Reviews for Normal People

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Top 20 Songs of the Month (July 2017) — August 9, 2017

Top 20 Songs of the Month (July 2017)

What a month. I know I say something to that effect every month, since there’s more good music being put out than there’s ever been before, and in all honesty, my shortlist this month was actually shorter than usual, but still. We got great new music from the likes of Capital Cities, Kamaiyah, The All-American Rejects, Jennifer Lopez, Nine Inch Nails, Mystery Skulls, Shania Twain, Wyclef Jean, Demi Lovato, The Darkness, BØRNS, Mick Jagger, and those are just the ones that didn’t make the list. This month, we’ve got some triumphant comebacks, some steady mainstays, and a few impressive newcomers. Let’s get things underway. Remember: for the purposes of making these lists easier to make, I generally only include songs that were released in some form outside of an album. That can be in the form of a single, a video, or a few other things, but it generally can’t be something I put or almost put on a previous list. This means that a song could have come out on an album years ago and still make the list if it was just released as a single or video this month. I also try to avoid having more than one song to an artist on each list, but there’s one notable exception to that this time ’round.

20) RUN FOR COVER – The Killers

The Killers are a bit hard to get a read on, in terms of public opinion. Most, I think, became infatuated with them for a glimmering moment in the mid-2000’s and then came to be annoyed by them. Still, they have a rock-solid fanbase, and at least one of the best songs of all time (“Mr. Brightside,” naturally). Last month, they put out a single called “The Man,” the first off their forthcoming fifth album. That song is, uh, not good. It showcases everything that caused the general populace to quickly grow tired with the Killers, a song that’s equal parts generic and trying too hard. “Run for Cover,” I think, does a better job showcasing what many people (myself included) still admire about the band. Brandon Flowers’ Modest Mouse-lite crooning is a bit more subdued, leaving room for a song that’s goofy, but still enjoyable on a base level.

19) RAGE – Vic Mensa

“Rage” is arguably Vic Mensa’s most self-indulgent song to date. There’s nothing wrong with that; self-indulgence is a staple of hip-hop and music in general. But for some, this song could definitely be a bit overwhelming. It opens with Vic singing about planes crashing, at first alone with a bit of reverb, then with a passionate, almost theatrical piano accompaniment. The refrain of the song is “I want you to rage into the night,” and the beat consists of Mike Dean and Om’mas Keith doing their finest Alex da Kid imitation, with the usual rocky drums, important-sounding synths, a barely-noticeable choral backing, a much more noticeable “aaaaaayyy” backing, and ranch on the side. Still, it’s an effective and at times moving ballad with some solid wordplay and an interesting metaphorical conceit.

18) I AIN’T GOT TIME! – Tyler, the Creator

Sure, it’s one of the less resonant cuts on Tyler’s brilliant new album Flower Boy. It’s not nearly as introspective and syrupy as, say, “911” or “Glitter.” But it’s a damn good track. It’s hard to even describe the instrumental, but it’s a noisy Middle Eastern-sounding beat with obvious Pharrell influence that perfectly matches Tyler’s gravelly tones. And of course, nestled between cheesy boasts is the most buzzworthy revelation on an album full of them: the already-famous “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004” line. Way to go, Tyler.

17) LET’S MAKE A VIDEO – Poppy

I feel like I’ve already said more than enough about Poppy in recent articles, so I’ll keep it brief. Poppy’s great. This song is great. I love the bubbly synths. I love the corny pop lyrics. I adore the hook, especially the non sequitur “I love you when you’re happy, I love you when you’re down.” It’s just great.

16) P.O.P. – Belly

After presenting it at multiple stops on The Weeknd’s Starboy tour, Palestinian-Canadian rapper Belly bookended the month of July by releasing his latest single, “P.O.P.” The title, of course, stands for “power of pussy,” and the song follows various men, Belly himself included, being ensnared by greedy women. It’s sort of like an even more misogynistic version of “Gold Digger,” but like “Gold Digger,” it’s also really funny and well-written, so we’ll give it a tentative pass.

15) BIG B’S – Chance the Rapper and Young Thug

After apparently saving SoundCloud from the brink of collapse, Chance the Rapper celebrated with a new loosie, joined by Young Thug. Both rappers have sort of become recurring characters on these lists, and on this track, you can see why. Despite representing different cities and different factions of the rap game, both rappers have an unshakeable charisma and off-the-wall energy that makes them irresistible, and an absorbing way with words to sweeten the deal. “B’s” means “business,” by the way.

14) THE PAIN – Rapsody

Having come around at the turn of the decade, Rapsody’s already built a reputation as one of the finest conscious MC’s working today, and one of the great female rappers of all time. Her latest single, “The Pain,” showcases the subdued wisdom and intricate wordsmithing that gave her that reputation. Over Nottz’s urgent production, Rap describes “the pain,” in order, “of watching us kill each other,” “of black men/women disrespected by the world,” “of a man who never knew the man that made him,” “of a daddy’s girl without a daddy,” “of a mother who went half on a baby and got a whole lot to deal with,” and “of a man that wanna raise his child, love his child / Baby mama crazy, she don’t ever let him see his child.” It’s the exact kind of deep, powerful bars we’ve come to expect from the brilliant mind of Rapsody.

13) WEDDING CRASHERS – Aminé feat. Offset

Aminé dropped his debut album Good For You this month, and on a preliminary listen, I thought it was really good. Still, a solid contender for best track is the single he released the week before the album, “Wedding Crashers.” It’s a cheeky ode to old flames centered around weddings that features a goofy Rugrats beat and a solid if forgettable Offset verse. Aminé’s verse is packed with dense wordplay and references, some of which appear to be inside jokes with himself. Still, the highlight of the song is the irresistible hook. It’s fun enough to be enjoyable while still delivering the bite its subject matter deserves.

12) MIDNIGHT – Jessie Ware

English singer/songwriter Jessie Ware’s throaty, soulful pop tunes have led to the respect of some of pop’s heavy-hitters, and a fair amount of being mistaken for Jess Glynne. “Midnight” is one of the best songs I’ve heard from her to date. I love how the beat builds itself around her devastated vocals, taking the tone from mournful to triumphant without skipping a beat. I love it for its bouncy R&B refrain, but the more tender parts of it are still captivating.

11) CATCH ME OUTSIDE – Ski Mask the Slump God

BIG shoutout to Ski Mask the Slump God, an artist I hadn’t even considered considering at the start of this month. After some solid work with XXXTentacion, “Catch Me Outside” is the song that made me realize just how brilliant this guy actually is. Over Timbaland’s classic Missy Elliott “She’s a Bitch” beat, Ski Mask fires off wild wordplay reminiscent of Missy herself. Before the song even begins, he’s bringing out killer wordplay. “Shoutout my mucus, ’cause you know that be my slime,” he announces just as the beat kicks in. From there, it’s a two-and-a-half-minute whirlwind of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it wordplay and references. Congrats, Ski Mask. You have my attention.

10) WOULD YOU MIND – PRETTYMUCH

PRETTYMUCH is Simon Cowell’s latest boy band find. Based off this one single, it’s hard to say if they have any staying power, but they certainly can crank out a great pop tune. “Would You Mind” pays homage to more than one of history’s great boy bands, borrowing the a cappella harmony intro from the Beach Boys, the new jack swing sound of Boyz II Men, the futuristic breakdowns of *NSYNC, and One Direction vocals to create a wholly enjoyable earworm with a little something for every pop listener.

9) MISS ME – Leikeli47

Leikeli47’s been a long time coming for this list. Ever since a surprise endorsement by Skrillex and Diplo back in 2015, the masked MC has been one of the most compelling new rappers on my radar. “Miss Me” is laced with unflappable confidence and a killer beat, again reminiscent of Timbaland’s seminal turn-of-the-century production. It simply oozes swagger.

8) DON’T GET CAPTURED – Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels is another act I’ve already covered extensively on this blog, but I’ll go into it again. El-P’s dystopian electronic production is as strong as ever on the latest single from Run the Jewels 3, “Don’t Get Captured,” which explores racial injustice from two different perspectives. Killer Mike takes a more typical angle, examining class struggle and corruption as someone who came from a poor neighborhood watching gentrification sweep through. El-P takes on the role of a ruthless, crooked cop delighting in his ability to oppress and murder with no repercussions. It’s a message that could’ve been delivered in a simple, straightforward manner and served just fine, but leave it to RTJ to go above and beyond.

7) ONE NIGHT ONLY – The Struts

The Struts are a newer English glam rock band, and like many modern glam acts, it can be hard to tell to what extent they’re being serious and to what extent they’re joking. What I can say, for sure, is that this song is epic. It’s got an overpowering stadium hook, some really solid guitar work, and it’s packed to the gills with flair. My favorite moments include the guitar solo and when he rolls the R in “riding.”

6) BOYS – Charli XCX

One of the biggest surprises in music this month was the release of Charli XCX’s “Boys” video. After her excellent Number 1 Angel mixtape, Charli could’ve easily taken the rest of the year off, but she decided to grace us with a phenomenal pop track and one of the best music videos of 2017. The song and video flip the music industry’s objectification of women on its head, with the help of over 50 male celebrities in varying degrees of undress. It’s also a great pop tune, with a really cool electronic beat and potential to become another sleeper hit for Charli in the coming months.

5) NEW YORK – St. Vincent

This is another song that pop heavyweights like Lorde lost their shit over this month. And with good reason, quite frankly. St. Vincent’s been winning over critics and other listeners for a full decade, and her last album left a huge impression. While “New York” is generally much more straightforward than what we’re used to hearing from Annie Clark, her bitter lyricism is as sharp as ever. The sheer emotional buildup in this song is amazing. It’s St. Vincent’s answer to “Green Light” by Lorde, and that’s a good thing.

4) THE STORY OF O.J. – Jay-Z

One of music’s most major events this month was the release of Jay-Z’s acclaimed 13th album 4:44. The album’s first “single,” if it’s even worth calling it that (they can’t exactly play this one on the radio), is “The Story of O.J.,” one of the album’s crowning artistic achievements. Over a beat that feels refreshing and ancient all at once, Hova implores his community to use their money wisely, if they want to escape the cycle of poverty and failure that white people set them up for. There’s an exhausted quality to Jay’s vocals that gives the track’s devastating truth bombs a sizable punch. One bizarre antisemitic line aside, this could turn out to be one of Jay-Z’s defining tracks.

3) WOMAN – Kesha feat. The Dap-Kings Horns

Here’s this month’s leading music story: Kesha pulled off the most magnificent comeback in recent memory. After a years-long battle for artistic freedom from her abuser, the pop star rose like a phoenix to grace us with three phenomenal pop songs and counting. “Woman” is a goddamn masterpiece. I could make a whole different top ten list of all my favorite moments in this song alone. At one point, she’s laughing too hard to finish the verse, and then it just cuts to the chorus! That’s incredible! This is one of the greatest pop songs I’ve heard in a while, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it places highly on my end-of-the-year list. But for now, there are two songs I thought were better.

2) IT AIN’T FAIR – The Roots feat. Bilal

Bilal is one of the greatest singers alive. Black Thought is one of the best rappers of all time. The Roots is quite possibly the best band in the world. And when you put them all together, you get “It Ain’t Fair.” I’d say the song is this year’s answer to last year’s “This Bitter Land” (Nas & Erykah Badu). It was a relatively quiet release for a soundtrack single that’s political, powerful, and beautiful. It starts very slowly, with about a minute of Bilal singing unaccompanied, followed by some more crooning over a jazzy piano riff. But when it kicks in, by god does it kick in. By the end of the hook, it bursts with glorious color as guitar, drums, bass, brass, keyboards, everything but the kitchen sink comes together beautifully to punctuate Black Thought’s frenetic flows and mature, emotionally-vulnerable bars. This is what world-class talent sounds like.

1) PRAYING – Kesha

Now, this is highly unorthodox for me. I don’t think I’ve ever put two songs by the same lead artist on one of these lists, let alone at numbers 1 and 3. But Kesha isn’t your everyday musical talent, and I truly couldn’t see myself parting with either of the two songs. “Praying” is a thing of beauty. It’s an expertly-crafted pop masterstroke that turned Kesha’s narrative from victim to hero, suddenly becoming one of the most respected figures in music. The lyrics are simple, powerful, and even catchy. The production by Ryan Lewis is phenomenal (proving that Macklemore was actually second banana and Ryan Lewis was the star all along). Kesha’s vocals are jaw-dropping. The sheer freedom encapsulated in this scant four minutes of music is more moving than the fogies who derided Kesha in her heyday could ever hope to be. Dr. Luke may still have a contract, but the world is on Kesha’s side.

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Hoo Boy: Despicable Me and Marxism — July 10, 2017

Hoo Boy: Despicable Me and Marxism

A couple weeks ago, Despicable M3 came out, and it introduced children to Trey Parker, killer ’80s music, and fundamental flaws in the Rotten Tomatoes rating system. For the rest of us, the movie didn’t offer much. After the monumental success of the last two-and-a-half movies, it got some prime movie real estate and has already made upwards of $450 million on a global scale, but saw a swift drop in revenue as soon as Spider-Man hit theaters. It also suuuuucks. It lacks the humor, compassion, and focus of the other two movies, replacing 95% of its actual humor with clever-isa ’80s references and the crude slapshtick that went over so well in the Minions movie. It also opened my eyes to the troubling politics of this franchise, which seems perfectly content to bait Marxist theorists, but only offers up contemptuous takes that people all over the aisle can be upset with.

Before we get into it, we should first examine other “villain movies” of Despicable Me‘s time. I’m not necessarily referring to movies from the bad guy’s perspective, but specifically films that take a classic villain or archetypal villain and play with our perceptions of good and evil through portraying them on a more personal level, Grendel-style. This seems oddly specific, but it was practically a bona fide trend in the early ’10s. Most notably, there’s the big three: Despicable Me, Megamind, and Wreck-It Ralph, all of which also happened to be animated kids’ movies (it never ceases to baffle me how out of these three, Despicable Me was the most successful by a long shot).

Now, the message of Megamind is a little hard to pin down, because it’s a surprisingly-nuanced film. The general theme is that archetypes of “good” and “evil” can’t exist unless they’re in constant opposition to each other. If you take this to represent the two-party system or class struggle, you’ve got a handy-dandy interpretation right there. There’s certainly ample evidence of the “villainous” Megamind representing the lower class and his foil Metro Man representing the upper. Each born on a dying planet, Metro Man gets a cushy upper-class upbringing, his solid-gold escape pod landing under a wealthy family’s Christmas tree and his powers being celebrated by his peers from a young age. From birth, Megamind is less privileged, given a smaller, shoddier spacecraft and being forced to share it with his friend and confidante, Minion. His craft lands at the Prison for the Criminally Gifted (subtle), raised by criminals, and becomes an outcast for his “dangerous” intellect. Oh shit, is that a critique of the prison-industrial complex as a tool of oppression in goddamn Megamind? Told you this movie was juicy. Later on in the movie, Megamind attempts to create a new hero, the hero becomes a villain, and he becomes a hero, i.e. the very thing that he fought against his entire life. Now that’s Marxist.

The theory behind Wreck-It Ralph is a bit simpler. In attempting to research it, I was delighted by monarchists decrying Vanellope’s throwaway line about democracy as an unnecessary, single instance of political commentary in an otherwise… pure movie? I mean, sure, it was unexpected (which is sort of the idea behind, y’know, jokes), but it’s not like it’s uncharacteristic for Vanellope and Ralph to embody democratic principles. Ralph is a marginalized minority who teams up with a disabled young woman to take down a tyrannical king and save the video game world from King Candy’s imperialism. It’s a pretty clear-cut liberal message that one ought to expect from Disney.

Looking at Despicable Me, if we want to consider villains a marginalized group as they are in the other two, it seems to fall left of Ralph, but not as far into Marxist territory as Megamind. Gru and his fellow villains are shown to exercise a sort of direct action, snatching goods and symbols of power from the upper class in an attempt to break down the corrupt society that keeps them in the shadows. Gru joins the Anti-Villain League in Despicable? Me Too!, ratting out his fellow villains and working on behalf of the status quo, but after being unjustly dropped by the organization at the start of D3spicabl3 M3, he and his upper-class wife become free agents pursuing justice regardless of who it favors. It doesn’t perfectly add up, but it seems like an okay answer, right?

Well, there’s one hole in this interpretation: the Minions. You can’t look a foot into the Despicable Me franchise without recognizing the Minions as a hateful, mocking portrayal of the working class. Where Megamind’s Minion is portrayed as the protagonist’s equal, the Minions are Gru’s fat, lazy, dependent, thoroughly incompetent and morally bankrupt underlings. Once you look at it from this angle, it becomes clear that the villains aren’t minorities; they’re governments. They exploit their disposable workforce for the purpose of petty one-upmanship and showy displays of strength, they borrow money and advice from Lehman Brothers to put their unpaid populace to work destroying the planet and building weapons of ever-increasing scale, and they do all this with reckless abandon right under the noses of watchdogs and civilians with no repercussions. And Gru’s not just the protagonist, he’s the hero. We’re constantly reminded that he’s a good guy and he’s a softie at his core and he helps get rid of the villains that are even worse than him so we should unequivocally support him. Meanwhile, the Minions are shown to be a primitive, lesser species, constantly seeking out a new master to oppress and exploit them, and speak an exaggerated pidgin language mixing elements of Spanish and English. Oh, in the third movie they do stage a strike… and it takes all of 20 minutes in a correctional facility for them to all realize they’re dependent on Gru and run back to him, perfectly content to work for no pay doing the exact opposite of what they were striking for.

It becomes clear that the message of these films isn’t anti-communist. It isn’t just right-wing. It seems like the Despicable Me franchise is specifically anti-poor people, which seems like a position we can all agree is pretty fucked up, right? It’s as baffling as it is unavoidable. The Minions are even the villains in their own movie, and Illumination Entertainment brings this message into reality by perpetually exploiting them for profit. They speak a wacky language, they all look the same, they defy gender norms, and make no mistake; you’re supposed to hate them. Sure, kids are supposed to giggle at their goofy antics, but adults are meant to find them detestable, vile, hard to even look at, let alone tolerate. And it worked, didn’t it? Of course, the likely truth is that Chris Meledandri, the multi-millionaire producer behind this franchise, only intended to be funny little yellow dudes the kids could appreciate while adults enjoyed the more mature humor littered throughout the film. He may have worked out some anti-working-class aggression in how he built the characters, which is still something that ought to be criticized regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, but it’d be unfair to go as far as to call the movies a deliberate piece of anti-Marxist propaganda. At best, they’re an accidental one.

Who Killed the Mainstream Comedy? — July 4, 2017

Who Killed the Mainstream Comedy?

This summer’s latest critical and commercial shitfest was The House, a promising broad comedy starring heavyweights Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell. What went wrong? Well, for one thing, the general consensus seems to be that it blows. Critics say it lacks momentum, wastes its cast, and seems to rely way too heavily on improv, leading to paper-thin characters and general meandering. I’ll get to that eventually, but I think it’s about time to address a more systematic issue: Hollywood has a serious comedy problem.

How can we be sure? Well, let’s just look at the facts. So far in 2017, there have been around 7 or 8 major live-action comedies. Not one of them has been a commercial success, and very few of them have been a critical one. The most successful comedy so far has been Baywatch, which holds a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes and made just $150 million globally on a 60-million-dollar production budget. Most of the others didn’t break even. In 2016, the only mainstream comedy films to be both critically and commercially successful were Neighbors 2, which you forgot about until just now; Sausage Party, which was made on a shoestring budget; Bad Moms, one of the year’s biggest anomalies, and Ghostbusters, which holds dubious claim to either honor. For comparison’s sake, Ghostbusters made $230 million at the global box office. The most successful comedy of 2012, Ted, made $556 million.

And The House isn’t the only recent flick to besmirch the names of immensely-talented comedians. Fist Fight somehow fumbled the brilliant pairing of Charlie Day and Ice Cube, Zoolander 2 had everything the first movie had going for it and still flopped, and Zach Galifianakis struck out twice last fall with two movies you don’t even remember. Even really solid comedies like Keanu, Sisters, and Popstar got shafted at the box office last year. The mainstream comedy was bigger than ever a scant five or six years ago, so what happened? Let’s look at the suspects.

It’s always easy to look at any tidal change in Hollywood this past decade and say “Duh, it’s Marvel’s fault.” But in this case, there may be some truth to that. You see, everyone in Hollywood is trying to cash in on Marvel’s titanic Cinematic Universe strategy, which means copy every single thing Marvel is doing, from style to casting to set-up. Thus, Marvel has led to an interesting trend in blockbusters: they’re all expected to be parodies of themselves. Iron Man couldn’t just be a hero, he also had to be a snarky, arrogant drunk. The dialogue has to be 80% quips. Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the forthcoming Thor: Ragnarok all seem to be straight-up comedies. This is a fine choice to make on Marvel’s end, but it means the market is saturated with gut-busting romps like Kong: Skull Island and Deadpool. Why see a flat-out comedy when you can see something that’s funny and so much more?

But there’s more to it than that. Because Sony looked at Marvel and said, “Why don’t we just make a comedy cinematic universe?” Enter Ghostbusters: the most polarizing comedy of all time. Even if it has its fair share of fans, it barely broke even at the box office, and Sony called it quits. But before that, the e-mail hack revealed another cinematic universe in the pipeline: Jump Street/Men In Black. I actually called this one more than a year before it was revealed, seeing it as a logical extension for the two franchises, but the crossover was pronounced dead by Jonah Hill back in August. Could this tendency to jump on trends have pushed public perception out of the mainstream comedy’s favor? Maybe, but that’s not all.

Another Marvel trick that everyone and their grandmother has adapted is the habit of taking promising young filmmakers and giving them big-budget action movies. This means that promising new comedy filmmakers are getting swept up left and right, and with the Apatow diaspora fading away, the comedy industry needs them more than ever. Shane Black went from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Iron Man 3. The Russo Brothers got to make Captain America and Avengers movies because of their work on Community. Kiwi comedy mastermind Taika Waititi is helming Thor: Ragnarok. Ant-Man snatched Edgar Wright, spit him out, and then took Peyton Reed instead.

And that’s not all. Look at every promising comedy filmmaker of the past few years: Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts directed the latest Kong flick and is now working on a Metal Gear Solid movie. Colin Trevorrow did the charming indie sci-fi rom-com Safety Not Guaranteed and was soon after put in charge of both Jurassic World and Star Wars: Episode IX. The X-Men franchise got in early and scooped up Kick-Ass’ Matthew Vaughn back in 2011, but they’ve also got Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone in their wheelhouse. Since everything needs to be a travesty, the forthcoming Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe will kick off in 2020 with a Scooby-Doo reboot directed by Dax Shepard. Hell, DC’s Flash movie has already blown through three promising comedic talents (Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Jump Street), Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), and Rick Famuyiwa (Dope)), and they haven’t even started yet. What a goddamn mess. If they’re all making summer blockbusters, who’s supposed to be keeping comedy afloat? A bunch of no-name slackers who think they can just let the talent riff and they’ll shit out a good movie.

That’s another item of note: over-reliance on improv. You see, some of the great comedies of all time, like the original Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and Anchorman, were mostly improvised. Comedy heavyweights like Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Christopher Guest, and Sacha Baron Cohen leaned heavily on improvisational humor in all their movies, and in their heyday, the results were brilliant. Unfortunately, this has led a generation of impressionable young comedic filmmakers to think they can just write a shell of a script, get some talented actors, and not have to put any effort into making their movie good. Of course, this strategy only works if you have an extremely competent director (Paul Feig, Lord & Miller, Harold Ramis) and an extremely talented, cohesive cast (Anchorman, Ghostbusters, This Is the End). A film like The House or Fist Fight flounders using the same formula because they pair a novice director with studio intervention, a weak script, and actors who are clearly only in it for the paycheck. When Lord & Miller tried to make an improv-heavy movie with a studio watching over them, they got themselves fired, and now we’re gonna get a lame Han Solo movie because of it. But every Cohen, Keen, and Roach in Hollywood thinks they can just remake 21 Jump Street/Anchorman/Bridesmaids and audiences will eat it up.

But to some extent, Hollywood’s comedy problem can be blamed on the talent themselves. As I previously mentioned, mainstream comedy was experiencing a serious boom not too long ago, and this can be attributed to a phenomenon colloquially known as the “Apatow diaspora.” This term refers to an intricate network of comedic actors, writer, directors, and producers, all of whom can be traced back to Freaks and Geeks creator Judd Apatow. After F&G’s untimely cancellation, he made it a personal mission to enact revenge on NBC by turning everyone involved in the show into a global megastar. He became one of the most-sought-after producers in Hollywood, and some of the stars whose film success can be directly linked to him include Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Lena Dunham, Leslie Mann, John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Bill Hader, Russell Brand, Mila Kunis, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Feig, Nicholas Stoller, and Amy Schumer. Basically, every major player in mainstream comedy’s wonder years of ~2004-2013. But while the actors have mostly either defected to Marvel or found themselves stuck in a spiral of failure, look what’s happened to the filmmakers. Apatow himself has taken a turn for the melancholy: his last two directorial efforts were the bittersweet This Is 40 and Trainwreck, and he’s veering even further with his next flick, a documentary on the Avett Brothers. Ferrell and McKay have broadened their horizons to include over-the-top action reboots like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, depressing character studies like Welcome to Me, and subtle Japanese thrillers like Oh Lucy!, not to mention McKay’s last directorial effort, a biopic about the subprime mortgage crisis (The Big Short). Paul Feig is dipping his toe into animation, Lord and Miller are spearheading Warner Bros. Animation, and Seth Rogen is inevitably veering towards art films as his projects grow increasingly gonzo. The heavy-hitters in comedy have moved on from comedy. What’s left to do?

Well, there is a glimmer of hope. Where comedy is a genre built to last, cinematic universes and superhero movies are on a thin bubble, and that whole industry could crash at any minute, leaving an opening for fresh films to swoop in. We’re still seeing plenty of good comedy being churned out in forms like TV, internet content, and animation. Apatow’s still opening doors for promising newcomers like Kumail Nanjiani and Pete Holmes. Other newcomers like Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell, and Kate McKinnon have also seen their stars rising. Jordan Peele is suddenly the most-sought-after director in Hollywood after his smash hit horror comedy Get Out. It’s looking like the mainstream comedy is going to lie dormant for a couple years. But it’s not going anywhere.

Break It Down: Why Every Movie is Orange and Blue — June 13, 2015

Break It Down: Why Every Movie is Orange and Blue

Well, Jurassic World just came out, and it was pretty epic. Visually spectacular and suspenseful as all hell, it was one of the most thrilling action movies of the summer. One problem: (aside from a few hints of green) it’s entirely orange and blue. Take a look.

But this is nothing new. It seems that nowadays almost every movie is shot in orange and blue. But what is the reason for this trend in filmmaking technique? Let’s start with the science.

You see this color wheel? Notice how orange and blue are on opposite sides of it. This means that they’re complementary colors, i.e. they look pretty when you put them together. This is also why superhero costumes are usually blue, red, and yellow, while villain costumes are usually purple, green, and orange. It looks really pretty.

But why is every movie and every poster orange and blue nowadays? Well, that’s a bit more complicated. First of all, it’s important to note that movie posters have used orange-blue contrast since forever.

There was no point when this trend went dormant for a while, either. If you open up Google Images and search for any year followed by the phrase “movie posters”, you’re bound to find a few examples. But when did people start using it in the movies so much? Well, once again, it’s been around longer than you think. Animated movies have been doing it since 1940’s Fantasia.

And it was even notably used throughout the 1982 film Blade Runner.

But I get what you’re saying. You’re not talking about just any movie using orange-blue contrast. You want to know what kickstarted the trend where every movie has that same color scheme. Well here’s the thing: trends like that don’t just happen overnight. It’s always been pretty commonplace for action blockbusters to use this color scheme, dating back to the first movie of its kind, Jaws. But if I had to choose a point where the trend exploded, it would be:

This movie came out in the right place at the right time. It was directed by Doug Liman, who had used similar color-coordinating techniques in his previous films Go and Swingers, it came out during the height of Matt Damon’s career, hot off the heels of Ocean’s Eleven (which uses these same colors throughout the majority of the film), and it was during a time when digital color correction was big, thanks to 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou?, which revolutionized the field. It was a smash hit, and with the help of another orange-blue action blockbuster…

…it pretty much ruined action movies forever. By 2004, established franchises like Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and Living Dead had all gone orange and blue, and you were hard-pressed to find a movie that wasn’t. And it only got worse from there. Batman Begins. Narnia. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Fantastic Four. Superman Returns. Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Night at the Museum 3. Mission: Impossible 3. Crank. Eragon. Happy Feet. Tokyo Drift. They just kept coming, each year more than the previous.

Soon TV shows started doing it. Doctor Who. CSI. Fringe. Burn Notice. Even critically acclaimed video games like Mass Effect and Portal were doing it. Hell, even Beyonce was doing it.

The good news, however, is that this trend is hardly a thing anymore. Yes, even though I started off this article saying that one of the summer’s biggest hits is using it, the trend has died out in recent years. Action movies have started playing with different arrays of colors like red and green…

…and people have stopped turning out for movies that are exclusively those two colors.Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 5.54.54 PMWe’ll have to wait and see if this trend is truly dying out, but me personally, I’m optimistic.

Dear Marvel: Give Yondu His Own Movie — May 7, 2015

Dear Marvel: Give Yondu His Own Movie

Last April, Kevin Feige said in an interview that he had a plan to continue the Marvel Cinematic Universe through 2028. Now, we can’t say for sure what Feige has in mind, and with the constantly changing landscape of characters to choose from (see: Ghost Rider, Spider-Man), as well as individual movies having to somewhat warp to the whims of their directors, chances are the whole universe isn’t as thought out as it seems. So it’s possible if not likely that Marvel takes into account what the fans want, since the fans are the people who give them money. For example, rumor has it Marvel is finally working on a Black Widow movie, something they were bizarrely opposed to for the longest time. That being said, I have an urgent request for Marvel, and I do hope they’ll hear me out.

Give Yondu his own movie.

For those that have already forgotten due to his lack of screen time, Yondu is a character in Guardians of the Galaxy who is an intergalactic bounty hunter and father figure to Star-Lord. He has a flying spear that slices through enemies on a dime and is controlled via whistling.

This description alone already makes a solid case for why he should have his own movie, but if you’ve seen the movie, you also know that he’s an amazing character. He’s one of the standout and funnier characters in the most standout and funny movie in the MCU, and he’s played brilliantly by The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker, who is unrecognizable in the role.

Now some of you may be saying “But he’s a side character. A one-trick pony. He couldn’t have his own movie!” But just think of it. Yondu wisecracks his way across the galaxy with his gang of ravagers, letting nothing stand in his way as he searches for untold treasures. A John Wick-style action-fest starring a man who is truly unstoppable, but instead of Keanu Reeves it’s fucking Yondu.

Now, I’m sure Yondu will be making appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Infinity Wars, but I feel like he deserves better. In a movie full of amazing characters, he still stands out. He’s unique, he’s hilarious, he’s badass. And he’s exactly the sort of interesting, off-the-wall character that Marvel will need to dig itself out of the superhero backlash that has already begun. But that’s a story for another time.

BREAK IT DOWN: Pixar Has Never Made an Original Movie — July 16, 2014

BREAK IT DOWN: Pixar Has Never Made an Original Movie

Now, “original” can mean a lot of things. Technically, Pixar could call any of their movies a “Pixar original,” even if it was a sequel. What I really mean is that they’ve all been accused of ripping off a lesser-known book, movie, or TV show. And sometimes, these works aren’t even all that lesser-known. I’m not saying the folks at Pixar are hacks by any means. They’re still phenomenal animators, and usually make enhancements to the story and characters that make Pixar movies so memorable while the originals just fade away. It is a bit odd though, that every single Pixar movie has been accused of being a rip-off. So, let’s look at all the Pixar movies in order and see how these rumors hold up.

1. TOY STORY (1995) = THE CHRISTMAS TOY (1986)

Toy Story is considered by many to be not only one of the greatest animated movies of all time, but one of the greatest films, period. But many don’t know that it bears a striking resemblance to a 1986 TV movie called The Christmas Toy, which initially featured a cameo from Kermit the Frog, but it was later edited out due to legal issues. For starters, both films are about a group of toys that come to life when nobody’s around, but that wasn’t exactly a novel idea when Jim Henson did it, either. The real similarities come from the characters. For example, the main toys (Woody/Rugby) both become worried that a shiny new toy may become the center of attention. In both cases, the new toy (Buzz/Meteora) is an egotistical outer space character that doesn’t quite understand that they’re a toy. Another character in The Christmas Toy is a Barbie doll who at one point dresses up as Little Bo Peep. The fellas at Pixar initially wanted Barbie to play a major part in Toy Story, but couldn’t secure the rights, so they went with the next best thing: Little Bo Peep. Of course, they eventually got the rights after Pixar kept making all the money, and when Barbie entered the Toy Story universe, guess who was out? Little. Bo. FUCKING Peep. There’s also a character who “bears” a striking resemblance to Lotso from Toy Story 3, but we’ll get to that later. Interestingly, there was actually a Disney Channel show based on The Christmas Toy, titled The Secret Life of Toys. It  only lasted thirteen episodes, but it was around just about a year before the release of a certain other story of toys. (It’s Toy Story, in case you didn’t pick up on that)

2. A BUG’S LIFE (1998) = SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) + ANTZ? (1998)

The Seven Samurai connection is an obvious and admitted one, but the whole Antz thing is complicated enough to fill an entire book. You see, we know that Jeffrey Katzenberg started DreamWorks because of his personal vendetta against Disney, and we know that Katzenberg was involved in the early planning of A Bug’s Life, and we know that by the time Antz was officially announced, A Bug’s Life was well-known in the world of animation, but Antz did come out first, and both sides of the argument are somewhat convincing. All I can say is that Antz is MUCH better than A Bug’s Life, so if DreamWorks ripped them off, they should really be ripping more people off. Plus, Disney eventually got them back with The Wild, if Antz was the rip-off.

3. TOY STORY 2 (1999) = FOLLOW THAT BIRD (1985)

Now, this might seem a little odd because Toy Story 2 has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and Follow That Bird was reviewed by the Nostalgia Critic, but it all starts to add up when you think about it. They both follow a character (Big Bird/Woody) leaving home and discovering his roots and friends who are also birds/cowboys. Things go sour when the lead is put on display against his will, but his friends eventually help him out and get him back home. Like with many of these movies, Toy Story 2 improves upon the story by removing the less entertaining (read: extremely annoying) bits and replacing them with new, less annoying ones.

4. MONSTERS, INC. (2001) = LITTLE MONSTERS (1989)

Get this: there’s a 1989 live-action movie starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel that is essentially Monsters, Inc. Sounds too ridiculous to be true, right? Oh, I wish it were. You’ll notice from the photo that Mandel has sharp teeth, blue fur, purple spots, and horns, just like Sully. That may be enough, but Boo bears a quite frankly frightening resemblance to Fred Savage if you take a good look at it. In the movies, every kids’ bedroom contains a gateway to the monster world, which has a seemingly infinite supply of doors/staircases to take them to any child in the world and scare the Beyoncè out of them. The sharp-dressed villain kidnaps human children, while the sharp-toothed squinty purple villain does most of the work. At one point, Sully Mandel scares the kid, and has a crisis about whether or not scaring kids is a good career choice. Once again, why Pixar would rip off a film whose most glowing review called it a “passable kiddie flick” is anyone’s guess, but they did a good job of it.

5. FINDING NEMO (2003) = PIERROT LE POISSON CLOWN (1995)

Chances are, if you saw Pierrot Le Poisson Clown in stores, you’d probably think, “Damn, those Frenchmen sure are desperate.” But believe it or not, this children’s book actually came before the universally beloved classic. Despite the obvious similarities between the fish on the cover and Nemo, there are actually a few similarities in the plot, too. Pierrot is raised by a single mother, Nemo by a single father. After being separated from their parents, the two of them must go on an epic journey across the ocean and eventually be reunited with their parents because OBVIOUSLY IT’S CALLED FINDING FUCKING NEMO WHY WOULDN’T THEY FIND HIM.

6. THE INCREDIBLES (2004) = FANTASTIC FOUR (1961)

Let’s run down the list, shall we? We have the super-strong guy (Thing/Mr. Incredible), we have the stretchy one (Mr. Fantastic/Elastigirl), we have the invisible woman (The Invisible Woman/Violet), and we have the younger brother of the invisible woman who can set himself ablaze (Human Torch/Jack-Jack). Dash isn’t reminiscent of any Fantastic Four member, but he is an obvious nod to Flash. Oh, and by the way, you know Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl, the one that can stretch willy-nilly? There’s actually a DC Comics character who’s very similar to that as well. Of course, she’s a member of the Doom Patrol, who have also been accused of ripping off the Fantastic Four, but the similarities are even more striking when you realize her secret identity: Rita Farr. What’s her superhero name, you ask? ELASTIGIRL. SMOOTH MOVE, PIXAR. REAL SMOOTH.

7. CARS (2006) = DOC HOLLYWOOD (1991)

This is the most blatant and infuriating of Pixar’s rip-offs, and the main reason I prefer Cars 2 over the original. But I feel it need re-emphasizing: THESE MOVIES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. The rest of them just have some similar characters or plotlines, but not these two. The courtroom scene, for example, plays out exactly the same in both movies. It just pisses me off that they got away with this. They managed to not only make a remake of Doc Hollywood disguised as a talking car movie, but they also managed to slip it by everyone for several years. EVEN THOUGH A CHARACTER IS REPEATEDLY CALLED “HOLLYWOOD” BY A CHARACTER NAMED DOC HUDSON. I don’t intend to every watch either of these again, but it frustrates me just to think about them.

8. RATATOUILLE (2007) = MOUSEHUNT (1997) + STUART LITTLE (1999)

It could be argued that the whole “lovable mouse bonds with human over shared interest and eliminates species gap” thing was popularized by M. Night Shyamalan’s magnum opus, Stuart Little, and you’d be right. But what about that whole chef thing? Oh yeah, MouseHunt, the 1997 Nathan Lane slapstick comedy directed by… GORE VERBINSKI? Yeah, that’s right. Gore Verbinski directed this. It seems like movies about mice tend to be made by surprising people. Other than the mere fact of the rat having a passion for cooking, the two films have little in common, apart from the exterminator who is hilariously outsmarted by a rat. Of course, the health inspector in Ratatouille is played by Tony Fucile, and the health inspector in MouseHunt is played by Christopher Walken, so point MouseHunt. But if you were to combine Stuart Little and MouseHunt, you’d get something pretty close to Ratatouille.

9. WALL-E (2008) = SHORT CIRCUIT (1986) + IDIOCRACY (2006)

Once again, the Short Circuit connection should be obvious. I mean, just look at them. They’re the same bot. No question about it. If you’ve seen Idiocracy, you can probably see the connection there, but very few people have seen Idiocracy. The films both feature dystopian futures in which mankind has become obese, illiterate, TV-obsessed, and controlled behind the scenes by a superstore. Seems like a fairly specific, though accurate, depiction of our future. One more thing about WALL-E. Ever notice how the people in the flashbacks are live-action? That really baffled me at first, but if you connect the dots far enough, you realize that WALL-E actually takes place in the same universe as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which ties it into my massive ACME conspiracy theory, but more on that later.

10. UP (2009) = ABOVE THEN BEYOND (2005)

First of all, “above then beyond” is basically the definition of “up.” But that’s not all! Above Then Beyond is a French student film about an old widow who is constantly harassed by developers trying to kick her out of her tiny old-fashioned house, so she turns her house into a giant balloon and flies away. Sound like anything you’ve seen? Of course, in Up, the old man has high-flying adventures in South America and learns important lessons about friendship and heartbreak and shit but it’s also hilarious so don’t worry. In Above Then Beyond, the widow dies.

11. TOY STORY 3 (2010) = THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER (1987)

EVERYONE was talking about this for a few months. In this day and age, you really need to make sure your movie idea is original. Not sure if Pixar is trying to be original, but whatever. In these movies, a kid goes to college and through a gross misunderstanding, his beloved childhood things are taken away. The gang has to work together to find their way back home, despite immense danger along the way (deadly conveyor belt, garbage dump). This isn’t exactly stealing, since much of the story of Brave Little Toaster was conceived by none other than John Lasseter. So at least now they’re ripping off themselves instead of shitty ’80s and ’90s comedies.

12. CARS 2 (2011) = THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997)

Oop, spoke too soon. Now you’re probably shocked, even offended by the notion that a timeless classic like Cars 2 would rip off such a shameless crime against filmanity as The Man Who Knew Too Little, but it’s true. For those of you who don’t know, Man Who Knew Too Little came out during a relative low point in Bill Murray’s career, after Ed Wood but before Rushmore. In it, Bill Murray is mistaken for an American spy and must go on a grand adventure around the world with British spies. For most of it, he’s not even aware it’s a spy thing. I’m sure you see the connection. It’s not as direct a rip-off as Cars, but it’s still there.

13. BRAVE (2012) = BROTHER BEAR (2003)

If you have seen Brave, this might seem obvious to you. If you haven’t, you’re probably sitting there going “What the fuck?” You see, unlike the trailers indicate, Brave is actually mainly about Merida’s mother being turned into a bear. Apart from that, and the fact that both cases were caused by spooky magic and old lady wizards, the films really don’t have that much in common. Sure, there’s the smaller, more annoying bear(s) who plays way too big a part. And there’s the fish scene. But the reason this needs to be stated is because if you take out all that, Brave is really just a typical rebellious princess story, like Aladdin or Spaceballs.

14. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013) = REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984)

This one could very well be intentional. But it’s still there. Both films center around two… freshmen? Wait, is Sully a freshman? Whatever. So, the two freshmen are just getting to college and already, they’re not having the best of times, what with the bullies and the parties and suchlike. After the jocks take things too far, the nerds decide to start their own fraternity and begin using out-of-the-box techniques to get back at the jocks. Neither is fantastic, but both are pretty good. This is the only Pixar rip-off that’s about on par with the original in terms of quality.

So, it looks like Pixar hasn’t made an original movie. Yet. Maybe someday in the future, Pixar will make a movie with an original plot and characters. But for now, I’m fine with what we have. Maybe The Good Dinosaur will be original. Or Finding Dory. Hey, what about Inside Out? Yeah, Inside Out, the one that features the personifications of the emotions of a little girl whose every decision comes from the adventures of said emotions. Yeah, that should be pretty original.

Unless you’ve seen Herman’s Head. Herman’s Head is a Fox sitcom produced by Disney. It follows a middle-aged man and the personifications of his emotions. The man’s every decision is caused by the adventures of said emotions. Yep. HH stars two Simpsons stars, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Leslie Nielsen as God in a hilarious bit where one of the emotions says, “You’re not God! You’re Leslie Nielsen!” To which he replies, “You, Herman, chose to portray me as Leslie Nielsen.” Of course, a middle-aged man isn’t exactly the same thing as a little girl, right? Surely this plot would be totally different with a prepubescent girl.

Wait, The Simpsons already did that. In an obvious reference to Herman’s Head, we see the struggle between Lisa’s emotions after becoming jealous of Marge publishing a novel. It almost seems too good to be true, to point at a Pixar movie and say, “Simpsons already did that,” but there you go. Goddammit, Pixar.

I’ll have a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review up later today. Then other stuff I’m not telling you about shhhhhhhhh.

Break It Down: Ghostbusters 3 — March 23, 2014

Break It Down: Ghostbusters 3

This one goes out to my fallen homeboy, Harold Ramis. I am most certainly the first person to ever say anything of that nature. In this article, I will talk about not only the history of Ghostbusters 3, but also how to save it.

The idea for Ghostbusters 3 first came up in 1999 when Dan Aykroyd and Tom Davis wrote a script called Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent, which would involve Hell having to evict some of its inhabitants to the real world, forcing the Ghostbusters to visit Hell to put them in their place. The movie would have focused mainly on a set of new, younger Ghostbusters, who according to one reviewer were entirely interchangeable and not particularly funny. The prospects of that particular script didn’t last very long, as Aykroyd said in November of that same year, “Ghostbusters 3 isn’t going to happen for the same reason Men in Black 2 isn’t going to happen.” Welp.

Elements of that script were later borrowed for the 2009 Ghostbusters video game, which was apparently very good, but I never played it. So, was that the end of Ghostbusters 3? Well, obviously not. In 2004, Ernie Hudson said in an interview that everyone was game except Bill Murray, and that if they wanted to do it, they’d have to do it soon, because they were getting too old, presumably for this shit. It was reported in a few places in 2005 that Ben Stiller was to play a role in the movie. This was during one of Ben Stiller’s good periods. However, no news on the movie came up after that, until 2009.

In 2009, Ramis said that production on the movie had come to a screeching halt because of a lack of interest (you got that right, sistah). However, Aykroyd was obviously still interested, because he gave away some weirdly specific plot details later that same year. It was only in 2010 that Ghostbusters 3 news started popping up every other week.

It started in January, when Ivan Reitman confirmed he’d be directing the movie. This was the first piece of news that looked promising, as well as the first one to pretty much confirm the film’s eventual release. After that, everything pretty much went to shit. Bill Murray announced on Letterman that March that he would only appear in the film if his character were killed off within the first reel (a reel is about eleven minutes, in case you didn’t know). This was of course followed by Murray telling Coming Soon a month later, “You know what? Maybe I should do it.” That’s about the only answer we’ve gotten out of Bill as of yet. In May 2010, Aykroyd announced that Ghostbusters 3 would be THE must-see movie of Christmas 2012. Yep.

It was announced that November that Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg would be writing the film. Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s previous credits included numerous episodes of The Office (not good ones), Year One, and Bad Teacher. So yeah. Aykroyd did say, however, that it was a really good script, and that he was really excited for the movie. Well yeah, it’s his movie, I mean, am I right, ladies?

A guy named Stefano Paganini who works at Sony said in October of 2010 that the script was approved and the wheels are turning. Then no news concerning the movie sprung up for like, a year. That seems to be a recurring theme; every time the movie looks like it might actually be happening, we stop hearing about it for a long time. However, Aykroyd told Dennis Miller in August of 2011 that the movie was moving forward as planned whether or not Bill Murray wanted any part of it. He said that the movie was about much more than just Murray, while adding that he was undoubtedly the lead and contributed to the film in a massive way. Kind of sending mixed messages there, Danny.

It was reported in 2011 that Bill Murray had received the script, but rumor had it he shredded it. So yeah. However, Aykroyd said it wasn’t true, but from what we’ve seen so far, Aykroyd isn’t exactly an accurate source of info. He said in February 2012 that the film was in suspended animation, and if it were to happen, Bill wouldn’t be in it. But Ramis and Reitman were all like “Come on, man! We don’t have anything else to do with our lives!” And Aykroyd was all like “Ok, fine, but the script’s gotta be just right, or else I’m out.

However, in Spring of 2012, it started to sound like Bill might want to do the movie after all. He told Letterman that they’re trying, but he wants to make sure it’s good before he agrees to do it. That July, Aykroyd confirmed that a rewrite was being developed, and confirmed LITERALLY A WEEK LATER that Etan Cohen would be writing it. Cohen also wrote Idiocracy, Madagascar 2, and Men in Black 3, so everyone was like, “Ay, maybe this’s goin’ somewhere. I dunno.”

And of course, Murray continued to flip-flop on his involvement in the film, as it was announced later in the year that he would not be involved. Reitman announced that September that a Ghostbusters remake might be in the works, as opposed to a third installment. But then in May 2013, Aykroyd was like, “Yeah, it’s happening. Bill doesn’t want to do it, but I left a spot for him just in case. It’s all nice and cozy.” It’s almost as if Bill, Dan, and Ivan aren’t talking about the same movie.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of news came in June 2013, where Rick Moranis gave a rare interview, in which he did discuss Ghostbusters 3. For those of you who don’t know, Moranis gave up showbiz to raise his kids after his wife died of breast cancer. Although, Anne died in ’91, and Moranis didn’t really quit until Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves in 1997, so maybe there was something else going on (Dear god, I hope Rick doesn’t read this). Moranis said that he may return to the role if the script’s actually good, and that he’d like to find out where his character wound up. So yeah, that’s what Rick had to say about it.

Aykroyd said later that, once again, they were rewriting the script and leaving Bill’s seat warm in case he decided to come back. This was getting to be really annoying at that point, Aykroyd saying the same shit over and over and over again and then no actual news about the movie coming out. However, that all changed when Harold Ramis straight-up died this February. Ramis had a writing credit on the movie’s IMDb page, but Sony claimed that Ramis’ involvement in the movie was minimal to begin with (a cameo). With the screenplay needing some serious rewrites, it was said that Reitman would need to have a sit-down with Sony to talk about how to move forward. They’re trying to start shooting in early 2015 now, I’ve heard. So, that’s the story of Ghostbusters 3. Oh, and another thing.

Reitman dropped out. He’s not directing it. This led many people to say, “Well, that’s it, movie’s not gonna happen, everyone pack up your things, this is the end of Ghostbusters 3.” But is it, though? Think about it. What has Ivan Reitman done recently that would make one think he could handle Ghostbusters 3? Let me list off every movie he’s directed since Ghostbusters 2. *clears throat* Kindergaten Cop, Dave, Junior, Father’s Day (so far, Schwarzenegger and Williams vehicles), Six Days Seven Nights (well that came out of left field), Evolution (don’t even ask), Cooking Lessons (unsold pilot), My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and No Strings Attached. I think that out of those 9 movies, the best was Kindergarten Cop. That’s pretty bad.

Maybe this is what the movie needed. If they could find some kind of total nerd who is known for making a really good nerdgasm of a comedy, maybe they could save this movie.

Enter Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, and most notably, The LEGO Movie. These guys are among my favorite directors. And they’re clearly gigantic nerds. And there’s a good chance Ghostbusters is one of their favorite movies. And rumor has it they’ll be directing Ghostbusters 3. They are the only thing that can save this movie.

I’ll have a buncha reviews ‘n’ shit coming out pretty soon. I may also do a ranking of the Dreamworks movies, but it’ll take a while. Like if you like, favorite if you favorite, follow if you follow, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always,

Liek dis if u cry everyitm.

Break It Down: Futurama — September 2, 2013

Break It Down: Futurama

Unfortunately, it looks like Futurama, possibly the smartest cartoon in the history of television, is finally coming to an end after 14 years and 7 seasons. Now, those of you who are woefully unprepared to read this article may be wondering how a show could be on for 14 years and only have 7 seasons. Allow me to fill you in on that. The first season was aired over the course of one year: 1999. The second season started in 1999, and ended in 2000. The third season went from January 2001 all the way to December 2002. The fourth went from 2002 to 2003. Then the show was cancelled, before being revived for 4 four-part specials in 2008 and 2009. This was the fifth season. Comedy Central started airing new episodes of the show in 2010, splitting each season into two parts. The final season, #7, is ending on Wednesday. Now that we’ve gone over a general history, let’s get into the details.

It all started in the mid-1990s, when Fox was so happy with the success of The Simpsons that they wanted Matt Groening to make a new show. This is when he started to conceive Futurama. He asked David X. Cohen for help making the show in 1996. After years of research and development, the show was finally pitched to Fox in April 1998. Groening called the process of trying to get the show on the air the worst experience of his adult life. At this point, Cohen and Groening had already conceived many characters and plotlines for the show. Fox had ordered thirteen episodes, but were reluctant because of a few of the characters and aspects of the show. They were particularly concerned about suicide booths, Dr. Zoidberg, and Bender’s personality. Groening was adamant about making the show the way he wanted to make it, much like he was with The Simpsons up until about 2003. Like with The Simpsons, several Futurama episodes are produced at a time, since it takes six months to write, record, animate, and edit each episode.

So, the first episode aired, titled “Space Pilot 3000.” And it did terrifically. It garnered 11 million viewers, more than The Simpsons or The X-Files, which were on before and after it, and was the most popular show of the week among men and teenagers. The pilot, revolved around a pizza delivery boy named Fry who accidentally becomes cryogenically frozen for 1000 years just as the clock strikes twelve on January 1, 2000. He is unfrozen in the year 3000, where he has to run from being labelled as a delivery boy for his whole life. Along the way, he meets Bender, a sassy, alcoholic robot who is literally everyone’s favorite character. In the end, Fry, Bender, and Leela, who is trying to implant his “career chip” that would, like I said before, label him permanently as a delivery boy, decide to join an interplanetary delivery company headed by Fry’s distant nephew, Hubert Farnsworth. Yes, that all happened in one 22-minute episode. Unfortunately, a decline in ratings led this season to #89 in the Neilsen ratings. While not great, the ratings still warranted a second season.

The second season helped shape the Futurama we know and love, having further established the characters of Richard Nixon and Zapp Brannigan and marked the first first appearance of fan favorites Robot Santa, Cubert, the Robot Mafia, Mom, and Lrrr. This season also had the first Anthology of Interest, a staple for the show. Yes, this certainly was a great season for Futurama, even though there was a 6-month hiatus in the middle. Another slight dip in ratings put this at #97 on the end-of-the-year Nielsen ratings. However, the show won an Emmy, an Annie, and an EMA, in addition to two Annie nominations, including Best Prime-Time Animated Series. So, the show was renewed by Fox yet again.

This brings us to season three. This was a very hectic season, with several large gaps between episodes that led to a lack of structure, and the show finished a dismal #115 in the Neilsen ratings. That’s not to say it was a bad season. It may be the best, as a matter of fact. It included such classic episodes as “Amazon Women in the Mood,” “The Luck of the Fryrish,” “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid,” and “Anthology of Interest 2.” The only reason the show was doing so poorly was that Fox kept moving it from timeslot to timeslot, meaning viewers had a hard time finding the show. Its bad luck continued through Season 4, at which point it had only 6.9 million viewers, and was cancelled by Fox.

So, was Futurama gone forever? Of course not, it’s ending on Wednesday. So, how did it save itself from cancellation? Well, Comedy Central secured the syndication rights in 2005. They weren’t able to start airing them until 2008, because Cartoon Network had the rights up until then. While negotiating the acquisition of Futurama, which became the most expensive acquisition in the network’s history, Comedy Central discussed the possibility of new episodes. And after tremendous success in syndication, Groening and Cohen announced the production of 4 four-part episodes that would air on Comedy Central over the course of 2008 and 2009. Although the final movie, “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” was meant as a definitive end to the series, Groening was very open to producing more episodes in the future.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the first movie, “Bender’s Big Score.” The story revolves around nudist aliens taking over planet express and using a time travel code on Fry’s ass to become the most powerful people in the universe. The movie ends with an epic battle to reclaim Earth, followed by the shocking revelation that Leela’s fiancé was an alternate version of Fry. Yeah, it was pretty weird. It’s still a really good movie, though. It has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The next movie was “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” whose plot is far too weird to accurately explain, so let’s move on to the third movie, “Bender’s Game,” in which Bender’s obsession with Dungeons and Dragons brings the crew into a fantasy world straight out of… Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah, these movies have really weird plots. Seriously, though, they’re fantastic. You should really check them out. Especially the fourth one, “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” which is my favorite Futurama episode of all time.

Getting back to the story, it was announced in June 2009 that Comedy Central would be airing 26 new episodes of Futurama starting one year hence. This new series would have a smaller writing staff, since many of the writers were not able to or interested in returning. Despite a salary dispute, all the original voice actors agreed to return for this sixth season. The premiere night was the highest-rated night in 2010 for Comedy Central, and the highest-rated Thursday in the network’s entire history. It wasn’t announced until July 2011 that a 7th season would be created, meaning that this week’s episode, “Meanwhile,” will be the fourth episode of Futurama meant as a finale.

So, how were Groening and co. gonna pull this? Were they going to give a simple explanation for how things got back to normal? Were they going to have things stay how they are and have the crew explore the galaxy a la Star Trek? Were they going to spoof Hollywood reboots by giving an overly complicated explanation for how everyone survived and things went back to normal? If you know anything about Futurama, you probably know which one. This overly complicated explanation also provided the “comedy central channel” line, which is my favorite line from any Futurama episode. And with viewership ranging from 1.5 million to 3 million, the new season was a hit (by cable standards). So, naturally, Comedy Central renewed the show for what would become the final season.

This brings us to our current season, #7. And although it’s certainly not as high-quality as say, Season 3, there are a few great episodes, like “Decision 3012,” “Viva Mars Vegas,” and one of my personal favorites, “Saturday Morning Fun Pit.” However, due to a dip in ratings (a July episode brought in only 810,000 viewers), the show was cancelled.

So, is this the end of Futurama? There’s a good chance. While Futurama doesn’t seem to take “cancelled” for an answer, there don’t seem to be many platforms on which it could continue (Netflix? Hulu?). So, this may very well be the end of Futurama for good. But in my opinion, they had a good run. In fact, the past five years have basically been a bonus round for the show, anyway. I’m very much looking forward to the finale and I can’t wait to see Fry and Leela’s wedding (we all know it’s going to happen).

After a review of the finale on Sunday, I’ll post a list of my top ten favorite episodes of Futurama. Until then…

End transmission.

Break It Down: The Three Flavors Cornetto — August 27, 2013

Break It Down: The Three Flavors Cornetto

Well, The World’s End just came out, so what better time to talk about the trilogy that it completes: the Three Flavours Cornetto. Now, any critic worth a damn will tell you that this trilogy is one of the best ever, consisting of three, count them, THREE of the funniest movies ever made: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. But what is the Three Flavours? What does the name mean? In what sense is it a trilogy?

Well, first off, they all star Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman, among others. Second of all, they’re all directed by Edgar Wright, best known for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the upcoming Ant-Man, which might also star Simon Pegg. Third, they are all broad parodies of (respectively) the zombie, cop, and alien subgenres. Fourth and foremost, they all feature a character enjoying a Cornetto ice cream, usually in a flavor that ties in with the film’s theme. In Shaun, it’s red, representing blood. In Fuzz, it’s original, which has a blue wrapper, representing police. In End, it’s green, representing aliens. But the questions still remains, what’s the story behind this trilogy? That’s what I’ll be discussing today.

It all started with Spaced, A British sitcom directed by Wright and starring Pegg and Frost, which lasted for two years on the UK’s Channel 4. A sort of live-action Regular Show, the series revolved mainly around the surrealistic and colorful adventures of Tim and Daisy, two London twenty-somethings who decide to live together despite barely knowing each other, and eventually develop a romance of sorts. However, the show was cancelled before the romance could be fully explored. While there have been rumors about another season since 2007, but Pegg and Wright have fervently denied it in recent years. It was said during a brief epilogue that Tim and Daisy got married and had a daughter.

One particular episode of Spaced, “Art,” revolved around Tim (Pegg) hallucinating a zombie infestation after playing Resident Evil 2 while high. This episode inspired Wright to make a movie. What was this movie? Shaun of the Dead. Influenced heavily in style, writing, and even casting, by Spaced, the movie is what Wright calls a “ZomRomCom.” The movie also draws influence from the Romero zombie movies. In fact, Romero was so pleased with the tribute that he requested Pegg and Frost to play zombies in Land of the Dead. Despite being made over nine weeks with a six-million-dollar budget, the movie was a huge success, earning $30 million worldwide and a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was even named the 49th best British movie of all time by Total Film magazine. It was also named the 3rd-funniest movie of all time by a Channel 4 poll, as well as one of the twenty greatest horror movies of all time by Stylus, Time, and Bloody Disgusting magazines. Now Magazine named it the best movie of the ’00s and a BBC poll named it the second-best movie of all time. Quentin Tarantino called it one of his twenty favorite movies.

This of course brings us to Hot Fuzz, one of my all-time favorite movies. Wright wrote the movie because, according to him, there aren’t really any good cop movies in the UK. Pegg and Wright wrote the script together over the course of a year and a half. The title is a parody of meaningless two-word action movie titles, like Point Break and Lethal Weapon. Pegg joked that such titles were joked by pulling adjectives and nouns out of hats. The movie revolves around Nicholas Angel (Pegg), an extremely dedicated London cop who is transferred to a small “crime-free” village called Sandford. While there, he uncovers the mass conspiracy behind the murders of several townspeople. At the end, Angel’s superiors beg him to return to London, but he declines and becomes the sheriff of Sandford. Hot Fuzz had twice the budget of Shaun of the Dead, and also managed to rake in nearly thrice as much money, with $81 million worldwide. The movie also has a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, just like its predecessor, and the Nostalgia Critic, a popular internet personality, calls it the funniest movie he’s ever seen.

I know what you’re thinking. Why am I telling you about the history of the movies instead of the origins of the trilogy? Well, believe it or not, these movies didn’t become a trilogy until after Hot Fuzz. You see, while writing The World’s End, an interviewer noted the appearance of Cornetto ice cream in Shaun and Fuzz, and asked Pegg if there was a connection. Pegg jokingly stated that it was a trilogy, like the Three Colors. “It’s the Three Flavours Cornetto,” remarked Pegg. The name stuck.

Now let’s talk about The World’s End, which opened last Friday. The movie was based on a screenplay Wright wrote when he was 21, titled Crawl, which revolved around teenagers on a pub crawl. He later decided to retool it to be about adults, in order to capture the feeling of returning to your home town and feeling out of place. He remarked that said feeling was like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and that was the inspiration for the film. Wright and Pegg used real pub names as foreshadowing for parts of the film, like the World’s End and the Famous Cock (don’t ask). A member of Jackie Chan’s team choreographed the stunts for the movie. I won’t be spoiling the plot, since the movie just came out, but trust me, it’s good. The movie’s already made over $11 million and has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So, that’s the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Late this week, I’ll be ranking the Batman movies, and next week, you’ll be seeing two articles on Futurama, followed by a review of the finale on Sunday. Until then…

End transmission.

Note — August 21, 2013