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“The Green Hornet,” Reviewed

“The Green Hornet,” Reviewed (photo)

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Here is a case of a producer letting down his writer and star, and the producer, writer, and star are all the same guy. That guy would be Seth Rogen, the charming comedian (and creator) of movies like “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” Rogen the writer’s script for “The Green Hornet” is the perfect set-up for Rogen the actor: an ordinary guy with no superpowers or skills decides to fight crime so he’s forced to rely on his sidekick Kato to provide him with weapons, gadgets, and muscle. The film is all about the interplay between The Hornet and Kato, their relationship and their rivalry. In other words, this “Hornet” is superhero movie as buddy comedy, catnip for a gifted improviser like Rogen.

Herein lies the problem: in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” Rogen partnered with Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. In “Pineapple Express,” he worked with the versatile James Franco. In “Green Hornet,” Rogen the producer saddled Rogen the actor with Jay Chou, a handsome Taiwanese pop star with a limited grasp of English. That leaves us with a buddy film starring an exceptional improviser and a guy who can’t improvise because he can’t speak the language. No surprise, then, that Hornet and Kato’s friendship, so central to the plot of the film, feel forced and uneven.

“Forced and uneven” is actually a good way to describe this version of “The Green Hornet.” It was directed by the Michel Gondry, the talented and inventive filmmaker behind “Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind,” but bears little of his personal stamp. It doesn’t have the handmade quality or visual dexterity of “a Gondry film.” Instead it feels like “a Neal H. Moritz film” — he’s one of the producers of “The Green Hornet” as well as “The Fast & the Furious” and “xXx” franchises. It’s loud, slick, and relies heavily on pop music and sleight-of-hand editing to keep the film moving so fast audiences don’t have time to notice how little they care about the characters or story.

Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg’s take on the material, though, is smart. Rogen plays Britt Reid, the do-nothing heir of newspaper tycoon and Hall of Fame bad father James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). When James dies a hero, the vindictive Britt can’t stand it. So he convinces Kato, the guy who makes his coffee in the morning who also happens to be an incredibly gifted mechanic, inventor, and martial artist, to help him desecrate his father’s grave. Along the way the pair accidentally break up a mugging, and decide they’ve found a new calling in life as crimefighters. But while The Green Hornet gets all the attention, Kato’s both the brains and the brawn behind the operation. That stirs up enough jealousy to rip the team apart.

The unspoken truth of The Green Hornet’s 1960s TV show was the fact that he, the nominal star, was frequently upstaged by his much cooler sidekick (a very young but already awesome Bruce Lee). Turning that simmering tension into the focal point of the film is a stroke of genius. So is the spin on the Hornet’s M.O.: his whole schtick is that he’s a hero who poses as a villain in order to destroy the underworld from within. But really that conceit doesn’t make a ton of sense (why not just outwardly act like hero?) and it makes a lot more sense that this none-too-brilliant plan would be formulated by a guy like Rogen’s Hornet, who’s kind of a dope.

In Rogen and Goldberg’s conception, Britt and Kato are less superheroes than well-armed anarchist pranksters, the dudes from “Jackass” with gas guns and a missile launching car. Britt and Kato like to claim they’re “helping people” but we never see them help anyone after that first night. Instead, they tool around Los Angeles in their Black Beauty limousine, blowing up traffic cameras and beating up drug dealers for kicks.

That’s a pretty subversive notion for the superhero genre, but the film glosses over it on the way to another big action sequence. In fact, “The Green Hornet” often plays like a mainstream movie uncomfortably fashioned from iconoclastic raw materials. Quirky ideas are tossed out and then immediately abandoned for the sake of pacing and accessibility. This, too, plays against Rogen’s strength, which is to dawdle and riff, rather than rush. The finished film plays like the cinematic equivalent of a cobblestone road that’s been repaved with blacktop. The ride’s smooth, but at the expense of the character and personality. That’s certainly true of the film’s generic villain, Chudnofsky (“Inglourious Basterds”‘ Christoph Waltz). Wisps of a subplot involving an aging crime lord facing obsolence remain, but the meat of his arc must have gotten lost along the way from script to screen. Rogen and Chou get plenty of screentime, but for whatever reason — temperament, acting style, language barrier — they never quite connect.

A few moments have that Gondry touch. There is one truly outstanding sequence, a montage that takes full advantage of the film’s otherwise forgettable 3D effects to showcase the spread of information through the Los Angeles underground. And Gondry’s speed-shifting approach to Kato’s badass fighting style is both playful and exciting. But a lot of this movie looks like it could have been directed by anybody. The idea of a Rogen/Gondry collaboration was intriguing — and I would be interested to see what these men could do together with total creative freedom — but the results this time don’t come close to equaling their potential. In that sense, “The Green Hornet,” a film about how easily a promising and unusual creative partnership can blow up in the partners’ faces, is the perfect metaphor for itself.

(NOTE: I have gone this entire review without mentioning Cameron Diaz, the female lead of this movie. Truth be told, I had forgotten Diaz was even in the movie until just now, which says quite a bit about her role and her performance.)

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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