comedy

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 10 (2016)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 10 (2016 Netflix)

There is a reason we missed reviewing Season 10 of Trailer Park Boys when it came out last year.  A dark cloud hung over the season.  Mike Smith (Bubbles) was incorrectly arrested on domestic violence charges; charges that were swiftly dropped.  The damage was done, and this caused Lucy Decoutere to leave the show.  Even though Season 10 was quite great, we just couldn’t produce the gumption to write it up.  Better late than never.  With this long over and resolved, let’s take a fresh look at Season 10.

As usual, much has changed between seasons at Sunnyvale.  Julian now owns the park and is happy with his two girlfriends (Bambi and Dakota — shades of Charlie Sheen here), and his own casino/bar.  The house band:  Bubbles and the Shitrockers.  Ricky runs his Drugs Store, with all the weed and edibles you can imagine.  His daughter Trinity has been raising baby Mo with Jacob Collins, proud parents now ready to get married and make it official.  All this baby stuff has made Lucy itch for another one, so she’s been getting Ricky to bang her non-stop.  J-Roc is raising his son M.C. Flurry, and has brought back a new girlfriend from Mexico.  Randy’s supervising the park, and Lahey has left.  He’s living in a camper in a park next door, and “pacing” his drinking.  He’s using a breathalyzer to keep himself at a steady 0.120 blood alcohol level…but does he have the discipline to maintain that?

There’s a new three-headed nemesis in town.  Fresh out of jail is former park owner Barb Lahey, and she has backup.  Donna/Don (Leigh MacInness) has also been hardened by jail time.  And they’ve brought the tough-as-nails Candy (Candy Palmater), with her bright pink baseball bat to make sure they get their way.  They are determined to get the park back, and it looks like they have the legal means to do so.  So now the boys need lawyer money.

It’s illegal schemes again, one involving ripping off a former caveman, now “Denture King”.  This side-splitting sequence will leave you wondering how far they’re willing to go to save the park.  They need money bad.  Julian’s been letting everyone drink for free at his bar, and nobody’s paying the lot fees.  Finally Julian decides to turn Sunnyvale into a “all-inclusive” vacation resort.  Bubbles puts together an online ad, which goes viral and catches the attention of Jimmy Kimmel himself.

The first half of Season 10 is actually a little dull.  It’s a bit of the same old, same old.  Breaking the law, almost getting caught.  Bad luck and dumb fuck-ups.  Once the special guests arrive, the season takes on a whole new life.

 

A fleet of gangsta cars pulls into the park.  It’s Snoop Dogg, Doug Benson, and Tom fucking Arnold!  Snoop and Doug are there for the “all you can smoke” weed, but Tom has come for the superfan experience.  Turns out he’s a huge fan of the show (remember, Trailer Park Boys is a “documentary” on Julian!) and has a bucket list of things he wants to do at Sunnyvale:  driving the Shitmobile, sleeping in Bubbles’ shed, and banging Lucy!  “I can’t believe it!  We’re in Sunnyvale fucking Trailer Park!  I’ve seen every episode of your show, man!  It’s even shittier in real life!  I love it!”

As for Ricky, he’s happy just to “get high as fuck with Snoopy Doggy Dogg Dogg”!

As you can imagine, the presence of Snoop and his posse leads to many hilarious scenes and encounters.  Will J-Roc lose his shit completely upon meeting his idol?  Will Ricky be able to say Snoop’s name right?  The one thing fans would have expected out of a Snoop Dogg guest shot is seeing him rap with J-Roc or Bubbles, and you won’t be disappointed.  Episode 8 “The Super Bling Cowboy” has the musical scene you’ve been hoping for.  In fact it’s safe to say that Season 10 changes completely upon meeting Snoop.  The arc of the season takes a back seat to the guest stars, and some of that big star millionaire money might resolve a few plots.  However, at the same time, there is some ambitious writing going on.  Early on, we learn that Jim Lahey has a secret that he’s been hiding all along, that only Barb knows about.  This secret provides Barb some blackmail leverage, but it’s also setting up a storyline that will run for at least three seasons including this one.  Jim’s secret was explored in Season 11, but not fully resolved, presumably leaving it to also impact Season 12, coming in 2018.  (Post your fan theories in the comments!)  This kind of multi-season story arc has never been attempted on Trailer Park Boys before.

Keeping a show like the highly formulaic Trailer Park Boys fresh can’t be easy after 10 years.  Snoop, Doug Benson and Tom Arnold helped distinguish Season 10 as one of the most fun.  You can always count on Ricky, Julian and Bubbles to put themselves in some pretty ridiculous situations, and usually drag everybody else into their web of shit.  The guest stars offer a temporary pause to that, and allow our characters to have a bit more fun than usual.  And when they have fun, so does the audience.  However the ending has a sad note, accompanied by a familiar melancholy song.  It’s a strangely emotional denouement.  “There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me.  Down the road, where I always seem to be.  Every stop I make, I see my old friend…”

Maybe tomorrow, they’ll want to settle down…in the end, it’s about the characters, who are just a big family we’ve now known for 10 seasons.  Randy said it best:

“I love you Ricky!  I love you like a brother. I don’t like you at all, but I love you!”

4/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 11 (2017)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 (2017 Netflix)

Thank you Netflix for saving the Trailer Park Boys.  It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but ever since the Boys returned to Sunnyvale with the excellent Season 8 (remember Orangie?), the show has continued unhindered by cast defections.  Season 11 is the first without Lucy Decoutere (Lucy) and Jonathan Torrens (J-Roc).  After already losing such favourites as Trevor (Mike Jackson) and Ray (Barrie Dunn), I can understand why some fans may have said enough’s enough.  Every show has its peak.  For some that would be the first three seasons of Trailer Park Boys.  For others, we have rolled with the changes.  Not all fans were unanimous in the acceptance of newer characters such as Col. Dancer, Don/Donna, and Candy.  For this season, those characters have been dropped.  The core park residents are now Ricky, Julian and Bubbles accompanied by Randy, Lahey, Sarah, Cory, Jacob and Trinity.  Little baby Motel is around, as is Barb Lahey.

Continuing a storyline from Season 10, Julian has vanished.  Bubbles is doing well now, having gone legit selling his own brand of organic pizza sauce.  It’s a hit, and a restaurant owner is willing to pay wholesale.  He has the whole park working together growing vegetables, contributing to the well-being of Sunnyvale and its residents.  All is well, but Bubbles does miss Julian.  Jim Lahey is sober and supervising, having truly changed this time.  He and Randy are planning to get married, while Randy is vying to get on the police force.  The absence of Lucy and J-Roc is explained satisfactorily.

When Ricky and Bubbles (now mobile with his own little truck) discover that Julian is now a lobster fisherman (or is he?) living in a shipping container, they go to confront him.  Ultimately, Julian’s return brings what it always does:  crime back into the park.  Snoop Dogg calls and wants weed, and lots of it.  Julian decides to hijack Bubbles’ pizza sauce business and convert it to a grow op.  As usual, Bubbles is driven near to the breaking point as the stress builds.

In Season 10, there was a revelation that Lahey may in fact be Ricky’s real father.  This is fully addressed in Season 11, via a lightsaber dual (hockey sticks and brooms subbing in for laser swords) and dialogue taken directly from The Empire Strikes Back.  Director Bobby Farrelly (Bobby fucking Farrelly!) must be given credit for the perfect Star Wars homage in Episode 4, “Darth Lahey”, right down to the action beats.  Brilliant stuff — a highpoint episode for this show.

There are cameos by celebrities and past characters. Look for Susan Kent from 22 Minutes, and NHLer Nathan MacKinnon, first overall draft pick and rookie of the year.  A few old adversaries have returned as well, to cause problems for our three lovable idiots.  Speaking of idiots, Ricky and Julian manage to bring the stupidly to new levels, but simultaneously, Ricky has a Yoda-like ability to trick cops.    Meanwhile, they have also managed to keep up with modern technology.  Cell phones, cameras and GPS now figure into the plots.  There are references to the Walking Dead and changing times.  This manages to keep the series feeling fresh.

After 11 seasons, it is understood that a show rarely hits the highs it once did.  Season 11 is a worthy effort; not in the Top Five, but certainly good enough at this point.

4/5 stars

 

DVD REVIEW: Rushmore (The Criterion Collection) #WesAndersonBlogathon

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Scan_20160807 (2)RUSHMORE (1998/1999 Criterion DVD)

Directed by Wes Anderson

Whether they know it or not, everybody has their first Wes Anderson movie.  Mine was Rushmore, an easy entry point, and I had never seen anything like it before.  It has a genuine quality, an old-fashioned look, and a killer soundtrack — all Wes Anderson trademarks.

The Criterion Collection (“a continuing series of important classics and contemporary films”) deliver some of the best colour transfers, and that is necessary for any Wes Anderson film.  Soaked in dark but rich colours, Anderson fills his work with vibrancy.  His visual trademarks are apparent right from the first scene, a hilarious fantasy sequence introducing our main protagonist Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman).  Max is more than a dreamer though.  He is a doer.  He dreams things and makes things happen.  As such he is the founding (and sometimes sole) member of multiple clubs at Rushmore Academy.  He writes, produces and directs lavish school plays with no thought given to compromise, or safety.  Unfortunately, Max doesn’t dream much of his own schoolwork, and never seems to get it done.  He is on notice.  Fail one more class, and he’s expelled from the school he loves so much.  Brian Cox (Super Troopers) is excellent as Dr. Guggenheim, the school principal.

Max soon meets steel magnate Herman Blume (Bill Murray), to the tune of “Making Time” by The Creation (1967).  The retro music and formal dress at Rushmore Academy gives the movie a timeless feel.  Could it be the 90’s?  The 80’s?  The 70’s?  Sure, why not.  Instead of working at getting his grades up, Max continues to dream.  He dreams of saving the Latin program in school (for no real reason other than just to do it), and of new teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams).  He’s a charmer, but often with ulterior motives.  He and Blume manage to find a bond together.  That is, before Blume himself falls for Miss Cross.

This leads to a strange rivalry between Max and Blume, with each jockeying for position in the Miss Cross stakes, with little thought given to how she feels about the whole thing.  It also sets up some pretty amusing situations, such as Max trying to build a school aquarium for Miss Cross.  He almost succeeds, too.  Max is a hard character to read, as he often wants to make certain impressions.  Blume, on the other hand, is clearly depressed, living in a sham of a marriage with two barbarian sons he doesn’t even seem to like. As their rivalry grows in intensity, so does the music, culminating in The Who’s epic live version of a “A Quick One While He’s Away” from the deluxe version of Live at Leeds.  Wes Anderson has a knack for a musical montage too, and Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby” is host to one such montage.  (Stevens also appears later on with “The Wind” in another song-appropriate scene.)   The Stones’ “I Am Waiting” is more great music for marking the passage of time.

Max might not have been the best student, but genius does not always get good grades.  His plays have an epic scope, and his aquarium does too:  $35,000 cost, just for the initial plans.  (Some of the aquatic movie footage that Max views may foreshadow a future Anderson film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, starring Bill Murray).  He’s also a perfectionist.  When it comes to his plays, every line matters.  “Don’t fuck with my play!” he screams to the star of his version of Serpico, right before getting punched right in the nose.  Finally young Max possesses a razor sharp wit, which he uses at will especially when it comes to those he considers love rivals, like Peter Flynn (Luke Wilson).

Rushmore is an ode to the creative mind.  After some humbling experiences, Max learns to use his inventiveness to bring people together.  His final triumph, to the strains of “Ooh La La” (The Small Faces), is to bring all the film’s characters (even the bully student Magnus) together in solidarity.  It’s all done with plenty of laughs, smiles and a few tears.

Wes Anderson utilizes a cast of talents he would work with repeatedly, with Bill Murray being the most obvious.  Kumar Pallana as Mr. Litteljeans, the groundskeeper, was an Anderson regular.  Brian Cox, who also participated in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, brings a sour delight to Dr. Guggenheim.   Secret weapon in this movie however is Mason Gamble as Max’s ally Dirk Calloway.  Another Anderson trademark is that each frame possesses astonishing detail and visual information.  Like beautifully painted and impossibly detailed storyboards, his scenes have a life and tell a million stories in the background.  Much like one of Max’s plays, actually.

Without a doubt, one of the best special DVD features is a selection of play adaptations by the Max Fischer Players, from the 1999 MTV Movie Awards.  The players do their own on-stage takes of:  Armageddon, The Truman Show, and Out of Sight.  MTV were producing some very funny bits for their movie award shows at the time, and these are some of the best. Utilizing the original cast and familiar music from the film, these feel like a fairly natural extension of Rushmore.

Other valuable trinkets include an on-screen program for Max’s Vietnam drama Heaven & Hell, and his adaptation of Serpico.  Of course there must be an audio commentary and that is by Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and star Jason Schwartzman.  There are also the requisite making-of featurettes and supplements.  The biggest selling feature of this Criterion edition for those who value physical products is the giant fold-out map.  From here you can follow the events of the movie on a delightful full colour sketch by movie artist (and director’s brother) E.C. Anderson.  In fact all the packaging for this DVD was designed by Anderson.

5/5 stars

RUSHMORE MAP

REVIEW: Bean – The Album (1997 soundtrack)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK


BEAN – The Album (1997 Mercury)

Every once in a while, you just have to buy an album for one song!

Never mind that Randy Newman’s classic “I Love L.A.” isn’t on the CD, even though it was the most memorable song in the Bean movie.  Included instead is “I Love L.A.” as performed by…O.M.C.!  Remember him?  “How Bizarre”!  His one hit had expired and I guess somebody thought they could re-work the “magic” on “I Love L.A.”.  Maybe because both guys have a kind of flat voice, somebody assumed it would work.  It does not!  Why this would have been recorded, instead of simply using the Newman classic, I have no idea at all.


NOT INCLUDED.

You can also safely skip Boyzone (boy band crap but at least with a 70’s groove), somebody just called “Louise” (70’s-sounding easy listening), Thomas Jules Stock (barf-inducing pop), another person just called “Gabrielle” (60’s sounding soul), “Blair” (really stinky rap), and Code Red (saccharine soul pop).  Some of these tracks aren’t even in the movie.  If you want to hear some soul or funk, just put on an actual album by an original artist.

Songs you may want to give a moment to listen to include the campy 80’s classic “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves).  You never know when you might need that song in a collection.  Another good one to have is “I Get Around”, the original surf classic by the Beach Boys.  From 1964, the Boys were in perfect voice, singing Brian Wilson’s genius melodies.  Unfortunately it is interrupted in the fade by Peter MacNicol with movie dialogue.  There are a number of tracks with this issue.  Wet Wet Wet do a surprisingly decent version of “Yesterday” (in the movie, sung by Peter MacNicol).  It’s too sweet and shopping market ready, but hey:  it’s “Yesterday”.  Movie dialogue spoils this one too, at the start of the track.  Why do that?  I’m not familiar with the Wet Wet Wet discography, but this song does seem to be exclusive to the soundtrack (or at least was at the time).  What a way to ruin a track for the fans.

Worth noting is loop-laden “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Susanna Hoffs.  This funky version is worth having for Hoffs fans, but everyone else can safely stick with the Steeler’s Wheels original.  Also fun is “Art for Art’s Sake”, the 1975 original by art-rock band 10cc.  In the movie, Mr. Bean works at an art gallery.  Get the connection?

So what’s the one song I bought this album for?  A rarity.

BEAN AND BRUCEBack in 1992, Bruce Dickinson was working on solo material with the UK band Skin.  The album would eventually become Balls to Picasso, but it was a long way getting there.  I’m not sure what led Bruce to Mr. Bean.  Divine intervention perhaps?  Two of England’s finest exports had to meet, I suppose, and when they did, they covered “Elected” by Alice Cooper.  This was done for a music video coinciding with the general election that year.  As a final track, the Bean soundtrack reissued this hard to find single.  Bruce sings the vocals rather straight, very raspy, very much like his 1990 No Prayer for the Dying voice.  Rowan Atkinson in character as Mr. Bean reviews his campaign promises between Bruce’s growls.  “To help the Health Service, I promise never to get ill.”  Other promises include stopping everyone in Dover from going to the toilet (cutting pollution).  “I’m the nice one in the tweed jacket,” he says.  “Well it was a present actually.”

I’m a Mr. Bean fan, but there is little of appeal on this CD.  After all, Mr. Bean’s gimmick is that he rarely speaks.  Therefore, the movie dialogue stuff isn’t necessary.  It’s a shame they ruined tracks by putting dialogue on the fades.  If they had included the Randy Newman track, I might’ve been able to bump this CD up by half a star.

1/5 stars

Sorry Mr. Bean.  Your CD gets the dreaded Flaming Turd!

 

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Paul (2011)

By special request of J, from Resurrection Songs!


 

PAUL_0001PAUL (2011 Universal)

Directed by Greg Mottola

You know how most comedies today put all the best stuff in the trailers, and the movies are crap? Paul is the opposite. The trailers sucked (Paul mooning out of a bus window?) but the movie is so much better. To my surprise and joy, Paul is a satisfying sci-fi-comedy with witty dialogue and great performances.

A lot of people (myself included) are sick of Seth Rogen, but Paul succeeds both because of and in spite of him. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost co-wrote and co-starred in a great movie here. It succeeds in combining characters that you actually care about with outrageous situations. Throw in some damn fine sci-fi references and superior casting, and now we’re cooking.

It is a science fiction nerd’s dream. Remember that “Homage-o-meter” that was on the DVDs of Spaced? You could do the same thing with Paul. From little bits of dialogue here and there (“Punch it!”) to flat out homages (re-enacting the Kirk-Gorn fight on the same mountain) this movie is loaded with loving references to the best of the best of the best.

What about the story?

Remember that “UFO” that crashed in Roswell in 1947? Turns out, that was Paul. He crash landed on Earth and has been here ever since, but he just wants to get home. See, the big nasty US government wants to cut out his brain, to gain his powers. In the decades since his arrival here on Earth, his image has been leaked out to us in the form of movies (great Speilberg voice cameo), so as to not shock us when contact is eventually revealed to the world. But before brain surgery and full disclosure, Paul escapes and runs into our two heroes, straight on their way from Comic-Con. Thus begins our sci-fi-bromance-road-trip comedy.

Before too long, Paul, Clive (Frost) and Graeme (Pegg) are on the run from the CIA, with others complicating the mix. Two “hillbilly types” and a Bible thumper are also chasing them for their own reasons. Along the way they meet Ruth (Kristin Wiig), a sheltered Christian girl who has her faith shaken by Paul, but provides much needed help. And let’s not forget Keith Nash! (I want a Keith Nash spinoff movie!)

The reason this works are many. One: the humour is not too outrageous as it is with many of today’s comedies. It combines the right amount of emotion with the juvenile humour. Two: the plot twists and turns. Its carefully woven elements all rhyme, emerging at the appropriate times. Lastly, all the characters are actual characters. It seems character is a writing skill lost in many of today’s movies. Well, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg do not lack that problem. Graeme and Clive are as well written and fully fleshed out as any classic comedy characters.

Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Sigourney Weaver, and the mighty, immortal Jeffrey Tambor (as pompous sci-fi author Adam Shadowchild) all lend their skills to this wonderful movie.

Bonus features are fun. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the live action stuff was filmed since Paul himself was all CG. There are also two cuts of the movie – both equally entertaining.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 9 (Netflix)

NEW RELEASE

TPB9 BOXTRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 9 (2015 Netflix)

It is with great sorrow that I have finally come to review Season 9 of the Trailer Park Boys, released earlier in the spring.  After the unexpectedly hilarious Season 8, I had only expected more from Season 9.  The 8th season left us with so much promise.  Not only had the show bounced back with one of its best years yet, but some fresh ideas and characters promised to rejuvenate it going forward.  Unfortunately the ball was fumbled.

Even though they had written in a bottomless supply of lookalike “Orangies”, Ricky’s pet goldfish and one of the highlights of the last season, Orangie was essentially dropped in Season 9.  On the bright side, Ricky replaced Orangie in his heart with a goat he found in a barn he spends some time living in.  He names the goat Willy.

Even though the character of Don/Donna was a major new introduction last year, Don has been dropped (supposedly travelling, according to the online-only Season 8.5).  This leaves Donna, unexplained and creepy, working in a rub-and-tizzug based out of Julian’s old trailer!  He/she works with T, who doesn’t particularly care for his job.  T much prefers driving his Tiz-axi.

Even though Sebastian Bach returned at the end of Season 8 for a rip-rolling close, there are no celebrity cameos in Season 9.  (Although with the recent announcement and photos of Snoop Dogg appearing in Season 10, all will be remedied soon!)

SNOOP DOGG WITH BUBBLES

The premise of the season goes thusly:  Julian and Ricky are out of jail again, to find the park has been turned into a senior’s residence called Sunnyvale Villas!  Jim Lahey, sober as a judge, has retired and hired ex-S.A.S. officer Col. Leslie Dancer, a “highly decorated war hero”, to run the park and enforce the rules.  Liquor is forbidden.  And so is Ricky.  And pointedly, only Ricky.

Bubbles runs a local business in the park, a food stand that serves Taco Tuesday pretty much all week, because the seniors don’t know what day it is most of the time.  Julian returns very disappointed, that Bubbles could let the park turn to shit so quickly.  It’s not really Bubs’ fault though, since Col. Dancer (a former alcoholic himself) runs the place like an army barracks.  But there’s something fishy about Col. Leslie Dancer.  His war stories don’t add up.  Was he really a Colonel?

The season takes a good number of episodes to get going.  Even the awaited birth of Trinity’s first child (Ricky’s first grandchild) was underwhelming.  While a good number of laughs comes from this situation, such as Ricky having to buy baby supplies, it ultimately just leads to more confrontations between Rick and industrial cock inhaler George Green, who is still banging Lucy.  Corey and Jacob remain a funny team, but J-Roc is sidelined by a son he never knew.  Unfortunately this too was an unfunny situation that didn’t do anything for the season or characters.  Only after the boys went hunting for a Sam-Squanch did I really have some belly-laughs.

HUNTING FOR SAMSQUANCH

Ricky’s best line:  “I’m in charge of fuckin’ over the park when it gets appraisaled today.   As luck would half it, it’s piss jug season.”

As usual, the ultimate stakes for the residents is control of the park.  This means getting Lahey back on the liquor, and subverting Col. Dancer.  Does Julian have a plan, and if so can he pull it off?   You’ll have to make it to the end of the season in order to find out.  Unfortunately this is something that some of my friends have failed to do.

While Season 9 ended better than it started, I was left confounded by the unfunny episodes and storylines.  I think Season 9 could actually be the first truly disappointing season.  Here’s hoping for better in the 10th.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits (2003)

STRONG BAD Sings and Other Type Hits (2003 Harmless Junk)

Strong Bad, the coolest guy in town, is best known for his boxing gloves, mask, and emails on the Homestar Runner website.  Don’t know who Strong Bad is?  Then you probably haven’t heard of Trogdor (the Burninator) either.  These characters are part of a cult hit series of cartoons, born online and still going today.

In the early 2000’s, somebody named “Kaizer” emailed Strong Bad to ask him to draw a dragon, so Strong Bad obliged. The animated short, titled “Dragon”, went up Monday, January 13, 2003 and soon went viral. I was immediately hooked, and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer referenced Trogdor. Strong Bad and the Homestar Runner capitalized on their fame, with spinoff clothes, figurines, Wii games, DVDs, and this CD album. The song “Trogdor” even appeared in the Guitar Hero video games!

When the CD was announced, the Brothers Chaps (creators of Strong Bad) had some of the most popular songs from their online cartoons professionally recorded. The original “Trogdor” song was a low-budget recording with only guitar; no band. The new “Trogdor” is a full-on metal assault! Bass, drums, and wheedling guitar solos galore!

Strong Bad, despite the CD title, does not sing every song. There are other tunes here sung by characters such as Homestar, Marzipan, Coach Z, and of course hair metal band extrordinaire, Limozeen. This CD is worth it just for the Limozeen track “Because, It’s Midnight”. You must trust me when I say that Limozeen is the best hair metal band to never exist. Strong Bad first mentioned them when advising fans that if they want to start a rock band, they should name it after something cool, and then misspell the name. (“Taranchula” was another band name he suggested, and they too have a metal song on this album.)

Anyway, Limozeen: “Because, It’s Midnite” is their best tune, with awesome lyrics. “Heart of lion, and the wings of a bat, because it’s midnite!” Gary, Larry, Perry and Mary are one hell of a fictional band that actually played a couple real live gigs due to demand! Their not-hit “Nite Mamas” also appears on this album, which evokes classic Guns N’ Roses.

This is for fans of the cartoon only! Everybody else will not have a clue what the heck “Strongbadia” is or why they have a national anthem. But if you’re a fan? You’ll be happy. You get the classic singalong “The Cheat is Not Dead”! And let’s not forget Strong Bad’s country classic, “Somebody Told Me (Now I Believe Them)”.

Somebody told me,
that you were so stupid,
but I didn’t believe them,
But now I believe them.

And let’s not forget his similarly-themed ballad, “You’ve Got an Ugly & Stupid Butt”.

Quite a few songs are filler, but they’re all pretty short and then it’s onto the next one.  What’s cool is the variety of styles lampooned.  TV themes, techno music, gospel, punk rock and hippie jams make up the balance of the tunes.  I think it’s just cool that fans of the cartoon could buy a CD with good songs and this much effort put into it.  The digipack outer cover is designed to look “cheap as free” but inside there’s a full colour illustrated booklet and a Limozeen sticker!

For fans, 4/5 stars! For everyone else, ?/5.

REVIEW: Spinal Tap – This is Spinal Tap (soundtrack remastered)

SPINAL TAP – The Original Soundtrack Recording from the Motion Picture “This is Spinal Tap” (1984, 2010 Universal remaster)

In true Spinal Tap fashion, it turned out that I reviewed their albums in the wrong order.  I went backwards, and the soundtrack to the motion picture This is Spinal Tap is the last Tap album for me to scrutinize.  Though Spinal Tap is a parody band made of actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, it is easier to just refer to them as David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls.

If you happened to go through life without owning a single soundtrack album, then you must reverse that situation immediately.  All self-respecting rock fans must be able to laugh at the absurdities of their favourite genres, and Spinal Tap represent every mis-step that legendary rock bands ever took.  Spinal Tap forced real life rockers such as Judas Priest and Ronnie James Dio to laugh at themselves; a healthy undertaking.  Even though some artists didn’t see the humour in the movie This is Spinal Tap, others did and were quick to claim that certain scenes were actually based upon them!

The single/video “Hell Hole” opens the album, a rare Nigel lead vocal with David St. Hubbins on the chorus.  According to the helpful liner notes, this track was from Tap’s then-new reunion album, Smell the Glove.  Scorching guitar from St. Hubbins and Tufnel; slamming drums from Mick Shrimpton and spot-on organ by Viv Savage: it’s all here.  And let’s not forget the band’s secret weapon Derek Smalls on bass and backing vocals, thickening up the mix like a good brown gravy….

I always think of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” as the song on which something is all but guaranteed to go wrong, live.  In the studio it’s a taut rocker with explicit lyrics:  “You’re sweet but you’re just four feet and you still got your baby teeth, you’re too young and I’m too well-hung but tonight I’m gonna rock ya!”  Lock up your daughters, but you don’t want to miss this scorching classic from 1974’s Intravenus de Milo.

“Heavy Duty” is a concert classic, originally from Bent for the Rent (1976), but to me it has long overstayed its welcome.  It is a mere skeleton of a song with not enough raw meat.  It does ask an important question in the lyrics, “Why waste good music on the brain?”  Interesting inquiry David; something to get the metal masses thinking.  For fans of Nigel Tufnel’s signature shredding, you will find much to love in his solo for “Heavy Duty”.  Moving forward to 1977, we are next treated to the title track from Rock and Roll Creation, Tap’s misguided collection of rock and roll psalms.  Thankfully the track “Rock and Roll Creation” itself boasts one of the band’s strongest choruses, though it is certainly hard to forget the scene in the movie when Derek fails to escape his pod.

The liner notes say that “America” is previously unreleased (I did not know that).  It was barely in the film.  This duet between Nigel and David boasts some heavy riffing, but not much in terms of melody.  Lyrically the song recounts the experience of Spinal’s visits to America, “pretty womens everywhere, Brady Bunch and Smokey Bear!”

Side one of the soundtrack closes with “Cups and Cakes”, a pre-Tap single from 1965 when they were still known as The Thamesmen.  This is a Tufnel creation about having tea.  Predating Sgt Peppers by two years, obviously the Beatles must have taken inspiration from “Cups and Cakes” for their own songs.  Strings and trumpets create the backing music while nary a rock instrument can be heard.

The legendary “Big Bottom” (from Brainhammer, 1973) was given some legitimacy when Soundgarden decided to cover it (as a medley with Cheech and Chong’s “Earache My Eye”).  In this track all the axemen play bass — there are no guitars!  Opening side two with a song that is all bass and no guitar was probably a genius move.  I just can’t explain why.  I’m just assuming. Unfortunately when Soundgarden covered it, they did it with guitars, failing to capture the mighty bass necessary to sing a song about bums.

“My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo, I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”

From 1980’s poorly reviewed Shark Sandwich is the riffy “Sex Farm”.  Though Shark Sandwich might be considered one of Tap’s worst, “Sex Farm” is one of their most enduring anthems.  Readers of my regular feature here, Record Store Tales, may recall that my good friend Uncle Meat got written up at work for playing this song in store.  Supposedly somebody called in to complain about the lyrics.  This is Spinal Tap is his favourite movie of all time.  “I realize there is some innuendo,” says Meat.  “‘Plowin’ through your beanfield’…I just, you know, the thought of someone allegedly being so offended by Spinal Tap…” he trailed off.  (You can see the story in video form here, as this very CD was one of the Top Five Albums that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store.)

The best tune on 1975’s The Sun Never Sweats was undoubtedly “Stonehenge”, and I would argue that it remains the greatest Spinal Tap song of all time.  It is hard to encapsulate this opus in mere English.  Tap take us on a trip back in time with both Tufnel and St. Hubbins sharing lead vocals.  The mandolin break at the end is one of Tap’s most famous musical moments, as it is there that things often seem to go wrong in concert, regarding the giant Stonehenge prop that is supposed to appear on stage.

In my last year of high school, my mom bought me this soundtrack on cassette.  That helped enable a group of my friends to do a Spinal Tap “air band” at our school’s annual air band competition!  Lacking a mandolin player, they instead snagged one of our math teachers who played banjo, and had him come out on stage dancing in lederhosen.  Absolutely brilliant.  I’m glad to have participated in it in my own small way of lending the tape.  Bringing Spinal Tap to the highschool masses?  There must be an award for that.

The album comes to an end with two oldies-but-goodies.  Back to the Thamesmen days, it’s 1965’s “Gimme Some Money”, the flip side to “Cups and Cakes”.  The drummer was John “Stumpy” Pepys (Ed Begley Jr.), a “tall blonde geek with glasses” according to David.  Pepys died in a bizarre gardening accident.  This artifact from their skiffle period is best remembered for Nigel’s cool guitar solo.  “Go Nigel, Go!”  Then finally it’s “(Listen to the) Flower People” from the cumbersome titled Spinal Tap Sings “Listen to the Flower People” and Other Favourites (1967).  The drummer on this track was Eric “Stumpy Joe” Childs, who sadly choked to death on vomit (not his own) in 1974.  What is especially interesting about this track is Nigel’s use of the sitar, a full two years after George Harrison did on Rubber Soul.  Spinal Tap were exploiting the hippy movement and this track was one of their greatest successes.

The remastered CD comes with two bonus tracks!  The non-album single (1984) for “Christmas With the Devil” is presented in two mixes, one from the A-side and one from the B-side.  Prior to this, the only version of “Christmas With the Devil” available on CD was the re-recorded one on 1992’s Break Like the Wind.  The original single version(s) remained obscure until 2000, when Universal released them here.  Now finally having them all, I must say I prefer the 1992 version best.  The original does have a little more pep in its step, and there is a Christmas message from the band at the end.  The “scratch mix” of the single is not much different.

All joking aside, it’s crucial to remember that these guys (the actors) were not musical slouches.  Michael McKean was nominated for an Oscar award, for his music in 2003’s A Mighty Wind.  The musicianship is there and it’s intentional humorous.  You can hear musical jokes in the solos of Christopher Guest.  As a result, the soundtrack is not only funny but also timeless.  A good song is a good song is a good song, and some of the tracks here are actually really good when you break them down.  “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”, “Sex Farm” and especially “Stonehenge” are all really good songs when it comes down to it!

In the real world, all the songs were written by the trio of Guest, McKean and Shearer with director Rob Reiner.  The drums were handled by R.J. Parnell of Atomic Rooster, who played Mick Shrimpton in the movie.  On keyboards is David Kaff (Rare Bird) otherwise known as Viv Savage from the film.  (Rare Bird are probably best remembered as the band who originally did “Sympathy”, later covered by Marillion.)  The album was self-produced.  There is no questioning the chops of the musicians involved.  It’s hard to create a musical joke of album length that is still fun to listen to 30 years later.

4/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: “Weird Al” Yankovic- UHF (1989)

“Hey!  These floors are dirty as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” – Stanley Spadowski


UHF_0001“Weird Al” Yankovic – UHF (1989 MGM, 2002 DVD)

I never understood why this brilliant, family friendly and absurd comedy wasn’t a hit.  Weird Al never made another movie, such was the box office failure.  UHF was simply ahead of its time.  Today, viewers familiar with the Family Guy and modern comedy will “get” the tangents and bizarre fantasy sequences.  Also, it’s important to remember that this great cast was barely known at the time.  Michael Richards was pre-Seinfeld.  Fran Drescher had yet to become the Nanny.  David Proval was years away from playing Tony Soprano’s nemesis in season two.  The only one I’d heard of in 1989 was Billy Barty!

George Newman (Yankovic) is an unemployed dreamer who lands a crummy job managing a UHF TV station on the verge of bankruptcy and permanent closure.  He just can’t focus, constantly losing himself in rich, heroic dreamscapes.  Weird Al as Indiana Jones…Weird Al as Rambo…Weird Al as Mark Knopfler…Can he use his imagination to help the TV station survive?  If he doesn’t, his girlfriend Terri (Victoria Jackson) isn’t likely to stick around for long.  Fortunately George’s best friend Bob (David Bowe) is there to help.

The station, U-62, comes with its own assortment of personalities. Pamela (Drescher) is the hard working receptionist dying to make the move to on-camera.  Noodles McIntosh (Billy Barty) is a 3’9″ camera man!  And then there’s Filo, the “chief engineer” who actually lives at the station.  (He’s currently working on his interocitor, a reference from the 1955 science fiction classic This Island Earth.  If you’ve seen This Island Earth, remember that reference next time you watch UHF.  Get it?)

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Unfortunately for George Newman, Channel 8 across town doesn’t want U-62 to succeed. RJ Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) wants to buy it and turn it into a parking lot.  Fletcher, a prick, also cruelly fires his best janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards) over a misunderstanding.  Newman hires Stanley, and even buys him a new mop.  His old one, which Fletcher’s goons confiscated, was a birthday gift from his mom.

Newman introduces some new shows to U-62 (Wheel of Fish, Raul’s Wild Kingdom, Secrets of the Universe, Uncle Nutzy’s Clubhouse), but nothing really takes off until Stanley is given his own show, Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse.  His crazy personality endears him to all ages and his show becomes the hottest in town.  RJ Fletcher, however, doesn’t intend to let the station’s success continue.  Can George and his friends raise enough money to save the station?

UHF is very special for a few reasons.  One is that Weird Al does parody better than anyone.  The parodies of Geraldo, Rambo, Ghandi, Conan the Barbarian, and more are still being quoted by fans today.  Then there’s Michael Richards.  The great thing about Michael Richards, says Al, is that you can just “turn him on and tell him to go crazy for two minutes”, and that seems to be how most of the Stanley Spadowski scenes seem to work.  And it’s brilliant.  Kids who saw this movie in the 80’s loved Stanley.  He’s not only an innocent soul who loves cleanliness, but he’s absolutely whacky, hilarious, lovable and loyal.  Third, the movie has a good heart.  It celebrates imagination, uniqueness and loyalty, qualities that we all value. And of course it also has those random, rapidly changing sketch comedy bits, not too different from Monty Python and SCTV in style.  It’s actually intelligent comedy.

The audio commentary on this DVD is great  — even Michael Richards stops by to chat.  The deleted scenes are a stream of cut bits, but Weird Al’s intro and commentary makes it hilarious.  They  weren’t in the movie because they suck, says Al!  But if they didn’t put them on the DVD, we’d all be whining that they didn’t include any deleted scenes.  He has a point!   Some characters and shows (such as “Those Darn Homos”, which seems to be about two men who chase each other around a room trying to spank each other with spatulas) were cut completely from the film, so this is the only place you’d see them.  As is usually the case, the movie is better for the cuts made.  Additionally there is a short behind the scenes doc, explaining the origin of “Wheel of Fish” and more.  Al and the cast aren’t serious in the interviews, which are hilarious:

Q:  “Why do they call you Weird Al?”

A: “I don’t know, I guess people are basically cruel.  I don’t know why they call me Al.”

There’s a huge photo gallery, standard fare for a DVD, and they’re fun but non-essential. The music video for “UHF” is present (the first time he shaved off his moustache, to play Axl Rose!), an indispensable companion piece.  Even the menus are awesome, with Al himself popping up and acting silly. My only real beef about the DVD is this:  It’s one of those double sided discs with widescreen on one side and full screen on the other.  But the deleted scenes are only on the full screen side, so you have to eject and flip the disc just to watch them, because nobody watches full screen anymore.

Do you wanna drink from the fire hose?  Then get UHF.  It’s out on Blu-ray, too.

4.5/5 stars

#351: Three Concerts in One Week

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RECORD STORE TAKES MkII: Getting More Tale
#351: Three Concerts in One Week

I love digging through old journals. I don’t get out to concerts very often anymore, but these journals bring back memories of an awesome week featuring three different concert experiences. Dig it! Some interesting autobiographical facts:

1) These journals record the date that I met Brent Doerner of Helix, thus beginning a long buddy-ship (December 1 2006).
2) I noticed that there was something in here about the flu shot. I got sick immediately afterwards. I was feeling it during the Jim Cuddy concert and got full-blown flu right after. Never had the flu shot since.


 

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Date: 2006/11/29 06:13

Tonight we have second row seats to see BRENT BUTT! (Corner Gas) I’m sure it will be awesome and I’ll be sure to write about it later.

Then Friday is Helix…

Then Sunday is Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo).

Talk about an awesome week.

Date: 2006/11/30 06:55

Brent Butt was awesome, hilarious, 90 minutes of pure Canadian humour. True stuff, like, “In America, there’s no corresponding word for ‘touque’. I could understand it if they had their own word for it. Like, ‘oh, that’s what we call a nurn!’ But no, they say, ‘hey you got one of them wool knit winter cap things!’ If we said that in Canada, our brains would freeze by the time we could get out the door. ‘Honey, could you get my wool knit winter cap thing?’ zoink, you’re frozen.” So true.

There was an opening act by the name of Jamie Hutchison, guy from the Maritimes. Equally hilarious!

 


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Date: 2006/12/01 06:14

Tonight Helix! We’ll be giving them an R around 11 o’clock at Molly Bloom’s. Helix are one of the best shows I’ve seen, and this will be my fourth or fifth time seeing them. Hopefully they’ll play their new single “Fill Your Head With Rock” which is garnering some record company interest….

Flu shot today too. Ugh.

Date: 2006/12/02 00:39

Helix were AWESOME! Right when we walked in the door, there was Brian Vollmer. He saw my vintage-style Helix shirt, walked up and said “hi”. He was so cool. He said, “I just have to go make the rounds and say hi to everybody here, but thanks for coming and have a good time tonight!”

So we wandered around, saw a couple old friends (The Infamous Taylor Brothers) and lo and behold…there was Bruce Arnold (original Helix drummer 1974-76)! A glance around the room revealed the Doerner brothers and Keith Zurbrigg as well! There were five current Helix guys on stage and four ex-Helix in the audience! I introduced myself to Brent and told him how much I liked his new CD.

Track list, to the best of our memories:

  1. No Rest For The Wicked
  2. Get Up
  3. Baby Likes To Ride
  4. Running Wild In The 21st Century
  5. Heavy Metal Love
  6. Boomerang Lover
  7. Dirty Dog
  8. You Keep Me Rocking
  9. Make Me Do Anything You Want
  10. Deep Cuts The Knife
  11. Wild In The Streets
  12. Kids Are All Shakin’
  13. Animal House
  14. I Believe In Rock And Roll
  15. Does A Fool Ever Learn (dedicated to some schmuck at EMI (“Every Mistake Imaginable)
  16. Rock You

I know I’m missing a couple in there, but it was a totally awesome hits night. Right now my ears are ringing and I’m buzzing!


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Date: 2006/12/04 06:19

The Cuddy show was awesome, thus ending my three-concert-week. It was a three hour show. The opening band were a part of the whole show as Jim brought various members back out to augment his own songs. He played two songs from his first record, most of the second record, and about six Blue Rodeo songs. He threw in a Neil Young cover, bassist Bazil Donovan sang one of his own, and they also performed one by the opening band!

So terrific show, there were even two Blue Rodeo guys in his backing band. However the real star of his band was violinist Anne Lindsay. She was on fire!