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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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“Girls” Season 6 Episode 6 Recap: Full Disclosure

Despite the surprising maturity that Hannah found in the first half of “Girls’” final season, episode six proves trying in familiar ways. Hannah gets a ridiculous idea in her head: that she has no obligation to tell Paul-Louie she is bearing his child.

Kudos to the even-handedness of the writers for including characters that think this is an extremely unfair and unreasonable decision on Hannah’s part. Thankfully, towards the end of the episode, she starts to come around and she even tries to contact him. Hopefully she follows through.

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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.

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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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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 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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WIGS TEASER FRAME

Wigs – Liberty Lab for Film

WIGS 1C 1400x1400Next up in our ongoing series highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you another comedy web-series. Wigs was created by writer Richard Mattox and director Matt Edwards (both SCC contributors).

Sick and tired of seeing all the attention that comic book superheroes garner on the sidewalks of Hollywood Blvd., Virginia, a widowed grandmother with some disposable income, forms “Wigs on Wheels”, a group of historical re-enactors who travel around Los Angeles bringing real American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Dolley and James Madison to life. Overzealous police, smart-aleck kids, and internal subversion are all present in this hilarious comedy.

Wigs garnered first place and the filmmakers were awarded $2000 for their work during the 100 Day Challenge of the Liberty Lab for Film.

[Update: Taliesin Nexus has extended the deadline to apply for this year’s Liberty Lab for Film until midnight Monday the 25th for all you last minute shoppers out there.]

Smash Cut Culture: What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?

Richard Mattox: I was always interested in the performing arts.  I had experience acting, playing music, and singing all throughout my childhood.  But I think it was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that inspired my to become a filmmaker.  I remember writing my own sequel to the films.  It was a 10 page script in which I was the lead.  I can still remember standing behind my mom as she operated the camera, banging pots and pans together for sound as my neighborhood friends tromped around the snow fighting with plastic swords.

Matt Edwards: Growing up in Los Angeles I was exposed very early on to the behind-the-scenes action of some of my generations favorite TV shows.  With action scenes from shows like Knight Rider, The Fall Guy and The A-Team being filmed on the streets of my neighborhood, I figured every kid knew how the “sausage was made” and it was no big deal.  When I hit college and met more people not from LA, I realized how lucky I was to have sort of a home court advantage when it came to being comfortable trying to make it in Hollywood and I better not waste the chance.  Plus I fell in love with Hitchcock movies at about age 9, and never looked back.

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C.A.R.E. Force – Liberty Lab for Film 2014

In our ongoing series* highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you the comedy webseries C.A.R.E. Force created by comedy writer Crystal Hubbard and fiction writer Mike Pauly (both SCC contributors).  The series centers on an obscure law enforcement agency that may or may not be fighting actual crime.  Nonetheless, they exist to enforce the laws that time forgot.

SCC: What drew you to be a filmmaker?

Mike Pauly: I’ve always felt compelled to tell stories. The medium of film/television reaches the widest possible audience and can have the most impact.

Crystal Hubbard: I was too old to be Indiana Jones.

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Trailer Tuesday: “Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife”

You know you’ve been there. We’ve all had that one person (maybe two) that we’d just love to off.

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If you think that’s dark, just wait until you watch this trailer!  Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife puts a delightfully sinister twist on the Buddy Comedy genre.

As the title suggests, there is a guy named Ward, he has a wife, and some people want to kill her.  That’s pretty much the gist of the movie. Opening up on a casual guy’s day on the golf course, three best friends are debating whether or not everyone really “just gets one murder.”  All funny banter…for now.  Cut to, their fourth friend, Ward (Donald Faison), is MIA due to his wife’s inhibiting behavior.  It’s Father’s Day and Ward can’t make it to any of the fun games his friends have planned!  Enter Stacey…the dreaded wife.  She’s throwing things, screaming obscenities, and Ward is clearly intimidated by her.  Keep in mind this is a comedy!

Now Ward’s friends are determined to come to the rescue…but for whose sake, we’re not quite sure.  After witnessing the extremes that this crazy woman has gone to, David (Patrick Wilson), has decided to bring the idea of killing Stacey to the group.  Creatively, this trailer was done well, because as David explains his plan, we see Tom (Scotty Foley) already attacking Stacey, presumably out of anger. He smashes her face into a birthday cake, she slips, falls…and apparently dies from that.  Total accident, but hey, it got the job done!

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The ensuing turn of events plays out hilariously. They strategize how to dispose of the body and discuss the ways that this is going to be a good thing for Ward.
Now I completely realize that reading this sounds like a psycho-thriller, but trust me. The montage with the classical music playing over it makes for some hilariously cringe-worthy entertainment.  Finally, Ward sits around with his friends and exclaims, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

This trailer is awesome.  It hits all the right beats and it handles the subject matter in a darkly appropriate way.  You should find yourself saying “Oh, no way!” but also laughing because it’s so hilariously far-fetched.

Between the four main characters, they all balance each other out and the cast here is great.  Mostly B-listers but the talent across the board makes me want to see this film as soon as it’s released!

Anyway, please comment below with your opinions so I don’t sound like a total weirdo for enjoying this trailer!

 

Comedy and the Liberty Lab

A couple of weeks ago we introduced one of the mentors in Taliesin Nexus‘s new Liberty Lab program, Daniel Knauf, as a producer and writer of horror and other “darker” genre projects.   Today we do an about-face and talk about comedy.

David H. Steinberg took a circuitous route to writing comedy scripts via law school.  David entered Yale at age 16 and earned his law degree from Duke University.  After four years of practicing law, he quit and entered USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.

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David sold his first screenplay, Slackerswhich went on to become a cult classic starring Devon Sawa and Jason Schwartzman.  He went on to write several films in the American Pie franchise (including American Pie 2), National Lampoon’s Barely Legal, and the remake of the 1980’s classic Porky’s.  David has written several animated movies like Pixie Hollow Games.  He’s also written several TV pilots for various networks.

David created and directed the award-winning short film, The Babysitter (with Brie Larson), which garnered more than four million online views on Atom.com, and made his feature directorial debut on the romantic comedy Miss Dial.  He recently checked off one of his bucket-list items by writing an episode of The Simpsons.

And yes, David will be serving as the mentor to one lucky team of filmmakers this summer who are admitted to the Liberty Lab program.  So apply soon, as applications are free until April 25 (and just $25 after that).