Category Archives: OPINION

Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh, No Really

dbd9adfe41b34e1764c39dbb06fbf01bc644c115

Bygone days of the Opera-Man and Lunch Lady Land we remember with a fondness for simpler, lighter times. Though fame, movie deals and questionable scripts have perhaps tainted our perception of Adam Sandler, Stan and Judy’s kid still has some of the old, stupid magic in him.

‘100% Fresh’, a title tipping the middle finger to the abundance of terrible reviews his most recent film ventures have garnered on the infamous Rotten Tomatoes, is truly a delight throughout, by design.

Directed in part by Steve Brill, with Paul Thomas Anderson (Yes, that one) as Director of Photography for an evening of shooting on film and segments directed by Nicholaus Goosen. ‘Fresh’ is a constructed pastiche of Sandler back out on the road. Sometimes in a cramped New York club, sometimes in huge sold out arenas, the footage collected gives us a taste of the Adam Sandler that captured our filthy little hearts and minds, leaving us gasping in the aisles.

In between anecdotes and short jokes that bank on either a strange image or something to cringe over, we are privy to similarly constructed tunes that take on the minutiae of life (Slow, old folks crossing the street, an unhygienic Uber driver, the dangers of candy) and colors them with familiar apt silliness.

The structure of the hour plus is one made to remain consistent and there is rarely a moment where the joke doesn’t quite work. It appears as though hours upon hours of footage was rifled through for the best takes and with those in tow, a solid (100% fresh) special was crafted to be all killer no filler. This is a neat (and sneaky) trick, but the sentiment is the same. Despite inflated movie premises that bank on weirdly heavy product placement, the Sandman (a name he drops several times in self reference), is back, or rather, never left.

The hysterics wind down in the last 20 minutes or so for some reflection on the past, culminating in a tear-jerking tune dedicated to the departed Chris Farley.

Without giving it all away right here, it’s easy to see the ease at which Sandler can craft jokes, tell stories and sing songs remains. Let’s hope to see more from this side of the Sandman in the future.

You can watch ‘100% Fresh’ on Netflix right now.

Goosebumps 2: Not Too Goosebumps?

goosebumps-2-haunted-halloween

Just in time for the Halloween season, R.L. Stine’s most famous (infamous?) creation is back for another go around. ‘Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween’ is for sure a follow up to the 2015 movie.

Or is it?

Having no returning stars beyond the sparsely used Jack Black, who voices Slappy and portrays the on-screen version of Stine, ‘Haunted Halloween’ has some similar beats without most of the rhythm.

Best friends, Sonny and Sam, are out for one think this Fall season: Junk. Seeking to pick up some extra money, they tout themselves as ‘Junk Bros’ a rudimentary trash collection service for neighbors around town. After posting flyers all over the town, they receive one mysterious, un-traced phone call for a junking job. They are told there is no cash for them, but they are welcome to take anything they find interesting.

Arriving at what appears to be an abandoned house, they ultimately find a miasma of random junk, but something does indeed catch their attention: an almost pristine ventriloquist dummy (Guess who?)

slappy

“Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molonu Karrano”

Reading the magic words, like so many before, brings Slappy to life, and he’s out for…family?

While the character is charismatic as ever, there is something absent. Where before he pined for freedom and slaves, of course, he now seeks out a family to call his own. So much so that we see Slappy doing laundry and even bringing a video game to life (what?).

While his powers seem to have expanded, the story here leaves something to be desired.

Fantastic performances all around, the kids and smattering of familiar adults (Ken Jeong as a wacky neighbor, Chris Parnell as a desperate department store employee) are adept at making the best of the content give for some truly amusing, and chilling moments.

While the tone is consistent and the monsters make a much welcomed return, there is a sense that this time around,  the script seems muddled and warped which loses some of the emotional weight and familiarity. Many of the plot points feel mashed together and watered down perhaps through a mill of writers unable to nail the magic of the first.

Kids will be engaged, old fans will surely find some moments to grasp onto, but the bumps don’t quite goose the way they did.

 

‘Eighth Grade’ About as Bad as You Remember

xblvddtwazmzzicp44l0

 

Comedian, and now writer/director Bo Burnham has released his first feature Eighth Grade, starring Elsie Fisher as awkward, in-between Kayla Day.

Kayla is trying like almost anyone her age to be cool and fit in in the fast paced, technology-laden world of teens today. We watch, many times, as Kayla creates videos for her YouTube channel: advice on things like being yourself and fitting in. These videos highlight the ways in which Kayla makes an effort to find these things in life and within herself.

Throughout, we are privy to awkward conversations with Dad (Josh Hamilton), the muted sharp glares to and from ‘popular’ girl Kennedy and a handful of awesomely socially tragic clashes with equally awkward and removed teen boys. Everyone in their own world amid a sea of extremely thick atmosphere that feels all too familiar, compressed and leaves you gasping.

A note here on the score: It comes far too often, too loud. The chosen songs sound hastily made and are in such jarring contrast with the film itself, it further warps whatever is left to be gleaned from on screen. There is no matching of emotion or intention, merely blaring beats better used elsewhere.

The direction style doesn’t favor glamour shots, opting instead for a well lived-in feel. The costumes and scenery are muted, everyday colorful: very grounded in reality, glittered with iPhones and punctuated by so many uhms and ahs.

Burnham clearly has an adept feel for the material, but this is also his downfall. The strangest bit comes during an active shooter drill (yes, of course) followed almost immediately by an earthquake preparedness drill. This evasion tactic practice leads to some reaching attempts at innocent flirting tinged with a hint of the salacious, terrifying trouble it could bring. On many occasions we are set up with something that pushes beyond the grainy film of the movie into interesting and gripping territory, only for it to be deflated moments after; this uneven rise and fall gives the movie a meandering feel that never quite reaches the apex of understanding it needs to drive home just what is important here.

To say this movie has merit is to say a lot, outside of style and deadly accurate tone, the structure crumbles in on itself and the message, if there is one, is lost. Moments of reflection and success are muddled through and perhaps that is the point, however, this makes for a trying and very painful watch that doesn’t seem to know which audience it wants to pull in.

Is this meant to be a burdened nostalgia cringefest for those that have grown through the struggles of young adulthood? Or is there a message amid the noise for the ones coming up in the now? This film is rated ‘R’, so the latter seems a stretch at best. Presenting the dredge of middle school without resolve is certainly bold, but this film stumbles more than it strides.

If the idea of a mostly accurate depiction of the slow ache of growing pains sounds intriguing, give this one a watch when it comes to DVD or the streaming service of your choice.

A24, highly regarded production company, and noted comedian Bo Burnham have taken us to school, and it isn’t pretty.

 

Prime day has begun!

We’re off to the races with Amazon’s annual Prime Day deals hitting consumers all across the nation. Anticipation was at an all-time high at 3 PM Eastern time, and now many people are being treated to “server down” screens and pictures of cute puppies. This reporter was hoping for a chance to purchase a Nintendo switch at a discounted rate went to my chagrin, I was met with a flurry of errors. Now while it is still early on Amazon prime day one has to wonder how worth it it actually is.

Now while there are a very good amount of deals in the bunch they are few and far between. If you’re looking for deals on movies, music, and gaming you might be mildly successful. Now the full range of deals aren’t yet available, so keep your eye out and your F5 finger at the ready. Let’s see what ambles out of the Amazon forest on this error-ridden, uncertain beginning of Prime Day.

The Leftovers – Questions Answered Unanswered

 

 

 

 

the-leftovers

The Leftovers, a tour-de-force of emotion that has graced HBO over the last three years, has finally come to an end. Evolved by Damon Lindelof (remember Lost?) from the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, we have seen growth from the source material into a modern hymn for the grieving and the hopeful. Not discounting Perrotta’s original work, The Leftovers has become something more than a mere adaptation. Never has a television show taught me more about myself and others, than I have learned here. Jumping off the premise that 2% of the world disappeared without explanation, we are plunged into a murky cold sea of confusion, tension and as we follow the lives of a select few, we find ourselves clawing for the surface in tandem. Though the world of The Leftovers is rife with doubt and darkness, it allows for the comforting discomfort of less approached themes in most modern television. There is no singular answer to the very real question posed again and again, here, and in life: How do we grieve? What does it take to move on?

786821559921729828

Three seasons, a short collection of twenty-eight episodes, and three major location changes is rare for any television show, let alone such a short lived project. The juxtaposition of expanse and brevity has served very well. Starting in the invented town of Mapleton NY, we watch as a single family is ripped apart by the silent and profound change the Sudden Departure (October 14th, 2011) has wrought without much incident. From something as common as divorce, to the world-bending aim to eliminate all dogs (They’re not ours anymore), we see the Garvey family and others cling to what is real in the unreal, coping in a myriad of ways. Reverend Jamison takes to the streets with a vicious smear campaign in order to correct the seemingly random removal of the 2%, adhering it to the Christian idea of the Rapture, come to remove the damned. Nora Durst collapses inward, seeking comfort in a bullet-proof vests and sharp-eyed prostitutes. Further still, Laurie Garvey joins the Guilty Remnant, a silent, cigarette smoking cult, dead set on being a constant reminder of what was lost.

960

Season 2 opens with a beautifully tragic account of a prehistoric woman giving birth and making every effort to protect her newborn in the chaos of the world in a more natural state. Earthquakes, axis mundis, the world moves on, the world remains the same. Introduced to the Murphy family, residents of Miracle, formerly Jarden Texas, a town where not one person departed on the 14th of October. This turn from the Garvey family opens the world of the Sudden Departure, shifting perspective toward relief from the ultimate unknowable tragedy just before something changes for the worse. From the point of the disappearance of Evie Murphy, we see a facing off between the Murphys and the Garveys that reaches far beyond the scope of simple neighborly woes. Meanwhile, Kevin begins losing his grip upon reality sinking further and further into depression. Rife with suicidal tendencies and the consistent plague of a most powerful adversary who has returned in a seemingly divine manner, Kevin finds himself questioning what is real, and how exactly to proceed. As we arrive at the culmination of this season, Lindelof, Perrotta and company take what we know television to be and turn it on it’s head yet again in what should go down as one of the best episodes of television in it’s history.

In this second season, we see the injection of further strangeness, as well as some much needed, though still grave levity. The micro has been blown out and we see the further unravelling of how we relate not only to our immediate circle, but those around us, suffering as well, but in wholly different ways. The drive of this season is Kevin’s journey and the grand Grieve Off between the two families, culminating in a striking and powerful exchange between Carrie Coon’s Nora Durst and Regina King’s Erika Murphy. This is the height of tension and at its apex a release of rage and quiet desperation between the two that has to be experienced first hand. The Leftovers often cuts to the quick and allows the initial sting to remain long after the incident has ended.

Screen20Shot202017-02-1320at204.16.2220PM

Rounding out the third season, we are slowly transported to Australia, nearing the seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure. Seven being a number of biblical significance, there is a general consensus that something, possibly the end of the world itself will come on the anniversary, and the people the world over prepare in their own ways, for the worst. Others seem to think there will be a Sudden Return of sorts, making way for all those lost so many years ago (Gary Busey in particular). The patchwork family we have watched form and reform throughout the past two seasons are on one final push to the grand finale of the show and perhaps the world as they know it. Kevin has been exalted by some as a possible messianic figure, Nora has found solace in the promise of a machine that could return her to her Departed family, and the world tenses up for the coming crest of a seven year long wave in the making.

Without getting too into the finer details, The Leftovers makes it’s final feats expand even further to focus on an even smaller, oft overlooked important part of our lives. The stories we tell each other and ourselves, and how they weigh on our decisions as well as those around us. More than ever we see the blending of Science and Faith here at end of a modern fable, filled with holy men, scientific analysis and perhaps even a ghost or two. The show has become an axis mundi unto itself, finding the link between what we know and what we question, either in defiance or reverence. There is layer upon layer of the nature of our existence, how we process the world at large, and the ways in which the defined and the undefinable color our experiences.

As consumers of media, in particular what is now known as “Peak TV”, we are very familiar with the series finale as a concept. Often we find ourselves feverishly awaiting the final chapter, only to come away dissatisfied, vaguely content, or perhaps left in a lurch to question the entire body of work. Those that come to mind may seem obvious, ‘The Sopranos’ infamous smash cut, Lindelof’s own ‘Lost’ church gathering that divides fans to this very day, the mammoth ‘M*A*S*H’ send-off that still dominates ratings records, all remembered and revered for different aspects of what we search for when we look to television as an artistic medium.

pd

‘The Book of Nora’, our final entry into the world wrought forth by Lindelof, Perrotta and in just as many ways director Mimi Leder,  both drains the lake and refills it almost immediately. A shift in focus from where we leave everyone in the penultimate episode, there is a time jump and we are given exactly what we need, we are told stories, the stories we want to hear, and the ones we need. Lindelof and company leave the world of The Leftovers on a masterstroke of ambiguity that is also a perfectly recognizable finality. Both the question and answer are presented with such precision that neither is the point inherently, but rather whether or not one has their faith in check. “Do you believe what you’ve been told?” is a daring but effective and well earned note to finish on.

The Leftovers, for all it has given me, and so many others, deserves a bevy of recognition that it has not gotten in it’s short span. With any hope as years wear on, others will find it to be a haven for processing and even rejoicing in our darker recesses, relating to one another on a more human level and calling into question those fringe moments where the heavens and the earth seem to meet. A hymn worthy of eternal reprise, a true work of immense depth and beauty, The Leftovers will be hard to top, and even harder to let go.