But This One Goes To Eleven

Movie Post Season Round 6:

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping inspires This Is Spinal Tap

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This Is Spinal Tap looms so large in comedy consciousness, in the careers of the men who made it (except maybe Rob Reiner, who I kind of forgot about in the equation), and of course in the mind of anyone who enjoyed the best comedy of 2016 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, that I was a little nervous to sit down and watch it.

Spinal Tap started the comedy style of Christopher Guest, and his brilliant mockumentaries, and while I don’t think it’s the best of the genre, (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN!) being the first gets it some latitude.

However, the point of this review is mainly to compare it to Popstar, and in that vein, aside from being about the music business in all of it’s weirdness, is about something falling apart and then coming back together. The tensions of Spinal Tap are not identical to those of Connor4Real, but the end result is the same. The band is far less coddled, so their increasing reaction to the chaos provides a different sort of feel from Connor’s willful obliviousness.

As Spinal Tap’s gigs fall in prominence, and their guitarist quits and then returns, it’s not impossible to believe that this is a real band, which was, I think the point in making it. But to apply to much logic or linear storytelling to Spinal Tap would be a waste of energy, since anytime you started to get anywhere, one of the many genius gags would smack you in the face.

Whether it’s the fact that they can’t get an album cover they like approved, the classic, “but this goes to eleven” amp scene, or the tiny stone henge (which is my favorite). The main thing that I’d forgotten, or perhaps never noticed, about it, is that the band seems deeply aware of the fact that what’s going on around them is completely nuts, and their team seems to want to smooth it over. It’s a different takeaway than I anticipated (I’m fairly sure I haven’t watched this movie since middle school) and I kind of comedy that I’m always fond of.

While, as I said, it’s not my favorite for Guest, (Stool boom, stool boom…) nor Reiner, (The Princess Bride exists…and When Harry Met Sally…and A Few Good Men. My GOD that man has made some good movies…ooh, also Stand By Me!) it’s a solid beginning for two really great artists, so that’s something!

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What’s Up Gillies???

Thank God for Crystan.

I’ve written before about how grateful I am that my friend Crystan is in my life. Aside from shaping one of my defining life choices in a big way, she’s also my tether to more mainstream pop culture. When I feel like I’m lost in a sea of super heroes and space operas, there’s Crystan, ready to pull me back to shore with talk of Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkin and Broadway Musicals. (None of these things, by the way, are explicitly UN-nerdy, but they’re on a slightly different track.)

So when she suggested that we check out the Gilmore Guys live show this past Saturday, I knew it was exactly what I needed to kick off fall. A season for which Gilmore Girls always felt very appropriate. (Fall also always makes me want to watch Gossip Girl, I’m not sure why…)

Gilmore Guys is probably the funnest podcast ever. It’s hosts Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe are insightgul, earnest and hilarious, they find guests who both love and understand the show, as well as can be critical about it. Overall the whole experience is a delight, and I wish I had given it a chance sooner, but I’m working my way through it now, and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.

Saturday’s live show was energetic and fun, and relentlessly positive, even though it was about a crappy season 7 episode. (UGH season 7!) Special guest Mara Wilson (!!!!) vibed with the guys and analyzed, kindly, this not that great episode of television.

I should not that when Mara Wilson stepped on stage, I almost cried. I adore her, and have since I was kid, (Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire and that Miracle of 34th Street remake, yo!) and her writing in the past few years has always been awesome. Plus she’s The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House on Welcome To Nightvale, so you know, win!

Overall it was a very fun night, and I’m deeply grateful to have a friend who finds this sort of thing to do.

And who’ll sit in the car with me on the way there crying along to a Sutton Foster song…but that’s a different story entirely…

The Tattoo Is Only The Beginning

I was travelling this weekend so I got a lot of reading in. (Finished my Harry Potter reread! I’ll have something to say about that soon, but I discover new things about those books every time I touch them, and I need to sort it out.) And there was just no way that I was getting on a plane without Amy Schumer’s book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo queued up in my Kindle. (Walking past it in the airports would have simply made me mad if I hadn’t done it.)

I’m glad I did, as Amy’s kind of meant a lot to me symbolically over the past few years and also because like her movie, her stand up and certain of her sketches, made me laugh and think and wonder at this tremendous woman and her talent.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo is often raw, particularly when Amy (yes, I will talk about her like she’s a friend of mine, I feel very connected to this woman.) discusses her family and relationships. While often hilarious, her reality involving her father’s MS, her mother’s emotional abuse and her sexual assault as a teenager are all heartbreaking. But nothing compares to her story about her abusive relationship, which is presented in such a matter of fact manner that you just want to give her a million hugs afterwards.

My favorite element of the book however, was the way Amy printed and commented on her old journal entries. Journaling, by it’s nature, is a narcissistic practice and Amy manages to make an excruciating exercise relatable and fun.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and I know because of…stuff, Schumer is not the most popular person on the internet anymore…but I’ll just always appreciate her honesty, and the way she makes me laugh and reminds me of my friends.

Nowhere Special…I always wanted to go there

gene-wilder-blazing-saddlesGod, 2016 sucks for celebrity death, huh?

So, now we’ve lost Gene Wilder as well. I could go on about his work more than just about any of the others. Seriously.

But I just keep coming back to Blazing Saddles, a movie that, no matter what’s happening in my life, is going to make me laugh my ass off.

A lot of people are going to talk about Wonka today. (And they should, he’s spectacular there), but I just want to leave you with an image of The Waco Kid.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Wilder. Hope you’re finally nowhere special!

 

Safety Lights Are For Dudes

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I was going to like Ghostbusters if it killed me.

OK, that’s not precisely true, but the only other movies I’ve gone into so aggressively hoping to like them were the Star Wars prequels and The Force Awakens, and Batman V Superman. Obviously, this does not always work out the way I hope it would.

But I did actually like Ghostbusters. I didn’t fall head over heels for it, but it’s charming, funny, makes excellent use of 3-D, and is definitely my favorite Paul Fieg movie. (I’m not crazy about Bridesmaids, I know, I KNOW OK?)

I can’t praise some of Feig’s instincts enough is this film. From focusing on Kate McKinnon, (she’s genius here) to figuring out a new way to use Leslie Jones’s schtick, to finally, finally showcasing the Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig as straight-women, to once again, the use of 3-D.

Rather than just using the technology to make the ghosts pop or add depth the world, Feig made the decision to use it as a gag. When a ghost ecto-vomits onto Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, it goes right at the audience. As the team fights a supernatural vortex, things fly at us. It’s goofy, old fashioned, and perfect.

The cast all acquit themselves well, but man is this a starmaking turn for McKinnon. Between this and the fact the she plays the Democratic Nominee on SNL, comedy nerds will look back on this as “the year of McKinnon.” (For The Record: I’m obsessed with her Hilary.) But the other three women in this cast should not be counted out, nor should their director, or their hunky, hunky costar. (This movie gives me DANCING HEMSWORTH, and it’s a delight.)

The original Ghostbusters shook the earth. This doesn’t, but it builds something new on those foundations. And I really appreciate that. I also really appreciate anything that gives funny women a shot.

Rankings!

  1. The Nice Guys
  2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse
  6. The Legend Of Tarzan
  7. Finding Dory
  8. Independence Day: Resurgence
  9. Alice Through The Looking Glass

Comedy is kicking the butts of the superheroes this year. An interesting trend…

Trailers

Jason Bourne…again.

Nerve – I’ve seen this trailer a few times and always seem to forget about it before I write up. I think this movie looks vaguely interesting, and I’m always here for the Dave Franco. Less so for the Emma Roberts, but she’s good too.

 

You’re My Best Friend (Don’t Tell Owen)

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I’ve been under the spell of Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island for a very long time now. Ever since “Lazy Sunday” hit on SNL, it became very easy for me to understand what they were doing. But with each song it seemed like they weren’t ever going to become less funny.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping might be their most genius work yet. (Who am I kidding? “I Threw It On The Ground” exists. “I’M AN ADULT!”) The joke of Lonely Island might have gotten old over the course of an hour and a half, but instead, as the silliness escalates, we’re also treated to a heartfelt story about friendship and what really matters in life.

But there’s also a viking funeral for a turtle.

And a song about a woman who wants to be fucked like we fucked Bin Laden, whatever that means.

The basic conceit of the movie is that we’re watching a documentary about Conner, the lead singer of a Beastie Boys type group called “The Style Boys” who has now gone solo. He’s estranged from one of the older members and the other works as his DJ.

It’s a light but effective frame and Samberg sells the kind of willful arrogance required in the role. But the other guys run away with the movie. As does Tim Meadows as their long suffering manager. Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Rankings

  1. The Nice Guys
  2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. X-Men: Apocalypse
  5. Alice Through The Looking Glass

Trailers

Ghostbusters. We’re so close you guys. Seriously. I’m into it.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – I mean, it looks fine? I wish that cast were being used on something I had more interest in seeing…and that it was a musical. Seriously, I don’t know about Aubrey Plaza, but you’re giving me Zefron, Anna Kendrick and Adam Devine and it’s not a musical?

Sausage Party – While I love the conceit of taking the Pixar “everything is alive and has feelings” to it’s horrifying conclusion, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s enough to flesh out a full 90 minutes (or probably more…) it feels more like a sketch.

Jason Bourne – We’ve covered this. It looks pretty damn great.

Breaking down Unbreakable

Comedy is hard.

Smart-silly comedy is harder.

Executing a second season of a high concept sitcom is hardest.

So, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had quite a task in front of it for it’s second season. I mean, after all, how many things can Kimmy misunderstand now that she’s been out of the bunker for nearly a year?

Turns out that wasn’t the point this time around, this time we were dealing with what makes our adorable little Kimmy tick, and also, getting Titus a boyfriend! (This was my favorite thing ever!) Kimmy’s world looks a little different these days, after all, Jacqueline isn’t married anymore and can’t afford to employ her, though the two women vow to stay friends, Dong is married to classmate Sonia, and the Reverend (who claims to have created the “I Want To Buy The World A Coke” commercial) is safely behind bars.

So we deal a lot more with Kimmy’s inner life now, her horrifying snaps of violence are highlighted more and as she settles in to a relationship with therapist Andrea, played by Tina Fey, and who is also a raging alcoholic.

One of the things that’s most impressive about Kimmy Schmidt is how it manages to have it’s cake and eat it too. It’s a live action cartoon but it’s also going to explore PTSD and race and class and gentrification and it’s going to have Josh Charles give David Cross a noogie and Joshua Jackson is going to deconstruct why Joey’s decision to have sex with Pacey on the ski trip was kind of bullshit. (It was, but, when he showed up I was flailing all over the place.)

Now on to Titus. This season Titus embarked on an actual relationship with Mikey, who we know as the construction worker who hits on Kimmy, and when she misunderstands him, causes him to examine his interactions with woman and realize that he’s gay. Eventually, he asks Titus out and eventually, Titus accepts. They fall in love, he comes out to his family, Titus grows up a little and even finds himself contemplating fatherhood.

This makes perfect sense to me as Titus has been an excellent kinda Dad to Kimmy throughout the show.

Overall what makes silly comedy work best is the writing, of which Kimmy Schmidt has a dream team in Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and the cast, which, between Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski is exceptional.

So Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 was wonderful and I’m thrilled about that. I’m looking forward to seeing where we go from here.