I know it’s in vogue to just automatically dislike any new take on beloved childhood icons, but I don’t have the energy for hating things I haven’t actually experienced. As such, I took the Michael Bay-produced, Jonathan Liebesman-directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from a few years back with a grain of salt. I had to cover a lot of the pre-release outrage for Spinoff back when it all happened and yet still decided to give it a watch on On Demand recently. Continue reading We Want Action: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
I haven’t done any reviews here on UnitedMonkee, but I think Arrested Development is one of the greatest pieces of anything ever. As such, I try to give everything and anything that the people involved in that show make a shot. Sometimes that’s great like Parenthood and sometimes it’s not so great like Will Arnett’s short-lived Running Wilde. It also introduced me to the genius of David Cross who I had seen here and there before but between AD and my much more stand-up savvy friends, I have developed a huge respect for Cross that has gone back to Mr. Show which I’m slowly making my way through on DVD.
Anyway, I had heard about IFC’s The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret here and there and was excited when it popped up on the NetBox (that’s Netflix Instant on the Xbox, if you’re a newbie). Here’s the deal with the show, David Cross plays Todd Margaret a kind of useless wimp who works for a big company. His boss Will Arnett sends him to England to figure out how to sell Thunder Muscle, an energy drink. He shows up at a huge office that’s empty except for one young man named Dave who likes messing with the slightly pompous Todd. He also happens upon a restaurant run by the lovely Sharon Horgan who he falls for and tries to woo with less success each time. The title of the show, while long and a bit unwieldy, is completely spot on because all the trouble that Cross gets into falls solely on his own shoulders and his inability to tell the truth when backed into a corner.
There’s a really clever device at the beginning of each episode where a beat-up looking Todd sits in an English court with a judge reading off a laundry list of accusations–most of which spawn from the upcoming episode–and a group of lawyers or judges just yelling at him. We then cut back to whatever day we’re dealing with out of 12. It’s a great bit of business because it lets the viewer know that all these wacky events are actually leading up to something relatively big and serious.
If I had to compare Increasingly to any shows, I’d say it’s kind of a mix of the awkwardness of the UK Office or Extras and Louis CK’s Louie with a good dose of fish-out-of-water/arrogant-American-ness mixed in. I don’t compare it to Louie‘s honesty or autobiographic nature, but to the feeling I get that Cross is basically running this show exactly how he wants to.
At the end of the day it’s a fun show steeped in awkwardness that had me laughing and cringing at the same time. Those are jokes that can be hilarious or awful, but Cross and company do a good job of tempering them. I also appreciate that, while the show is a comedy first and foremost, there are also a good deal of mysteries that make me want to see the second series and not just the big one of what happens to Todd. What’s the deal with Dave? He’s clearly more than he seems to be. Also, how did Arnett get swindled? What’s the deal with all that? I’m jazzed to see how the series wraps up and hope to see the last six episodes on NetBox.
I find myself with a strange feeling this TV season: a lack of interest. Sure, I’ve got favorite shows I like tuning in to, but it feels like I’ve got a lot less of them to look forward to, possibly because Lost is gone. There wasn’t another show in the history of my television watching career that engrossed me as much as that one and got me so excited about an hour of TV. Maybe it’s because most of the new shows aren’t so good. Here’s the break down for the first section of the week as far as regular viewings go.
For all the years I’ve been in New York, I’ve been looking around for a good syndicated block of reruns between 6 and 8 that would stay consistent and, for the most part, I’ve been unsuccessful. That is until recently. VH1 scored Saturday Night Live reruns from the 90s which have been a lot of fun to watch, even when I’m reminded that that was an era when skits tended to run WAY too long. It’s still fun to see a lot of today’s big stars and musical acts on the show both in the cast and as hosts. It’s even more fun to see long forgotten folks like Finese Mitchel and Sysqo perform. That takes care of the 6 to 7 block and then we bounce over to a local station called My9 which runs How I Met Your Mother. The only problem I foresee is that, with only a few season under its belt, I’ll be rewatching these episodes over and over again.
8:00pm – HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (CBS)
I’ve already gone on record with the potential problems I see with HIMYM, but I still enjoy this show better than most of the others I watch on a weekly basis. I’ve grown to really enjoy these characters, but I still think there needs to start being some resolution to the overhanging “mysteries” or else this one could start feeling a little tedious. Like I said though, great cast and still one of my favorite, most looked-forward-to shows.
8:30pm – RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (CBS)
Rules of Engagement is a show we only started watching because it was on right after HIMYM and nothing else was on, but I’ve actually come to enjoy it. Sure, it’s a jokier type of sitcom with lots of jokes being tossed around that aren’t hilarious, but funny enough to get a laugh. I like seeing Patrick Warburton and David Spade doing their things, plus I find the dumb neighbor/friend guy oddly charming. I’m in it with this series, though if something more interesting came on I think we’d jump ship in favor of that.
9:00pm – THE EVENT (NBC)
AS regular readers might remember, I wasn’t really all that into The Event when it premiered. I’m even less so now and barely still pay attention while the missus watches. I think she’s getting pretty sick of it too. I spent way too many episodes wanting to slap Jason Ritter for saying “My girlfriend!” so much that I don’t think we can ever be okay again (at least not on this show). I appreciate that they’re trying to move things along at a faster clip, but I just do not care about any of these people or what’s going on. I have the vaguest interest in what’s happening with these supposed aliens (though my money’s on dimensional or time travelers), but I could really just look it up in Wiki at some future date and feel satisfied. Probably moreso because I wouldn’t be wasting my time watching a lackluster Lost wannabe.
10:00pm – CASTLE (ABC)
I almost feel bad for not liking Castle more. I really like the cast and the dynamics of the characters, but it just feels so hacky lately. From the wacky set-ups for crimes this season (steampunk AND time travel in one episode?!) to the increasingly formulaic plot, I’m getting worn down. How many times can they run across a suspect who lies so well that they completely buy his story and move on only to come back to him or her later in the episode to realize he or she is really the killer? It’s boring and, personally, I expect more from a show with Nathan Fillion on it. Hopefully this one will pick up because the missus still LOVES it, while I just keep thinking about how much better Bones is and wishing Netflix would send the first disc of last season already so we can start the long road to catching up.
8:00pm – GLEE (Fox)
This one’s completely because the missus likes the show. She’s a big fan of musicals and show tunes and whatnot, so this is right up her alley, which is unfortunate, because I find it to be one of the most wildly inconsistent, sloppy and increasingly gross shows around. Anyone else see the Rocky Horror episode tonight where the teacher actually considered and planned on dressing up in gold shorts and performing a sexually charged number with one of his students? Sure he practiced with the hot red head teacher, but he was actually planning on jumping in and doing that. He’s just one of the many headache-inducing characters on a show filled with them. I’ve heard the argument made that you’re not supposed to expect anything from Glee but high school drama and musical numbers, but I call bullshit on that. The very basis of ongoing fiction of any kind is based in consistent characterization and this show lacks it for the most part. However, I do love Brittany’s throwaway lines. Those are just solid and sound like they’re being written by someone from 30 Rock.
9:00pm – RAISING HOPE (Fox)
I can’t remember the last time I watched this much Fox programming on a single night, but I find myself really liking Raising Hope. It’s clear the show was created by the brains behind My Name Is Earl as both showcase small town folks without much money doing what they can to get by. Hope revolves around a guy discovering his one night stand turned out to not only be a serial killer on death row, but also pregnant with his child. Now he’s raising the kid with his parents who had him at a really young age (his dad looks about the same age as him at times) and his mom’s grandma played by Cloris Leachman. Hope can be a little too weird and a little too jokey at times, but I think it’s starting to hit its stride. Plus, the Halloween episode featured homemade Batman and Robin costumes, so bonus points for that.
9:3opm – RUNNING WILDE (Fox)
Running Wilde, on the other hand, is not a show I’m enjoying much and I’m starting to get the feeling I’m not the only one as Fox decided to run two episodes of Raising Hope tonight instead of one of each, like usual. I am a huge Arrested Development fan, so I should like this show with its use of Will Arnett, David Cross and that fact that it was co-created by Mitchell Hurwitz, but Wilde suffers from two afflictions. First off, it’s not very easy to jump into. We missed the first episode and had trouble figuring out what the relationship between Arnett and the still-hot Keri Russell was. That’s not a good thing for a new show and something that AD suffered from (I still have trouble describing it to friends who missed out the first time around). The other problem is that it just feels like a rehash of old material. Arnett’s playing GOB from AD, Russell feels like Felicity though I never watched that show, plus the premise is a more exaggerated version of Dharma & Greg without the love. I’ll be curious to see what Fox replaces this show with if it does get the axe.
10:00pm – PARENTHOOD (NBC)
Parenthood continues to be one of the best written, most solid shows on television. I’d honestly put it up there with Mad Men. There’s a lot more in Mad Men considering it’s a period piece, but like that show, the Parenthood creators do an amazing job of juggling a small army of fast talking characters, giving each their moments to shine and great lines. Great writing mixed with a great cast makes for great TV, but for some reason I don’t find myself looking forward to this show on a regular basis. I’m happy when it’s on, but never excited for it. I wonder if that’s because it’s a drama and not an action show. I’ll have to think about that. I’ll be back on Thursday with more shows I’m watching. What are you viewing on Monday and Tuesday?
Southie’s another one of those movies that I’m not sure why I put it on my queue. But I did and today I watched it. It was alright. Donnie Wahlberg returns from being away from Southie (a rough Irish neighborhood in the Boston area) for a few years. He’s given up drinking and wants to get a legit job so he can take some of the stress off of his ailing mother, but, as these kinds of movies go, he’s given no other real option than to return to a life of crime. But it’s not what you think, instead of being muscle for a mob guy, Wahlberg teams up with Will Arnett who’s starting up an illegal gambling club and needs some investment money.
There’s also some back story with Wahlberg almost killing a dude who’s also involved int he gambling house. The plot’s pretty by-the-numbers, but the performances are pretty good. You’ve also got Rose McGowan, Lawrence Tierney, John Shea (who also directed) and Amanda Peet who doesn’t really do much but play the girl our hero used to be in love with. Actually, now that I think about it, the plot’s similar to the original My Bloody Valentine, but without the axes and twist ending.
The movie’s completely skipable unless you’re a huge fan of anyone included. I had the most fun watching Arnett, because I’ve never seen him in a serious role. He kind of wavers on the Boston accent, but doesn’t commit enough to it in the first place for his lack of one to be annoying. Aside from that there’s a few fights, a lot of talking, the death of an old person and that shotgun in the poster? It shows up exactly once. You’d be better off checking out Four Brothers if you’re looking for a movie like this, plus, it’s got Mark Wahlberg instead.
I haven’t been having a ton of luck lately when it comes to watching movies. Aside from falling asleep about a half hour in exactly no matter how cool the movie, I’ve been picking some duds (though still a few good ones). I couldn’t even get into watching Repo: The Genetic Opera for some reason. I’m not going to pass judgment on that one now because I was really tired, but I wanted to keep our Netflix queue going so I sent it back.
I did not however like an action movie I tried watching last night called Kiltro (2006). I made it about a half hour into that one before I fell asleep. I was hoping for an awesome action movie (as advertised), but instead I got a story about a guy who likes to fight and has a crush on a girl who blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want my action movies (and my giant monster movies for that matter) to be less talking and more destruction, unless they happen to be actually funny like Police Story 1 and 2. Again, I don’t really consider this a review, because I didn’t watch the whole movie, just letting you action fans out there know not to waste your time.
I also watched most of a movie called Hickey and Boggs (1972) which has a lot going for it in that The Warriors writer Walter Hill wrote it and Bill Cosby stars as a tough guy private detective along with Robert Culp who also directs. I didn’t have any problem with this movie, though it is a bit slow, I just haven’t finished it yet because it’s kind of long and it expires from Netflix on March 1. It’s in the same vein as Dirty Harry and is pretty cool, so I might finish it up today. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes it’s kind of weird seeing Bill Cosby as a tough guy, but he also pulls it off really well. It’s fun to watch. Again, not a real review, but just some thoughts.
That being said, I do have four ACTUAL reviews:
Man, the 90s were a weird time for horror movies. You’re looking at a time after the slasher glut greatly hindered the genre, but before Scream made them cool again. Popcorn is kind of a weird movie. The basic premise is that a college film club decides to hold a movie marathon to raise some money. But this isn’t any movie marathon, they’re showing movies with a gimmick like smell-o-vision or shock-o-rama. As such, they need an old movie theater to show their flicks in and a crazy old guy to help out (and then completely disappear) in the form of Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). If you really liked the beginning of Scream 2 where there’s all kinds of craziness happening in a movie theater, then this is right up your alley as it seems as though a counterculture guy from back in the day wants his weirdo movie to be seen so much he’s willing to kill people for it (that’s not exactly the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away). There was enough quirky charm to keep me watching even though the movie isn’t awesome by any means. So, if that sounds interesting (oh and the fact that someone gets killed via giant fake mosquito), check it out.
THE ROCKER (2008)
I was really surprised with how much I liked this Rainn Wilson flick. I was also surprised with the huge number of cast members I not only recognized, but knew by name (for the most part). Wilson stars as a drummer who got kicked out of what became the biggest band of the 80s right before they blew up. Now, in modern times, Rainn’s down on his luck, but ends up joining his nephew’s band, which garners its own huge levels of success. Aside from the cast that includes Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Jeff Garland, Jane Lynch (from 40 Year Old Virgin and a hundred other things), Jason Sudekis, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Jane Krakowski, Bradley Cooper, Lonny Ross (30 Rock), Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari, I was really impressed with how well they pull off some moments that could have come off as cheesy. There’s also one part where Rainn offers up the emo lead singer some songwriting advice (paraphrase “let’s speed it up and switch it to I’m NOT bitter) and he actually takes it without flinching. Sure it’s kind of similar to a scene in That Thing You Do, but in this case the lead singer just decided to go for it instead of being a d-bag. The Rocker is one of those flicks that seems like it either went up against some huge other movie or their producers didn’t have the juice to put much/any advertising cash behind it, because there’s no reason that this shouldn’t have done way better (though I said the same thing after seeing Speed Racer, which I still really enjoyed, so what do I know).
I also watched a couple movies all the way through that I wasn’t really into and those were Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and The Crazies (1973). I’ll be honest, the only reason I wanted to watch BD is because I’ve laughed a million times at the Best of The Wicker Man video on YouTube starring BD’s Nic Cage. Man that’s a funny video. You can get to it here after reading an AWESOME article I wrote about horror movie remakes for ToyFare. Unfortunately, BD was no where near as ridiculous as I was hoping it would be (I mean, COME ON, it’s Nic Cage as an assassin!). Instead, it’s a pretty run-of-the mill story about an assassin who has all kinds of rules, but is starting to not want to be an assassin anymore. You’ve seen it a million times and this doesn’t really offer up anything new, unlike Grosse Pointe Blank which is completely awesome.
The Crazies (1973) is the first non-zombie George Romero movie I’ve ever seen. It was okay, but not all that interesting. Instead of focusing on characters and how they react to these crazy situations, it seemed like Romero was more focused on showing a lot of dudes in white hazmat-type suits rounding people up after a virus that makes people go bat-poop nutso, gets released in a small town. There’s nothing all that wrong, really, it just didn’t grab my attention like my favorite Romero (and horror) flick Dawn of the Dead does.