Screen Junkies » Cedar Rapids Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Sat, 13 Dec 2014 01:22:56 +0000 en hourly 1 Caucus This: 6 Films Set In Iowa Tue, 03 Jan 2012 21:33:51 +0000 Penn Collins Because you're really ignorant about which films have been set in Iowa.

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I can’t lie to you. “Iowa” is a very popular search term because of the Republican Caucus. I tried to find a way to make this list seem more organic, but there is absolutely no way of making you, dear reader, believe that I organically decided upon an Iowa-themed list. Anyway, you’ve clicked and made it this far. Please keep reading and school yourself on Iowa.

Field Of Dreams

Perhaps the most famous movie set in Iowa, Field of Dreams follows Ray Kinsella, a handsome farmer who goes around picking up men and dressing them in uniforms. He then starts to imagine men walking among cornstalks (no phallic imagery there), until he is literally surrounded by athletic dudes. For some reason, this doesn’t really bother his wife.

Ray’s farm is a magical place, and connotes what most of us imagine when we think of Iowa – a place that is mostly made of corn, consisting of a bunch of people that refuse to believe in magic. It makes sense that we would hold a caucus there.

Unfortunately, after Field of Dreams was released in 1989, 90% of Iowa farms were immediately converted to baseball fields. Many were populated with historically significant baseball players, but unfortunately, the players that appeared to occupy these fields predated the Jackie Robinson era, and racism pervaded all of Iowa. Consequently, Iowa is now known as a place with no corn and lots of race riots, all because of Field of Dreams.

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is a pretty funny film, but it gets more credit that it deserves because it didn’t get a wide release. The film stars Ed Helms, the guy that says “sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiit” from The Wire, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche. Helms is sent to an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, only to find that the Midwestern independent insurance accreditation game is straight-up rigged.

This film paints Iowa in a negative light in much the same way that The Wire did with Baltimore and Florida does all on its own.

Cedar Rapids was actually shot in Ann Arbor, because Iowa wasn’t able to give the film anything in the way of a tax credit. Considering the film appeared to have cost about $14,300 to produce, you think that Iowa would have been able to pony up the $91 or so that the producers required. Missed opportunity, Iowa.

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Ed Helms Is A Cynical Bastard Tue, 08 Feb 2011 17:10:51 +0000 Fred Topel He's nothing like the characters he plays.

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Ed Helms is best known for playing idealistic naifs. Stu in The Hangover hopes for the best with his domineering fiancée. Andy Bernard in “The Office” keeps hoping for love when women walk all over him. In his latest film, Cedar Rapids, Helms plays an insurance man exposed to the corruption and debauchery of an insurance convention for the first time.

“I wish I were that,” Helms said during a roundtable interview at the Sundance Film Festival. “I think I wish I gave people more benefit of the doubt. I wish I were less judgmental, so there’s some fantasy fulfillment in doing these characters because I’m a cynical bastard, but I’m sort of a self-loathing cynic.”

Cedar Rapids’ Tim Lippe gives Helms more of a full arc than his supporting characters. “It immediately struck a chord and resonated because it’s just about a guy who’s intrinsically good and desperate to stay good, but so unaware of how the world works. I actually really relate to that. I kind of feel like I stumble through the world just constantly wondering why people act the way they do. Why is this this way? How’d that get there and who made this? So that sort of just wide eyed confusion is something that I actually have and probably just do a better job than Tim of hiding. It’s also just there’s a warmth to it and a hopefulness. I like that. I like putting that energy out there.”

With crack parties and naked swimming pool orgies, Cedar Rapids has lots of crazy comedy shenanigans. Within that Helms thinks there is a real character study.

“I think people bring different things to this movie. To some people it’s kind of ridiculous and cartoonish. To other people it has a reality and a poignancy. I feel like the way the story unfolds, the more you learn about Tim Lippe, the more you understand him and where he came from, the more who he is makes sense. I think it’s really plausible. I really wasn’t interested in this particular movie in making a broad ridiculous character choice. I just think that Tim is, I don’t know, from a storytelling standpoint, it gives us all a chance to see the world in a different way. His naivety complicates things. On the one hand it just looks like a guy goes to Cedar Rapids, gets in over his head and kind of grows up a little bit and comes back a little wiser. It is that but it’s a lot more than that because Tim actually, by just being who he is, has a profound affect on the people around him and he’s not preachy, he doesn’t try to change anyone, but he does because of who he is and I love that. I think it’s a very powerful and subtle storytelling device that [screenwriter] Phil Johnston is a master of.”

Now that Helms has excelled at this sort of character, he might try to go a little darker next time. “I’m kind of open minded. I think that I’ve had a lot of fun playing around in a certain area. I definitely want to go a lot of different directions. Evil is one. Stupid is another. I don’t know, as long as it’s funny, and even with evil characters, I like to think there’s some kind of redemption. If I can find that, I’d be psyched to explore it.”

Cedar Rapids opens Friday.

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Sundance Review: Cedar Rapids Wed, 26 Jan 2011 16:56:31 +0000 Fred Topel Midwesterners going wild may not sound like an original idea for a comedy, but they really become a team.

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Cedar Rapids took about a half hour to grow on me, but that may have just been the Sundance fatigue. Once it got going, even a late night screening after an early morning won me over.

Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is the insurance agent who actually cares about people. BrownStar Insurance sends him to the convention in Cedar Rapids because their former star salesman died of autoerotic asphyxiation. There, he rooms with Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) and Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), the one man his boss warned him to stay away from.

Ronald talks in acronyms like NTS (Not too shabby). Dean is a raging pussy hound who talks dirty even when he’s being nice. Joan (Anne Heche) is the girl. Early jokes about naked man hugs and corporate scavenger hunts/group bonding activities seemed like quaint types of humor, but it builds. The gang crashes a gay wedding at the hotel and Tim sings a cover of “Oh Holy Night” with insurance lyrics.

Each character really sticks to their roles. Tim is pathetically noble in dealing with the affair he has with Joan. He’s sleeping with his old elementary school teacher Macy (Sigourney Weaver) back home, so he immediately calls to apologize. It’s actually not really an affair, because he was just Macy’s post-divorce fling. Helms babbling like a guilt-ridden adulterer is funny though. Later, he makes taking a bribe sound like rape, in an amusingly inappropriate way.

The group really comes together when they have to rescue Tim from a crack party. It takes Dean’s abrasiveness, Ronald’s mellow planning and Joan’s feisty concern to bring Tim back, and they play off each other beautifully. Scenes that could be lame, like Tim’s coke-fueled party rage, are vehicles for Helms to perform, and we are privileged to watch.

The secret politics of insurance conventions provides a simple comedy plot. In light of BrownStar’s sex scandal, there’s a petition to revoke their previous 2 Diamond Awards. It’s really important that Tim gets his company another award, and he even tries selling out to do it.

Midwesterners going wild may not sound like an original idea for a comedy, but they really become a team. With each character contributing to the wacky, it becomes a unique combination. It’s not just an Ed Helms vehicle. Everybody gets quotable lines and it’s one of the most fun movies of Sundance.

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Ed Helms Talks ‘Office’ Politics, ‘Hangover 2′ Madness, and ‘Cedar Rapids’ Mon, 17 Jan 2011 18:46:32 +0000 Fred Topel The one-time Daily Show correspondent has come a long way.

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Here’s why I love the Television Critics Association press tour. You can just be standing around at a cocktail party looking around for someone from a show that your audience follows. Then some totally A-list star bumps into you. Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski were there from “The Office,” but a star of The Hangover trumps even the leads from a hit TV show.

Ed Helms slid past hordes of press gathered around his costars and ended up right in front of me. My first thought was the indie movie he has going to Sundance next week, so that made him happy to talk with me. I snagged a 10 minute exclusive chat about “The Office” and Hangover 2 thanks to the magic of TCA.

Q: You have a film going to Sundance.

Ed Helms: Yeah, are you going to be there? Yes, very excited. We can just talk about that if you want.

Q: Yeah, what kind of film is Cedar Rapids?

EH: It’s a gorefest and the feel good movie of the year. No, it’s kind of a poignant little story of just a very small kind of world, but the movie looks at it very microscopically and it feels big. It’s a Midwestern guy just kind of getting in over his head. Because we’re so close to him and his reaction is so overwhelming and terrified it actually has kind of a resonance I think.

Q: Is it a comedy though?

EH: Yes, it’s a comedy but it has some dark edges to it.

Q: I actually got a calendar in the mail.

EH: Is it different shots from the movie?

Q: It’s one photo of all three of you at the top.

EH: It’s a cheap calendar it sounds like.

Q: Was it a big opportunity for you to do a starring lead role?

EH: Well, it was huge for me. It’s a movie that’s very near and dear to me because I helped develop it with the writer Bill. It was his idea that he brought to me and then he and I kind of actualized it. The fact that we were able to get Alexander Payne on board and Miguel Arteta was kind of a dream come true, to get that group together to make this thing. John C. Reilly and Anne Heche, Isaiah Witlock just all got on board. I’m excited about it.

Q: They showed the lip dub clip from “The Office” in between sessions today. Has that taken on a life of its own?

EH: No, that seemed like a great sort of splash but I haven’t really seen it bubble up since then. The writers are so good with these cold opens. Sometimes they really capture the zeitgeist in a really fun weird thing out there. I didn’t even know lip dubs were a cultural phenomenon when we did it.

Q: I didn’t either.

EH: We were just latching onto something going on out there. Maybe it wasn’t that big if neither of us knew.

Q: Is there funny stuff coming up for Nard Dawg?

EH: Yes. For the first time you get to see Andy roller skate soon which will change your whole perception of the sport of roller skating. We shot at this roller rink out in the valley and I was so insanely sore the next day. You’re right, it’s one of those things you don’t do in 20 years and it hurts. But, it’s fun for Andy and Andy loves it. Dwight and Darryl play hooky one day and that’s where Andy winds up. So that’s fun and of course we’ll be seeing the most epic storyline of the show’s history unfold as Michael departs. We’re going to see a lot of our cast I think start to jockey and fight for the opening.

Q: Would Andy make a good manager?

EH: I know that Andy thinks he would make an amazing manager and that he’s vying heavily. My personal opinion is that the cast as a whole is so strong, I literally feel like anyone could step into that role and elevate the show.

Q: I guess the question is could he be as bad a manager as Michael?

EH: Right. That’s a good question. I don’t know. Michael Scott has just carved out such an incredible specific thing that whoever steps into that role, steps into that position within Dunder Mifflin will have a lot to live up to. What’s exciting is there are so many possibilities and the whole cast is up for it.

Q: Have you wrapped in Thailand for The Hangover 2?

EH: Yeah, unless we get reshoots but we’re done. We wrapped it up, Hangover 2.

Q: What was that shoot like in Thailand?

EH: Hearts of Darkness. I mean, we went to hell and back and I think you’re going to see it on screen. It was a hard movie to make. Fun as hell but hard as hell.

Q: Was it important to do the sequel right away?

EH: No, I think it was important not even for the fans as much because I feel like the fans are just psyched to see something whenever it comes up. Ghostbusters is going on 20 years since the last incarnation and I’m psyched to see that, but I do think from a logistical standpoint of rounding us up while we’re still all excited about it and Todd Phillips is excited about it, you want to pounce on it. You want to get it done.

Q: Does Stu have some fun with the Thai ladies like he married the Vegas stripper?

EH: You know, we’ll leave that to the imagination for now but all the guys have a lot of fun and get in way too much trouble, a lot more trouble than the first one.

Q: Do you guys have a lot more confidence going into a sequel to such a successful movie?

EH: Well, I think there was a sense that we had to really rise to the occasion and elevate the sequel. So we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. There is also, I think we do feel confidence just in who the characters are. We all love to work together and we didn’t really know each other in the first one. Now we kind of know what we’re going into so there’s a confidence that comes from that. There’s a real sense of urgency to meet the expectations. Nobody’s phoning it in.

Q: How did you weigh in on the Mel Gibson issue?

EH: Eh, it is what it is and it’s done. I’m glad I feel like as a cast and a crew, the whole cast and crew really was cohesive and bonded through it. That’s the important thing. We got a good movie ahead of us.

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John C. Reilly Is The Juggernaut, Bitch In ‘Cedar Rapids’ Trailer Thu, 23 Dec 2010 13:20:38 +0000 Wookie Johnson In the trailer for Cedar Rapids, Ed Helms's big follow-up to The Hangover, he plays an inexperienced guy (again) who takes a trip (again) and gets blotto (again), beat up (again), and befriends a prostitute (again). And, it looks pretty funny (again).

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In advance of Sundance, here we have a trailer for Cedar Rapids, Ed Helms‘s big follow-up to The Hangover. In this film Helms plays an inexperienced guy (again) who takes a trip (again) and gets blotto (again), beat up (again), and befriends a prostitute (again). And, it looks pretty funny (again).

I specifically like the scene where John C. Reilly drunkenly puts the garbage can top on his head and looks like the Juggernaut. Speaking of Jugs, Anne Heche strips her top off. I can’t decide how I’m supposed to feel about that. Is she hot? Or is that outweighed by the napping in stranger’s homes and claiming to be the alien half-sister of Jesus Christ who can talk to dead people and see into the future? Anne Heche watches too much damn”Battlestar Galactica.”

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