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Interview: Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 27 // Hubert Vigilla
Can you guys tell us about your characters since you're newcomers to the Evil Dead franchise. Ray Santiago: I play Pablo Simon Bolivar, who is this idealistic guy who came from Honduras and ended up meeting Ash at the Value Stop. He is the heart of the unit and the eyes of the audience. Pablo is Ash's main homie, and he was warned about evil lurking in the world by his family, and he didn't believe it. He comes face to face with it and believes that Ash is the man to save the world from evil. He's Ash's biggest cheerleader and sees beyond all of his flaws and believes in him. Through idolizing Ash, he realizes that he doesn't want to be like Ash, but he wants to be his own man and he wants to be his own hero. And I'll turn it over to Dana, because her character comes along for the ride because she sort of gets dragged into this whole situation by me. Dana DeLorenzo: That is true. Kelly is best friends with Pablo and, like Ray said, gets dragged into this fight against evil. But she is a real badass in the making. She's tough, she tells you like it is, she's not afraid to speak her mind. And she's really smart. She's quick on her feet. She can turn anything into a weapon if she needs to. Even though she's a little hesitant—or a lot hesitant—to join the fight at first, she eventually gets her own reasons to fight the deadites and becomes the common sense of the group, which is great for Ash. I think Kelly and Ash are a lot more similar than either would care to admit, and for that reason they push each other's buttons but they have each other's backs, which is really cool. I think it's very much a big brother, younger sister relationship, and something Kelly and Pablo are big sister and little brother. So these are her boys; this is her new family that she has found, and ultimately Kelly find her purpose in fighting evil. A reason to get out of bed every day. Ray Santiago: I don't think I've ever looked at my sister the way Pablo looks at Kelly. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] No, I'm saying from Kelly's point of view. I know. Ray Santiago: But I'm just saying Pablo looks at Kelly with a different set of eyes. I don't think I've ever looked at my sister that way. But, I just want to say, the show is ultimately about a group of people who are trying to escape who they're really meant to be, and they are running from the demons that they have to fight and the demons that they have inside. And once they come into contact with them and overcome them they become this super-strong monster-fighting squad. So somehow these three dysfunctional people come together and they become a unit that is responsible for saving the world from evil. How did you prepare yourselves for physically demanding roles? And also being covered in blood and gore the entire time? Dana DeLorenzo: Oh, we would just throw everything on each other when we were prepping. It was just like, "Oh, I've got some maple syrup. Here!" Ray Santiago: I— I— Dana DeLorenzo: He went and ran in the woods in his underwear. [laughs] Ray Santiago: Yeah. I worked out a lot. Dana DeLorenzo: He did! Can I just commend his commitment to the gym? He looks very— Ray Santiago: I would wake up... Dana DeLorenzo: Kelly has noticed! Kelly is like, "Maybe Pablo's—" Ray Santiago: I had to keep it up! It's like, "Dammit! She's not looking at me the way I want her look at me!" Dana DeLorenzo: Meanwhile, I'm eating every dessert everyday. Ray Santiago: They have a lot of meat pies and a lot of biscuits in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: It was amazing. And their desserts. Oh god! Everything there was so good. Well, and also, I was actually terrified a lot of the time filming Ash vs Evil Dead. I didn't think I was going to because it's make believe, but seeing the actors coming and playing the deadites—seeing them normal, like we are today, and seeing them in hair and makeup four hours or five hours with this incredible special effects team—[laughs] and then they'd just be walking around the lunch room. I couldn't eat! I couldn't look at them! It was that terrifying a place. And they didn't even have the contacts in. So I would get an extra dessert and go to my trailer and have my comfort food. It was honestly very terrifying. And weird things happened. I still think that the set was possessed. Things would just fall over at the strangest times. The noises when we were filming in the stage. The roof would be banging like there were a million, I don't know— Ray Santiago: Deer? Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah! Deer up there. Ray Santiago: They were birds. Dana DeLorenzo: There's birds! Yeah. Are the birds doing Chicago right now on Broadway? [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: But no. It's just the wind, it's just the birds. I'm telling you, weird stuff happened. We summoned evil for sure during this. Ray Santiago: The fact we were able to leave Los Angeles and create our own bubble in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: Incredible. Ray Santiago: With Bruce and Lucy and Jill Marie Jones—who cooked for me on many occasions, and just made lovely chicken soup. Dana DeLorenzo: Jill Marie Jones. Ahh. [sighs] Ray Santiago: It was possible to create this family unit outside of our normal habitat. It really helped. I just want to give props to the New Zealand crew. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, Kiwis! Ray Santiago: The Kiwiss were amazing, and Auckland took really good care of us. We're excited to hopefully be going back. Dana DeLorenzo: Yes, hopefully. Ray Santiago: Like you guys are not going to be disappointed in what we've done. It's kind of groundbreaking because Sam created this genre of cult classic horror-comedy, and we're bringing it to television in a single-camera, half-hour format. And I don't think there's anything like that right now on television. You've got all these other horror shows, but ours isn't taking itself too seriously. You can pop some popcorn and it's quick, you're gonna love it. Dana DeLorenzo: It's like walking into a comedy club, but inside the scariest haunted house you've ever been in. It's jam-packed in thirty minutes. There's action, but then there's also some good drama. Honestly, it's entertaining. I'm really excited. What was your exposure to the Evil Dead films before going into the show? Dana DeLorenzo: I just watched them five minutes ago. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: He just showed me really quick. Ray Santiago: Yeah, I was showing her [on my phone]. Dana DeLorenzo: We just did a montage. Ray Santiago: I had watched the second one, which is my favorite. And after I found out we were doing this, obviously I watched all of them. And I would watch them— A couple times I would come home and I would watch them before I went to bed. OH! And speaking of being scared and possessed, I had a bat that we were training with. Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] Ray Santiago: I was training with a baseball bat for something on the set, and I brought the bat back to my place. [Sam Raimi] signed the bat, and I was so excited. In my apartment in new Zealand I started hearing this noise every night and I couldn't figure out what it was. And I actually got really scared that my place was haunted. So I'd sleep with this bat next to my bed. But it was just— Dana DeLorenzo: It was me hiding in the closet. Ray Santiago: It was just the pipes from the restaurant underneath [my place]. [laughs] [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: I'd go over and we'd run lines and Ray would be like, "Do you hear that?" We'd get really quiet and I wouldn't hear it. I'd start talking and he go, "No! There it is again!" [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: So we were— Ray Santiago: We were on edge, basically. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, we were on edge. Ray Santiago: Because we were a little traumatized from all the situations we— We were put in a blender of scary and gross situations. Dana DeLorenzo: And crazy. I mean, I couldn't even watch the first Evil Dead by myself in the daytime. I had to have people come over. I thought, I'm an adult. Am I really going to be scared? Still holds up, terrifies me. I still have nightmares about it. I'm getting clammy hands talking about it. [laughs] Following up on that question, if you guys have seen the films, you know most of the characters don't really last for too long. Dana DeLorenzo: Right. So do you guys sort of read ahead in the scripts just to see if your names keep coming up? Dana DeLorenzo: You know, they only gave us the scripts like two days before we would shoot it. So, ummm. [turning to Ray] What were you going to say? Ray Santiago: I was going to say that I had a system going. I'm from the South Bronx. Dana DeLorenzo: This one! Ray Santiago: She called me "New York" all the time. Dana DeLorenzo: He is so New York. We could not get the scripts until we were two days away from shooting, and maybe doing a table reading. Meanwhile, Ray was like, "This is what's going to happen." I was like, "How do you know this?!" Ray Santiago: "I can't tell you! I have my ways! I know what's happening! We're good!" Look, I think that you're right. It is something to be scared about because the people that Ash care about ultimately end up dying. Dana DeLorenzo: It keeps it exciting. Ray Santiago: I'm just going to say this: Even if you die on Evil Dead, you can come back and taunt Ash for the rest of his life. So I honestly think that's what this show's about: staying alive. So you have to see what happens. Dana DeLorenzo: And the fact that anything can happen. I think that's what gives this show an edge. You never know who can go, and you never know who's real, or who's a deadite in disguise.
Ash v Evil Dead Interview photo
Meet Ash's two sidekicks
Bruce Campbell has flown solo in each of the Evil Dead movies, which ran our hero Ash through the wringer as well as gallons of blood. Ash vs Evil Dead changes that up. Older and wearing a girdle, Ash can't kill the deadites ...

Interview: Makeup/Special Effects Designer Roger Murray (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 26 // Hubert Vigilla
Having worked on the Evil Dead remake, how does Ash vs Evil Dead compare in terms of the blood and gore and extent of the makeup effect? Oh man. It's a lot more intense, basically. I mean, there's a huge amount of special effects, blood, gore, dismemberment, beheadings. I think it's just a lot more fun of a ride. It's just a lot faster paced and crazy fun, really. When did the series come up after working on the film? Pretty quickly after? No, it wasn't. It sort of matured over quite a bit of time before we actually talked about that maybe we should do a series. It took a bit to build it, and I got pulled in about two months before they started pre-production. So there was quite a bit of a time gap between them. Moving to cable—to Starz—were there any limitations at all on what you could do as far as effect goes? We haven't had any limitations yet! They haven't set any limitations. I think most of it gets set up through the writing, and the writers have been fantastic about building certain effects as we go along. And also as the series evolves, they get an idea of what we're capable of and the amount of time [required]. That's been really great. So no, they haven't set any limitations yet, and I don't think they will! [laughs] Can you tell us about one of your favorite effects that you got to work on? Hmmm... It's a tricky one without giving too much away. I think just generally we've done a lot of character makeups, right? And those have all been really fun. Pretty much every deadite is its own character makeup. So we've got a tone for the whole show, but we've personalized every one. It's been quite good. And I think just generally making rigs. Going back to the old school rigs with dummy rigs, dismemberments, beheadings. We've made a few puppets! I can't say what's my favorite. It's like we had a lot of blood on our hands, let's just say that. How did the cast react to being constantly covered in blood? Well, they sort of got used to it. Though Bruce gets a lot of the blood, you know. The whole cast were amazing, really amazing, and really stepped up to it. Because, you know, it's a fast turnaround TV show, so it's on. I mean, we do a lot of effects in our turnaround episodically, so there was no downtime from blood. And they just got used to it. It was really good, yeah. Is there enough of a talent pool in New Zealand now that you can actually pull off this kind of show? There's been a lot of new productions down there. That's a really good question. Look, there's a huge gravitas with Evil Dead. I was working with two really good makeup artists—Jane O'Kane and Denise Coomb—down there who both share a credit in prosthetic design, because we basically allocated some of the tonal stuff to the on-set makeup artists, the designers. And that was really great. We've had a really good pool of effects makeup artists through the whole Lord of the Rings, and New Zealand ended up getting people from America, we drew people from Australia. Just the tone and the want for people to work on the show was enough to draw people to New Zealand. We're really lucky. We had some great technicians come down, great makeup artists, great technicians who worked a lot in the States. They love being in New Zealand. It's quite different down there, you know? So no, we were really lucky. It is one of those things where we're a small country so when a lot of different projects get going, it does get quite tight, but I think Evil Dead will always draw people in. The coolness factor of it? Yeah, I think it's the coolness factor, but I think it's also that we run our workshop so that makeup artists—the special effects makeup artists are usually technicians too—they'll get the ability to potentially sculpt some of the designs and do the technical side and do the makeups; so it's quite a holistic sort of way we run it. So for them they feel a little bit more connected to the show, and they really enjoy it. It's been great fun. And, you know, they come out of the workshop, get some blood on their hands, come back, wash their hands, go back out. It's been really good. When you read a gory set piece in the script, are you allowed to ratchet it up and make suggestions, or do you usually stick to what's there? Oh man! It's always getting ratcheted up, you know what I mean? The thing is trying to contain that so it actually works and is scary and not too over the top, you know what I mean? So it depends on the pace of the gag that we're doing. Some of the gags we'll do we'll go completely berzerk, mostly when Bruce is involved. [laughs] So in [Sam Raimi's] episode, it was like, "Let's really ratchet it up!" because he really loves seeing Bruce covered in blood. "But let's just ratchet it right up— Let's go craaaazy!" So we'd barge on set with kegs of blood and blood pumps, and we're pumping. That's really fun, but there are times when we want to build the pace of the show; we want it to be scary, a lot more potentially like the remake where there's a bit more of a sense of impending doom. We'll sort of tone it down a little bit. So there's a nice variation, yeah, yeah. It's worked really well, it's really fun. And... [laughs] You guys are gonna love it! It's crazy. It's a crazy half hour. It's one of those shows that I, personally, would love to go and see. Like when I get home from work, I just want to sit down and watch it. It's really fun. Could you talk a little bit about what's the aesthetic, the look, the tone of the— The tone, yeah. The tone. That's another great question. Of course, that's one of the things because the tone changes in the movies from the first Evil Dead to the second one to Army of Darkness. There's sort of an overriding feeling to it, but the actual makeup and the look of the makeup changes quite a bit. So what we've done is we've kind of gone back to look mostly at Evil Dead 2 and get the tone from there, and sort of lifted a little bit for the TV show. We always wanted to make Ash vs Evil Dead our own sort of thing. We didn't want to copy [previous movies] outright because I think [the movies] had their time and place then. So we're drawing on that, we're drawing on the palette and different hues of what they've used initially. And I love [Evil Dead 2]. I love that movie, it's great. So to be able to go over and deconstruct it, talk with Sam about where they sort of started and what the background was; just sort of change it and work with him and get a feeling of what the deadites were going to look like. It's just pushed a little bit, pushed a little bit toward the modern. How do you do Evil Dead 2-esque makeup effects when [back then] they were doing things with peanut butter? Now you've got fantastic technology and amazing materials. How do you dial it back? Well, that's the thing. We didn't want to dial it right back to then. We actually wanted to enhance it for the show. We've actually taken all the appliances we make—they're silicone appliances... There's more of a naturalism. That's probably the best way I can describe it. We didn't want it to look too theatrical, we wanted you to actually feel like the characters had gone through a transformation. There's definitely a harkening back to Evil Dead movies, but I think it's its own thing too. It's just a natural progression of makeup effects, generally. We're taking our own riff on it. How does it feel working in the industry now with the resurgence of practical effects? You're seeing a lot of films and TV shows going back to practical and going away from digital. I'm extremely happy about it. [laughs] My company, Main Reactor, is extremely happy about it. It really is a bit of a dream come true because, look, there was a point when we all thought that lots more things would be digital. We still work with a great visual effects company in New Zealand, Pacific Renaissance Pictures effects (PRPVFX). Our approach is we're not going to discard our visual effects, we're going to work together, and we're going to make effects that you don't know where the practical-effects and visual-effects sides begin and end. Marrying both of those together is hugely effective. Most of it's practical, but there's some tweaks with visual effects, things you can do easily now like wire removal and all those sort of things, enhancement of blood. It helps storytellers tell their story. We're making Evil Dead as a TV series in 2015. It's insane. I couldn't be happier. The producers are up for as many practical effects as possible, and it's just going to be a nice combination of tweaks so you're not sure how we did it. It's the veneer, you know? The polish on the— Yeah! Yeah, yeah yeah. And you'll see it. Most of the effects are practical. [laughs] Yeah, but I don't want to dismiss the fact that working with visual effects artist and working in that medium is a really fantastic way to go too. It's a great marriage. You probably run into this a lot in recent years where you'll be sitting at a production meeting and the visual effects guys say "We'll take that" or "We'll do that," and you're sort of left with the scraps. So now this seems like this is the opposite. Well, I think there's a mentality initially that's starting to change where visual effects supervisors and stuff would try to pick up lots of effects in pre-production meetings. But what we've found was that— [Let's take the show] Spartacus. I think Spartacus is a great example because when you start birthing a show, everyone starts trying to figure out what jigsaw piece they are and what's going to be best for the show. I definitely know that there's a big gravitas on Spartacus with the visual effects to actually do stuff as practically as possible because the turnaround on television is really fast. You know, the post-production side is really fast because it's matching where you are in the shooting schedule. They don't seem to be putting their hands up as much now saying "I'll take that." They're being a lot more clever about it. I think for [visual effects artists], it's great. If they can get something in-camera and we've got a plan from the start, we can come up with a great product. We're doing Evil Dead, so there's a lo-fi aspect to some things. If you're got dummies being chopped up with chainsaws, and you've got dismembered arms, or we've got some really lovely silicone bodies, you know, all that stuff. We don't have to hide that with visual effects, and the visual effects people don't have to clean it up. It just is what it is, and you're carried by the story and carried by the characters.
Interview: Roger Murray photo
On the look/feel of this new Evil Dead
Roger Murray's been working in props, makeup effects, and practical special effects for more than two decades. His credits include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 30 Days of Night, the 2013 Evil Dead remake, and Crouch...

Ash vs Evil Dead preview photo
Ash puts his hand to good use (NSFW)
Listen up, you primitive screwheads! Ash vs Evil Dead premieres this week, and you can now watch the first four minutes of the first episode online. This first episode was directed by Sam Raimi, and it catches the audien...

Screenings photo

See Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse early and free

Washington DC screening
Oct 23
// Matthew Razak
The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is going to go one of two ways. It will either be a hilarious send up of childhood adventure films or a mediocre raunchy comedy featuring zombies. At the moment I'm leaning towar...
ESPN 30 for 30 photo
ESPN 30 for 30

ESPN 30 for 30: Angels in the Outfield

A straight-faced College Humor parody
Oct 23
// Hubert Vigilla
While I don't necessarily like baseball, I really like the idea of baseball, especially documentaries about baseball. That goes for pitching docs like Fastball and Knuckleball, as well as underdog stories like The Battered Ba...
Daddy's Home photo
Daddy's Home

Daddy's Home returns with another trailer

Horror movie title, comedy plot
Oct 22
// Matthew Razak
A little while ago a video of Will Ferrell pegging a Laker's cheerleader in the head with a basketball went around the web. It was from a scene from Daddy's Home and now you can watch the trailer with that scene and deci...

Trevor Noah did fine on his Daily Show debut, so everyone relax already

Sep 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219982:42644:0[/embed] When Colin Quinn took over for Norm MacDonald on SNL's Weekend Update, he did a bit about going to your favorite bar and meeting the new bartender. Noah opened The Daily Show on a similar note: "Jon Stewart was more than just a late night host. He was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our political dad. And it's weird, because dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad. And he's black." You could almost see the relief and confidence shine through Noah's smile when his jokes landed. Noah seemed to do a whole body sigh at the end of his intro, vowing to carry on The Daily Show's legacy: "Thank you for joining us as we continue the war on bullshit." Noah proceeded to barrel through the show's first segment. He sometimes talks a bit too fast--nerves, probably--but he was charming as he discussed The Pope's visit, which is necessary when making papal dick jokes. It led into a bit about House Speaker John Boehner's impending resignation from Congress. (Boner joke.) The biggest laugh from me came from his impression of a shocked Marco Rubio frightened by applause. The second segment of the show introduced new correspondent Roy Wood Jr., who discussed the news of running water found on Mars in a solid bit about race. (I wonder how many late night comedians made jokes about water on Mars but none in California.) I believe it was Dana Stevens from Slate who likened the late night talk show to a literary form, like a sonnet or a sestina. Though not a traditional late night talk show, The Daily Show has its own format, and Trevor Noah is sticking to it. A lot of Jon Stewart's writing staff is still in place as well, which will help with this transition as Noah finds his own identity as host. For now, the only notable differences are visual--the logo has become sans serif (works for The Daily Show, but not for Google), the set is busier/more involved, the graphics are reminiscent of Sky News and the BBC, and, oh yeah, the host is black. (There's a nice gag, probably recurring this week, about using the words "international" and "global" to refer to Noah's blackness/South African roots.) The first episode wasn't without its snags. The aides/AIDS joke and the crack/Whitney Houston joke both drew loads of ire online, and they'll probably fuel some thinkpieces today about what comedians should and shouldn't joke about. (Expect references to Noah's bad jokes on Twitter in said thinkpieces.) I wonder whether or not the benign violation theory of humor even applies to either the aides/AIDS joke or the Whitney Houston joke. The issue is as much a question of tone and delivery as the actual content. To be honest, I wasn't offended by either, but I sometimes like a good uncomfortable groaner. Besides, South Park already did an aides/AIDS joke. As for the crack/Whitney Houston joke, just remember: when making a joke about crack, the safe punchline, even though he passed away more recently, is Marion Barry. Noah's interview skills could also use some work. His first guest was Kevin Hart, and Noah seemed a bit stilted, downright robotic, early on. He stared at a box of neck ties (Hart brought a gift) as if they were live squid, then proceeded to do some C-3PO dancing before finally laughing off his nerves. Their conversation together never quite flowed or found a rhythm, but that will come with time. In the literary form of the late night show, the interview is often the trickiest part. Noah's also got to work on his spit-take. That's some weaksauce spray he's got there. When I looked at Stephen Colbert's debut on The Late Show, I mentioned that it's unfair to judge a late night show on its first episode. (Supposedly Trevor Noah's first week on The Daily Show should be treated like a miniseries.) But I think you can kind of judge whether or not a host will be okay captaining the ship early on. Noah is off to a good start. And so a nation that takes its moral cues from television programs can finally unclench.
Trevor Noah Daily Show photo
Continuing the war on bulls**t
Trevor Noah had one of the least enviable jobs in comedy last night. Jon Stewart transformed The Daily Show into a bastion of media criticism and political analysis. It wasn't just a comedy program anymore. Some considered Th...

The Muppets Pilot Review: Not Really for Kids, But That's Okay

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
There's a bit of a jarring transition going into this new status quo. The show follows the Muppets backstage as they work on a late night talk show starring Miss Piggy (think The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Tonight Show and you've gotten the idea). There's also traditional bits of character work for the show moving forward: Fozzie's in a relationship where his girlfriend's parents don't approve of their daughter dating a bear, The Electric Mayhem may have substance abuse problems (but that's in side jokes, don't worry), and the afortmentioned Kermit and Miss Piggy have split up but maintain a working relationship the best they can. The biggest change has to be Kermit's new personality. Maybe it's due to being walked on over the years, or stress from his managerial gig, but this new Kermit's kind of a jerk. A funny jerk, mind you, but a jerk nonetheless. At least he's got all sorts of new facial expressions to toss around. The folks at work have made some great renovations to Kermit's puppetry. He's also got a new girlfriend, Denise.  That's the kind of stuff I'm referring to when I say The Muppets aren't really for kids anymore. They've been all ages for years, so there are probably tons of examples you could point to of when the Muppets had adult-oriented humor. But this is the first time I noticed a clear barrier of entry. By the time Kermit refers Miss Piggy as "sexy," it's already put all the nails in the coffin for kids. But while the whole family can't enjoy, I'm sure the Muppets can draw a lot from this new level of sophisticated humor. I laughed quite a few times during this pilot, and they weren't due to the same kind of slapstick gags or easy jokes you'd expect. Drawing from the more successful aspects of the two films, there's a greater emphasis on joke writing and staging. So there's a better balance of the classic Muppets charm without an over-reliance of some of the cornier jokes. Then again, this could all just be too early to tell if the strength of the writing can hold out for the following weeks.  At the end of the day, it's The Muppets in a brand new package. You don't know exactly what you're getting anymore, but it's the most interesting The Muppets have been in some time.  Final Thoughts:  Imagine Dragons: "Why won't you come on tour with us?" Animal: "Too many cities. Too many women." "You went into a room full of dancing stars and came back with Tom Bergeron?"  "What can I say? I have a thing for pigs." Elizabeth Banks totally kills her guest spot.  Riki Lindhome showed up in both this and Fresh Off the Boat last night, and the world clearly needs more of her. Her presence is always welcome.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Muppets TV photo
Tom Bergeron can't catch a break
The Muppets have made quite a comeback the last few years. After two successful films, the latest Muppet project brings them to ABC in a mockumentary style format similar to shows like Parks and Recreation or The Office (henc...

Scream Queens Series Premiere Recap: "Pilot/Hell Week"

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
I'm not sure if Fox's plan to premiere two episodes in a row was a good thing. When succumbed to that much of Murphy's work at once, the cracks always show. It's one of the rare cases where the pilot fared much better than the first episode of the series proper. For example, the show opens in a particularly interesting way as a girl (in 1995, no less) gives birth to a baby in a bathtub during a sorority (Kappa Kappa Tau) party. The other girls ignore her when TLC's "Waterfalls" comes on, thus leading to her death and a mysterious cover up that's sure to be one of the running threads throughout the series. It's a pretty impressive hook for any pilot and perfectly captures the tone the Glee trio of Murphy/Falchuk/Brennan is looking for. It's darkly humorous, creepy, informative of the show's universe, and there's a splash of pop culture reference. But other than one other scene which I'll get to in a bit, it never quite reaches that height again.  There's always been something that bothered me with Murphy's work. Because he's a marginalized individual, he's always been okay with exploiting other margins in the sake of comedy. The same problems that have plagued his shows appear here as well. There are racial stereotypes (though I'm sure Keke Palmer is just playing Keke Palmer despite arguments otherwise), thickly laid homoeroticism that borders on the homophobic, and a "Queen Bee" character in Emma Roberts the trio uses as a funnel for every terrible (ultimately non-humorous) thing they could think of. But what separates Queens from a show like, let's say, Scream, is that it doesn't dwell on these characters and takes them seriously. It's a show full of dumb caricatures making terrible choices, and we're going to want to watch them get murdered week to week. From the looks of how much humor it can mine from gleefully killing its characters, I'm sure they're be style in spades. Just by watching these first two episodes, I've figured the modus operandi of Scream Queens is to revel in its quirk so much it won't be bothered to actually develop any of its characters. There's some surprising level of depth to Emma Roberts' Chanel (which make the other Chanels look lacking in comparison), but if she's expected to lead the series instead of the final girl archetype Grace (Skyler Samuels), I don't know how much of her I can take. There are definite narrative nuggets to her character, so I hope I can chalk it up to growing pains. As for everyone else, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Jonas are definitely the standouts. Curtis is basically playing Coach Sue Sylvester with a dark twist, and Jonas' secretly gay-but-not-secretly gay Boone is full on cheese and it's the best. But you know who gets the biggest scene? Ariana Grande. Not because of her acting or her character, but because a well crafted and staged scene that perfectly encapsulates the show's potential.  Since Scream Queens is an homage to B-grade films, but still wants to poke fun at the current state of horror, we get this awesome scene where Chanel No. 2 is murdered by the series' killer, the Red Devil, through text messages. It nets the biggest laugh and is oddly proactive as Chanel tries her best to tweet out her death. She isn't just silently killed off into the night, but does her best to prevent it even when locked into a goofy sequence. The same can't be said for the series' next two deaths, but so far, each death sequence has been unique and pretty damn funny. Once you get past the show's awkward writing, the rest of the package is great. It's interesting enough that I've decided to talk about it for the next few weeks.  Final Thoughts:  Chad Radwell, the stereotypical rich jerk who's cool with his best friend being gay, is by far my favorite character in the show thus far. I'm sure his death scene is going to be fantastic.  Lea Michele's Hester takes a maniacal turn in episode two and I'm not sure I like it yet.  Abigail Breslin as Chanel No 5 hasn't really made a name for herself yet. I thought she was the good girl who was just stuck in her terrible sorority, but her turn in the second episode proved that wrong.  I'm also not sure what to think of Niecy Nash and Nasim Pedrad's characters. They're the wackiest characters in the show by far, but it's too early to tell if that's a good thing or not.  At least this isn't as bad as The New Normal was.  Remember that VH1 reality show Scream Queens, where 8 actresses went through challenges in order to land a role in one of the Saw movies? That was a good time. They should do that again.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Scream Queens Recap photo
Glee and AHS had an awkward baby
You folks don't know this, because we'd only recently begun covering television in earnest, but I was a huge fan of Glee. I bought the soundtracks, I bought the seasons on DVD (this was before Netflix took over and ruined EVE...

Angry Birds trailer photo
Ugh... seriously... UGH
I bet everyone was just clamoring for an Angry Birds movie, right? Can't even get crickets to chirp over this. Well, there is now a trailer for The Angry Birds Movie, and it's like every bad animated movie cliche in one wretc...

Bueller? Bueller? photo
Bueller? Bueller?

8-Bit Cinema does Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Bomp-bomp, chck, chck-ah chck-ahhhhh
Sep 18
// Hubert Vigilla
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of the great 80s feel good comedies. Sure, sure, you have all the fan theories about Ferris being a figment of Cameron's imagination, and yeah, yeah, there are all those thinkpieces that want t...

Review: Cooties

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219880:42604:0[/embed] CootiesDirectors: Jonathan Milott and Cary MurnionRated: RRelease Date: September 18, 2015 At the center of Cooties is Clint, a guy who moved to the bright lights of New York City after graduation to become a big shot writer. But after a few failed attempts has moved back home and is forced to take a substitute teaching gig at his old elementary school. There he meets his old school crush Lucy (Alison Pill), her meathead boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), and a bevy of other weird faculty members like the evolution debunker Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad) and the socially inept bio teacher Doug (Leigh Whannell). When a contaminated shipment of chicken nuggets (as seen through such a grossly awesome intro, you won't eat chicken nuggets again) turns the kids of the school into flesh eating monsters, Clint and the other teachers have to escape the school to survive.  The biggest draw, or warning sign depending on your humor, is the writing duo of Saw's Leigh Whannell and Glee's Ian Brennan. The two have crafted a wonderfully twisted horror premise, but the dialogue is distinctly Brennan's. As someone who religiously followed Glee through its six seasons (including, but not limited to, buying the Glee karaoke games and soundtrack CDs and watching the short lived Glee Project reality show on Oxygen), I can safely attribute the brunt of the film's humor to him. That's probably going to shy folks away, however. Just like Glee, Cooties' idea of parody is to come of with jokes that are a few years too old. A post 9/11 kid who wants to join the army named Patriot? A closeted gay teacher making innuendos? The vice principal (Brennan himself) saying "Stop it, kids!" before getting ripped apart? Yeah, those jokes are as tired as they seem. As the film's humor gets sidetracked with these weird jokes, it never quite takes the premise as far as it could. But the cast's ability to complete gel with what they're saying is fantastic.  In Cooties, it's the cast that makes it work. They're completely game with the film's wacky tone, and their performances elevate the film to awesomely cartoonish levels. Since you can't get too overtly violent with children and still try and be a comedy, the action has to be more humorous than not to succeed. Since directors Milott and Murnion can't seem to handle action scenes (as most of the action involves the teachers moving from one room to the other and staying there for a few scenes), the cast should be commended for their ability to command attention. As the film itself strays and lingers on a few scenes, the cast is delivering the dialogue with the quickness it needs to make it work and helps make the hokey bits a little more digestible. As Elijah Wood has shown in the past with films like The Faculty, he's perfectly capable of leading a horror comedy. He's still charming as ever even when he starts, literally, pooping himself. The scene stealer, however, is Leigh Whannell. His stunted delivery finally works for his awkward bio teacher as he delivers the film's hilarious science.  While the directors may not handle action scenes too well (leading to a ending scene that feels convoluted and tacked on while completely undermining the film's bittersweet climax), the duo have got a good grasp on imagery. Cooties looks fantastic. Insidious reds, taut greens and shading, and you definitely get the most out of zombie kids. The kids are covered in gross puss and blood (instead of becoming too gruesome, it goes for the comedic route) and aren't too horrendously attacked, there's a girl playing jump rope with an intestine, a kid riding a tricycle covered in blood, zombie kids playing blood hopscotch, and so on. It's pretty much the embodiment of the "kids are terrifying" mantra. The film never quite reaches the level of visual you'd hope with a premise like this, but what is here is well crafted. There's definitely an attention to detail in the visuals even if there's a lack of it elsewhere.  Cooties has its share of faults, but none of them are completely damaging to the overall package. There'll be stuff within the film that bothers you here and there, but when watching the cast and the kids enjoy themselves it's hard not to follow in their footsteps. For every hokey joke, there's one that works. For every clunky action scene, there's a hilarious conversation between two characters.  By the time it makes the egregious mistake of going on past its natural ending, you won't even care too much. You'll have a big smile on your face. 
Cooties Review photo
Might not need that cootie shot
Zombies are everywhere. Name an object and add zombie or "of the dead" to it, and I guarantee there's a film out there with that title. Bong of the Dead? Exists. Toilet of the Dead? Surprisingly a thing. Redneck or stripper z...

Screenings photo

See The Intern early and free

Washington DC screening
Sep 15
// Matthew Razak
It's been a while since I've seen a good random comedy and The Intern looks like it might be it. It's looks like a kind of weird rom-com film without the romance. It's got a great cast though and DeNiro can do the funny ...

Stephen Colbert's Late Show debut mixed the Report with Letterman and Conan

Sep 09 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219887:42592:0[/embed] Colbert isn't playing a character anymore, and yet Late Show Colbert and Report Colbert have a goofy charm in common. When he wasn't a caricature of sociopathic right-wing ideologues, Report Colbert would suddenly become a lovable, nerdy oddball. That's the vibe Colbert strikes as a host on The Late Show. While interviewing George Clooney, he was affable and warm without being too obsequious (or if he was, that was part of the joke). The interview got awkward in a semi-enjoyable way, though never quite reaching the cavalier dada bliss that Craig Ferguson brought to his interviews on The Late Late Show. Celebrity interviews can be the weakest part of any talk show, and while Report Colbert resorted to brash pundit gravitas to fill dead spots in interviews, Late Show Colbert seems like he may default to his innate niceness. By contrast, Colbert's affability seemed like a stealth move while interviewing Jeb Bush. Nine years ago, Colbert used his character to deliver a glorious George W. Bush diss track at the White House Correspondents dinner; last night, Colbert used his charm to try to get a presidential candidate to admit his own brother was an epic fuck-up as POTUS. Jeb Bush vaguely admitted that his brother was an overspender. (I wonder what the Bush administration spent all that money on. Jeb couldn't say the "I" word.) The writing on The Late Show feels like an extension of The Colbert Report by way of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which makes sense given some behind-the-scenes stuff. Colbert brought much of the Report staff with him to CBS, and he also hired Brian Stack, a Conan writer for many years. The Oreo gag involving Donald Trump felt like it could have been something off The Colbert Report, but the monkey paw gag and The Mentalist joke (an homage to Conan's Walker Texas Ranger lever?) seemed like something from the mind of Stack. This is obviously all conjecture, but I look forward to seeing how these styles of comedy blend as the show evolves and continues to define itself. You know, to a certain extent judging a late night talk show on just its debut episode is unfair. Debuts are special occasions that deviate from the format whereas late night talk shows are all about the recurring format: monologue, first comedy segment, guest one, second comedy segment, guest two, and the musical act. Even The Colbert Report and The Daily Show had their recurring segments and bits as well; the format is a solid framework that makes the writing teams' jobs a little easier. It's also something to come back to, a pattern that's fun in itself and that yields new pleasures when the pattern is varied or broken. Will The Late Show with Stephen Colbert be worth watching every night? Probably not every night, but it'll be worth streaming for the best bits the next day. (As a teen, I used to stay up late watching Letterman and Conan. The internet of today would have made things, like waking up for high school, much easier.) Colbert's slate of guests lined up for the next few shows include Kendrick Lamar, Emily Blunt, Stephen King, Amy Schumer, Willie Nelson, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and what looks to be a dual performance by TV on the Radio and Run the Jewels. Colbert closed his debut episode with a rendition of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People," featuring Mavis Staples, Ben Folds, Buddy Guy, Brittany Howard, and members of Beirut. It was a festive jam, with members of the show's house band (led by Jonathan Batiste) heading into the audience, and Colbert himself taking to the mic. What became clear, if it wasn't clear enough already: Stephen Colbert is one of the most likable people on TV. That's probably why I'm still watching him after 20 years.
Stephen Colbert photo
Cursed monkey paw? I'm in.
I've watched Stephen Colbert do comedy on television for two decades. Well before The Colbert Report and a little before The Daily Show, he was on Exit 57 and The Dana Carvey Show, two short-lived sketch programs from the mid...


First trailer for Our Brand is Crisis ditches the comedy

The Sandra Bullocks
Sep 08
// Matthew Razak
Let's talk for a moment about David Gordon Green because he directed The Brand is Crisis, and he's kind of all over the place. He's famous for Pineapple Express, and like any good director who went mainstream in a certain gen...
Comedy photo

Key and Peele nail how Gremlins 2 came about

Joe Dante confirms it
Aug 28
// Matthew Razak
Anyone who has seen Gremlins 2 (and that should be everyone) has also uttered the words, "What the f**k was that?" It's a question that's long plagued all of us, but Key and Peele figured it out as you can see in the sketch b...
Ash vs Evil Dead photo
Ash vs Evil Dead

New Ash vs Evil Dead trailer makes the show look like a blast

"That's the spirit!"
Aug 24
// Hubert Vigilla
We're about two months away from Ash vs. Evil Dead, and Starz just released a new trailer for the show. While some of the footage is recycled from the first Ash vs. Evil Dead trailer, the new trailer has some smarmy new gags ...
Scouts Trailer photo
Scouts Trailer

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Red Band Trailer is full of zombie boobs and cats

Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen. Everything and anything you can think has probably been done at this point, so each zombie film is already starting in a hole. The best thing any film can do is be just kooky enough to stand ...
Hell and Back photo
Hell and Back

Red Band Trailer for stop motion comedy Hell and Back is trying way too hard

Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
R rated films are extremely rare films, let alone stop motion animation, so I really wanted this first trailer for Hell and Back to succeed. It's certainly got the pedigree as it's handled by the same animation studio that wo...

Deep Analysis: The End of the Tour - Is it capital-T Truth or capital-B Bulls**t?

Aug 14 // Hubert Vigilla
Although of Course You End Up Being Different Things to Different People"Simple thing: everyone sees him differently." -- David Lipsky, Although of Course...   David Foster Wallace is a person and an idea. That split is impossible to avoid, and more complicated than the Platonic notion that I've seemed to present. There's the person who existed, and then there's this other level, a kind of public version or public perception of the person who existed, or an idea of Wallace through his writing and interviews--a text. While the real Wallace was available to his friends and family, for everyone else there's just a public version or a text. There's something about the intimacy of writing, and I think this is discussed in Lipsky's book, that makes readers think they know an author. That seems to hold true for lots of creatives since so much ineffable stuff about your inner life is communicated through creative acts. Any connection that's made through art might seem more profound because of this ability to articulate a common yet personal feeling of joy, sadness, or affection between people who've never met. Art can make you feel less alone, and it can help you understand someone else. But often only so far or just a facet. There's another layer to this person/persona split, of course. I'm not judging the propriety of it (at least for now), but people can do whatever they want with that public idea of a person. They can find meaning in the persona, impose their own meanings on the persona, reconsider the persona without considering the actual multi-faceted person behind that public idea. It's one reason why David Foster Wallace winds up meaning different things to different people, or being a different person to different people--a literary wunderkind, a rockstar of the book world, the next _______, the voice of _______, a friend, a confidant, a relative, etc. Recently, a piece by Molly Fischer ran in New York Magazine's The Cut considered David Foster Wallace a hypermasculine hub for chauvinistic literary bros. (Sometimes a big, hard novel is just a cigar. A really big, hard cigar.) Kenny in his piece for The Guardian touches on this when he writes, "Something I've noticed since Wallace's suicide in 2008 is that a lot of self-professed David Foster Wallace fans don't have much use for people who actually knew the guy. For instance, whenever Jonathan Franzen utters or publishes some pained but unsparing observations about his late friend, Wallace's fanbase recoils, posting comments on the internet about how self-serving he is, or how he really didn't 'get' Wallace." Kenny and Wallace were friends who met and corresponded regularly or at least semi-regularly. Lipsky, by contrast, was an outsider sent to observe Wallace for a few days and then left. Kenny takes issue with the way Lipsky presented Wallace in the book, writing: In the opening of Yourself, Lipsky describes Wallace speaking in "the universal sportsman's accent: the disappearing G's, 'wudn't,' 'dudn't' and 'idn’t' and 'sumpin.'" Segel takes Lipsky's cue. But in my recollection, Dave spoke precisely, almost formally, the "Gs" at the ends of gerunds landing softly, not dropped. I can't help but feel both of these perceptions and ideas of Wallace were accurate simply given the nature of these respective relationships. People act differently around friends and colleagues than they do around strangers, particularly journalists. There's a constant self-consciousness that Wallace has when talking to Lipsky, mentioning how Lipsky can craft an image of Wallace that may not be the real Wallace. To that I wonder how much of the sportsman's accent was Wallace's own way of maintaining control of his persona, presenting a certain type of David Foster Wallace for this interview. Ditto the various asides to high culture (e.g., John Barth) and low culture (e.g., "movies where stuff blows up"). Wallace suggest he and Lipsky play chess against each other in the book during an early interview. Make of that what you will. (Sometimes a game of chess is just a metaphor for a sword fight with cigars.) These differences in proximity to Wallace, intimacy with Wallace, and personal perception of Wallace don't delegitimize Kenny or Lipsky. It's just pointing out that they each saw facets of a man and each came away with their own assessment. Wallace was Kenny's friend, and Kenny saw more facets of the man over a longer period of time. For Lipsky, he got a glimpse of Wallace at age 34 at the end of a book tour during "one of those moments when the world opens up to you." Although of Course You End Up Becoming a Fictional Version of Yourself"So we've ended up doing Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory in My Dinner with Andre." -- David Lipsky, Although of Course...   So there's a persona, and then there's a movie, and that's where these issues of proximity, intimacy, perception, and propriety become even more difficult. The End of the Tour, even though I enjoyed it, is a recreation and fictionaliziation of real events and real people, all of which is depicted at various divides from the real thing. Since so much of the basis for The End of the Tour is Lipsky's book, the film presents a version of David Foster Wallace as filtered through Lipsky's perceptions. Though Lipsky tried to be unobtrusive in the transcript, there are numerous observations in book, ones that wonder what Wallace is thinking in the moment, that assume certain answers are calculated deflections, that editorialize the nature of Wallace's smile in just the choice of adjectives. On top of that, The End of the Tour is the book as restructured by screenwriter Donald Margulies, tweaked further by director James Ponsoldt, with an additional layer of interpretation by the two lead actors who are reciting the real-life dialogue. While the lines may be straight from Lipsky's book, there is a gulf between the real people and the page and the screen. Lipsky, even in just the book, points out an artifice of a subject and journalist in forced-interaction that occasionally feels like something genuine. He likens an exchange they have to something out of Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre. (When not engaged in a kind of big brother/little brother semi-envious duel, Lipsky in the film generally plays Wallace Shawn to Wallace's sage-like Andre Gregory.) This series of divides from the real events to the film are less like photo copies of photo copies that become blurrier and blurrier with each subsequent version, but more like interpretations of interpretations that are distorted but perhaps share an amorphous-something in common from iteration to iteration. (This simile might be just be my charity for the film since I liked it.) Short version: real life and the film are a long way apart, and one is left to wonder if there's mostly capital-T Truth between the two or mostly capital-B Bullshit. There may be another layer to all of this that gets a bit more difficult. Anytime a writer writes about writers or writing, there's inevitably a little bit of the writer's own ideas about writing that wind up in there. So while the film is a recreation of conversations between two real writers, the way it's framed seems to allow Donald Margulies to write about his own ideas about writers to some degree. Lipsky gets to represent a type of male writer, Wallace another kind of male writer, and a dynamic of masculine opposition, jealousy, and respect emerges as these personas interact. Margulies introduces a fabricated moment of sexual competition between Wallace and Lipsky, and also a mute hostility or resentment leading into the last act. Both of these fictions play into a larger theme of control and writerly chess that was real in the text at a subtextual level, but mostly they're also just inventions to facilitate a dramatic arc. The moments of The End of the Tour I liked least were the parts that seemed too bent or overshaped, particularly in the framing narrative, which was dominated by certain kinds of writerly cliches (e.g, watching a writer type in a fit of inspiration). It may have been Ponsoldt and Margulies' ways of incorporating an idea from Lipsky's book regarding Wallace's death to lend this wandering conversation a path: "Suicide is such a powerful end, it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction." To that, while reading Although of Course..., I couldn't help but pause anytime Wallace brought up killing himself in passing, as if it were just some self-deprecating remark. I'm not sure The End of the Tour necessarily needed any explicit or neat emotional arc since these things rarely exist in real life. As a movie, The End of the Tour could have just done the My Dinner with Andre thing (or the Richard Linklater thing, if you prefer) and existed as this peripatetic meeting of minds on the road. And yet I liked some of the invented moments since they reminded me of other exchanges I've had with friends, or experiences with people I know, or trips I've been on, or that secret insecurity when talking with writers I admire who are way further in their careers than I am. Sometimes bullshit feels true even if it's not factual. (This might be a messy but succinct definition of Werner Herzog's "ecstatic truth.") Then again, like Kenny brought up earlier, this justification of invention might ultimately be self-serving. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Impossible to Encapsulate"They already feel as if they know you--which of course they don't." -- David Foster Wallace in Although of Course... by David Lipsky   Eisenberg's portrayal of David Lipsky hasn't gotten much flak, but that's because Lipsky's alive and not a major/mythologized persona in the literary world. (You don't read any essays that reduce his work to dick-wagging.) Lipsky's role, in the book and the film, is predominantly a vessel into the thoughts of David Foster Wallace. Segel's been widely praised for his performance as DFW, though I think Kenny's criticisms of his performance are worth noting since they highlight differences in perception, person, and persona between people: Physically, Segel's got Wallace all wrong too: bulky, lurching, elbowy, perpetually in clothes a half size too small. This, too, contradicts my own memory of Dave as a physically imposing but also very nearly lithe and graceful person. But as Segel's exuberantly horrible dancing at the end of the film practically blares in neon, this awkwardness represents Segel's conception of a Genius Who Was Just Too Pure And Holy For This World. Kenny also wrote that the David Foster Wallace of The End of the Tour is "for those people who cherish This Is Water as the new Wear Sunscreen: A Primer For Life." It's like Kenny's Lloyd Bentsen burn: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." This comes back to the idea of facets of people and the way The End of the Tour winds up being these layers of interpretation by different parties about a real person. As much as I like Segel in the film and think his performance is strong, it's not David Foster Wallace in the way that all portrayals of real people are not the real thing. Christopher Walken impersonations are generally caricatures of his start-stop vocal rhythm; all Michael Caine impressions are just people just saying, "My name's my cocaine." Segel can't possibly recreate all of the small facial expressions, body sways, or winces of David Foster Wallace, or even the same physiology, but he offers an impersonation suited to the film. (Good vs. good enough. Another writerly concern?) If Lipsky's a vessel into Wallace's thoughts, Segel's Wallace is an interpretation of a persona. People and their personas, while linked, aren't the same. So what to make of the propriety of The End of the Tour? Wallace died less than 10 years ago, and here's a movie that the estate was not involved with in which Wallace's death is a framing device. It's painful, and it may always be too soon for anyone who knew Wallace personally. The End of the Tour aims to be a tribute to a writer, as if that makes the pain more bearable, and yet the movie veers dangerously close to hagiography. David Foster Wallace, the film persona, embodies an idea of a good writer with a troubled soul, maybe too troubled to live in a fallen world. That might not be overstating it either given the way the movie concludes. My friend Leah Schnelbach of also liked the movie, but she rightly used the term "St. Dave" to describe some of the uncomfortable fawning over DFW when it's not offset by his depression and underlying sadness. Maybe tributes unintentionally and inartfully stumble into hagiography or near-hagiography as they try to make a final sincere statement about the subject. There's no neat wrap-up to these rambling thoughts on The End of the Tour, because even though I'd meant to write this a while ago, these ideas remain unresolved and half-formed. I still think it's generally a very good film about writers despite some of those weaker bits, but that might be because it's so rooted in the actual conversation of two writers. Even when they're not talking about writing, it sounds like writers talking. As for David Foster Wallace, the persona on film as portrayed by Jason Segel, he's just an interpretation of one part of the real David Foster Wallace during a particular point in his life.While many times removed from the real thing, this persona makes the actual man's absence more apparent.
The End of the Tour photo
The blend of truth, fiction, and reality
I really enjoyed James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour, which primarily covers the last days of David Foster Wallace's 1996 book tour for Infinite Jest. Wallace committed suicide in 2008 after his antidepressants proved no lon...

Screenings photo

See Mistress America early and free

Washington DC screening
Aug 12
// Matthew Razak
Noel Baumbach's latest Mistress America seems damn interesting. The kind of comedy that actually makes you laugh. Plus, it has Greta Gerwig who we should all see more of. You can see more of her for free by grabbing the ...

Review: I Am Chris Farley

Aug 11 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219746:42540:0[/embed] I Am Chris FarleyDirectors: Derik Murray & Brent HodgeRelease Date: August 11, 2015 (VOD & DVD)Rating: NR  I Am Chris Farley is an interesting mix of interviews and video clips, most of which appear to have been ripped from VHS tapes. They span his time at Second City all the way through his various film appearances. It periodically cuts to an interview with David Letterman which is probably supposed to be representative of his success... but looking at his eyes, I only saw fear. The bulk of the film is made up of interviews. School friends, family, other actors. Big names, small names, no names. There were so many of them that I often forgot who the smaller names were. It seems to be intended for TV (made by Spike), as every so often it decides to reintroduce them with new title cards. Every 20-30 minutes or so, after they're back from the commercial break. I wish they'd done that more, honestly. But at some point, it didn't matter if that was the guy who was with him at Second City or the one who played Rugby. They're not there to serve themselves. They're there to help document Chris Farley. The whole thing is pretty straightforward. It starts with his youth and ends with his death. We're walked through the kind of person he was and the near-inevitability that he would end up a star. He was the entertainer, always looking for the spotlight. Of course he was. He was Chris Freaking Farley. And, as I sort of knew but very clearly learned, he was really flipping funny. But even if you know that, there's a lot of interesting stuff to be gleaned from these interviews. He used to be a jock, for example, super into football and rugby. He was an excellent improvisor but he never wrote any of the sketches he was in. He was the mold that everyone else used to make beautiful sketch sculptures. And oh what a mold he was. [embed]219746:42544:0[/embed] You could argue that I Am Chris Farley is a little on the shallow side. It's not until the last fifteen or so minutes that his death even comes up. Heavy on the happiness and nostalgia and then just a little bit of, "Also, the bad." And it's something I'm sort of conflicted about. By virtue of this fact, I Am Chris Farley is not really an accurate representation of who he was. If he was in and out of rehab, then a couple of mentions towards the end are hardly enough to accurately depict his struggle. This is a whitewashed version of Chris Farley. But I can also appreciate the desire to not dwell on the negative. It makes the film less of a historical document, but I also don't think that makes it somehow less worthwhile. Just go in with your expectations in check. This is how people want to remember him, all of the good times they had together and the laughs that everyone shared. This is about the idyllic version of the man – the myth and the legend. I think that's okay. I honestly do. There's something unfortunate about it, perhaps, but this was a man who just wanted to make people laugh. He wanted to be famous so he could go make sick children at the hospital happy. That's the stuff people want to think about and remember. Everyone has their flaws... but sometimes ignorance is bliss. I think this is one of those times.
I Am Chris Farley Review photo
Some version of him, anyhow
When I went into I Am Chris Farley, I couldn't have honestly said that I was a fan of his work. Not because I didn't like it, but because I didn't know it particularly well. I'd seen some stuff over the years, but I miss...

Bill Murray Ghostbusters photo
Bill Murray Ghostbusters

Bill Murray agrees to appear in Ghostbusters reboot because he remembered he likes money

For haunted times, make it Suntory time
Aug 10
// Hubert Vigilla
If you watch Ghostbusters II, you can tell that Bill Murray's heart just isn't in it. It's like he knew the movie was pretty lousy the entire time. Still, Murray showed up, did the job, and spent the next 25 years avoiding in...

Bojack Horseman is the Spec Ops: The Line of TV Shows

Aug 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219724:42536:0[/embed] Spec Ops: The Line is probably in my top five games ever. It's incredible, and if you haven't played it, you need to do so. If you have played it and don't understand how incredible it is, go play it again. Maybe read Brendan Keogh's Killing Is Harmless while you do. The game is a triumph, and the bravest thing it did is to convince you it was generic before pulling the rug out from under you. (Much like, you guess it, Bojack Horseman.) Spec Ops: The Line was made with the Unreal Engine. It stars a military man voiced by Nolan North. He looks and sounds like every other Unreal Engine-based cover shooter out there. It feels... fine. The gameplay is completely and totally acceptable. Stop and pop. You're fighting generic foreign militants. The other. It's easy to kill them, because that's what you're used to doing. That's the role that these sorts of people play in video games. (And in movies, as brilliantly profiled by GQ a couple weeks ago.) In Bojack Horseman, you follow a generic former-Hollywoo[d] superstar. He's voiced by Will Arnett, and he's a jackass. He lives in an amazing house overlooking the city, but he's pretty much a worthless being. On his couch lives the "comic relief," Todd, voiced by Aaron Paul. He's dumb, but Bojack keeps him around, because... whatever. Bojack wants to relive the Good Old Days. Perhaps it's not quite your typical animated show, but it's not an uncommon comedy. And for a while, the jokes are funny but the underlying narrative feels a little old. But, of course, that's the point. Spec Ops hits you with big moments several times. First, you go from fighting generic "terrorists" to fighting US military. That's, well, unexpected. And then there's the scene where you have to do something horrible to progress that turns out to be something really horrible. It keeps going down (literally), as we follow Captain Walker into the deep recesses of his mind. And it's not a great place to be. Because Captain Walker is not a good person. He believes he is, or at least that he can be, but he isn't. And he leaves nothing but destruction in his wake. Throughout, the game taunts you, and it taunts hyper-violent games in general. (And yes, it is effectively critiquing the genre by "succumbing" to its tropes.) [embed]219724:42537:0[/embed] Bojack doesn't have that moment in quite the same way, at least in its first season. It's a gradual realization that what you're watching isn't quite what you thought it was. You thought you were getting a comedy-of-sorts about a former star who wants to relive his glory days. What you get is something far darker, and far more interesting. Because Bojack Horseman is definitely not a good... horse. (I'm going to call him a person from now on, because referring to him as a "horse" is weird.) He wants to be good, I guess, but behind him lies only chaos. And in the second season especially, he does some very, very bad things. The Verge posted their review of the show's second season a bit prematurely, I thought. Both the headline – "In its second season, Bojack Horseman quits beating a depressed horse" – and subtitle – "More animal puns, less animal pathos" – prove to be, um, false. Because the second season of Bojack Horseman tricks you again. Sure, watching the first few episodes (which are great, by the way), you might think that the show had changed and become perhaps a bit more whimsical. Watching the episode where Todd creates his own, extremely dangerous Disneyland (and wins a lawsuit allowing him to use that name on a technicality) lulls you into a false sense of security. This is a show that has found its groove, or something like it. That groove may not be as interesting as the previous season, but it's something. And the screeners that Netflix sent to critics beforehand would lend credence to that. The first six episodes, especially in comparison, are fun. They're light and silly.  And then there's "Hank After Dark." "Hank After Dark" is an incredible episode of television. And it's incredible not just because of what it but how absolutely bleak its ending is. At this point, everyone knows about the downfall of Bill Cosby. And it all started because of a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress. He made a joke about public information, and suddenly everything came crashing down. The time since has been incredibly disturbing, and each new bit of evidence has only made it worse. But that's not what happens in Bojack Horseman, because Bojack Horseman isn't just replicating the events that led to the downfall of an icon; it's representing a parallel universe where a woman was the one who brought up the horrors of a beloved TV star as an aside. Diane is on a book tour for Bojack, but she can't shut Pandora's Box once she's opened it. Mr. Peanutbutter asks her to hold off, and everyone else tells her she's a horrible person for defaming a good man's name. She keeps fighting, until she's confronted by Hank Hippopopalous himself. And then she gives up. The season doesn't get cheerier after that. Whether it's the intense discussion on live TV between Mr. Peanutbutter and Bojack about the latter's Diane come-on last season or the thing that happens in the penultimate episode, the back half of Bojack Horseman's second season hits and hits hard. To be sure, the show continues to be very funny. There are more than a few good laughs per episode, but aside from a couple bits here and there, those aren't the things I'll be thinking about in a year from now. Good TV makes you think, perhaps even obsess. But with Bojack Horseman, it's not some communal obsession with unraveling mysteries. It's an introspective sort of obsession. Do you see yourself in Bojack? What about Todd or Mr. Peanutbutter or Diane or Princess Carolyn? These characters are all fleshed out this season, and you learn fascinating things about all of them. (Princess Carolyn has a particularly interesting arc, and I cannot tell you how glad I was when they ended the Vincent Adultman subplot early on.) But, of course, the focus is on Bojack, on his inability to change course. His drive to push forward towards certain doom. And that is truly where Bojack and Captain Walker's journeys converge. Both of them set in motions series of events that can only end badly, but the decision to set them in motion was a choice. Maybe at the time it didn't feel like one, but it was. To point to what is perhaps the most obvious example, Bojack did not have to up and leave to see a girl he was sort of in love with decades ago. He didn't have to stay with her family when he found out she had one. He didn't have to... ya know. He could have walked away. And ultimately, that's what Spec Ops: The Line is about. It's about walking away, or at least the need to walk away (in a meta sense). Walker doesn't do that. He never stops to think about what he's doing or what he's done. Unlike Bojack, he thinks he's helping people (at least at first... by the end? who knows). Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Bojack Horseman matters. It's one of the best shows on television right now. Literally. And that's significant not just because it is in and of itself a significant statement. It's significant because it's a show that, on the face of it, is so easy to dismiss. But once you get past all of that, you're pulled along for a fascinating and often poignant journey through something truly great. It's not the thing you expect, but you eventually realize that it's exactly what you wanted.
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Subversion and sadness
The first season of Bojack Horseman sort of came out of nowhere, at least as far as I was concerned. Back then, I was underemployed and watched pretty much anything that seemed vaguely interesting. I generally trust...

We'll finally see Jerry Lewis' infamous Holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried (in 10 years)

Aug 07 // Hubert Vigilla
Yes, it was supposed to be a comedy, albeit a bleak one. In a 1992 article in Spy Magazine, Shearer said of The Day the Clown Cried: With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. "Oh My God!"--that's all you can say. So, we'll eventually get to watch a legendary, unseen oddity, and I am fascinated by the prospect of seeing it. The Day the Clown Cried is one of those movies I've been aware of since the early 2000s, so the fact it's going to eventually see the light of day took me aback, ditto the fact that the print is from Lewis. Share your thoughts on The Day the Clown Cried in the comments [The LA Times via The Playlist]   YOUR OFFICIAL COUNTDOWN CLOCK TO THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED [embed]219740:42533:0[/embed]
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A notorious unseen oddity of a film
The Day the Clown Cried is one of the most infamous movies ever made. Jerry Lewis shot the controversial Holocaust film in 1972 and never released it. The plot concerns a Jewish circus clown in Nazi Germany who is sent to Aus...

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Is a Great Fans-Only Follow-Up to a Cult Classic

Aug 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219718:42521:0[/embed] The Netflix series takes place in one day at Camp Firewood, the first day (duh) at Camp Firewood, the only day that matters (other than the last day). Teen movie tropes about virginity, pecking orders, and bullying ensue, but it's also clear we're in a different place on the first day of camp than we were by the last day of camp. Coop (Michael Showalter) is timidly dating Donna (Lake Bell) rather than being a timid sadsack, Katie (Marguerite Moreau) is seeing a snooty Camp Tiger Claw guy named Blake (John Charles) rather than cocksure bad boy Andy (Paul Rudd), and, somehow, Ben (Bradley Cooper) and Susie (Amy Poehler) are an item, though a frustratingly sexless item. Also, Christopher Meloni's cook character has hair and isn't batshit crazy. None of the above is inherently funny, but that's what makes it funny. So much of the humor in the Netflix show is contingent on knowing on the first day of camp what happens on the final day of camp. It makes me think that a prequel to Wet Hot American Summer is infinitely funnier than a sequel would have been, at least at a conceptual level. That's the absurd way that movie-time/series-time works--with prequels in particular, real-world chronology matters more than in-story chronology. In prequels, set-up is really punchline. To put it another way, what kind of mook watches the Star Wars prequels before they watch the original Star Wars trilogy? Who pops in Temple of Doom before they watch Raiders of the Lost Ark? I'll tell you who: someone doing everything wrong in life. Since the Wet Hot prequel takes place 15-real-word years after the original film, there are a lot of unspoken gags built around the age of the cast. In Wet Hot, actors in their twenties played teenagers, which is common practice for lots of teen movies and coming-of-age films. In First Day of Camp, the teenage counselors are all roughly 40 years old, give or take, which is uncommon practice anywhere. The cast shows their age--though some have aged better than others (Rudd and Elizabeth Banks must have paintings rotting in rooms somewhere)--and the wigs/hairstyles look even more fake. It all adds to the show's enjoyably off-kilter quality. Showalter looks especially schlubby as Coop. Compare Coop in First Day of Camp to Coop in Wet Hot American Summer and it's a pretty startling before-and-after (or after-and-before). I don't mean that in a mean-spirited way since it's part of the humor and all the performers are in on it. It's actually a smart visual gag that's used effectively as part of the storytelling. Seeing Showalter next to Lake Bell makes the doomed awkwardness of Coop and Donna's relationship more apparent. In those 15 real-world years that separate the First Day of Camp from the last day of camp, some of the Wet Hot American Summer cast have become much more famous. For Banks and Poehler, that means more focus on their characters and what makes them each tick. The backstory they've concocted for Banks' character Lindsay is especially inspired. It's a nod to Just One of the Guys and a wink to Cameron Crowe's real-life adventures as a fake-teen that led to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. With Cooper, by comparison, writers Wain and Showalter have come up with a clever in-story way to accommodate the Academy Award-nominated actor's busy real-world schedule. (Cooper had to shoot all of his scenes in just one day.) The expanded cult following behind Wet Hot American Summer means loads of guest appearances throughout First Day of Camp, including Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Jordan Peele, Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, and H. Jon Benjamin. There's another major cameo I won't ruin, though it seems like this particular actor, like Cooper, probably shot all of his scenes in one day. In addition to guest stars, the growing Wet Hot cult translated into a bigger budget (probably to pay all the guest stars). Wet Hot American Summer was shot for $1.8 million, though Wain told people it was $5 million in the hopes it would help secure a better distribution deal. Judging by this 2013 article from Variety, Netflix probably shelled out $1.8 million per episode for First Day of Camp. The scope of the story is larger, and yet there's still a scruffy, raggedy look to the whole thing that fits with the aesthetic of the film. It's as if Wain and Showalter figured out how to make everything look chintzier even though the world of the film has grown. And that's the thing. First Day of Camp is a cult show for a cult movie, and it stays true to its roots: spoofs, the yes-and of improv, the weirdness of 90s sketch shows, the and-then of a feverishly implausible child's story; and it's all fueled by real-life nostalgia for teenage summers as well as nostalgia for certain bits of Gen-X pop culture. Part of me wonders if there'll be a second day of camp. That same part hopes it happens about a decade from now. It would be funnier that way. The Wet Hot American Summer series seems to get better with age.
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♫ "Taking it higher and higher!" ♫
Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a great follow-up to 2001's cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. Like the original film, First Day of Camp is rife with anarchic absurdity and chock full of movie ...

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Water is the essence of wetness...
We've known about Zoolander 2 for quite some time, but after its cool release date announcement we never got a look at the film until now. This brief teaser is all too brief since it doesn't give us a look at the actual film...

The Cult Club: Wet Hot American Summer (2001) Awkwardly Flirted Into Our Hearts (and Pants)

Jul 31 // Hubert Vigilla
In a lot of ways, Wet Hot American Summer is a cult movie made by the generation that grew up watching cult movies and cult television. Picture this sign on the treehouse: "The Wet Hot American Summer Cult Club--No Boomers Allowed... Unless You've Seen Zapped with Scott Baio... or Sledge Hammer!" The film takes place in one day at Camp Firewood, the final day at Camp Firewood, the only one that matters. And into this day is poured multiple teen movie cliches: telling your crush you're into them, virgins trying to get laid, bad boys being bad to good girlfriends, exuberant montages, demented staff, friends trying to get their virgin friends laid, a talent show, telekinesis, hidden romances, nerdy kids saving the day. So much happens so quickly that logical notions of time and space have no meaning. An hour-long trip seems to cover a weekend of events, a one-minute training montage seems to cover a week of exercise and self-discovery, a single day carries in it a month-long trajectory of emotions. And that's the whole point. Wet Hot American Summer takes place in a film version of time and space since it's a movie about the culminating plots of other movies. Beneath that meta-layer, there's perhaps a wistful tinge of nostalgia as well--as a kid, summer seems to go by so fast, like the entire summer is just a single day. Mostly it's just funny if you think about it, but also if, in a smart and detached way, you really don't think about it too much. Even though the movie is about the culminating stories of other camp movies, Wet Hot American Summer isn't constructed with a single narrative thrust that climaxes and wraps up neatly. The movie stops and starts as title cards note the passage of in-story meta-movie time. A potential Bad News Bears-style showdown in the middle of the film seems like the big set piece we've been waiting for, and yet it's self-consciously avoided. A camper says that the cliche of the big game is trite, and the counselors agree, because ultimately it is trite. Summers, whether a day or an entire season, rarely have that kind of shape with a solid conclusion. Instead, Wet Hot American Summer is more like a feature-length sketch show that just ends when camp ends. The final shot of the film is suitably unceremonious. [embed]219652:42516:0[/embed] I think Wet Hot American Summer is alive today because some Gen-Xers got the joke--were in on the joke--and are now in power at Netflix.  From their streaming thrones, they're able to dole out the filthy original-series lucre as they see fit. (And good for them.) I can't help but stress the whole Gen-X angle, which bleeds into a millennial attachment to the film. It may also explain why film critics of the time (who were predominantly Baby Boomers) just couldn't get into it. The Boomers weren't really in on the joke; some didn't even get the set-up or that the set-up and punchline were sometimes one in the same. Like other cult followings, there's a sense of exclusivity. When Scott Tobias wrote about Wet Hot American Summer for the AV Club back in 2008, he identified the makers of the film as well as many of the cultists: Here's a movie from 2001 that doesn't concern itself with yesterday's box-office hits, but with a sub-sub-genre of comedies from the late '70s to the mid-'80s, starting with Meatballs and its sequel, and including other disreputable standards like the TV movie Poison Ivy (with Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon), SpaceCamp, and the non-gory scenes in their slasher cousins like Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp. But it doesn't stop there: WHAS is pitched specifically to Reagan-era latchkey kids who grew up watching these movies on television, and have a certain generalized nostalgia about the fashions, hairstyles, graphical elements, and other minutiae that seeped into their wood-paneled family rooms. Tobias, a Gen-Xer like that first-wave of classic AV Club writers, is a Wet Hot acolyte. (Gooble gobble.) The comedy is so videostore and VCR-based, drawing on a shared cultural memory not just of middle-class summer camp experiences but about movies-about-summer-camp and teen-sex-movies and slashers-at-camp-movies and that-one-joke-I-saw-on-late-night-TV; and maybe to a certain degree, the movie is also about people trying to model their real-life summer camp experiences to match the things they saw in films and TV. The time-space weirdness of the movie seems to suggest that it's impossible to make real life work like the movies; further, if real life worked out that way, it would make reality trite. Wain and collaborators Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio were all members of MTV's sketch show The State, which is one of the cultiest cult shows that ever did cult-show. A lot of the fondness for Wet Hot American Summer comes from an attachment that many had to The State and the projects that the cast embarked on following The State's cancellation. (Maybe a question to consider in all this: at what point does fondness become nostalgia?) The State was at the forefront of that cult sketch comedy canon, along with The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Ben Stiller Show (of which camp director Janeane Garofalo was an alum; ditto a brief stint on Saturday Night Live). Thinking about it, you really can't have sketch comedy without grounding that in the improv tradition. Think of places like Second City, The Upright Citizens Brigade, and The Groundlings. These were the places where SNL and SCTV found their players. Improv is often built on discrete scenes with a common theme, all of which abide by a "yes and" mentality between performers in order to keep a joke alive and to enhance it. The "yes and" at the heart of improv might be the adult collaborative equivalent of a child using "and then" as a conjunction while telling a story that they're really excited about. [embed]219652:42519:0[/embed] The State's comedy tradition and the film's roots in home video explain the varied nature of Wet Hot American Summer's humor--a series of personal experiences by way of movie cliches joined together by strange "and then's" with lots of "yes and's." It's also why (again, if you're in on the joke) a lot of the comedy hits. The characters at Camp Firewood are rendered broadly from a collection of tropes, as if hewn from a sketch team's writing room or from an improv team's regular house show. Each character is dropped into situations that play to their strengths as comic figures, and it just keeps going--and then, and then, and then until the end. Beyond that, there's the awkward interpersonal comedy, mostly having to do with flirting and attraction. There's slapstick. There's quotable non-sequiturs mostly from Christopher Meloni as the 'Nam-addled camp cook. The visual gags are there too (e.g., why are they wrestling behind the line for corn?), and ditto some audio ones (e.g., Wilhelm scream). Wet Hot takes its lessons not just from improv and sketch, but also from Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker at their best: keep the jokes coming fast, from different angles, and don't just rely on one type of humor. The Wet Hot American Summer series on Netflix is a prequel rather than a sequel. A sequel would have made logical sense since they tease a 10-year reunion in the film, a snippet of which is seen after the credits. And yet it's a prequel show about the first day of camp rather than the last, and most of the cast looks their age (i.e., comfortably into their 40s). Come to think of it, they're following up a 90-minute movie about the final day of camp with eight half-hour episodes about the first day of camp. But that's the joke. Wet Hot American Summer continues its own tradition of operating in a pocket of movie-space and movie-time, and the set-up and punchline are one. Its driving comedy imperative of yes's, and's, and then's hopefully still abides. [embed]219652:42518:0[/embed] Next Month... We're taking a look at one of the odd moments in American film and popular culture: the time in the 1970s when pornography went mainstream. Known alternatively as prono chic and The Golden Age of Porn, Flixist will focus one of the seminal (now, now) films from that era: 1972's Deep Throat. In addition to looking at Deep Throat, we'll consider the rise and fall of The Golden Age of Porn (blame home video), how the clash over porn led to a division among second wave feminists, and how the ugly side of this pornorific era in American culture was depicted in films such as Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and, more recently, Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried. Yup. Porn. I'm sure putting that Philosophy degree to work. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Repo Man (1984) Putney Swope (1969) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996)
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"I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters"
David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer is one of the least likely movies to inspire a follow-up of any kind. The film was savaged by critics upon its release and barely made a dent at the box office; Universal even denied the m...

Review: Vacation

Jul 30 // Matthew Razak
VacationDirectors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. GoldsteinRated: RRelease Date: July 29, 2015 [embed]219710:42514:0[/embed] First off lets give props where props are due. New Line could have geared this film for a PG-13 rating to pull in more people, but they didn't (as Hemsworth's wang below shows). They kept it R like the original and for that they should be applauded because the R-rated comedy is a dying breed. It was a signal that the this new Vacation might just pull itself up by its own boot straps and be funny. The signal got a little diluted. The movie picks up years after the original films. Rusty (Ed Helms) is all grown up, and even more out of touch with his own family than his dad was. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and kids James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) hate the normal cabin vacation they go on so Rusty decides he'll pack everyone into a car and recreate his family's trip to Wally World. That one went pretty poorly as we all may remember, but they're doing it again. In fairness the film is blatantly forward about the fact that it's a remake and that takes some of the sting out of the copped comedy from the original. There is something refreshingly old school about Vacation's comedy. It feels a bit out of date in its gross out site gags and senseless punchlines. Honestly, it's a bit refreshing in a land of comedies that take themselves too seriously or have forgotten how to properly kick a guy in the nuts for comic effect. Slapstick is a sadly dying art. The problem is that Vacation doesn't really execute its slapstick that well. There are definitely moments when the movie pulls off some solid comedy, but it too often feels forced. The film constantly seems to want to push boundaries with its comedy, but never checks to see if that boundary is worth breaking. The movie works here and there, but never long enough to make it any good. James and Kevin's relationship is actually pretty funny, but it pounds the same joke into the ground for far too long. Helms delivers a solidly oblivious father, but the family relations never feel real thanks to how dumb he is. You never get the connection you got with Chevy Chase's increasingly grumpy Clark Griswold. And not that continuity is something you'd expect in this case, but it's very unclear how the Rusty of the original films turned into the Rusty of this film. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo's cameo is also horribly wasted making the connections to the original feel more like a cash grab than actual care. The biggest problem, however, is when Vacation goes way beyond where it should. It mocks murder, suicide and sexual abuse of a minor. I'm all for comedy being allowed to make fun of disturbing subjects; it's one of the ways we cope. The problem is when that comedy isn't funny. Vacations jokes in these departments fall horrendously flat meaning they're both offensive and unfunny. They're clearly trying to make themselves edgy, but they stink at doing it. It pushes the old school comedy into the background and turns the film into something more akin to a Scary Movie sequel. Vacation is a movie that no one wanted so its hard to say that it's a major disappointment. It can actually be funny at times, especially thanks the Helms being a funny person, but it's mostly just retreaded jokes and poorly delivered gross out comedy. The vacation from Vacation films really shouldn't have ended. 
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Vacation, all I never wanted
National Lampoon's Vacation is a comedy landmark. A boundary pushing bit of hilarity that stands the test of time and spawned two sequels funnier than the original (and Vegas Vacation). Of course National Lampoon has bee...

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Red band trailer for The Night Before full of bromance and vomit

Jul 28
// Matthew Razak
The first trailer for The Night Before, a film that will hopefully be a new holiday classic for adults, is here and its full of what you'd expect from a film with Seth Rogen. There's plenty of dumb comedy and drug use and cam...

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