Friday, August 25, 2017

What Game of Thrones needs more than dragonglass is Henry Louis Gates Jr., so that he could stop Jon from banging his Auntie Dany


This is the 10th of 13 or 14 all-new blog posts that are being posted until this blog's final post in December 2017.

Game of Thrones, the most popular TV show in the world right now, is a show I've been ride-or-die for since the eerie White Walker attack that opened its 2011 pilot episode. It's a rare small-screen soap opera in which the action filmmaking on display during certain set pieces--marshaled by directors like Miguel Sapochnik and Breaking Bad veteran Michelle MacLaren, a.k.a. the original director of Wonder Woman before she quit over creative differences with Warner Bros.--is intriguingly on a par with the work of master craftsmen in the action genre like the "Johns": the late John Frankenheimer, John Woo and Johnnie To, Woo's much more grounded (as in there are no fucking doves in his movies) but similarly skilled Hong Kong compatriot.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of Last Week: Rick and Morty, "Pickle Rick"


This is the ninth of 13 all-new blog posts that are being posted until this blog's final post in December 2017. Occasionally on Friday, I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. The "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week hasn't been a weekly feature for a long time, but sometimes, I'll catch a really good piece of animated TV shortly after its original airdate, and I'll feel like devoting some paragraphs to it despite my lateness to the party. Hence the rare "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of Last Week. This is the 134th edition of "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week! Stream "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," my one-hour mix of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, right now.



The Monday after it premiered, I streamed on the Adult Swim site "Pickle Rick"--Rick and Morty's most violent episode so far, as well as the show's most damning indictment of Rick and his treatment of his family, as he mutates himself into a pickle/human hybrid as an excuse to avoid going along with Beth, Summer and Morty to see a family therapist (special guest voice Susan Sarandon)--but I wasn't able to write about "Pickle Rick" until now. I was busy resuming work on my prose novel manuscript and trying to finish marathoning Fargo's third season on FXNow right before FX deleted the entire season from FXNow.

Movie Pilot did such an astute review of "Pickle Rick" (it's entitled "'Pickle Rick' Proved Beyond a Squanch of a Doubt That Rick Is the Real Villain of Rick and Morty") that I'm not going to discuss and briefly summarize (instead of pointlessly recap scene-for-scene) "Pickle Rick" in a fashion similar to the Movie Pilot piece, which is the same kind of non-recappy approach I've done with previous Rick and Morty episodes. I'm just going to raise a couple of points I haven't seen in other reviews of "Pickle Rick."

Danny Trejo is an underrated voice actor. I had no idea Trejo voiced Jaguar, the racially ambiguous assassin Pickle Rick battles and then conspires with to get himself back home, until the end credits. I thought it was Clancy Brown the whole time. That's how effective Trejo is as a voice actor. Trejo really whitened up his voice in "Pickle Rick." He did an even better job as Enrique, Hank's not-too-bright co-worker, in my favorite later-season King of the Hill episode, "Lady and Gentrification," because he convincingly voiced a meek and non-confrontational character who's the complete opposite of all the ass-kickers he played in movies like Desperado, the Machete flicks and even A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, an atypical Trejo movie where Elias Koteas, not Trejo, is the one who's doing all the on-screen carnage. Speaking of King of the Hill, I'm not so excited over the rumors about Mike Judge reuniting with the King of the Hill crew to make new episodes. It's just wrong for King of the Hill to resume without the late Brittany Murphy. If King of the Hill is going to come back to TV now, it ought to kill off Luanne, Murphy's character, off-screen. And no, not even a terrific and versatile voice actor like Pamela Adlon, who juggled several roles on King of the Hill, including Bobby, would be a satisfactory enough replacement for Murphy as Luanne.


Trejo is always weirdly guest-starring in TV show episodes that make me emotional for some reason. "Lady and Gentrification" is a rare King of the Hill episode that angers me because of the things Enrique, his daughter Inez and their family are forced to experience due to the gentrification of Arlen (caused by Peggy, of course), even though a certain quotable grievance of Enrique's is played for laughs ("They put salmon in the fish tacos, Hank!"). The unexpected friendship between Hank and Inez, whom Hank has been asked by Enrique to give a speech for at her quinceañera even though Hank barely knows her, causes "Lady and Gentrification" to also be oddly affecting. Hank is understandably uncomfortable about being around Inez at first because the thought of a middle-aged man spending extra time talking to a teenage girl is never not creepy, but the friendship becomes kind of affecting when you realize Hank, after years of struggling to understand Bobby ("That boy ain't right") and not exactly getting along with the niece-in-law whom he and Peggy have to look after, has finally met a kid whom he could actually get along with. Trejo's guest shot on Monk had the same effect on me as Hank's quasi-parental bond with a surprisingly non-sullen Inez did in "Lady and Gentrification": his hardened lifer character's gradual sympathy for both his cellmate Monk, whom he doesn't get along with at first, and Monk's search for the murderer of his wife Trudy in "Mr. Monk Goes to Jail" is oddly affecting too, and I wished Monk brought back Trejo's character for another episode. In the Monk series finale about the revelation of Trudy's killer, Monk should have sent Trejo to kill Craig T. Nelson.

In the case of "Pickle Rick," the episode's final scene before the end credits was what made me emotional, but not emotional as in somewhat moved, like when I saw "Lady and Gentrification" or "Mr. Monk Goes to Jail." The final scene in Beth's car made me frustrated, as in "Goddammit, Morty, be more aggressive about this shit that's been eating you up inside."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why I left BuzzFe... er, I mean, why I got the fuck away from terrestrial radio

Baby Driver

This is the eighth of 12 or 13 all-new blog posts that are being posted on a monthly basis until this blog's final post in December 2017.

Named after a Simon & Garfunkel tune that's like a turtlenecked-and-khaki-pantsed precursor to Prince's "Little Red Corvette" ("I hit the road and I'm gone"), Baby Driver is Edgar Wright's wonderful antidote to superhero movie fatigue (the recent thrills of Wonder Woman aside), as well as a subtle rebuke to the often-afraid-of-idiosyncrasy superhero movie studio system that chewed the idiosyncratic Wright up and spat him out (back in 2014). Wright's caper flick is the inventively told, occasionally Kid Koala-scored story of a 20-something getaway driver known simply as Baby, whose method of drowning out the tinnitus he's suffered from since childhood is to continually play the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Bob & Earl in his omnipresent iPod earbuds, even during high-speed car chases. While mowing through truffle parmesan butter popcorn at a Baby Driver screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, I realized Wright basically made a movie about me.

Sure, I'm not a getaway driver and I can't parkour my way out of a tight spot like Baby astoundingly can at one point during Baby Driver, but at all hours in my apartment building, I always wear headphones full of music from my phone or my Mac, not to drown out tinnitus, but to drown out annoying footstep noises from my apartment's paper-thin ceiling. Atop the ceiling, it always sounds like two elephants fucking.

Baby Driver

Part of the challenge of writing these blog posts in the past nine years--and now, in addition to the posts, a prose novel manuscript--has been trying to concentrate while all these infuriating noises from my ceiling ensue. If it weren't for my headphones drowning those noises out, I don't think I could ever get any shit done in my apartment, and I don't think I could ever sleep at night either (for that, I switch off the music and put on in my headphones a copy of one of those eight-hour YouTube audio clips of starship white noise from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then I'm out cold like Riker after having to listen to Data's poetry slam).

Monday, July 3, 2017

Okja is two hours of Bong Joon-ho's usual boldness, plus Jake Gyllenhaal doing an odd Marvin Tikvah impression


This is the seventh of 12 or 13 all-new blog posts that are being posted on a monthly basis until this blog's final post in December 2017.

I love the work of Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. Based on a real-life serial-killer case that remains unsolved, 2003's Memories of Murder, the second feature film from "Director Bong," intriguingly takes the standard "grisly serial-killer case psychologically damages the detectives on the case" thriller and expands its scope so that it morphs into a dark comedy about the ineptitude of institutions like the police, and it's so critical of institutions you'd expect David Simon to have had a hand in writing it. The Host, Bong's 2006 follow-up to Memories of Murder, became South Korea's biggest box-office hit ever by effectively mashing up the monster movie genre with dysfunctional family comedy and trenchant satire about both Korean and American institutions. Mother, Bong's 2009 whodunit about a mentally challenged prime suspect in a small-town murder case, is a worthy addition to the pantheon of twisted movies to watch on Mother's Day like Psycho and Serial Mom. Snowpiercer, a rare dystopian sci-fi flick that takes place in perpetual snowfall rather than being drenched in acid rain or set against orange desert landscapes, is both an inventive take on class warfare and 2014's most mesmerizing blockbuster starring a white guy named Chris.

These are all darkly comic films with a recurring disdain for either broken institutions or corporate malfeasance. So I was prepared to dislike the made-for-Netflix Okja, a globetrotting fantasy film that finds Bong venturing into Free Willy territory for a story about a Korean farm kid's bond with a genetically modified female "superpig"--an empathetic creature that behaves less like a pig and more like a dog/hippo hybrid--she wants to save from the slaughterhouse. Has Bong the sharp satirist gone all soft and cuddly on us?

Nah, not really. For his first family-friendly film since The Host (its R rating in America is, by the way, overblown--the original Gremlins is grislier than The Host--and I think its bittersweet ending had a lot to do with it being slapped with an R), Bong takes on the GMO industry and two-faced corporate culture, and his satirical vision of a feud between animal rights activists and Mirando, a Monsanto-style corporation with a deceptively sunny disposition, is slightly darker than I expected from a film that spends much of the first half-hour in idyllic, nearly dialogue-less rural splendor that's visually inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.


My Neighbor Totoro

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the amount of F-bombs freely tossed around by Steven Yeun and Daniel Henshall--who play members of a Paul Dano-led "Animal Liberation Front"--as well as by Jake Gyllenhaal and Snowpiercer star (and Okja co-producer) Tilda Swinton, who's given this time by Bong a dual role as a pair of twin sisters who run Mirando (and have differing approaches to handling the corporation's crusade against world hunger). Bong has an awesome interpretation of "family-friendly."