Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sarah Silverman Program - Season Two, Vol. One

Thank God, Comedy Central didn't cancel this show. For every bad show Comedy Central has on the air (Mind of Mencia) they seem to cancel two or three great ones. I'm still pissed they canceled Upright Citizens Brigade for Battlebots. Luckily, The Sarah Silverman Program avoided the axe and survived to see another season. People are pretty divided with this show. Some people love it while others can't stand it. I think it's because The Sarah Silverman Program has such a distinct style and voice that it really does have a certain audience, but it should be given the credit it really deserves.

Some might be annoyed that this release isn't a complete season. The writer's strike put a halt on the series last season (only at six episodes) but continued the rest of the season recently. I for one am not annoyed by their decision to release a Volume 1 set. I say this because I'd rather have it out than have to wait for the rest of the season to end (10 more episodes) and wait for them to release the DVD. Sure, you have to buy two volumes and I wouldn't put it past them to release the whole season at a later date, but too much time was taken in between and it makes sense to have this release. Also this means they're able to provide more extras, especially commentary, which I'm keen on.

The Sarah Silverman Program follows the everyday life of Sarah Silverman, her two gay neighbors and friends Brian and Steve (played by the straight Brian Posehn and Steve Agee), her sister Laura (played by her actual sister Laura Silverman) and Laura's cop boyfriend Jay (played by Jay Johnston). What makes the show enjoyable is that it doesn't follow the conventional sitcom formula and is even a step above programs that attempt the same thing.

What really makes this show is not Silverman (although she is great in this), but rather the supporting players. The cast is strong and very funny. Brian Posehn (Mr.Show, Comedians of Comedy and Just Shoot Me) and Steve Agee (best known from the "Chad Vader" shorts) have some of the best B and C storylines in the show and Laura Silverman (The Comeback, Dr. Katz) plays a great "straight man" or voice of reason in the chaos that goes on in this world, not to mention the naïve goofiness and often wet blanket character that Jay Johnston (Mr.Show) plays as Laura's boyfriend. Even the bit parts standout and flesh out the show. I was happy to see the return of the strange and hilarious characters The Mustangs (one of them is played by writer Chris Ramono) and the dark tone they took on in the episode "Doodie". There's also the return of God (played by Tucker Smallwood), Jay's coworker's Paul and Tig (both outstanding stand-up comedians played by Paul F. Topmkins and Tig Notaro) and the introduction of Mini Coffee, host of Cookie Party (played by Rob Schrab). It's this supporting cast of characters and bit parts that really make The Sarah Silverman Program as enjoyable as it is.

What I love about this show the most is the writing. When you can take the "real" world and have unrealistic and bizarre things happen and it not raise a question of believability or rationalization is great. It's there and it may be odd but it serves the purpose for comedic effect. It's something that shows like Strangers With Candy, Stella and The Adventures of Pete and Pete did so well. It's those hilarious fantastical things that take the show to another level that your average run-of-the-mill comedy show would never take a chance on.

Just like Silverman's standup, there are some pretty controversial topics covered but in a way only Silverman (and very few others) can pull off. For instance, there's the episode "Face Wars" where Silverman dons in black face in order to see what's it's like to black for a day and how they face prejudice. Yeah, it sounds terrible, but you have to watch it to really understand its context. The episode "Ah, Men", where she dates God and the episode "Bored of the Rings," which dealt with abortion, were also episodes that got some flak when they aired. I can see why people would be sensitive to it, but it's done in such a ridiculous and funny way that I can't understand how anyone could take the material so seriously and to heart.

The Sarah Silverman Program - S2, V1 has a great comedy team behind it. Writers Rob Schrab, Dan Harmon, Chris Romano, and Jon Schroeder have all done things for Channel 101 (awesome website with hilarious shorts), Human Giant, Heat Vision and Jack (the popular Jack Black and Owen Wilson Knight Rider-esque pilot that never made it on Fox) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Acceptable TV (which was VERY underrated), the film Monster House and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Directors Schrab, Wayne McClammy and Steven K. Tsuchida really bring out the show's strong comedic points and are perfect to bring to life the unique material written. Schrab is best known for his Channel 101 shorts like "Twigger's Holiday" and "Ringwald and Molly" and the short film "Robot Bastard". McClammy was the director for the "I'm F**king Matt Damon" video which was seen on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Tsuchida did the acclaimed short "A Ninja Pays Half My Rent". Then there are the producers of the show that include Todd Barry (very funny stand-up), Megan Murphy (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Erin O'Malley (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Da Ali G Show and Greg The Bunny), Chris Smirnoff (Greg The Bunny and The PJs), Stephanie Meurer (Robot Chicken) as well as some of the writers and directors I mentioned earlier. Whew! An impressive roster that is evident in the end product.

The extras are pretty entertaining. I was very pleased with the commentary since they do offer some good insight and stories behind the episodes. My only problem with it is that there's no commentary for the episode "Joan of Arf". Other extras include the 2007 Comic Con panel, which is okay. It's only okay because the questions asked weren't all that great. Why is it at these panels the people who shouldn't ask questions always get a chance to ask them and waste good time? Then there are two digital shorts that include an animated feature called "Steve and Brian's Basement Adventure" (which was written and directed Justin Roiland who did the very funny web shorts "House of Cosbys") and a live-action short called "Brian's New Office". Also included are the animated shorts "Cookies Come Alive! Part I, II and III" (They're supposed to be the cartoons that are shown during "Cookie Party" and even have intros from Mini Coffee and Ookie) and finally Behind-The-Scenes shorts that are actually more sketches than anything really behind the scenes.

So far the rest of season two airing currently has held up and continues to keep me tuning in every week and hoping Comedy Central doesn't slip up and rob it of a much deserved third season. If you're a fan of Silverman and The Sarah Silverman Program (or even the type of humor I mentioned earlier with similar shows in tone and structure), I highly recommend you pick this DVD (and its first season) up.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Foot Fist Way

For about a year or two now I kept hearing about this low budget comedy called The Foot Fist Way starring an unknown but hilarious actor by the name of Danny McBride. Comedians like Patton Oswalt would talk about it and commentaries on films like Superbad and Hot Rod (both of which Danny McBride appeared in) would mention The Foot Fist Way. Once I saw McBride's performance in Hot Rod and heard about this small film he did, I was a bit annoyed I wouldn't be able to see it since it wasn't available to see anywhere (at least close), even on DVD. Thankfully Will Ferrell and Adam McKay stepped in and picked up the distribution rights so it could get a proper release. It also helped that McBride had roles in the successful summer films Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express. There are a good number of people in the comedy world who love this movie and were hoping it'd be a surprise hit, but when the movie was released, it didn't seem to have that effect. But now that it's out on DVD, it might be able to find that larger audience.

The Foot Fist Way (which is the literal English translation of Tae Kwon Do) is about a Tae Kwon Do instructor by the name of Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) who proclaims himself the "king of the demo" (a demonstration of Tae Kwon Do). When Simmons finds out his wife (Mary Jane Bostic) has cheated on him, he begins to slip and become even more of an aggressive and insulting person than he originally was. After an encounter with his hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace (played by co-writer Ben Best), he starts to turn things around, at least until he is betrayed once again by his wife and his hero Chuck "The Truck" Wallace. Simmons then has to find a way to rise above these unfortunate events and find the "strength" to pull it all together and to prove himself.

Based on what I had heard of this film and what I've seen McBride accomplish in recent films, I was expecting something completely laugh-out loud hilarious. No, this is not a laugh-out loud kind of movie and that's not a bad thing. It has a unique style of being very funny. I hate how people use the Napoleon Dynamite tag for whenever a new "indie" film comes along that shows some kind of subtle and or particular style of humor, so I refuse to compare it to that film. One thing I hate about the cover of this DVD is that they use a quote that mentions Napoleon Dynamite. Shut up! Retire it! But, it definitely has that feel of its own sense of humor that isn't completely spelled out or thrown in your face. Granted there are moments that are laugh-out loud funny, but the charm is in its style of having that particular and peculiar sense of humor.

McBride does a great job playing Simmons. He is a jerk, but you still find yourself hoping he pulls through. To a certain degree it evokes a reaction similar to when you see Ricky Gervais as David Brent on The Office (British version). You know they're a complete ass, but there's still enough humanity in them that you can't help but want some kind of pay-off for the character. The kids cast in this are used perfectly and the supporting cast is also great, especially Jody Hill (the director of this film) as Simmons' creepy and intense friend Mike. The characters are all believable even in their weird ways and weird situations, but that's just one of the ingredients that makes this film work.

The low budget and special tone of the film gives it this unique feel I didn't expect to have when watching it. It's that feeling you get from that movie you can share with friends when you have a few beers and need a good late night movie to throw on. It's similar to the feeling I got when I saw movies like Bottle Rocket or even Office Space. It just feels somewhat comfortable and something that feels special and your own. Part of it may stem from the fact I grew up and went to college in a similar environment and felt like the characters (their style, language, and their mannerisms) and even the neighborhoods and businesses were familiar. It's weird to say, but it's like that good friend you know is flawed but love to see because they're strangely comforting and you know you're going to get drunk and have a blast with them.

Extras include Commentary, Behind The Scenes (which actually feels like a strange music video with behind-the-scenes footage), Bloopers, Deleted and Extended Scenes, and an Alternate Ending. These features aren't too much to write home about, but there is a pretty funny deleted scene involving Julio and the punching dummy. The Alternate Ending is entertaining because you can definitely see why they cut it. It's pretty funny, but goes pretty out there even for their world.

The Foot Fist Way may not floor you or have you laughing out loud at every scene, but it does accomplish being an entertaining comedy that has its own voice, which is very refreshing these days. Grab some beers, invite some friends over, pop this DVD in and enjoy. I have a feeling The Foot Fist Way will finally find the audience it's been looking for and deserves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia : Season 3

"The gang" is back for season three of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is easily one of the best comedies on television today, and odds are you've probably never seen it. Very few television comedies can achieve what It's Always Sunny... pulls off with what seems like effortless ease and in this third season it really finds its stride and makes for some unique and original comedic television.

It's Always Sunny... revolves around the lives of four delightfully egotistical and self-serving friends who run a pub in Philadelphia. That's pretty much it. The show has been called "Seinfeld on Crack" which is actually a good description because the show deals with situations and conversations you would probably have in everyday life but they heighten the living the hell out of it and blow it to hilarious proportions.

A complaint some had about Seinfeld is that the characters were unsympathetic. If you're one of those people, then It's Always Sunny... is not for you. And if that's the case I feel very sorry for you. The characters can be seen as unsympathetic, but there's a great balance they've found with the show to where you do care about the main characters and can't help but watch what happens next. The characters do deplorable things to get their way, but in strange way, it's a cast of underdog characters who happen to have little morals. It's that underdog element and the way their motives are so cranked up that it keeps you hooked without tuning out. Even watching how they completely ruin the lives of fairly innocent characters, like Rickety Cricket and the Waitress, you can't help but be entertained and enjoy their tragic turns. It's something that's so tricky to pull off in comedy without being completely mean, but It's Always Sunny... knows how to execute it perfectly.

The season starts off strong with "The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby" and continues being solid with episodes like "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation," "Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire," and "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender." However, it seems to get weaker at the end of the season but even the "weak" episodes are better and funnier than most comedies currently on television. This season features probably the best episode of the series, " Sweet Dee Dates a Retarded Person," in which you get to witness the debut of Charlie's musical masterpieces "Night Man" and "Day Man." You'll be singing the "Day Man" theme for months after seeing it.
The cast is a big part of why this show works so well. Danny DeVito is great as usual, but the chemistry between Charlie Day, Glen Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Kaitlin Olson is fantastic. It's a cast that works so well together and can make misery look like ecstasy. The standout actor for me is Day who is extremely funny in this show. His mannerisms and way of speaking and reacting are some of the funniest character work around. I say "character work," but it makes me wonder how much of it is him or the character. That's why this cast works so well. Nothing seems forced or fake. It all flows naturally even when the situations are extremely ridiculous.

The special features in this set are entertaining but a bit spare. Special features include Commentary, Sunny Side Up Volume 2 Featurette, Meet The McPoyles Featurette, Danicing Guy Featurette, Gag Reel, and Season 3 TV spots. The features are fun, especially how they make comments at the expense of the directors (All three are former "child" actors, most notably Fred Savage). But I really wish this set had more commentary tracks. The two supplied for the episodes "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation" and "Dennis Looks Like..." are funny, but I really would have loved some commentary on other episodes like "Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire" and "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person".

This may not be a comedy everyone can enjoy, but it should be. There's so much pleasure to be had with all the twisted and hilarious things this show offers. Turn the dial down on your PC filters, sit back and treat yourself to the hilarious gem that is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Juliana Hatfield- How To Walk Away

Juliana Hatfield was one of my biggest musical crushes back in the '90s. I remember seeing the video for "My Sister" and then watching an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete where Hatfield plays "Emma the lunch-line worker" and falling in love. Shortly after I bought The Juliana Hatfield Three's Become What You Are and recall the feeling of a justified love through music. Fast forward to present day where Juliana's 10th solo album, How To Walk Away, showcases a more mature artist that still knows how to keep her fans pleased. But is it as good as past efforts? Well…almost.

The album starts off in the right direction. We get the more melodic and darker tone of Hatfield, one that almost evokes a "Rhianna" tone from Fleetwood Mac mixed with the darker pop moments of bands like Teenage Fanclub or XTC (in regards to the melodic nature). There's a dark allure that fits the lyrics' dismal tone of love gone sour. Just when you think it'll get sweet, melancholy brings it back down, but it's enjoyable when it takes that turn.

I was ready to embrace this album with open arms once the second track, "Shining On", finished but then at track four, "My Baby", it detours slightly by being more straightforward and radio friendly, almost skirting on being Sheryl Crow-ish, but thankfully not enough to actually be that. Also, it seems the not-so-subtle lyrics cripple the song. The album returns to form with "Just Lust," which captures a harsh reality of an attraction in a nice catchy yet down tempo beat. "Now I'm Gone" veers back into the more straightforward territory that "My Baby" does but thankfully without compromising the tone that hooked me in at the first part of the album. But then we get to "Remember November" which is only ho-hum. Maybe its slightly more optimistic and sappy lyrics weigh it down or maybe it's the fact the song doesn't do much to keep my attention. Either way, it feels like one of the weaker tracks on the album. As the album progresses it becomes more background noise than something that keeps you invested and seems to just wash over you.

This may seem very nit picky, but the biggest flaw on this album is with the song "So Alone." The song itself isn't bad, but a small production decision really destroys what could be a good song. There's a distracting percussion noise that really takes you out of the song and seems very out of place. I hate to think that it was a conscious decision on Hatfield's part. I refuse to believe it! It just really bothers me because I really enjoy the song and want to listen to it but can't even get through it now because of that damn noise.

There are a few guests on the album, including The Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler and Nada Surf's Matthew Caws. "This Lonely Love" featuring Butler is the standout track and reminds me more of Hatfield's earlier material while maintaining the more mature sound we hear throughout this album. Though the track feels a bit jarring compared to the more somber tone the first few songs set up, it's a welcome shift since the song works so well. I wish I could say the same for "Such a Beautiful Girl," which features Matthew Caws from the extremely underrated Nada Surf. The song has some beautiful vocals, especially from Mr.Caws, but it just seems like it's missing that extra something. A problem I actually heard on a few songs from Nada Surf's latest release strangely enough.

How To Walk Away is a good effort and better than a few of her more recent releases, but I can't help miss the sound I fell in love with when I heard Juliana Hatfield all those years ago. That's why I loved the album Juliana's Pony-Total System Failure. The fuzzed-out guitars, the catchy hooks, and the fun of rockin' out just made for a better listening experience. As a fan, I know it's unfair to expect an artist to repeat a certain sound, and Juliana Hatfield has not been shy about changing it up from time to time, but I feel Hatfield is at her best in that Become What You Are/Total System Failure element. Still, if you're a fan of Hatfield's work, I recommend you pick this up. It's definitely worth the listen and shows some promise for future releases.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Promotion

The Promotion is a strange little film — not in content but rather the potential of what it could have been. You have some great talent within this film that could have easily pulled this movie off, but it seems to miss the mark. It's likely to divide audiences and have some claiming that others "just don't get the humor." But I get it, and it ain't what it should be.

Doug (played by Sean William Scott) is an assistant manager at Donaldson's Grocery who is hoping for a promotion at a new store that is opening in the area. He is certain he will get the position until Richard (played by John C. Reilly) transfers from a Canadian sister store and decides to go for the same position. Both men find themselves in difficult personal situations that lead them to lows they normally wouldn't resort to just to get the coveted position.

This film strives to emulate the tone of such deadpan and "uncomfortable" comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office. You can see it trying, and it has moments where it almost succeeds, but ultimately it just doesn't hit the mark like those shows do. It really is a tricky thing to pull off. If not done right, you can even lose those who understand and enjoy that type of humor. When I watch Larry David or Ricky Gervais in uncomfortable situations, I do cringe, but I hang on and enjoy every moment of it. But there were a few times I almost wanted to shut this film off because I didn't want to see the consequence of some of the characters' actions. It's that very fine line that you either nail or miss.

Some of the problem might come from Sean William Scott's performance. He's not bad and he's proven himself in the past to be more than Stiffler from the American Pie films, but this film maybe could have been better with someone else in the role, someone a little more adept at comedy. That's not to say Scott doesn't have comedy chops, because he does, I just don't think he was quite right for this role and it adds to the overall feeling of the whole of the film falling a bit short. Another thing that hurts the film is the voiceover Scott gives throughout. It sounds too "read" and seems unnecessary. The movie probably would have been better without it.

Jenna Fischer plays the role of Doug's wife and seems almost wasted in the role. There's not much for her character to do, but it seems like she could have done more. Then there's Lili Taylor who plays Richard's wife. She is a great actress, but she's terribly underused and has a bad Scottish accent in this film. However, Fred Armisen does a great job and is funny as the Donaldson's manager and Gil Bellows as the board executive is pretty dead on (I used to work at a supermarket and have dealt with his type). There's also a decent cameo from Jason Bateman as the retreat host (the retreat is actually one of the funniest parts of the film).

Despite its flaws, there is a line in the movie that is well written and sums up the motivation of the characters in the film: "We're all out here, just looking for food. And sometimes we bump into each other is all." This seems genuine and really speaks to the things we do sometimes despite our better judgment in a competitive world. It's in that line that I finally found some connection to the film and actually cared about the characters. Too bad it was too little too late.

I would have listened to the commentary, but for some reason it didn't seem to work. I tried multiple times but got nothing. It's something I really wanted to listen to in order to get a better feel for what they were trying to achieve and to see what they thought of certain performances, but alas, no go. Outtakes on the Special Features only has one scene and it gets tiresome after the first minute or so. You would think with people like Fred Armisen or John C. Reilly involved they'd have some really good stuff to put on there.

The Promotion is a film you really want to enjoy because it has all the elements a fan of this type of comedy would enjoy with a good cast to back it up, but in the end it just feels a bit disappointing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comedy Central's TV Funhouse

Robert Smigel is responsible for some of the best comedy on television. He wrote for what I consider to be the other golden age of Saturday Night Live (late 80's/early 90's), wrote great sketches, characters, and bits for The Dana Carvey Show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and then really made a name for himself with the "TV Funhouse" video shorts that aired on SNL. But there are few who remember the short-lived, underrated, and overlooked Comedy Central television series TV Funhouse. Thankfully, Comedy Central finally wised up and has released it on DVD. Rejoice!

Do I sound a little over excited? You bet. TV Funhouse is somewhat of a forgotten comedy gem that aired for only one season in '00-'01. It's a shame shows like this don't get more seasons but lazy and tremendously deplorable shite like Mind of Mencia get renewed. No justice in the comedy world! TV Funhouse is formatted like a children's show, but for adults (a format that would later be emulated by "Wonder Showzen"). It combines the puppetry from Smigel's work on Late Night and segments done in the style from the SNL "TV Funhouse" shorts.

The Anipals and their adventures straying from the set are what really make the show. Part of the charm and fun is that it's not the best puppet work in the world (those familiar with Triumph the iInsult Comic Dog know what I'm talking about). In fact, they mention in the commentary about firing some puppeteers who were trying to make the puppets move too much like real animals. It really is a small thing that actually adds to the comedy. They also have real animals react with the puppets. One particularly funny scene that comes to mind is a puppet cat giving birth to actual kittens and the unexpected action of one kitten that prompted some very funny improvised dialogue. They discuss in the commentary how working with real animals could be so unpredictable but could sometimes lead to great results (even jokingly giving writing credit to a monkey).

TV Funhouse has a lot to be proud of in its shorts. What's great about them is the attention to detail in making it look and sound so close to the thing they're parodying. Wonderman (done in the style of the old Fleischer Superman cartoons), Policeman (done in classic Sesame Street short fashion), and Christmas with Tingles (old black and white claymation Christmas parody) are just a few great examples.

You also have the infamous "Porn For Kids" segment that only aired once as that title and was later aired as "Porn For Everyone" due to the network making them change it. The segment is just a porno ("Silence of the Gams") cut down to less than 30 seconds since all the indecent stuff is edited out. You mainly get a few lines of dialogue and the credits. It's a very funny idea, but I guess the network felt a little nervous having it associated in any way with kids, even if it was just a title.

Other highlights include "Stedman" (about Oprah's boyfriend, which Smigel almost didn't approve because he felt it was too mean), "Mnemonics - Your Dear, Dear Friend", "The Safety Gang" (which Dino Stamatopoulos originally wrote for Mr.Show but never used it), "Fetal Scooby Doo", "Places to Look For Your Christmas Presents," and the other infamous short, "Jokamel" (Pokemon parody done with Joe Camel).

There's not too much offered on the extras side, but what's there is very enjoyable. It's funny to see how much time and care they took to get a turtle penis reveal to work. That's the kind of dedication you want in comedy. The commentary is a real treat and probably the best special feature on this disc. Creators and writers Robert Smigel, Dino Stamatopoulos, (The Ben Stiller Show, Mr.Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Moral Orel), Andy Breckman (Monk, SNL), and host Doug Dale give a ton of insight on the show. They reveal the problems plaguing a second season and why ultimately they didn't do one, Smigel defends that his dog characters don't have the same Russian immigrant voice (He actually does both Fogey and Triumph back to back to prove his point), they talk about avoiding people they've made fun of (most notably Sally Jessie Raphael), and reveal other entertaining tidbits surrounding the production and end product of the show. It's definitely one of the better commentaries on a television DVD set.

There is a slight problem with this DVD release, though. It is NOT complete. In fact, it's missing one of my favorite animated shorts from TV Funhouse, "A Globetrotter's Christmas". What's funny is it's still mentioned in the credits. I think it may have been left out since it aired on SNL first and Universal might own the rights. Other shorts like "Stedman" and "The Baby, The Immigrant, and The Guy On Mushrooms" were also aired on SNL, but I believe it was after it was aired on TV Funhouse and perhaps that's how they avoided being omitted. Triumph insulting Hootie and the Blowfish in the "Safari Day" episode also seems to be missing. That's a real shame, but it doesn't hurt the set too much.

Fans of Smigel are sure to enjoy this show. Thank Jesus (whatever animal you think he might be. Show reference, settle down) that Comedy Central finally released this hilarious show! Now if only Comedy Central would release Exit 57 on DVD I can go into a blissful comedy nerd coma. Enjoy!

Extras include commentary from the creators and puppets (Chickie, Jason, and Xabu), Outtakes, Behind the Scenes footage, Triumph appearances from The Rob Reiner Roast and The Daily Show and the lost sketch "What Do We Know, Pt.2 with Bob Odenkirk".

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Drillbit Taylor- Extended Survival Edition

Not everything from the Apatow cannon can be a winner. For proof, look no further than Drillbit Taylor. Though, it isn't a full-on Apatow production, they don't hesitate to mention his name on it. Smart move, but it doesn't save the film. But wait a minute…it's not a terrible movie. With films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, the bar was set pretty high, even without trying it seems. You have an entertaining cast of characters and a story that's somewhat enjoyable, so why is this different from the previously mentioned films? It just doesn't seem genuine or focused enough, really.

Drillbit Taylor revolves around two boys, Wade (Nate Hartley) and Ryan (Troy Gentile), who start high school and unfortunately start getting harassed by two bullies, Filkins (Alex Frost) and Ronnie (Josh Peck), almost immediately. When things get too much to handle (and the bullying is pretty intense), they decide to hire a personal bodyguard. Enter Drillbit Taylor (Own Wilson), a homeless beggar who answers their ad and pretends to be trained in martial arts and the like so he can swindle the kids out of their money and then split to Canada. But of course, he has a change of heart and starts to care about the kids and in the process the kids learn a thing or two about who they are and how to stand up for themselves. Sound a bit predictable? Well, yeah, it is. You know some lesson is going to be learned. It's a formula done to death, it's just how you pad it and treat it that can separate it from the rest. Drillbit tries, but doesn't quite make it.

While watching the first 30 or so minutes of this film I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad. I wonder why it was panned?" Then somewhere after the mid-point I found myself a bit bored and amazed that there was still an hour left of the movie. It seems to just drift along in the middle and just keeps going. There are very funny lines and moments, but it just seems a little unfocused. There's even an 8 Mile freestyle-rap battle between Ryan and Filkins that had me groaning and rolling my eyes. It's hard to imagine Seth Rogen wrote that terrible scene. Yet somehow I feel some people will love it and probably quote it. Awkward white-guy rap just ain't my joint, dig?

Then there's the overblown cliché's. Nerds and bullies, it's something you've seen a million times, especially in the past 30 years. Drillbit Taylor is actually based on an original idea by John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, do I even need to name?), and there are definitely elements of his style in this film, he practically perfected and pushed that classic nerds/poor kids vs. popular/rich kids cliché over the edge. Was it enjoyable? Yes. It's a sweet, sweet guilty pleasure. But now it just seems a little too unrealistic or overblown. Not to say it doesn't exist (I had my fair share of terrifying name-calling and bullying growing up), but it just seems like a paint by numbers routine at this point. Writers Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown took Hughes' idea and fleshed it out. With Rogen helping with the writing you would expect more from this film especially from the work he did with Superbad, which to me seemed closer to my high school experience than any teen film previous to that, but it just falls short. Sure, it's unfair to compare it to Superbad standards, and I didn't entirely, but the end result leaves you a little unsatisfied.

What makes this movie enjoyable are the kids (who are perfectly casted), the supporting cast and cameos made throughout the film. You see three of the four members of the Upright Citizens Brigade make appearances and deliver some funny lines (especially Ian Roberts as Wade's step-father) as well as other talented comedic actors (Stephen Root, Beth Littleford, David Koechner, Cedric Yarbrough, and Kevin Hart). But the best supporting actor in this film is Danny McBride as Don, the homeless "friend" of Drillbit Taylor. You might recognize Danny McBride from the film Hot Rod or from his own hilarious film The Foot Fist Way. The deleted/extended scenes and the Line-O-Rama extra features are worth a look just for McBride's improvised lines alone. It wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being the next Steve Carell or Seth Rogen in the ever expanding and powerful Apatow universe. But as far as Owen Wilson goes, it doesn't matter much. There probably could have been a better casting choice because ultimately Wilson didn't really bring much to it. Not that it required a great deal of acting prowess; it just could have been better.

Overall Drillbit Taylor is something you might want to catch on a rainy Saturday afternoon on cable, but other than that it just falls short of its possible potential. No one's really to blame. You had the talent behind it, but it just doesn't quite stick. If anything, the DVD is worth a rent for the extra features "The Writers' Chance to Talk: Kristopher Brown and Seth Rogen," "Deleted and Extended Scenes," and "Line-O-Rama," mainly because the funniest moments are from these. If your fan of any of the cast or people involved with Drillbit Taylor, then you might want to check it out to quench that curiosity, but be wary, it won't be that fulfilling.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Anton Corbijn is easily one of the best photographers and music video directors around. Even The Killers, who I am not even that keen on, slightly won me over thanks to their Corbijn-directed video for "All the Things That I Have Done." You know going in that this film will be shot beautifully with his signature style, but because of his love and relationship with Joy Division, it really sets this film apart from some other biopics. In fact, Corbijn is the perfect man to do this biopic. I couldn't imagine it in the hands of anyone else (I once had a terrible dream that McG directed a biopic of one of my favorite bands. Noooo!). It just wouldn't have been as effective or approached with as much love and care. He even financed half of the film's budget out of his own pocket. The detail of how it was shot to capture the mood and feeling of Ian Curtis/Joy Division and his/their surrounding and the care taken to recreate the live performances as accurately as possible really sets it apart from most biopics you'll see.

Control is a biopic that focuses on Ian Curtis, the singer for the late and great band Joy Division, who tragically took his own life right before their debut American tour. The film is actually based on the book Touching from a Distance by Deborah Curtis, Ian's widow. It follows his life from his David Bowie-obsessed teenage years up to his unfortunate suicide (1973-1980 according to Corbijn). What separates this biopic from your other run-of-the-mill biopics is that it works almost like a series of snapshots or memories rather than a fluid time frame. I found this interesting seeing that part of Corbijn's relationship with the band was from the photos he shot of them for NME.

While some films of this ilk will spend a little too much time exaggerating the tiny details of a problem or even embellishing certain elements of dialogue or parts of their life, Control avoids this for this most part. Sure it has the same old drugs, adultery and downfall and it does fall victim to your biopic conventions like having moments directly relate to songs or events, but it's more subtle when it does those things so it makes it forgivable or unnoticeable.
Of course details are fudged here and there for story reasons, like how they decided to become a band right after they leave the legendary Sex Pistols show at Lesser Free Trade Hall and the other being that when Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson introduces Joy Division on Granada Television and they perform "Transmission" rather than "Shadowplay" (they do play "Transmission" later on BBC 2's Something Else). But Corbijn acknowledges these changes in the commentary, but it really doesn't matter all that much for cinematic purposes.

Corbijn makes this film look amazing for a lower-budget film. He reveals in the extras and commentary that he shot the movie entirely in color and then made it black and white in post because the original test shots in black and white were too grainy. The choice to do black and white is a great one, because just as Corbijn points out, most of what we know or have seen of Joy Division is through mostly photos (mostly black and white) and stories of the people who were there. One of my favorite scenes from the film is pretty simple. We see Ian (played fantastically by Sam Riley) walking out of his house and straight to work (which was actually done in real time), smoking a cigarette while "No Love Lost" is played prominently over the scene and a shot reveals that the words HATE are written in large white letters on the back of Ian's black jacket. It's just a really cool scene and one that Corbijn nailed effectively. The black and white really works in capturing the tone and feeling of Joy Division's music. It has a feeling of being dark, bleak and has an element of despair all while having a very human quality to it without being too cold and distant.

The actors chosen for this film are perfect. "Newcomer" Riley does a superb job playing Ian and will no doubt go on to do great things. The other shining light of this film is Samantha Morton who plays Deborah. The emotional intensity and even subtlety she brings to the screen is amazing and really makes her more than just an actor playing the role of a wife of a troubled artist. The benefit of taking from Deborah's book is that we do get that her perspective. The chemistry of Riley and Morton on screen effectively shows the hurt and isolation of the failing marriage. We feel the pain of love falling apart and even how a "guilty" party feels remorse. Riley plays Ian as real as possible by showing he is troubled and makes mistakes, but is still very human. Even though seeing his affair with Annik Honoré (played by the beautiful Alexandra Maria Lara) is heartbreaking to watch because you know the effect it's taking on Deborah and their marriage; you can't help but still feel some kind of sadness and sympathy for Ian. Corbijn states in the commentary that he tried to figure out how to avoid cliché and followed instinct and heart, and I'd say he did a great job at doing this.

The actors who play the rest of Joy Division (Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, and Harry Treadaway) deserve a ton of credit, not only for their acting but for actually learning the instruments and the music of those they portray. The performances you see in the film are actually done spot-on by the actors, which is almost unheard of for any biopic. To watch Riley nail the croon and swagger of Ian on stage is really a treat for any Joy Division fan. It's that care to detail that really makes this film so much more than just a story of a man and band's life. Other notable performances are from Toby Kebbell who plays the band's manager Rob Gretton and Craig Parkinson who plays Tony Wilson.

The extras are a bit slim, but have enough to make the purchase of the DVD worth it. On this disc we get audio commentary with Corbijn; The Making of Control; Out of Control: A Conversation with Anton Corbijn; Extended Live Concert Performances of "Transmission," "Leaders of Men," and "Candidate" from the film; Joy Division music videos for "Transmission" and "Atmosphere;" "Shadowplay" music video by The Killers; and a still gallery. I understand Corbijn picked The Killers to show the influence of Joy Division in today's popular music, but I personally would have preferred a band like Interpol (not to mention other bands doing much better Joy Division covers, i.e. Girls Against Boys' cover of "She's Lost Control), but I digress. Also, Corbijn's commentary is so soft spoken (and sometimes hard to understand with the accent) it makes it a bit difficult to listen to. Most of what he says is basically covered in the extras anyway.

This is Corbijn's first film and he chose the right project to begin with. He has the talent and vision to continue as a great film director and I'm eager to see what he will accomplish in the future with film. This biopic may not be for those who aren't very familiar with Joy Division or Ian Curtis, especially since the movie doesn't exactly have the "shimmer" and "pop" of a large-studio-budgeted biopic (but that's a good thing, trust me), it still remains a wonderful, beautiful film and well worth your time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meet The Spartans - Pit Of Death Edition (Unrated)

There's terrible and then there's godawful.

Meet The Spartans surpasses both of those into a horrendous unnamable realm of unwatchable pain and suffering. Some might argue the whole parody genre was never good, but I have a feeling after the Zucker brothers decided to step out for awhile the decline of these types of movies has been drastic. There might have been moments here and there where a movie of this genre would come along and produce some laughs (I'll admit I find some things from Not Another Teen Movie funny), but Meet The Spartans has no redeemable quality whatsoever and laughs are nowhere to be found.

Meet The Spartans is basically a parody of the film 300. They follow the same storyline (or rather series of events), but plugged in are a series of unfunny pop-culture references and homophobic jokes sure to keep any pop-collared frat boy rolling on the floor for days. Any and every pop-culture reference from the past year and half is basically used in this movie. In fact, it's all the movie is. It's lazy and extremely unfunny. It's copy and paste comedy that delivers nothing but groans and cricket noises. Within the first minute of this movie you know it will possible be the worst movie you have ever seen.

Any and every easy joke you can think of from pop culture is used. Britney Spears, Shrek, penguins, James Bond, and American Idol are just a few to name (sprinkled with the obvious pratfalls and crotch hits), and that's just within the first 10 minutes of the film. In fact, every reality show you can think of that's still on the air, especially shows about judging "talent," is "parodied" in this movie. There is even a scene where the Spartans jaunt off to battle singing "I Will Survive". Get it?! A gay joke! I was tying a noose for myself as soon as it came on.

Rather than make a cohesive film with somewhat of a storyline to work in these jokes and references, they just use the skeleton of an outline of 300 and drop in references and gags that don't fit in at all. At least with a movie like Airplane or Top Secret, they took a movie or a genre and created a story that almost strangely pays homage to the films they're parodying while still working in jokes we all know and love. I'm not saying to ground it completely, these movies are meant to be cartoonishly ridiculous, but at least make it work within the realm they've created rather than just making references for the sake of referencing anything to do with pop culture. Most of the time is taken up with the references rather than any kind of story. There's a Stomp The Yard/You Got Served scene that goes on for about 10 minutes and shortly after a "dis competition" (also known as Snaps) that lasts almost for the same amount of time. That's nearly 20 minutes just on two jokes that lose steam before the first second is even done.

Other than the film being a huge pile of worthless shit, the biggest thing that bothered me was a specific reference to Spiderman 3. The joke would be obvious on its own, but the voiceover actually says "Just like Tobey Maguire in Spiderman 3." What? It wasn't an obscure reference or even a hard one to spot at all, yet they still felt compelled to go a step further and actually spell it out for the audience.

Another failing is parodying a parody itself. The Budweiser promos for True Men of Genius are parodied in this film out of nowhere. Those spots were a parody themselves. It seemed extremely unnecessary, lazy, and just an excuse to get more gay jokes in.

Speaking of the Budweiser reference, the product placement was out of control. You could claim it's in a tongue-in-cheek way, but in the failings of the execution of the joke it just seems like further whoring of the product. It's easily some of the worst comedy writing you will ever witness. I wouldn't be shocked if someone told me the script was written in 30 minutes.

Writers and directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer deserve some kind of severe punishment for creating such an abomination to the comedy genre. How is it they were able to create such terrible films like Date Movie, Epic Movie, and the upcoming Disaster Movie while truly talented and funny fresh voices who have something good to offer get overlooked or never even given a chance at all? I will say it; these men are destroying anything and everything great about comedy. Meet the Spartans isn't so bad its good, it's just plain painful and immeasurably unfunny. Do yourself a favor and avoid this movie at all costs! No need to thank me for saving your time and your well being.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Upright Citizens Brigade- ASSSSCAT!

For over 10 years the Upright Citizens Brigade (Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Mat Walsh) have been performing a long-form improv show titled ASSSSCAT. People might recognize the Upright Citizens Brigade from their fantastic sketch comedy show that ran on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000. Even though the sketch show incorporated scenes from their improv or scenes they may have done at ASSSSCAT, fans of the sketch show should not expect this DVD to be a live version of the sketch show.

For those who have never seen or heard of ASSSSCAT before, it is basically a long form improv show performed live where they (members of the Upright Citizens Brigade joined by fellow improvisers) get a suggestion of a word or phrase from an audience member and the guest monologist will tell a true story based off that suggestion and the improvisers perform scenes inspired from that story. Improvisers joining the Upright Citizens Brigade on this disc are Horatio Sanz (SNL), Andrew Daly (MadTV), Chad Carter (Crossballs), and Sean Conroy (Crossballs). Guest monologists on the featured performance are Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, The State) and Kate Walsh (Grey's Anatomy).

In 2005 an ASSSSCAT performance was filmed for the Bravo network. It aired to mix results, but ultimately wasn't very good despite the immensely talented performers and monologists. The problem is capturing long-form improv on film is trickier than the jokey short-form game-prov people are used to thanks to Who's Line Is It Anyway? There's much more of a payoff with long-form, but it's really best experienced live and never seems to be successfully captured on film. Improv's lure and appeal is that it literally is a "you had to be there" kind of thing. The excitement of knowing it's being made on the spot and will never be seen again makes the live experience all the much more rewarding; it's just something you can't really catch on film. The editing of the performance is what makes it a bit jarring and disconnects it from the live feel for me even more, but by the second act scenes like “The Divorce Party” come close to capturing the feeling and energy of seeing it live.

Those craving more ASSSSCAT performances get a "bonus round" with guest monologists Jen Kirkman and Paul F. Tompkins (both great stand-ups who perform regularly on the UCB LA stage) as well as Will Arnett (Arrested Development and husband of UCB member Amy Poehler) and Ed Helms (The Office, The Daily Show).

Extras include the hilarious "Monologus Interruptus" where an audience member who stumbles on and behind the stage interrupts Paul F. Tompkins' monologue. The way the cast (especially Horatio Sanz) reacts and treats it is well worth the watch.

There's also an interview with the Upright Citizens Brigade where they explain the origin of ASSSSCAT and the differences between the weekly ASSSSCAT performances at their theatres in New York and LA.

For me, the best thing on this DVD is the commentary given by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh. Improvisers who are fans of ASSSSCAT and UCB will love this commentary, especially those who wish they would have been around when those three still taught courses at the UCB Theatre training center. The points they make about game, heightening, "if this than what else," and "yes and…" are extremely insightful, and it almost feels like you're sitting in on a class with them. Even if you're not an improviser and are just curious about the method behind the madness, the commentary is a good way to have it broken down and a light shined onto the structure and thought process to what is being done on stage.

I probably wouldn't recommend this DVD for those who aren't that familiar with the Upright Citizens Brigade or ASSSSCAT but for those in the know it is definitely worth the watch. Otherwise, regardless of your familiarity, ASSSSCAT! should definitely be experienced live if you ever get the chance. Kudos to Shout Factory for putting this out to the masses.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

South Park- Imaginationland

There are two types of South Park watchers: those who watch on a regular basis and still love the show, and those who stopped watching after the third or fourth season. This DVD will appeal to both crowds.

Imaginationland was originally a three-parter from Season 11 that gets the full-length feature treatment in this DVD. Not much is different except for some re-inserted or extended scenes not seen on TV and of course is uncensored (which at times, the beeps are funnier than the actual expletives).

What fans might find appealing about this DVD (other than the awesome story) is the commentary given by creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Owners of season DVDs know that they usually only give about five minutes worth of commentary for episodes and just leave it at that. On this DVD we get commentary that lasts until about the hour mark. I won't spoil too much for those who want to listen to it, but they give insight how they toyed around with this being the second movie for South Park and how the inspiration for the story arc came from sources like Harry Potter, Narnia, 24, and Battlestar Galactica (they point out the best writing is in TV dramas these days). You'll definitely see the influence in the feature.

The two main storylines revolve around terrorists attacking our imagination and Cartman winning a bet to get Kyle to suck his balls and his quest to make this happen. Stay with me. It sounds pretty absurd and lewd, but South Park seems to be the only show to be able to pull this off (You hear that, Drawn Together?).

One of the most entertaining parts of Imaginationland is picking out the characters in Imaginationland, good and bad. You'll see everyone from Luke Skywalker, Snarf, Gizmo, Strawberry Shortcake, and yes, even Jesus, on the good side while characters like Freddy Krueger, Alien, Predator, and the Cavity Creeps on the bad side. Surely there has to be someone on the Internet who has compiled a full list of the characters shown.

There are characters that show up that the casual South Park watcher may not know, which is why they have also included the episodes “Woodland Critter Christmas” from Season eight and “Manbearpig” from Season 10 to help you understand what they characters mean in the realm of “South Park.” Both episodes are probably the best from those seasons, especially “Manbearpig.”

I'm a fan of South Park and have been watching since its first season, but I have to say that this story arc has been one of the best things to come from the show in quite some time. Definitely worth a rent or buy.

Gone Baby Gone

Let me get one thing out of the way: I do not like Ben Affleck. I think he's an ass and a terrible actor. But, watch me eat my own pride when I write, Ben Affleck is responsible for something I actually enjoyed. *GASP*

Fortunately Affleck is smart enough not to cast himself but to cast his brother, Casey, in the lead. In my opinion, Casey is the more talented of the two. Casey has what Ben doesn't have, likability and charm that doesn't come off as frat-boy smugness. Enough about my Ben-bashing.

Gone Baby Gone centers around Boston-area local detectives, played by Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who are hired to investigate a young girl's kidnapping. Along the way they become entangled in a search that is not all what it seems and that ultimately leads to a decision that has to be made either professionally or personally.

It is a damn good movie, but not a great movie. The whole cast is perfect (down to the extras) and the tone and direction is spot on. Then why not “great”? I felt certain parts of the movie dragged and I felt Michelle Monaghan (from the great Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was underused. Some people complain about the twist ending, but I think it's perfect and really helps nail the tone and theme overall.

“What would I have done?” That's something a lot of people might find themselves asking after watching this film. Is it about morals? Is it about doing the right thing? What is the right thing in the instance of law versus reality or well-being? It is that lingering question that makes the last scene of the film so powerful, and why I have to curse Affleck for making me give credit and praise where it is due.

Extras on the DVD include extended ending, commentary and behind the scenes segment from Ben Affleck. Not really thick with the extra features, but the movie is good enough that you won't mind.

You win this time, Affleck! You win...this time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Goldfrapp- Seventh Tree

Goldfrapp makes sexy sexy music. If Prince and Goldfrapp decided to collaborate together and decided to have the Sneaker Pimps and Ladytron remix the singles, you could rest assured there would be another baby boom. I will admit, I've had sexy fun times to Goldfrapp's deliciously sultry tunes. However, Goldfrapp's latest effort, Seventh Tree, is a bit of a departure from the sexy dark grooves of Black Cherry and Supernature and more of a return to the softer tones of Felt Mountain (while still incorporating the elements that made Black Cherry and Supernature so great).

Fans of Goldfrapp will not be disappointed, but I will say it is an album that grows on you. You know what you're in for with this album once you get through the first track "Clowns". Part of me was a little disappointed because I was hoping for songs akin to past favorites like "Strict Machine" or "Ride A White Horse", but once I was through with the track "Road to Somewhere", all that disappeared.

Goldfrapp has produced an album of rich laid back tracks sure to please fans for the most part, but may not grab a new audience (unless it gets used for a pivotal scene in Grey's Anatomy or One Tree Hill). I would describe this album as a relaxed Sunday afternoon in the spring, while Black Cherry and Supernature are the raunchy fun times you had on Friday and Saturday night (yes, I used that analogy). The last half of the album does tend to lag for me, but it doesn't affect my overall judgement of the album. The standout tracks are definitely "Happiness","Eat Yourself", "Some People", "A&E" and my personal favorite "Road to Somewhere".

I'm eager to see what the next step will be for Goldfrapp. All I know is they've released 4 great albums, which is very hard to come by these days. Thank you, Goldfrapp. Thank you for the great tunes...and the sexy fun times.

I leave you with a live performance their great cover of Yes, Sir. I Can Boogie (Good God, I love this clip!)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


What's a great movie to see with the one you love on Valentines Day? That's right, Teeth! Nothing gets your man in the mood like a movie about vagina dentata, ladies! My girlfriend thought it would be an awesome idea to see this film on Valentines Day, and she was right.

I didn't know what to expect going into this movie. The previews didn't really reveal much and the subject matter is pretty crazy and laughable to begin with, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

The movie was a lot of fun. There are elements that reminded me of the tone of Napoleon Dynamite (I know, I hate using that comparison because it is a bit lazy), yet reminded me of the cheaper late 70's and early 80's horror films.

I've heard people say this is a morality tale, but I don't see it. I see it more as a "fun" story where dicks get what they deserve (Pun not intended. Ok, maybe it was. I feel cheap). I guess if more time was spent with character development and motives, then there might be a deeper morality tale, but for what it was it just seemed like a strange and funny horror story about these sleazes getting their come uppins!

I highly recommend seeing this in a theatre or with a larger group of friends. Hearing people's reactions to it really made the experience even more enjoyable. I should also note seeing parts of Austin made me a bit homesick for Texas, and could possibly be a small part of why I enjoyed the film. Not as much as seeing Shiner beer waved in front of my face like in Death Proof (Damn you, Tarantino!).

Does vagina dentata, exist? For your sake, stud, let's hope not. But as a subject for a film, it's surprisingly enjoyable!


Monday, February 4, 2008

Import Humour Pt.1

I consider myself to be a bit of a comedy nerd. So when I see certain signs of comedic brilliance that go unnoticed, I feel it's my duty to spread the word.
Within the past couple of years I have become acquainted with the "comedy underground" of the UK. I use that term loosely because, well...I'm not close to the UK comedy scene so I couldn't say for sure (my forte is the NY, Chicago and LA underground comedy scene). BUT, what I will present in "Import Humour" is a glimpse into some great comedy that hasn't quite hit on our shores.

First up is JAM.

There are 3 people responsible for me going out of my way to buy a universal DVD player. Those people are Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Chris Morris. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are best known for their brilliant work with the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but also responsible for one of the best sitcoms ever made; Spaced. But I'm getting off topic. Spaced will appear in a future Import Humour.

The man I want to bring attention to is twisted and darkly delicious comedic writer, actor and director Chris Morris. Chris has been responsible for some of the most interesting and daring comedy to come out of the UK in recent history. One of his earliest shows, 1994’s The Day Today, was a scathing satire on current news reporting and featured Steve Coogan, who you might recognize from 24 Hour Party People and yes, Night at the Museum. Think The Daily Show but with even more painstaking detail to the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of news broadcasting.

Someone was generous enough to make a montage of some great moments of the show.

Then in 1997 he would take things further with BrassEye. BrassEye is a satire on news special shows (much like the Dateline pieces you see) but amped up to show the ugliness of its ridiculousness. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg would both either appear or make contributions to this brilliant show. The clip below caused quite a bit of controversy. It deals with pedophilia and is called Paedogeddon! This is part 1:

Now comes the show I really wanted to highlight with this entry...

JAM is unlike ANY sketch comedy show you have ever seen. It's extremely dark and stays with you like a bloody car crash you wish you had never seen. I love this show. Curtis Gwinn (of soon to be Adult Swim show Fat Guy Stuck in Internet) introduced me to this show and I couldn't thank him enough. If you took the scripts to a lot of these sketches and just read them, they'd seem, for the most part, like straight forward interesting sketches, but that isn't enough for Mr. Morris.

The best way to describe JAM to people is to say "Imagine if David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Chris Cunningham collaborated on a sketch show. Chris Morris will often set the mood to be dark and unusual, while playing an eerie atmospheric/ambient soundtrack behind the scene (provided by Brian Eno, The Third Eye Foundation, Massive Attack and Aphex Twin to name a few) and also slowing down the speed of the film for effect.

It's the most interesting work I have ever seen done with sketch comedy. I adore dark humor and really appreciate it, but even some of JAM was a bit much for me. But the thing about JAM is that it stays with you. It has this unusual and unsettling effect that stays with you that will either really make you admire the show or absolutely hate it.

Some of my favorite sketches from this show were taken down from YouTube. One of my favorite being a man who has his funeral early in the prime of his life. But here are a few to get the gist of what JAM is like.

The show only had a 6 episode run, but can be found on for purchase.

More recently Chris did a show called Nathan Barley, where he once again utilizes his keen sense of satire and targets youth culture in the UK and their style of "news" and entertainment in the blogosphere.

Here is part 1 of Episode 1

It is said that Chris is working on a new short film for the BBC satirizing terrorism. Based on his past work, we can rest assured it will push some buttons. Hopefully Chris Morris will continue to treat us with his unique and fantastic vision and hopefully one day get the recognition he deserves.

Friday, February 1, 2008

No Country For Old Men

I saw No Country For Old Men tonight, and I have a few things to say.

I had no idea Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman were in this movie. And the Coen Brothers directed this? Really? A movie about two old dudes who have a list to finish before they die?
What? I walked into the wrong theater?!!! GOOOOOOOOP!

But seriously,
I loved this film.

I know a lot of people hated the ending and may not understand it (I'll admit, I don't understand it 100% quite yet, but I don't think that was the intention), but I have to say my only problem was a personal one. I hate seeing pets killed in movies. I know, I'm a softie, I just don't like it.

Also, I was surrounded by a bunch of dumbasses who were only there to see it since it got nominated for an Oscar and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Look, that's fine, and I understand it, but if you're chatting beforehand about how you're probably going to see Meet The Spartans this weekend and start quoting lines from the previews, chances are you don't belong in a theater with this film playing.

I don't need to hear "What?! Oh my god! That's fucking retarded!" when the credits roll, nor do I need to hear your annoying ass gum chewing/popping during scenes where YOUR ASS SHOULD HAVE BEEN PAYING ATTENTION!

Did it ruin the movie or take me out of it? Hell no!

Some might say Hannibal Lecter is cinema's finest portrayal of evil in human form. Eff that! That guy's Rip Taylor in a Racecar bed of stuffed baby bunnies!
THIS is the new King

Is my review too glowing? Are you screaming "plant"! Maybe you're saying I should go work for Radio Disney, reviewing movies and applying baby oil to Ryan Seacrest's thighs (really? That's the best I could come up with?! Lazy and lame!)

Look! I can't help that I enjoyed this movie as much as I did.

Plus, being a Texan, I kind of had a soft spot for the film (I know it sounds weird to say that with a film like this).

Anyway, yet another movie that lived up to the hype.

Next up...
There Will Be Blood.

The Ten

I'm a huge fan of The State and State related projects (Wet Hot American Summer, Stella, etc.), so I was pretty excited when The Ten came out to theatres.

After seeing it I be honest, a little let down.

Some of the stories were hilarious. The best of the stories being the story involving Jesus and a librarian. The second one being the story revolving around a woman falling in love with a ventriloquist dummy.

I know what you're thinking, "That's because Winona is in it!"

Yes, my future 10 minute hot fling, Winona Ryder, is in the film and I love her in it.
I'm serious, Winona. We WILL meet one day and you will love me. Even if it's just for a day. That's all I ask!

Back to what I was saying...
The best thing about The Ten is its actors and how well they sell their parts (Rob Corddry especially).

Fast forward to now when the movie is available on DVD. I rent it and actually enjoyed it a lot more than when I saw it in the theatre.

It's one of those movies that really is best rented than watched in a movie house setting. It's a movie that you can't expect to be cohesive or have plot because it's basically a movie of sketches (but with connecting themes).

So give it a rent if you have some time and were a fan of The State or Wet Hot American Summer.

And on a related note, check out David Wain's online shorts titled Wainy Days.

This is one of my favorite episodes from the series. It features one of my favorite stand up comedians/writers, Leo Allen.

I'm jealous of David Wain's style of writing. Not many people can pull off such absurd or crude dialogue and make it that funny or subtle. I'm serious. Otherwise you get absolute shit like Epic Movie or Meet The Spartans (Falling down and getting hit in the head is always funny! Farrrrrrrrrt).

Just as an extra treat, one of my favorite State sketches...
Actually, I couldn't find it on YouTube, so enjoy these