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Renowned American writer/animator/director Mike Judge and hype often seem like complete strangers. As noted in the press, Judge’s friendly, calm demeanor is devoid of Hollywood pretension; his preference for living and working in Austin, Texas posits him by choice away from the center of the pop-cult radar. But when one surveys his vast body of work that, since the early ’90s, has had the functionality of an assembly line yet is packed the witty punch and subversive observation of the greatest comedy, it can easily bowl over.

Speaking with him, the inherent voices of his animated characters—notably the polar opposites that are Beavis and Butt-Head and Hank Hill—hint at the mental arsenal that has perfectly illustrated the damaged, stubbornly resilient fault lines of a national landscape. Personal aside: Judge’s impact on many young people can be demonstrated by the following; on summer vacations, I’d swim in MTV marathons of Beavis and Butt-Head, then go to the beach with a tie-in towel sprinkled with “Uh-huh-huh”s and “Heh heh heh”s. Upon returning to middle school, I’d face a bully who, by eighth grade, had deliberately morphed into an uncanny, doomed facsimile of Butt-Head. It was a ubiquitous combination of “This rules!” and “This sucks!” set to the sights and sounds of the very music Judge championed and skewered on the show beyond compare.

Judge’s contributions to live-action comedy are equally successful, and sometimes financially so. Released to little fanfare in 1999, Office Space eventually became both the perennial example of the DVD cult phenom and synonymous with modern cubicle hell. His high concept follow-up, Idiocracy, experienced a famously aborted theatrical release; in less than three years, Idiocracy is now celebrated and oft-quoted by many peoples as nothing less than faux-low brow prophecy and a sci-fi omelet of chuckling eugenic fatalism.

With his latest, Extract, Judge has written and directed a rare and original comedic defense of the modern-day boss that exudes newer shades of adult drama. As nicely played by Jason Bateman, Judge’s boss is overloaded with sexual frustration, a petty lawsuit, lazy employees, and an accidentally massive intake of weed. The smart, unobtrusive film, one of the funnier of 2009, enters a marketplace overrun by superheroes and spectacle to deliver laughs that are charmingly huge yet reserved, absurd yet realistic. Some might feel that its subject matter is too common-man, too anti-escape. But Judge creates works that are built to last and unconcerned with being hip. In addition, he continues to propel the dumbass dick joke towards Art Americana. Mike Judge discussed where his nascent interest in nuts humor originates, his layman’s knowledge of bongs, and many other things with /Film.

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Mike Judge might have the least cluttered directorial style in popular American filmmaking. He’s so low-key and soft-spoken that it is easy to mistake his style for none at all. He does the heavy lifting on the script page and in casting. By the time the cameras are rolling, if things have gone as well as they did for Office Space, he’s just got to make sure everyone is in place, and things tend to work. It’s not flashy fireworks that make Office Space and now Extract memorable and quite funny, but a sense of uncomfortable familiarity.

For Extract, Judge reverses the comic hierarchy that defined Office Space. Instead of following the antics of disgruntled employees, he sympathizes with a quietly fraying boss. But as in the earlier comedy, this film warmly characterizes both sides of the labor argument, even when it casts those involved as morons and self-absorbed fools. Read More »

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It seems that everyone has been swept over with a wave of Beavis and Butthead nostalgia after they were featured in a recent Extract promo, and I’m sure that trend will only continue after word gets out about what Mike Judge has been thinking of doing with them if given the chance.  Our colleague Katey Rich over at Cinema Blend scored quite the scoop when she got Judge to reveal that he’s considered what it would be like for Beavis and Butthead to be in tech support, as well as what they’d be like as 60 year olds.

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Beavis and Butt-head Return to Promote Extract

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OK, that was weird. A serious wave of rare nostalgia just hit when I watched the first new Beavis and Butthead animation in, well, not really all that long. Looking around I see that Mike Judge‘s animated duo have popped up on MTV now and again for the Music Video Awards and stuff like a Jackass marathon. But if you’re like me and tend to avoid most of what airs on MTV in the last decade this might be like a little trip down memory lane. Check out Beavis and Butthead shilling for Extract after the jump. Read More »

New Extract Clip Online

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Miramax and Apple have conspired to make available a new clip from Mike Judge‘s upcoming Extract. Finally, a chance to use the notes I took on the panel last weekend that somehow never got published! Extract is Judge’s return to workplace comedy, and this clip is both a low-key office scene and an introduction to three of the main characters. See the clip and read or avoid some spoilers after the jump. Read More »

Avatar Banner Comic ConComingSoon has posted a photo (right) of one of the banners on display outside the San Diego Convention Center, promoting James Cameron‘s Avatar. The image shows a close-up of one of the ten foot blue tribal alien creatures called Na’vi. Warner Bros’ panel announcement included confirmation that Hall H will be set-up to screen 3D footage, which pretty much gaurentees that Fox will present footage from Avatar in 3D. I’m guessing that the same footage that premiered in Amsterdam at the cinema expo will be screened.

You’ve heard the buzz online, now see the movie! Derrick Comedy‘s Mystery Team will be presenting a special sneak preview screening (yes, the whole movie) on Thursday, July 23rd at 8pm at the Horton Plaza theaters. How can you attend the screening? Passes will be available at the Mystery Team booth on the show floor on either Wednesday night (preview night) or Thursday.

Tickets are now on sale for the Saturday night midnight screening of Darren Lynn Bousman‘s Repo! The Genetic Opera. Head on over to Fandango to purchase tickets. I’ve heard Bousman will be in attendance, and possibly some other cast members.

MTV has learned that Overture Films will be premiering a few select scenes from the sci-fi horror thriller Pandorum on July 23. The panel will include stars Ben Foster, Cung Le and Antje Traue (Cam Gigandet and Dennis Quaid will not be in attendance but Quaid has recorded a special taped greeting.

Mike Judge will be presenting footage from his new film Extract on July 25. But those not attending Comic Con don’t need to worry, MTV.com will be premiering the footage online at the same time as the panel. No word on if any cast members will be in attendance at the panel. [MTV]

Update: Miramax has confirmed that Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, & Kristen Wiig will also be on the panel, which takes place at 1pm in Hall H.

FirstShowing is reporting that Shane Acker‘s 9 will have a special sneak preview screening. Not sure when and where, but I’m sure tickets will be available somewhere on the show floor.

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Movie Trailer: Mike Judge’s Extract

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It’s been three years since Mike Judge has written and directed a film (2006’s Idiocracy got a raw deal from Fox in much the same way Office Space did), but with his new film Extract, his work is back again on the big screen and it looks just as good as anything he’s done in the past. Extract chronicles the trials and tribulations in the life of Joel (Jason Bateman), an normal guy who owns a flower extract plant. Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, and Mila Kunis fill out a sure-to-be-unstoppable cast. Extract hits theaters on September 4th, 2009. Check out the trailer (via Cinematical) after the jump and let us know what you think in the comments!
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Guess Who: Extract Edition

Guess which actor (seen right) was photographed sporting this new look outside the set of his new movie.

Not sure if this one is too easy or not. Answer after the jump.

Hint #1: The movie in question is Mike Judge’s new film Extract

Hint #2: He once played Superman, kinda

Hint #3: He was the bomb in Phantoms

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The following script review of Mike Judge’s Extract contains moderate spoilers.

Mike Judge remains one of the most important and original voices working in American Comedy today, and with Extract the writer-director may do for the bland absurdity of successful white guys in mid-life crisis, stagnant marriages, and bullshit factory jobs what he did for cubicle-drones in Office Space and untended ‘90s adolescence in Beavis and Butt-head.

Judge is fascinated by average dudes whose big pictures are realistically small pictures. But rather than spike his societal observations with pathologically self-aware condescension, college-y elitism, or rage like The Office or Tim and Eric Awesome Show (shows I love), Judge stews in it. The cool-guy alternative to a life that equates to “This sucks” sucks just as much. And as a result, there’s a half-empty glass of doom in Judge’s work that’s like enjoying a beer at a baseball game. His characters often pick up coffee mugs on the cusp of bleak realizations, and Judge reserves his laughter so you’ll laugh harder and savor the truths. I’m always surprised that Judge’s signature pregnant pauses translate as well on paper as they do in movies or animation.

When a character in Extract loses a testicle in an accident, this tragic ball directly and indirectly pushes the lives of other characters into existential free-fall. None more so than Joel Reynolds (to be played by Jason Bateman, nice choice), a married 40-something owner and operator of a food-flavoring extract plant. The randomness of his business is a McGuffin of sorts representing the majority of unglamorous American jobs we rarely read or think about, even if we have them ourselves. Joel’s stay-at-home-laptop wife, Suzie (to be played by Kristen Wiig), barely responds to his good-natured shares about a potential cookies-and-cream extract breakthrough. Their sex life is best summed up by her comfort-zone sweatpants and her love of the Idol, a jerk-off killer for Joel no less.

Joel’s his own boss, and with his McMarriage on the rocks, he doesn’t have many people to confide in. Most of the employees at his factory are uneducated, lazy idiots who ineptly handle boxes of extract like self-important lemmings, so he laments inside the sports bar of a Holiday Inn owned by his friend Dean. According to Dean, a borderline shadeball, the solution to Joel’s common problems are Xanax, Special K and a brilliant plan. If Suzie cheats on him, Joel can cheat on her with the hot piece of ass—too good to be true—that just arrived at his plant (to be played by Mila Kunis). (I’m pretty sure Dean’s drugdealer is played by Ben Affleck).

This plan backfires, of course, with his wife enjoying a prolonged Skinemax scenario at his expense. Joel’s journey of self marches through a funny storm consisting of an annoying fucking neighbor, minor drug use, gossipy employees, and a proto-American lawsuit involving that aforementioned character’s ball. If the guy had lost both his balls, he’d be a complete freak one lawyer surmises, but the loss of one could mean piles of sympathy moolah.

This is not a script bursting with commercial appeal, but it has the workings of a sleeper hit, a resulting film that should satisfy Office Space’s sizable following, including people who couldn’t tolerate or warm to Idiocracy’s blast-stupid-with-stupid M.O. on DVD. The script’s dry and dark ending is what sealed the deal for me. Rather than turn a new leaf, Joel endures the chaos, like in real life. And it made me realize how few comedies we see these days about actual adults, rather than teens, 20somethings or stunted 30somethings. Extract is about processing personal fuck-ups and limitations and other peoples’ into a schematic of 40something sanity and compromise. It’s also about the vulnerability of the nutsack. And the guy who refers to everyone at work as “dinkus.” I hope to never meet him.

8.5/10

Discuss: Are you anticipating Mike Judge’s Extract? Where do you think Judge ranks amongst today’s comedy directors and writers?

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