Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why SNL's 39th Season Will Be the Bestest TV Season of All TV Seasons

I had a dream last weekend.
I was sitting in a grey room, a police siren was hanging from the ceiling.  One of those old-fashioned sirens, the one an undercover 1970's cop would take out of their glove compartment and throw on the roof.  It began flashing, and a voice next to me said, "Whenever you're ready."
Standing in front of me were Aidy Bryant and Tim Robinson, and both were already launching into their impressions of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I only knew it was her because both of them started by saying, "Hello, I'm German Chancellor Angela Merkel."
Aidy appeared to be going for the accurate look; wig, wrinkles, and business suit.  Tim was wearing a rock band t-shirt and was drawing a Hitler mustache on his upper lip with a marker.
I looked over, and Lorne Michaels was a few feet away with one hand in his pants making furious circles in his crotch.  The other hand held a choke chain that was attached to the neck of Seth Meyer, who was banging away at a typewriter and picking lint from Lorne's pant leg.
There were grunts and commotion, as Aidy and Tim began to shove each other and wrestle.  The punches began to land, and I noticed Cecily Strong sitting in the corner.  She was sitting in the corner, make-up running down her face, slapping herself across the face as she cried, "I'm crazy! *slap* I'm the girlfriend! *slap* I'm crazy! *slap* I'm the girlfriend! *slap*"
Someone's tooth landed in my lap.  I don't know whose, there were several teeth scattered across the floor.  Whenever someone would draw blood, Seth Meyer would cock his head to the side and say, "Really?"
And every new bruise seemed to excite Lorne even more, his hand moving faster faster as smoke eminated from his lap.
Aidy has gained the upper hand and was smashing Tim's head into the floor, crushing it flatter and flatter.  He was still managing to get his monologue out.  Lorne looked on with dull surprise.  Seth Meyer said, "Really?"
After Tim's head was reduced to jelly, Aidy growled and sprang like a lion to the corner, ripping Cecily's throat out with her teeth.  Cecily didn't try to defend herself, she just repeated her mantra, "I'M CRAZY! *SLAP* I'M THE GIRLFRIEND! *SLAP*",  even as Aidy ate her voice box and she could only wheeze.
The blood from the two corpses was pooling around my nice shoes.  I realized I was wearing a collared shirt and a tie.  I heard a howl, a guttural roar, and Aidy was standing with her arms raised in victory and her face covered in blood and flesh.  Then, she hemorrhaged from every orifice in her face.
At that moment, I knew Lorne Michaels has ejaculated because the air smelled of sawdust.
Aidy fell face first on top of Tim.
Seth Meyers cocked his head and said, "Really?"
Then Lorne looked at me and said, "Whenever you're ready."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

No Strings Attached

It really doesn't make any sense that I would see another film with Ashton Kutcher in it, especially after last week's Killers disaster.  But, here goes...

No Strings Attached

I first heard about No Strings Attached when a movie blog mentioned its complete and total resemblence to another movie, Friends With Benefits. In fact, this movie (with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) was originally titled Friends with Benefits until they found out about the first Friends with Benefits, and hadn't figured out another title until they got close to press screenings.
Hollywood appears to do this frequently. Armageddon and Deep Impact, Antz and A Bug's Life – movies released far too close together that have essentially the same set-up. By the time the sex-friends-comedy-romance happened with these two, all I could do was shrug and say, “Meh.”
It was probably because of this that I decided to never see these two when they came out in theaters, even when I heard people gushing over Friends with Benefits (the one with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake). Thankfully, the unlimited streaming of Netflix allows me to bend my standards a bit and watch movies that I initially would have passed.
Seems like I passed this one for good reason.
Biggest problem—there is no reason that I could see for these two to be together. Ashton Kutcher's character falls for her at sleepaway camp because she listens to him when he talks about his parents divorcing. The fact that she was already talking in character bullet points (I'm not good with feelings) was enough to drive me away, but him straight-out asking to finger her? Yeah. Thanks, movie. Even the dumbest of teenagers knows you work your way up to fingering.
But yes, nothing is shown in their interactions of the first act to give any reason as to why these two, or even one of them, would be interested in a relationship. Ignoring the fact that some people feel the onus/responsibility of changing a person so they can become the dream partner that people have been drooling for, it makes no sense that he would still hold a candle for this girl after all these years, when it's obvious that she's not interested in more and the movie has shown nothing more of their interactions to make me even think that they're more than friendly.
And from this logic gap, the gap between the movie and my sympathy got even wider. Here is my thought timeline:

  • i hate your friends.
    • (Really, what is it about movies that has to make the main character's friends unlikeable dickbags who excel at giving him supreme-stupid advice?)
  • just because the music makes a joke, does not mean it is right for this movie
  • your references will be dated in 6 months
  • it's like a crime scene in my pants
    • Die!
    • Die!
    • Die!
  • Period Mix CD
    • Die!
  • There was a good movie in here somewhere
  • If he HAD hooked up with Mindy Kaling, I would care much more about what was happening right now.
  • Is she trying to hook up with the doctor because he reminds her of her dad? Because really, that would make this much more interesting.
  • Fuck. This. Movie.
  • That pumpkin line would actually work if oh I don't know they were actually overtanned and looked like the pumpkins she described! Fuck. This. Movie.
  • Today's Criminally Misused Performer is Kevin Kline. Runner-up! Cary Elwes. I think Natalie Portman watched The Princess Bride a few too many times.
    • I'm not kidding with that point.  Natalie Portman is one of the producers of this films and is only a couple years older than I am.  She had to have had some influence over the casting of this film. And I believe that at some point, her character was going to sleep with the doctor and someone in the studio just cut the scene.  I have to believe this, because otherwise I'm going to scream.
  • They really, really did not know which lines to cut. There is a difference between laying down for a punishing joke and totally blowing the setup.
  • Once again, a really good moment that I care less about (still care a bit) because of everything else that has pushed me away.
  • This movie is a living representation of my feelings for this movie.
    • I wish I could remember what moment this refers to, but the longer I wait, the less this diseased piece of celluloid lives in my brain.
  • Oh no, there's still 35 minutes left in this movie. Please, please, PLEASE let there be a penguin.
  • Hey, who is the producer? She's actually interesting and somewhat...not damaged.
  • So, her father died. Okay.
  • And he's still listening to his friends. Fuck it. I've changed my mind. You don't deserve happiness.
  • Lake Bell -- I love you.
  • The Pomeranian is one of the highlights of this film.
  • Best moment: Kevin Kline crying as he talks about fucking ugly women while high on blow. AND he wrote and performed an original song for this film! Why is Kevin Kline not getting more work???

At a certain point in the film, I saw a “director” sitting at a bank of monitors. And I thought, “Is that Ivan Reitman?” I wasn't even sure I could recognize Ivan Reitman, since he's made his career as a producer/director and never gone in front of the camera too much.
Sure enough, it was him. Not only was it him, but he directed this film.  The deflation I felt when I discovered this -- well, it immediately reminded me of The Moody Blues.  A former British R&B group who took a big step in the late 60's and created two landmark albums that helped defined a sound (Days of Future Passed and In Search of the Lost Chord), securing their place as legends.  They continued on, recording good music and staying interesting until...something just happened.  And they changed.  And it didn't seem like anything should have happened to make them change in such a manner, but now they're in such a different and uninteresting place, it doesn't even feel like these disparate works of art came from the same artist.
Ivan Reitman was a creative force behind some of my early film favorites -- Stripes, Animal House, Ghostbusters -- my dad, who was instrumental in shaping my film taste and sense of humor, showed me all of these films.  We bonded over these films.  They were wild, anarchic, wonderful films that were the jump-off point for my interest in not only comedy, but Second City and the Chicago comedy scene.
And then came No Strings Attached...

And once again, it's a Hollywood-look film, everything is very well composed and lit, everyone looks very pretty (even the supposed ugly people look good), and there is absolutely no bite. Just pretty people doing dumb things.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Of course, the obvious question, "Why the hell did you watch this film?"
I'm not sure why I did, anymore.  The thought was that I would give the film a fair shake, having never seen any of Katherine Heigl's films and still somewhat harboring a distaste for Aston Kutcher for having a career instead of Topher Grace.  I was also somewhat hopeful that this was listed under Action/Adventure instead of Romantic Comedy, which is what I believe it was sold as.
Well. Fuck. Me.  For.  Trying.
The timeline of my thoughts during the film:

  • OMG, this is Alien from L.A.
  • So, the CIA has no problem with this movie using its name? The President's Analyst had to change its agency's name, but this dumbass movie gets a pass?  And even with the portrayal of a paranoid senior agent who sacrifices his own employees just to kill his son-in-law? (SPOILER, but who cares? You're not going to see this fucking movie)
  • Rob Riggle: DIE.  Alex Borstein: DIE
  • Produced by Ashton -- oh shit, I'm going to die, aren't I?
  • Lesson: if you use the 60's style titles sequence while making the rest of your film look like major studio product and not adding one bit of character to the proceedings, you can fuck off.
  • It's the leads -- and the script -- and if she's that concerned about lying, why is she lying?  Oh.  Because the movie demands it.  You know, for someone who self-labels herself as nerd bait (she works in a software company and from what I can tell, only in sales) you would think that at least some of the interesting personal quirks would have rubbed off on her, not to mention a tolerance for the different personalities among us.  The things she says and does in regards to this part of her life just makes her sound like a cheerleader slumming in TV Production class just so it can go on her college application.
  • Recast -- Felicia Day and Channing Tatum
  • Your friends are idiots and assholes.
  • He is three snarky comments away from blowing Tom Selleck's head off -- and I'd support him.  Not liking/empathizing with any of the characters is not where you want your audience to live, movie!
  • Alcoholism is funny! :D  It can be funny -- you are not making it funny.  Catherine O'Hara is wasted in this film.
  • You know, what that scene really needed was a fart.  Good on ya.
  • Alcoholism -- still funny!
  • It is no compliment when your character reminds me of Kate Capshaw's character in Temple of Doom.
  • Just because a piece of music invokes a mood you want does not mean that mood fits with the rest of the film.
  • Gross Pointe Blank did the killer origin story much better.  Gunfight over downtime?  No contest.
  • Moments of this story are good.  Once again, actors and script.
  • There is NO given reason why she came back!
  • This is the whole movie?  This is the whole MOVIE?!
  • I want Catherine O'Hara to be my grandma.
I was pissed off when this movie finished.  Fucking livid.  For the first time in a while, I felt cheated out of my time by a movie.  I can't even remember the last time I had this much anger toward a piece of celluloid.  It took two Jack and Cokes and a viewing of Marathon Man to calm myself down.
On the subject -- here's how to do the "my loved one is a secret agent" film much better.  Marathon Man. Deeper stakes for the characters, action and pacing that took its time, and actual character arcs instead of just lining up the inevitable punch.  The punch shouldn't feel inevitable -- in fact, we shouldn't believe the main character will ever be capable of throwing it.
The violence was nastier and more visceral.  The suspense was better.  The humor was NOT FOR CHEAP LAUGHS.  Oh, and I'll take Dustin Hoffman, Roy Schneider, Sir Lawrence Olivier, William Goldman, and John Schlesinger over the group that made Killers any day.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Next Three Days

Some part of me hasn't been happy with Paul Haggis since I saw the movie Crash.  I remember seeing the film and feeling manipulated, used, and conned out of my time.
Now, I looked at my movie queue and saw that the next movie was The Next Three Days.  Okay, I thought.  I somewhat remember hearing about this film, and I couldn't remember whether it was well-received.
If it wasn't, I wouldn't be surprised.  That movie just kept going and going and I felt like it hadn't started about 45 minutes in.  For a film like this, it should be a great set-up -- a teacher attempts to break his convict wife out of prison.  And the performances by Elizabeth Banks and Russell Crowe are moving, nothing against them.
But...I found myself checking the time as I watched the movie, counting how many minutes until the end, because I wasn't sure it would ever get going in some forward direction.
And I was wondering why Liam Neeson was put in such a small role.  It stood out in a way that I can almost describe as awkward.
Thankfully, it got going and I got invested back in the film, rooting for the escape to be pulled off.  Then, I noticed something in the credits.
"Based on the film 'Pour Elle'"
Turns out that once again, Hollywood can't help but go to other film markets for ideas.  IMDB tells me that the original Pour Elle has a runtime of 96 minutes (vs 155 minutes), the wife was sentenced to 20 years (not life, like the Haggis version), and a budget of approx 8 million Euros (which pales to the 35 million spent on the American verson)
I know there have been many jokes about how Americans have to  make everything bigger and better.  I have not yet seen Pour Elle, so I can only definitely say that they made it bigger.
Definitely bigger.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I really need to challenge myself more often.
Let me restart.
I will give anything a chance, as far as movies and tv shows are concerned.  My usual rule is, "As soon as I want the main characters to die in a fire, I'm done."  It's why I don't watch True Blood.
Now, when I say I will give anything a chance, there has to be something about the movie that will grab my attention -- the actors involved, something to do with the story, subject matter that I will find interesting -- and as of late, I've turned that to "movies that look like they will be incredibly stupid and ripe for picking apart".  Which is why I selected the movie Daybreakers.
I had never heard of this film.  It apparently passed in through around out of theaters and to the rental market a few years ago.  It made back its budget, was labeled as a B movie and (I suppose) was not to be heard from again.  I'm glad I added it to my queue, because This.  Was.  Fun.
They had me from the opening -- a suicide.  Not the best way to open every movie, but it works here.  I immediately wanted to see more.
I'm not claiming that this film is Citizen Kane or even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but it is an interesting variant on the vampire story; vampires have taken over, are farming humans for their blood supply, and have gone beyond "peak blood", to steal and change a phrase.  The social and economic overtones in this movie can be chilling, and the journey of watching the search for a cure was enthralling.
Things this movie did right:
--No romantic subplot.  There were hints of one, but there was no kissy-kissy.  That was fucking refreshing.
--Told us only as much as it needed to.  The ending was much more satisfying thanks to some storytelling switcharounds.
--Allowed only a few comic moments.  Thanks to Willem Dafoe
The last time I can remember being so taken back by something I was watching was when I saw Boondock Saints for the first time.
--cast talented actors that were right for the parts
--did not try to do too much with special effects
--watching a low-level employee raid blood supplies while a riot is going on...

There were a lot of things I really liked about this film.  I want to say that the fact that I can't think of any one thing to point out and I'm having a hard time criticizing would be the mark of a great film, but this isn't a great film.  And I know it's not a great film because my world view is not being challenged any way by this flick.  In fact, it's reinforcing more than a few notions I have (99 PERCENT!) It's a really good popcorn flick, and I would not mind watching it again.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2-Headed Shark Attack

I willingly watched this movie, and I still don't know why.
As some famous dead person once said, "Because it's there."
2-Headed Shark Attack is another helping of sea-carnivore, brain-damaged idiocy from The Asylum.  The studio that brought us Transmorphers and Mega-Shark Vs. Giant Octopus has their formula down, and they certainly know how to work it.
Basic plot: 2-headed shark attacks boat.  Then it attacks the captain and coeds from the boat.  Then, it attacks an atoll. Atoll, you might ask?  And the smart-asses might yell out, "69 cents!", because some of us never moved on from Rocky Horror.
Atoll: (n) a coral island (or islands) that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.
These films are not watched for the great acting (there's barely any good acting) or the clever writing (exposition HO!) or even for the great special effects (bad CG, frenetic [and occasionally confusing] editing, and obvious rubber models).  They're background noise for parties, cannon-fodder for MST3K/Rifftrax pretenders, and for the rare "Did that really just happen moments" like:

  • a stoner stabbing a shark with a wooden crucifix
  • 2 girls who think they've escaped to the safety of a dock getting eaten by said 2-headed shark
  • Carmen Electra doing her best actressing
  • Killing off the only black guy by dumping him off a boat and not going back to fish him out of the water before he becomes chum
  • Brooke Hogan being a genius with things mechanical...and she can weld
I can't harp on her too much.  She's doing her damndest with the little experience she's had in films.  And she was one of the few people worth paying attention to (with Charlie O'Connell, Corinne Nobili, and Geoff Ward sharing the dubious, but important honor).  At some point, I hoped these four wouldn't get eaten.
I also have to give some (not much) credit to the writers for giving Brooke's character something resembling a personal arc and journey.  Granted, most of it was through exposition dumps and I was really hoping she would

Random thoughts from during the movie:
"I only care about the non-english speaking characters right now."
"So, automatic lesbians?"
*waves arm in random directions * "I'm welding!  I'm welding!" (that's for the first welder, not Brooke.  She was somewhat believable.)
"Yeah.  Boobs.  So what?  I have the internet."
"Okay, now pretend you're a dolphin.  Now, spit corn syrup out of your mouth and cry."
"Why do you want to rescue him? Movie, I am disappoint."
"Suddenly we're in a nature sanctuary?"
"Why is the atoll sinking?"
"Why does this shark hate atolls so much?"

If it seems like I expected more -- I didn't.  But at least knowing where things fell short and where there was some good in this obvious cash-grab of a film makes me feel like I'm still paying attention.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Right Up the Spine

Well, things have changed. Since I last wrote, a number of things have changed. I can't really say that they were a result of reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, but that book did get my brain going in ways I didn't expect.
Earlier this week, I played a quickie show on no sleep. I didn't know how I was going to survive the process, but watching the video later reaffirmed my faith in my abilities. The guy who booked me even wrote me afterwards to thank me for playing the show again. If they're ever looking for a guy who looks like a strung-out meth-head to sing about creative stagnation and corporate greed, I'm set.
I've been getting the NaNoWriMo e-mails again. I did try to write last year -- it was another result of life stress providing inspiration. I would write at night, clicking my laptop keys and hoping that they wouldn't wake her up. Of course, the cycle would go through and things would be okay. And I forgot all the work I did and all the emotions I had. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the world I had created. Seemed so wrong to leave it unfinished.
I think I'm going to try something completely different this year. I have an idea for a tv series that I always knew I would have to wait to try. People don't want to commit to big ideas unless there is big money involved. But I don't have to convince anyone to commit to a book.
Now, to contemplate shrews.