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The Grand
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  • I never answer requests with a positive
    When Zak Penn is not writing movies about the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and Captain America, he does some quirky little indie movies.

    And the follow-up to "Incident at Loch Ness" is a far steadier animal -- a sort of mockumentary about a professional poker competition, and the wide range of weirdos connected to it. It starts off rather slowly, but Penn quickly hits his stride -- the resulting movie has all of Vegas' flashy glitz, and the quirk factor of a long-lost Christopher Guest mockumentary.

    Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson) inherited the Lucky Rabbit's Foot casino from his grandfather, but the casino has fallen on hard times -- primarily because Jack is addicted to everything he can snort, inject or drink, and he's been married seventy-four times. As the movie opens, he's been living in rehab for two years straight.

    Now a casino mogul (a gloriously cutthroat Michael McKean) is going to raze the Rabbit's Foot unless Jack can produce the money. His only hope is to win The Grand, a professional poker competition against some of the greatest poker players in the world -- including frustrated housewife, her obnoxious brother, a vitriol-tongued savant, a cutthroat veteran, a psychopathic German and a teacher from the Frostbite Amputation Capital of the World.

    So despite sponsoring the Grand, Faro joins it. But to save the Rabbit's Foot, he's not only going to have to survive the first rounds -- he'll have to use luck and skill to deal with the most cutthroat and/or talented poker players in the world. Tensions rise as the players work towards the final round -- but who will win ten million dollars?

    When one of the characters intently tells the camera that he recites the Mentat oath "before I drink my brain juice," you know that Penn has hit comedic gold. The first ten minutes of "The Grand" are rather tedious, since Penn is only introducing the idea of the Grand and Faro's situation. But once he starts introducing the characters and bringing them together, the mockumentary really gets moving.

    It follows the basic mockumentary formula -- a camera follows the characters around, and they talk seriously about bizarre things. Animal murder, Star Trek, pyromania ("I got this blowtorch as a wedding present..."), addictions and winning the competition ("I want to see the others crushed and disappear and crumble," the German says with the calm of a true psychopath). Even the poker commentators get in on the weirdness ("And it's easy, with the patented Mike Werbe flash cards!").

    And along the way, the characters do some pretty weird stuff too, such as Jack hitting on a pretty new employee only to find that she's one of his countless ex-wives. Since the characters spend a great deal of time sitting down, Penn has to compensate with lots of amusing dialogue ("... also, you have corn in your teeth") and he's good at making things just slightly too surreal.

    Despite all the quirk, it would be easy for "The Grand" to lapse into tedium because it's basically about people playing a card game, albeit for high stakes. But Penn's hilariously mocking writing ("Where are you from, your country? Is everyone as miserable as you?") and quickly shifting visions of the Strip and casinos keep things interesting. Lots of light, flash and sparkle.

    Harrelson does a nice solid job as a much-married Vegas heir, who seems to be perpetually stoned and laid-back even when being ejected from his own casino. But you can see a little desperation in the scene with Michael McKean, who is utterly hilarious as the evil, weird Steve Lavisch (he wears a hard hat when he looks at his construction models).

    And the other actors are also great -- Cheryl Hines is excellent as a wife who supports her family because of her hubby's fantasy football obsession, while Dennis Farina is deliciously nasty, Chris Parnell is unspeakably rude and weird ("Your bet on the river was as transparent as a cloaked Romulan bird of prey!"), and David Cross is bombastically horrific as Hines' "identical twin" brother.

    And Werner Herzog deserves a special shout-out for playing The German. Yes, that is the character's name. The great director does a wonderful, straight-faced job as a clearly insane poker-player who likes to kill small animals, and at one point informs Melvin, "I will SQUISH you." He's awesome.

    "The Grand" happily lampoons the wonderful world of pro poker, and it entertains a great deal along the way. Definitely one to check out, if the works of Christopher Guest have also been in the cards....more info
  • The Grand
    Hugely disappointing. May deserve more than the one star, but considering how incredibly good Penn's "Loch Ness" was, this was such a let down. Some of the characters are quite irritating and lot of the time it's just unfunny....more info
  • Not quite up to Christpher Guest's Standard
    If you liked "Best of Show", "A Mighty Wind" and "Waiting for Guffman" then you might be intersted in this movie. It has a totally different set of cast and crew and does not include Christpher Guest. Notice I ignored "For Your Consideration."

    This movie deals with a National Texas Hold Em winner take all tournment. The main character is Woody Harrelson who plays a down and out addicted to every known drug and vice low life who is about to lose his casino that his uncle gave to him before he died. Woody checks out of rehab where he has resided for the past two years to win the $10 million tournament and save his casino that he is about to lose to a shady real estate developer.

    The movie is a fictional docu-drama developing the characters of the 6 finalists and their family. They could have left Gabe Kaplan out of it!
    There are guest appearances by mainstays in the Texas Hold em tournaments, however, there is no character development on them possible because they have already been over exposed on ESPN et al.

    There were some instances where the spoofs failed but for the most part it was funny. The two announcers were even funnier than the announcers on "Dodge Ball"

    No Academy award winning performances but a great effort by all. The ending was different than you expected. The movie was just long enough to keep your attention.

    ...more info
    You will not be disappointed with this film! I give it a 10/10, 5 out of 5 stars, 2 thumbs up. It's a great poker film and an excellent film overall. The acting is far superior than any big blockbuster in years. The plot line and story flows well, with all the characters meeting at the final table. The sub plots aren't cheesy and are true to life. I can not think of a better film I've seen in the past 10 years. Too bad this was only a limited release. ...more info
  • Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!...Oh Wait, That's Blackjack
    There were mockumentaries before Rob Reiner, but I think it was Spinal Tap that made people realize just what the genre was capable of. And now, with talents like Christopher Guest and Larry David milking the style for all its worth, more people than ever before are taking their stab at it. With less than predictable results.

    THE GRAND doesn't work because of its story, which is hardly worth mentioning. I'll mention it anyway, since the rest of the review would make less sense if I didn't. A collection of poker players with different motives and styles come together to compete for $10 million dollars. (The "grand" of the title comes from the name of the tournament.) There you go. Now you're all caught up.

    Much like Guest's films, plot takes a backseat to the characters who populate it. These kinds of ensemble comedies are more about giving the actors/actresses a chance to have fun. The actual script for this film was only about twenty-nine page long; the real treat to the flick is watching a dozen or more comedians at the top of their game bantering the way you'd expect them to if they were, say, playing poker together.

    Of course, they stick to personas. Ray Romano is the lightning-addled Fred Marsh, husband of Cheryl Hines' no-nonsense Lainie Schwartzman, sister to David Cross' overly competitive Larry. Michael McKean, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Farina, Gabe Kaplan, Chris Parnell. I could list all of the talent, but then I wouldn't have time to tell you how much I loved this film.

    Okay, so I didn't love it. It runs a little long, and some of the cameos are bewildering (Hank Azaria) and just plain bad (Jason Alexander). Being a film buff, there were a few that I enjoyed on a rather obscure level (Are you ready for this one? German director Werner Herzog plays a cut-throat character called The German; four years ago, Herzog stared in a film called Incident at Loch Ness, which was a mockumentary of a documentary, directed and co-written by Zak Penn, director of THE GRAND).

    Yeah, so that's not what most are likely to get from the movie. I'll just say that there are things that don't work (try as you might, watching poker is hardly ever what anyone would call funny), but many more things that do. If you like even half of the names I've already mentioned, you can place odds you'll enjoy, on some level, this little film, even if it doesn't bother hiding any aces up its sleeves....more info
  • What A Loser
    The less said about this dog of a movie, the better. It ate up 104 minutes of my life. That is so unfair. It has to be one of the worst films I've ever seen. Under the Special Features Section I noticed that there are "Alternative Endings" and "Deleted Scenes" listed. I can't imagine what scenes were deleted. I can only say that not eough were.

    I always liked watching Woody Harrelson on "Cheers," as the dumb bartender who got off good one-liners. He falls flat on his face here, however, as the gambler with 74 wives. If one of those is the runaway bride from the Atlanta area-- the photograph looks just like her with that wide-eyed stare-- then that is mildly amusing. But all the king's horses and all the king's men can't save this scrambled egg of a movie.

    Walk your dog, play with your cat or treat youself to a good chocolate dessert but avoid this film at all costs unless you are certain you will live to see a hundred and have precious time to waste. ...more info
  • Feisty follow-up to INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS... sort of.
    I'm genuinely pleased that the ensemble mockumentary has become its own genre, and one no longer dominated by the aptly-praised Christopher Guest. Zak Penn has taken breaks from superhero movies twice now to enter the field. His last effort, INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, is an impossible act to follow, but he tries. The cast, alone, is worth the price of the DVD, with the funniest moments coming from unlikely sources such as Dennis Farina and the fabulous Werner Herzog, who should star in at least one comedy every year. His deadpan sincerity once again serves as Penn's secret weapon of comedy. As for the rest of the film...? It does not pack all of the "Best in Show" laughs in that I would hope (but what does?), yet seeing David Cross, Cheryl Hines, Hank Azaria, Richard Kind, Jason Alexander, Chris Parnell, and a de-sitcomized (and thus, funnier) Ray Romano, Judy Greer, and Michael McKean sharing the screen WITH GABE KAPLAN was worth it. In a way, the film felt like a private, Friar's Club improv done during a round of drinks. The one-two-three punchline structure became less important than the pleasure of seeing everyone "in one room." Worth appreciating, too, is the father-son arc of David Cross and Gabe Kaplan, played with a subtle quality that never strays into the maudlin. If you enjoyed THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS, this will be especially appealing. Zak Penn needs to keep at it. If this isn't a stepping stone in his evolution as a humorist, it's certainly a fun exercise. ...more info
  • A good a couple of good long laughs
    I just saw a poker movie:Deal
    As far as acting goes, for a comedy satire on poker
    and the crazy players involved,
    it was hard to tell the two apart?
    A little slow and some of the jokes are maybe to "in"
    or intellectual for a lot of the comedy crowd:
    I think I missed them or didn't get them.
    Any intense championship has these people who narrow their lives.
    In most play like this getting to the final table has a minimum prize, too?
    I think a more "glitter", slick and ridiculous dress might improve the comedy effect? The real players seem to be better at
    reading people and knowing the odds....more info
  • Buffet style comedy 3 solids & 1/2 a shrimp cocktail
    The Grand lets you nibble at the bits and morsels floating through what is seemingly a largely improvised comedy stew. If Woody's character isn't making you laugh, then you can wait for Chris Parnell's Harold Melvin to swim through, or Ray Romano and family to tickle your funny bone. For me the moments that worked best came from Gabe Kaplan's character and his interactions with his family (David Cross, Ray Romano). There are cameos galore from the poker universe (Phil Laak), and beyond (Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria etc..) It all plays out through the quasi documentary talking to the camera style of comedy, but overall really feels much more like a feature film that should have been a one season cable show perhaps. Werner Herzog and Chris Parnell are the only characters who feel like "real" people, but the rest of the cast have some pretty funny moments. Not quite what I was hoping for with this cast, but still pretty darn good, even Brett Ratner has a decent scene.
    The poker jokes work, (especially David Cross's hat and techniques) and by the end the story might actually have you caring a bit for these characters. The alternate endings in the extras disappoint as do the deleted scenes, but the players profile section is worth checking out as it contains some entertaining deleted scenes for each character. Pretty much what I figured would be playing on the tube in my Presidential Suite at the Happi Inn. Is Mike Werbe really this funny? ...more info
  • Occasionally hilarious
    I really enjoyed Zak Penn's previous feature, Incident at Loch Ness, which was really strange and quite funny. Unfortunately, The Grand, while occasionally quite funny, is kind of a mess.

    In The Grand, a movie about a high-stakes poker tournament, it seems like the director just gave the actors bare outlines of their characters and said "do something funny." The whole thing is a pretty clear attempt to make a movie like Best in Show (Penn goes so far as to use Michael McKean in a small role), but the results just aren't as good.

    The problem I often have with ensemble casts is that usually some of the performers are much better than others, but they all get about the same amount of screen time. In The Grand, Richard Kind, Chris Parnell, and Ray Romano seem to base their entire performances on one or two quirks, and really, they aren't very interesting. Werner Herzog, who I would probably watch reading the phone book, is criminally underutilized, and is essentially one joke that keeps repeating itself. Woody Harrelson, David Cross, and Denis Farina all have some hilarious scenes, but they're few and far between.

    The movie also features Celebrity Poker Tournament commentator Phil Gordon as...the tournament's commentator. Gordon's color commentator, played by Michael Karnow, is a combination of Fred Willard's character in Best in Show and Jason Bateman's character in Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story (Unrated Edition), except that he isn't funny.

    The biggest problem is that the movie is terribly lopsided. The first half or so is pretty good, giving background on the players and showing them working their way toward the final, big-money game. Unfortunately, once they get there, the movie slows to a crawl and the comedy mostly disappears.

    Overall, The Grand is a really problematic movie with a few hilarious lines. For fans of Michael McKean's ensemble improv comedies, I'd suggest renting this one. For others, I'd say skip it....more info
  • Know when to fold 'em
    Zak Penn put one of the masters of the mockumentary, Micheal McKean in a supporting role for this Poker Tourney lightweight comedy. What Penn should have done was pay a little more attention to DVD's of Best in Show or A Mighty Wind, because "The Grand" stumbles over too many surreal drags.

    Woody Harrelson (as Jack Faro) heads up an all-star ensemble as a drug-addled loser who has to take the big prize or he'll lose the casino his Grandfather left him. He has the part down as a discombobulated stoner whose multiple ex-wives keep dropping in. He's about the funniest thing here. The only other really interesting character is Cheryl Hines (as Lainie Schwartzman), who at least doesn't act like a cardboard cut-out (Dennis Farina, I'm looking at you).

    There are also a ton of cameos, like Jason Alexander, Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, and Shannon Elizabeth. Real life Poker-Pros Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Laak also make appearances, as well as filmmakers Brett Ratner and Werner Herzog (who puts in a goofy performance as a bunny loving "The German"). But none of this jump starts. A few of the folks are genuinely annoying (although naming a soulless numbers geek Harold Melvin is a good joke) and I just wanted to smack Gabe Kaplan's ugly mug as the creepy, overbearing Dad to the Schwartzmann twins. Too many of the 'jokes' were unfunny and forced - especially the tournament TV announcers. Sometimes, a script ain't such a bad idea.

    You want a good Card-Player DVD? Check out Rounders or The Cincinnati Kid. Hell, even Casino will give you a bigger kick. But let's face it, this wanted to be The Spinal Tap of the poker craze. "The Grand" doesn't even lick Christopher Guest's boots....more info
  • great movie
    director gives many funny actors the freedom to show their skills. great movie if you don't play poker. A must-see if you do....more info
  • A star studded movie
    The World Series of Poker on ESPN is a popular game show. This game has become increasingly popular on few other TV channels, and this movie capitalizes on this TV interest. The story revolves around Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson), a semi-rehabilitated gambler, womanizer and a serial groom, hopes to save his casino, left by his grandfather, by winning $10 million at The Grand Championship of Poker in Las Vegas. The field consists of six poker pundits and experts. Jason Alexander (TV series; Seinfeld), Ray Romano (TV Series; Everybody Loves Raymond), Gabe Kaplan (TV series; Welcome Back Kotter), Denis Farina, and Richard Kind (Spin City) star in this comedy directed by Zak Penn. The movie set in Vegas has plenty of inappropriate language, and it moves slowly; many times it is boring. At one instance the ghost of grandfather of Jack Faro appears for no apparent reason and then after a brief conversation disappears. There is no interesting plot or suspense, although I am a fan of Woody Harrelson, I will say that you could do without this movie.
    1. Go Further
    2. The Cowboy Way
    3. Senior Trip
    4. Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete Series
    5. Seinfeld - The Complete Series
    6. Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete First Season ...more info
  • Not as funny as it wants to be
    With a cast as talented as this, I had high hopes for The Grand. Alas, it did not live up to them. The actors are game enough, but every scene falls flat and fails to merit a smile, let alone a chuckle. You end up feeling embarassed for the performers more than anything else.

    Skip this one. You'll be thankful that you did....more info
  • A cool half grand
    There's enough funny material in THE GRAND to construct a really funny, sharp comedy film, if the feature were on the short side (say about an hour). Unfortunately, the film as released runs a long one hundred and four minutes. It's notoriously difficult to stretch a light, comedy movie for over an hour and a half, and despite possessing a lot of good things one could say about it, THE GRAND shows us why length can hurt.

    The film starts with an entire tournament worth of poker players attempting to win a ten million dollar grand prize. While eventually the cast is whittled down to six, many of the secondary characters get a fair amount of screen time. The guy with the most compelling case for getting the money is Woody Harrelson (our protagonist), a man who is emerging from a two year stint in rehab and looking to win the money in order to keep his dead grandfather's casino financially afloat.

    The cast is filled with a plethora of well-known actors and comedians. So much so that it's more of a shock when a new character is introduced and one doesn't, in fact, recognize the actor or actress. For the most part, the cast is uniformly good; even actors I don't usually care for did an admirable job. Kudos to the rarely seen Gabe Kaplan who easily walks away with every scene he's in.

    So it wouldn't be fair to point any fingers of blame for the film's woes in the direction of the actors. The problems come mostly from the outline of the script and the pacing. The film really starts to drag the farther along it goes. This isn't helped by the fact that during the final third, the emphasis appears to move from telling jokes to concentrating on the outcome of the poker games. I don't think this worked. The poker stuff was fine when it was a stage for telling jokes, but I don't think it was developed enough for it to carry what nominally is a light and fun comedy.

    A film of this length isn't helped by recurring jokes and situations that simply aren't funny. You'll remember the funny announcers from BEST IN SHOW. There is a similar gimmick here, but it lightning fails to strike twice. Just because something was funny in a similar mockumentary, it doesn't follow that the same idea will work in a different film.

    If you're a fan of any of the huge number of celebrities who appear, then you'll probably want to check it out. And even if you aren't, this is still a film worth watching once. The actors and comedians are all hugely funny. Many of the one-liners and gags are simply great. But there is some wasted potential here, which is a shame given the cast and the parts of the film that do succeed....more info
  • Possibly the Worst Film Ever
    I'm stunned at how bad this movie is. It's like all the people from Bravo's Celebrity Poker were sitting around when they heard that the show wasn't getting picked up for another season and said "hey -- why don't we do a Chris Guest kind of movie about poker? We'll get a bunch of other celebrities who play poker and a bunch of professional poker players and we'll make a great comedy." Instead they made this piece of offensive and not even the least bit funny junk. Perhaps if you find jokes about killing hobos, killing small animals, and drinking semen amusing, you might enjoy this picture, but I doubt it. Even if you're a complete poker junkie you probably won't like this too much. There is some mild fun to be had from trying to figure out which actual poker player inspired each of the characters, and in trying to spot all the poker player cameos, but not enough to make it worth watching this film. Even the poker is pretty lame. I have to hand it to the filmmakers for convincing such amazing talent to do this garbage. I can only assume that they didn't actually read the script first....more info
  • Funny? yes. Rewatchable? hmmm.
    The Grand may never have been at a theater near me. Considering the actors involved (Harrelson, Cross, Hines) it's surprising that more wasn't said of the film upon its release. Harrelson is the core of the film -- a man addicted to everything who must win the tournament to buy back the casino his grandpa built. Harrelson plays his burnout addict with a mixture of hopelessness and enthusiasm that brings him above cliche. In fact, most of the actors manage to bring some perfect tic that sparkles in every scene. Chris Parnell's Dune-worshipping "genius" rises above the lame trekky nerd that films like this seem to rely on because of a lack of imagination.

    I guess the real accomplishment of the film is that Zak Penn & Matt Bierman construct interesting enough characters that allow the actors to provide depth through improvisation. Determining what was on the page and what was discovered during filming is almost impossible (without listening to the commentary track, of course).

    The film is fun, but loses steam in the last 30 minutes because the demands of the storyline require a focused look at the game of poker itself. People who aren't into poker may find themselves lost or bored at this point, whereas knowledge of the game wasn't required for the first two-thirds. I suspect Penn isn't concerned with that, but I was disappointed that even with my understanding of poker (don't mistake that for an interest), I considered skipping ahead just to find out what happens.

    I'm not sure how re-watchable this movie is. There are plenty of funny moments (Michael McKeon's scenes in particular), but the pace isn't strong enough to warrant repetitive viewings (something good comedies offer -- at least, comedies I'd want to own).

    One thing I noticed -- the sound on the DVD is very low. I had to double our volume just to get a reasonable listening level. Strange and sad, considering the bulk of the movie is dialog. ...more info
  • Funny Flick
    The all star cast was a bit suprising since it was only in a limited release but the movie is funny and unpredictable. a great add to my collection....more info
  • It was okay
    Being a fan of Zak Penn (X-Men, Incredible Hulk) and Woody Harrelson I expected to like this movie more than I did. Most of the actors in this film don't get the credit they deserve.

    The cast was an excellent choice for an improv style film. They handled their scenes well and some of them left you wishing they had more screen time.

    I'm not a big fan of televised poker. It gives me that same feeling as when I flip the channel and find bowling. There's just not enough going on to keep my attention (Generation X). However after watching The Grand I might give it a chance on one of those evenings when nothing is on. Thanks to DVR that doesn't happen too often.

    I'm not in the minority giving this movie 3 stars. At the time of my review that's the average. I don't believe that most people will either love or hate this film I think that most people will feel neutral. Like my earlier comment regarding watching poker when nothing else is on I give this film the same attention. If you don't have anything else to watch then The Grand will suit you nicely....more info
  • Traffic school would be more fun...
    When I think back on my life and times I have wasted, I will look back wistfully on this 104 minutes, and wonder how I sat through it. I was literally counting the mintutes till it was over. At 56 minutes there was 48 minutes left. I felt like a marathon runner hitting the wall.

    Yet, I feel a strange sense of accomplishment for having lived through it.

    A fine cast of actors. Was this supposed to be a mockumentary or a comedy?
    There was no clear vision. There was very little crispy dialogue, no synergy or connection between the characters. There were two jokes, that made me laugh hard, the first was forty minutes, and second was about six minutes later.

    As for the acting, Cheryl Hines was good, I think her experience in Curb Your Enthusiasm was invaluable here. Woody Harrelson, well you would have to be a big fan to sit through this one.

    If you want to see funny mockumentary, check out the works of Christopher Guest, such as Best in Show, and Spinal Tap, and even A mighty Wind which was a spoof on folk singers.

    If you were to find this review helpful, please click yes....more info
  • dull, unfunny comedy
    "The Grand" is a mockumentary about six internet poker players who gather in Las Vegas for a $10 million, winner-take-all tournament.

    A game, eclectic cast - Woody Harrelson, Hank Azaria, Chris Parnell, Ray Romano, Werner Herzog, Gabe Kaplan - struggles with a mediocre script that, in tone as well as in style, steals clumsily from all those far superior Christopher Guest movies like "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind." In the case of "The Grand," the humor is largely lacking, as each eccentric character plays out his little assigned shtick over and over and over again.

    As executed by writer/director Zak Penn, the poker scenes are particularly languid and lifeless and utterly incomprehensible to any non-poker players who may happen to be a part of the audience. ...more info
  • Very funny ensemble comedy - Chris Parnell steals the show
    There are times when everyone takes a gamble on a straight-to-DVD movie that they've never heard of. Usually that stab in the dark doesn't pay off, for any number of reasons (i.e. bad acting, weak writing, etc). "The Grand" is a rare - and welcome - opposite of that scenario. Though the movie goes on a little too long and has several rather dry spells, I was laughing throughout most of the movie.

    There really isn't much plot to speak of. A bunch of eccentric people travel to the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas to compete in a poker tournament - with a grand prize of ten million dollars. The large ensemble cast was allowed to improvise most of their dialogue. As is the case with most improvisation-based movies, the results are decidedly hit-or-miss. The strength of the cast - most of whom you will either know or at least recognize - makes it all work. Woody Harrelson is the main character, and as such also carries the movie's main narrative thread. He plays Jack Faro who, after getting out of drug rehab, finds he can't keep the casino he inherited in business. The casino is so far in debt, Faro has no choice other than watch it get torn down - unless he wins the big jackpot at the poker tournament.

    The real fun in the movie isn't in plot development, it is the inventiveness of it's varied cast. Former SNL cast member Chris Parnell is spectacularly funny as an emotionally stunted savant-like poker genious. He lives with his mom (Seinfeld's Estelle Harris), who mixes absurd quantities of "brain juice" - vitamin supplement shakes - for her son. Parnell - often very effective during his SNL years, but still not well known outside of that - is hilarious while being very subtle. Subtlety isn't always frequently displayed in anything-goes improv-based movies, but Parnell manages to steal the entire movie by underplaying.

    Speaking of Seinfeld's Estelle Harris, another alum of that show turns up - Jason Alexander. He is probably the least successful in this movie, precisely because he takes the opposite route from Chris Parnell. Alexander chews the scenery as a foreigner who's homeland is never quite established. Luckily the former George Costanza isn't in the movie much, in what amounts to little more than a glorified cameo.

    Other highlights in the cast are Curb Your Enthusiasm's Cheryl Hines, who has some funny scenes with Ray Romano (who plays her husband). David Cross in on board, playing the sibling of Hines' character. Gabe Kaplan is outstanding as their father, who perpetually favored his daughter or his son. They all have a dinner scene together that is squirm-inducing in it's awkward hilarity.

    I could go on about the cast, which also includes fine appearances by Michael McKean, Dennis Farina, Werner Herzog, Judy Greer, and others - including real-life poker champs and commentators. But suffice it to say, this is a comedy that delivers laughs. The movie is kinda-sorta done in the style of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries. The characters do plenty of talking to the camera, but that probably only amounts to about half the movie. The rest is staged as a normal narrative movie.

    Lots of bells and whistles appear on the DVD, including commentaries from the filmmakers and various cast members. There are a couple alternate endings that are interesting. A number of deleted scenes are on hand, as well as character profiles that flesh out each of the main characters with extra footage.

    ...more info
  • A Safe Bet for Laughs
    The secret behind any good poker player is ambition -- elevating the poor hand and turning it into a winner -- and THE GRAND, as a film, gives it a good shot. With plenty of recognizable faces (Woody Harrelson, Dennis Farina, Michael McKean just to name a few), the film plays out like a bad poker hand -- through a series of awkward bluffs -- and ends up coming off much better than luck or skill probably intended or deserved, especially for fans of any of these types of films. For harmless laughs, it's a safe bet. The grand problem with THE GRAND is that the narrative never quite figures out what it wants to be: a mockumentary, a reality-show spoof, or a traditional big screen comedy. The film boasts equal parts of each type of film, and, unfortunately, never mesh into a fully formed whole.

    ...more info
  • Quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen!
    Save your money, not even worth a rental fee. I read the bad reviews and thought how bad can it really be? It has a good cast, it's about poker which I love, and it's in Vegas! Well, it was terrible! It had to have been written on the fly as it appeared no thought was put into it whatsoever. What a waste of a talented cast. ...more info
  • The Grand
    Well, this film has no sacred area which makes it funny and mockerary to all insitutions. It is one of those no hidden meanings flicks (I seen none) however it is meant for a chuckle or two. I'm not sure, but I would say it is like Mel Brooks "It's a Mad Mad World" (from the60's) with an updated theme. Great all star cast here folks.

    Hope this helps. ...more info
  • The Grand Is Grand Fun!
    In this hilarious ensemble comedy from writer/director Zak Penn, actors Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Dennis Farina, Cheryl Hines, Richard Kind and Chris Parnell are an eclectic group of poker players, each hoping to win $10 million cash at The Grand Championship Of Poker. Through humorous backstories, viewers not only get to know the players but also what is at stake for each of them. This, I feel, vests the viewer more in the characters' poker playing scenes during The Grand Championship, as opposed to 104 minutes of non-stop poker playing from characters the viewer knows hardly anything about. Rated R for language and some drug content, the humor and style of The Grand, for me, is more in the vein of Election (1999) and NBC's The Office. The Grand, at a running time of 104 min. features a fine score by Stephen Endleman, excellent cinematography, Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) video, Dolby Surround 5.1 & 2.0 audio, plus the follwing Special Features: Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Wild Cards: Player Profiles, Audio Commentary with Zak Penn (Writer/Producer/Director), Matt Bierman (Writer/Executive Producer) and Michael Karnow (Actor). Despite its pedigree, The Grand was still a gamble, as it is with most ensemble comedies these days. Luckily, it paid off. ...more info