Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: ‘Oh, Hello: on Broadway’

How the two characters that John Mulaney and Nick Kroll inhabit in Oh, Hello came to be is a twisted history of guest spots. As far as I can remember, the first time I’d heard Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland was on an episode of the podcast Comedy, Bang! Bang! Mulaney and Kroll’s hilarious characters were too good to just be guest characters on a podcast maybe twice a year so they spun the characters out to a webseries entitled Too Much Tuna. Hilarious as it is, there is only so much you can do with a low budget semi-talk show webseries. It made sense they would branch out even further from there, with their now cult-followed characters, but I didn’t think Broadway would be their next stop.

Clearly these Mulaney and Kroll love New York and have a specific nostalgia for Broadway culture. But Oh, Hello on Broadway becomes to insular by having a lot jokes which are so specific about Broadway culture. What saves many of these jokes is how naturally funny these guys are simply speaking. Sometimes the joke isn’t even what they say but rather how they are saying it. I even get the feeling that making these extremely specific Broadway refrences and having the majority of the audience not understand them might actually be the joke. But maybe that’s just me trying to stay in the cool kids club.maxresdefault-300x169 Review: 'Oh, Hello: on Broadway' TV

 The show outlines Faizon and St. Geegland’s personal history, how they meet eachother and how they each are trying to make an impact in the New York cultural scene. Clearly they haven’t made a dent as they are in their old age and still living with eachother. It’s fun to see the backstory Mulaney and Kroll have crafted for these characters but where the show really shines is in their small moments of improve.

Oh, Hello on Broadway is a live performance, so inevitably things will go wrong. There were no major snafus but one actor will find the others delivery of a joke particularly funny and break character for a second or they will interact with an audience member here and there. These two guys are improve geniuses and it shows. Even more interesting is the short interview segment (I won’t spoil the guest star) but I wonder how much of that was rehearsed and how that segment works from night to night in the live show.

When you take a step back and look at where these characters spawned from, what they were meant to be and how they have morphed into something so much bigger, it’s really amazing that this live special even exists. As long as Netflix is willing to throw money at these weird odd-ball projects, I’ll keep watching.

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by Christopher Moore
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: ‘The Mummy’

I feel like the news that Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot was actually the kickoff for an entire planned cinematic universe wasn’t known for a long time. It was certainly noteworthy when the news broke, but when I heard the news it seemed like they were projecting a success with The Mummy and decided a shared universe could work for them. After seeing the film, it is apparent that this film was always meant to introduce viewers to a “world of monsters.”

I’m not sure if Tom Cruise is meant to act as a through line for this new “Dark Universe”, but it certainly sets his character up for an important role going forward. Beyond good old TC, the film is dripping with potential connections to the other planned films. Nothing is too in your face, if you forget about Russel Crowe’s portrayal of Dr. Henry Jekyll that is.

This film tries to do some interesting things, like portraying TC as your run of the mill action star in every promo, but then having him be a total tool throughout the film. (don’t worry, he comes around) Where it stumbles is in its horrendous script. It takes a lot for Jake Johnson not to be charming and he was set up well as TC’s wise crackin’ buddy but it just doesn’t work. He certainly tried his best with what he was given, but the script is just so painfully plain. Nothing memorable happens and the action becomes a CG mess about half way through.

As a side note I’d like to bring up a personal pet peeve with movies that deal with Ancient Egypt. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what the Egyptian language sounded like when spoken aloud. That knowledge is lost to the sands of time. The only reason we even know how to translate hieroglyphics is because of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. So when films have to portray ancient Egyptians speaking it can get a little dicey. I believe whoever was responsible for the Egyptian language used by a few characters throughout this film, probably a contracted linguist, didn’t do that good of a job. I believe they tried to pull from a few know ancient languages to get that sort of feeling and pronunciation, but it just rings hollow and (at least to me) was a bit of a distraction.

I’d say The Mummy is best described as a movie that you might watch one night when nothing else is on TV and you catch it on HBO. It’s certainly not as bad as people are saying, but it’s close enough to not recommend that anyone go see it in theaters.

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by Christopher Moore
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Season Review: ‘Master of None’ Season 2

The first season of Master of None ends on a revelation that would drastically change the show if they chose to go in that direction. The idea that Dev, disillusioned with life in New York, is heading to Italy to change things up. The show doesn’t shy away from that news, in fact they go further than I would have ever thought they could. Three entire episodes take place in Italy, the fantastic premier shot in black and white and almost completely in Italian. But more importantly, the inevitable move back to New York doesn’t feel forced or hollow, and Dev takes knowledge and character development back with him. His romp in Italy actually means something to the character and the show. It doesn’t hurt that it was beautifully shot as well.

What I liked about this season is that while Dev is absolutely not a perfect person. He’s a great guy but he has flaws. He can be self-centered, as we see in how he eats around his family or how he deals with his cousin. More impactfully for me, and maybe where it crosses the line is in Dev openly pursuing an engaged woman. Sure, we see Dev and Francesca connect intimately, but it’s a pretty big leap for him to go beyond friendship. But the show never shies away from this or tries to show it in an artificially positive light. It looks like people really dealing with these complex emotions. Ansari and his astounding supporting cast all truthfully portray these emotion with the proper weight they deserve.

What is really impressive about Master of None is how it can flip flop between really upbeat, authentically joyous moments like eating world-class pasta and taking cute selfies to  displaying raw human emotions between two human beings that just want the same thing but don’t know how to express it. This is highlighted by the century-spanning bottle episode, Thanksgiving, in which Dev is relegated to a side character. In the episode we see the fantastic Lena Waithe as Denise reveal the evolution of her relationship with her family through the years. Culminating in her emotional coming out and the fallout afterwards. Master of None is able to straddle that line masterfully (pun intended) and creates a show as real and important and Louie or Maron.

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by Christopher Moore
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Season Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season Five

Spoilers for all five seasons of House of Cards ahead.

Ugh, this damn show. Through so many of its up and down seasons, I’ve reluctantly held on probably past the point of justification often because by the end of a sagging hour or frustrating arc of episodes something would occur to remind me of why, when this show hits its mark, it can be so damn fun. Frank pushes Zoe Barnes in front of a moving train; Frank, Claire and Meechum share in a three-way; Lucas Goodwin makes an attempt on Frank’s life; Tom Hammerschmidt publishes a scathing expose detailing the Underwoods’ suspected crimes. That through all the unearned bloviating bullshit and evil puppet-mastery, moments such as those can still exist enough in this show to keep me from completely losing my mind over how far up its own ass it is. But then season five dropped, and any redeeming qualities the show once desperately clung onto were all but vanquished in the face of doubling down on the side of itself that I hate the most.

This show has always had a problem with effectively portraying the simultaneous rise and fall of the Underwood empire. Frank ascends to the Presidency by illegally maneuvering President Walker into committing a crime, so he resigns, no questions asked; Frank and Claire throw the country into literal chaos to sabotage the election in their favor, and everyone just kind of shrugs it off. Kathy Durand might share information unbeneficial to Frank at her sworn testimony, so he shoves her down a fucking flight of stairs, and no one thinks anything of it. How the show has been able to justify away many of these lazy narrative crutches throughout much of its run is because in the background of all the Underwood scheming has been a Kate Baldwin, a Lucas Goodwin, or now a Tom Hammerschmidt passing along the baton of holding these liars and murderers to account. The idea that one day the past will finally catch up to them by way of a person or institution out of their orbit of control.

I had all my hope in the world resting on the beefy shoulders of reporter extraordinaire Tom Hammerschmidt and his two-season long investigation into this crime family, and that by season’s end we’d have at the very least an inkling of an idea as to how and when he’d (pun very intended) drop the hammer on them. But no; as Frank casually informs us and Claire in the season finale, he’d been the one feeding Hammerschmidt misleading information regarding the nature of Zoe’s death as yet another exercise in his omnipresent reach, and he was successful, of course! Doug takes the fall; Franks walks away unscathed; rinse and repeat. To be fair, Hammerschmidt appeared vaguely doubtful as to how much of that he was buying, but that’s the best we get? After two seasons worth of time spent with this really solid character doing smart, investigative journalism into the show’s main character and his series-worth of crimes: yet another Frank con-job with shades of vague doubt? How demoralizing.

This kind of undermining of character agency outside the Holy Trinity of Frank, Claire, and Doug speaks so clearly to House of Cards’ greatest problem: that the people around this trio aren’t people at all, but little worker bees flying around in circles at the whims of whatever the fuck they want at any given time. I know the Underwoods callously steamrolling their way through every seeming obstacle in their path has been the show’s calling card from the beginning, and to many people likely its most entertaining facet. But at this point in its run, watching these people mow down all those opposed them through lying, blackmailing, bullying and murdering without a single lasting consequence not only feels like unacceptable writing, but a borderline offense on the intelligence of its audience. This show has always presented itself as a “rise and fall” narrative – we know this because there’s barely been a single episode through all five seasons in which a supporting character hasn’t been digging into the Underwoods and their associates’ past illegal actions – but to this point it’s essentially only been about their rise, with an occasional easily dispatched hiccup along the way. Every time we near their inevitable fall they overcome it only to become more powerful in the process. It’s finally left me asking: without the fall, or the hint of an eventual fall, what’s the damn point?

Quick Thoughts:

  • Of course Frank was pulling all the strings of his impeachment process from the very beginning! Why wouldn’t he have been? You see in this Universe, it’s the President who’s the smart one and everyone else around him that’s incredibly, deeply stupid.
  • Ever since Frank and Claire stole Kathy Durand’s VP nomination right out from under her, she’s been free-falling her way into becoming the show’s most pathetic sucker. Which is a shame, because when she’s not busy being Frank’s #1 patsy, she feels like a reasonably decent and intelligent person. And we just know when she regains the capacity to speak she’s gonna keep her lips sealed as to how she conveniently tumbled down that flight of stairs, right?  
  • It’s so typical of this show to first introduce Will Conway as an ultra-competent challenger to Frank in the season four episodes where he needed to be, and then do the complete inverse of that in the season five episodes where he needed to become unhinged in order to sell Frank’s victory over him. And as soon as Frank was done with him we never heard from him again. He only mattered so far as the show needed him to get Frank from point A to point B in as prolonged fashion as possible; once he served his plot purpose, away he went.
  • So Claire is now the President, an outcome I predicted would happen from the beginning of the season, although my money was on her more blatantly sabotaging Frank to get the job. Putting the preposterousness of this development aside (she goes from estranged First Lady, to backdoor VP nominee, to Acting President, to VP, to President in the span of a year or so?), I don’t hate it. If she holds her ground on not pardoning Frank, I’ll like it even more, but what are the chances of that happening?
  • The big theme of this season was elevating Claire to the level of Frank as a narrative and spiritual equal. In getting to that point, we first see her flirt with directly addressing the audience before outright doing so a few episodes later. That was cool. She also murders her lover Tom Yates to keep him from publishing a manuscript that apparently details less-than-flattering material about her and Frank? Not so cool. I always liked the idea of Claire as an analog of Frank who’s as ruthless and ambitious as he is but also doesn’t need to stoop to his petty violence simply because she’s better at than him. I guess not.
  • And the Gavin “Guinea Pig-loving Ruler of the Dark Internet” Orsay Award for Lamest, Never-Ending Character Spotlight of the Season nominees are: Aidan Macallan, Jane Davis, LeAnn Harvey, Tom Yates. The winner is… Jane Davis! I love Patricia Clarkson, but this character was so stupid.
  • Yeah, I’ll be back for Season Six. I hate myself that much.

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by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on on

Review: ‘The Leftovers’ 3.08 – ‘The Book of Nora’

It’s hard to review The Book of Nora and not reflect on the entire season or even the full series as a whole. Partly because it is natural to reflect back when a series ends but also because this episode does a great job encapsulating the issues the show initially wanted discuss and analyze. The first season was about how people deal with grief and the existential dread of massive problems you are powerless to fix. The second and third season shifted to discussing how people work towards moving past their grief and try to find some sort of solace or contentment in life.

People are flawed and what we feel will bring us comfort might not, and that’s why the story that Nora tells Kevin in her dusty Australian house works so well as a final note for the show. What you think you need might just be what you want. Many of us aren’t lucky enough to get what we think we need, whether it is financial stability, that new car or a new house. These things might be Band-Aids on top of the real problem and what you need is to fix something deeper. Nora thought she needed to see her family to get closure but upon realizing that she literally wasn’t a part of their world anymore she was able to move on. She was able to put them to rest knowing that somewhere and in some timeline; they are content with their life. She got what she wanted, but what she realized she needed was slightly different.

Kevin on the other hand, possibly reflecting on his constant messiah status, is the rare person who finally gets what he wants and is able to find comfort. He is able to die one last time and destroy that world he visits in his suicidal visions. To me this puts to rest any future chance of visions or hallucinations. Kevin replaces his need to get to that world and find answers with the search for Nora. Leaving the door open to supernatural elements, even with Nora gone, Kevin knows she isn’t really gone. He searches tirelessly, 2 weeks a year, for what he thinks he needs. With Kevin always being the exception that proves to rule, Nora is what he wants and needs. As Kevin and Nora say in that final scene, they are here and that’s ok. More than ok, being there together is enough.


Quick Thoughts:

  • Laurie is alive! With her being alive and Kevin not seeming to know who Nora was, I thought this might be the afterlife. Maybe in the afterlife you forget some parts of you and finding those that affected you in life helps you regain that knowledge. Wait, was this LOST all along?
  • Carrie Coon national treasure status confirmed? CONFIRMED
  • If you are not on Instagram, and love this show, go check out the cast a crew accounts. Some great behind the scenes shots and a lot of great reflection on the show.
  • This show will go down as one of the best in the history of the medium. It didn’t last long, but its star shone so bright in the darkness that is ocean of vacuous television.

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by Christopher Moore
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