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Undeclared

Undeclared is a Fox sitcom that served as the follow-up to Judd Apatow’s earlier cult hit series, Freaks and Geeks. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Apatow is the genius that has written, directed, or produced some of the best comedies Hollywood has to offer. He brought us The Cable Guy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Knocked Up, Superbad, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Bridesmaids… the list goes on and on. Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared were some of his earliest projects and they laid a solid foundation for his career.

Undeclared is a half-hour sitcom about freshman Steven Karp’s (Jay Baruchel) first year at college. Seth Rogen, Charlie Hunnam, and Timm Sharp play his roommates. Carla Gallo, Monica Keena, and Tina Ellroy play the girls living in the dorm across the hall. The two groups band together and deal with all your typical college shenanigans like sex, dating, drinking, parents, partying, playing Truth or Dare, prank wars with fraternities and disgruntled R.A.s, and gaining the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. The comedic style is mostly loose and improvised, relying more on character wit than sight gags. There is no laugh track or studio audience. It’s not the game changer that Freaks and Geeks was, but it’s a funnier and sharper show.

It’s impossible to watch this show and not be reminded of Freaks and Geeks. Seth Rogen has a starring role in both shows, Jason Segel guest stars in a few episodes, and Busy Phillips, Martin Starr, Samm Levine and other Freaks and Geeks alumni pop up occasionally. There are tons of other cameos and guest spots from actors and comedians that you know and love. I won’t mention them in hopes that you watch the show and get pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, Undeclared has another similarity with Freaks and Geeks. Both shows were cancelled before completing the first season. It’s sad because the series had so much potential and it ends way too quickly. There are only seventeen episodes, and each one is so funny and entertaining that you can’t help but binge-watch. Before you know it, you have no more episodes to watch and you’re let with a void in your heart and Netflix queue.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a 2006 comedy from Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Judd Apatow, three of the biggest names in comedy right now. Judd Apatow produced it, Adam McKay co-wrote it and directed it, and Will Ferrell co-wrote it and stars as Ricky Bobby, a NASCAR driver who just wants to go fast. It’s your typical Will Ferrell flick, he plays a loud, ignorant manchild with delusions of grandeur. The problem begins with his absentee father (played by Gary Cole) telling a young Ricky that “if you’re not first, you’re last.” That gets stuck in his head and becomes his whole philosophy about life.

Ricky’s life seems to be going great. He’s the fastest driver in NASCAR, he has a loyal best friend (played by John C. Reilly) who is willing to take second place so that Ricky can always win, and he has a sexy wife and two kids. His is rocked by the arrival of a new racer, a flamboyant Frenchman (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) who has dominated Formula One racing. Suddenly Ricky is not number one anymore and he loses his competitive edge. His wife leaves him for his best friend. His whole life starts to fall apart.

Ricky must learn how to become Ricky Bobby again. He gets some advice and help from his estranged father and his former assistant. Gradually he regains his confidence and it culminates in a climactic showdown on the racetrack. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it’s pretty satisfying. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby isn’t the best Will Ferrell movie, but it’s probably in the top ten. It’s funny and quotable, but it’s already more dated than Anchorman and Step Brothers. I could watch Anchorman once a week and not get sick of it. I have to wait a few years before I can watch Talladega Nights again. There is also a lot of product placement in this movie. They try to make it obvious to make you think that they are making fun of it, but product placement is still product placement. At some point it stops being a Will Ferrell movie and becomes an extended commercial for Applebee’s and Mountain Dew.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a Judd Apatow comedy about a fictional singer named Dewey Cox. John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox, a gifted but dimwitted musician trying to create his masterpiece, a song that sums up everything he’s learned about life. It’s pretty much a direct parody of Walk the Line, but it also spoofs biopics in general.

Walk Hard begins with little Dewey Cox accidently cutting his brother in half, and his father spends the next few years reminding him that “the wrong kid died.” This childhood trauma propels Dewey’s desire to prove that he’s worth something and win his father’s approval. He’s a natural at the guitar and soon begins his rise to the top. The film follows Dewey’s life as a rockstar: meeting women, having kids, doing drugs, going to rehab, changing his sound to reflect the current decade, all that fun stuff.

The humor is not for everyone. I know people who can’t make it five minutes into the film without turning it off. Personally, I think it’s one of the funniest movies of the last ten years. There are a lot of absurd moments and intentionally horrible casting, but John C. Reilly is able to make Dewey seem like a real person. His lyrics might be stupid, but to him they’re sincere and more importantly they are consistent to his character. He’s a poet who uses terrible metaphors and believes in what he thinks he knows. And John C. Reilly actually sang all his songs.

There’s a great supporting cast and tons of cameos: Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, David Schwartzman, Frankie Muniz, Jack White, Eddie Vedder, the Temptations… the list goes on and on. I like this movie a lot. I still quote this movie more than I should. And I also bought the soundtrack. The iTunes exclusive extended edition in fact. I don’t regret it.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Step Brothers (film)

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly made millions of dollars and made millions of people laugh with Talladega Nights. So it was only natural that they would reunite again, and the result is Step Brothers. Will Ferrell plays Brennan Huff, a 39-year-old man-child still living with his mom. John C. Reilly plays Dale Doback, a 40-year-old man-child still living with his dad. Their parents meet and fall in love and get married. And Brennan and Dale are now step brothers.

Director Adam McKay has a knack for comedy films. Will Ferrell is funnier when he has strong comedians backing him up. John C. Reilly is a great comedic actor, but he’s also versatile and has several more dramatic roles that showcase his acting ability. Adam Scott, Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins round out the supporting cast.

It’s a pretty stupid premise: two middle-aged guys who refused to grow up suddenly become step brothers. At first they fight and feud with each other, but then they realize that they have a lot in common and become best friends. Their childish antics are too much for Dale’s dad to take and the family breaks up and Brennan and Dale are forced to grow up. Sort of. But Apatow movies always find a way to inject heart into the film and you grow to care about the characters.

When it comes to the Apatow comedies, you either love them or hate them. If you don’t like Will Ferrell’s sense of humor, you won’t like this movie. If you think he’s funny, you will like this movie. It’s 98 minutes of Will Ferrell being Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly doing a Will Ferrell impression. They adlib a lot and the dialog gets pretty out there. You can’t help but quote this movie.  It’s better than the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express is a stoner action film staring Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny McBride. David Gordon Green directs and Judd Apatow produces. It’s about a stoner who witnesses a murder and gets wrapped up in the middle of a drug war. I hate when that happens.

Seth Rogen is Dale Denton, a 25-year-old process server who dreams of being on the radio someday. He smokes weed and buys from a smalltime dealer named Saul (James Franco). Saul sells Dale some rare weed called Pineapple Express, and Dale goes back to work. He’s waiting to serve a guy named Ted Jones (Gary Cole) ,and he witnesses Ted and a cop (Rosie Perez) kill an Asian guy. Dale freaks out, tosses his roach and goes to Saul for help.

Saul buys his weed from a guy named Red (Danny McBride), and Red buys from Ted. Pineapple Express is really rare and Ted is the supplier, so he is able to trace it back to Saul and Dale.

They go on the run. They spend the night in the woods and have a little bonding time. The next day they go to visit Red and find out if he’s told Ted anything. And he did, because he was threatened by two henchmen (Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson). Dale and Saul get in a clumsy stoner fight with Red, and they escape before Ted’s henchmen come back.

They go to warn Dale’s high school girlfriend (Amber Heard) and her family that they might be in danger. And even though her dad tries to kill Dale and Saul, he’s able to convince them to hide out a hotel.

Dale and Saul have a fight, and Dale says that they were never friends. Saul gets caught by Ted’s men and Dale decides he has to save him. He gets Red to help, but Red bails at the last minute and Dale confronts Ted’s gang alone. He gets captured pretty quickly and is reunited with Saul in a cell.

They chose a pretty good night to get captured, because Ted’s rivals, the Asians, stage a raid of Ted’s base. Saul and Dale manage to escape and they are killing their way out, while the Asians are killing their way in, and Ted’s guys are killing everyone. Even Red comes back to kill some people.

Dale, Saul, and Red all manage to survive. And they celebrate by getting breakfast and deciding to be best friends.

If you are a fan of quality entertainment, you might recall a show called Freaks and Geeks. Judd Apatow developed that show and Seth Rogen and James Franco starred in it. It’s good to see them working together again. Even Kevin Corrigan guest starred in an episode.

This movie has a few cool action scenes, but it never forgets that it’s a comedy. So the fights have gags in them. Saul and Dale don’t know how to fight and it shows. The car chase scene was completely absurd and it was really fun to watch,

As with a lot of Apatow movies, the dialog seems to flow. Everything seems improvised. James Franco and Seth Rogen are perfect for this movie, but Danny McBride steals the movie as Red. He has so many great lines. And he can’t die.

Pineapple Express is a solid comedy. People will still be quoting it in twenty years. It doesn’t take itself too seriously… that whole subplot with the Asians feels pretty tacked on and I’m sure that it’s intentional. All things considered, it’s a fun film and comedies should be fun.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Will Ferrell makes Will Ferrell movies, and Anchorman is his best. Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Eastbound & Down) directs and co-wrote the script with Will Ferrell, who stars as stars as Ron Burgundy, the best anchorman in San Diego. Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate costar, and Judd Apatow produces.

Ron Burgundy is the best damn anchorman in San Diego. He’s number one and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. His Channel 4 News team is made up of meteorologist Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), and field reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd). Brick is legally retarded, Champ has man crush on Ron Burgundy, and Brian fancies himself a ladies man, but doesn’t have much luck. It’s a happier and lighter style of reporting, showcased by the ongoing reports on Ling-Wong the pregnant panda.

Things are going great for a while, but it’s the ‘70s and times are changing. Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is the first female reporter hired at the station, and she has to deal with the immature men and blatant sexism as she battles for respect. Her and Ron get together and start a relationship, but it’s doomed because she’s looking forward to the future and Ron is stuck in the past.

One day Ron has a run-in with an angry biker who kicks Ron’s dog Baxter off a bridge. Ron is too distraught to report the news, so Veronica fills in and nails it. Ron is hurt and betrayed that Veronica would read his news and ends their relationship. There’s no denying Veronica’s talent and she is promoted to co-anchor.

Ron and his news team try to get rid of her in various ways, but Veronica sabotages Ron’s teleprompter so that he says, “Go fuck yourself San Diego”. You generally can’t say shit like that on TV, so Ron gets fired and Veronica becomes the lead anchor.

After a few months, Ron is just a drunk, but Veronica is more famous and successful than Ron ever was. One day Ling-Wong the pregnant panda finally starts to give birth, so the all of San Diego’s media shows up for the story of the year. Veronica gets shoved into a bear pit by a rival anchor that wants a good shot of Ling-Wong giving birth. When nobody can find Veronica, Ron Burgundy gets a chance to report once again.

Ron cleans himself up and shows up at the zoo to do some anchoring, but when he sees Veronica is in trouble, he jumps into the bear pit too. And just for good measure the rest of the news team jumps in too. Just when it seems like they are completely fucked, Baxter the dog shows up again. After he got kicked off the bridge by an angry biker, he had a fantastic journey to get back to Ron. He met a bear named Katow-jo, who coincidently happens to be the bear’s cousin, and so Ron and Veronica and the Channel 4 news team is safe. Talk about deus ex machine.

Will Ferrell is hysterical but he plays the same character in every single movie. Anchorman was before he wore his shtick into the ground. But there’s no denying he is funny as hell. Anchorman would not have worked without Will Ferrell, but Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner deserve a lot of the credit for making the movie one of the best comedies of that decade. Sex Panther… 60% of the time, it works every time. There are a lot of cameos: Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Seth Rogan, Tim Robbins, and a few other celebs make appearances. The news team showdown is one of the highlights of the movie.

Judd Apatow movies are usually always good. He track record is almost as good as Pixar’s. Drillbit Taylor sucked but Cars 2 was no gem either. This is Will Ferrell’s best movie. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall

There are comedies and there are Judd Apatow comedies. Comedies just try to make you laugh. Judd Apatow tries to make you laugh and cry and he usually succeeds. He makes dramadies. They are more reminiscent of real life; they are full of real situations that you can relate to, they just happen to much prettier and wittier people. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segel plays Peter Bretter, who decides that going to Hawaii is the best way to get over his ex-girlfriend. Of course she shows up at the same resort with her new boyfriend, and Peter must find a way to start forgetting Sarah Marshall.

It’s easy to forget about your hot ex-girlfriend when you get a hot new girlfriend. Mila Kunis plays Rachel, the hot new girlfriend. She’s a concierge at the hotel that Peter stays at. They strike up a friendship that eventually evolves into a relationship, but she is reluctant to get involved with a tourist.

Jason Segel is a great comedic actor. Mila Kunis is sexy and funny and brunette. Kristen Bell is sexy and funny and blonde. Russell Brand plays Sarah’s new boyfriend, famous rock star Aldous Snow. Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and a whole bunch of other funny people also make cameos. The whole cast is solid, and they play off each other well.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is about moving on from a doomed relationship. Through a bunch of random flashback depicting the highs and lows of their time together, you see how they just don’t mesh well. They are both the victim and the villain, and that happens a lot. Relationships don’t always work out, but that doesn’t mean one person is at fault.

There’s a running gag about Peter’s unfinished Dracula musical done with puppets. You hear a few songs and see a couple of scenes from the play. I hope that they make a full length Muppet Dracula movie. This flick just wetted my appetite. I want the real thing.

If you’ve never seen this movie, you should. I’m warning you know that there the movie is bookended by shlong. It’s not like Watchmen, it’s not an awkward CG blue shlong, but it’s there and it’s unnecessary and I don’t like that I’ve written this much about Jason Sigel’s cock.

There’s a half-assed sequel about Aldous Snow that changes his character around completely, but it doesn’t have anything to do with this movie. This movie is good. It’s relatable, there are lots of quotable lines, and it’s an honest comedy. You can tell that it was a passion project for Jason Segel. He did a great job and made a great movie. Kudos to him. I’ll always remember Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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