Christopher Meloni

F–K (2010, R.E. Rodgers)

So F–K is a promotional short for the Labyrinth Theater Company in New York. Can you appreciate and enjoy the short without knowing anything about the company?

Maybe.

Yeah, of course you can. Sam Rockwell doing a riff on Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man is going to be funny no matter what and he works well with Leslie Bibb.

The short is split into five different sections, each with the principal trying to figure out where the theater is located. Maybe. Doesn’t really matter, not when you’ve got Christopher Meloni (and Mariska Hargitay) aping for the camera. Hargitay’s just there for the “Law & Order” joke, but Meloni goes all out in comedic wildness.

Nice little stuff from Jesse L. Martin and especially Bob Balaban, who finds himself trying to bargain with a little kid.

F–K’s strange and director Rodgers’s hostile, but it’s one of the better commercials ever.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Edited and directed by R.E. Rodgers; produced and written by Ed Vassallo; director of photography, Rodgers.

Starring Bobby Cannavale (Bobby), Eric Bogosian (Eric), Christopher Meloni (Chris), Mariska Hargitay (Mariska), Sam Rockwell (Sam), Yul Vazquez (Yul), Leslie Bibb (Leslie), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Daphne), Bob Balaban (Bob), Luca Ariel Constanzo (Luca), Jesse L. Martin (Jesse) and Tomoko Miyagi (Tomoko).


Wet Hot American Summer (2001, David Wain)

One of the best gags in Wet Hot American Summer is having the twenty and (some) thirty somethings play teenage summer camp counselors. One big problem? Not making the gag clear until the end of the movie. It would have gotten a lot more mileage throughout.

Summer goes out on an awkward note–almost an homage to “M*A*S*H”, which is cute (director Wain loves the eighties homages) but it can’t disguise the lack of an ending. There’s no great finish; instead, there’s a weak exit for erstwhile protagonist Michael Showalter. He’s not the most compelling part of the film, though he’s a fine enough (erstwhile) protagonist, and Wain needs a stronger closer.

Showalter’s story arc involves lusting after Marguerite Moreau and trying to win her from her dolt of a boyfriend (an awful Paul Rudd). It’s nothing compared to Ken Marino’s crazy wilderness trek to meet up with a girl or Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce saving the camp from a falling piece of Skylab.

Other great little arcs include Molly Shannon’s divorcée getting life coaching from her charges and a camper “running” a radio station.

Moreau is okay. She’s better without Showalter or Rudd. Garofalo and Hyde Pierce are both excellent. Their skill works a little against Summer‘s absurdist nature, however. It’s just not as funny when it’s so well-acted.

Marino’s great, so are Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler. Christopher Meloni’s fantastic as the deranged cook.

Summer isn’t completely successful, but it’s close enough.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Wain; written by Michael Showalter and Wain; director of photography, Ben Weinstein; edited by Meg Reticker; music by Theodore Shapiro and Craig Wedren; production designer, Mark White; produced by Howard Bernstein; released by USA Films.

Starring Janeane Garofalo (Beth), David Hyde Pierce (Henry Newman), Michael Showalter (Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg), Marguerite Moreau (Katie), Michael Ian Black (McKinley), Zak Orth (J.J.), A.D. Miles (Gary), Paul Rudd (Andy), Christopher Meloni (Gene), Molly Shannon (Gail von Kleinenstein), Ken Marino (Victor Kulak), Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), Amy Poehler (Susie), Bradley Cooper (Ben), Gideon Jacobs (Aaron), Liam Norton (Arty ‘The Beekeeper’ Solomon), Marisa Ryan (Abby Bernstein), Elizabeth Banks (Lindsay), Gabriel Millman (Caped Boy), Kevin Sussman (Steve), Kevin Thomas Conroy (Mork Guy), Christopher Cusumano (Medieval Kid), Cassidy Ladden (Mallrat Girl), Madeline Blue (Cure Girl), Nina Hellman (Nancy), Peter Salett (Guitar Dude), Judah Friedlander (Ron von Kleinenstein), Jacob Shoesmith-Fox (Bert ‘Moose’ Flugelman) and Michael Showalter (Alan Shemper).


Bound (1996, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)

I always thought Gina Gershon got top billing for Bound–even though she’s only the lead for the first third or so–but it’s actually Jennifer Tilly, which is somewhat more appropriate. I say somewhat because at a certain point, Tilly too loses the spotlight. For a good twenty minutes in the middle, the film belongs to Joe Pantoliano.

Pantoliano’s performance here is probably his best; even though it’s firmly in his oeuvre of slimy weirdos… there’s something singular about this one. He’s always scary, even before he’s supposed to be, because his character is so clearly disturbed (he’s a dissatisfied middle-level mobster).

But Pantoliano doesn’t take over until almost halfway through–Bound takes place over a week or so, following Gershon getting a job renovating the apartment next to Tilly’s–and during the Gershon and Tilly romance, it’s got to be perfect and it is perfect.

While the film definitely has its roots in film noir, the Wachowskis break certain rules. Making it about a lesbian couple isn’t one of those rules. In fact, their carefulness in showing that relationship–especially exploring Tilly’s role in it–is what makes Bound different and some of what makes it great. The dialogue in these scenes is superior.

There’re some great supporting performances–John P. Ryan, Christopher Meloni.

It has a small cast in a small film. Bound’s the greatest play adapted to screen (of an original screenplay).

Bound is brilliant–so brilliant, I didn’t even make any Speed Racer jokes.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski; written by the Wachowskis; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Zach Staenberg; music by Don Davis; production designer, Eve Cauley; produced by Stuart Boros and Andrew Lazar; released by Gramercy Pictures.

Starring Jennifer Tilly (Violet), Gina Gershon (Corky), Joe Pantoliano (Caesar), John P. Ryan (Micky Malnato), Christopher Meloni (Johnnie Marzzone), Richard C. Sarafian (Gino Marzzone) and Mary Mara (Sue the Bartender).


Green Lantern: First Flight (2009, Lauren Montgomery)

There’s a certain amount of competence to the plotting in Green Lantern: First Flight. It’s too bad the filmmakers didn’t pay the same attention to the characters. The film basically lifts the plot structure from any number of established sources–Star Wars, The Matrix, a little Superman here and there–to tell this origin story about a superhero who isn’t so much a superhero as a intergalactic cop; why isn’t he a superhero? Well, superhero sort of suggests he isn’t doing things because it’s his job.

The story barely has any scenes on Earth, so a lot of time is wasted showcasing interesting looking–I think they’re supposed to be interesting looking, the animation isn’t particularly detailed oriented–aliens. The design owes a lot to the Star Wars prequel trilogy, those unexplained law of physics breaking architectural creations. There’s also a huge disregard for human–sorry–alien life and it feels immature, even before the silly ending, where screenwriter Burnett’s experience from writing “The Smurfs” must have come in handy.

There are also these strange CG-aided sequences, which are just idiotic. I’m guessing they included them to look cool or something, but it just draws attention to the difference in animation methods.

The voice acting is okay. Christopher Meloni lacks any personality as the lead, but the character isn’t written with any so it fits. Michael Madsen isn’t awful. John Larroquette and Kurtwood Smith are decent. Victor Garber, however, is a weak villain.

It’s a nearly acceptable seventy minutes.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Alan Burnett, based on the DC Comics character created by John Broome and Gil Kane; edited by Rob Desales; music by Robert J. Kral; produced by Bruce W. Timm; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Christopher Meloni (Hal Jordan), Victor Garber (Sinestro), Tricia Helfer (Boodikka), Michael Madsen (Kilowog), John Larroquette (Tomar Re), Kurtwood Smith (Kanjar Ro), Larry Drake (Ganthet), William Schallert (Appa Ali Apsa), Malachi Throne (Ranakar) and Olivia d’Abo (Carol Ferris).


Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004, Danny Leiner), the uncut version

I’m trying to imagine Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle with different leads and I’m coming up empty. The movie works because of John Cho and Kal Penn. With the exception of the absolutely horrible direction by Danny Leiner and the terrible editing–so incompetent I actually need to mention the guy’s name, Jeff Betancourt, because the terrible rhythm of his cuts wounded my retina, Harold & Kumar is a fine way to spend eighty odd minutes. It’s funny and the performances are good and the story never gets stupid–except maybe Ryan Reynolds’s cameo and just his part; it’s kind of like American Pie in its geniality.

Kal Penn gets to do the wacky thing for most of the movie and even though he’s visibly an extremely capable actor, it’s a good choice. John Cho is easier to identify with, positioned as the traditional underdog from the start. It’s actually when the two of them are together in quiet moments, Harold & Kumar starts to lose steam, because their friendship’s unbelievable.

As far as the comedic writing goes–it’s wildly uneven in parts. A long section with a puss-encrusted mechanic serves no purpose, neither does Cho’s CG dream–though the punchline is funny. Cho doesn’t get to be funny–it’s not his role in the movies, doesn’t follow the rules the movie’s established for itself, so when they try, it fails and is boring. Penn’s so much better at it (and his daydream sequence is hilarious).

The supporting cast is all good. David Krumholtz plays a stoned wastoid, which might have been fun but he’s certainly not taxing himself. Neil Patrick Harris plays Neil Patrick Harris and he’s funny. New comedy standard Fred Willard shows up for a bit and he’s funny. It’s all very well-cast (with the exception of Reynolds obviously).

Though the opening’s direction is an abomination (Leiner gets better after forty minutes, stopping with his idiotic fast forwarding, undoubtedly an appalling side effect of digital editing), Harold & Kumar was, from the start, not what I was expecting. Maybe I was expecting that terrible style or whatever, but once it established itself as a comedy about a guy wanting to meet a girl, it was fine. Like American Pie or whatever.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Leiner; written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; director of photography, Bruce Douglas Johnson; edited by Jeff Betancourt; music by David Kitay; production designer, Steve Rosenzweig; produced by Greg Shapiro and Nathan Kahane; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring John Cho (Harold Lee), Kal Penn (Kumar Patel), Paula Garcès (Maria), Neil Patrick Harris (Neil Patrick Harris), David Krumholtz (Goldstein), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Rosenberg), Christopher Meloni (Freakshow) and Fred Willard (Dr. Willoughby).


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