REVIEW: AMERICAN VANDAL

MAIN CAST

Tyler Alvarez (The Pretenders)
Griffin Gluck (Just Go With it)
Jimmy Tatro (22 Jump Street)
Camille Hyde (Power Rangers Dino Charge)
Eduardo Franco (Adam ruins Everything)
Lukas Cage (Sickhouse)
Jessica Juarez ICebox)
Lou Wilson (The Guest Book)
Camille Ramsey (My Sister and I)
Calum Worthy (Lost Generation)
G Hannelius (Dog With A Blog)
Saxon Sharbino (Poltergeist)
Gabriela Fresquez (New Girl)

American Vandal, Netflix’s send-up of true-crime series like The Jinx and Making a Murderer, isn’t for everyone. There’s maybe one too many dick jokes, more glamour shots of toilets than anyone would probably care to see, and an overwhelming amount of shaky-cam footage. But as an examination of today’s teen culture, it’s surprisingly perceptive. The series, created by Funny or Die’s Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, works as a story-within-a-story: On one level it’s a documentary being filmed and edited by Hanover High’s finest mini-Andrew Jareckis, a pair of students named Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck), who want to find out whether the class doofus Dylan (Jimmy Tatro) really spray-painted 27 you-know-whats onto the cars in the faculty parking lot of their school. On a more meta level, their actions wind up influencing their classmates’ reputations, along with their own.And that’s where the series shines. The vast cast of characters — ranging from the protest-happy senior class president to the attention-seeking loner who’s still wearing braces, from the unanimously considered hottest girl in school to the nerdiest-looking kid who gets along with everyone, from the no-nonsense football coach to the overeager young history teacher — all have secrets and potential motives for either pulling the penile prank or throwing Dylan under the bus.untitledHaving such an expansive web of players to work with helps the series make its installments feel whole, despite its, well, flaccid premise. The idea of satirizing true-crime docs through the lens of two teen wannabe filmmakers sounds like a nifty idea for a single sketch instead of eight longer-than-half-hour episodes, but the longer run time allows Yacenda and Perrault to dig deep into the nuances of high-school friendships, hookups, and rivalries. And they deftly take advantage of that real estate: Midway through the series, a standout scene between Peter and Sam forces the two to investigate each other’s potential involvement in the lewd doodles and results in the best friends confronting each other’s obsession and oversight with the case. They end up putting, on camera, secrets they’ve shared with each other that they would rather not have everyone see, if it were not for the fact that they want to capture everything in their footage. It’s oddly true to the way two teens would argue with each other; both fail to understand how to compromise and move about their rift in a mature way.pUxeCE5T1y3RVglZpbn3_Vandal-4Of course, American Vandal has plenty of lighter moments too, many of which have nothing to do with the potty humor that forms its foundation. The series gives Yacenda and Perrault a chance to skewer YouTube influencers, teen texting habits, gaming culture, and even Kiefer Sutherland. And then there are little details that’ll delight viewers who get into the story: Minor players get their own arcs throughout, much of the “footage” the two collect are filmed vertically like most smartphone videos, and Alvarez gives a particularly impressive performance in his voiceover, adopting the cadence of professional documentarians yet letting certain teen biases slip through. Alvarez isn’t the only one to give a note-perfect performance, though. The series cast relatively unknown teen actors who manage to capture the ridiculous drama with deadpan line-readings and an air of naïveté, and the adult players look just wary enough of being filmed for a student’s “documentary” while letting their younger counterparts steal the scenes.Screen_Shot_2017_08_03_at_2_08_41_PM_0All in all, it’s an impressive tightrope walk. Highly recommend checking out.

 

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REVIEW: MASCOTS

CAST

Jane Lynch (Glee)
Parker Posey (Superman Returns)
Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Christopher Moynihan (Man Up!)
Don Lake (Zootopia)
Zach Woods (Veep)
Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
John Michael Higgins (Yes Man)
Sarah Baker (Tammy)
Harry Shearer (The Simpsons)

Mascots is Directed by Christoper Guest and follows a bunch of different Mascots from around the world who are about to compete in the World Mascot Association Championships where the winners receive “Fluffies”. If a mascot wins one of these awards it is possible that it could change their life forever. This film is structured just like a few of Christopher Guest’s other films including A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman. It is filmed as a documentary with the characters being fictional.The best part of this film is, by far, the crazy assortment of characters that we follow. From a married couple that is constantly trying to hold back their anger for each other, to a English man who wants to try and add a new routine to his families old mascot routine but keeps getting rejected by his father. These characters are hilarious to watch and follow. When you see them go through their routines in and out of the costumes you can’t help but smile and, sometimes, laugh so hard you have to leave the room. The thing that makes this film really stand out is just how seriously the people involved take this competition. It seems like a really stupid thing to have a contest for the best mascot, however everyone involved treats it like a professional Football championship or the Oscars. It is so important to them and because they are pursuing their passions and their dreams you connect with them and desperately want them to do well int the competition.Overall Mascots is a very effective comedy that has some truly hilarious moments. There are just some parts where the film just misses the opportunities to be really great.

REVIEW: COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE

CAST

Mark Hamill (Star wars)
Billy West (Futurama)
Donna D’Errico (Candyman 3)
Roger Rose (Happy Feet)
Jess Harnell (Taz-Mania)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Jill Talley (Sky High)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Jeremy Bulloch (A Night To Remember)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: TBATB)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Peter Mayhew (Star Wars)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Kevin Smith (Dogma)
Hugh Hefner (Hop)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Lloyd Kaufman (Tales From The Crapper)
David Prowse (Star Wars)
Matt Groening (The Simpsons)
Arleen Sorkin (Batman: TAS)
Ray Harryhausen (20 Million Miles To Earth)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Gary Owens(That 70s Show)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
J.J. Abrams (Alias)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)

Image result for comic book the movie
The story centers around Don Swan (Hamill), a middle-aged high school teacher and comics aficionado from Wisconsin who owns his own comic book store and even publishes a fanzine about the Golden Age of comics. He’s invited by a Hollywood film studio to be a technical consultant on a movie based on a comic, which in turn was based on a Golden Age comic he’s loved since childhood. It’s his insight Timely Studios wants to help make a good movie… or at least that’s what he thinks.
The fictional comic in question is “Commander Courage,” a WWII-era superhero who is a composite of every legendary, patriotic superhero ever (Superman, Captain America, the Lone Ranger, etc.). He’s got super powers, wears a mask, has a boy sidekick and fights the Nazis. This character eventually faded away but was resurrected as “Codename: Courage” after 9/11. The new version is updated for the times, but to Don’s chagrin, perhaps a little too modern. This new guy embodies every cliche of the mysterious loner/badass-to-the-extreme/tough-as-nails government assassin-type “superhero” to come out of comics in the last 15 years. Or, imagine every action movie character ever played by Stallone, Van Damme, Segal and Schwarzenegger all rolled into one. Now imagine what a movie company would like to do with a character like that!
Image result for comic book the moviePoor Don, he thinks he can actually persuade the studio execs to keep the Courage character close to his original conception and not ignore his 60-year history. Lori Alan and Roger Rose co-star as the vain, uptight, greedy movie moguls who are just using Don to endorse the film at the hugely popular San Diego Comic Con where over 60,000 other geeks are hoping for a sneak peek. After all, no word of mouth endorsements or condemnations travel faster than at the speed of geek. They even provide Don with a Tommy Chong-esque cameraman named Ricky (Jess Harnell) to document everything as a DVD bonus feature.
As is the case with most mockumentaries, there isn’t really a plot to “Comic Book: The Movie,” it’s more of a meandering story of Don’s journey to Hollywood and then to the comic book convention and his feeble attempt to convince the world the original, wholesome character would make a better movie than the gritty one. Don is so committed to his quest he even has a Commander Courage costume professionally made and hires an actor to wear it at the convention CBTM2(Daran Norris is sublime as the clueless patsy). Don’s work on his fanzine manages to get him some pretty big contacts in Los Angeles too, most notably filmmaker Kevin Smith, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, and cult movie star Bruce Campbell. All three are genuinely interested in Don’s mission to keep the movie from becoming another lame potboiler. Voice actor extraordanaire Billy West (best known for Fry on Futurama) co-stars as Leo, the long-lost grandson of Commander Courage’s creator who has no idea of the royalties he’s entitled to. Leo’s very shy and not too bright, but over the course of a few days will be seduced by the Hollywood scene and the way he changes is hilarious.
The film was shot entirely on video with hand held cameras to make it look as if you were watching a TV news magazine, or, dare I say it – MTV. It’s an original way to tell the story since the majority of the film takes place at the giant convention with thousands of people walking around. Shooting it this way makes it more believable when we see people standing around watching the main characters talk and even getting in on the action too.
The only problem I had was that sometimes it’s difficult to tell where Comic Book: The Movie ends and the movie-within-the-movie begins. We occasionally see the “real” movie’s camera crew through Ricky’s camera, but unlike Ricky, these guys are never acknowledged. I didn’t feel this was a wink at the camera in-joke, but more of a sloppy filmming technique. It probably would have worked better had the actual movie been shot on film with Ricky’s video footage intercut when necessary instead of at random. The constant back and forth and the appearance of boom mikes is disorienting and confusing. Obviously, Comic Book: The Movie is targeted at a specific audience, and being part of that demographic I couldn’t help but enjoy it. To the non-comics fan it might come across as silly, but there’s really a lot of intelligent satire to be found here.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER / UNDER THE HOOD

 

 

 

TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER

CAST (VOICES)

Gerard Butler (300)
Cam Clarke (He-Man 2003)
Jared Harris (Lincoln)

Watchmen was a great movie, and a great comic-book adaptation . It’s true that the metafictitious Tales Of The Black Freighter comic story was a marvellous little additional plot device which nicely mirrored The Watchmen’s main story and was allegorical of many of the main characters’ – specifically Ozymandias’ – bloody paths to becoming what they most hated, all paved with good intentions. It fitted nicely within the pages of the comic books and all was well-and-good. Tales Of The black Freighter was never likely to make it into the movie-proper though and – as much as those purist geeks may disagree – it is far from an essential part of the story, however much I may personally have liked to see it on celluloid. I was delighted, therefore, when I heard that, so dedicated were Zack Snyder and Co. to providing the closest possible rendering to the source text/art, that they would be releasing a near-coinciding straight-to-DVD animation of Black Freighter.

Tales Of The Black Freighter is, like Watchmen, a painstakingly accurate re-telling of the meta-comic on which it is based, but I’m sure that this time the complaint will be that, when no longer juxtaposed in context to the principal narrative, the once well-timed symbolism somewhat loses it’s impact. They may well be right, of course, and maybe releasing this separately sold DVD – which also includes a well-conceived 1985 period-themed Under The Hood author’s spotlight feature – could be construed as a little cynical when the Black Freighter itself is a mere 20 minutes long, but then if it weren’t made available until bundled with the Watchmen’s DVD release then it couldn’t be viewed as a companion piece until long after the film had left the cinemas.

 

As an addendum to The Watchmen movie, Tales Of The Black Freighter entirely succeeds.

CAST

Ted Friend (Elf)
Stephen McHattie (300)
William S. Taylor (Scary Movie 3)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Texas Killing Fields)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)

UNDER THE HOOD

 

DC put together this short documentary as a companion piece extra to the “source” of the film, which itself is a take-off on the in-between chapters of the Watchmen book. Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl in Watchmen, writes an autobiography chronicling the history of the costumed heroes that are a big deal in the 40s, then becoming less of a “fad” in the 1950s and then being outlawed, all with the prose of who was originally a NYC police officer. It’s a series of interviews done in faux 1970 style TV (even includes a few “vintage” commercials, one of the three actually quite funny), with an interviewer who gets the actors playing the characters to improvise (or maybe it’s all written, I can see that very well being the case as well) on the subjects posed and raised. It’s fun to watch and a little clever. It’s a nice companion to the film.

REVIEW: RABBIT FEVER

CAST

Lisa Barbuscia (Highlander: Endgame)
Julian Rhind-Tutt (Lucy)
Tara Summers (Mercy Street)
Flora Montgomery (Basic Instinct 2)
Emma Buckley (Venus)
Sienna Guillory (Eragon)
Stefanie Powers (Hart To Hart)

A superb comedy! How refreshing to see a movie that’s original , inventive on every level and one that builds on the subtleties of cinematic humour – particularly when it comes to dealing with the delicate subject of sex toys. There were many moments of side-splitting hilarity that, because they’re delivered with such comedic tenacity, leave you wanting more.

The writer hits the nail on the head. The fact that it’s his first movie and was independently made on a tight budget can only give us faith. Again, how refreshing for the British movie industry.

The acting throws up some wonderful performances – from the new faces to a collection of cameo appearances. Of the cameos, I don’t spoil it by saying Germaine Greer, Tom Conti, Stefanie Powers and Sir Richard Branson inject a superb originality into proceedings that makes you sit up and wonder if you’re actually watching a real-life documentary. Branson’s role is particularly convincing. Of the new faces, my particular favourites were Sharon Gavin as the girlfriend of the Chelsea FC fanatic and the foppish Julian Rhind-Tutt as Rupert.  Every performance delivers though and the fact that you are watching a truly eclectic cast makes the experience yet more memorable.