Category Archives: Movies

Catherine The Great

Lordy lordy! Christmas is almost here!  It’s my favorite time of year you know…this and Halloween…and summer for, like, a week.  Threw a Christmas party at my flat earlier in the month…as is the custom.  This year, I decided to treat my Brit-pals to real US-Stylee Christmas cookies.  The English are forever stuffing their jolly and rain-drenched Christmas faces with overburdened pie crusts and doorstopper Christmas cakes…jammed full of crap like orange peel, figs, and brandy soaked raisins.  We get it…you like to eat bags of potpourri.  Your burps must smell like Yankee Candles.  Americans, on the other hand, go for the quick-burning simple sugars and e-colored frosting found in/on most cookies.  The variety can be staggering, but this year, Karey made Amy Sedaris’ recipe for chocolate chips.  (Amy Sedaris–is there anything her influence DOESN’T improve?)  I made two types of spritz cookie–chocolate and almond.

The chocolate dough was most agreeable.  They happily came out the bottom of the press in the shape they were supposed to maintain.

Well behaved cookies!

They were both yummy and pretty.  Success!  The almond spritz, however, had a much softer dough which I couldn’t tame.  As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get them out of the press in tidy shapes.  It all would just…glob out.  So, instead of baking pretty, almond flavored trees and wreaths, I just squirted out the mucky clumps and baked those.  The dough still TASTED good and it’s a shame to waste all that butter.  So, I just repackaged ’em as ‘grinch poop’ instead of spritz.  I think Sedaris would have approved.

Unruly!

Mercifully, my corn flake wreaths turned out a bit better.  Ah, corn flake wreaths–Americans are experts at re-purposing otherwise healthy foods.  Green bean casserole, creamed corn, pumpkin pie, and merry little corn flake wreaths.  Start with a healthy low fat and vitamin fortified breakfast cereal, add bags of gooey marshmallow, lashings of food dye, and enough melted butter to stop your heart.  Wunderbar!

The only problem is that I couldn’t find any holiday cookie sprinkles (red and green jimmies…or little silver balls…or red hots…or anything).  So, I had to purchase Barbie sprinkles (all I could find, OK?) and separate out the white jimmies from the pink ones and just use those on the wreaths.  So very dedicated to my junk food, I am.

Christmas cookies on one side, it’s ALSO a byproduct of the holiday season that films like Beetlejuice and Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas are broadcast on television.  What do those movies have in common?  Why it’s today’s great thing and national treasure (via Canada)

171. Catherine O’Hara

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/16/CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg/220px-CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg

Actress, Comic, Singer, and Stock Photo Model: Catherine O'Hara

You grow up sort of knowing that she’s good…she pads out the role of ‘Mom’ in a ton of PG films quite nicely and she sings so sweetly as Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas.  But, it was really in my early twenties…with the advent of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries that I noticed how excellent she is.  I mean–her version of “Midnight at the Oasis” as performed with Fred Willard in Waiting For Guffman will always overrule how I hear the song.  Sorry, Maria Muldaur…but I’m going to need some coffee for that ride.

It goes without saying that she’s a terrific improviser.  She understudied for Gilda Radner at Second City (improv mecca).  She later went on to write and perform sketches for “SCTV”.  But those Christopher Guest films are always a treat.  I’m eagerly awaiting the next.  What a dream it would be to act with that Christopher Guest lot on one of those impro-films.   John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, and Michael Hitchcock..they are so good I just know I’d get all sweaty and nervous in their company.  I’d big myself up then try to be all self-deprecating…failing at both…try to insert my most interesting stories into conversations where they obviously didn’t fit.  Probably block every scene with bad improv.  Maybe get tanked and awkwardly perv on Parker Posey.  Oh the ways I could embarrass myself on that set. Michael McKean would tweet something funny about it, I bet…(he has funny Tweets).

O’Hara is a notable comedy hero because, like Tina Fey, she’s an all-star.  She’s a great actress, improviser, AND writer.  And, back in the era when she was on sketch television I reckon it was even harder for women to get their material on air.  Here’s a sketch which she wrote where a game show host has to suffer through idiots.  I reckon you’ll see where that Will Ferrell/Alex Trebek sketch was born.

Here’s something weirdly personal to know (I always like to include something ‘stalker’ level in my blog posts): O’Hara has a condition called Situs Inversus which is apparently where your major visceral organs are in ‘mirror’ or I guess what you’d call a reverse position to how they are normally.  I don’t think it has to be a problem (although there can be issues) …no..no side effects for O’Hara…EXCEPT MAKING HER AWESOME!

Last year, she played Funkhouser’s mentally instable sister on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.  I like it when funny people that I admire, find and work with other funny people I admire. Someday, I hope Amy Poehler works with Stephen Colbert.  Thanks for making friends, Larry David and Catherine O’Hara.  It makes me all happy.  In my head, you all had a super-fun after party when the shoot was over with pizza and board games and laser tag.  Maybe you still send Christmas cards to each other.

In other holiday-related news, please enjoy this link to some wintery Star Wars Snowflakes.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, readers!

For Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen

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Filed under comedy, Movies, People

Baby Shambles

So, today’s great thing has already had over 4 million hits on YouTube.  So, there is a chance that you may already be familiar with this little delight.  It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week:

169.  Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas

Before we begin our dialogue, let’s watch it shall we?  It’s about a baby trashing a bar in the Spanish resort town of Las Palmas–a destination frequented by many British and other European tourists.  The writer/producer/director of this short is Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyquist.  There are puppets and a baby involved.

Pretty funny, yes?  I am a sucker for stuff like this.  What shall we label this genre of comedy?  I’m thinking that it’s about something real invading the land of the puppet/toy or vice versa–where the puppet or toy enters reality.  Examples that spring to mind include the killer cat scene in Team America, the real-world scene in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and perhaps the interviews of Triumph the insult comic on Conan O’Brien.  Is there already a name for this sort of thing–the collision of the manufactured with the ‘real’?

Does this picture freak you out too? Let this be a lesson to you...don't use Google Image to search for pics of 'real life Sponge Bob'. Thanks for the nightmares, internet.

It goes beyond the humanization of objects/animals.  It’s more than just anthropomorphizing something.  It puts that anthropomorphized thing(s) into a more interesting situation.  What can we call it?  Puppet relocation program? Figures Action? G.I.Go? These are all terrible suggestions.  Please think of something good, dear readers.

Anyway, back to today’s winner, “Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas”.  How come it’s so funny?  Without getting too cerebral about it, I think it is so successfully ridiculous because it so wonderfully mirrors real life.  Babies, like drunk people, have very little self-awareness and are primarily concerned with their own happiness and pleasure.  There’s just something uncanny in the way that kid swirls/smells that wine glass and the overturns it on the table…the way she steals food…the way she falls into the table.  In this tow-headed child, we see our own tanked, blitzed, and rat-arsed selves.

Already a hit, the video has already been blogged about and dissected on other better known websites.  As the more culturally sensitive amongst you may have already predicted, some people out there think it’s inappropriate to put a baby in a bra and make her drink juice disguised as beer.  My very own girlfriend was sort of uneasy until I talked sense into her/cruelly mocked her  This columnist asks if the video has gone too far.  Read Here

Well, does it?  Should I be ashamed to find this video so wonderful?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think that what is happening here equates to any sort of abuse.  I do think that there ARE times when we should be more protective of our kids and there are times in the entertainment biz when it’s clear that something is exploitative.  But, I think there’s a difference between what happens in Toddlers and Tiaras, for instance, and what’s going on here.  This isn’t some sad sack Mom dressing her kid up like a prostitute and parading her around just to feel better about herself.  This is a genius bit of comedy/commentary about adults.  I also don’t think there should be a worry about the child and any unwanted exposure.  No one in the world is going to be able to recognize that kid in two years–as they grow they look so different year to year.  No, I don’t have kids, but I’ve seen it happen.  I barely recognize the photos of my adorable nieces that my sister sends.  By the time she’s 3, she’ll have a completely different facial structure.  By the time she’s 10, she’s only going to be famous for this video if she WANTS to be…if she identifies herself and takes credit for it.  This is also why I don’t think Adam McKay’s done a disservice to his daughter for the Funny or Die ‘Pearl’ videos (“The Landlord” and “Good Cop, Baby Cop”–watch them if you haven’t already!).  Who in the world, besides the Family McKay, is going to know what Pearl McKay looks like now that those videos are a few years old?

Anyway, I–for one–am eagerly anticipating the release of the FULL “Baby Trashes Bar…” video (this, apparently, is only a portion).  Here are some promising stills from the continuing saga!

OK, that last pic isn’t from the short.  I found it on Google/Tumblr.  Pretty rad though, yes?  I typed in ‘unicorn awesome’ and this is what turned up.  I forgive you for the real life Patrick the Starfish picture now, internet.

If you, like me, have too much time on your hands and are excited for the full ‘short’ to debut on the internet, go to the creator’s FaceBook page.  That name again is Johannes Nyquist.  ‘Like’ the page and you should get updates when it comes out.

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Filed under comedy, Movies, website

Hammer Time

Flippin’ heck.  It seems that for ONCE,  a film has been released here in the UK before it was released in The States.  I’m always waiting around for an extra month or two to see the big films whilst my fellow Yanks Facebook it up about how much they loved the movies that we haven’t gotten over here yet.  And I’m not talking about some little Merchant Ivory British-funded indy fuffy-collared snoozefest…I’m talking mega-blockbuster stuff.  Because I swear by Odin’s beard, that I saw Thor on Wednesday.  Let’s talk about it as today’s great thing:

164.  Thor

So, just by the sheer fact that this is a blog about things I dig, you must have already assumed that this was going to be a positive review.  You are correct.  Thor is a well-made movie.  I went in with low expectations.  Because, let’s be honest–it had the potential to be a circus of superhero embarrassment.  Think about it, the script includes a guy with a winged helmet and magical hammer/a rainbow bridge/nasty frost giants.  Ridick!  And potentially helladumb.  But, it’s terrific– it’s entertaining, it’s wholesome, it looks expensive despite the lack of A-list celebs (well, minus Natalie Portman, that is).  Plus, I had racked up enough points on my AMC card that I got a free large popcorn and soda with purchase of my ticket.  Whatta day!  Nom nom.

What you have to consider, I suppose, is that–though Marvel co-opted the character for its pantheon of heroes–it is originally based on Nordic mythology.  As silly as some of the ancient mythological tales are, they will always have classic potential–just because everyone understands and respects the age and elements of myth.  So, even though Kenneth Branagh is a somewhat untested director–as far as blockbusters go–there is one thing he knows REAL good:  The Classics.  He is super genius in terms of Shakespearean material  and he did a pretty bang-up job in his retelling of Frankenstein.  And that’s what he was able to manipulate Thor into.–a classic.  He didn’t let us forget that he was dealing with was a tale of gods and mortals and it was fascinating.

Branagh--knows a thing or two about mythic characters.

Props to the casting director for picking a guy that actually looks like Thor.  So often, I’m disappointed with the selections made for superheroes.  Whilst Christian Bale PLAYED a good Batman, I don’t think he’s the perfect choice.  Even buffed up, he’s a bit too thin in the face and they could have dyed his hair jet black.  Yes, I’m picky, I know–typical fangirl reaction…but when you read the comics for years and years you get a definite and mostly consistent visual image and it’s disappointing when people don’t think it’s important.  The performance is important too but there are thousands of capable actors out there.  Get the perfect match of lookalike and good actor, you lazies!  Six foot-three Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who was relatively unknown (only thing I know him from is his performance as Kirk’s dad in the recent Star Trek reboot), not only played the role well but groomed himself to match the current image of Thor as depicted in the Marvel Comics.

Well...I will look the part after some protein shakes.

There. That's better.

Though the film is just shy of two hours, it felt even leaner than that.  It started with a whizz bang–Thor is dropped onto Earth within the first five minutes, they rush into WHY that happened immediately, and then proceed to flip between Thor’s adventure in our realm and what is going on in Asgard with near perfect pacing.  I would almost go ahead and say that Branagh could have added ten minutes or so to flesh out Portman’s character a bit more (the girlfriend role is often an undernourished one in hero flicks.)  Could have also stood for another light entertainment style scene of Thor coming to terms with the difference between Earthlings and Asgardians (the diner scene–for instance–was adorable.)

Another reason to love this film is that, apparently, white supremacists hate it.  They’re pissed off that Idris Elba (of The Wire) plays Norse deity, Heimdall, and are urging a boycott.  Guardian Article

Obviously, this article just makes me love Marvel Comics even more.

In this instance, my whole stance about 'looking the part' does not apply. Heimdall is a secondary character and Elba is ragingly awesome. This casting is nerd-approved by me.

Finally, the picture cozily fits into the Marvel Universe.  Though it stands on its own, it also serves to rev up the nerd fan base for next year’s Avenger’s film.  (There is the standard “Easter Egg” after the credits roll as well.)

Hope they pull this trick off for Green Lantern.  That franchise faces similar difficulties as far as levels of preposterousness go.  (Magic space ring?  Intergalactic police force?  The power of imagination?)  I like the idea of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan but I’m NOT crazy about how they’ve done his costume up.  I pray nightly for it.  Anyway, let’s look at Thor again, shall we?  I might be a big old homo, but my lord, look at those guns!!!

2 tickets please.

I’ll tell you what this film did…it made me, a bona-fide comic book fan, care more about a character who I haven’t paid that much attention to.  I’ve tried jumping onto Thor’s comic title before and have always left it after a few issues.  It’s just never been my thing.  From a blockbuster perspective, this is Iron Man all over again.  A less than immediately recognizable comic franchise has been made awesome.  Still…as much as I liked this incarnation of Thor, nothing can ever top that scene from Adventures in Babysitting.

Seriously, my sister and I thought this looked the double of my Uncle Leonard. Loved it. He is now Uncle Thor and that is why this is best.

Overall, I give Kenneth Branagh’s Thor 8.5 out of 10.  Here’s the trailer if you’re not already sold on it.

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The Great Indoors

Right about now is when I start to tire of winter.  I like the run up to winter (autumn, I suppose.)  And I like to have the snow all around at Christmas making everything look freshly coated with vanilla icing.  I enjoy the sentimentality of snow drifts and seeing your own breath and frozen ponds and woolly hats.  Even for the first couple weeks in January the blizzards and cold still hold some appeal (hot drinks are still in fashion and I haven’t tired of my sweater collection yet.)  But, now it’s February and my sweaters are getting all pill-y and I’m tired of tracking in icy mud to the apartment and there’s no good hills around here to sled on anyway.  The only holiday we’re looking forward to is Valentine’s Day…an overpriced and contrived forced recognition of romance.  (OK…I DO celebrate it…but only because I don’t want to be that much of a misanthrope), and whilst conversation hearts are sort of funny–VDay alone can’t make up for how annoying winter has become.

Look...my sweater is exhausted of me.

So, in honor of…or despite February’s continued bluster, today’s great thing is about staying indoors.

161.  Mail Order DVD Rental

Really, if I’m not going to go out, I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a chilly evening than with a nice glass of red wine, curled up on the couch, candles lit, popcorn popped and DVD ready to be played.  I love everything about the concept of mail-order rental.  I love selecting from a huge list available on-line.  I love the opportunities to write little reviews on the site.  I love that there’s no limit to how long you can hold onto the movie–though one time I had Saving Private Ryan for so long that the company sent an email letting me know that if I didn’t want to watch it now, I could get it later.  Most of all, I love getting things in the post.  Birthday every day!  (Or just about weekly…which is how often I complete films and send them back.)  The only downside is that you miss out on the immediacy of things.  But, some times it’s worth being patient.  If you’ve waited until DVD release to watch a film, chances are you can wait a bit longer.

I remember when I was still living in The States and my friends subscribed to Netflix.  I was clammy green with envy.  I wanted it but had to wait because I was in the process of moving back to NYC from LA…then I got wrapped up in things and forgot about it…  Then, when I got over here, it was one of the first things I did…subscribing to a mail order rental service.  I opted to go with a company that stocked loads of television series as well as films.  I go with Odeon Direct as they have a good teevee to movie ration.  But not everyone was as excited as I was to receive films through the post–actual rental shops for a start.  However, the advent of new ideas/technology has often made the film industry quake.  There’s good precedent for it.  First, movie theatres thought they were doomed with the advent of video rental.  Then video stores thought they’d go out of business with mail order (which sort of turned out to be true), and now mail order may pass thanks to downloads on demand.  But, I will never be an internet pirate…downloading films whether it’s legally or illegaly…simply because I love getting crap in the mail.

I'll tell you why video stores are going the way of the dinosaur...30 copies of each Kate Hudson movie.

Mail order DVD rental allows me to see all sorts of stuff that I either missed in the theater/was too embarrassed to see in person/missed because I wasn’t alive when it was released.

Here are the last ten DVDs that I rented:

Knight and Day–OK, this is one of those slightly embarrassing ones.  But, I typically control/hog the DVD rental queue because Karey doesn’t bother herself with it and I knew that she wanted to see it.  We watched it together on a lazy Sunday night.  It was silly…but not as bad as I thought it would be.  It was, at the very least, entertaining.  I do have to say, however, that whilst I used to find Tom Cruise bulletproof (he was so magnetic a movie star that it didn’t MATTER what people thought he did in his own Xenu-worshipping time–he’s TOM FRICKING CRUISE and he does his own stunts!!!), suspicion of his weirdness is indeed starting to creep in for me and is tainting my film-enjoyment.  I’d give this 6.5/10

Dan in Real Life–Here’s a film I rented because I like Steve Carrell and because it came with a big thumbs-up from my family who had seen it.  I liked seeing Steve Carrell in a slightly more serious role…but I was expecting this film to be funnier than what it was–though Dane Cook’s presence should have lessened those expectations.  Weird film for Juliette Binoche to be in…but she was good.  This film had the unexpected tone of a family dramedy which I totally wasn’t expecting.  Decent but not as good as the fam led me to believe.  6.5/10 again.

Cruel Intentions–I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit to this one.  I missed it when it came out and since then it’s become such a pop culture touchstone…referenced frequently in film media and comedy.  So, I felt I had to have a look.  I’m not sure if this film STARTED the trend of lit adaptations geared to young audiences/set in modern times (a’la Clueless), but it sure is smuttier than any of the others in the genre I’ve seen.  Trashy and dumb with terrible performances from everyone involved.  Still glad I saw it though.  Now I know what everyone is talking about.  3/10.

Away From Her–I cannot tell a lie. I sent this film back without watching it.  I had every intention of viewing it.  I liked Sarah Polley in Go and this film, as directed by her, was supposed to be a terrific effort.  But, it turns out, the prospect of viewing a wrenching and realistic portrayal of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s just was not an easy sell.  I couldn’t motivate myself to load it into the DVD player and Karey, compassionate as she is, felt she wouldn’t be able to handle the heavy drama.  So, sorry Sarah Polley.  I’m sure it was great.  Score N/A.

This movie also went...Away From Me

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo–Much debate with some friends about the whole Millennium Trilogy recently.  Lots of folks are adamant that the US shouldn’t bother to remake these films.  I recently posted pics of Mara Rooney as Salander on my Facebook page and it was polarizing.  Whilst I’d agree with some of the posters on the thread including the point that Americans should make a bigger effort to support foreign films…I stand by my confidence in David Fincher.  I think his versions will best the Swedish ones.  I found this movie watchable but nowhere near as good as the book.  The best thing about it was the star-making turn of Noomi Rapace.  Don’t know if Mara Rooney will create the same splash…we’ll see.  Anyway, I’d give this: 7.5/10–good acting, slight misfire with the tone of the movie vs tone of the book.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist–This was cute.  My partner found it funnier than I did.  Michael Cera is sort of skating on thin ice with me.  I like him but was turned off by his whole uncooperative attitude with the Arrested Development flick.   Come on dude…let’s not get so big for our britches, OK?  Arrested Development gave you your break.  Without it, you’d just be another weird-looking hipster doofus waiting for that right audition.  Anyway, the film was sweet.  I liked the female lead, Kat Dennings.  She was curvier than most girls that are in films and I liked that.  Good role model.  Yes, you can still look healthy/sexy if you have boobs and a butt.  Comparisons to John Hughes films are fair.  If I were a fifteen year old it probably would have helped define me AND made me want to move to NYC.  7.5/10

Anvil-The True Story of Anvil–Yes, the reviewers got it right.  It pretty much is like Spinal Tap but for real.  Funny, sad, uplifting…with one showstopper of a metal jam.  It’s got it all.  Except maybe miniature Stonehenge.  A worthwhile documentary…8.5/10.

Frankie Boyle Live–I’m making a bigger effort to familiarize myself with big names in British stand-up.  It’s not good to be in a car-share to a comedy gig and NOT know who they’re discussing.  So, this is part of my education.  Frankie Boyle is a Scottish comic who sells out big rooms over here.  He’s pretty funny but he’s recently landed himself in some hot water for offending with some sketch comedy shows he did.  I do think he’s a button pusher…and being mean to people for comedy purposes can get old.  This is an hour or so of him being mean and funny. I enjoyed it for the most part and I’m glad to know more about his style…but I don’t feel like I have to race out and watch more of his stand-up.  I pretty much get it…he’ll do a bit…then talk to someone in the crowd and call them a c-word.  7/10

Waitress–We have a rule in the household that any rental that enters the DVD gets a twenty-minute grace period.  If we’re not enraptured by that point we remove it and send it back.  Sadly, this got gonged off.  After 20 minutes we both decided it wasn’t worth the time.  It was cute but not compelling.  Maybe if I knew for sure that I would live to be 200 years old, I’d watch it…but you only have one life to live and it didn’t seem worth the extra hour or two.  That’s time when I could be playing video games.  I can’t really give honest feedback, but for not being thrilling enough to beat the 20 minute rule, Waitress gets 4/10.

This title sounds like it was made up for Seinfeld.

Felicia’s Journey–This is a film that’s currently in the house which we haven’t watched yet.  Atom Egoyan, the director, is an Egyptian/Canadian auteur.  I added this to the queue ages ago because I was briefly obsessed with Elaine Cassidy, an Irish actress.  I think she looks like my partner Karey.  Karey objects loudly and fervently to this.  I THOUGHT it was a compliment because I think Cassidy is pretty…but there you go.  You can’t win them all.  Anyway, I may actually view this and not give it the Away From Her treatment.  But who knows…it DOES look emotionally complex and Karey is completely disintersted.  Score N/A.

The Crazies–This is the other film we have in the house right now.  I’m not a nut for horror films but I do like to watch the ones that get positive attention and I thought I’d give it a go.  Anyone seen it yet?  Score N/A.

I can’t wait to watch these last two films so that I can put them in the post and get new surprises in a week!  Long live Odeon Direct and long live the British post office and long live my couch cushions!

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Filed under Hobbies, Movies

Laughing By Myself

Few things in life are as disappointing as the discovery that a loved one does not find the EXACT same things funny as you.  Whether it’s a knock knock joke, a favorite comedian, or in this particular instance, a much-loved comedy film.  For example, when I learned that of the two classic Steve Martin films, Karey liked The Man With Two Brains better than The Jerk, I almost called the whole thing off.  (Those were the early ‘getting to know you’ days of our relationship–I’m in it for the long haul now…even if she doesn’t like Zoolander at all.)    I mean, The Man With Two Brains is amazingly funny.  But, come on…it’s not The Jerk. I’m picking out a thermos for you?  A dog called Shithead?  Milk-faced bastard?  Its superior status cannot be ignored.

Anyway, today I want to write about another film where we disagree.  And we disagree BIG time on this one.  I mean, she doesn’t even like it a teensy bit–zero tolerance.  My lady friend isn’t alone her dislike of this film.  It turns out that it’s quite a private little clique that enjoys Kung Pow! and I’m happy to be a member of that club.  I feel that the few of us are in possession of a secret understanding of weird comedy.  The guy at Blockbuster properly wigged out when I purchased a used copy.  He thought he was all alone in this world in his love of the film.  This, of course, brings us to today’s great thing:

158.  Kung Pow!  Enter The Fist

More about the unfunny things which appear on this DVD cover later...

For the uninitiated, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a film by Steve Oedekerk.  Oedekerk worked on the Ace Ventura films and he does these little ‘thumb’ movies…you may have seen Thumb Wars in the bargain bin at your local Blockbuster outlet.  Oedekerk used footage from the chop-sockey movie Tiger and Crane Fist.  He re-dubbed the voice track (he plays every single character bar one), and inserted himself into the film as well.  He also added a couple of  scenes that are completely his invention (some of which were shot in his pool and in his backyard).  It’s not a brand new strategy, to parody a film in this way.  Woody Allan, for one has done it as has Steve Martin.  However, when done right it is indeed effective and still a bit novel.  The plot is inane–perhaps not more so than the original kung-fu film’s plot–but that doesn’t matter.  Steve Oedekerk plays the Chosen One and he must receive training to battle a village’s monstrous tyrant, Master Pain, aka “Betty”.  That’s about all you need to know.  The rest is just them riffing on that set-up, the cheesy footage, and making silly voices.

Kung Pow is by no means a perfect film.  There’s plenty to drag it down…stupid gags like gopher chucks and ninja cows, a tired Matrix parody, a tongue with a face and mouth of its own that lives in our hero’s face (just watch the film).  Those things are all terrible.  But, when it’s funny it is pants-peeingly so.    It’s weird, actually, that those hack gags came out of the same brain as the person who thought of “That’s a lot of nuts!”  (One for the initiated there.)  They seem like such different brands of humor.  Indeed, that brings us to possible reasons as to why the film is so polarizing.

On IMDB, one user speculates as to why it was so hated by some (including most critics) with this:

One reason is how it was marketed… people wanted to see Gopher-Chucks and Cows doing piledrivers, they didnt expect such an absurd and random comedy based on voice-overs of an old movie.  edit: I just saw the trailer again to reming myself and wow..the trailer makes the movie look terrible! baby fighting, stupid tongue, one boob chick, cow, punching a hole in a stomach…TERRIBLE!! The worst parts of the movie!! Not even one line from Master Betty!

So basically, the people with the sense of humor that liked the trailer did not like the actual movie…and many of the people with the sense of humor that would like Kung Pow might never know it exists

Quote from another user: gopher chucks and the cow ruined it.  So, that’s a few of us Kung Pow scholars that are in consensus here.   The problem is when it verges into ‘zany’ territory.  Calling a cow “Moofasa”, tongue-y, the aliens at the end?  All that stuff is from the NEW bits that were added.    Ignore all that noise and focus on what’s excellent about the film:  the dub-over of the existing footage.  Everything the supporting characters say is pretty much fried gold.  Wimp Lo, Ling,  Betty, the two ventriloquists, they all elevate the movie to true cult comedy status.  The film occupies a weird niche in the catalogue of comedy…it sort of makes me feel stoned, I laugh at it that hard…even with nary a whiff of second-hand smoke in sight.  It lies somewhere between Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a really good round of Mad Libs…perhaps as produced by Weird Al.  If that sounds appealing to you at all, check this film out.

Here are three sample scenes with which to both give you a preview and to annoy Karey:

1.  Training with Wimp Lo (who the school has trained wrong–as a joke).

Apologies…you must click the link as the darned thing simply won’t embed…

Training Vid

Sometimes I like to go up to Karey and say ‘I challenge you..ahehe ahehehe”.  She does not like it and does not laugh.  But I do.

2.  Ling inexplicably and continuously makes a weeeooopeeeoooweeeooo sort of noise.  Watch this montage.  My fave moment is when she strikes–using WEEE and OOO as sorts of kiais…

3.  Master Betty defends his reputation and tells a joke:

I hope that there was something in at least one of those clips that made you laugh.  (Because then you can be part of my elite comedy-appreciation club–“The Chosen Ones”.)  You know…there HAD been a rumor that this was meant to be the first of a trilogy.  If enough of us clamor for it, perhaps it will happen.  Say Eeeeooo Weeeooo if you believe in miracles!

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She gets an A+++++++++++++

Chances are, if you’re an American, or have lived in The States for at least a calendar year, or maybe even just visited around Christmastime, you’ve seen the much celebrated and beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story.  Heck, TBS runs it for 24 hours…so the opportunity is there in spades.  I’ve covered an aspect of the film before in this here blog (see:  Crazy Santa Scene ).  But, I love the film so much…and it is that holiday time of year, I don’t think it does anyone a disservice to talk about it again.  But for this post, I want to look at one of the best performances in the film instead of a favorite scene.  That’s why today’s great thing is:

155.   Melinda Dillon in A Christmas Story

To give proper credit, they’re all great in this film.  Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsly, even the Bumpus Hounds…but there is something that’s a bit unsung about Dillon’s performance as Midwestern Mom, Mrs. Parker.  She suffers through the humiliating episode of the leg lamp, her husband’s blue rantings against the household boiler, and even her son getting into some major fisticuffs with a raccoon-capped thug and she does it all with a certain goodly warmth and humor.  She brings to the screen one of the most realistic portrayals of a Mom ever committed to film, methinks.

A spoonful of whatever this is helps the sugar go down...

Of Melinda Dillon, Wikipedia notes that she is notoriously private and not much is known about her as a person.  Boy, are they ever right about that.  I couldn’t even locate an interview!  For a woman who has been nominated for Oscars twice (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice) AND is a major featured player in one of the greatest cult classics of all time, that’s a pretty impressive level of media avoidance.  Briefly (because it HAS to be), here’s what I know about Melinda Dillon.  She was born in Arkansas.  (Good for her for escaping!)  She studied improv with Second City in Chicago.   (Good for her for being awesome!)  And, she was married for a while and has a child but is now divorced and the child is now a grown-up.  (Good for you for having what passes as a pretty normal life nowadays!).  This year she is 71 years old.  She’s five foot eight and studied the Lee Strasberg method of acting.  She played Honey in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf…and, that’s about all the info I could garner.  Oh, here’s a random quote about working with Sylvester Stallone that I found:  “I’m taller than Sly and that bothers him and we kid about it so I take off my shoes in some scenes. I can’t slouch or I wouldn’t be Anna. She’s very upright. So, that’s as nosy as I could get.  I suppose I’ll just have to focus on why I think her performance in the film is so ace and not worry about stuff like how come I can’t find her blouse size or what her favorite pizza topping is.

1.  As a Mom, her character is firm but fair.  The Parker children, Ralphie and his kid brother are relatively good kids…but we’re all scamps of a sort at that age aren’t we?  They get into their fair share of mischief, what with Ralphie tangling with Farkus, Randy (kid brother) refusing to eat, and Ralphie dropping his very first F-bomb.  I especially like how after she makes Ralphie suck on a bar of soap after his foul-mouthed tirade she does try a bit herself to see what it’s like.  Later, when she can see the poor kid has had enough after his incident with Scott Farkus she even covers for wee Ralphie with his Dad (who would’ve lost his shit.)  What a nice Mom!

Worse than waterboarding?


2. She perfectly plays the ‘fun’ parent.  Watch her encourage Randy to eat, in a fun way which she knows he’ll engage in, whilst Dad Parker looks on in disgust.

3.  She’s interesting to watch in a scene even when she’s not the central focus (which she rarely is.)  Watch her chuck Randy around like she’s putting a new cover on an especially unwieldy comforter in this snowsuit scene.

Snowsuits are great.  I don’t know why we don’t continue to wear them as grown-ups.  I have about a twenty minute walk to work…a perilous one at that…nobody shovels their damn sidewalks over here.  It’s icy as all get-out and falling about in a nice puffy snowsuit hurts far less than falling about in jeans.

4.  Finally, and admittedly unrelated to A Christmas Story, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how awesomely Melinda Dillon has aged.  Here is a still from Magnolia.  She will have been about 61 here.

She must use good moisturizer.

A final clip for you here.  Unfortunately, no  sign of  Melinda here…mainting her publicity-shy past…but it’s a nice story about a recent reunion and fun for fans of the film (like myself) to see some of the players all grown up:


Bye for now!


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Eva Mendes is Only One of the Reasons…

My movie commentaries are rarely timely in this blog.  I’d love to be able to talk about today’s great thing and tell you all to run out and see it.  Unfortunately, it’s probably already left the theatres in The States (where I believe it was released in the late summer) and it’s already been out here in the UK for a couple of weeks.

Well, screw it, I’m still going to tell you to run out and see it.  After all, it’s not every day that you get to see Marky Mark in a comedy role.  If it’s still playing, go go go!  If it’s on DVD by now get some people around and pop some popcorn.

151.  The Other Guys

Here are some reasons to go and see this blockbuster, if you haven’t already:

1.  Adam McKay rarely disappoints.    Some facts for you comedy fans out there:  He’s one of the founders of The Upright Citizens Brigrade (the famous improv troupe/school that has spawned many successful comic performers–putting it on the same level as The Groundlings and Second City.)  Speaking of Second City, McKay studied with Del Close.  If improv was a religion, and to some it is, Del Close would at least be an important prophet if not the messiah.  Studying improv with Del Close is like studying handsomeness with Brad Pitt.  They’re both experts at their craft.  McKay is also the co-creator of Funny or Die.  You’ve seen “The Landlord” sketch on funnyordie.com haven’t you?  It features his adorable daughter Pearl and comedy partner Ferrell.  Here’s a funnyordie.com clip promoting The Other Guys.  Ferrell plays his character Allen Gamble in a faux NYPD recruitment video:

McKay is six-foot five.  That’s tall!  Let’s rank Adam McKay movies, shall we?  In order of preference, I’d go with:  1.  Stepbrothers, 2. The Other Guys, 3. Anchorman, 4. Talladega Nights

2.  Mark Wahlberg is an unexpected delight.  But, that’s not entirely surprising, I suppose, for a McKay/Ferrell project.  They’ve successfully turned other actors (who are known more for dramatic roles) into hot comedy commodities.  Look at John C. Reilly.  Prior to Talladega Nights I only ever saw him in the blue-collar/heart of gold/rough of face type of role.  Now, I think he’s hilarious!  McKay and Ferrell perform similar wizardry with Wahlberg.  I actually LIKE him as an actor now.  Before, I thought he was sort of an entitled little wannabe who kept getting lucky with good reviews for his film work.  Now, he’s cool in my book.  Thanks The Other Guys!  Hating one less person in the world is actually quite a relief.

Here’s a quote from an interview featured at collider.com (collider) which highlights a reason this most recent comedy pairing works so well:

Ferrell:  You know, I think we had a big read through for Sony and Mark, like, killed it. I thought I was really bad and I was just like “Oh my god, Mark is so funny.” There was just something about writing stuff in his voice that made us laugh so hard just how serious he was and we were like “Look at you. Why do you do that?”  and we were just like “Oh. We can’t take it “. It was probably in those first couple of read throughs and then my kind of earnestness and like “I disagree with you” you know? I made a point and I kept telling Adam and Chris that we have to make sure that “Mark’s a tough guy. Will’s the nerdy guy. Like, I have to have a toughness also. Even though I’m an eccentric weirdo, I have to have to be confident enough to push him back.”  Once we started putting that in the script, it was great. By rehearsal it was just like “I cannot wait to shoot this scene”.  There were just times where he is just looking at me and I can’t look at him.  Whether it’s the slow burn or when he gets pissed, it just made us laugh.

Here’s a perfect clip to illustrate what Ferrell is blathering on about here:

 

3.  Eva Mendes is hot.  It’s really easy, it seems, to completely ignore the female supporting roles in male-dominated comedies…but McKay usually does a pretty good job of giving them SOMETHING to work with.  They’re never just completely JUST the ‘straight romantic counterpart’.  For instance, I think Christina Applegate holds her own with the fraternity of awesome buffoons in Anchorman. In Stepbrothers, both Mary Steenburgen and Kathryn Hahn are memorable.  Talladega Nights has Jane Lynch.  Jane Lynch!

This actually isn't much of a stretch...I see hot girls with dopey looking boyfriends all the time.

4.  The supporting cast.   Steve Coogan, legendary British comedy icon, unfortunately, is not used to great effect.  However, Michael Keaton is a highlight.  There’s a running gag about TLC songs that gets better each time it calls back.  Likewise, Dwaye Johnson (the Rock), and Samuel Jackson pop in to make with the funny.

My only caveat is this…please watch this film with a large group of people.  Unless you’re reading a book, things are always funnier in groups.  When it comes to comedy audiences, size DOES matter.  Laughter is infectious and the more people laughing around you, the better…

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