From Seth Rogen

Borat: Exposing the Truth in American Culture

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. 2006. Directed by Larry Charles. Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, & Dan Mazer; uncredited writing by Seth Rogen & Patton Oswalt.
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Luenell, & Pamela Anderson. Four by Two/Everyman Pictures/Dune Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 84 minutes.
Comedy

★★★★★
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As far as comedians go, Sacha Baron Cohen is definitely one of the more divisive talents to grace the Hollywood big time. Some find him offensive, though they’re often people that mistake him for his character instead of comedian employing the use of satire. Some rightfully find him hilarious. I’m one of the latter audience members. Cohen got big with Ali G and his show, the two different incarnations, which of course featured the characters Borat and Bruno. This trifecta made for an extremely subversive slice of television. Ali G started right at the turn of 2000, then the show went again on air about 2003 when I graduated high school. The last couple years of school I’d gotten influenced by Cohen and his edgy humour; him, plus Knoxville and Co. with their often death defying (or intelligence defying) stunts. In part, I credit the ridiculousness of certain aspects in my humour to Cohen.
Borat is essentially the best of Da Ali G Show, only with the ante sufficiently upped. There are moments in the film that are almost too good to be true. Luckily, the genuine reactions and emotions of many people are forever trapped on celluloid. There are few comedians able to reach the awkward, tense heights of which Cohen is beyond capable.
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The incredible power of Borat as a character comes in the form of truth. For instance, so many people obviously don’t realise they’re talking to a comedian, and so they’re open, honest, unafraid of being mocked or made to look foolish. Like the guy at the rodeo who says America’s trying to hang the homosexuals, and so on. Part of this isn’t even comedy, it is genuinely tragic. A guy such as that cowboy-hatted asshole talks down to Borat, thinking he’s a guy from a country where he’ll never go, a country he’s never cared about and never will. So not only do we see the truth, we see the ugly truth at times. There are a lot of actually hilarious and harmless bits amongst the harsh doses of reality. But the best parts come from this rawness.
Above anything else Borat is able to expose the underbelly of America. The people who are casually racist, not so much the ones that are blatantly out there. He gets to the quiet types, the ones who are lured in by his whole shtick. Such as the dinner party when Luenell shows up to be his guest, and this is the last straw – a big, black lady dressed a little too sexy is too much for them, but the bag of shit Borat previously brought down didn’t put them over the edge. That little juxtaposition is poignant. People might think it’s just crass, dirty, “toilet” humour. It isn’t, it opens up the racism of these white people so wide that if you ignore that, you may be blind to racist behaviour. There are a bunch of instances where people are overtly racist because of how Borat, and the genius of Cohen in his skin, makes people act.
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A few of the amazing scenes that stand out are ones that constantly, consistently funny. There’s the one where Borat meets with the Veteran Feminists. On the surface people say it’s offensive. And what he says is, certainly. It’s just because of how he skewers the typical view many of us have re: certain Asian countries, et cetera. What’s even funnier is that racist and xenophobic people probably watch this and almost feel that it’s truthful in that sense; it’s not funny, I guess, rather it’s sad. Again, that’s the glory of the movie. Another scene I find downright perfect is the driving instruction followed by the search for a Pussy Magnet. I mean, it’s crack up funny. Further than that I can’t get enough of the driving instructor, how well he interacts with Cohen as Borat, and the almost duo-like presence they have together. Immediately as Borat double kisses his cheeks, the response he gives makes me keel over laughing. There are too many of these awesome moments to list.
Central to everything, which doesn’t necessarily need to be said but I’ll say it anyway, is Cohen’s performance. The control this man has is unbelievable. One of the best of any comedian, ever. You’ve got to give him that even if you’re not a fan. He goes full force into the role and plays it to maximum effect. The awkward moments, the at times angry and tense scenes. Every last bit features a stone-faced Cohen. There’s no imagining how he’s able to keep the laughter in, and I’m sure there were outtakes that completely messed up particular scenes. But you can see how the toughest moments are played to the furthest end. All the while, Cohen keeps the act on to make it riotously funny.
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I know why people aren’t fans of Cohen. Likewise, I understand why they don’t enjoy Borat, or any of the other characters he plays. Don’t agree. Although I do understand. Because that’s what comedy, and life, is all about. We can enjoy different things without that being a problem. Yet I do take issue with those who find the film offensive. I don’t think that Cohen is ultimately trying to make Kazakhstan or anyone there look foolish. His primary target is American culture, how they view themselves and in turn how they view those outside of their culture. There are scenes where Cohen gets the opposite reaction I’d expected. Others you feel the pit of your stomach flop because you knew people like that existed, though they aren’t always readily visible.
So thanks Sacha – this is a contemporary comedy classic that many of us will enjoy years down the road. Your wit and charm in such utterly ridiculous scenarios is something I’ll never be able to deny, even if I wanted to. And why the hell would I want to? Borat’s a character that has made me laugh for the past 16 years. I suspect it’ll go on a lot longer, too.

Preacher – Season 1, Episode 2: “See”

AMC’s Preacher
Season 1, Episode 2: “See”
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a review of the previous Pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “The Possibilities” – click here
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I’ve been waiting for this one. After the wild Pilot, we continue on.
A little girl lies in her bed, clearly ill. In comes a cowboy, a woman bringing water to wet her head. He has to go off and get some things on a long ride. Oh, it’s 1881, by the way. A little trip backward in time. On the road the mysterious cowboy meets a family. They sit around a fire together, though we never hear him say a word. Later, they ride into The Town of Ratwater, as Natives hang from a tree, dead, scalped.
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Back in present day, Arseface (Ian Colletti) is being baptised. Born again, baby! Preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) does the business. Even lovely Tulip (Ruth Negga) steps up. Though she only does so to try talking her old buddy into the next job. He doesn’t want any part of it. “Meantime, thanks for gettinme all wet,” she quips before heading out again. Certainly now Emily (Lucy Griffiths) is curious, as she’s definitely got a thing for the preacher. However, I love most that Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is kicking around, begging for a bit of cash and talking about his “Granny B” and her ass situation. So there’s also the fact Emily’s got him to deal with all the time.
What I’m most interested in here, aside from all the pending supernatural madness, is how the various relationships will progress from here. First, there’s Cassidy and Jesse, an odd relationship. The preacher likes him and of course wants him to stick around, though he’s a rough character to have hanging around the church. Then we start to figure out more about Eugene – Arseface – and his relationship with the town. Someone calls him a murderer as him and his father walk past. While his dad,
Also, Jesse sees another member of his congregation. Gives more advice. Will this end up like the last time? All the while he feels something going on in his head. Awhile later, a strange voice emanates from him as he’s alone. It even creeps HIM out.

 


In other news, we’re meeting Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley). He’s with what looks like a type of demolition company. They bulldoze a house, leave the family behind and then head out. This whole scene is absolutely bizarre. I’m sure eventually we’ll figure it out. For now, it’s intriguing.
Love how the sign in front of the church is always saying something different. Funny little gag.
More of that Cassidy and Jesse relationship comes out. They sit in the church, drink, smoke, and chat about God’s supposed plan. Naturally, Cassidy is doubtful. After a bit of argument things get heated. That’s the name of drinking sometime. Cassidy completely reveals himself, except it isn’t exactly taken seriously by his friend: “I am a hundred and nineteenyearold vampire from Dublin City, and I am currently on the run from a group of vampire huntinreligious vigilantes who keep trackinme down somehow. What elseIm a righthanded Sagittarius, I love Chinese food. Ive never seen the Pacific Ocean, and I think that The Big Lebowski is overrated.”
At a motel, the two men from last episode hunting down the strange entity from outer space pack up their gear, heading out. Somewhere sinister, no doubt. At the same time, Cassidy lets Jesse pass out after a bit of his supposed homemade liquor, and takes his truck for a ride. The men then find Jesse asleep on the floor. Things are about to get a bit freaky. They break out some strange, old, almost ancient-looking machinery. Then one of them tunes it up, the other conducting, singing an unnerving song. Only when they’re done it seems whatever’s meant to happen doesn’t happen. Cassidy interrupts the two “filthy little gobshites” before they can chainsaw Jesse to bits, he thinks they’re looking for him. Now that savage vampire in him breaks out. Lots of good, nasty fun. Especially after an arm with the chainsaw still going nearly makes its way to Jesse. Afterwards, we get to see how Cassidy heals himself up with the blood. Digging this interpretation of vampire, which makes me all the more excited for when I eventually get around to reading the comics.

 


Over at the Toadvine Whorehouse, Quincannon’s boys are kicking around, and then there’s Tulip. She’s rocking some dudes in poker. And talking the trash to boot. Some guy laughs at talk of her uncle being a drunk, then she lays a sob story on him. A fake out. I love her character because she doesn’t take any bit of shit. From anybody at all. Excited to see more of her relationship with Jesse. Speaking of relationships, Cassidy does his best to clean up at the church for his pal Jesse. At least until the sun comes up.
Jesse goes to see the Loach family. The young girl is in some type of coma, the mother taking care of her the best she can. He gives over more advice trying to assure the mother of what’s to come. She’s not buying it after seeing the reality of what’s happened to her daughter. We see the daughter’s head caved in underneath a wig. Savagery.
Later that night, Jesse is attacked in the road after he sees a baby’s car seat out amongst the dark. He wakes up on a chair, chained. It’s just Tulip. Playing one of their old games. Trying to con him into the job, again. He’s a tough nut to crack. After Tulip leaves, Arseface shows up. He doesn’t feel changed, certainly not saved, after his baptism. Wishful thinking.

 


Eyeing the school bus the entire episode, Jesse finally gives in. He goes to where the bus is parked. Inside, he finds Linus (Ptolemy Slocum) who’d come to see him earlier for advice. He’s got an obsession. A bad one. He can’t give it up. So now Jesse’s got his own homemade remedy. Bit of religion, Old Testament. The sins need cleansing. Just as Arseface said he’s never able to change. Jesse can’t either. As he dunks Linus’ head under the hot water, like the baptisms earlier, that voice comes out of the preacher. Strong, evil. It literally wipes Linus of his memory concerning the girl. The powers are getting stronger.
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And then what happens? Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is in a motel room. Meeting with the same men we’re seeing Cassidy bury in a box. How’s that possible? Oh, I’m sure we’re going to figure that out soon enough. I love how, for the non-comic readers, this series is building things up. We’re not getting all the answers right away. No big loads of exposition dumped at our door. The writing is fantastic, far as I’m concerned.
Before the episode ends, Jesse goes back to see Traci Loach in her coma. He tries to use his new found power for good. Commanding her to wake up. Next episode, we’ll see what happens. I predict nothing good, at all.
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Really enjoyed this second episode. Excited to see “The Possibilities” next week and find out what the series has in store for us all. I know not all of the fans out there of the comics like this, though I’m inclined to enjoy it. Particularly seeing as one of the creators Garth Ennis says he finds the changes appropriate and necessary in some cases even. No matter what, I’m in.

Preacher’s Fun Pilot Episode Orders up a Side of Weird with an Entrée of Awesome

AMC’s Preacher
Pilot Episode
Directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Teleplay by Sam Catlin
Television Story by Catlin, Goldberg, & Rogen

* For a review of the next episode, “See” – click here
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Here we are, the series premiere for AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s graphic novel(s) Preacher! So excited. Let’s dig in.
We open on a view of outer space, as something rushes around the galaxy. Even bursts a hole through a ring around Saturn. It also cries like a baby, or at least we can hear the cries of a baby. Very interesting (I gather that’s something people who know the comics understand). Heading into Africa. Just like a comic book right off the bat in the way it looks and feels. Dig it.
We cut to a priest in his little African church preaching to the congregation. Naturally, that fucking thing from space is headed right for this poor guy. You already know that. It bursts through the doors and blasts him hard, shocking everybody. Of course everybody thinks it’s a “miracle” and they could not be farther from the truth. The priest rises and speaks in a terrifying voice. Before bursting into a spray of blood over the people. A great opener.
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Now we’re with Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). He wakes in a small room, bottles of booze empty at the bedside. There’s this great little moment where he fixes the sign way out front of his church in Texas, obviously tampered with by some young men being trouble. Father Custer doesn’t exactly command the attention of his congregation reading off his papers, as little kids flick their iPads and others just roll their eyes. Outside everybody is barbecuing and having fun, a few drinks, all that sort of stuff. Custer hears the problems of his people, inconsequential moments. Except for one little kid that’s worried about his mother. Worse, he wants the preacher to hurt his father for beating up on his mom. Seems before Jesse was preaching he did… things. Ah, foreboding little kid. Custer freaks the kid out a little. Freaked me out, too. Still, doesn’t do much good for the kid whose life is probably hell at home.
I love this first ten minutes. Lots of good stuff. And that goodness continues.
The little Texas town is a wild spot. Big ruckus about. Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is awesome, as usual. Love how he blatantly sees Jesse swig some whiskey in his truck, but completely ignores it. He also ignores a lot more than that in his town. Root doesn’t seem to like the preacher much, so I’m looking forward to watching that develop. I’ve not yet read the graphic novels, I know nothing really of the story. Dig this on its own.

 


We then switch to 30,000 feet up in a nice little sequence taking us to a plane in the sky. Enjoy the directing from Goldberg and Rogen so far in this episode. Very stylish.
Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and others are enjoying themselves in a jet. Flying high while flying, as in coked up. Cassidy ends up coming across a Holy Bible marked with some creepy shit throughout. A few moments later he starts an amazing fight with a homemade flamethrower, taking on guys with axes and crossbows and swords – oh my! – and this is one hell of a fight sequence. At one point, Cassidy starts cracking off beer cans like golf balls and it’s golden. A guy tries pouring Holy Water on him calling Cassidy an “abomination” then proceeds to get chowed down on, right in the jugular. Yikes. I’m loving this character already. Going in blind, not knowing the comics, this is a thrill ride for me. When the plane is fucked Cassidy siphons himself off a pint of blood then jumps out. What a cool vampire bastard.

 


Back down on the ground, Jesse eats breakfast with Emily (Lucy Griffiths). She helps out at the church. We’re graced by Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe), a great actor playing a hilariously nebbish type of character.
Although we’re quickly whisked to Africa, where the priest was attacked by the presence. And some men are investigating. Hmm. The plot thickens.
Jesse checks on a man named Walter who hasn’t come in to work. A woman is in the shower, which sort of unsettles the preacher, so he heads on out.
Another quick switch sees us in a fast flying car heading through corn fields. Inside, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” plays on the radio and Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) fights with every bit of her strength, tooth and fucking nail. The action so far in this pilot episode is just incredible, I must say. The fighting is spectacular. Tulip kills the dude in such an awesome way. She gets chastised by a brother and sister for running around beating things up, killing people. “A girl doesnt always need some stupid guy helping her,” the little girl exclaims, likely summing up exactly what Ms. O’Hare is all about. She’s good with kids, good with fighting. Good with making bazookas and taking down platoons full of men. God damn regular Rambette.

 


Flashbacks of Jesse’s briefly reveal his father might have been killed. For those of us that haven’t read the comics, this is a mystery starting out. Like how they only give us a taste. Not too much at once. At the same time, Cassidy is a splattered mess in the ground, stuck in a hole. Amazing effects. Creepy little scene, as he finds himself something to eat.
We zip on over to Russia. In a temple, a similar event to the one in Africa happened. Brains, blood everywhere. Some men show up to investigate again.
Custer is busy about town. He meets with the kid’s mom from earlier; she claims BDSM type stuff. Then he’s over meeting with Tulip in her car, even finds an ear. Though she tosses that one off, both figuratively and literally. Their dynamic is interesting, they obviously have history, and that’s all coming into play in their current relationship. What I love most is how we get a real sense of Jesse as a preacher, a genuine man of the cloth, because he sees everybody, he goes around talking to them, he’s just like a small town preacher is in real life (I come from a relatively small town).
Another interesting piece – Sheriff Root is making a Tabasco and meat smoothie, which Jesse brings up to the one, the only Arseface (Ian Colletti). Poor guy. Butthole for a mouth. He tells Jesse he used to talk to God, and he could hear him talk back. Real faith. Now he doesn’t hear anything. Seems Arseface did something, bad, as it looks. Is that what made his mouth look like an anus? I feel bad for him now. Can’t wait to discover the full story. Lots of intrigue for an outsider like me that hasn’t read any Preacher.
In a bar, Cassidy arrives and sits next to Custer. On television nearby it says Tom Cruise has exploded. Amazing. Then Jesse gets a fight thrown at him by the husband of the wife he talked to earlier, Donnie Schenck (Derek Wilson) about all the abuse stuff. Oh my, the preacher’s being pushed to display his fighter side. And fight he does. Not just one man, a bunch. Big, small, all sizes. He kicks a ton of asses. Before breaking the abusive father and husband’s arm viciously.

 


Cassidy: “Jesus, what kind of a preacher are you?”

 


Love Joseph Gilgun. He plays Cassidy incredibly, makes me laugh so much. Furthermore, he and Dominic Cooper have chemistry. They are each quite different in their roles, obviously. But also they make it all the better with their portrayals of the respective characters.
Custer says he’s quitting. He doesn’t feel it’s going to work in that town. Not any more. Too much history, I imagine.
Up at the church he finds something strange going on inside himself. He talks to God, asking for answers or else he’s “done“, in his own words. When he gets on his knees and begs forgiveness, nothing comes. Unsurprised, he sits back for a cigarette. Only something other than God has that answer for him. A presence moves forward to where the preacher stands. Then it takes him off his feet, flinging him back.
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Later, Jesse wakes in bed. Emily is there to comfort him. He’s been out for three whole days. Coming to he feels different. He acts differently. He even makes Ted Reyerson (Brian Huskey) head to see his mother, so that he can be honest. To open his heart and be true. He literally opens his chest cavity. Takes the heart out for dear mom. “For all this I am responsible,” says Jesse as we cut directly to him. “This is why Ive come home. To save you.”
Afterwards, the two men checking into all the strange incidents around the globe are in Texas. They know that the thing from outer space is at the church. Excited to watch that play out further.
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What a whopper of a pilot episode. Again, as someone not having read the comics this is a lot of fun. I’m sold already. Bring on more episodes and let’s have a fucking riot! Preacher delivers the goods on all fronts.