Skip to main content

You don’t think Jennifer Aniston’s a movie star?

Long Shot
(2019)

(SPOILERS) What the hell am I doing, watching Seth Rogen movies? This is the second one in two months, and I was I sure I’d sworn off the boorish oaf. Presumably, I’m not alone, since Long Shot may have been largely well reviewed, but it also flopped. Could it be that moviegoers just don’t see Rogen as a romantic lead? Even – or especially – in a gender reversed ugly duckling role? At one point, referring to Charlize Theron’s Secretary of State and presidential hopeful’s thing with his stoner schlub (he’s stretching himself there) journalist-cum-speechwriter, June Diane Raphael’s staffer tells him “The public will never accept the two of you together”. It should have been on the poster. As it is, it’s simply Long Shot’s epitaph. Feel something different? Only if being a little sick in my mouth qualifies.

Rogen’s Fred Flarsky – his surname was the original title, which is at least less anonymous than what we got – even gets a makeover at one point, which entails making his pubic beard slightly less all-encompassing and reduxing him in a tux. Theron’s Charlotte Field tells him how pretty he looks, which even Theron isn’t a good enough thesp to make convincing. The picture keeps running Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love as an affectionate call back to Pretty Woman, but that fantasy fairy tale looks wholly believable placed alongside Long Shot. Rogen and Theron have easy chemistry as pals, but that doesn’t make them remotely plausible romantically.

And that’s down to Rogen, not just down to Rogen’s appearance. He’s doing exactly the same act he does in every movie, and romantic sincerity just isn’t in his repertoire. What is, is the usual bag of Rogen stoner tricks, this time showing us how the world can be saved through slobbing out and getting wasted, as long as you have correct basic ethics. Along with a vague embrace of inclusivity and listening to all points of view, as when best pal O’Shea Jackson Jr reveals himself to be a God-fearing Republican; Jackson is somehow playing Rogen’s contemporary despite being almost a decade younger, while Rogen is playing older – early forties, most likely, since it is noted that the three years older Charlotte used to babysit him (“Wow, time has not been kind”).

The screenplay is credited to Dan Sterling (The Interview) and Liz Hannah, but it has Rogen and producer partner Evan Goldberg’s fingerprints all over it. Rogen could have stepped straight out of The Night Before and into this one (with which Long Shot shares director Jonathan Levine and a penchant for celeb cameos, this time Boyz II Men). We open with Jewish gags (he’s undercover with neo-Nazis and has to get a swastika tattoo), followed by his glorified drug habit (he takes ecstasy with the Secretary of State, leading to an amusing scene where she’s as high as a kite during a hostage negotiation), and for the main course, inevitable gross out (he spunks in his beard while masturbating to footage of her; his salient memory of her babysitting days is her noticing his erection).

Rogen’s broad-brush approach to the world of politics is very much of the same ilk as the 80s movies he reveres so much: the shallowness of Working Girl, but with added weed. Despite being a pothead, Rogen’s character seems oblivious to conspiracies (bar a gag about who killed Kennedy), and for a journalist, doubtless familiar with the culture, Flarsky’s entirely oblivious to the possibility of being under surveillance while working for and dating a high-ranking member of government. Indeed, it’s Andy Serkis’ media mogul – Serkis under a layer of prosthetics that were, apparently, at his insistence – who is responsible for hacking Flarsky’s webcam; no deep state here to worry about, only the President’s backers (also for the purposes of the plot, the Secretary of State is apparently under the blissful illusion that the President is the flagpole, until divested of this re the influence of his backers, which rather indicates she isn’t really very aware).

All of which is merely to point out that there’s little in the way of smarts going on with the politics of Long Shot, nuzzling as it does the standard struggle for environmental change as its lazy crux. Theron’s great, naturally, and as gifted a comic actor as she is in serious mode, but she and Levine offer the material more respect that it deserves. Alexander Skarsgård plays the flirtatious Canadian PM, in a role I suspect was earmarked for James Franco before he became non grata. The picture ends with Theron and Rogen in the White House, doubtless set to put the world to rights through the power of toking it easy. A great political romantic comedy that actually has some barbs and insights is possible – one was made more than twenty years ago, and it featured a stoned senator – but Rogen’s sub-Cheech and Chong reefer world view isn’t the means to deliver it. 



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

Well, it seems our Mr Steed is not such an efficient watchdog after all.

The Avengers 2.7: The Decapod
A title suggesting some variety of monstrous aquatic threat for Steed and Julie Stevens’ Venus Smith. Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The Decapod refers to a Mongo-esque masked wrestler, one who doesn’t even announce “I will destroy you!” at the top of his lungs. Still, there’s always Philip “Solon” Madoc looking very shifty to pass the time.

Madoc is Stepan, a Republic of the Balkans embassy official and the brother-in-law of President Yakob Borb (Paul Stassino). There’s no love lost between him and his ladies’ man bro, and dark deeds are taking place with the embassy confines, but who is responsible proves elusive. Steed is called in, or rather calls Venus in as a replacement, when Borb’s private secretary is murdered by Mongo. Steed isn’t buying that she slipped and broke her neck in the shower; “I shouldn’t like a similar accident to happen to you” he informs the President.

The trail leads to wrestling bouts at the public baths, where the Butcher…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…