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For the Love of Pete: Why “Crashing” is one of the Best Comedies on TV Right Now

Full disclosure, I fell in love with Pete Holmes the moment I saw him show up on my screen like some gangly white ray of sunshine.  I stumbled onto his show Crashing by accident, scrolling along the homepage of my HBO GO app until I saw a photo of a man sitting on a couch in the middle of the street mock-screaming directly into the camera. “I don’t know who this guy is,” I thought, “but I have a feeling he gets me.” Long story short, it was a show about a comedian, I’ve done stand-up a handful of times, and I’m a regular sucker for guys whose noses are of the Adrian Brody variety. I gave it a go.

My love of comedy about comedians started with Jerry Seinfeld. For me, he was the first comic to use serialized television to tell an audience the ins and outs of being a working comedian. Yes, I realize this dates me as a ’90s child – I’m sorry about it, too.

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"This isn't the casual weekend I agreed to."

Get Out… Before You Meet the GF’s Parents

(Get Out of this page if you don’t want any spoilers.)

Yes, the Armitage family is cool. So hip! Rose (Allison Williams) is a knockout AND willing to stick up for her black boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), when a white cop gives him a hard time. They arrive at her parents’ estate where her parents don’t disappoint. They have created an environment where their kids are comfortable swearing in front of them. And talking about sex! Hell, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) even let them stay in the same bedroom. So chill! Despite Dean’s clumsy (but genuine) praise of Obama as opening conversation with a black man, their coolness is still intact by nightfall. Should we be worried yet?

No.

(Note: Boblius is rarely invited to studios’ critic screenings therefore at Get Out he found himself seated near an older couple with a 4 year old girl. Yes, these grandparents brought their granddaughter to Get Out. More on this later.)
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The LEGO Batman Movie: Death of a Police Commissioner, Birth of a Batgirl

(Spoilers below? Oh yeah.)

A few years back there was a Lego movie. It’s name escapes me right now. Anyway, the Lego movie was thought to promote collectivism and criticize capitalism. The makers of the Lego movie (whatever it was called) denied an anti-business agenda BUT… the bad guy in the film was named “Lord Business.”

Well, a few years have passed and now we have The Lego Batman Movie on our hands. Perhaps to bring a Ra’s al Ghul-ish balance to the cinematic Lego-verse, this film asserts a strong critique of police policies largely revealed through the Barbara Gordon character. Her shedding of the commissioner’s uniform (Don’t get excited, it’s a PG film) in favor of her Batgirl costume formalizes her abandonment of supposedly enlightened law enforcement policies.

In the first reel Police Commissioner Jim Gordon finds himself in a crisis: The Joker has assembled a huge bomb to blow the literal floor out from under Gotham City. Gordon does what the G.C.P.D. does best: Call BATMAN!

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Lego My Batman

If you are anything like me, “skepticism” best described your thoughts when learning of The Lego Batman Movie. Yes, I love Lego’s. And yes, I love Batman. But “The Caped Crusader” in an animated film depicted by the world’s favorite plastic block construction toys? Sounded like too much of a good thing to me, perversely so in fact. I just did not think that Lego Batman could do the character justice. I did not think it could tell a Batman tale that anyone over 11 years old could get behind. I am glad to say: I was wrong.

Spoilers throughout.

The premise for the film is a rather simple one—what if Batman believed himself to be the bad ass that we believe he is? That’s Lego Batman, a narcissistic, frat-boy superhero who always saves the day, and always knows the he will. Lego Batman sacrifices friendship and relations out of his commitment to the superhero craft and out of his fear of losing others in the same way he lost his parents. Lego Batman’s narcissism is so profound, that even the Joker is disillusioned by it. In fact, we find that the Jokers criminal behavior is largely attention seeking. He just wants validation from Lego Batman, and to be accepted as the plastic hero’s arch nemesis.

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You May Have Missed: Megamind

If you’re like me, you missed Megamind in theaters because the trailers didn’t really sell you on the movie. If you’re really like me, you will regret that decision after watching it at home. Megamind is another unfortunate example of a brilliant film being misrepresented and shown in its worst light via marketing (I think Mean Girls is another prime example). To be fair, I’m not sure the film knows whom it is targeting. Most of the jokes, such as the classic rock songs that Megamind favors for stylish entrances, seem like they would go over most kid’s heads. I would be curious to watch the movie with a child and see what they respond to and enjoy. As it is, I think the movie was made for me and my ilk. Especially because of what I consider the most interesting aspect of the film (spoilers): Hal Stewart’s character vs. Megamind’s and the representation, and critique, of white male privilege. Yes, I just went there.

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The Original Ghostbusters: More Than Just Busting Ghosts?

ghostbusters_ver3_xlg-2It’s hard to believe a full-fledged Ghostbusters film hasn’t been in theaters since 1989, but it’s now 2016 and they’re back…sort of.  Whether or not you’ve embraced the franchise’s reboot, it’s worth paying tribute to the fact that many consider the original 1984 film to be one of Hollywood’s most libertarian blockbusters.

After losing their jobs at Columbia University, paranormal investigators, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler start their own extermination service known as the “Ghostbusters.”  Naturally, no one takes them seriously, until a rise in paranormal activity begins to threaten New York.

As their service becomes more in demand, the Ghostbusters do what any successful business does: expand.  They purchase an office in the form of a firehouse, make a cheesy advertisement, and hire extra staff: receptionist Janine Melnitz, and a fourth buster, Winston Zeddemore.  The Ghostbusters new found fame and success, however, is short lived when the Environmental Protection Agency has them arrested and their business shut down for operating unlicensed waste, deactivating their spirit containment system and inadvertently releasing hundreds of ghosts, who begin terrorizing New York.

The situation escalates even more when the ghosts successfully summon Gozer, the god of destruction, to bring about the end of the world.  The government, having no means of combating the supernatural threat, releases the Ghostbusters from custody to battle Gozer.  When our heroes finally come face to face with the god of destruction, it allows the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the destructor.  Trying to think of something completely harmless, Ray envisions his favorite corporate mascot, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which arrives in giant form and begins to destroy the city.

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southpark

South Park’s Stance On Censorship: More Relevant Than Ever?

When South Park first came onto the scene in 1997, it caused quite a stir.  The animated sitcom that follows four foul-mouthed boys and their exploits throughout a small town in Colorado was loved by audiences and hated by parents who caught their young ones quoting the show’s signature fart and pee pee jokes.

What has ultimately set South Park apart from most TV shows is its no holds barred attitude when it comes to making fun of sensitive subjects.  The feature film that followed shortly after the show’s release, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999),” tackled the issues of censorship and bad parenting.

TandPThe film centers on the release of a new R-rated movie: “Terrance and Phillip: Asses of Fire,” which main characters: Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny are first in line to see.  The film becomes all the rage in South Park and soon after its release; every kid in town is quoting its crude humor.  This of course sets the parents off in a rage, so much so that they end up banning all Terrance and Philip’s films and merchandise and send their kids to a rehabilitation center, so that they’ll stop swearing.  They take it a step further when they end up abducting Terrance and Philip and wage war on their native country – Canada.  When Cartman voices his displeasure of all this by singing a song about Kyle’s mom being a bitch, the parents implant a v-chip inside of him giving him an electric shock every time he swears.  The kids of South Park are then forced to lead a resistance against the parents, save Terrance and Philip and prevent Satan from rising up and taking over the world.

Although this film came out in 1999, its stance on freedom of speech and anti-censorship are more relevant than ever.  Earlier this month, the newly released X-Men Apocalypse’s marketing campaign was hit with controversy when a billboard depicting the film’s main antagonist, Apocalypse, choking Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Actress Rose McGowan slammed the advertisement, saying it was “offensive” and seemingly approved of violence against women.  The backlash resulted in 20th Century Fox making a public apology and later taking down the ads, even though, according to Deadline Hollywood, a top female Fox executive approved the advertisement before it was released.

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3 Things the Netflix Series, The Ranch Gets Right

Netflix recently debuted a brand new traditionally produced sit-com series that is sitting pretty with a 4 1/2 star rating from their subscribers. Having recently finished watching this first season’s ten episodes, here are three things the series gets right:

1. Ashton Kutcher is front and center.

Kutcher in Bed

Ashton Kutcher stars as Colt Bennett, a washed-up college football QB, who is forced to move back home to the ranch he grew up on with his never-satisfied father, Beau (the great Sam Elliot), and smart-mouthed brother “Rooster” (Kutcher’s former That 70’s Show co-star Danny Masterson.) Mom, Maggie (Debra Winger) is living in her own Airstream behind the bar she owns due to her estranged relationship to husband Beau.

Ever since he debuted on That 70’s Show in the late 90s, Ashton Kutcher has proven himself to be a natural comedic actor with leading man looks.  In television land, this is hard to come by.  He’s maintained relevancy in pop-culture ever since we were introduced to him with stints like MTV’s Punk’d, a bunch of hit (and miss) feature films, as a successful venture capitalist and angel investor (AirBnB, Foursquare), stepping back into TV and into Charlie “Tiger’s Blood” Sheen’s shoes on Two & a Half Men, and bringing it full circle with this second outing co-starring to his former 70’s Show co-star Masterson. Through it all he’s been married to Demi Moore and now is married-with-children with another former 70’s co-star, Mila Kunis, yet somehow has seemingly maintained humility and stayed true to Chris.

While Ashton is clearly the lead of the show, Masterson, Elliott, the re-emerged Winger (Urban Cowboy) as Beau’s estranged wife, and Elisha Cuthbert (Kim “Kidnapped” Bauer from 24) as Colt’s corn-fed country-girl former high school sweetheart, round a solid cast.  The first few episodes take minute for everyone to gel, but once you know everyone and it feels like they know everyone, it’s a welcome sight when any one of them pops on screen with Kutcher who brings chemistry to each interaction.  The biggest surprise comes from the amount of depth that begins to percolate as the these honest familial relationships start to surface.  Sam Elliott and Debra Winger have both had long careers filled with terrific dramatic performances, that cache helps bring balance to what could easily have been a Duck Dynasty style sitcom. (I contend Duck Dynasty masquerades more as a reality show, when in reality it’s more situation comedy without the acting talent.)

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How Zootopia Can Teach You And Your Kids About Liberty

I went to see Zootopia last week expecting a solid children’s movie. What I didn’t expect was arguably the most libertarian children’s movie in recent memory. Seriously, Ayn Rand could have written this thing. Zootopia can teach kids about all sorts of libertarian ideals, such as citizen accountability, skepticism of government officials, civil liberties, and the rejection of majority rule justification. 

We start with a relatively simple premise common in kid’s movies: our lead character has a dream that the world says will never come true. In this case, that lead character is a bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) who wants to be a police officer. A bunny has never been a police officer before, but Judy works hard and becomes the first one. What makes Zootopia somewhat unique is that it spends relatively little screen time telling us how that dream comes true. Instead, the movie focuses on all of Judy’s struggles after she becomes a cop and how sometimes dreams aren’t everything we thought they would be.

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$10,000 Film Grant Available – Make a Short Film This Summer

As an independent filmmaker, the single biggest obstacle to getting your film made is: paying for it.  You can have all the other elements you need lined up: a great story, a fast and efficient crew, talented actors, and your aunt has even agreed to let you film at her vacation home in the mountains, (as long as you pay for the maid service afterwards,) but if you don’t have a budget to pay for it all, you will not make your film.  This is where Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film program comes in.

The Liberty Lab for Film (or LLF) is an advanced program for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, and/or producing experience and want an opportunity to work alongside liberty-minded creatives under the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (co-executive producer, NBC’s The Blacklist) Adam Simon (creator of the FOX series Salem) and screenwriter David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2)  in developing, writing, filming and editing your short film or web series idea.

Jessica Stroup (FOX's The Following) discusses her scene with LLF filmmaker and director Nick Delgado on his film Freedom HUD
Jessica Stroup (FOX’s The Following) discusses her scene with LLF filmmaker and director Nick Delgado on his film Freedom HUD

If you and your treatment are selected, you will receive a grant for $10,000 to fund your project and be paired with an established industry professional who will mentor you through a 100 day process.  At the conclusion, Taliesin Nexus will host a gala showcase screening in Los Angeles where your film will premiere along with your fellow LLF participants’ projects.

This is not for the faint of heart.  You and your partners will be responsible for producing a high quality film. For 100 days, you  must contend with: a rigorous development process, valuable collaboration, working within a budget, and notes & feedback from your mentor and the network.  It’s a process not unlike aspects of the Hollywood system or any independent film production.

To submit, all you need is a one-page treatment of your story idea for a short film or web-series that touches on some aspect of liberty.  Why Liberty?  Taliesin Nexus is committed to helping storytellers, who share a passion for human freedom and diversity, succeed in their entertainment career.

The 2015 LLF Fellows and their mentors in the writers room at the opening workshop.
The 2015 LLF Fellows and their mentors in the writers room at the opening workshop.

One great aspect about applying is, if you apply early, it will give them time to review your application and reach out to you to offer feedback. If they can help you with your treatment even before you make it in to the program, they want to do it.  Taliesin Nexus is committed to ensuring that you and your project receive as much support as possible.

Please follow this link to learn more about the program, the application process, and what to expect when you are selected into the program.  Applications are being accepted NOW and you have until April 15, 2016 to submit.

(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of SmashCut Culture)

www.kobal-collection.com
Title: HOME ALONE ¥ Pers: CULKIN, MACAULAY  /  PESCI, JOE  /  STERN, DANIEL  /  BLOSSOM, ROBERTS ¥ Year: 1990 ¥ Dir: COLUMBUS, CHRIS ¥ Ref: HOM045AG ¥ Credit: [ 20TH CENTURY FOX / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / SMETZER, DON ]
HOME ALONE (1990)
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January 1, 1990
Photo by DON SMETZER/20TH CENTURY FOX/The Kobal Collection/WireImage.com

To license this image (10553328), contact The Kobal Collection/WireImage.com

Spending Time Home Alone This Week.

h-HO00001775Like all true 90’s kids, I have been anxiously awaiting the chance to relive my favorite tale of holiday-hi-jinks on the big screen – Home Alone. In remembrance of twenty-five years since Kevin’s first victory over the “Wet Bandits”, the film will be released for two nights (non-consecutively, mind you) this upcoming week.

Home Alone remains one of the most profitable comedy films ever made. Following release in November of 1990, it topped the box office for 12 straight weeks, and remained in theaters until the following June. But the real success of the film transcends profits and clever screen writing; as the film has managed to cement itself firmly in Nineties nostalgia somewhere between The Adventures of Captain Planet, Nirvana, and the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.

Two decades into the new millennium, the film is a warm reminder of how the world was in the pre-digital age. For a moment we can travel back in time to a world before Skype, when internationally calling was actually a complication. We can graciously relive the innocent freedom which we once took so for granted prior to instantaneous and ubiquitous cellphone communications. Or we can once more travel through airport security with ease as we did prior to September 11th.

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From Page to Screen: Bubba Ho-tep

This post introduces a new theme in addition to page to screen adaptations. That is: things you may have missed. In case you don’t know, Bubba Ho-tep is a movie, and a short story, where neither Elvis nor JFK are dead. They are both in a Texas rest home and have been robbed of their identities by fate and the powers that be. To make matters worse, an Egyptian mummy has started to raid the home and steal the soles of residents. Elvis and Jack are the only ones who know and therefore the only ones who can do anything about it. You can watch the trailer here, though it doesn’t do the movie justice.

He's gonna take care of business.
He’s gonna take care of business.

I think a lot of people view this movie as a silly B-movie send up, and I had a similar opinion before I watched it. Now, it might just be my lifelong affection for Bruce Campbell, but from my first viewing I was in love. Sure, it has a ridiculous premise and outlandish characters, but I have only ever seen a beautiful portrayal of aging and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and dignity. Why else would the cast feature such American icons as Elvis, JFK, and the Lone Ranger? When I found out the movie was based on an existing story I was the most excited to see more of the world.

This adaptation was interesting because I have more experience with novels being adapted into films and this was a short story. As such it means the expansion of the world as opposed to the reduction. The film allowed for more time with the characters and the introduction of the funeral home workers who pick up the bodies of residents. They, in particular, brought the “youth” perspective of the plight of the rest home residents and the lack of empathy and interest the rest of the world have for them.

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colin quinn

Colin Quinn Unconstitutional is Ratified on Netflix

colinVeteran comic Colin Quinn’s one-man show, Colin Quinn Unconstitutional, debuts on Netflix and offers an often doting and hilarious look back on the creation of the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers.  Quinn never masks his love for the Constitution and is brilliant at placing himself outside of the traditional red-state vs blue-state mentality that, as he puts it, is tearing this country apart.  The comedian has no problems using the 1st Amendment to go after the trigger warning crowd that can’t take a joke, or reminding you that before it existed, talking crap about a king or dictator anywhere else in the world in history would get you killed.  The bulk of the show deals mostly with the writing of the articles of the Constitution and why and how the government was intended to operate.  Being the classic Irish-American that Quinn is, he uses a bar room analogy to explain how the government is supposed to operate.  As mentioned, Quinn tackles 1st Amendment issues, as well as a bit on the 2nd Amendment, but leaves the rest of the Bill of Rights for another time.

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