I was born a poor black child.
Aaron has written 13 posts for a 3 Word Review

21 Jump Street, Pilot Episode Part 1 (1987) – Aaron’s Episode Recap

I was surprised, much like a few of my friends, when I found the new 21 Jump Street movie to be way better than expected.  Seriously, the film was too damn entertaining.  The kind of entertaining that when I talk about it to a friend, I get tempted to go see it again.

Basically, the film is a reboot of the popular television show by the same name….obviously.  You know, the Stephen J Cannell show that made Johnny Depp a teen heart throb?  The one about young looking cops going undercover at different high schools?  The one that, if memory serves me, I watched religiously every week, every Season….well until the Richard Greico years.  Yeah, that one.

Well after seeing the film (which you should really go see if you haven’t yet), I decided to revisit the original 21 Jump Street television show.  And thankfully, all episodes are available on Hulu so I didn’t have to do much digging.  Upon revisiting the first episode, the theme song immediately rushed back with a flood of memories of my childhood love of this show.  Not to mention, the damn song (which is sung by Holly Robinson) has been stuck in my head now for days.

So since I am now making it a mission to re-watch every episode (yes even the Richard Greico ones), I found it only fair to share my thoughts in an episode by episode recap on here.  How exciting for you!

Let’s begin, shall we….

It’s April 12th, 1987 and the two part pilot episode of 21 Jump Street directed by Kim Manners (X Files, The Shield, Supernatural) premiered on broadcast television.  Part 1 opens on a typical suburban family arguing about something stupid.  Almost immediately, I’m reminded how goofy television programming used to be.  Compared to what we have to choose from nowadays, it’s as if this gem was found locked up in a time capsule of sorts.  Then again, it WAS the 80’s!

So yeah, here we have slutty sister arguing with mom about something completely unimportant.  What is amusing is the mother interrupts telling her to eat real food by calling her “Anorexia”.  See?  The 80s were amazing!

Soon we’re at the dinner table and this family is talking about nothing important what-so-ever.  Soon the younger of the siblings Kenny joins the table.  He’s taking clarinet lessons.  It’s the same clarinet his father used to play when he was Kenny’s age!  And he seems to give a shit as much about this detail as I do.

Just when things couldn’t get more boring, Michael Jackson and Dr Dre bust in right through the sliding glass doors.  They just walk right through it like the fucking Kool Aid Man because glass is a pussy when you got shot guns and are wearing a Thriller jacket!

Suddenly, things get interesting.  Apparently, little clarinet nerd Kenny owes the scary black men money.  This kid’s acting is a bit too over the top and honestly, I wanted 80s Eddie Murphy to clock him one.  Instead, he shoots the microwave.  Or maybe it was the TV?  They both looked similar back then. But whatever, you get the gist.  Drug money, Kenny owes them a bunch.  For collateral, they take the father’s brand new Jaguar instead.  And here my friends, is the high school story setup for the episode!

Cut to, some diner.  A fat old cop and young rookie are talking rather loudly while leaving the bathroom.  Lo and behold, it’s fucking Marty Seinfeld and Captain Jack Sparrow!

But seriously, that’s Officer Tom Hanson and his training officer Charlie.  Charlie is basically running him through the motions of what seasoned cops do since Hanson is an eager straight out of the Academy type.  After a few minutes of banter back and forth, they receive a call and head over to Kenny’s family’s house.

While they talk with the family about the stolen car (because that’s all they reported), Kenny is nowhere to be found.  Oh, wait, no…he’s just kicking it on the stairs.  All reclining n shit.

And here comes Officer Hanson to charm him with his good looks and boyish charm?

Sadly, Officer Hanson’s charm doesn’t work on little Kenny.  All leaned back like a boss, he replies to him defiantly by saying, “I won’t tell you spit!”  Spit?  Really?  Ok, dude.  Whatever.

And here we are, at the 10 minute mark of the episode.  From here, Hanson and Charlie drive around a bit.  A robbery happens at a local liquor store and they drive by the car full of criminals.  Charlie instinctively stops and asks them how they’re doing and then points out they are stopped at a green light.  This turns into a car chase with Hanson behind the wheel which damn near causes the old man to die of a heart attack.  Once they finally have the culprits handcuffed on the side of the road Charlie leaves young Hanson (who seems like he’s never held a gun before) to guard the group alone while he goes to call for backup.  Yeah…

 A fight breaks out, all but one of the guys get away.  Their squad car? Stolen.  And as an added bonus from the altercation, Hanson accidentally busts Charlie’s nose.  Way to go, hot shot.

From this incident, the Captain decides it’d be best to move Hanson to a new program that he’d be perfect for.   The kind of assignment he’d be too old for in ten years time.  See, there’s an undercover unit that works out of an old abandoned chapel on Jump Street and 6th.  They take the young officers and train them to be high school students.  Undercover work.  In high schools.  (You all knew this when you started reading so don’t look at me like that!)

Well Officer Hanson isn’t having it.  He walks out as the Captain recalls what a great offer young Hanson’s dad was.  This leads us to a nice little pensive interlude with Officer Tom Hanson and his precious saxophone.

This is followed by a voice over memory of a conversation between Hanson and his father.  And bing bang boom, he’s soon driving up to the church on Jump Street.  Seriously, we’re almost halfway through this episode.  When do we get more scary black thugs!? Yes, this is the point of the episode where Aaron starts getting impatient.

But that’s okay, because we are finally introduced to the Jump Street gang!

The first we see is Doug Penhall.  He’s kind of the loud mouth meat head of the group.  I guess it’s only fitting since Peter DeLuise is the son of the late Dom Deluise.  Am I right or am I right?  Well I kind of AM right because it’s true.

Here, Penhall is discussing with Hanson whether or not this abandoned chapel they are in is truly a church as he thinks it may be a synagogue.  His mom is Jewish which means, in his words, “I get to celebrate both guilt and Hell.”  I like this guy.

And he is hanging with Officer Harry Truman Ioki so that’s the next person we meet.  So there he is.  All suave.  Just leaning back in his chair like a boss n shit.

Hanson explains he’s there to report to Captain Richard Jenko.  Here’s a fun little piece of trivia: Jenko is the name of Channing Tatum’s character in the 21 Jump Street movie.  How exciting to know and then share this fun fact with you.  Because it’s a fact, and fun!

Soon enters Captain Richard Jenko, who’s been a Deadhead since Woodstock.  How peachy.

Wait….where’s the angry black Captain?  I don’t remember this guy. I want the angry black guy!

Whatever….anyway….Jenko walks Hanson through the place and runs him through his new assignment.  Basically, he is to be trained to be a high school student again.  Multiple comments about Hanson’s “Richie Cunningham” hairdo and style later, Jenko calls in Judy Hoffs to help transform the young officer.

Woohoo!  Hot chick!

And then it’s off to wardrobe and to some weird haircut place that I probably would have found cool in the 80s but looks a bit creepy now.  The rabbit’s face says it all.

After what seems like a very long time waiting, Hanson exits looking like they just wet his hair and sprayed it with Aqua Net or something.

Soon, Hoffs and Hanson are out at the arcade playing video games while Hoffs suggestively eats a hot dog.  Or maybe not suggestively.  But I’m a guy.  So that’s how we see things.

Oh and now they’re record shopping!?  Come on!  There’s bad black men with shotguns and sunglasses out there that need to be captured!

Finally, we get to some action.  And I guess the action is taking place outside of some New Wave Goth Club or something.  Yeah, I know from experience but those places look way scarier than they are.  But still, remember when studded leather jackets made you seem hard?

Don’t look now, but here comes the creepy neighborhood sex offender in his rapist van!

Penhall knows what’s up!  He angrily throws his beer right at the creepy pedophile.

 Oh but nevermind, it’s angry hippy Jenko behind the wheel!  Hoffs, Hanson and Ioki are stone cold kicking it in the back of the van too.  What really just went down was Penhall exposing the “mark” for Hanson to bust.  Some other dude with an annoying haircut who is apparently a drug dealer.  Psssh….white people.

Anyway, as I said, this altercation is basically to show Hanson who to take down.  This is his first test to make sure he can blend in.  And yep, he fails.  Goes to arrest the guy after he sells him the weed.  He even insists on smelling it before buying and after he cuffs the guy, it turns out to be a pair of socks in the baggie.  A pair of socks!? Jenko ain’t pleased.

Oh hey!  Remember young Kenny?  Yeah me neither, it’s been so long.  You know, the kid that ain’t gonna tell us piss?  The clarinet nerd?  The whiny kid that owes those scary black boys a bunch of drug money?  Yeah, now I remember too!  Well look at that, with 10 minutes left in the episode, we find him driving through a residential neighborhood very early in the morning on his moped delivering newspapers.  What an upstanding young man!

Oh wait, nevermind.  He’s robbing a jewelry store.  My bad.

Next thing we know, the Jump Street cops are catching up with Jenko about their recent assignments and Hanson gets his first real one.  He is to enter Amherst High School as a disciplinary transfer.  And as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself parking in the wrong parking spot.  Who’s parking spot is he in?  Waxer! Who’s Waxer?  My favorite shotgun wielding, Thriller jacket having, stunner shade wearing black guy!

Him and his cohort end up having a stand off with Hanson who refuses to move his car and this turns into a scuffle pretty fast.  A crowd of kids form to watch the new guy fight the only two black kids in school.  At least it seems like they’re the only two black kids.  And they look like they’re 25.  But whatever.

So the fight gets broken up, they end up in the principal’s office.  Yadda yadda.  And then, just as the episode is about to end, guess who decides to join the party?  That’s right.  Kenny.  Cuz he goes to Amherst High School too!

Oh snap.

And on a threat from Waxer to Hanson, Part 1 of The Pilot Episode Ends.

To Be Continued…


Drive Angry (2011) – A Dirty Movie

[Writer’s Note: I’d like to sincerely
apologize for the following review.  I’m slowly delving into a state of delusional madness. I can neither confirm nor deny whether I was under the influence of The Dark Lord Jebidiah’s mind control device at the time this was written or if it was just a bad case of mustard gas (so much dijon…so much).  As always, thank you for your patronage and please send help.
– Aaron]

It’s been 14 days since I went under the knife to have my right foot cut open and a piece of myself removed to ultimately help me walk without my character enhancing limp that I had developed over the past few years.  I have 7 more days until this annoying pin is removed from my foot (the one currently sticking out of the top of my foot while holding my big toe bone in place).  And since this gruesome act was performed on my right foot, I have been stuck in my own form of Vicodin laced purgatory.  Unable to drive, barely able to walk, I’ve been left mostly to my own devices.

To prepare for this three weeks of disability, I downloaded e-books, I bought video games and made a list of movies I needed to watch.  I planned to write every day and stay productive in a furtive attempt to keep myself from going completely nuts from cabin fever. What I didn’t take into consideration was the lackadaisical state said medication would put my mind in.  Nor did I realize how difficult it’d be to make myself a pot of fucking coffee every day!

But alas, I’ve been managing.  I’ve played my fair share of video games and have watched way too much TV but nothing was really striking my mental cords driving me to write damn near anything.  That was until last night when I finally sat down (like I can stand much, really…geesh) to watch Drive Angry.  I’m not quite sure what finally got me to give the movie a chance.  I had missed the panel at SDCC, avoided it in theaters (because Nicolas Cage movies = batshit crazy time = money well spent somewhere else?), and then kinda made friends with Todd Farmer who wrote the damn thing.  At that point, I felt like I shouldn’t watch it at all because…well…what if the damn thing sucked?

And trust me, I’ve read my fair share of hate on this movie!  I didn’t want to watch it because then I’d have to tell Mr. Farmer how much I hated it.  Then again, after hanging out with him the few times I have, he’d probably get off on such verbal abuse.  But anyway…

I sat down and watched this movie while somewhat drunk and possibly on a Vicodin high (I can neither confirm nor deny this).  Well fuck a monkey and call it Christmas time, I enjoyed the shit outta this film!

Here’s the basic rundown of this fantastic piece of cellulose…

Milton (Nicolas Cage) escapes from Hell driving a classic muscle car.  I couldn’t tell you what kind, because I don’t really care.  His mission, to avenge his daughter’s death and to rescue his kidnapped granddaughter.  Along the way, he acquires a sidekick named Piper (Amber Heard) who really for the most part doesn’t much question the crazy bonkers violent shit happening around her.  Instead, she just jumps right into the fun.  Oh, and of course she also drives a classic muscle car…and is hot.  Because, I mean, why the fuck not, right?  So Milton and Piper are hunting down this crazy ass cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) who is responsible for some very bad things and this nicely dressed Accountant (William Fichtner) is hunting down Milton.  Why?  Because he’s an Accountant from Hell!  Make sense?  Good.

There’s more to it than that like boobs, blood, explosions, car chases, gun fights, more explosions and some random demonic shenanigans. It sounds ridiculous because it is and that’s why it works.  Many people have watched this film and have left upset and let down because they wanted a serious action film.  Obviously, this movie was not made for them.  Who it was made for, though, are those who appreciate some worth while Grindhouse style entertainment.

What I wanted in a movie was something that didn’t require much of any thinking.  Something that would take me on a ride, feed my eyes the candy it was yearning for, while ultimately delivering something trashy and fun at the same time.

When I told Todd Farmer (who also appears in the movie…naked for a time) I was watching his film, he told me it was a dirty movie and I was a dirty girl for watching it.  But that can’t be true, because if I was such a dirty girl, how do you explain the shame boner Drive Angry gave me?

You can’t, can you?

Drive Angry was written by Todd Farmer and directed by Patrick Lussier. It is currently available on DVD, Blu Ray and On Demand.

Theater, Drama, Basketball. – A Conversation With Junk’s Kevin Hamedani and Brett Davern

A few months back, my friend Kevin Hamedani (Zombies Of Mass Destruction) invited me to a private screening of his recently finished movie Junk.  All I had known about the film was that he directed it and our mutual friend Brett Davern (Awkward, Beautiful Ohio) was one of the actors in the film.  Truthfully, I’ve become jaded with movies friends make and had low expectations with the film.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed it so much, I repetitively requested Brett and Kevin set aside time to talk about the film with me.

Synopsis: Kaveh and Raul are two b-movie co-writers who have suffered a bitter falling out. Kaveh’s lost his girlfriend, and spends his days getting high in his apartment, while Raul is off studying at Columbia University. But when one of their films (“Islama-rama 2”) is accepted by a film festival, the two ex-friends are forced to tentatively re-connect in order to pitch their script to the mysterious producer, Yukio Tai (James Hong). Along the way, they will have to brave brutish bodyguards, cutthroat colleagues, inept agents, romantic entanglements, prima donna actors, and the trials of their own bitter friendship.

Finally, one cold night in December, Brett and Kevin took me up on my offer and met me at a local bar where we sat down and talked about Junk, Samurai movies and Gremlins 3 (It’s real, people!).

So who do we have here?

BD – “Brett. Davern. With a D.”

KH – “Kevin. Hamedani.”

And we’re here to talk about Junk.  So, Kevin, tell me about the movie.

KH – “Well, I co-wrote it with Ramon Isao.”

Whom also is your co-star in the film.

KH – “Yes.”

Was there anything else he partnered with you on to get this film made?

KH – “No, I directed it.  We co-wrote it. And that was his acting debut as well.”

And how did Brett get involved?

KH – “Well we -”

BD – “I basically told Kevin I was not going to audition.”

KH – “Hah, yeah that’s right.”

BD – “And I was joking. Just joking around but then he called me and he was like NO! You can have this part! And I was like, OK let’s do it!”

Did you write the part of Billy with Brett in mind?

KH – “Yes.  Well, Ramon came up with the idea of a liaison. I came up with the idea of him being a Christian.  And then when we really started talking about it, I saw Brett in my head wearing one of his sweaters.”

(Brett just nods and smiles.)

KH – “We did this play back in high school…”

Wait wait wait, hold on.  You both went to high school together?

BD – “Yes.”

KH – “And middle school.”

BD – “Kevin and I have known each other a long time.  We grew up together in Edmonds, Washington.”

KH – “Theater, Drama, Basketball.”

BD – ” We played on the same basketball teams growing up.  We did theater together.”

KH – “Brett was in my first play.  The first thing I ever wrote and directed.”

BD – “That’s right, it was a one act for Edmonds Woodway High School’s One Act Festival. Yeah it was great!  It was a detective’s drama. A mystery.”

KH – “Damn, you remember!”

BD – “Yeah, it was awesome.”

And somehow, your paths have crossed again.  Both moving to Los Angeles, and Brett is still acting in work you’ve written and directed.

KH – “We have collaborated in one way or the other.  Even in high school when I shot this little film, Brett was there.  He even shot some scenes.”

BD – “I even held the camera a little bit.”

KH – “We both loved films growing up and were fortunate enough to have the same classes. We were both the better actors of our grade, which isn’t saying much.  It was like ten actors total in our high school.  But still, we were two of the few who actually believed we could do this for the rest of our lives.”

BD – “Yeah, I think you find those people.  You gravitate towards them.  We would sit in the back of Science class and read the AFI Top 100 book and debate, you know, whether Godfather was better than Godfather 2.”

KH – “2 was way better.”

BD – “Right!?”

Godfather 2 is totally better.

BD – “I believe we’ve come to a consensus. So we gravitated towards each other because of our similar interests but then went our different paths after high school. I took a year off and then went to a little conservatory in New York.  Kevin went to University Of Washington and went the four year route.”

KH – “Brett leaving was always kind of inspiring to me. I guess you have to relocate sometimes to really focus and make your dream a reality.  I was in comfy Seattle maybe a year too long.”

BD – “Yeah but where-as I would come back and visit you in your dorms, I was jealous of what you were doing.”

The grass is always greener.

KH – “The grass is always greener.”

BD – “We were always staying in touch and stuff.  I then moved to L.A. and at some point I was up in Seattle visiting and Kevin was shooting his movie Zombies Of Mass Destruction.”

KH – “And I wanted Brett to play a role in it.  I thought he was going to.”

BD – “Oh yeah!  I came in and read for you.”

KH – “There wasn’t even a question. He was perfect.  Brett had just done his first feature Beautiful Ohio.  It was a really Hollywood film so Brett was in The Union.  And we were like a no budget indie.  So I was like…he has a manager?  I don’t even know where to begin! And we didn’t end up going SAG, so…”

BD – “Yeah that’s the thing.  It was a Non Union film so I couldn’t be a part of it.”

So Kevin, speaking of, talk a little about Zombies Of Mass Destruction.

KH – “Woah, okay.  I haven’t done this in some time…Zombies is a low budget horror/comedy/satire kind of in the vein of  Shaun Of The Dead and Dr. Strangelove about contemporary politics put in a genre film.  It’s about Middle Eastern people and terrorism and post 9/11 hysteria…uh….with zombies.”

And you did this with Ramon?

KH – “That’s where Ramon and I first started working together.  We grew up together and met him way before I knew Brett.  I was a little kid and my neighbor was Ramon and his family.  Ramon was five years older so he and my brother were friends. I used to tag along.  And then, of course, I lost touch with Ramon.  So I wrote Zombies and got the producer attached and I kept insisting it was really not ready.  I went through a couple of writers that didn’t work out.  Ramon had just come back from Japan and was pursuing a writing degree at Columbia.  So I asked him if he’d want to write a scene to see if he clicks.  He wrote the gas station scene and that was it.  I was like, oh okay! That’s easy!  And that was it.”

So from the experience of being on the festival circuit for ZMD, came the idea which inspired your new film Junk.
KH – “That is correct.  ZMD did a lot of festivals, fortunately.  Ramon and I went to the first festival together. ”

Were these mainly horror film festivals?

KH – “No.  Actually more ‘arty farty’ festivals.  It was considered like a midnight genre festival film.  You know what I mean?  Because it had a political tint to it.  So anyway, Ramon and I met.  First festival we went to was in D.C. and it was a weird experience.  He went back to New York and I spent the rest of the year doing film festivals.  He decided to come to one last film festival almost a year later and we met up in Austin.  I started telling him all these festival story ideas.  And then from there, we started to discuss about if it was a film.  Then I met two filmmakers who are now my friends.  They shared the same special effects artist that we had for ZMD.  We started talking at the film festival and it turned out they had a similar script that Ramon and I had.  We both had a Western script that we both were trying to pitch to Michael Keaton.  Anyway…yeah that’s where the idea came from. And while we were in the writing process, we started hanging out with Brett because he lives ten minutes away.  And then it just came together.  It’s like the universe was telling us what the film was going to be.”

Was it planned then for both you and Ramon to not only co-write Junk but also co-star in it as well?

KH – “First it was nope, I’m not going to act in it.  Then, I don’t think I’m going to act in it.  Then I did a little acting for Lynn Shelton, this director in Seattle.  I did okay, there was a lot of improv.  She does this improvisational Mumblecore style that I was not very familiar with.  So I was on her set and we were improvising.  She had two cameras and it was really fun.  So then I decided maybe it’s not that hard.”

BD – “Bit by the bug again!”

KH – “That’s right.  I hadn’t acted in a long time but as any actor will tell you, you do it after a long break and it’s still fun.”

BD – “And Kevin was the best actor at our school. He was much better than me.”

KH – “No!”

BD – “He’d win contests.”

KH – “Okay maybe in high school but not anymore.”

BD – “Contests and scholarships, all kinds of things.  He was very very good.”

So were you planning on casting for the roles of Raul and Kaveh?

KH – “We weren’t even that far.  We were outlining and were already thinking Brett and we were thinking my roommate Cooper.  We were saying, ‘Who else can we get?’ I knew my friend Nick could be in it.  And Cooper played Conner in the film.  So anyway, long story short, by the middle of rehearsal, I kept seeing Ramon as Raul.  Whenever he would pitch me a joke in the writer’s room, he’d act it out.  Ever since ZMD, and he’d always make me laugh.  So I was like, duh!  If he can do that in front of me and he can do that in front of a camera, we’re fine.  So we went out for a smoke and I was like, ‘Let’s get this dialog going.  Why don’t you play Raul?’.  I didn’t tell him but I was kind of auditioning him.  Five minutes in and I was like, ‘Oh yeah! That was great improv.  You’re in the movie!’ And he was like, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?”

He had no problem with it?

KH – “He was worried.”

BD – “He was nervous.”

This is his first experience acting?

KH – “Yeah.”

BD – “He’d never even done plays or anything. And he kills it.  He’s so good in it.”

KH – “Some people are just actors, you know?  I don’t know what kind of range he has.”

If you can tell a story and entertain an audience, on a certain level, you’re a performer. If you can captivate an audience, there’s some sort of performer in you.

BD – “That’s the thing.  He’s very captivating to watch.”

KH – “As a person, he’s very engaging.”

BD – “He nailed that role.”

KH – “Then we got Brett.  Billy was the least developed role.  Raul and Ramon are kind of similar.  Kaveh and myself are kinda drawn from the same place.  The liaison was based on fiction more than any other character.  So we gave the working actor the hardest part.  We told him it was half written and to have fun with it.  And then Brett went off and created something…we had no idea….I mean…it was one of the most educational experiences for me as a director to watch  Brett create Billy.  I am not kidding.”

BD – “Wow.  Thank you.”

KH – “He would come on set and he’d throw out suggestions. I’d be like, ‘That’s ridiculous, that’s too over the top’ but I’d give him one take and maybe he’ll surprise me.  Nine out of ten times, it was like OH! THAT WORKS! And so, I learned a lot.”

BD – “Thanks man!”

KH – “And even Ramon, we’d go back to his parents house and he’d be asking, ‘Where did Billy come from?’ and all.”

Hmm, where DID Billy come from, Brett?

BD – “You know what?  I don’t know.  I gotta say, working on Junk has been my favorite experience.  In all seriousness, and not just because Kevin is sitting here.  It really was.  The freedom that we had was incredible.”

When you say freedom, are you referring to creatively?  Improvisation?

BD – “He had the scenes written.  There’s lines on the page, for sure.  I mean more the freedom to say the lines how you wanted to say them or to come up with your own suggestions.  You know, sometimes you go into a job and you don’t know the director.  You may be afraid to approach them maybe.  But with Kevin, it’s like…and obviously we’ve been friends for years so I’m not afraid to come to him with an idea because the worst he’s going to say is no.  This is probably the way it is all the time, but you may also have that social anxiety added.  We’ve worked together so many times that I know I can just say to Kevin, ‘Hey what do you think about this?’ and if he’s like, ‘No’ or I could read his mood and know not to approach him at that time….I guess what I’m trying to say is he keeps up a good rapport on set. And it was a lot of fun.  I can even begin to imagine the hours of footage not in the movie containing the fun little avenues we went down.”

KH – “What we’re probably going to do for the DVD is have like a Billy section.  The first cut I put together, before the editor came in and took over, it was three hours long and there was an entire story line with another character and Billy.  Unfortunately, in the end some people got cut entirely and Billy got trimmed down.”

BD – “I think I said to Kevin early on, I was making a suggestion or something, and I said, ‘Look, if I’m annoying you just tell me’ and he said he would if I ever overstepped my bounds.  From then on, I’d just come to him with stuff.”

The one thing that stood out for me when I watched the film, was the relationship between Kaveh and Raul.  It seemed like a darker version of Swingers in a way.  I just kept seeing the dynamic of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau from that movie through the relationship your characters have on screen.  Was that movie an influence here in any way or am I just talk out my ass?

KH – “That movie meant a lot to me when I went through a break up.”

Yeah, at one point in my life, I ended up being that guy who called the girl seven times in a night and left a bunch of messages.

KH – “Well I wasn’t that retarded.  No, I’m kidding.  I’ve done worse stuff, my friend.  But yeah, Swingers is fucking great.  It’s one of the most honest modern male break up MTV generation films ever made.  I mean…I still say ‘Baby’ sometimes.  It’s probably because of that film.  Okay maybe I don’t really say ‘Baby’ -”

You said it twice now.

KH – “- but I want to say ‘Baby’.”

Three times.

KH – “There you go.  But the movie’s awesome.  But darker?  Is it because we’re literally darker?”

It was darker, to me, because of the context of the story and how the characters interact between each other and those around them.  It was more crass, dealing with horror genre references, and focused more on the depression felt by Kaveh from the breakup.  It just felt darker.

KH – “The blood.”

Well yeah, you guys play people writing and directing a horror film.  I know enough people who do that to know, things are just a bit darker and weirder in the world through their eyes.  And speaking of darker and weirder, who’s idea was it to add in these bizarre movie within the movie interludes in the film? They definitely helped break up the pace of the film, especially when it may have gotten a bit heavy at times.  For instance, where did the Gremlins 3 thing come from?

KH – “Gremlins Part 3 is a real thing that Ramon and I have discussed for years before Junk was even an idea. We had Gremlins 3 and then, well I think it started with the idea that we had to show the film Islama-Rama 2 that they’re there for.”

Great title, by the way.

KH – “That was all Ramon.  And then along the lines, what if we see TD Largo’s film? And then what if this and what if that?  Okay?  That’s the kind of film this became.  We were going to go back and forth.  So, yeah I’m rambling, but Gremlins 3 is a real thing.  Islama-Rama 2 is satire. Both films existing within the movie.”

I mean, you completely sold me with the samurai sequence. That, and Gremlins, and Child’s Play, Sam Raimi…I mean you have so many great references in this film that any genre fan would love.

KH – “Yeah, we love Kurosawa, Sam Raimi…”

And it’s like you combined them both here.

KH – “Oh, huh, I didn’t think of it that way.  That’s pretty dope.  Well you know, we had a Japanese Garden in Seattle where we were shooting, which is what you saw.  And it’s just sitting there so, you know, part of writing this movie is thinking about what you have to work with.  What actors do we have?  What locations do we have?”

BD – “I think you guys doing this movie, you really captured a child like…ok, if you were in high school and you were writing a movie and you could do whatever you wanted, what movie would you write? Oh! We’d do a Gremlins thing, we’d do a Child’s Play thing, we’d do a Samurai thing, we’d cut people’s heads off.  Junk literally encompasses, I think, everything you would want to do if you were making a movie.”

It’s great as a writer to have that ability to tap into your inner child because a lot of people tend to lose site of imagination.

KH – “But we also wanted to create a human story.  I think that’s where the vignettes came from.  We were a bit afraid of coming off too serious.  Now that we’re talking about it, I think that was a way of protecting ourselves of being too depressing and too serious.  I mean, come on!  All these festival films seem to be about coming of age hipsters…wah my girlfriend!  But this was reality and I told Ramon I wanted to talk about my break up.  And he was like, ‘Aw man, you’re such a douchebag!’ And I was like, that’s the film! I’m a douchebag and you don’t want to talk about my break up and that’s sort of how it got started.”

And Billy, he goes through a bit of a transformation too.  Was that scripted?

BD – “Well, Billy was…”

KH – “Everything in the movie that Billy does was 50% an idea.  Like, Billy does something bad.  But we didn’t know what that something was.  But the transformation of the character itself was more Brett than us.  Like the mirror scene in the bathroom?  That was Brett’s idea.  That wasn’t even in the script.”

BD – “I gotta be honest, thinking back, I don’t even remember how Billy kind of evolved. It just sort of happened organically.  We had a week of rehearsals.  And again, because we’re such good friends, it just came about while sitting around shooting the shit.  Like, oh wouldn’t it be funny if this happened?  Or wouldn’t this be crazy?”

KH – “I don’t know where he got Billy but it was fun to watch him get there.”

BD – “I don’t necessarily know if I can take credit completely for it.  I think it just sort of evolved through spitballing ideas.”

KH – “I think when people see Junk, they’ll watch Brett’s physicality.  Sometimes when I was watching him on set, I’d think Brett is just acting.  But when you see it on playback, it’s like seeing a puzzle coming together.  He became that character.  And we shot the scenes out of order.  Ramon and I just watched him feeling like we were observing this greater force than ourselves.”

BD – “Hah!  It was fun.  I think I had a thing to while we were filming where I tried to make Ramon laugh a lot.  So I would try to make him laugh and he would go to Kevin and be like this is funny, let’s do this.”

KH – “Yeah that’s true.”

BD – “I kind of used Ramon as a Go-Between a little bit. I mean, because that’s a lot of responsibility.  Kevin had to think about starring in, directing, writing, and all the things that come along with shooting a low budget movie.  So Kevin was pretty stressed.  So a lot of times, I wouldn’t go directly to Kevin.  Instead I’d take my ideas to Ramon. I’d say don’t you think this would be funny and he’d agree and say he’d go tell Kevin.”

Was this your first ever on screen sex scene you had to do?

BD – “Err…nnnnyyyyyeeeeaah.  In the act sex scene?  Yeah.  I’ve previously done the leading up to, and then the post, but never the during.”

I’d imagine that could be kind of a weird experience.

BD – “It was alright.  We had fun.”

That had to have taken a while to shoot.

KH – “A couple of hours.  I mean, we couldn’t have a naked girl there all night because then we’d have to be like….alright we’re sorry. We’re not paying you enough to have you nude for six hours.”

BD – “Yeah that was fun.  That scene was definitely scripted.”

KH – “That was the one Billy transformation scene that we had on paper.  The smoking, the hair, the glasses, that was all Brett.”

BD – “But I think that also lends itself to the rehearsal process.  That’s so important, you know?”

KH – “I think so.”

So, where to now that the movie is complete?  What are the plans going forward with Junk?

KH – “Well, we just got a consultant attached.  We’re looking for a sales agent and waiting on film festivals.”

Do you have any ideal festivals you’d like the movie to be accepted to?

KH – “South By, Tribeca, Berlin…all those.  There’s too many to really name right now but I’ve been seeing emails here and there.  Right now, I’m just waiting to hear.”

BD – “It’s funny because it’s going to start being like the movie.  It’s a vicious cycle.”

Well once this craziness dies down, what’s next on the horizon for you guys?

KH – “Me and Ramon are developing four projects.  People are reading a couple of them.  I can’t really say much more about that right now.”

BD – “We’re starting up Season 2 of Awkward soon.  Lots of big stuff.  I’ve been in the writer’s room.  There’s some crazy stuff that’s gonna happen.  Some things people are not going to see coming.”

KH – “They gonna rape her or something?”

Team Jake!

BD – “Hey! Hey! This is not one of your movies!”

And with that, our night came to an end.  Kevin and Brett are currently busy with a number of projects. No new news yet has surfaced about Junk’s status in the film festival circuit but I have a good feeling we’ll be seeing this movie in theaters by year’s end.  And besides the new Season of Awkward, you can check Brett Davern out later this year in the Indie Horror film The Culling.

The River (2012) – I’m Not Impressed

I had first heard about ABC’s new television show The River last summer at The San Diego Comic Con. Upon viewing the trailer, I got excited. It looked rather scary and besides some of the programming on the Premium channels, it’s been a while since there’s been a full on horror themed TV show on Network. And oooh it’s from Oren Peli! Oh, wait, that’s right. I hated the Paranormal Activity movies. But still, the trailer for the show looked very promising.

Well this was the week that The River finally premiered and sadly, I missed its original airing since my DVR already had the assignment of recording Justified and Southland (two of my must-see shows). However, ABC has both of the premiere episodes online so I took the time out of my day and sat through both.

First and foremost, I had high hopes for the show. Hell, FEARnet recently posted a review for the show and they liked it. I have been hearing about this being the scariest show ever to be on TV. But then again, they also referred to Paranormal Activity as the scariest thing since Poltergeist….so there’s that. Still, I put my reservations about being misled again by an advertising campaign aside, and gave the show a chance.

The River is about Dr. Emmet Cole’s disappearance and thusly the hunt lead by his wife Tess (Leslie Hope who played Teri Bauer on 24…and I hated her there too) deep into the Amazon to find him.That’s the simplest way I can put it. However, there’s also the fact that Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) is the host of The Undiscovered Country a very popular nature show (similar to The Crocodile Hunter) and he went missing in the middle of a seemingly haunted rivery jungle place. Included in this rag-tag crew is Lincoln (Joe Anderson), Dr. Cole’s jaded son who just wants to finish up Medical School, that girl Lena Landry (Eloise Mumford) who Lincoln will probably end up banging by Episode 6 and some shifty characters that make up the crew (I’m looking at you, Captain Kurt Brynildson). Wrap a ‘found footage’ colored bow around this supernatural mid-season replacement gift ABC has handed us and you’ve got The River.

There are definitely ingredients in here that make the show a promising endeavor, but something felt off. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, as I’ve been reading nothing but praise of the program everywhere.  I finished Episode 1 and reluctantly went into Episode 2 thinking it was going to pick up. I was looking for ‘The Scariest TV Show Ever” and maybe that is the problem. Some of the jump scares worked, the found footage aspects of the show didn’t bother me, and I was even on board with the reveal of what the imitation smoke monster really was. I did find it a bit convenient that one of the characters on the crew happened to know exactly what the big bad was just 18 minutes into the first episode, but whatever. My main gripe is the same issue I had with the PA movies and that is the marketing campaign.

Two episodes in, and The River is already looking like ABC’s next attempt at filling the hole that Lost left by recasting The Smoke Monster into a role where he (is it a he?) can be bigger and badder. But if I’m right, can’t Networks just move forward and find the next idea out there that does not echo remnants of the brilliance Lost brought to TV? And if you think ABC isn’t trying to rekindle that Lost fire, compare the two photos in this article

And as I said, the ingredients were there but it felt like they were mixed into the recipe wrong. Creepy imagery (a doll tree, crazy monkey in a mask, creepy boat interior of The Magus) can only go so far, in my opinion. Much like my recent conclusion with Fox’s new show Alcatraz (again looking for the next Lost), it feels like The River is going through the motions without really having the writing at its core that’s smart and based in some sort of deep (non corny) justifiable truth that the characters can fully attach themselves to. But it’s horror, and most horror can end up being corny at some point, right?

We’re only up to Episode 2, so I’m fully aware it may be too early to place this judgement on the show.  But I’m quite the impatient motherfucker.

With all this complaining, I suppose I should say that The River isn’t a bad show. Compared to most of the crap that is on Network TV, it still kept me entertained. However, to mark it as THE SCARIEST SHOW THAT SCARES TO EVER TO BE SCARY ON TV EVER IN A SCARY WAY…uh…ahem…. they should at least back it up with a bit more than the run of the mill elements that have made a lot of horror films tiring and predictable (can Oren Peli do something BESIDES found footage?). Maybe the people behind it (did I mention Stephen Spielberg is one of those people?) think that since it’s on TV, it’s okay to do this. And sure, I love the fact that more horror themed programming are gracing the face of television more-so these days, but can we please not treat the audience like morons?

Scariest Show On TV Ever?! Yeah, I’m sure I can name more than enough horror themed shows that may not just go for the scares like The River, but I won’t. What do I know anyway? I’ll probably watch the next episode and then the next one in hopes that The River will take some interesting turns. I doubt it, though.

Prove me wrong, ABC. Prove me wrong.

Massive Attack Television

This morning, I had an inclination to play Massive Attack radio on Spotify. The group, whose first album “Blue Lines” started the Trip Hop movement in the early 90s, has been one of my favorites since I first heard Protection in 1994. When I think of Massive Attack, it’s hard for me to not also think of Portishead and the like. I suppose that may have been the same for those who used to, and still might, think of both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the same thought.

In the 90s, I went through a very huge Trip Hop phase. Besides Massive Attack and Portishead, there was also Tricky (who really hasn’t matched the brilliance of Maxinque), Hooverphonic, Lamb, DJ Cam and if I keep going I’m sure we’ll most certainly move into the Downtempo music category which has its similarities to Trip Hop but is indeed different.

Whether or not I can keep rambling on about this music, I still feel that Massive Attack are Trip Hop royalty. And Mezzanine, in my opinion, is their best album by far and still way ahead of its time.

So you get it, I’m a fan. I had no hesitation or second thoughts about playing Massive Attack on Spotify this morning. Not until the first track played. “Splitting The Atom” came on and suddenly I had a moment. I had recently heard this song and I have not listened to any Massive Attack in a while. I had to stop and think. It then hit me. It was on a Television show I had viewed sometime in the last week.

Now mind you, I watch a lot of TV. I had to do some research here. Originally I had thought it might have been Misfits, which I have been watching on Hulu. But alas, the theme song for that brilliant show is “Echoes” by The Rapture.

Yeah, give me a break. I know that sounds nothing like Massive Attack. I’m still drinking my morning coffee!

So that wasn’t it. Think, Aaron!

Then it hit me. I have watched three television shows in the past week and all of them use music by Massive Attack in their opening credit sequence!

I’m one of those nerds that really enjoy opening credit sequences on shows. Hell, I would even argue that the credit sequence for both American Horror Story and Game Of Thrones may even be better than the actual shows but I’m kind of nuts like that.

See!? Those are great.

Okay, where was I?

Oh yes, three shows. Well I’m going to run down the shows in chronological order of their air dates. The first, and obvious one, is House. As far as I know, House was the first ever television show to use Massive Attack’s music as their theme song. When I first saw the show in 2004, I had no idea what it was going to be about but based on the credit sequence alone, I had already decided the show was going to be awesome. For those who don’t know, the song featured here is “Teardrop” by Massive Attack from the album Mezzanine.

Last night, per suggestions by a bunch of friends of mine, I finally caught the first episode of Luther. Originally airing on BBC One in 2010, it stars Idris Elba…and that’s really all I needed to know to watch it. Long live Stringer Bell! Anyway, here’s the opening credit sequence featuring the track “Paradise Circus” by Massive Attack from the album Heligoland.

And finally, the most recent show (that I know of) to feature music by Massive Attack is none other than HBO’s brand new show Luck. Starring Dustin Hoffman…and really do you need any other reason to watch!? Long live Rainma…err….yeah. Luck centers around a variety of characters involved with horse racing. Directed by Michael Mann and written by David Milch, the first episode showed a lot of promise that HBO has already renewed the program for another season. I just can’t wait to see Dustin Hoffman run against Steve Buscemi during Awards Season next year. Below is the credit sequence for the new show and it features the track “Splitting The Atom” by Massive Attack also from the album Heligoland.

Now here is where I call on you fine readers (all 4 of you). I’d like to find more examples of Massive Attack’s music being used in Television. It can be as theme music or featured in an episode. Are any of you as nerdy as I am about this? If so, please sound off in the comments below!

A Better Life (2011): Depressing And Cathartic

I grew up in a shady part of the San Fernando Valley. During that time in my life, I wasn’t truly aware of how much my mother struggled to supply for me as best as she could. I had no father around so my grandmother stepped into the role of the other parent. I wouldn’t necessarily say my neighborhood was ghetto, because when I do use those terms people usually roll their eyes at me since I am after all referring to The Valley (like gag me with a spoon!).

I have these memories of my mother driving me home from elementary school. One day, our block was closed down due to some crazy dude with a shotgun holding the entire apartment building hostage. That building was across the street from where I lived. Another time, we couldn’t get home due to the police having pulled over some guy in our co-op’s access road because he had a few kilos of cocaine in the trunk of his car. When I was 13 years old, I saw a guy get shot in the drive thru of Jack In The Box next door.

This is where I grew up.

By the time I was old enough to go to high school, my mother decided to send me to a Preparatory School nowhere near where I lived. See, at that time, an old teacher of her’s who had still taught at her alma mater (which was right down the street from my home at the time) had been gunned down in front of the school. So given the circumstances of my surroundings, she went out of her way to make sure I received a better experience at a school roughly 10 miles away. This was one of her many attempts at putting me on the path to chances at a better life.

I remember, since times were tough for us, I had to take the RTD (not the MTA) to school every day. Two buses, both ways. It was on those trips that I really got a taste of all types of people. I got hit up regularly by the local gang kids. I watched out the windows as the neighborhoods got progressively nicer one way, only to spiral downwards each day on the way home. And I remember a group of four gardeners who would be on the bus when I would get on in the morning and exit off Kester every day. They smelled pretty bad. I remember equating it to the likes of a combination of hot garbage and chalk. Every day, during that part of the trip, I’d train myself to get on the bus only breathing through my mouth and not allowing myself to take in any air through my nose so I didn’t have to smell them.

It was only months later, after I had fully gotten used to this trek and made friends with the bus driver, that I began to realize I was disgusted by them because of their odor. But that realization soon led to another one: that I was being an idiot. Every day, these men trekked on this ugly ass bus to join a group of other Mexican gentlemen on a street corner and hope that it was their lucky day…that they’d be picked up for a day of work so they could get some sort of wages. It was then that I started having an unspoken respect for these men. Whether documented or not, they were there every day with a drive to work all in the pursuit of that thing that people still call “The American Dream”.

These memories came flooding back to me the other night when I sat down and finally watched my SAG screener of A Better Life. The film follows Carlos Galindo, a gardener in East L.A. who does his best to keep his son Luis out of the troubles that exist in the neighborhood while ultimately trying to give him a better life.

The movie was a rough one to watch for me because the characters and situations displayed in the film reminded me of so many people and so many experiences from my past. My main reason for watching the film was Demian Bichir’s performance as Carlos. And I must say, his performance here is so viscerally layered and moving that I’m quite hopeful he wins The Oscar this year. But aside from focusing on his performance, the film as a whole is one that sort of sneaks up on you in a sense that if I wasn’t so tired when I watched it, I may have gotten a little weepy.

What was the most powerful aspect of the movie for me, was the evolving relationship between Carlos and Luis. At the beginning, they are complete strangers, keeping a troubled past involving Luis’s mom unspoken. Carlos’ pursuit to constantly work leaves Luis alone and up to his own devices. Angry, abandoned, and alone…A Better Life shows the simple ingredients of what would drive a kid towards the family like atmosphere of gangs. However, through one turn of events involving a truck, Carlos and Luis’s relationship begins to change. And finally, once we get to the end of the film after all the depressing events happen as if peeling one layer after another off of one fucked up onion, you’re left sitting there applauding the mended relationship amidst all the sadness.

Chris Weitz does a great job at keeping the film about the core characters involved in the story. He could have taken this film in any number of political directions given the current back and forth in this country about illegal immigration. Instead, he focuses on the characters’ relationships and the overall conflict in the film. Poverty leads to desperation, and you feel that desperation mixed with Carlos’ drive to supply for his son, no matter what.

A Better Life is a depressing and cathartic movie about the pursuit of one’s dream and consequences of one’s actions. But at its heart, A Better Life explores the importance, and ultimately, the impact of the bond between father and son.

“Vulgar Display Of Power” Pantera (1992) – Bad Mood Music

I’m in a very bad mood right now. I’m sure the coffee I just started gulping down hasn’t helped the deep dark progression this mood spiral has taken. Part of me hates it. But the other part of me is gleefully screaming down this roller coaster with arms in the fucking sky.

Everyone has their go-to music for every type of mood and usually, when I get in a pissed off, break shit, set things on fire, fart on baby heads kind of mood, I’ll put on something like “Broken” by NIN or some old KMFDM but if my mood gets into the red I usually turn to one album to accompany my mental burning of the world. And that album is “Vulgar Display Of Power” by Pantera.

I really am not sure why I turn to this album, because I’m absolutely not a fan of Metal. That’s right, I said it.  I HATE METAL! Let it be known, if you are the type of person to reply back to me that Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM (pre “EXTORT” anyway) is Metal, it’d be hard for me not to knock out all of your teeth with the keyboard I’m currently hammering my fists on like a caveman to write this piece.

Am I the only one, when I get into a shitty mood, that has some sort of out of body experience as if I am watching said beast of a mental state slowly devolve into some sort of demonic pyromaniac beast? Come on, I’m sure I’m not the ONLY one, right!? Well, fine. But still, this Pantera album does the trick as the perfect soundtrack for this destructive path my fantasy self is on.  Of course, there are other options that would also suffice to accompany this blazen hell trail my fantasy self is leaving in its path.  Any German Industrial or Power noise would work just fine.  But I’m spent on that scene.

See, right now in my mind, I’m currently ripping all of my clothes off while throwing every bit of soft and hardware off of my desk out the window and into oncoming traffic. I’m throwing people into walls and I’m burning everyone’s lunch in the refrigerator here at work. In my mind’s eye, right now, I’m driving down the street as if I really am one of the 3rd Street Saints. With giant purple dildo bat in hand, I’m lobbing grenades at everything only to stop and piss on a fire hydrant because I only relate to dogs right now.  Big burly dogs that Cesar Millan would have to answer to for whispering so god damned much.  Hairy, sweaty, don’t give a fuck dogs.  Who piss everywhere, who rape cats and hippos, who fight with giant purple dildo bats, who….you get the point.
And all the while, “Vulgar Display Of Power” is blasting somewhere, everywhere. And that makes every pretend action I just committed completely justified.

I feel better now.

Work It (2012) – Not Bosom Buddies

First NBC and now ABC.  What is the deal, guys?  Both of your networks have a history of putting out great programming but lately, you both have been making some rather idiotic decisions.  There’s the whole NBC picking up Whitney thing while putting Community on hiatus with no guarantee in picking it up for another season.  There’s the whole ABC thing with putting Once Upon A Time on the air.  I’m sorry, people I know who like that show, it’s just beyond corny for me to take seriously.  And now, there’s the mid season replacement Work It.

I mean seriously, as soon as I saw any hint of an ad campaign for this show I thought it was some sort of inside joke ABC was pulling on any viewer of Modern Family that doesn’t have a DVR and therefore wasn’t fast forwarding through the commercial break.  Or better yet, maybe it was poking fun at NBC’s Whitney and the campaign for that show which literally flooded my city’s bus stop posters and billboards over the Summer. But sadly, I was wrong in such a response and soon my confusion turned into a mild rage of a stabby nature.

I’ve gone on record a number of times by stating that all the television programming worth watching are all on cable, basic or premium. Sure, there are some pretty good Network options (Fringe, Supernatural, Modern Family to name a few) but I’ve found the majority of the shows lined up for public consumption on the basic networks seem a bit dumbed down for the…dumbed down type.

Both ABC and NBC started making some bad decisions a few years back.  First, there was that whole Jay Leno taking back The Tonight Show thing. Then there was that NBC debacle with Southland.  And of course, soon after, Lost went off the air.  Since then, both ABC and NBC have had less than desirable ratings with new television programming.  Don’t get me wrong, they have some great shows that are still airing but something has been happening that has left me scratching my head.

And now we are living in an age where Networks like AMC and FX are constantly pushing the envelope regarding thought provoking entertainment while pretty much every Network channel continues to fork out some sort of formulaic drivel for the masses.  I expect that.  As long as they match the crap with non-crap, it’s fine.  But first Whitney and now Work It?  Come on!

Work It’s premise is a simple and almost familiar one.  The show follows Lee (Ben Koldyke) and Angel (Amaury Nolasco), two unemployed men in today’s economically hard times as they struggle to find work.  Alas, they both manage to find employment by dressing up as women.  Hilarity!  But it seems it’s trying for the type of hilarity you’d find in a high school boy’s locker room.

There are two main ingredients that make this show what it is and ultimately will probably have this show go down as the worst new show of 2012 once the year is over.  The first ingredient is the same thing that studios still think is a viable option for comedy, men dressing up as women for comedic effect.  Sure, it worked for Kids In The Hall, Monty Python, and Bosom Buddies.  Some Like It Hot and Tootsie are two of my favorite films, even.   But there’s something about the options that the studios have been pumping out regularly now.  I’m looking at you Big Momma’s House, Sorority Boys, and Jack And Jill!  I believe Meredith Borders over at Badass Digest makes a perfect argument that fits well here.

The second ingredient: the 3 camera setup.  The Office changed the game regarding how sitcoms are filmed and perceived.  Since then, the single camera setup has become quite popular.  Parks And Recreation, Community, 30 Rock and Modern Family all use the single camera setup.  This works quite well and, to me, it’s a sign of forward thinking.  I have no issue with the classic 3 camera setup but every show that is on now which seems to still use that method fail in making me laugh.  I’m not sure what has happened here.  Maybe those still using the classic method, trying to maintain the glory days of “Must See TV” are just coming up short because they’re dwelling on methods of the past?  The best way I can describe what I mean is by conjuring up an image of someone talking on one of those old clunky Nokia cell phones from 10 years ago in a room full of smart phone users.  It just seems dated and that classic format seems to bring with it a dated sense of what is funny.  So obviously, Middle America will probably eat this shit up.

I sat through the pilot episode of Work It, trying desperately to give the show a chance but it really is not entertaining.  Unless you’re the type who finds unfunny sitcoms entertaining.  And if you are that type, have at it.  Otherwise, I suggest revisiting Bosom Buddies.  THAT show was funny!

Work It airs on ABC every Tuesday at 8:30/7:30c. If you are of the morbidly curious, I suggest catching it soon as its ratings are plummeting and it’ll probably be gone by March! (fingers crossed)

“Teflon Don” Rick Ross (2010) – He’s A Boss

I remember the first time I ever really paid attention to Rick Ross.  It was during a live performance he did for VH1’s Hip Hop Honors.  Before 2009, I had no idea who did that damn song “Hustlin” (you know, the one that LMFAO reference in Party Rock Anthem).

Rick Ross wasn’t really on my radar as far as Hip Hop artists were concerned and when he hit the stage, I was a bit distracted by what he was wearing than the actual performance.  I mean, he’s a big dude and his jacket is unzipped low enough to really allude to the full on fat nakedness happening underneath.  Plus that jacket just looked too warm to wear.  Also, it looked like it was leather. There was a time back in my goth days where I wore vinyl pants to a club without undies.  This reminds me of that swamp sweat feeling

Wait…what was I saying?

Oh right, that 2009 performance didn’t leave much of an impression on me and all I had known of Rick Ross at the time was the two tracks “Hustlin” and “Boss”.  Both of those songs were hits and garnered enough radio play in my car back when the only thing I could listen to was Power 106 while stuck in traffic.  (You picturing me thugging out in my car like Michael Bolton from Office Space yet?)

Two years later, I found myself sitting at my desk at work toying around with the Spotify player.  While checking out Lil Wayne’s latest offering Tha Carter IV (Tha Carter II is still his best album), I found myself unable to really get past the track “John” featuring Rick Ross. And thusly, I ended up giving “Teflon Don” a listen.  From there, I listened to “Maybach Music” and that was the day I became a fan of Mr. Rozay.

It’s quite obvious that Rick Ross is the Tony Montana of Hip Hop.  His mafioso/cartel Don persona makes his raps way more entertaining to listen to.  It’s like I find myself playing a Scarface/Grand Theft Auto video game movie hybrid (that’s probably redundant) in my brain when I listen to his music.  And if it’s in my car, you best be sure I’ll be leaning like a pimp as much as one can in a Prius.

So this brings me to the actual album, “Teflon Don”.  I mentioned “Maybach Music” which is a great album.  But “Teflon Don” takes the already expected style of Rick Ross delivering club bangers to be blasted out of your car stereo and elevates the formula with some actual musical artistry.  There’s more depth here.  I rarely say this about an album, unless it’s put out by Tom Waits or Jay-Z, but every song on “Teflon Don” is worth repeated listens.  They never get old for me.  And in case you’re really wanting to know, highlights for me are “I’m Not A Star” (go listen to Lil Wayne’s “John”), “Live Fast, Die Young” (Kanye steals the show on this track), and “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”.

 Now that I got that off my chest, can we get Mr. Ross to cover up his?

Monk (2002-2009) – Here’s What Happened

Here’s what happened…

A few years back, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Mind you, it’s not a debilitating issue for me.  Everything has it’s right place and when not in the right place, things can get a bit…distracting. This seems absolutely normal to me.  If there are two dirty dishes in the sink, wash them!  If the sheets aren’t even, straighten them out!  If the DVD collection isn’t alphabetized by genre, then by title, then by leading actor…well I just don’t know what to say to you. Actually, this seems perfectly logical, so what do they know with their diagnoses?  When I say “they”, of course I mean the royal they.

It was roughly around this same time I was introduced to the television program Monk.  My ex girlfriend owned the whole series on DVD and would watch multitudes upon multitudes of episodes in one sitting (obsessed much?). I had only gotten a small taste of the show as I had soon realized how much of a sarlacc pit (there’s a vagina joke waiting to happen) of dysfunction this “relationship” had come and I clamored out with barely my balls in tact.

Not much thought was really put into the show from that point on until roughly three weeks ago when I found the entire series of Monk now available for viewing on Netflix Instant.  Since I had watched a handful of episodes back in 2006, I figured I’d just go from Season 7 on.  And in my own obsessive manner, I completed the last two Seasons of the show within the span of a week.  So I decided it’s only right to start the show back at Season 1.

What the Hell!?  It’s a completely different show!  Adrian Monk in Season 1 is a sad sad man.  There’s a quieter darkness about him in these first few episodes.  Lt. Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) seem to exude a palatable disdain for him.  And then there’s Sharona. Adrian Monk’s first assistant on the show was Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram).  I’m assuming I wasn’t the only one who found her completely annoying because roughly a few episodes into Season 3, Sharona decides to move back to New Jersey and was quickly replaced by Natalie Teeger (Taylor Howard) who is way better.  She just is.  She’s better.

And while we’re talking about Season 1, I have to bring up the theme song for the show.  I suppose since I really started watching the show in Season 7, I quickly grew quite fond of the intro featuring the Randy Newman song “It’s A Jungle Out There”.  Seriously, that song is so damn catchy I’d find myself singing it when I’d wake up in the morning.  I’m sure my girlfriend doesn’t need to ever hear me sing in my best Randy Newman voice ever again!

But suddenly, and without warning, after the two part pilot episode, I’m now subjected to a lilting jazz number by Jeff Beal.  Don’t get me wrong here, I dig Jeff Beal’s work.  His work on HBO’s Carnivale is fantastic.  But I had somehow become reliant on the Randy Newman song and I just don’t feel this theme music and intro work for the show.  Then again, I had read recently that back when the show was new, people were up in arms about the change from the Jeff Beal theme to the Randy Newman theme.  So what the hell do I know anyway?

My good friend likes to tell me how his mother is quite fond of the show implying that somehow I have the taste of a woman in her 60s.  Surrounded by fluffy cats that smell like buttholes and flowery embroidered pillows that….smell like bulltholes.  Yep, that’s me. (As an old woman, I refuse to bathe my cats!)

But in all seriousness, there was something that immediately grabbed my attention when first watching the show.  Before watching Monk, I only knew Tony Shalhoub from Men In Black.  He’s a very talented actor but I don’t think a role has really showcased this before he landed this job as Adrian Monk.  He brings a very layered performance in every episode which can at times be hysterical and at others heartbreaking. This truth keeps his character quite engaging to watch on screen (for me anyway).   And while we’re on the topic here, before watching Monk I only knew Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs.  So there’s that.

I’ve noticed I tend to be drawn to stories where the main character is some sort of genius but somehow lacks people skills and ultimately marks that character as brilliant but flawed.  Gregory House, Adrian Monk, Columbo and Cal Lightman (seriously Fox, bring Lie To Me back.  No one likes this Terra Nova shit!) come to mind.  They seem ultimately cut from the Sherlock Holmes cloth.  (Do we have Edgar Allen Poe to thank?)

The phobias and genius of the constantly conflicted Adrian Monk make for a fine combination that seems to work, even in the less than inspired episodes of the show.  I suppose this would explain how Monk was at once referred to as “the highest rated series in cable history” by USA Network.

Well as I write this, I have four episodes left in Season 1.  I feel like I’m watching a prequel with every episode.  I’ve yet to be disappointed with an episode (“Mr Monk And The Actor” is is my favorite).   And it’s kind of a thing with me, I just love seeing Mr. Monk make that face and speak the words “Here’s what happened”.

 It gets me every time.


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