Tag Archives: Ken Jeong

A Signature Challenge

The Seven Faces of Jane

by Christie Robb

The Seven Faces of Jane is an experimental film made using the technique of “exquisite corpse,” an approach developed by surrealist artists in which a piece is made by multiple people.  Each artist contributes a part of the whole without knowing what the other artists are doing. 

Here, eight directors collaborated to make a film in which most scenes were created by directors largely ignorant of what the other directors were contributing. Each director knew where their scene would appear in the timeline of the film and was given instructions as to the setting and major event to take place.  Otherwise, they were given total creative freedom.

It’s a bit like the restaurant wars part of Top Chef, where contestants try to create a pop-up restaurant with a cohesive concept but each is responsible for one dish and must use it to articulate their entire cooking philosophy—to attempt to stand out and “put themselves on the plate.” This is usually fun and dramatic and results in some…inconstancies in the diners’ experience.  Stuff happens like three chefs will collaborate to make a soul food restaurant while the fourth serves up an Asian dish with a chiffonade of collard greens on the top as a superficial nod to the overall concept.

The Seven Faces of Jane generally works in the same manner. It’s fun to go if you are in on the concept and like seeing what professionals can do when faced with a novel challenge. But if you were just a hungry person looking for a good meal, you might lack the patience for this sort of thing.

Gillian Jacobs stars as the titular Jane and directs both the opening and closing frames of the story in which Jane drops her daughter off/picks her up at sleepaway camp. The other pieces explore, with varying degrees of success, who Jane is outside of her role as “mom.” Jacobs’s presence does a lot to maintain a generally melancholy throughline.

The outlier, the General Tso amongst the mac and cheese,  is the first scene inside the frame, “Jane2”, by Gia Coppola. This one reads as an homage to Guy Ritchie films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but with more surrealist elements. It’s weird and makes you think that the movie is heading off in a certain direction, which in the next scene, it just…doesn’t.  But, as “Jane2” occurs so early in the film and is so different from the rest, the jarring nature of it helps establish the kind of Frankenstein’s creation that is being brought to life. To place it elsewhere in the movie’s timeline would have been a mistake.

Not that there aren’t other weird scenes. There’s one where Jane is called in by her agent to audition for a role in a mausoleum where the casting directors mostly seem interested in what her uvula looks like and how she bleeds. There’s another scene that features a lengthy modern dance sequence.  It’s just that these scenes kinda flow better.

Ken Jeong makes his directorial debut in “The One Who Got Away.” Here Jacobs stars opposite Joe McHale and they get to reprise the chemistry and sharp banter that made them so fun to watch in Community. Overall, The Seven Faces of Jane is a fun experiment, and a great way for Jacobs to show her range, but something that a very small audience will likely be into. If you are just looking for a cohesive story to take you out of yourself for a couple of hours, you are probably better served elsewhere.

Clown Show

The Opening Act

by Darren Tilby

The world of stand-up comedy is notoriously difficult and unforgiving. It’s a tough business to break in to, with many clubs unwilling to give newcomers more than five minutes of stage time, and even then, usually only after the comedian has made a bit of a name for themselves. And then there is the audience, who can be less than accommodating, to say the least. It’s toward this struggle that Steve Byrne directs a perceptive and knowing gaze.

Will Chu (a fantastic showing from Jimmy O. Yang), a young Asian man from Ohio, dreams of being a stand-up comic but finds himself frustrated by the lack of willingness of most local venues to give him much of a chance. But, spurred on by his girlfriend, Jen (a brilliant and charming, yet criminally underutilized Debby Ryan), he keeps at it. His big break finally comes when a friend and fellow comedian, Quinn (Ken Jeong), sets him up with a weekend-long gig at the famous Improv club in Pennsylvania. It’s a booking that could make or break Will’s career.

There’s rarely a dull moment during the entirety of The Opening Act’s 90-minute runtime, thanks in no small part to an eclectic cast of colorful characters and their various exploits, most of which Will gets, inadvertently, caught up in. It is in the absurdity of these situations that we find much of the film’s humor. It descends into the ridiculous at times, but there’s also an honesty about it that makes it feel feel, perhaps, not so far- fetched after all.

Tonally, however, the film lacks edge. For instance: at one point, we hear that many comics mock their own pain and suffering as a way of coping. This is a commonly held belief, and it’s a weighty subject, one I should like to have explored more, particularly from an insider’s point-of-view. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really happen. This reluctance to delve into the darker, more cynical side of the industry feels like an oversight and results in the film becoming a little shallow.

But there’s no denying that The Opening Act is a lovely film; a feel-good movie that, despite the occasional mention of drugs and scenes of drinking, seems kind of warm and fuzzy inside. It’s a safe and good-natured movie that’s well-presented, well-written, honest and authentic—and I really enjoyed it.


Terror of the Blank Page

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

by George Wolf

“Who would write this?”

Any Goosebumps fan knows the answer to that is Bexley native/OSU grad R.L. Stine, but in Goosebumps 2 it’s what Stine didn’t write that unleashes some not-too-scary family fun.

Good buddies Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor from IT) and Sam (Caleel Harris) stumble upon a mysterious book while cleaning out a creepy old house. They turn their backs and a ventriloquist’s dummy makes sure he’s found as well.

“Slappy” (voiced by Jack Black) was born from the book they found, the unfinished manuscript of Stine’s first novel, and he has some magical powers which are all fun and games until they’re not.

See, the dummy wants a real family, and he won’t stop until he brings Halloween to life and makes Sonny’s mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey) his own, which doesn’t sit well with Sonny or his sister Sarah (Madison Iseman).

It will take the whole gang, with a little help from Stine himself (Jack Black) to put Slappy and all he conjures back in the book where they belong.

Director Ari Sandel, who helmed the smarter-than-average teen comedy The Duff, and writer Rob Leiber (Alexander and the…Very Bad Day) take over the Goosebumps film franchise and hit a satisfyingly specific ‘tween target that will give adults some smiles as well.

The humor is silly but not stupid, the frights won’t bring nightmares, the town bully isn’t really that mean, and the town does Halloween like no place you’ve ever seen, led by Holiday enthusiast Mr. Chu (Ken Jeong). It makes for an inviting setting, and once all those costumes and decorations come to life, there is plenty of lower-budget visual pop.

Goosebumps 2 has style, a winning cast, and winking nods to horror classics such as IT and Frankenstein. Plus, it makes books and science seem cool, and gets it all done in under 90 minutes.

That adds up to one “fun-size” Halloween treat that doesn’t disappoint.

Fewer Tigers, More Zach

by George Wolf


Yes, Virginia, there is a hangover in The Hangover Part III, and it’s a funny one, but the madcap adventure-filled road that leads to it is a bit uneven.

Following a bona fide classic like The Hangover was always a tough assignment. The crazy freshness that film brought to the what-happened-last-night-formula just can’t be cloned, and the attempt to do just that in part 2 came off as a disappointing inside joke. The third installment gets some of the original mojo back by giving the Wolfpack a new reason get their Vegas on.

That reason is one Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), whose trail of enemies includes Mr. Marshall (John Goodman), a vengeful crime boss that eagle-eared moviegoers might remember from a quick mention in part one.

Seems Marshall wants the millions that Chow stole from him, so he kidnaps the Wolfpack, threatening to kill (who else?) Doug (Justin Bartha) unless Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) can bring their old pal in to face the music.

Director Todd Phillips returns, co- writing the script with his part 2 collaborator Craig Mazin. Together, they craft a tamer, quieter romp, replacing bathroom tigers and hooker weddings with healthy doses of Galifianakis and Jeong.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those guys don’t need much help to be funny, and Phillips may have realized they were his best chance at newly found laughs. The reason  part 3’s “morning after” scene works so well is because it runs during the credits, sending the trilogy off with a quick reminder of the fun we had discovering the first film. Another entire episode of retracing the Wolfpack’s steps, though, would be pointless, so instead we get a little heist adventure with a side of zany.

There are slow spots, to be sure, but there are laughs as well, maybe just enough to erase that bad hangover from part 2.