Tag Archives: Giovanni Ribisi

Trashy Teddy

Seth MacFarlane and his foul-mouth furball strike again

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Ted 2

Starring Mark Wahlberg & Amanda Seyfried

Directed by Seth MacFarlane

R

The bawdy little talking furball is back. Writer-director Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy teddy bear returns in all his crass, computer-generated comedic glory for another round of surrealist stoner silliness with his Bostonian best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), in this sequel to the $550-million-grossing 2012 hit.

It begins, as many movies do, with a wedding, as Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) ties the knot with his gum-smacking bride, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). Soon, however, there’s trouble in paradise: Ted and Tami-Lynn discover they can’t have a baby, for a couple of reasons—including that Ted, a teddy bear, lacks the necessary anatomical equipment. And trying to adopt creates another problem, which comes to loom large: The legal question of whether Ted is a person or a piece of property.

5708_FP2_00111RV2.jpg_cmykHow you feel about the humor in Ted 2 will likely align with how you feel in general about the work of MacFarlane, whose TV show Family Guy established and enshrined him as a golden boy of rollicking, ribald politically incorrect hilarity. For some, he’s a brilliant, envelope-pushing social satirist. Others lean to the opposite, more “offended” side of the critical spectrum, noting his penchant for crude jokes, scatological humor and the sharp, scathing edges on the blades of his irreverent, “insensitive” lampoonery.

There’s plenty of all of that, however you feel about it, in Ted 2, from the dazzling Busby Berkeley-inspired musical opening credits sequence to the almost nonstop parade of bawdy jokes, celebrity cameos and gurgling bong hits that follow.

I won’t say it’s not funny, and some of it is flat-out hilarious. MacFarlane runs his characters (which include Amanda Seyfried as a newbie attorney who takes on Ted’s “personhood” case) through a gamut of R-rated punch lines and crazily comical setups. A Liam Neeson walk-on, as a grocery-store customer overly concerned about the age-appropriateness of his breakfast cereal, is a total hoot. (Stay for all the credits for the full payoff.) Jay Leno gamely goes along with a joke about gay sex.

5708_AC0003_COMP_V013_1006R.JPG_cmykCharacters come to expect the same (obscene) search suggestion for any Google query. Ted’s bachelor party—remember, he’s a bear—features a unique kind of porn. There a profanely inspired moment of speculative banter about what the F. in author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s name really stands for.

But some things seem unnecessarily drawn-out and repetitive, with gags and ploys from the first movie simply recycled or repeated—like a subplot with the creepy stalker Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), who wants to slice into Ted to see what makes him tick. At one point, John yells “Déjà vu!” I hear you, sir!

The Kardashians, rocker Steven Tyler and Harrison Ford all but assuredly won’t like the jokes made at their expense, but quarterback Tom Brady was clearly aboard for his scene, in which Ted and John infiltrate his bedroom for an ill-fated artificial-insemination scheme.

If some of that sounds like the bottom of comedy barrel, perhaps you’ll be a bit more uplifted by Ted 2’s underlying civics lesson about gay rights, the struggle of blacks in America and the inherent dignity of all living things.

Who says tubby, trash-talking teddy bears are all huff, puff and fluff?

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Marching Across Time

‘Selma’ connects past and present at pivotal civil rights flashpoint

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David Oyelowo (second from left) stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in ‘Selma’

Selma

Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo & Tom Wilkinson

Directed by Ava DuVernay

PG-13

It depicts events that happened half a century ago, but the drumbeat—and the heartbeat—of the present pounds loud and clear in Selma.

Set in the weeks leading up to March 1965, it’s a moving, powerful portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King and his passionate work to turn back the toxic tide of segregation and discrimination against African-Americans, especially in the South.

British actor David Oyelowo does a phenomenal job as King, conveying the combustive cocktail of faith, focus, outrage, diplomacy and drive that fueled his mission leading up to the “peaceful protest” marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to bring national attention to voting rights. His King is no martyred saint, but a charismatic, pragmatic leader who can take sit-down meetings with the President in the White House, as well as a husband, father and family man trying to keep his own “house” from crumbling from pressures inside and out.

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Carmen Ejogo plays King’s wife, Coretta.

A scene in which King’s wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, also terrific), confronts him over his well-known infidelities is a masterfully staged, perfectly written and expertly performed moment in which the silence becomes as important as—and even more weighty than—the words.

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Oprah Winfrey plays a civil rights activist.

The protests at the heart of the movie may have been “nonviolent,” but the event that came to be known as Bloody Sunday, March 7, was an episode of horrific, horrendous brutality, as hundreds of marchers were attacked by state and local police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with tear gas, clubs wrapped in barbed wire, and horsewhips. Director Ava DuVernay, a former Hollywood publicist who worked her way up through the studio system via music documentaries and indie films, depicts the one-sided confrontation as a melee of swirling smoke, raining blows, sickening thuds and crumbling bodies.

King is the movie’s central figure, but note that it doesn’t bear his name. It’s about more than the man; it’s about the movement he inspired. And specifically, it’s about how the crucial flashpoint of that movement came at one moment in time, in one specific place, and that place was Selma.

And, appropriately, there’s a big supporting cast that helps get it there, including Tom Wilkinson as Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson; Tim Roth as Alabama Gov. George Wallace; Oprah Winfrey as activist Annie Lee Cooper; Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover; Ledici Young as gospel singer Mahalia Jackson; and numerous other actors, including Martin Sheen, rapper Common, Stephen Root, Niecy Nash, Cuba Gooding Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Andrè Holland, Stephan James and Wendell Pierce, portraying other real-life players in the drama.

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King meets in the White House with Pres. Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson).

The filmmakers didn’t have access to King’s archive of speeches, so his orations are paraphrased—to magnificent effect. And there have been questions and quibbles about the movie’s authenticity and precise historical accuracy, especially about its portrayal of King’s relationship with L.B.J. But leave the parsing of small details to small minds. As the 50th anniversary of the events depicted in Selma approaches, this big-issue movie—with policemen beating and killing unarmed black men, streets filled with peaceful protesters, and repressive voting laws that disenfranchise minorities—feels chillingly contemporary, all too real, and monumental in more ways than one. Selma profoundly reminds us that while the marching may lead to the mountaintop, we still, sadly, haven’t fully made it there yet.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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