“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 2008 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Ben Stiller / Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Brandon T. Jackson, Bill Hader, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel ... / Blu-ray released 2009-01-26 at Paramount Home Entertainment / Features of the Blu-ray: PAL „
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I'm not a big Ben Stiller fan and even though I have enjoyed the films he has been in such as Dodgeball, it seems that for every good film he has done there are just as many bad ones. Its not that I dislike the man at all, but what he did to Starsky and Hutch is unforgiveable!! So watching him in Tropic Thunder has really bought home a few truths about the actor.
Tropic Thunder is a film within a film, it's also a comedy on a satirical scale that allows a large cast to be involved, and it has to be said that the cast here are well known names that in general are easily recognised. The story begins with the cast being assembled on location to begin filming. A Vietnam veteran has written a book called Tropic Thunder and this is being turned into a movie, the director is under immense pressure from the studio to get the production moving, so he has taken the gamble to film in guerrilla style with cameras set up along the path the actors take, the actors being in character all the time. Seeing as the location for this is the dense jungle of Vietnam to give the film the reality it requires, a sudden accident with the director stepping on a landmine means the actors are on their own in what can only be described as the badlands!
Ben Stiller plays the lead character, Tugg Speedman. Stiller has buffed up for the role to immense proportions like Stallone did for Rambo, and with a totally buff body. At the beginning of the film you are introduced to each of the main characters by watching them appear in trailers for their respective films, in the case of Speedman he appears in false trailers for Scorcher action movies where he saves the world. Stiller also wrote the film and you can see that he has deliberately phased himself away from having the nest lines, this happens to the extent that his co-stars such as Robert Downey Jr and also Jack Black take the prize for screen presence and literally rob Stiller of having any input in the second half of the film.
Robert Downey Jr plays Australian Kirk Lazarus. Strangely based on Russell Crowe the character of Lazarus has substantial amount of make up applied to keep him character throughout the film. The only trouble is that Lazarus has turned himself into the complete opposite colour skin, hair and speech and has absorbed himself into the black character of Sergeant Lincoln Osiris. This is probably one of the controversial characters in the film and Downey Jr pulls this off with a great gusto and shows how he can actually act in the film; however his dialect is more Airplane jive yet adds a depth to what we see.
Jack Black plays troubled actor Jeff Portnoy. Portnoy is a character that has a drugs history and to be honest is the one person in the film that I didn't like as I couldn't understand what is was with him and who the character is actually based on given the fact that he seems to be a washed out comic whose only gaga comes from fart jokes, although has trailer did remind me of Eddie Murphy.
Finally the team is rounded off by Brandon T Jackson playing rapper Alpa Chino. Okay it's a play on words of the well known actor; however this is more LL Cool J, than anything else. Jackson has that chemistry with Black on screen and the two are partnered together in various situations. Jackson does well and holds his ground amongst the bigger stars and yet he is simply bought along for the ride and doesn't have that much to do to the last third of the film apart from being disgusted with the way that Lazarus is taking, in fact there is quite a discussion about this in the film that Chino starts as he tell Lazarus that he isn't talking right for black man that he is pretending to be which kicks things off!
Surprisingly Tom Cruise is in this film as Les Grossman, the studio executive that is an ignorant and arrogant person. With Cruise almost unrecognizable in the role with padding and latex as well as the character being bald the premise that this is Cruise doesn't hold weight with me at all and the character although funny in parts comes across as quite scary when I close up. Grossman is mainly seen swearing and shouting to get his own way, and throughout you see just how low he can go, the end credits are taken up with Grossman dancing to the end score.
With co stars such as Nick Nolte and additional cameos from Tobey McGuire as a Monk and Steve Coogan as the unfortunate inexperienced director of the film and the whole film is given a far more satirical feel than comedic in nature. The three main leads only really come into their own once they are in the jungle and been abandoned, only they don't know that they are on their own at all and while they are still in character the circumstances change considerably and situations take place that see them in meet what they think are extras.
Obviously with the film starting on a high and setting the audience expectations with the false trailers, the sheer energy of the film cannot be kept for the entire 107 minutes that the film lasts and Stiller has cleverly ensured that the pace settles down where it should and picks up allowing the audience to keep track. Stiller was also the director of the actual film and I liked the way he has directed the film given the broad scope of the story and the number of actors he has cast in the film itself. I think he called in a lot favors with people as some seem to be from Saturday Night Live and the film has that fell to it. It was interesting to read that he had structured the film on his experiences working in the movies and yet this is transferred across in somewhat of a smokescreen. What I mean by that is the characters can be recognized by how they speak and what they do to pinpoint a specific person; however the underlying currents then give a different picture. For example did he actually want Russell Crowe in the part? It's this kind of thinking that makes you think quite deep as to what Stiller is actually trying to achieve.
Although I enjoyed the film and I think it will be remembered as the film that re-launched Robert Downey Jr's career as an actor. It is a journey of discovery as almost all the characters at some point in the film are outside their respective comfort zones and aren't quite sure what to do in each situation they come across and so you have a multiple layered film as an actor is playing an actor playing a character. Yes it is confusing and throughout the film the scenes with the production crew who are believe the actors are dead makes a good sub-plot and balances out the story nicely.
In a film like this there isn't any reason why action sequences shouldn't be included and here they are very good in the way they are executed and shown and reminded me more of a war film such as Platoon or Apocalypse Now in the way the explosions took place and the manner in which they are conceived. Okay the first one being a total mistake with timing that causes a whole host of calamities with the production crew getting a right royal roasting, yet it's the main leads that come across at the end and although the ending is probably too sugary in nature for the film, it does leave it open for a sequel to be made.
Extras wise, this is Blu-ray. The transfer is good as you would expect and the greenery of the jungle is complete and looks fantastic as the different shades are depicted with sound quality and also very sharp. I could write a whole page about the extras as well as Downey Jr as Lazurus is still in character as Osiris and does a commentary as him, which is not only original to hear but also hilarious as you can hear the other cast members literally creasing up as Downey speaks. Its worth getting for this original extra on its own!! Add a plethora of documentaries and featurettes detailing the making of the film and the work done to Tom Cruise for him to become the character he plays then you have a full on insight into film making... but the commentary is the best ever extra for a Blu-ray that I have seen in a long while.
Overall the expectations are set in the first five minutes which open the story well for the rest of the film and I think this is probably the better part of the film. Yes there are nods to other war films and these are obvious when watching this, but the film is a very deep and can easily be counted as a black comedy by some given the depths that Stiller's character is driven. The film is meant to satire the cinematic world and yet it manages simply to make a lot of fun off it and you see the characters get defined as complete idiots regardless of who they are and the film covers everyone from the agents to the studio executives in its reach. Stiller has delivered a funny film that different people will see and react to on different levels, certainly on Blu-ray this is a mighty fine looking film given the quality and the soundtrack that captures the mood of the film completely and if projected correctly raises the film to another level. It has its faults, and although these can be looked over, the film delivers to entertain and make people laugh.
Tropic Thunder is what I think, one of the funniest of all of Ben Stiller's movies. Stiller not only acts in it, but also directs and co-produces the film, it also stars other great actors such as Tom Cruise, Steve Coogan, Robert Downey Jnr and Jack Black.
The movie tells the story of 5 'high profile' actors attempting to make a film about a team of US soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War with its making not going according to plan. The scene is cleverly set right at the beginning introducing the actors by showing trailers from their former movies and it quickly becomes evident that Ben Stiller's character, Tugg Speedman, is beyond his best and struggling to find decent roles to play, where as Robert Downy Jnr.'s character, Kirk Lazarus, is a serious actor at the top of his career, having just undergone a skin pigment change to become African American in appearance for the role. This theme and competition between actors continues thoughout the film.
Jack Black plays the role of a fairly successful actor named Jeff Portnoy whose previous movies, The Fatties and The Fatties 2, which strongly resembles Eddy Murphy's 'The Clumps'. His character is also a Heroin addict which struggles to control his addiction throughout the movie.
From early on, the making of the movie is not going as well as the director (played by Steve Coogan) wishes, with the actors lacking the 'fear' required to accurately play the roles, which makes the sponsor Les Grossman (played by Tom Cruise) considering withdrawal of funding.
In a desperate bid to keep filming, the actors are dropped off in the middle of the Vietnam jungle with rigged explosives and cameras wired to the trees to try and really scare them. The team become hopelessly lost in the jungle due to Tugg's useless map reading ability and before long they split up, which then leads Tugg Speedman to become captured by a gang of Heroin manufactures and tortured, forced to play an on-stage role of one of his former characters from a previous film, its up to the rest of the team to rescue him.
~The Blu-ray Disc~
The disc comes with the feature film and several extras included on the Disc which are:
- Filmmaker and Cast Commentaries
- Before the Thunder
- The Hot LZ
- Blowing S#%t up
- Deigning the Thunder
- The Cast of Tropic Thunder
- Rain of Madness
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Alternate Ending
- Full Mags
The product also comes with a Digital Copy disc, which allows you to legally put the movie on other portable devices such as your ipod or iphone.
Overall, this film a fantastic watch, it provides non-stop entertainment and laughs. I would without doubt recommend this movie to anyone, especially in blu-ray format, which provided excellent quality and visual effects.
Give any director on the planet $100 million to spend and they will do just that. This is the type of mega budget that would make perhaps half a modern summer blockbuster, or just cover the advertising budget. There are genres that do not require large sums of cash and actually thrive from being poorly funded. Drama and comedy work on a very basic level only requiring interaction between characters and on occasion not even this. Big budget comedies often become overblown and lose their way as the special effects detract from the laughs. This happened with 'Evan Almighty' and '1941'; would the same thing happen to Ben Stiller's 'Tropic Thunder'?
On the location of a big budget war film events start off poorly and get worse. The stars are all selfish egotists with a has-been action hero, a pompous character actor, an exploitative rapper and a drugged up comedian all trying to invigorate their careers. The inexperienced director is unable to handle these mega stars and in a state of panic he decides to take them into the jungle for a series of realistic location shots. With just the stars, director, FX man and grizzled ex-soldier to help the shoot suddenly becomes too realistic when they stumble across a drug cartel. Will the film crew realise that what they are seeing is real before it's too late?
Stiller is best known as a star of other people's comedy films. But he has directed before with 'The Cable Guy' and 'Zoolander' on his CV. He specialises in a slightly darker comedy that is further left field than even his usual acting work. With this in mind I was dubious that such a director would need to make a big budget film, zany and cash do not mix that well. One thing is for sure the money is on the screen. The film is based around the filming of another movie, therefore in context the special effects work because they are part of the film within the film. As the story progresses and moves away from this to 'real life' then the excuse is gone. In terms of visual presentation Stiller does a good job. This is especially noticeable in BluRay were the jungle setting really shines. I usually dissuade people from bothering with comedy films on BluRay as they look as good on DVD, but this one makes great use of the technology.
Does the visual splendour get in the way of the comedy? I am afraid that it does. The first ten minutes of the film acts as a mini Entertainment TV segment that charts the various actors through their movies. Crammed into this short period are perhaps the best jokes of the film as Stiller, Robert Downey Jr and Jack Black spoof the likes of Stallone, Crowe and Murphy. The film peaks throughout when it is making jokes at the film industry from the various funny cameos to Downey's character's obsession with method acting. When mocking the absurdity of making a war movie 'Tropic Thunder' is an intelligent and funny film.
It is a shame then that the majority of the film does not follow this trend, but instead moves towards action comedy. Once the actors arrive in the jungle it is not only the characters that start to lose their way, but also the film. The second half has far fewer laughs and feels flabby in places. The use of action to compensate does not work when you are trying to watch a comedy film. I think that perhaps Stiller allowed the budget to go to his head a little bit at this point and lost track that character is the essence of comedy.
'Tropic Thunder' is by no means a poor film and of the batch of 2008 'funny' films it stand out as one of the best. The performances are spot on as you would expect from an experienced comedy group. Black, Stiller and Steve Coogan all show great comedic timing, but the plaudits rightly go to Downey Jr as the white Australian actor playing an African American. The role perfectly skates the line of poor taste and intelligent parody. It is a part that should have personified the film as a whole, because when it is at its best it feels cutting edge. Unfortunately, unlike the Downey role the film becomes toothless as it progresses.
Having been disappointed with almost every mainstream comedy of 2008 'Tropic Thunder' stands out as one to watch. With a stellar comedy cast there is no denying that the film has plenty of laughs, add to this some pretty impressive direction and you have an epic comedy film. Unfortunately, comedy films are not always best when epic as you lose the humanity that makes them funny. By half way this is what happens in 'Tropic Thunder' as the intelligent parody of modern film making turns into a bloated action comedy that is happier talking about farts. Overall, it is a film that is still worth watching, but it is not as good as it should have been.
Director: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr and Jack Black
Price: Amazon uk £16.68 (BluRay)
Play.com £16.99 (BluRay)
'Tropic Thunder' has to have one of the best set of extras of any BluRay yet. You get the traditional extras such as two commentaries and loads of behind the scenes features. You also get a fake behind the scenes of the fake film within a film (!). This mimics the documentary that was made about 'Apocalypse Now' - a clever idea.
Additionally you can also download a copy of the film off the disc onto your iPod!
Also as mentioned the transfer is an excellent one as the jungle setting really looks good through HD.
This film is great on DVD but is it worth the extra for the Blu-Ray version?
In the film, the crew are preparing to make an action war movie in Southeast Asia, but just as they start they are mistaken for rebels and become involved in a real life war.
The film is filled with laughs with a fantastic script that is very entertaining. The actors present the laughs very well and the acting is also good. However, in some parts the film is abit cheap. The film does have some stereotypes but isn't offensive in any way.
The film can be watched over and over again without it becoming boring. You may find some more laughs that you missed due to laughing.
The Blu-Ray quality is fantastic and far better than the DVD version using a HDTV. The surround sound also works alot better as it crisper.
The Blu-Ray version contain some extras such as commentary and behind the scenes footage. It also has some bloopers that can't be missed.
Overall, the Blu-Ray version contains lots of extras that the DVD version doesn't and the quality is also far better. The Blu-Ray is slighty more expensive than the DVD version but is it also better value.
Tropic thunder was a film that i had been looking forward to seeing for quite a while, from the trailers it looked a real blast and very funny indeed so from the film I was expecting a real laugh out loud experience, and it does deliver in many ways but it probably wasnt as funny as I was expecting but it is still a very funny movie.
The film itself sees a bunch of actors dropped off in a jungle for a movie unaware what they are going through is actually very real indeed. It all does work very well and he cast to this film really does make it work, Ben Stiller as Tugg speedman puts in his usual effective comedy performance as well as Jack Black who plays Jeff 'Fats' Portney and the standout performance of the film from Robert Downey jr as Australian Kirk Lazarus who for the film that they are making turns himself into a blackman by having surgery. Other decent performances also come from Brandon T. jackson as well as Bill Hader, Nick Nolte and a great comedic performance from Tom Cruise who is almost unrecognisble as studio boss Len Grossman.
The film really is a funny as well as fun experience it is very funny in parts although maybe not as funny as I thought it would be throughout the film but it still raises plenty of laugh. The action sequences in the film as well are very well shot and they are really some great special effects as well as some very gross out moments within the film.
Overall I found Tropic Thunder to be a very funny experience, it was maybe that my expectations were a bit to high going into the movie that I maybe felt slighly disappointed but it was still a very funny film and the more i realise that I did enjoy it very much, it wont be to everyone liking but if this is your type of comedy then you are going to love it.
I am in two minds about this film. Whilst it looks very good on blu-ray - especially the explosions and big Apocalypse Now type shots - I don't think this is enough to redeem it for not being as funny as I had hoped. The funniest bit of the film for me was actually not part of the film itself but one of the mock trailers at the beginning of the film for 'Satan's Alley'. Robert Downey Jr is very funny as a method actor who refuses to break character as a blaxploitation style soldier. Ben Stiller is also good as a Rambo inspired hard man. I just found Jack Black a bit annoying and indulgent really and I think the 'coked out guy' character is generally overused and not that funny any more. I was surprised to find that Matthew McConnaghey was actually quite amusing rather than just annoying and Tom Cruise's grotesque was very funny although it still felt like he was holding back a little. The film seemed to really drag in parts and was a bit jumbled and chaotic in places although on the whole it was quite enjoyable.