Neighbors has yet to hit theaters, but director Nicholas Stoller and star Seth Rogen are already planning their next collaboration. In a conversation with SlashFilm, Stoller revealed that he's working on a 1940s-set buddy cop comedy to star Rogen and the busiest man in comedy, Kevin Hart, as "the first interracial police partners in history." The film will follow the two cops as they learn to deal with one another and bust jazz musicians for marijuana possession. The director further described the project as "kind of a Baz Luhrmann world mixed with Tarantino," which we're interpreting to mean a spectacular period piece with plenty of gore.
Both Rogen and Hart are ideal choices for the film, as they already have experience upholding the law (Rogen teamed up with Bill Hader in 2007's Superbad, while Hart's partner in this year's Ride Along was Ice Cube) and they're both proven box office draws, having starred in some of the biggest comedies of the last decade. However, pairing the two up for this film is something of a surprise, as neither one of them is known for playing the straight man. Can a buddy comedy even work without a straight man?
After all, buddy cop films all tend to follow a strict formula: one cop is the well-mannered and straight-laced decorated officer, tasked with following the rules and keeping his partner in line. The other is the wild card, prone to bouts of violence or hysteria, and likely to shoot first and ask questions later. It's what makes Murtaugh and Riggs work so well together, what makes Ashburn and Mullins so funny, what makes the idea of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg starring in a film together plausible. There's a reason that "good cop/bad cop" has become such a well-known pop culture trope.
The buddy cop formula works because the structure of their relationship allows the writers and actors to go crazy, and find the humor in the way these two opposites deal with each other. We know that by the end of the film, the straight man will have loosened up and the wild card will have learned to play by the rules, but watching them get there is where the fun happens. But since neither Rogen nor Hart is known for being a straight man, it means this project upends the dynamic that we've all become so familiar with.
Rogen and Hart have each developed a shtick that makes them instantly recognizable onscreen. Rogen is the laid-back, lazy stoner who would rather play video games than actually get work done and Hart is the loud-mouthed, wannabe alpha dog, prone to letting his ego get him into trouble. Each character needs someone to balance him out and keep the plot moving. They're both characters that are best handled with moderation, there to deliver plenty of jokes, but capable of being reeled in when it becomes too much to handle.
However, their characters are different enough from each other that their dynamic might not need a straight man to proceed. They're already opposites: Hart is hyper, high-strung, and fast-talking, where Rogen is laid-back, unfazed by everything and constantly mumbling. And so the film would still be able to mine their differences for jokes. If the script plays up Hart's predilection to dive headfirst into scenarios against Rogen's unwillingness to get off the sofa, it could help lay the groundwork for a central conflict. But the threat of their shtick overstaying its welcome still looms over the film, without a straight man to help balance things out. Even 21 Jump Street, which allows both Jenko and Schmidt to go wild and be incredibly weird brings at least one of them back to the center from tiem to time, in order to keep the film on track.
Most likely, Rogen will take on the role, and the script will make some callbacks to his stoner persona. He's played a similar role in films like Pinapple Express and Funny People, where he's been the more reserved half of a comedy duo, and since he's also got a few more dramatic roles under his belt, he should be able to tap into his more serious side pretty easily. Rogen's typical character is also much closer to the realm of a straight man than Hart's is, as the latter has almost always played a wild-card role onscreen. And since his recent Saturday Night Live stint often had him ground many of the sketches, it seems as if Rogen is warming up for a big screen run as the straight man.
As to whether anyone will actually buy Rogen as a buttoned-up, by-the-book cop? Well, we'll just have to wait and see.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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1. Getting Lethal, Getting Weapony
I'll give you this, a new Lethal Weapon seems like a project we should be against. But the more I ponder, the more I'm liking the idea. As such, here are the three good reasons you should tell people that a Lethal Weapon remake isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Things Have Gotten Weird With Mel Gibson
Have you tried to watch a Mel G. film lately? From Braveheart to the Lethal Weapon series it has definitely gotten hard not to remember all the "incidents" that have transpired since those films were initially released. Now, I'm all for separating the art from the artist ... except when the artist makes it impossible for me to do so. That's what has gone down with Mel, and a new set of Lethal Weapons could help us all move past that particular phenomenon.
A New Duo
We need a new Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs for our time. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell took a mighty swing and a miss at updating Miami Vice, and the Top Gun update remains a glimmer. Let's let Craig Robinson and James Franco to breathe new life into this bad boy.
Dramedy is Dying
Cop Out wasn't funny enough and The Other Guys wasn't serious enough. Rush Hour was probably closest to recreating the vibe, but they definitely trended more silly. Lethal Weapon represents an iconic '80s arc, loads of comedy up front with oodles of serious business when things get "real real" at the back end of the film. And yeah, now that I’ve quoted it, I'll give you that Bad Boys hit that mark, but there's no way The Fresh Prince is walking through that door again anytime soon to pick up that franchise as Annie has him pretty busy.
A new Lethal Weapon has a decent shot at success, so long as they find at least one actor who can separate his shoulder.
2. Scream 4 Live Bloggin'
:01 - :20: The original call was to Drew Barrymore, right? I miss her. Will she make a cameo in this one? What's that? She's dead? I see. Can we make this a cheeky prequel then?
:21 - :26: Smart move getting the cheerleader from Heroes involved. This new generation is definitely going to want to see her offed.
:27 - :33: Let's just say David Arquette was available and move on.
:34 - :43: My Scream mythology might be off, but there were multiple sets of murders over the course of many years, right? Still, good to see Neve back. Loved her work in Party of Five.
:44 - :48: I also love that she still has a house phone.
:49 - 1:00: Run!
1:00 - 1:10: Whenever someone tells you they are in the closet I think your best bet is just to roll out. Any questions you have can be safely answered from whatever Four Seasons hotel is closest to you, because they have room service milkshakes there.
1:11 - 1:16: Do you think this was the movie that broke them up? Be honest.
1:17 - 1:24: My favorite scary movie is Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Trying watching that without being terrified.
1:25 - 1:35: This Scream feels updated! Well except for Arquette, I mean.
1:36 - 1:42: "Go ahead if you have the guts" is a billionth on the list of things I'd say to a potential murderer, right after "Can I show you my lower back tat?"
1:43 - 1:52: Scream remains the most self-aware franchise in history.
1:53 - 2:08: Pretty sure he was looking for Willy Wonka there.
2:09 - 2:15: Seth from The O.C.? Our cup runneth over!
2:16 - 2:29: Ugh, they did the numeral in the title treatment thing with Scre4m. And of course that leaves the door wide open for 5cream, doesn’t it? Start printing up the posters!
On that note, I'm off to enjoy The Sundance Film Festival.
Check out last week's Movie Musings here.
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.