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."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Electric Boogaloo entertainingly looks back at Cannon Films, the Fyre Festival of indie movie studios

Mathilda May does her impression of me halfway through a Blu-ray of an '80s Cannon Films action movie in a scene from the big-budget 1985 Cannon flick Lifeforce.

This is the sixth 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. It has taken me since January 2016 to finish writing this post about Cannon Films. I don't know why. Writer's block can really fuck you up sometimes. This is why I can't wait to leave this blog behind so that Accidental Star Trek Cosplay will become my only ongoing blog. After December, the only writer's block I'll have to worry about will be the block that keeps trying to prevent me from finishing my novel manuscript.

You've seen MacGruber, right? Now imagine if MacGruber wasn't a comedy. That's basically what an '80s Cannon Films action movie is like.

MacGruber is a Cannon movie played completely straight, except for a couple of big things: the profane update of MacGruber's old theme song (a tune from his days as an SNL character) and the intentionally offbeat dialogue that comes out of the mouths of Val Kilmer, Kristen Wiig and Will Forte, who weepingly delivers the least dignified and most sob-filled monologue in action movie history ("Just join my team. I'll suck your dick!"). Everyone else in MacGruber, whether the actor is Ryan Phillippe or the late Powers Boothe, is interestingly directed by Lonely Island troupe member Jorma Taccone to take the proceedings completely seriously, including even Maya Rudolph, aside from her silly sex noises while her dead character's ghost bangs MacGruber in a cemetary.



Phillippe and Boothe react to MacGruber's pantsless moment of desperation in the military office as if this were Michael Clayton or Spotlight instead of an Inspector Clouseau flick (or any other farce where everyone, including the straight man, gives a big and broad performance). Their underplayed seriousness actually increases the hilarity quotient of MacGruber's abnormal behavior.

Taccone's movie is a terrific parody of the schlocky Cannon house style, from the strange one-liners that sound like they were written by a 57-year-old Israeli movie producer ("Shut your butt!") to the ultraviolent heroes who, in real life, would be locked up in an insane asylum for their psychotic behavior (see MacGruber's "KFBR392" scene). If you took the dour and unintentionally funny 1986 Cannon movie Cobra, which I never watched until I rented it on YouTube a week ago, and you turned it into a comedy about how the behavior of matchstick-chewing supercop Marion Cobretti, the only person in the world who cuts pieces off his slices of pizza with a pair of scissors, actually looks to the world outside the narcissistic-at-the-time brain of Cobra star/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone, it would probably resemble MacGruber.

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The first Deadpool flick makes a Cobra reference I wasn't aware of until Outlaw Vern pointed it out (it's the scene when Ryan Reynolds quips about the matchstick between Gina Carano's lips and wonders aloud if she's a Stallone fan). Taccone and Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick all clearly watched Cannon movies like Cobra when they were kids, just like how I was subjected to a few Cannon cheapies as an '80s kid.

One of those movies was 1987's Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, which was one of Cannon's two attempts to update the then-100-year-old Quatermain novels in the wake of Indiana Jones, and I still remember how dreadful the production values in Lost City of Gold were (it should have been called Lost City of Plastic). Currently streamable on Netflix, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, an Australian-made 2014 documentary directed by Aussie filmmaker Mark Hartley, is the highly entertaining story of why during the '80s and early '90s, a name like Cannon meant it had to be not-so-good. It's hard to dislike any documentary that devotes five minutes to the lambada movie war of 1990.

Cannon was, of course, embroiled in that vicious war over who could first rush into release a movie about a dirty dancing craze from Brazil that was barely sweeping the nation. Nobody won the war between Warner Bros./Cannon's Lambada and Columbia Pictures/21st Century Film Corporation's The Forbidden Dance. The only winners were quippy film critics who got a kick out of tearing apart terrible movies. For five silly minutes, Electric Boogaloo recounts how obsessed Menahem Golan (pronounced "muh-nawk-um go-lawn"), the aforementioned 50-something Israeli movie producer, was with trying to get The Forbidden Dance completed in time for its spring 1990 release date, while Yoram Globus, one of the producers of Lambada, and his collaborators toiled over their rival project. Golan and Globus were not just former business partners who ran Cannon (into the ground). They also happened to be cousins.

Friday, May 19, 2017

That time when Angry Asian Man made enough noise to keep the live-action Mulan producers from ruining Mulan's reflection

Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man

This is the fifth 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 (the Ghost Protocol repost does not count as all-new).

This will be the final time I acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on this blog, a few months before I will stop writing posts over here at the end of this year. So this final APA Heritage Month-related post is about a pioneering blog in the Asian American blogosphere and what has to be one of the blog's most impressive pieces of writing ever. It was impressive because of the minor but still-significant impact the blog post had during the ongoing struggle, especially from the Asian American side of things, to fight for more representation, diversity and inclusiveness in Hollywood and to get Tinseltown to be less ignorant and racist.

I don't visit Angry Asian Man as frequently as I used to (my favorite thing about Angry Asian Man has always been that its posts have introduced me to a lot of good novels by Asian American authors, and they've included Leonard Chang's Allen Choice crime trilogy and Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex, a novel I'm currently trying to finish reading while working on my own novel), but once in a while, Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man's founder, posts something enlightening and non-click-baity (and by non-click-baity, I mean a post that's not some viral video of an Asian American kid doing something adorable). By the way, Angry Asian Man has changed a lot since its start in the early 2000s. It began as a blog where Phil, whom I've talked to over e-mail a couple of times and have hung out with once, eloquently criticized the media and celebrities of all races for their racist attitudes towards Asians or their clueless usages of Asian stereotypes. That means Angry Asian Man can also be a depressing and stress-inducing read, especially whenever Phil posts excerpts of news items about hate crimes where the victims are Asian, which is mainly why I don't read it regularly anymore.

My visits to Angry Asian Man are not as frequent as they were in the early-to-mid-2000s also because, even though Phil still finds time to run the site in between speaking engagements and host or guest stints on online talk shows, his personal voice has been less present on the site (it's more present on Twitter and during Sound and Fury, the Angry Asian Man tie-in podcast where he interviews famous Asian Americans). He's been relying on guest writers for tons of content, and he found a clever way to do that on a weekly basis by coming up with a feature called "Angry Readers of the Week," where he lets an Asian American reader, whether that reader is non-famous or famous, give his or her life story via a Proust-type questionnaire.


Guest writers have also grabbed Phil's mic outside of the site's "Angry Readers" feature. One such guest writer wrote quite a corker for Angry Asian Man in October 2016, and that's the "something enlightening and non-click-baity" I'm referring to.

Acclaimed Whale Rider director Niki Caro is currently directing Disney's live-action remake of its own animated 1998 hit, the lighthearted, David Lean-style battle epic Mulan (she promises that her take on Mulan will be "a big, girly martial arts epic. It will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving"). But back when Caro wasn't attached to the remake yet, a spec script Disney bought for the remake (this early draft was credited to Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin) had awkwardly inserted a white savior character/love interest into a Chinese story that never contained any white savior characters.


The leaked spec script angered the 1998 film's fans, especially Asian American fans who, in 1998, felt empowered by both Ming-Na Wen's vocal star turn and the film's story of a female warrior who saves China and defies patriarchy (Mulan is also one of the few animated Disney films to not have its heroine pursuing a romance with the male lead, who, in this case, was a young Chinese army captain voiced by B.D. Wong). Phil gave the floor to one such Asian American Mulan fan, an Angry Asian Man reader who identified herself (or himself?) only as "an Asian American person in the industry," and the anonymous writer, who posted under the nom de plume "ConcernedForMulan," nicely read the live-action project's producers the riot act.

Monday, April 17, 2017

In Ghost Protocol, the gadgets turn into the Mission: Impossible team's worst enemy


I have a theory that the Mission: Impossible movies got better once Tom Cruise stopped being touchy about his short stature and allowed his character to be put in situations that emphasized how short he actually is. (It took this long for Cruise to become slightly less vain, which is so unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Clark Gregg, who has awesomely never given a shit about sharing the screen with Marvel Cinematic Universe actresses who tower over him, whether that actress is Gwyneth Paltrow or Mallory Jansen. On the first day on the S.H.I.E.L.D. set, Gregg, a veteran of so many David Mamet projects, must have said something Mametian like "Fuck these fucking apple boxes you want me to stand on.")

That creative resurgence for the Impossible movie franchise (Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation turned out to be the best Impossible movies since the first one) began right at the start of Ghost Protocol, when Cruise was surrounded by prison thugs who were a foot taller than him, and the creative resurgence continued when Cruise, for the first time ever in the series, sighed and rolled his eyes like a too-old-for-this-shit, Rockford Files-era James Garner while getting knocked on his ass by an even taller enemy agent in Rogue Nation's terrific opera house assassination attempt sequence. That's another thing about the weird late-period resurgence of the Impossible movie franchise (which will come out with a sixth installment next year): the addition of more humor to these movies has resulted in Ethan Hunt becoming a slightly more likable and relatable protagonist, except the humor never feels forced or overly campy.

"Light the Fuse," the opening title theme Michael Giacchino, Ghost Protocol's composer, arranged for the fourth Impossible movie, is a stunning symphonic reinterpretation of Lalo Schifrin's main title theme from the '60s Impossible. The extra spit and polish Giacchino brought to an old (and kind of overplayed) Schifrin tune are why I chose "Light the Fuse" as the very first track for "Incognito I," the first of three mixes of spy movie/TV show score cues I assembled for the AFOS Mixcloud page. The oldest score cue during the three mixes is John Barry's Ipcress File main title theme from 1965, while the newest score cues during the mixes are from the Epix espionage drama Berlin Station and xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Below these three mixes is a repost of my July 30, 2015 discussion of both Giacchino's score from Ghost Protocol and the Ghost Protocol movie itself, a series-revitalizing installment that's on a par with what Fast Five did really late in the game as a creative boost to the Fast and the Furious franchise.







I wasn't alive when the original Mission: Impossible first aired on CBS, and I didn't watch any of the Mission: Impossible reruns until I saw FX's badly butchered versions of them back when the future home of Vic Mackey and SAMCRO started out as a low-rent Nick at Nite, so I don't have an attachment to Jim Phelps like I do to other characters from shows I'm much more fond of, like, say, Yemana from Barney Miller or anybody from the Greendale gang who's not Pierce. When Brian De Palma's 1996 Mission: Impossible reboot picked Jon Voight to take over the Peter Graves role of Phelps, the cool-headed (and rather bland) leader of the Impossible Missions Force and the hero of both the '60s and '80s versions of the show, and the movie reimagined Phelps as a traitor who had his fellow IMF agents killed, I didn't hiss "Blasphemy!" at the screen or angrily storm out of the theater in the middle of the feature presentation like Graves' old Mission: Impossible co-star Greg Morris did when he watched De Palma's movie. I actually dug the shocking plot twist.

Action film reviewer Outlaw Vern perfectly described why the twist remains an intriguing one in his recent reassessment of De Palma's Mission: Impossible. A master of paranoid thrillers who proved to be the perfect filmmaker to revive and re-energize Mission: Impossible for these post-Cold War times, De Palma "doesn't look fawningly at the cloak and dagger Cold War fun of the ['60s] series... Using the original show's hero as the villain is not only a surprising plot twist, it's a statement." Vern added, "Back then spy shit was fun and glamorous, now we're more aware of the messes it causes, and the consequences of training people with deadly skills and then running out of things for them to do. The guy that was the hero back then is now willing to betray everyone because he's not getting paid enough. Times are tough."

While I found the first Mission: Impossible movie that Tom Cruise both starred in and co-produced to be genuinely thrilling and clever--the beauty of that classic Langley break-in sequence is mostly due to its use of silence, which was De Palma's way of critiquing the noisy storytelling of most summer blockbusters--the villainization of Phelps, which actually made Phelps slightly more interesting as a character, wasn't what bugged me about the movie. What bugged me was Cruise's de-emphasis on teamwork in the movie's third act so that his Ethan Hunt character saved the day on his own and everyone else on Hunt's makeshift team was ancillary. The emphasis on a team of specialists from different fields was what made both the '60s and '80s incarnations of Mission: Impossible stand out from other spy shows, besides the enticing concept of what was essentially a one-hour heist movie every week. If you're going to revive Mission: Impossible on the big screen, it ought to be the espionage equivalent of Seven Samurai or Ocean's Eleven like the old show was, or else why call it Mission: Impossible? Without an ensemble, it's nothing more than 007 as a two-hour shampoo commercial--which was basically what John Woo's abysmal Mission: Impossible II was.

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Rick and Morty, "The Rickshank Rickdemption"


This is the fourth 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. Occasionally on Friday, I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. It's the "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.



If the last few years saw the rise of the surprise album release--the likes of Beyoncé and Drake have rewritten the rules of the music industry by dropping albums right and left without any warning--then Adult Swim is apparently taking a cue from Queen Bey and Drizzy by trying to bring about the rise of the surprise TV show episode premiere. They did it before when, without much fanfare, they debuted on Instagram the complete "Rixty Minutes" episode of Rick and Morty a few days before its broadcast premiere.

This April Fools Day, Adult Swim did it again. Without posting some sort of press release or promotional tweet in advance, Adult Swim's staff pretended to do their annual April Fools prank (three of those past pranks were simply broadcasts of The Room), but they used the appearance of a prank as a Trojan horse to show all of "The Rickshank Rickdemption"--the Rick and Morty third-season premiere in which an incarcerated Rick comes up with a very sci-fi way to both outsmart an alien interrogator (special guest star Nathan Fillion) and escape from intergalactic prison--in a loop for only a few hours on both the network and its site. Well-played, Adult Swim, well-played.

Adult Swim hasn't even set a date yet for the unveiling of the rest of Rick and Morty's new season. So far, they've said the season will resume some time in the summer, so the most impatient of Rick and Morty fans, who have been waiting since October 2015 for new episodes from Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, will just have to shut the fuck up like Jemaine Clement whenever he sings about moonmen and wait a little longer.

The April Fools loop was a nice little surprise stunt, but how does the episode--which I was lucky to stream in its entirety after returning home late from a party, right before Adult Swim deleted it from their site--fare as the return of an eagerly awaited animated show that hasn't been first-run in almost two years? "The Rickshank Rickdemption," which is credited to Rick and Morty staff writer Mike McMahan, is a much more focused and tautly written (as well as much more action-heavy) season premiere than last season's "A Rickle in Time," a season opener that Roiland and Harmon were reportedly unhappy with because, according to the duo in Rolling Stone, "We were so close to something amazing and we never really got there from a structural standpoint," and "It went off the deep end conceptually and got really over-complicated." The third-season premiere is satisfying and funny enough to get me to bring back this blog's "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week" feature after a long hiatus.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

No Soup for us: The disappointment over E! never archiving The Soup for the show's fans


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

The longest I laughed over one of Joel McHale's quips on E!'s now-defunct pop culture clip show The Soup ("a sort of national archives of idiocy" was how TV Insider astutely described the show, a few months before its cancellation in 2015) was the moment when The Soup played a Today Show clip of Richard Simmons--this was way before he went "missing"--being Richard Simmons while sitting on a couch with a miniskirted Lisa Rinna. The former Days of Our Lives star, who looks a lot different from her pre-Botox days in Salem, covered her crotch when Simmons lifted up her legs because she thought the viewers at home were getting a glimpse of her Salem's Lot (actually, the viewers at home couldn't see shit).



Neither the accidental quasi-upskirt clip nor McHale's scripted response to the clip were what made me laugh for two or three minutes. The muttered aside that the Soup host clearly ad-libbed right after his scripted response was what caused my sides to hurt from laughing for two minutes: "Her lips are full of collagen."

The Soup studio audience laughed over the ad-lib for longer than half a minute as well. On a broadcast network, Standards and Practices would lamely bleep out "lips" and ruin McHale's joke, but because this was basic cable, E! let the randy ad-lib go. It was a rare wise decision by a cable channel known for a million dumb programming decisions that were made fun of by McHale and his fellow joke writers on the regular during The Soup's 11-year run.

I wish I could revisit that improvised Soup moment and a bunch of other lines that were ad-libbed by McHale (in addition to wishing I could revisit the memes that originated from The Soup, like Spaghetti Cat and "Stay out of it, Nick Lachey!"), just like how I can easily stream an entire episode of The Daily Show from any point of history during the Dubya Administration or how I can easily stream the classic 2007 Colbert Report interview segment where Jane Fonda took Stephen Colbert by surprise (by sitting on his lap and kissing him to persuade his fake Republican alter ego, also named Stephen Colbert, to remove her name from his "On Notice" board). (Also, a search for almost every discriminatory thing that has come out of Steve King's mouth isn't so difficult, thanks to the Colbert archive.)

Unfortunately, I can't revisit as much Soup content as I'd like to because E!'s online staff never bothered to put up an archive of full Soup episodes like how Comedy Central built exhaustive online archives of full Daily Show episodes and lengthy Colbert Report clips. And that lack of a Soup archive--meanwhile, all 12 interminable seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians are up on Hulu--is an even dumber move on E!'s part than building an unwatchable reality show around a tanning salon.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Nobody says "Huh?" like Denzel


This is the second of 12 or 13 blog posts that are being posted on a monthly basis from January 2017 until this blog's final post in December 2017.

Once upon a time, I ran an Internet radio station that streamed film and TV score music. I don't really miss running it. The audience for it dwindled over the years, and even though Live365, the Bay Area company that powered the station before the end of the Webcaster Settlement Act led to Live365's demise early last year, is being resuscitated, I don't have any plans to bring back the station.

But I've kept the station alive on Mixcloud, where I've archived a few hours of old station content and posted lots of new one-to-two-hour mixes of music from original scores. The most popular of those mixes has been a mix of Kyle Dixon/Michael Stein score cues from the first season of Netflix's unexpectedly popular Stranger Things. It's called "Where's Barb?"

Late last year, the score albums for the Magnificent Seven remake and the film version of Fences, which both star Denzel Washington, were sent to my inbox, and that made me want to edit together an entire mix of score cues from Denzel movies. Denzel has been one of my favorite actors, ever since he stole the 1989 white savior movie Glory (and won an Oscar for stealing it) in the same way Don Cheadle would later steal Devil in a Blue Dress from Denzel. In Glory, he was basically the Toshiro Mifune character from Seven Samurai: the shit-talking troublemaker and outsider who learns to channel his anger and penchant for self-destruction into a worthy cause and then (SPOILER!) dies a hero.

The late James Horner's score from that 1989 Civil War movie, Terence Blanchard's 1992 Malcolm X score and Hans Zimmer's 1995 Crimson Tide score are a trifecta of Denzel-related instrumental badassery. Put those three scores together in either a mix or an hour of radio programming, and that hour of music is automatically going to sound as rousing and badass as a Denzel speech. Procrastinating on a writing project or that load of laundry? Put on the badass "Fruit of Islam" from Malcolm X's classic hospital march sequence. Immediately after hearing "Fruit of Islam," shit is going to be done. Laundry is going to be washed.

This month is the perfect time to post a mix of score cues from Denzel flicks. Several of Denzel's most highly regarded movies are frequently recommended during Black History Month by the likes of film critics and librarians, and Fences, Denzel's third big-screen directorial effort, is up for a few Oscars this weekend. Viola Davis, who reprised a role she had alongside Denzel in one of the various stage versions of Fences, is the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress trophy.



Throughout the Mixcloud mixes, I like to drop audio clips from the movies or TV shows that I've selected for score cue airplay. For this Denzel mix, I could have gone with audio from Denzel speeches as the connective tissue between each Denzel movie score cue, but I decided to go with something even more brash as connective tissue: clips from the very funny Earwolf podcast Denzel Washington Is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period, hosted by stand-ups W. Kamau Bell, the host of the CNN documentary series United Shades of America, and Kevin Avery, a writer for Last Week Tonight.

Bell, Avery and a special guest Denzealot, whether it's another comedian, a black filmmaker or one of Denzel's previous co-stars, dissect the work of their favorite charismatic actor, with lots of humor and occasional jabs at things like Virtuosity (the poorly received 1995 Denzel cyber-thriller that pitted 'Zel against a murderous A.I. played by a pre-L.A. Confidential Russell Crowe) and Denzel's visible discomfort during Much Ado About Nothing's frolicking scenes. Denzel himself is aware of the podcast's existence. But I highly doubt he's ever going to be a guest on this podcast that both celebrates his many triumphs as an actor (as well as a director of both episodic TV and small-scale feature films) and dredges up Virtuosity-esque career missteps, and Denzel's recent Fences press junket comment about not wanting to live in the past confirmed it. The podcast doesn't just live in Denzel's big-screen (and small-screen) past. It raises kids and builds a whole garden of gladioli in his past.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Atlanta season 1's sweetest move was an old 30 Rock move: it never tried to sell Paper Boi as God's gift to the trap scene


This is the first of 12 or 13 blog posts that will be posted on a monthly basis from now until this blog's final post in December 2017.

I was skeptical about Donald Glover's Atlanta when FX first announced in 2014 that it picked up Glover's creation, his first TV series since his departure from Community, the offbeat cult favorite where he continually killed it each week as Troy Barnes, a high-school football star trying (and failing) to suppress his nerdy side (like that time when Troy, in what has to be my favorite acting moment from Glover on Community, was so excited to be in the presence of his childhood hero LeVar Burton that he turned catatonic). A half-hour comedy about a trap rapper and his manager cousin trying to get by in the rap game? Disquieting visions of "Entourage for the Atlanta trap scene" danced in my head when FX first hyped Atlanta. The world doesn't need another half-hour piece of boring lifestyle porn where the lead characters constantly bang anything that breathes in the most opulent of settings and the storyline with the biggest stakes would be "Is Vince Paper Boi doing or not doing the movie A3C?"

Another disquieting vision I had was that Atlanta was going to be a weekly half-hour ad for Glover's musical career as Childish Gambino. Glover is a good example of an actor/rapper whose beats, frequently provided by Community and Creed score composer Ludwig Göransson, are solid, but his bars leave a lot to be desired. I was never a fan of Gambino's corny verses about his Asian fetish.


I caught up on Atlanta season 1 on FX on demand, about a few weeks after the season concluded, during a couple of breaks between chapters for a manuscript I've been working on since August (chapters that I, by the way, ended up having to delete from the manuscript because I found myself thinking, "This material isn't gonna work as a YA novel anymore. A Jim Rockford-type Pinoy should be the audience surrogate, not a precocious Richie Brockelman-type Pinoy," so I got rid of all the teenage characters). Atlanta, which took home the Best Comedy Series and Best Actor in a Comedy trophies at the Golden Globes earlier this month, exceeded my expectations. As a half-hour single-camera comedy about the rap game, thankfully, it's more Taxi than Entourage.

Sure, Atlanta is frequently funny (three words: secret revolving wall), but Glover and his writing staff's brand of humor is tinged with Taxi-style melancholy, particularly about how working-class adult life often feels like you're running in circles. That melancholy reflects Glover's belief, as he once said during a 2016 Television Critics Association press tour panel, that "you watch Master of None and it's a very optimistic look at millennialism, [but] I'm pessimistic about it. I feel like we kind of fucked up."


There's nothing lifestyle-porny about Atlanta. Neither are there any moments of blatant product placement for Awaken, My Love!, the surprise Gambino album Glover dropped one month after the Atlanta season finale, save for a cameo by the Awaken, My Love! cover artwork on a bookshelf in the "Juneteenth" episode. The non-rap Awaken, My Love! is also the first-ever Gambino release I've genuinely liked from start to finish, aside from whatever the fuck Bino was doing with his voice during "California."

The show is an exploration of, as Joshua Rivera put it in GQ, "the stress and pain of being broke," particularly when that broke-ass person is both a creative and a POC, like Earn Marks, Glover's Ivy League dropout character, and, to a lesser extent, his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), a.k.a. the trap rapper known as Paper Boi (not to be confused with Paperboy, who recorded the 1992 one-hit wonder "Ditty"), who's more economically stable than Earn, thanks to income from drug dealing, but he's not exactly on the level of Future/Gucci Mane-type wealth yet. "Ballin," singer/songwriter Bibi Bourelly's current ode to finding ways to "treat yo'self" when your savings account is empty, could be an unofficial theme song for the daily hustle of either Earn, who becomes Alfred's manager, or teaching assistant Van (Zazie Beetz), Earn's ex and the mother of his baby daughter (I wouldn't be surprised if Bourelly's extremely relatable song surfaces on Atlanta during its second season, which is currently scheduled to air in 2018, partly due to Glover's upcoming gig as young Lando Calrissian).