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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    Today at the Toronto Film Festival

    By Kyle | September 9, 2008

    I just saw Kathryn Bigelow’s movie “The Hurt Locker,” an intense and visceral look at bomb-disposal experts in the army in Iraq, with Jeremy Renner in the lead role. (I’m not sure I’ve seen a film before in which the two most famous actors were instantly killed off.) “The Hurt Locker” makes such a strong statement for war as “drug” or “adrenaline rush,” as it is referred to, that it’s practically an army recruitment film. Despite the horrific violence associated with defusing IEDs in Iraq, perhaps the most revolting shot in the movie is….a row of cereal boxes in an ordinary grocery store. The film’s message is that, insane as it is, war has its attractions. I don’t think Renner is quite charismatic enough in the lead, though, and in the final two reels of this (130-minute) film, things begin to seem repetitive. It was still looking for a distributor last time I checked, but supposedly a bidding war was underway. It’ll probably have to wait until next year for a theatrical release because it’s not an Oscar-type movie but rather an in-your-face actioner from the director of “Point Break” and “Strange Days.” It may be the most macho Iraq film yet. Certainly it’s right up there with “The Kingdom.”

    Later I saw Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and was impressed. I’m not a fan of Smith’s–I hated “Chasing Amy” and skipped some of his other work (“Mallrats,” that Ben Affleck movie, whatever)–but this is the funniest Kevin Smith movie I’ve seen since “Clerks” and might be his best ever. It’s an archly profane comedy (and a parody of the standard rom-com) in which Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are longtime roommates (they’ve known each other since first grade) who are so desperate to pay their bills (the electricity and water have been shut off) that they decide to star in a porno together. (Rogen, gently taking her hand: “Will you have sex with me on camera for money?” Banks: “I will!”)

    The when-will-these-two-find-they’re-perfect-for-each-other outlines of the plot are formulaic, but the story beats actually work together as neatly as in a Hollywood film. It’s as is Smith has seen some Judd Apatow movies and decided: Ah. That’s how it’s done. The usual tiresome two-page rants about religion and pop culture are gone, the actors are top-notch and the naughty language and sight gags (there is a heaping helping of excremental comedy, and the big payoff comes with the heroine sitting on the toilet) are at the service of character and story rather than the reverse. This is an excellent raunchy comedy…a raun-com? “When Harry Did Sally”? I expect it will out-earn any previous film of Smith’s. It’s consistently funny with a dash of sweetness, and it makes excellent use of Craig Robinson (“The Office,” “Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express”), who really ought to be starring in comedies by now.

    Topics: Comedy, Iraq, Movies | No Comments »

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