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A Married Couple’s “Hall Pass” Review

A Married Couple’s “Hall Pass” Review (photo)

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True story: my wife Melissa’s first reaction to the trailer for the comedy “Hall Pass,” about two married men who are given a week off from fidelity by their wives, was to turn me and say “Before you even ask: yes, you can have a hall pass. But I get to chop off your balls first.”

She was kidding, of course (I think… I hope). But it didn’t matter. I don’t want a hall pass; hell, I didn’t even want to see “Hall Pass.” Until my wife made that joke, which gave me an idea: we should go see this movie together and review it together. After all, who better than a husband who writes about movies and a wife who knows way more about movies than her smarmy husband. It wasn’t easy to convince her, but a deal was struck. After the movie was over, we had a conversation which I recorded. And here it is:


Matt: First of all, thank you for going to see this with me, because I know you didn’t want to.

Melissa: No, I didn’t.

Matt: You saw it because I had this idea and guilted you into it.

Melissa: Correct.

Matt: And you’re not even getting paid to do this.

Melissa: Well, in a way I am.

Matt: Good point. Now you had a very strong negative reaction the first time you saw the trailer.

Melissa: It wasn’t that negative.  Simply a warning.


Matt: Right. I’m sure you had some expectations based on that trailer.  Did the movie surprise you in any way?

Melissa: No it was probably about as bad as I thought it would be.

Matt: Obviously you didn’t care for the premise. But we go see a lot of romantic comedies, and a lot of the recent guy-centric ones that feature a lot of really funny male characters and a lot of controlling, needy, not-that-funny female characters. Was this one any different?

Melissa: Even more than usual, I felt like the women in this movie weren’t even wives; they were mothers. Mothers to their kids and mothers to their husbands.

Matt: I’m really sort of fascinated, and honestly a bit confused, by the portrayals of men and women in this movie. What about the guys, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. Did you think their characters were fair or accurate representations of married guys?

Melissa: No men I know. But you’d probably know better. What do guys do when women aren’t around?



Matt: I don’t know if I can speak for all guys, but I mean I don’t stand around staring at women’s butts constantly the way they do.

Melissa: Or talk out of a giant vagina you made out of your hands?

Matt: No, I don’t do that either.

Melissa: Do you play poker and talk about how your wives aren’t hot?

Matt: That’s ridiculous. I don’t even play poker.

Melissa: Ha ha.  A lot of our guy friends are married though.  When you guys go and see a movie by yourselves do you check out women together?



Matt: No.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m going to publish this conversation later.  But I’m 30; these characters are a little older.  They’ve been married longer than we have.  One of them has a bunch of kids.  So they’ve got more reason to be bored, I suppose.

Melissa: But the movie makes it seem like they’ve been doing it for years.

Matt: True, it’s very ingrained behavior for them.

Melissa: And the movie also claimed that guys had no control over it, like every single guy has a uncontrollable, evolutionary, biological imperative to look at women’s asses.  There wasn’t a single person in the movie who was the voice of reason saying “I think this hall pass is an idiotic idea.”

Matt: I keep coming back to the question of who gets portrayed worse in the movie, men or women. The men are all scoundrels and horndogs, but eventually they’re revealed to be sweethearts, which is definitely a cliché of this kind of movie; the slobs always turn out to be sweeties.

Melissa: That one guy was not a sweetheart.

Matt: Well, I know why you’re saying that — I probably don’t want to spoil it in this piece, but let’s put it this way: when the chips are down, this particular character realizes he loves his wife.

Melissa: He realizes he loves his wife because he has no better options.

Matt: [laughs] Okay.

Melissa: He’s such a dork that he can’t get laid any other way. He talks a big game but the women he has a shot with aren’t anything special. His wife is clearly hotter than anyone he could hook up with.

Matt: Well that’s an excellent point.  But this is where I was going with that train of thought: the men are horny but inherently decent. The women are bloodless and kind of mean. Jenna Fischer doesn’t want to have sex with Owen Wilson so she pretends to be asleep when he tries to make a move.  And then later she tells Christina Applegate about this incident and Applegate’s character says something to the effect of “We’re women — we’re supposed to fake everything between the hours of 12 and 6 am.”

Melissa: That’s because she’s trapped in a loveless marriage and she doesn’t know what happiness means.

Matt: But isn’t that a horrible representation of women?  It’s supposed to be a funny line, I know, but —

Melissa: Well, the movie was written by guys, wasn’t it? Clearly a lot of this is a male fantasy, like the scene where Wilson and Sudeikis take their kids to the park and every woman there is 18, blond, and doing cartwheels in short shorts. 

Matt: Or what about that other scene where Sudeikis tries to convince Wilson to take the hall pass by telling him that his wife was living her dream life. Her dream was to be married and have kids and be a mom. Then Sudeikis claims this hall pass represents the equivalent gift.

Melissa: I keep telling you: those people should not be married.

Matt: Okay. Was Owen Wilson a better husband than Jason Sudeikis?

Melissa: Yeah but he was a better husband when the movie started.  Because — and maybe this was just a matter of better chemistry between the actors — he really seemed to love his wife.  There were mutual but solvable problems there: she felt unappreciated, he felt ignored. The other marriage, that’s just a broken relationship. They didn’t have any respect for one another. Any ending for that couple that doesn’t involve them realizing they’re terrible for each other and have nothing in common and should split up is not a happy ending.

Matt: I also thought it was strange how the women in “Hall Pass” only talk about their husbands. Literally every single conversation they have is about their men. Is that what you do when I’m not around?

Melissa: Oh, absolutely. But what about the guys — didn’t they mostly talk about their wives?

Matt: I don’t know, they did a lot of talking about weird sex stuff like whether they would rather kiss a man or receive oral sex from one.

Melissa: So really their only topic was sex.

Matt: Right.  And the women’s only topic was their husbands. 

Melissa: You may be right. They even talk about them with the guys they met.  Okay, so it is a little unfair. They didn’t talk about their kids once, either. Fischer and Applegate go to Cap Cod to give their husbands their hall pass, and then conveniently leave Fischer’s three kids with grandparents so they don’t need to be seen or heard from again. And they never even considered the possibility that Wilson or Sudeikis’ characters might like their hall passes so much they might want to end their marriages. It was either they wouldn’t get laid, realize how good they had it and come back, or get laid and go “What am I doing with my life?” and come back anyway. The possibility that they might hook up in a more meaningful way wasn’t brought up.

Matt: True.

Melissa: I’d be terrified of that in their position. There’s a bit of a double standard there, too.  The men have clearly been given the okay to cheat. But when Owen Wilson finds out that his wife might be cheating too, he freaks out. Like it didn’t ever dawn on him that she might get a hall pass this week too. 

Matt: Were there any moments that you thought accurately portrayed a marriage?

Melissa: Just that marriage is hard sometimes, I guess.

Matt: One thing I didn’t quite get was why it took Wilson and Sudeikis so long to think of going to a club to meet women.

Melissa: Especially since they live in Providence, which has more clubs than any city I’ve ever been to.

Matt: They literally needed someone to come and take them by the hand to a club because they were too stupid to figure that out on their own.  Which I guess was part of the point, that men are stupid.

Melissa: So why do you think the women are portrayed so badly? The men are portrayed horribly!

Matt: It’s a good question. I see a movie like this and I’m immediately sensitive to the depiction of women, because the depictions of women in movies like this are always so terrible.  But you’re right. The men in this movie are stupid, they’re led around by their penises, they have terrible fashion senses, bad haircuts, terrible diets, bad physiques.  Not a flattering picture of manhood. So why is it that the women side of it upsets me so much? Maybe it’s because the men are portrayed poorly but…

Melissa: — They’re funny.

Matt: Exactly. We’re supposed to embrace their flaws.  They’re supposed to make them charming.  Meanwhile, the women are joking about how it’s their job to leave their men unfulfilled. The men’s jokes make us like they more. The women’s jokes make us like them less.

Melissa: But not all the women in it are killjoys.  I actually liked the scene where the guys are playing poker and Fischer comes home and says hi and then leaves the guys alone to have their space.  That’s a nice moment.

Matt: That’s true.  So where is my impression coming from then?


Melissa: I don’t know.  That one line about faking orgasms, apparently.

Matt: That one line stuck in my craw, I guess. So who do you think this movie is for: men or women or both?

Melissa: Judging from the audience we saw it, men, clearly.  The men were cackling and the women were not laughing.  I think one woman even dropped a grumpy “Oh no he didn’t!” at one point.

Matt: She did, yes.

Melissa: That was the extent of the female reaction in our audience.

Matt: Because women are killjoys. 

[awkward silence]

Matt: Okay, that was a joke.  I try to think who this movie is supposed to entertain.  Would you recommend this movie to a married couple to go see on a date night?

Melissa: No.  Wait, maybe. Seeing it might make you feel better about your marriage.

Matt: Or it could lead to that discussion of hall passes, and men asking for them and women being furious that they asked for one.

Melissa: So it sets up women to be killjoys again.

Matt: Or it sets up couples to argue.  The one thing I did like about “Hall Pass” was the fact that the film was told from this horny male perspective but the film constantly undercut that heterosexual bravado by featuring more male nudity than female. The biggest sexual object in the film besides the young coffee girl who starts flirting with Owen Wilson was the Cape Cod baseball player who takes an interest in Christina Applegate. I didn’t time it, but I would guess the hot baseball player was topless for a lot longer than the hot coffee girl. And he might have even had a better figure than she did.

Melissa: Oh yeah he did.

[awkward silence]

Melissa: What? Oh, don’t give me that look.

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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