Corningstone relationship and that epic multi-network news team free-for-all.

But seriously, and I can’t say this enough, fuck pandas.

The only good panda

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The Set of 400: #258 – My Favorite Ice Skating Date (Mixed Doubles)

Today! Because there’s only one creature capable of leaving a footprint that size –

King Kong (2005)

Directed by Peter Jackson (x2)

Starring Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody (x2), Jack Black (x4), Andy Serkis (x2), Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler (x3), Evan Parke, Lobo Chan, John Sumner, Craig Hall, Geraldine Brophy

I’m rarely going to criticize a film for being long. I might say it goes on a bit, or it has some slow parts, or it’s a tad long, but for the most part, I’m not easily bored. I worked at calendar stores in August and September during college – I know from boring. All that being said, I fully agree that Peter Jackson’s King Kong is obscenely too long. I feel like Jackson came down with a case of the J.K. Rowlings in 2005 – after a period of wild success, no one was willing to step up and reign them in, and say that perhaps these stories didn’t need to be 800 pages/three-plus hours long. And so, we have to wait forever for Kong to actually appear in this movie. It’s not like I don’t enjoy all the CGI bugs and whatnot, but somewhere along the way, a little nudge from the studio or somebody to be like “Is this really necessary?” would’ve gone a long way to alleviating our collective sore ass.

Seriously, Jesus, I could’ve lived without this in the memory

All that being said – and hell, it always needs to be mentioned with this film – King Kong is a terrific movie. I was never a huge fan of the 1933 original – I recognize it for the inventive, groundbreaking effects marvel it is, but come on, it’s a bit creaky by today’s standards – and saw the cheesy 1976 version a bunch as a kid, but never had a lingering affinity. So Kong was much like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and the rest of the big, silly, rubber suit monsters of weekend afternoon television. It wasn’t serious entertainment. It was cheap nonsense with cardboard sets. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #310 – My Favorite Weaponized Slim Whitman Tune

Today! Because if the Martians land, they’re going to need a place to stay, just like everybody else –

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Jack Nicholson (x2), Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito (x2), Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox (x2), Martin Short, Rod Steiger, Lukas Haas, Tom Jones, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman (x3), Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Jack Black (x3), Joe Don Baker (x2), Ray J, Christina Applegate, Barbet Schroeder (x2), Willie Garson (x2), Rance Howard (x3), O-Lan Jones, Brian Haley

I know some people were really turned off by Tim Burton’s trading card adaptation global invasion sci-fi comedy, but I really dug it in that epic winter of 1996. Ah, ’96! This is already the sixth movie from that landmark, okay-ish year for films! Coming a few months after Independence Day, I guess everyone really wanted a wild action comedy of international destruction, but Tim Burton is not that director. He can give you quirky odd-ballery, but as for fight scenes or action sequences, well, look at that track record. His Batman movies are far more mood and atmosphere than slam-bang thrills. Sleepy Hollow – better, I guess, what with Ray Park as the Headless Horseman, but the staging didn’t vastly improve. Planet of the Apes – come on. So really, anyone wanting more out of Mars Attacks! was probably kidding themselves a bit too much.

What you get is a pretty fun, funny, throwback spoof of cheesy alien flicks, which quickly devolves into a cheesy alien flick itself, blurring that parody line until it basically disappears. I was really amped for this film come my senior year of high school – figure, you’ve got Nicholson playing wacky duel roles, in a roundabout nod to Dr. Strangelove’s end-of-the-world grapplings, as the president and a huckster casino owner, plus it reunited him with his Batman director, never mind the all-star cast reminiscent of ’70s disaster films, including a James Bond, a Teen Wolf, Foxy Brown, Ed Grimley, and the Penguin.

Never mind Carrie Bradshaw’s terrific work as this dog

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The Set of 400: #352 – My Favorite Driving Miss Daisy Remake

Today! Because I know robot karate –

Be Kind Rewind (2008)

Directed by Michel Gondry

Starring Mos Def, Jack Black (x2), Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Sigourney Weaver, Melonie Diaz, Jon Glaser, Kid Creole, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones

Whenever I watch this movie, I spend half of it imagining how I could create ultra low budget remakes of movies. Like, sure, I’d still need a job – this movie emphasizes you can’t make money from this idea very strongly – but as a pastime? There aren’t a ton of movies covering this concept – this and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are all that come to mind – but as the acclaimed director of such notable shorts as Antigone: the Musical, Senor Sweeney Gomez, and Russian Bikini Hookers II: Hurricane Ho, I can tell that this movie gets a lot of things right about backyard filmmaking.

I mean, okay, the rest of the plot doesn’t manage to go anywhere of note, but what, were they just going to have Mos Def and Jack Black act out twisted, truncated versions of Rush Hour and Ghostbusters for two hours? Hmm…yeah, they should have, I’d totally watch that (of all the quick remakes they show, Men in Black and 2001 are my favorites). The middle sequences of the film where they are just renting out their videos (the video store’s collection got erased by a magnetized Black – don’t worry about it) and creating new ones couldn’t have been the whole movie without a much different framing plot, but man, if only! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #372 – My Favorite Temptations

Today! Because I done a bad thing/cut my brother in half –

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Starring John C. Reilly, Kristen Wiig, Jenna Fischer, Craig Robinson, Harold Ramis, Ed Helms, Jack White, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Tim Meadows, Honeyboy Edwards, Jack Black, Jonah Hill (x2), Justin Long, Paul Rudd (x2), Jason Schwartzman, Martin Starr, Rance Howard, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, Jack McBrayer, Frankie Muniz, Ian Roberts, David Krumholtz, Jane Lynch, Simon Helberg, Jackson Browne, Jewel, Lyle Lovett, Ghostface Killah, Eddie Vedder

This totally wacky send-up of mid ’00s musical biopics really hit the spot for me in ’07. It borders on Airplane! style lunacy at times, hurling jokes as fast as it can, and many manage to stick thanks to the all-in performance the great John C. Reilly gives at all ages of Dewey’s life from 14 onward. He’s supported by an utterly astounding number of comedians willing to throw a few minutes into the film. Sure, it rambles all over the place in search of jokes – while I enjoy the Jack White Elvis and the Black/Rudd/Long/Schwartzman Beatles, they do feel a bit like overkill. I particularly love Tim Meadows bits as Dewey’s drummer, continually trying to dissuade him from whatever vice currently being enjoyed. But I think the thief of the film is X-Files great Raymond J. Barry as Dewey’s father, constantly bemoaning “Wrong kid died!” It’s silly madness, replete with equally goofy original songs, and was still almost completely ignored in its day at the box office. Totally deserving of an audience! Continue reading

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