Film Friday: ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, ’88 Minutes’

by W. Andrew Powell

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Barely a month has passed since Judd Apatow‘s disaster Drillbit Taylor bombed in theatres, and already the busy producer has a new comedy ready to bring in the crowds. Forgetting Sarah Marshall will almost certainly be the big film of the weekend, but other hopefuls arriving this week include 88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino; Hong Kong action film, The Forbidden Kingdom; and the drama Emotional Arithmetic.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Producer Judd Apatow and comedy go together like meat and potatoes, or so it would seem after his string of hit films. With the success of the 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, and Knocked Up, Apatow is the man to beat when it comes to funny films, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall looks like it’s set to be his latest, and greatest to date.

Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) is a down-on-his-luck musician who gets dumped by his movie star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), and can’t cope with the idea of living without her. A nervous breakdown eventually makes him realize that it’s time for a vacation, which leads him to Oahu where he run into, who else, but his ex and her new boyfriend, Aldous (Russell Brand).

All is not lost for Peter though, especially after he meets Rachel (Mila Kunis), who might just be the girl to make things right again.

With appearances by Apatow’s usuals, including Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Bill Hader, the film is being billed as “the world’s first romantic disaster comedy,” and has been getting strong reviews from the critics. The charm of Apatow’s hilarious films however is not just the way he pulls off comedy, but the clever, engrossing characters, and the way the stories are abundantly sweet and charming.

Even with all the great reviews though, I was a little surprised by Richard Roeper’s review from Ebert & Roeper, who called Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “An instant classic.”

88 Minutes
Al Pacino’s career is the stuff of movie legend. He has worked with some of the biggest directors and talent of the last 30 years, he has received eight Academy Award nominations, and he won the Best Actor Oscar for Scent of a Woman.

Looking at 88 Minutes, where he plays a psychiatrist who works with the FBI to convict criminals, it once again looks like his best days are behind him though. As Dr. Jack Gramm he seems to once again drop into his role of the usual stolid, immovable character who is coasting on emotional empty.

The story kicks into gear when Jack receives a death threat that he has, you guessed it, only 88 minutes to live. In that time Jack has to figure out who is after him, and why, or else he’s about to become a dead man.

The reviews for the film are stacking up on the negative side of the spectrum, and the script comes direct from the writer who also helped bring us The Fast and the Furious, and the direct-to-video sequel, Timecop: The Berlin Decision. Definitely not a good sign. Todd McCarthy of Variety also calls the role “Pacino’s career worst.”

It’s sad to see a great actor slump so far down in his career, but if Hollywood has proven anything to us it’s that you can’t count a good actor out, and perhaps Pacino still has some juice left in him for one more great film. This one is definitely not it though.

The Forbidden Kingdom
Drawing on the North-American teen fascination with kung-fu movies, The Forbidden Kingdom is a notable release for one reason alone, and that’s the pairing of martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. These are two of the biggest names in the world for Hong Kong influenced action films, especially of the Hollywood variety, and while the film is certainly aimed at a younger audience, it’s still an almost must-see movie if you’re a fan of the genre.

Based on the legend of the Monkey King, a teenager is drawn into the past where he joins a group of warriors who must free the imprisoned leader who has been taken prisoner by the Jade Warlord. Chan plays the role of kung fu master Lu Yan, while Li is Silent Monk.

If that’s still not enough to get you into cinemas, the action scenes were choreographed by Wo Ping and Peter Pau, both known for their work on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Joshua Tyler of praises the film in his review, calling it “An unabashedly innocent, wide-eyed movie selling the ultimate in martial arts fantasy. That delivers beautifully.”

Emotional Arithmetic
And opening this week in select cinemas is a Canadian drama about personal transformation after the horrors of Nazi-occupied France. The film stars Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer, Gabriel Byrne and Roy Dupuis in a period story about one woman’s fixation with the past.

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