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IR Film Review: THE JESUS ROLLS [Screen Media]

Making a follow up to “The Big Lebowski” in any way, shape or form is an interesting quandary. Jesus Quintana, who just had a small ode in that seminal film, was seemingly a pervert who just lived to bowl and start trouble with his bowling alley competitors. While that ode 20 years ago happened in LA, this new tome, which John Turturro writes, directs and acts in, picks up Jesus getting again out of the joint 20 years later (how long he has been incarcerated we don’t know). He is picked up by his friend, played by Bobby Cannavale. From the get go, be assured that this is not “The Big Lebowski 2”. This is it’s own animal with less visual flourish, slightly darker humor to be sure and more subtle writing. Much of what Jesus and his cohorts do makes little sense but that, in short order, is part of the fun. Jesus as a character just seems to go on whatever path life takes him, despite the absurd, stealing cars, trying to have sex with women but also coming on to his best friend in Cannavale, not out of spite but just saying “you should try it!”. Whether stealing cars or staying in random people’s houses, Turturro plays the older Jesus as just a free spirit but with wrong values. Once in a while, it does elevate. What lets this work in many ways, even though her English accent is still very heavy, blossom is Audrey Tautou, the star of “Amelie” and “The DaVinci Code” who seems undeniable free as a happy, openly sexual haircutter who has never had an orgasm and doesn’t mind. She is just a free spirit in platform pink heels. Tatou is just a bright light despite Cannavale and Turturro’s characters in different ways being not the best role models. Cannavale, who has played his share of bad guys and unsavories, plays his character in many ways as an innocent which is charming in its own way and makes one think of his earlier work in films like “The Station Agent”.

The one thing that Turturro can also pull off is some good cameos though most of them are brief and just push the story along. Ones like Tim Blake Nelson and Christopher Walken as just one scene but bring a smile to your face. The most intrinsic overall is a multi-scene stint with Susan Sarandon which shows a depth and a Bull Durham angle that we haven’t seen from her in years though the resolution of the character is unusual and changes the story somewhat. Pete Davidson from SNL also shows up in a key role but again it is a fleeting character. But again that is the world that Jesus Quintana lives in. Even his mother, who has a great reveal and played by a cool actress completely fits into the story correctly. In essence though the heart still revolves back to Tatou’s character and her brightness which balances out the texture of Jesus’ smarminess which Turturro doesn’t tame down but also makes it as dimensional as he can. And yes he does bowl and he can roll.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Interview: Jason Statham, Paul Feig (Writer/Director) & Bobby Cannavale For “Spy” [20th Century Fox]

Reset Progression: New Springs TV Shows 2009 – Part II

The second integration of new spring shows presents, in continuance, taking material from its natural habitat and placing it in a slightly different structure. One is taking a reality show and integrating it into a more scripted angle. Another takes a mythology figure played by a indie actor and places it in a more higher end production. The last is taking the best supporting element of a large animated feature and giving them their own show. With all of these examples, story and execution is key, along with a bit of luck.

The Osbournes: Reloaded The balance of life outside the house is one thing but the variety show is another. The return to TV for The Osbournes has the brutish element of the MTV show but in a Fox setting. However it is not that show. Actually, it is far from it. Now how long this show lasts is completely up to the viewer. The sketches and The Osbournes intruding on real life make the show worth watching while the studio stuff even though having the appearance of a party tends to feel a little staged which is unavoidable. If you make it into an out of control game show with Ozzy going nuts, it works but, on the up, the genuine nature of it is a bit iffy.

Cupid Love is the name of the game with this new comedy drama. It is nice to see an episodic that is not so downtrodden in its own importance or over dramatized. Like “Journeyman” but with slightly more realistic and tongue-in-cheek element, this series works on its own merit because the aspect of what the lead is doing is not as important as the journey of the other characters. He is not trying to get where he is going too fast. Bobby Cannavale, who is mostly known from independent films, brings a humor and NY charm to the lead role playing a guy who thinks that he is actually Cupid from Greek Mythology. He is overseen by a woman who is falling for him that is also his psyche. He works in a bar where all kinds of people make their way through which allows for a diversity of stories. It is very slice of life without making it nostalgic. It might be brief but it will have its audience.

The Penguins Of Madagascar The best thing about the “Madagasgar” films is reborn but the essence of what made them great, which was solving and besting outrageous tasks in exotic places, is gone in this animated series. While the humor of the penguins is still here along with the original voices, the extreme nature of it against the backdrop of the Central Park Zoo seems too restrictive. Technologically, it is understandable since for 3D animation, if you can create a background that is fairly static, you can move everything around within it. The catch is that with these characters everything needs to be cinematic or in forced perspective to make it interesting. One of the first episodes has the penguins thinking they’re going to the moon but instead end up on top of a building. The stories needs to be more extreme than that and maybe mock reality (like when they get up into space, it is made of jello). It doesn’t need to stay so much in the real world. The creative team likely will need to be a little more loose. The catch is that this show is being distributed to a younger audience on Nickelodeon when it has the potential for an age demographic wider audience. The question would be is if it was distributed on Spike instead, how much of a different show would it be? It is a functional show but one wishes there was something more.

And life rolls on…

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