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I have to say I really enjoyed this film. I saw it at Tribeca last
month and to be honest I didn't have high expectations. I personally
don't like most of the movies the writer/director (Zak Penn) has
written of late (mostly big action comic book movies), but this is not
that kind of film.
What honestly attracted me to this film was that it's an improv style film starring one of my favorite SNL people ever, Chris Parnell. He doesn't disappoint. He plays a lonely poker player who has some kind of mental problem where he's brutally honest and very, very skilled in math (which makes him a great player). Chris steals every scene he's in, which aren't enough if you ask me, but I'm biased so take that with a grain of salt.
The other actors hold their own in their respective roles all working to try and win a big tournament for 10 million dollars. I don't know enough about poker to know if it's at all accurate, but the good thing is the film doesn't really focus on actual poker all that often.
If you like the films of Christopher Guest (which I do), then I think you'll like this film as well.
Every once in a while a filmmaker is brave enough to try something a
little different. This is one of those occasions and it deserves
bountiful praise for both bravery and laughs.
The cast is excellent and weird while the story-lines are randomly weaved together gems of the absurd and quirky. Further, the concept of playing out a real poker tournament while asking these actors and comedians to stay within character is nothing short of genius. Not a simple accomplishment and thus, it doesn't always work perfectly and therefore no 10 stars.
The ensemble put together for this movie pretty much ensured some hysterical stuff. It is a good idea to step out of the way and let funny people be funny. Well done indeed.
It's hard to be a poker fan in the world of movies. Let's face it, how
many great poker movies can you think of? "Rounders" perhaps. Despite
"Texas Hold'Em" growing extraordinarily popular over the last few
years, Hollywood has really failed to capitalize on the trend. I'm
happy to report that the wait is over. "The Grand" not only emerges as
a wonderful poker film, but also one of the best comedies I've seen in
ages. While it doesn't seem to be well known now, I predict it will
find a massive audience on DVD and Cable, ala "Office Space".
"The Grand" is a mocumentary (in the tradition of Christopher Guest), following six players as they compete in huge Texas Hold'em tournament in Nevada. Along the way we meet many other supporting characters, including family and friends of the main six, as well as other participants in the tournament. The initial six are
Woody Harrelson as "One Eyed" Jack Faro. He is a lifetime drug abuser who has inherited the "Rabbit's Foot Casino" from his grandfather. A large debt has forced him to enter into the tournament his Casino is hosting.
Cheryl Hines as Lainie Schwartzman. She is a mother of five who supports her family (which includes a deadbeat husband) as a professional poker player. She is also the sister of
David Cross as Larry Schwartzman. He is also a professional poker player, known around the circuit for his obnoxious behavior. The fact that his father puts his support behind his sister Lainie only motivates him more to win the tournament.
Chris Parnell as Harold Melvin. A statistics expert who uses his knowledge of numbers to his advantage as a poker pro. He is also ludicrously Anti-Social, and lives still lives with his elderly mother.
Dennis Farina as Deuce Fairbanks. The old timer who's been on the scene for years, and has nothing but contempt for what's become of the game over the past few years.
Richard Kind as Andy Andrews. A novice player who won an online poker tournament by chance to win his seat at "The Grand", despite knowing absolutely nothing about the game of poker.
Some supporting performers include Judy Greer, Michael McKean, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, and Shannon Elizabeth. Real life Pro players Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Laak also make appearances, as well as filmmakers Brett Ratner and Werner Herzog.
As you can see, this is a huge ensemble, and director Zak Penn handles it impeccably. Every performance shines, and the pace is fast and fun. I think I laughed three times as much in this film than in any feature all year. The humor is always there, be it in the witty dialogue, the great ensemble, or the various clever scenarios.
As stated before, the film is structured similarly to a Chris Guest mocumentary, alternating between testimonials of the characters, and following the players around as they play in the tournament. The tournament itself is presented similarity to a telecast of "The World Series of Poker", complete with mismatched commentators.
I'm not the biggest fan of Penn's superhero stuff, but I thought he did something clever with his Herzog Loch Ness project. Here, he hits a real sweet spot, creating a real love letter to fans of poker and smart comedy alike.
I just saw this movie at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was hard to get
a ticket to the show and I waited in line for a while. I was lucky to
get in because it was raining. But once I got inside, I forgot all
about being wet because I was laughing too hard.
Now let me just say that I'm not a fan of Zack Penn's movies. I hated X-Men 3 and all the other superhero crap he's written. But I did love Incident At Lock Ness, which I thought was pretty clever and I really loved seeing Werner Herzog (who is my hero, if you couldn't tell from my name) playing with his mystique.
But I guess I should get to actually reviewing this movie. It was hilarious. Even better than Lock Ness. The movie is also a mockumentary, very much like Best In Show by Christopher Guest, but follows a bunch of poker players who are all crazy, as they reach the final table in a poker tournament. They are played by a bunch of recognizable comedians like Ray Romano, the wife from Curb Your Enthusiasm but even better, David Cruss (my favorite character) from the awesome Mr. Show and Chris Parnell from SNL. And of course, the always awesome Herzog, who plays "The German" a guy who likes to kill animals rather than drink caffeine.
What was really cool is that Zack explained in his Q&A afterwords that the final poker table was played for real and whoever won the game, won the movie. I won't spoil who wins, but just say that it makes it totally impossible to predict who wins the movie because all the characters have the same chance of winning.
I think the other reviewer who gave the movie five stars out of ten has something against the movie. It wasn't great art, like Werner's normal movies, but tremendously entertaining. It is very funny, sometimes very slapstick and other times very absurd. I think anyone who likes Christopher Guest movies or any of these great comedians will love the film.
Being a regular poker player myself, i was probably more interested in
watching this, than a non poker player, but you do not have to be an
avid poker fan to enjoy this movie, though it would be slightly more
interesting if you was.
Although the main basis of the film is about 6 people who have made the final table of a £10m poker tournament, it goes into more detail at the start of the film, of each particular person and their background etc, so by the end of the movie when the final is being played, you will probably have a favourite as to who you want to win.
But although the movie was watchable, it wasn't that good that you would want to watch it again and halfway through the film you've a pretty good idea how its going to end.
If you are into poker, look out for cameo appearances of Doyle Brunson and Phil Helmuth.
Verdict: Watchable but don't expect too much out of it.
Yes, its silly, but so was Spinal Tap, which The Grand owes a debt to
in many ways.
Gabe Kaplan is hilarious as the father of two poker pros and Dennis Farina has the old time Vegas hood down pat. Phil Gordon, the best live teacher in poker, has some great lines as the tournament commentator.
You will spot a friend or yourself in one or more of the players, and the cameos are fun, including Phil "the hillside strangler" Laak as he was introduced..
If you like poker and still have a funny bone, this is as good as it gets.
So I managed to see The Grand a little while ago at the Puerto Vallarta
Film Festival... I had no idea what to expect, as I am admittedly not
particularly familiar with the director's other work. I knew some of
the actors, but I'm not intimately familiar with their work, either,
except for Woody Harrelson. I am a poker fan, though, so I was excited
on that front. Well, let me just say that sometimes it's good to go in
with no expectations because you can really find yourself getting blown
Woody is the biggest name in the movie and one of the funniest. He plays Jack Faro, a down-on-his-luck guy who is trying to save the Rabbit's Foot Casino by winning The Grand poker tournament. David Cross from Arrested Development, Chris Parnell from Saturday Night Live and Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm are also in the movie and are all hilarious. Cross does a fine job letting the air out of those poker players who are so full of themselves.
There are real poker stars in the movie. My favorite, as my friends will attest to, is Phil Gordon, who is funny in the movie along with his announcing partner Mike Werbe. Werbe is like the Ron Popeil of poker. I think I need to learn the Werbe method for my weekly game. (Those of you who have seen the movie will know what I'm talking about.) I could go on, but I don't want to give anything away. From what I've read, the guys in the movie actually played the poker straight and they didn't know who was going to win or lose, so the movie was intriguing for its comedy and its poker. Who wants to watch a fixed hand like in ROunders? This is the real deal. Imagine if the World Series of Poker was a comedy like Spinal Tap or something and you have The Grand.
I definitely will recommend it to my friends when it hits theaters and I'll definitely go see it with them (and I usually won't see a movie in the theater twice.)
I don't find a lot of films very funny. The Grand made me laugh from beginning to end. I had no idea what to expect going into the film, but I can tell you that I cannot wait to see it again and have recommended it to everyone I know. The cast is outstanding. Woody Harrelson was completely in his element. From the opening credits I was immersed in this world of high stakes gambling, which really isn't so glamorous when you look at it from this angle. The Grand is going to be a cult classic. Zak Penn has done an exceptional job at taking talented actors, great characters and made a film that doesn't go where you expect it to. Thank you for great film making! The Grand is a breath of fresh air.
I'm not much interested in poker. Actually, I even don't play well. So, when I heard about this movie, I didn't pay much attention to it. But one day, I even can't explain why, I had a wish to watch it, maybe because a lot of really great actors play there. The main thing I want to say about it, is that it really made me to change my mind about poker. Now I really want to play this game and to do it well. It was really nice movie, very original, first I even thought that this is documental one, heh. So, it was very entertaining, it includes very good jokes, deep emotions, it shows relationships between each other and their attitude to game. So, this movie isn't only about poker as someone may think, this is big movie which refers to many important thing. So, I advice it to everyone, to those who like poker and to those who don't. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
I really love this movie ... some of the set pieces are exquisitely
timed and are truly very funny, Woody Harrelson is very good throughout
and holds everything together well, Chris Parnell is at times
hilarious, Gale Kaplan and Werner Herzog put in two brilliant top
drawer comic cameos, and even Phil Gordon manages a good deadpan
performance (much, much better than his poker?). There are plenty of
other astutely drawn characters like Barry 'Sob Story', the 'Bust You
Crew' and, need I say, Fred, Andy, Larry, Lainie and all the main
characters are excellent.
What story lines there are may be a bit obvious, but they do effectively drive the comedy right through to the epilogue and outtakes - I mean, who criticises the plot of Airplane? Story is not what The Grand is about, it is about laughing at poker, people and poker people.
If you are a poker fan you should love this movie ... I am, so I can't comment if not ... perhaps you won't find it funny at all.
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