comedy

DVD REVIEW: The Orville – The Complete First Season (2018)

THE ORVILLE – The Complete First Season (2018 20th Century Fox 2 DVD set)

We like Star Trek: Discovery, we really do.  At the same time, we wonder, “Why do studios insist the only way to do Star Trek today is to modernise it into a gritty action drama?”  Does it have to be so?  Is Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future somehow outdated?

Though CBS Paramount seem terrified of anything “too Trekky”, others have not been timid.  Sensing the wide-open void for something styled in the old spirit of Trek, Seth MacFarlane (of all people) made his move with The Orville.

Before you scoff, let’s not forget that MacFarlane clearly knows his Star Trek.  1) Patrick Stewart regularly appears on his shows.  2) He reunited the entire Next Generation cast for the first time on an episode of Family Guy.  3) He cast Michael Dorn in Ted 2 and dressed him up as Worf.  It should surprise no one that The Orville is closest in spirit to Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  In fact, not even Deep Space Nine or Voyager are this close.  From the gentle pastel sets including conference rooms, hallways and holodecks, to the techno-babble, to the minimal use of violence, The Orville is the NEXT Next Generation.  It is the Enterprise D, but if Captain Picard allowed the crew to crack wise when opportunity knocked.

It would take only the slightest nudge to turn The Orville into Trek canon.  Change some names and terminology, tone down the humour slightly, and you’re there.  Humour on a starship?  Yes, of course, but The Orville is not a comedy.  It is first and foremost science fiction, and indeed some of the best science fiction on television since Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled.  The episodes are generally commentary on modern society, much like Star Trek has always been.  Change the setting to outer space and suddenly it’s parable.  Topics covered include the “court of public opinion” seen in social media today, gender reassignment, underachievers, religion in society, and making the most difficult decisions.  The biggest difference between the voyages of the Orville and the Enterprise isn’t even that big:  on the Orville, there are no transporter beams.

The crew of The Orville is obsessed with Earth culture circa 1980-present, but that is to be expected given Seth MacFarlane’s own interests.  References to movies and TV shows of today are rampant.  Jokes are toned down from the usual modern fare, but the pilot episode sets up a comedic premise.  Captain Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) catches his wife, Commander Kelly Grayson, in bed with a blue alien (Rob Lowe).  When Grayson is assigned as his first officer on the Union ship the Orville, the entire crew learns of their marriage issues.  Captain Mercer’s best friend (and best pilot in the fleet) is Lt. Gordon Malloy played by Scott Grimes of American Dad.  Seth’s buddy Norm MacDonald also shows up as Lt. Yaphit, a gelatinous yellow blob based on Odo from Deep Space Nine, but played for comedy relief.

Too much science fiction today has flimsy barely-there characters.  The Orville’s crew are more fully formed than the usual, with a few receiving interesting story arcs.  They are all new versions of classic archetypes.  The robot Isaac (Mark Jackson) is the twist on Data.  He is still immensely curious about humans, but knows he is vastly superior and considers everyone on the Orville his inferior.  Bortus (Peter Macon) is your “Worf”, a deep voiced, strong alien species with head ridges.  His unique trait is that his race is single-gendered, and much of his character development is in tandem with his partner Klyden (Chad L. Coleman).  Halston Sage plays the inexperienced security chief Alara Kitan, a young alien from a planet with such high gravity, that their species have evolved tremendous physical strength.  Though small she can easily throw a punch to send Bortus flying, or re-shape a cube of titanium with her hands!  Yet she lacks the confidence that her crewmates have in her.

More casting genius:  Penny Johnson Jerald, Deep Space Nine‘s Kassidy Yates, as ship’s doctor Claire Finn.  In cameos or recurring roles are Ron Canada (Next Generation), Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson (A Million Ways to Die in the West), Victor Garber (Titanic), Mike Henry (Family Guy), Robert Picardo (Voyager‘s Doctor), and Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development).  One has to respect both the sheer talent involved, and the willingness of Star Trek actors to participate.

As the show grows during its first season, comedy takes a back seat to science fiction.  In the bonus features, MacFarlane states that he paid attention to fan feedback, and he noted that fans were discussing the legitimate characters and science fiction tales.  Episodes feature a new twist on classic sci-fi (and even Star Trek) themes:  living in a simulation, a space zoo, Flatland, a civilisation living in a generation ship without its own knowledge, interference with space-time and developing cultures, and many planets with Earth-like societies that act as a mirror for us to view our own.  Ray guns are rarely used, and monsters are usually misunderstood.

It’s remarkable but not untrue to say that The Orville is Star Trek, but without infringing any copyrights.  Dig a little further in the credits and you’ll have a better understanding of how they managed to play The Orville so close to classic Trek.  In the director’s chair:  Jonathan Frakes, AKA Riker, and director of Trek on both TV and in cinemas.  Also directing:  Robert Duncan McNeill, AKA Tom Paris and also director of many Voyager episodes.  Behind the scenes is Brannon Braga, a producer on The Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise, Cosmos…and The Orville.  Jon Favreau even directed the pilot episode.  With a team like this in place, MacFarlane and friends were more than capable of making a show truly within the optimistic Roddenberry philosophy.  Guys like Braga, Frakes and McNeill spent years living in that universe.

The DVD includes your traditional special features, the best of which is a Q&A session with the cast and creators of the show.  Another interesting featurette is about the physical model of the Orville spaceship, used for those slow “beauty shots”.

The Orville is the show that Trek fans have wanted for years now, at least since JJ Abrams brought it back to movie screens.  The true Trek on TV is not Discovery.  It’s not Short Treks.  It is The Orville.  If that pisses off CBS Paramount, then too bad.  If they won’t make the Trek that fans want, then someone else will — and did.

5/5 stars

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GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987 Paramount)

Directed by John Hughes

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of my top ten favorite films ever made. It’s in pretty good company with 12 Angry Men (the one from the ‘50s), Blue Velvet, Die Hard, The Godfather, Lethal Weapon, The Unforgiven, etc. On the surface it may seem absurd to place what seems like a goofy road comedy from the ‘80s on a list containing films of that stature, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable at all. This film is the best road film ever made, and I have no reservations about calling it one of the greatest movies ever made. There’s no glowing pretension or aspirations to reach Citizen Kane levels of movie making, or bids for narrative complexity. It is a heartfelt holiday classic about a stubborn irate man just trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. That man is ad executive Neal Page portrayed by Steve Martin, who is helped out in his travels by the loquacious shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith played by John Candy. The two men are polar opposites that learn to care for each other under the extreme circumstances that impede their journey home. By the end of the film, both men have learned to let down their emotional guards and trust each other, a necessary step for the two of them to arrive at their destination.

It’s not a complicated plot, but it doesn’t need to be. There’s something about these characters and situations that seems to demonstrate real life in such a direct way. It’s not a puzzle, everything is clear cut. Not to say that the movie is all surface level, there’s plenty of stuff to dive into here between the two men, particularly through multiple viewings after you know Del’s secret. The level of character depth in these two men is particularly compelling to watch on screen, as seeing the psyche of two opposites gravitate towards each other giving each other strength is both stimulating and moving. Part of that depth comes from the fact that this film was perfectly cast. John Candy and Steve Martin don’t even seem to be playing characters, but amplified versions of themselves. The dialogue, the movements, the actions are all totally natural, and the responses appear to have weight behind them that suggest the character’s past experiences. Guest appearances from Kevin Bacon, Michael McKean, and Edie McClurg all appear in hilarious supporting roles as well, but I wouldn’t dare spoil them here. Well, maybe one.

Steve Martin plays Neal as an impatient cynical grouch who is dying to get out of the sales meeting he’s stuck in so that he can find a cab and get to the airport on time. Del plays the happy go lucky salesman that accidentally steals Neal’s cab during rush hour in New York City. Fate keeps these two characters together as they meet by chance at the airport again. Neal confronts Del about stealing the cab, and Del feels genuine remorse. He tries to be as affable as possible, offering up Neal a beer and a hot dog. Neal being a bit prudish rejects the peace offering with a snarky type of politeness. Of course, Del doesn’t immediately pick up on or at least chooses to ignore Neal’s hostility. All he wants is to get home in a timely manner to see his family for the holiday. A snowstorm prevents their plane from landing in Illinois, causing the flight to divert all the way to Kansas.

The two men book a hotel room together as the hotels fill up. It is at this point that the exposition ends and Neal lets out all the resentment he has towards Del.  The set up is complete and now the emotional core of the movie really begins to develop. Neal states in no uncertain terms every problem that he has with Del, not holding back any vitriol. Martin’s performance is so wonderful that it actually gets the audience to laugh along with all his complaints, even as John Candy’s face starts to sink. Martin plays it as a man who has seriously contemplated every perceivable flaw in Del’s character, and is eager to list out every mundane detail. When he says he could listen to the most boring insurance seminar for days on end “because I’ve been with Del Griffith!” his vocal inflections are so comically annoyed that the audience can’t help but laugh. The scene isn’t a joke, it’s clear that the man has been pushed to his limit, but the audience laughs because they understand his frustration. However, the way Neal starts and stops seems to suggest that it’s against his better judgement to be so mean. It all just seems to be slipping out, as one complaint leads into the next until he’s too far to back down. When Neal finally finishes venting, John Hughes hits us with the first emotional blast in the movie.

Del’s reply is an often quoted moment from cinema history. It’s so perfect in its raw emotional simplicity. Whereas the cynical Neal has been stewing over his anger and letting it out almost uncontrollably, Del’s reply is a brief calm statement of emotional truth. It’s a tender “take me or leave me” moment, but Del is clearly hurt deeply by Neal’s words. Del’s trying just as hard to convince himself that he’s strong enough to take it because of the love he has from his wife and customers. Candy’s performance completely sells the speech, and makes the audience feel remorse for laughing at Martin mocking him just a few seconds ago. You can see in his face that this isn’t the first time that someone has gone off on him for his sometimes overzealous extroverted personality, and the hurt in his eyes betrays years of pain in the past. Despite all this pain, he can’t help the way he his. He will never fight back. When he says that he doesn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, it makes the cynical viewers and Neal shameful for feeling any malice towards Del. The two men have been forced to share a bed, and they cozy up together for the night as Neal learns to be a little more accepting of other people.

This John Hughes road comedy distinguishes itself from a lot of his work in that it focuses on adult relationships instead of teenagers. The two main characters are middle aged men set in their own ways. These men learn to evolve the more that they learn about each other. This is similar to the plot of Hughes’ more popular The Breakfast Club, only in this film instead of the characters being locked together in one room, Page and Griffith can’t seem to shake each other as they both make their way from the streets of New York to Neal’s home in Illinois.

Every time that the two men try to separate they just end up in each other’s company again. Also every time that Del seems to be gaining Neal’s favor something ludicrous happens that screws it up. Del driving on the wrong side of the highway after falling asleep is one of these moments, particularly after the car is destroyed and lit on fire and it is revealed that Del used Neal’s credit card to rent it. Amazingly the machine is still able to run, and the two pull up to a motel for the night. All their money was stolen by robbers on the first night at the hotel in Kansas, and their cards were burnt up in the fire. Neal has to sell his watch to get a room, but Del cannot afford one at all. This is the climax of the film, as even after rendering Neal liable to the damage of an entire automobile, Neal finally decides to completely accept Del. He is forgiven. This acceptance materializes because Neal cannot stand the site of Del freezing outside in the burnt up car. Neal decides to throw out all his jaded cynicism and invite Del into his room. It is at this point that Neal is willing to forgive Del for anything, and accept him for who he is unconditionally. The journey the two men have been on together and the bond that has formed over just two days is so strong that Neal will never give up on Del again. The two men fall asleep drinking liquor and talking about how much they love their wives. Never again in the movie is Neal the grouch, he’s even a good sport about riding in the back of a refrigerated truck after their rental car is impounded for being too dangerous for the road.

They finally make it to LaSalle/Van Buren CTA station that will take Neal the rest of the way home. It is empty except the two of them now that it’s Thanksgiving day. This is where Del and Neal part ways for the holidays. That is until Neal begins to put the pieces together. Little scraps of what Del has said throughout the film finally begin to add up in Neal’s brain, and the ending scene that follows is one of the most heartwarming in any film ever. There’s no shame for any grown ass man to ball his eyes out watching it the first time. John Candy deserved an Oscar for the film closing smile he gives. For the sake of those that have never seen the movie, I won’t spoil the ending here.

Most comedies are not good movies. They simply exist to generate a few shallow laughs and leave no long term impression. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of the few comedies to transcend the limitations of its genre with genuine heart and characters that the audience can actually feel invested in. We want Neal and Del to succeed, as they seem like genuinely plausible people trapped in improbably unfortunate circumstances. They’re not one-note characters who simply exist for an endless barrage of sight gags to happen upon them, their choices are based on well established character traits, not just moving along because the plot needs them to. Anyone who has had to travel for the holidays feels the plight that these men are going through, even if they have never experienced it to the insanity that Neal and Del have. If you’ve never seen this movie because you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or some other reason, I implore you to seek it out and watch it today. This movie is a classic that stands up even if you don’t celebrate the holiday in the movie. As Neal puts it in the film, after the journey you’re, “a little wiser.”

5/5 Turkeys

 

REVIEW: Blotto – Collected Works (1994)

BLOTTO – Collected Works (1994 Blotto Records)

Blotto’s discography was dominated by singles and four track EPs.  They had one album, the supremely entertaining Combo Akimbo (1982), and that was that!  So, when the CD age rolled around, the suits over at Blottones publishing must have decided to get in on that!  Almost all Blotto’s output was reissued in a single CD collection, including the complete album Combo Akimbo.

Blotto’s Collected Works is probably the most logical pit-stop to check out the band on your musical journey.  We begun with their hit “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard”, from their debut EP Hello, My Name Is Blotto, What’s Yours?.  “Lifeguard” represents the hopes and dreams of a shoe salesman who really just wants to get paid to hang out on a beach all day.  Done in the surf-rock style of course.  Then “(We Are The) Nowtones” is a musical advertisement for the band you should hire for your next event.  “We are the Nowtones!  We do Top 40!  We wear matching outfits!  We look real sporty!  Like a living juekbox, we play the hits.  Appear in nightclubs that are the pits.”

At this point the compilation presents the Combo Akimbo album in sequence.  For my money, I prefer the vinyl.  Not only is it a self-contained work, but it’s got way more beef to it.  Comparing LP to CD, there is no question which sounds better.  Combo Akimbo is blast of an album, but we’ve already reviewed it, so check that out for more detail.  The key takeaway for most people will be the song “Metal Head” featuring Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, which received some MTV and MuchMusic play in the early 80s.  For a certain generation, this is the only Blotto song they know due to its presence on the legendary compilation LP Metal For Breakfast.

Blotto’s second EP Across and Down (1980) is also presented in sequence.  “She’s Got a Big Boyfriend” has a riff similar to the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer”, but the song goes in another direction — 80s pop rock.  Then “Gimme the Girl” is tropical reggae vibes via Albany NY.  It’s supremely fun for parties.  Run for cover if you’re overly sensitive when “My Baby’s the Star of a Driver’s Ed Movie” begins!  The classic ballad stylings contrast with the words.  The final Across and Down song is the punk rock scorcher “H.S.H.” — “High School Honey”, a clear winner in any race.

“Lightning Strikes” is a real rarity, from a 1982 indy compilation called Hudson Rock: Fifteen Bands From Albany. It’s an also-ran with nice harmonies but is otherwise largely forgettable.  A live version of “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” is better than the studio original, and it’s another rarity.  It was originally released on a low quality flexi-disc that came with a 1987 compilation LP also called I Wanna Be a Lifeguard.  Then there’s an amusing song called “The B-side”, from the single for “When the Second Feature Starts”.  “The A-side gets all the glory, the B-side, that’s another story…and you’re probably not even listening to this right now!”

The only serious skipper is the cover of “Stop! In the Name of Love” with lead vocals by former singer Blanche Blotto.  This B-side from the first EP is campy but not particularly good.  The overwrought vocals ruin what might have been a cool disco arrangement.  Another dicey inclusion is a “karaoke” mix of “Lifeguard” (eww).  A better song to include would have been “Bud…Is After Us” from the first EP which otherwise would have made the CD too long.

Yes, it’s the Collected Works, but there’s still a bit more out there to collect.  There’s even another compilation CD called Then More Than Ever from 2000, all unreleased material.  Still more to explore; but in the meantime consider Collected Works as a great way to get really, really Blotto.

4/5 stars

 

VIDEO REVIEW: Blotto – Tonight at Toad’s (1982)

BLOTTO – Tonight at Toad’s (1982 television broadcast)

Since finally “discovering” Blotto this summer, I’ve already viewed their concert Tonight at Toad’s (3/25/82) numerous times, so much that I know the whole broadcast by heart.  The comedic rock band took the stage at Toad’s Place (New Haven, CT) for a TV broadcast.  The amicable, well-rehearsed group kept things at all times entertaining.

Blotto opened with the satirical “(We Are) The Nowtones)”, an oldies-style advertisement for a band who’ll play anything you want; and they’ll say “thank you” at the end of every song!  It’s a clever little pastiche with even the stage lighting being part of the story.

The second broadcast song, “It’s Not You” was from their then-forthcoming album debut, Combo Akimbo.  Guitarist Bowtie Blotto has to tell his girl that it’s all over, but it’s not her fault.  “It’s not you, it’s your family that I can’t stand.”  With a catchy guitar lick, Bowtie tells it how it is.  As soon as Bow takes the girl home, her family goes right into him.  “I try, and I try to be cool when they start.  But girl, they’re the ones who are tearing us apart!”

Your mother wants to know if I am on drugs,
Your brother shows me his collection of bugs,
Your aunts don’t like me and your uncles are a bunch of thugs.
Your father coughs and blows smoke in my face,
He still believes in the superior race,
He says if he was president, the world would be a better place.

Dear God, that sounds like a nightmare.  But it gets worse!

Don’t take it personally,
It’s just all those little things,
Like when I come over and your father tells me, “don’t park in the driveway ’cause your car drips oil on the new white pebbles!” And then when I come inside, the cat jumps all over my lap, and gets hair all over my shirt and pants! And your grandmother sits on the newspaper and gets it all wrinkled and balled up, I can’t even read it. And your sister brings out her scrap book, she wants me to look at all of her old prom pictures. I mean, who cares! And your brother wants me to help him with his science project, dissecting frogs! Oh, what a mess! And then when I go in the bathroom, and wash my hands, and all they have is soft soap, and my hands smell like coconuts, and I can’t dry ’em on those little guest towels, so I gotta dry ’em on my shirt, which is already covered with cat hair!

What a great little pop rock tune, though.  That’s the thing about Blotto.  Even if mixing comedy and rock (a dicey proposition to be sure) isn’t your bag, there’s no denying Blotto were top-notch.  The musicianship and especially their singing was always spot-on.  They could tackle multiple styles easily, and had an arsenal of three lead singers (Bowtie, Broadway and Sergeant Blotto) to harmonize.  They also just wrote good songs.

Broadway goes next with “Occupational Hazard”, also from the forthcoming album.  Enjoy this decent rock n’ roll track about the dangers of being in a band.  Another good tune:  if the songs were not good enough, the lyrics wouldn’t carry the show alone.

Blotto’s big hit was 1979’s “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” from their debut EP.  Sergeant Blotto leads the charge to the beach in this surf-rock new-wave anthem.  Poor Sarge, stuck working in a shoe store all summer.  His dream job?  Being a lifeguard of course!  “I want an ocean, and some sunscreen lotion.  Take me to the beach with a thousand pretty girls in reach!”  Sounds awesome Sarge, sign us up.

The show takes a break for an interview with the five Blotto members, including bassist Cheese and drummer Lee Harvey.  They talk about the still-untitled album and banter about naturally.  Why were Blotto not huge?  Watching this video, it’s easy to imagine Blotto appealing to many.  The legend goes that they were once offered a major label deal but would have lost creative control.  They chose to put out their album on Blotto Records instead.  Maybe if they had signed with the label…?  Who knows.  Watch this interview yourself and see a band that coulda woulda shoulda.

 

Back to the music.  “Goodbye, Mr. Bond” is sung by the evil villain “Dr. Bow”.  Any Bond fan will take delight in this spy adventure.  Will Bond escape this time?  “I could kill you right now, but no!  There’s a better way…”  That usually doesn’t go well for the villain, but the song goes on the verge of progressive rock during an instrumental breakdown.  “Goodbye, Mr. Bond” flows seamlessly into a cover of “Secret  Agent Man” with Sarge on lead vocals.

Kids of the 80s remember Blotto for one song:  “Metal Head”.  Sergeant Blotto’s friends are gettin’ worried.  He’s turning into a heavy metal head!  It has all the necessary ingredients for a metal song:  Solid riff, howlin’ vocals, ripping guitar solos, thunderous drum fills, and screams aplenty.

This great little show is a wonderful way for you to enjoy the next 45 minutes of your life. Get Blotto.

4/5 stars

 

    1. (We Are) The Nowtones (from 1979’s EP Hello! My Name Is Blotto. What’s Yours?)
    2. It’s Not You (from 1982’s Combo Akimbo)
    3. Occupational Hazard (from Combo Akimbo)
    4. I Wanna Be a Lifeguard (from Hello! My Name Is Blotto. What’s Yours?)
    5. Interview
    6. Goodbye, Mr. Bond (from Combo Akimbo)
    7. Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers cover)
    8. Metal Head (from Combo Akimbo)

 

 

 

REVIEW: Blotto – Combo Akimbo (1982)

BLOTTO – Combo Akimbo (1982 Blotto Records)

Blotto were just too much fun!  A variety of rocking styles and amusing lyrics makes Combo Akimbo, their only studio album, a blast to listen to front to back.

Singer Sergeant Blotto takes lead vocals on “Too Much Fun”, a punky vintage Alice Cooper rock and roll romp, powered through a particle accelerator.  For track two, guitarist Bowtie Blotto leads.  “It’s Only Money” is just pure and simple rock and roll:  Kiss with a hint of early Beatles.  Broadway Blotto (guitar) takes over lead vocals on “Scream”.  It’s a pleasantly New Wave 80s-sounding rock song with a great chorus, aided and abetted by Sarge and Bowtie.  “I Quit” (vocals by Broadway) is a perfect rock anthem for those who wanna take this job and shove it.  Sassy, fun rock and roll.

The most legendary of the songs is of course “Metal Head”, lead vocals by Sarge.  It’s a funny and uncomplicated story of what could happen if you too inadvertently become a metal head.  Done in the metal style, Sarge complains that “suddenly there’s an endless void where I used to keep my brain”.  It plays on the 80s brain-dead metalhead stereotype, but for a comedy song it works.  “Wanna customize my van, and I don’t even own one.”  That’s Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult on lead guitar (and in the video).  Dig those four (count ‘em!) false endings.

Side two is just as much fun as side one.  “It’s Not You” boasts chiming, jangly guitars and catchy everything.  Bowtie proclaims that “It’s not you, it’s your family I can’t stand!”  It’s just a quick blast of gleeful complaining.  “Occupational Hazard” sounds, strangely enough, like an outtake from Peter Criss’ first solo album…if it was the best song on the album.  It has that old-timey style that Pete was so good at back then…but better.  Then the very New Wave rock-styled “When the Second Feature Starts” is a memento of the old drive-in days.  Kissing through the cartoons, fogging up the windows…remember what it was like?

Possibly the most intriguing and entertaining song on the album is closer “Goodbye, Mr. Bond”.  From the perspective of the villain who has just captured 007, it’s a brilliant homage to the greatest spy of all time.  “We’ve been expecting you, monsieur Bond.”  The bad guy invites him to sit and chat before discussing how Bond should die.  “This is your last interference.  I could shoot you right now, but NO!  Hahahaha, there’s a better way!”  We all know how it goes from there!  “Goodbye, Mr. Bond” is a treat whether you like the super spy or not.  The music captures the Bond essence and the lyrics pay tribute to both the good and bad Bond clichés.

What a blast Combo Akimbo is.  It’s not an outstanding classic album by any stretch, but it’s fun, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and every song is good.  Worth tracking down if only for “Metal Head” and “Goodbye, Mr. Bond”.

4/5 stars

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Family Guy – “It’s a Trap!” (2010)

FAMILY GUY – “It’s a Trap!” (2010 20th Century Fox)

First, they did Star Wars. Due to popular demand, they did Empire next.  And just as Jedi was the weakest of the original trilogy, so is Family Guy’s version.

The full 57 minute episode “It’s A Trap!”, available on its own for those who only like the Star Wars spoofs, follows the same concept as the first two.  Favourite Family Guy characters portray the legendary characters from Star Wars.  After two, though, the well seems rather dry.  Presumably running out of original characters, they peppered the cast with characters from both American Dad and The Cleveland Show.  Rollo Brown, Klaus the Fish and Roger the Alien are some of the characters making a Family Guy appearance in the Star Wars universe.

Still, it must have been awful dry in that well when they were writing this.

“It’s A Trap!” had moments that were as funny as any previous Family Guy Star Wars.  Then there were stretches that that were as dull and uninspired as Seth MacFarlane’s worst. It was very much a rocky ride, but luckily the good outweighed the bad in this episode.

Likes:

  • As always, the surprise of what characters are playing who (which I won’t spoil, google it if you must know).
  • Many celebrity cameos (again I won’t give you spoilers).
  • The Emperor rocked.
  • Looked awesome in 1080p.
  • Ample bonus features (similar to previous instalments). Even the Trivial Pursuit challenge was fun for one viewing.

Dislikes:

  • Boring Yoda.
  • One scene where Peter/Han snaps and torments three Imperial officers…just took it too far.
  • MacFarlane likes jokes that go on too long, but they didn’t work this time.

Pick it up and complete your trilogy.

Or, you know, just watch it on Netflix.

3/5 stars

And, no — there is next to a 0% chance that Disney will let Seth do any more Star Wars.

MOVIE REVIEW: Super Troopers 2 (2018)

Super Troopers 2 delights but is destined to become just another cult film

SUPER TROOPERS 2 (2018 Broken Lizard)

Directed by:  Jay Chandrasekhar

It took 17 years and a crowdfunding campaign, but we now live in a world where a sequel to Super Troopers (2001) exists!  Judging by the mostly empty theatre on Saturday afternoon, Super Troopers 2 looks to become…another cult film.  Which is a shame really, because these beloved screwup cops are adored for a reason.  And that reason is Rod Farva.

Fear not Farva fans, for your favourite character played by Kevin Heffernan is again the butt of everyone’s pranks.  Thorny, Foster, Mac, Rabbit (still the rookie!) and Captain O’Hagen are reunited once again by Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter), who insists it’s the entire original team.  That means they’re stuck with Rod Farva like deja-vu.  Maybe they can stick him with the radio.

You see, only Vermont’s favourite cops can handle this job.  It turns out a big chunk of Canada near the border was surveyed wrong.  It actually belongs to the United States, and custody is about to be handed over.  The local Mounties will be replaced by US cops.  And that’s our gang.  How d’you think that’s gonna go over in Canada, eh?  Will we still be allowed to listen to Rush?

Mayor Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe) is an ex-hockey enforcer known as the “Halifax Explosion”.  (Fun fact:  in real life, actor Rob Lowe is “obsessed” with the historical Halifax explosion of 1917.)  He seems friendly, but the locals and Mounties take an instant dislike to the US cops.  (Will Sasso, who really is Canadian, plays the funniest of the three Mounties.  Brampton’s Tyler Labine plays another.)  As you can imagine the drama unfolds against a backdrop of US and Canadian stereotypes.  Guns and “MAGA” vs. beer and “Eh”.

Our favourite cops find a hidden stash of drugs on abandoned property.  Sending them to a lab for testing would take two weeks, so of course they sample the drugs themselves to identify them.  This is how Thorny played by Jay Chandrasekhar becomes addicted to a hormone product called “Flova Scotia”.

Fans won’t want any more spoiled.  There are cameos too, so don’t look at the Wikipedia page and just wait to be surprised.  It was pleasant to see Marisa Coughlan (Chief Ursulu Hanson) and Lynda Carter back from the original film.  Brian Cox (Captain O’Hagen) is a serious Scottish actor of impeccable reputation (the Royal Shakespeare Company for example), and the fact that he came back for Super Troopers 2 must mean he’s a good shit.

Original music was performed by Eagles of Death Metal.  Give them credit for a good soundtrack, including a cover of “Blinded by the Light”.

Super Troopers 2 follows the formula of the first, meaning the plot doesn’t matter because you’re just waiting for the next prank.  Honestly though, this drug smuggling plot is an original one that has probably never been done before.  Expect some jokes from the original to be sequel-ed.  Liters of cola, “meow”…just go see it.

Super Troopers 2 is playing now at a theatre near you.

3.5/5 stars

Super Troopers are:

  • Jay Chandrasekhar as Senior Trooper Arcot “Thorny” Ramathorn
  • Paul Soter as Trooper Jeff Foster
  • Steve Lemme as Trooper MacIntyre “Mac” Womack
  • Erik Stolhanske as Trooper Robert “Rabbit” Roto
  • Kevin Heffernan as Trooper Rodney “Rod” Farva
  • and Kevin Heffernan as Captain John O’Hagen

Soundtrack album tracklisting:

1. Tooth Fairy – Super Troopers 2 Cast
2. Blinded By the Light – Eagles of Death Metal
3. Got the Power – Eagles of Death Metal
4. Litre of Cola – Super Troopers 2 Cast
5. Saturday Night Blues – Natural Child
6. Caulk – Super Troopers 2 Cast
7. Shit Makes the Flowers Grow – Folk Uke
8. Penal Colony – Dog Trumpet
9. Fruit Gum – Super Troopers 2 Cast
10. Big Bear – Steak
11. Easy Eating – Naked Giants
12. Fuck a Moose – Super Troopers 2 Cast
13. Shasta Beast – Eagles of Death Metal
14. French Excerpt – Super Troopers 2 Cast
15. Baby, I Won’t Do You No Harm – The Sheepdogs
16. 80Kmh – Super Troopers 2 Cast
17. If You Ain’t Got the Money – Who Are Those Guys
18. Lyin’ – Charlie Patton’s War
19. Complexity – Eagles of Death Metal
20. All My Friends – Blackout Party
21. Secret Plans – Eagles of Death Metal
22. Wham – Super Troopers 2 Cast

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 12 (2018)


TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 12 
(2018 Netflix)

Like any franchise with an extended lifespan, Trailer Park Boys has fans both devoted and hyper-critical.  Many are just glad the series is still continuing and still funny.  Others whine that the style has changed and many original cast members (Jonathan Torrens, Lucy Decoutere, Mike Jackson, Barrie Dunn) have left.  The death of John Dunsworth (Mr. Lahey) late last year put things into perspective.  Just be glad we have Trailer Park Boys at all.  John finished season 12, which was lovingly dedicated to him.

What’s the Boys’ deal this time?  After much pressuring from Bubbles, Ricky and Julian agree to go “legit”.  Bubbles is already running a successful brewing company.  Green Bastard beer is a hit.  Julian gets a job working for Gary in security at the mall.  And Ricky?  Odd jobs around the park.  The first is an unmitigated and hilarious disaster.  Things go way off the rails from there.

Lahey and Randy are back, with Bo-bandy trying to keep Jim from causing trouble.  But they need help supervising the park, and hire old nemesis George Green.  Barb Lahey’s still in charge, and a thorn in everyone’s side.  Sarah, Trinity, Jacob and Corey still reside in Sunnyvale.  And wait until you see what Ricky has done to the Shitmobile.  (Turned it into a two storey home with two TVs and both upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.)

One of the reasons you don’t miss Lucy this season is because she’s been replaced by Susan (Susan Kent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes).  She’s batshit crazy and mad for Ricky.  Their on-off-on-off relationship is a source of many of Ricky’s problems.  All he really needs is a break.  Maybe he’ll catch one from some “Angel Shit Sent Down From Jesus God”.

You’ll see.

Julian might even have a shot at love.  An old girlfriend, from all the way back in season one, reappears in his life….

The season ties into the real world release of the official Trailer Park Boys beer called Freedom 35.  It’s a fictional take on how that beer got to the store shelves.  Bubbles, who now drives his own green truck, has a secret recipe and it’s caught the notice of the Halifax Beer company.  They want to pay Bubbles to sell his brew!  Can Bubbles ramp up his production, or will Ricky fuck it all up?

Without spoiling too much of the fun, the best episode this season is called “Happy Birthday Bubbles”.  If you liked the old episode when the Boys played “space” and fired a rocket, you’ll love this one.  I hope Steve Rogers makes a full recovery though his helicopter sure is fucked.  Best of all, this season we return to the arena where Ricky shines like no other:  the courtroom.  Judge Ticklebury presiding.

Knowing that Jim Lahey has taken his last drinky-poo gives the season a bittersweet flavour.  How does the show continue now?  We don’t know, so just enjoy season 12 for what it is.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: George Carlin – What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)

GEORGE CARLIN – What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988 Atlantic)

Why do we still look to the wisdom of George Carlin today in memes and videos?  Because his comedy was timeless.  What worked in 1988 is still topical in 2017.  On the government, Carlin blasts: “They’re against street crime, unless the street is Wall Street!”  Still true, just change the names.  Listen and you might even learn something, but you’ll be too busy laughing to realise it.

It’s actually incredible how applicable this 30 year old comedy show is.  Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, government telling you what you can and can’t hear.  I don’t think George Carlin would think much of the year 2017.  What is most appealing about George Carlin’s comedy is simply how he observes the absurdities of life.  If he makes you uncomfortable, that’s too bad, because the rest of us are laughing.

It’s not all topical observations.  Sometimes it’s helpful advice.  “Here’s one to try.  Go in to a gift shop, and ask for your gift.”  You’ll also enjoy his list of people he could do without.  “A proctologist with poor depth perception.”   True, true.  “Anyone who mentions Jesus more than 300 times in a two minute conversation.”  Yes, yes.  “A brain surgeon with ‘born to lose’ tattooed on his hands.”  Dear God yes.  And…”couples whose children’s names all start with the same initial.”  Say no more, my sides hurt!

The last 20 minutes of the album is dedicated to “More Stuff About Cars and Driving”.  From this, I gather there are many toll roads in the state of New Jersey.  Carlin goes after bumper stickers too.  Imagine what he’d think of today’s window sticker families!

Not for everybody, but possibly just what you need.

3.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Billy Connolly – Live in New York (2010)

BILLY CONNOLLY – Live in New York (2010 Rykodisc DVD)

There are few funnier than singer/comedian Billy Connolly.  My theory is that it’s the Scottish accent.  Live in New York is the funniest comedy DVD that I own. I don’t buy a lot of them, because I find they have a limited lifespan before they get old. I have another Billy as well (Erect For 30 Years), which combines his old standup plus interview and documentary footage. From his Too Old to Die Young tour, Live in New York is the one to get; it’s pure gold.

There isn’t much “standing” in Billy’s stand-up.  He’s mobile, acting out his scenes, rarely stationary.  This was recorded in 2005, before Billy’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.  What storytelling ability!  Like a big beast, every story is recreated on stage for your entertainment.

Even though I have seen some of these bits before (Billy scaring his sister is classic), they all come across as if Billy is telling the stories for the first time. Halfway through a story, he will go off on a tangent. He’ll stop his story mid-breath, pause, and then say, “I just have to tell you about something…” Then he’ll tell another story, and come back to his original story 10 minutes later, to much laughter and applause.

Everything’s funny, but some bits here were absolutely hilarious. They include:

  • The afforementioned “sister” story which takes 10 times as much time to set up as the story itself.
  • The stories about his dad who had a stroke. If you have ever had a family member who’s had a severe stroke, then you’ll know. Billy nailed this one on the head, hilariously.
  • The “thistle” tattoo.
  • And best of…opera. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Billy nails everything I love and hate about opera!

Audio is plain stereo, format is full screen.  No special features; just the show. Billy may be getting old, his hair may be white, but his humour has lost absolutely nothing over the years. This is, in my humble opinion, the very best DVD that Billy has to offer.

5/5 stars and 1 thistle tattoo.