Movies »Bernie

bernie-poster1directed by Richard Linklater (2011)

Bernie came and went quietly in theaters but more and more people are discovering it on netflix as a hidden gem.

Fans of City Confidential (one of televisions unsung greats) will rejoice in this based on a true story crime flick. Linklater wisely uses colorful real people from the town of Carthage, TX as the talking heads and pulls excellent performances from them as well as his veteran actors.

Shirley McClaine is perfect as a cranky old woman, delivering lines that sound like overhead real conversations while Jack Black is remarkably subtle. Usually over the top and obnoxious, here he makes the character Bernie likable and dimensional while having fun with the role. In a quieter year, or had the film gained more attention, it could have even garnered him his first Oscar nomination.

It’s not big, loud oscar bait though (but Black did receive a Golden Globe nomination). It fits nicely along side other infinitely watchable true crime films like To Die For, Fargo, and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (do I see a potential marathon line up).

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Posted on January 29, 2013

TV Shows »Bob’s Burgers

Bob-s-Burgers-bobs-burgers-18293111-1280-1024on Fox and Hulu

Well, what a surprise! I really like Bob’s Burgers (Though had I known it was from Dr. Katz creator Loren Bouchard, it would have been less surprising).

Did everyone know this show was good? I’ve been a bit preoccupied so I must have missed the hoopla.

It’s funny, sweet – without getting too schmaltzy – and boasts the best voice cast around: John Roberts! Kristen Schaal! Eugene Mirman! and every wry adult animation go-to, H. Jon Benjamin!

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Posted on January 18, 2013

TV Shows »Misfits

misfitsOn Hulu

Imagine if Heroes was raunchy and had a fabulous sense of humor. If that sounds intriguing do yourself a favor and watch the British import, Misfits.

The first three seasons are more fun, entertaining, smart and creative than I expected from a show with the premise of dirty mouthed, horny juvenile delinquents gaining super powers. With the compelling cast and innovative story arcs you might even end up emotionally invested.

Which is why I point out that it’s the first three seasons that are most notable. I’m in the middle of the fourth season now, which begins with just one remaining original cast member and at a point in the story where big mysteries have been solved. While season three suffered the loss of the charming Robert Sheehan, it carried on pretty well without him. Now, though, as much as they are trying, it feels forced, but I’m still watching since its more fun than most things out there.

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Posted on January 9, 2013

Laughs »Seinfeld Today

on Twitter

Seinfeld ended on a high note, when it was still universally loved and quoted and before it spiraled into mediocrity as so many shows can.

Or so I thought. The latest twitter darling account @seinfeldtoday makes me wonder. Maybe the show could have stayed relevant and hilarious for years.

At the very least the humorous imaginings of modern day episodes make me miss it.

Here are a couple choice examples:

@SeinfeldToday: George can’t tell if his boss is being sarcastic in an email. “There should be a different font, Jerry!” Kramer watches too much cable news.


@SeinfeldToday: George breaks up w/ his gf (Gretchen Mol) because she’s ruining his Netflix suggestions w/ her shows. Newman claims to be part of Anonymous.

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Posted on December 29, 2012

TV Shows »The Thick of It

on Hulu

I’ve recommended the amazing Thick of It long ago, when I had only seen the first phenomenal short season.

Now Hulu has all four seasons. That means more incredible insults, absurd politics, and Malcolm Tucker. Watch. Enjoy. You will thank me.

And as a bonus, while we are on the subject of absurd politics, please read this completely authentic interview of conservative MP David Davies grappling with his views on gay marriage.

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Posted on December 28, 2012

Movies »Smile

 directed by Michael Ritchie (1975)

I’d hate to spend this whole review comparing the small town pageant comedy Smile to the best of Robert Altman, which it so clearly drew inspiration from, so I’ll just say this: while it has the flavor of the fly on the wall film making which makes films like Nashville and Short Cuts among my most favorite, it does fall short.

Still it boasts a great cast, that no only includes Violet Beauregard (from Willie Wonka!), a young topless Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole and Kate Sarchet as extremely natural and likable contestants in the Young Miss pageant. You’ve also got Bruce Dern!

“Dernsie”, as we fans like to call him at first seems to be playing to type as a sleazy car salesman but he bucks his creepy type casting to play a decidedly optimistic man who fails to see anything negative (even if it hits him in the face) and lives for the joy of the annual pageant he judges.
Smile is often funny – the unusual “talents” like packing a suit case and thinly veiled stripping stand out, but it turns dark with the subplot of the town drunk and plays with themes of suburban ennui, adolescence, and the American Dream – like a good old American novel from the era.
It’s available to watch on Netflix and might just be worth a viewing for all the period maxi dresses and feathered hair.

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Posted on August 13, 2012

TV Shows »Flight of the Conchords

on HBO

I’m pretty late getting caught up with the charming musical comedy series Flight of the Conchords, but HBO Go has allowed me to watch all the episodes I missed.

I didn’t realize it lasted only two seasons, and was a little crestfallen when the I played the finale.

Kiwis Jermaine and Bret are lovable, but I might just adore their manager Murray the most.

Sometimes comedian musical interludes can fall flat but here the songs are witty and catchy mimicking everything from modern R&B to David Bowie. There are several songs I would happily listen to in all seriousness.

If you too missed this gem the first time around, it’s great fun summertime viewing.

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Posted on July 23, 2012

TV Shows »Louie

on FX

Louie is proof that first impressions can’t always be trusted. Jim and I watched the pilot episode a while back and just couldn’t get into it but on a friend’s suggestion we gave it a second chance… and are loving it.

Louis C.K. is a comedian’s comedian who does everything his way – whether side stepping Ticketmaster, or self releasing comedy DVDs. This series, which he directs, produces and edits as well as stars in, is no exception.

He accepted a small amount of money (by television standards) to make the pilot and in return he retained complete control. The result is a unique show that reflects the honest, often taboo tone of his stand up.

While the show reminds me of student films, it’s much more sophisticated and honestly, sometimes brilliant. Unlike so many short films (and the show really feels more like short films than a television series) it doesn’t deal in stereotypes nor the expected, characters this rich must come from personal experience.

You can catch up on the first two series on Netflix instant.

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Posted on July 4, 2012

Movies »Ghostbusters

directed by Ivan Reitman (1984)

Recommending Ghostbusters, even as part of my ongoing “Top Best Movies You’ve Probably Seen But If You Haven’t You Better Get On It Marathon” seems silly.

I mean, we’ve all seen it right? We’ve all probably even seen the disappointing sequel and the animated series The Real Ghostbusters (neither of which, let’s get clear, am I recommending).

Those that haven’t seen this classic, flawless comedy.. Come on!!

All others can rejoice in re-watching it on Netflix instant.
Did I ever mention the time I made a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in art class as a child or wanted to be Ray Parker Jr for halloween? Yep, I was (and am) a pretty big fan.

Rumors persist in a third installment but I’m not sure it will happen or if it’s a good idea if it does.


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Posted on April 29, 2012

TV Shows »Girls

on HBO

Girls. It’s about hipsters. It’s about millennials. Of course there’s a rage filled backlash against its hype and popularity. No two peoples are more scoffed at on the planet.

I expected to be thoroughly annoyed myself. I know these girls. They crowd restaurants in the weekday afternoons. They dress like Blossom. They never give a seat to a pregnant lady on the subway feeling more entitled to rest their own feet. They make me feel old as they spill out of Bedford Avenue bars – and make me feel good about being old. It’s not that I hate them, I just assumed that watching a show glamorizing their bankrolled lifestyle wouldn’t be my idea of fun.

And fun its not, but Girls is in its own way rather smart and interesting. It’s not glamorizing but quite self critical, often cringe inducing (reminding me of Todd Solondz). Creator Lena Dunham knows her subjects well and thrives on the old adage “go with what you know”. Her characters are realistic, horribly flawed (but not in that script writing class “fatal flaw” kind of way) and more interesting for it. The only exception is the character Shoshanna who comes of as an over the top improve character delivered by a girl who hates other girls. Some empathy and subtler acting could have gone a long way here.

The pilot was better that the second episode which focused on sex in a desperate and often icky way (realistic? Possibly for some. Enjoyable to watch? Eeh.) and whether the entire season can hold my attention remains to be seen. More Chris Eigeman wouldn’t hurt.

I will say Girls surprised me. And at the very least, it’s a very welcome point of view compared to the often veiled sexist crap that litters premium channels (just try to watch the horrendous House of Lies to get an idea of what I mean).

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Posted on April 27, 2012

Movies »The Big Lebowski

directed by The Coen Brothers (1998)

Continuing my Top Best Movies You’ve Probably Seen But If You Haven’t You Better Get On It Marathon, I give you the oft quoted, nearly universally loved Coen Brothers’ masterpiece The Big Lebowski.

There’s a reason everyone adores this movie. See it. It’s infinitely re-watchable with more unforgettable lines and characters in ten minutes than in the entirety of most comedies ever made.

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Posted on April 6, 2012

Movies »Bridesmaids

directed by Paul Feig (2011)

Call me Katherine Hegel but with a couple exceptions (Anchorman and Step Brothers) I’ve never been fully satisfied with a Judd Apato film… but sometimes magic happens when he works with Paul Feig.

Now, there’s no way I’m going to compare Bridesmaids to Freaks and Geeks, one of life’s most perfect pleasures, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was touted as a raunchy chic comedy.

There is vomit, pooping, and farting none of which is my go to for laughs, but there’s also some really smart writing, female characters who feel genuine, a sweet romance, and Jon Hamm at his dickish best.

I don’t get the chance to watch movies as much as in my freewheeling days, but I’m glad we chose one that was so enjoyable.

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Posted on March 2, 2012

Movies »A Chinese Ghost Story 1&3

directed by Siu-Tung Ching (1987 and 1991)

The East does weird in a way that the West simply can’t and the fun, crazy Chinese Ghost Story trilogy proves it.

I remember hearing about these films years ago as elusive, cult classics; and with demons, tongue battles (that would be battles fought with giant monster tongues), walking tree spirits, rapping warriors, slapstick beheadings and ghostly seductions, “cult” is the only way to effectively classify these unique films.

The plots are similar between the two: Beautiful ghost spirit is under the control of a tree demon. Kind, handsome traveler stays the night in her haunted temple and falls in love. Must defeat demons to save her.

The original is more romantic and serious, but both include a healthy dose of humor and slapstick–the third almost to the point of tedium. The second… well sadly I can’t tell you anything about it: see, Netflix instant issues dictated a strange viewing order. First I watched what I assumed was the first movie only to find out afterwards that Netflix had mislabeled it and I had actually watched the third. So, not wanting to forgo seeing the original I watched the first movie (which was labeled Part 2 on Netfilx). At that point I thought we might as well finish up the trilogy, but found all three movies were no longer available. So, only reviewing 1 and 3 and no screen captures from me.

It’s a shame they’ve been taken off Netflix because they’re not readily available in the US–but are worth seeking out for lovers of bizarre cinema. I hope to one day see the second installment and complete the trilogy.

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Posted on January 21, 2012

Movies »The Trip

directed by Michael Winterbottom (2011)

It’s a compliment to Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip that it reminds me of one of my most favorite movies of all time, Withnail and I – and not just because it features two long time friends from the city headed into England’s more rural areas.

There’s a very bittersweet poignancy that both films reveal about friendship, being stuck as the person you are and the simple pains that come with being alive. (Even if it gets a touch heavy handed at the end).

Steve Coogan is particularly and hilariously self effacing as himself (?) traveling on a wine and food tour that was originally meant to be taken with his young girlfriend.

Instead, after being told they are “taking a break” he reluctantly brings along Rob Brydon who, unlike Coogan seems perfectly content with his place in the world even if his goofy impersonations and happiness make him an annoyance to those around him.

The two bicker, joke, insult and chat through gourmet meals. At first, I couldn’t imagine how anyone that was not already a fan of these actors could take any interest in the film, but the beautifully photographed and well put together film transcends its seemingly dull plot to evoke a quiet swelling of emotions while also making you laugh out loud.

You’ve seen one of the funniest clips if you’ve watched “This is How Michael Caine Speaks” but there’s more to this gem of a movie.

It’s on Netflix instant, so do enjoy!

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Posted on November 14, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: How to Be a Gentleman


Wow, How to Be a Gentleman was canceled before I even got around to writing my review. It’s a shame not because it was good (it wasn’t) but I was glad it gave Murray a job. Love that guy.

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Posted on October 9, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: Suburgatory

Thumbs Say This Was One Of Jim’s Least Favorite

One thing I’ve learned from watching all the new Fall shows is that people that write television hate people who are different from them. Or at least they think we all hate eachother.

The latest cross culture bashing comes from Suburgatory which relies on stereotypes that frankly confused me. So big city teens hate shopping while suburban girls all have nose jobs? I did not know this.

Stereotypes aside, what was more insulting was the flimsy attempt at heart warming understanding. If this girl was really as wry as her Emma Stone face and snarky narration suggests, no way she’s getting soppy over a bra. Especially not that bra.

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Posted on October 6, 2011

Laughs »The Best of Totally for Teens

Unaired Pilot

Love TV Carnage, love teen chat shows. See the two combine in The Best of Totally for Teens and pray that it gets picked up by Adult Swim.

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Posted on October 2, 2011