Archive for the ‘Funny’ Category

“Cop Out” Trailer

In a true case of life imitates art imitates life, Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis are starring in a buddy-cop movie. Don’t tell me that whoever came up with Tracy Jordan’s Black Cop, White Cop posters for 30 Rock doesn’t deserve a little cheddar for this baby. Putting that aside though, it looks pretty funny, and you can consider me on board for anything that contributes to the all out career resurrection of Tracy Morgan. Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s directed by Kevin Smith? It’s like somebody took all of my mixed feelings about directors, actors, and film premises, and put them all into a big blender and this is what came out. Watch it for yourself and see what you think.

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Ok, so not really.  But still, this is pretty cool, or at least novel.  As a warning before I get to the point of this post, if you are here because you thought that I was being sincere in my title, I can confidently assure you that this blog is not the kind of place that you’ll enjoy spending time.  Unless, of course, you like to get upset.  Then welcome.   Annnyyway…

Over at Slate they’re having their first official (okay, probably their only) “Can you write like Sarah Palin?” contest.  I knew that I probably was going to enjoy what Slate was suggesting when the blurb started with a couple suggestions at what might be the worst line in Sarah’s new book, Going Rogue.  (Even though the choices both came from other publications, I have to say that the selections are every bit as overwritten and self-conscious as the title is obnoxious)  The contest, which everybody should undoubtedly enter, is limited to 150 words, and ends on Wednesday.  Your prize?  A lifetime of shame and self-loathing as well as seeing your words printed in Slate.  You have about 36 hours, time to get cracking!

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As far as staunch secular atheists go, I would like to think that I’m generally a pretty non-judgmental and opened minded one.  That being said, this story from the Los Angeles Times leaves a pretty bad taste in even my mouth.  Apparently, thanks to the efforts of producer Carl Amari, hundreds of well known actor have gotten together to lend their talents to a 79 CD (!)  audio compilation known as the, wait for it, “Word of Promise Audio Bible.”

Now, why do I (as the title of this post states) think this is a terrible idea?  For one, I can’t possibly imagine anybody who actually wants to own a 95 hour rendition of the New and Old Testaments, no matter how classily acted and scored it is.  Secondly, since when is Hollywood the land of the righteous?  I mean, if this is indeed the kind of thing that is going to be marketed toward the Bible-belt crowd (and how could it not be), why is it featuring voice acting straight from the land of drug use and premarital fornication?  Were Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck busy or something?  I don’t know about you guys, but to me, nothing says the Holy Bible like Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander (I can wager a guess as to which of the roles he’ll be playing).

All kidding and condescension aside, I can understand the thinking behind putting together a big budget rendition of the Bible from a dollars and cents perspective.  Mel Gibson proved a long time ago that there’s a market out there for religious adaptation.  However, on the flipside, projects like the Nativity Story also showed that people are picky about what problems they embrace.  With the CD generally looking like a dying medium, any Bible project on compact-disc that comes with a whopping price tag somewhere north of four million dollars is going to be a big risk.

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ABC, in their ever-continuing quest to duplicate the success of Lost, debuted their new remake of the 1980’s sci-fi series V.  Now, the people who watched it seemed to have had two almost universal critiques of the show.  The first was that it was only so-so, not terrible television, but not great either. The second was that it was very, very, surprisingly, specifically, critical of President Obama through the use of some ham-fisted metaphors.  Hold on, what the what?

Over at The New Republic, Jonathon Chait (a favorite here at the Void) wrote a little summary and reaction to the show that you should almost certainly read for yourself.  Before I let you go scurrying over there though, here’s one of my favorite highlights of Chait’s write up:

“The visitors are young, charismatic, futuristic, and have a one-worldish vision of peace. They target the young by enticing them to join an idealistic (but, in reality, sinister) youth group. A few perceptive humans warn of the dangers of hopping on the bandwagon before we know what the bandwagon is really about. The alien leader, Ana, promises to use futuristic technology to heal humans. “You mean universal health care!” gapes a reporter, who, naturally, has been co-opted by the aliens. Anna soothes skeptics by declaring that accepting change can be difficult. A small band of human resistors forms. The lead character is skeptical–what proof do you have she asks, besides some scary thing “you read on the internet.” But the seemingly hysterical message from the internet is true! The charismatic new leader is masking her true identity! The death panels are real! Etc., etc.”

In fairness, I should say that Chait later points out that there is still plenty of liberal bias in Hollywood (personally, I say that compassion and reality have a liberal bias, but that’s just me), and one show that has a conservative spin is hardly the end of the world.  I can agree with that.  Additionally, I’ve noticed that even when shows seem to exude principles that conservatives should appreciate, that particular crowd seems slow to catch on (I mean, Kings was based on the Book of David and it couldn’t find an audience?  Come on conservatives!).  So it’s not like the end of the world or anything, even if it is misguided and kind of a waste.

Additionally, I’ve got to admit, while this most definitely sounds like something that I should hate, the weird thing is, it might just prompt me into watching!  You see unlike Chait, I don’t have any nostalgia for the original series, in fact, I found it to be dull.  So originally I had planned on skipping V all together!  But now that it’s being describes as a sci-fi series for the Fox News crowd (and one that possess all the subtly of… well, Fox News), I don’t know if I will be able to keep myself from checking out the pilot.  If anybody is feeling similarly curious, you should be able to view the episode on ABC’s webpage for the show, but be forewarned, this might have been what those crafty ABC folks had in mind all along.

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Wild Things 2

So, Maurice Sendak is the man.  I mean, sure, he wrote a children’s book that has made him millions and millions of dollars.  Yes, he had the foresight to give his blessing to one of the most creative and talented directors in Hollywood to adapt the book into a film (which has thus far been both commercially and critically successful), but none of this is the reason why Maurice Sendak gets major props form me.  No, the reason that he is the subject of my praise is because in an interview with Newsweek magazine he displayed the cajones to tell uptight parents to shove it.

Apparently there has been a little bit of an outcry from some concerned parents over the fact that movie is too scary for their young children.  Like Mr. Sendak, I have no use for such complaints.  First off, the movie clearly was not made with children specifically in mind (I indicated as much in my review), a sentiment which was echoed in this very same interview by Spike Jonze who said of a disagreement with the movie studio that “they thought I was making a children’s film and I thought I was making a film about childhood,” though he later states that “I want children to see it, and it’s not like I made it not for children…” Mr. Sendak, meanwhile, is not nearly as political in his answer as Jonze is;

Newsweek: What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?
Sendak: I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.”

Wow.  Wonderful.  I love it.  But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The parents aren’t the only targets of Sendak’s scorn, he’s not hearing it from your whiney little kids either.  To them he says; “If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like.” Yeah!  Take that ten year olds!  Literally go wet yourselves!

All kidding aside, why do I find a crotchety, old, rich, white man taunting our nation’s youth to be so hilarious and justified?  Good question.  Two answers.  One, I have a twisted and morbid sense of humor and an irrational lack of patience for children.  Two, and more importantly, I think that taking these whiney parents seriously would be quite a faux pas in itself.  Listen, I don’t necessarily think that the kids should pee themselves, but I do think that Spike Jonze has taken Maurice Sendak’s book and made of the most profound and entertaining films about childhood ever made.  Nobody should have to apologize for that!  Kids find a lot of things to be scary, so do adults, a bunch of the time, those fears are pretty irrational and based on nothing.  Hell, when I was a kid, I was terrified of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Labyrinth, does that mean that either movie was particularly scary?  No, it certainly doesn’t.  Also, thank God that my parents didn’t go whining to Warner Brothers or David Bowie when I was stuck up at night!  That would not be sending any kind of message that anybody needs to hear.

Bottom line, Spike Jonze didn’t make a children’s movie out of Maurice Sendak’s book.  He made something better, and I agree with Mr. Sendak.  If that upsets you, you can just go to hell.

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Even putting quality aside entirely, there are a couple of problems that arise when trying to review the latest release from Flight of the Conchords.  The first lays behind the question of precisely what it is that you’re reviewing in the first place.  Is this comedy or is it music?  Are you looking for the songs to be funny or catchy, or do they need to be both?  Assuming you can answer that question, and considering the fact that I Told You I was Freaky is basically just a soundtrack to the television series, you have to be able to separate your expectations for what you’re hearing from whatever enjoyment (or lack thereof, depending on preference) you got from the show.  Of course, the easy solution to all of this is the good old fun-check.  If you’re having fun, than it’s all good.  Fortunately, when it comes to this criteria, Bret and Jemaine always seem to come through in the clutch.

When listening to this new set of songs, both over the course of the album and the course of the second season of the TV show, I was struck by the fact that there are a greater number of direct homages to other music than there was on the band’s previous release.  “We’re Both In Love With a Sexy Lady” is a pretty accurate facsimile of an R. Kelly jam.  “You Don’t Have To Be a Prostitute” is a nod to “Roxanne,” the old Police classic.  There are some undeniable elements of Billy Joel’s work in “Rambling Through the Avenue’s of Time.”  None of this is to say that the music isn’t enjoyable or funny, plenty of the songs really make me guffaw with every listen (“Bret: Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?  Jemaine: No I’m thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’”), but it’s occasionally a bit strange to hear the Conchords getting their Weird Al on.

Something that I was certainly pleased to discover is that the Conchords seemed more eager to branch out in terms of their musical style on this second album.  They still may be New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody act, but there are also some wicked hip hop, R&B, and dance tunes mixed in on I Told You I Was Freaky as well.  On the album’s opener, “Hurt Feelings,” they kick things off in full Hiphopopotamus and Rhymenoceros mode as they expose the tender side of rap; “Some people say that rappers don’t have feelings, we have feelings.  Some people say that we’re not rappers, we’re rappers.  It hurts our feelings when you say that we’re not rappers.” Just a few tracks later on “Demon Woman” (one of the album’s high points) they’re rocking out in the style of the cheesy hair rock of the 1980’s.  Travel just a few songs further and they unleash the hilarious and catchy “Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor),” which somehow manages to be just as danceable as anything on popular radio today.  Hell, even the pretty forgettable “Fashion Is Danger” manages to be less cringe inducing than anything you’ll hear out of (bizarrely) similar novelty acts like She Wants Revenge.

Despite the praise that I have heaped on the album thus far, it’s not without some problems.  Unlike the Conchords’ selt-titled “debut,” almost the entirety of I Told You I Was Freaky was written explicitly for the television show.  On the previous album, and in the previous television season, many of the best songs were tracks that the Conchords had already long been using in their act.  These were songs that had been fine tuned over time.  Fan favorites like “Business Time,” “Boom,” and “Think About It” are just a few of the tracks that had been poached from the guys’ act.  They had no such luxury for season two of the show or for this second LP.  In fact, the band themselves admitted that they had struggled in writing songs for the second season, it was one of their primary reasons behind not wanting to pursue doing a third (they didn’t want the quality of the work to suffer).  As such, the overall quality of the album tends to stretch a bit thin at some points, and some of the songs suffer without the accompanying plot or videos.  “Friends,” for example, really misses the Jim Gaffigan/Rhys Darby storyline that bolstered it, and “Sugalumps” isn’t nearly as enjoyable without the sight of Bret and Jemaine dancing around ridiculously.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by a few tracks that I had expected to suffer without their backstories and videos, but that actually held up really well.  “Carol Brown,” for example, came from one of the TV series’ strongest episodes and featured a snappy video directed by none other than Michel Gondry, but the song still had me tapping my feet in rhythm and singing along when I listened to it through my earphones.  My experience was similar when I heard “Petrov, Yelena, and Me,” even without the cute little DIY-styled video that had originally accompanied the song, the Eastern European influenced folk yarn was surprisingly funny and enjoyable all on its own.

To go back to the questions that I half-posed at the top of this review, the album almost always succeeds on at least a humorous or musical level, and often manages to do both at the same time.  I Told I Was Freaky may not hold up quite as well on repeat listens as their previous album, but it still manages to be fun to run through whether you’re familiar with the songs or hearing them for the first time.  Coming from New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody act, that’s not too bad.

SCORE: 3.1 out of 5.0

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I’ll be the first to admit it, I was not-so-secretly laughing at Muammar Gaddafi when he demanded to be told who was truly behind the JFK assassination in front of the United Nations a couple of weeks back.  While I’m still laughing at him, all of a sudden I’m not laughing quite as hard.  According to the New York Times the C.I.A. is fighting to keep secret a number of documents detailing a clash between a Cuban anti-Castro group and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The C.I.A. says it is only protecting legitimate secrets. But because of the agency’s history of stonewalling assassination inquiries, even researchers with no use for conspiracy thinking question its stance.”

Now it’s of little surprise that there are still documents about the Kennedy assassination that are being kept classified, it’s far from a secret that this is the case, but that doesn’t make it any less confusing.  The Kennedy assassinations have long been something of an Americana-obsession, people just can’t get enough of it, and withholding documents only adds fuel to the fire of conspiracy nuts.  I really can’t imagine that anything contained in those documents could be particularly damaging to national security at this point.  Worst case scenario is probably that there is some information that could be potentially embarrassing to the government, but we’re so far removed from that generation at this point, how bad could it possibly be?  I mean, we survived Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, I’m sure we can handle whatever is in those files.

This sentiment is also echoed in the Times piece:

“Gerald Posner, the author of an anti-conspiracy account of the J.F.K. assassination, “Case Closed,” said the C.I.A.’s withholding such aged documents was “a perfect example of why nobody trusts the agency.”

“It feeds the conspiracy theorists who say, ‘You’re hiding something,” ’ Mr. Posner said.”

While the fact that this all reads like something out of an old pulp novel is humorous, the fact that crazy conspiracy nuts are going to have more to complain about and point to is more irritating than funny at this point.

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