The Happytime Murders (2018)

I was super excited about this. It’s a puppet movie aimed at adults made by the Henson company. I will go on record as saying that “Muppets Christmas Carol” is one of my favourite films ever made. The trailer was hysterical and looked like nothing else released this year, so yeah, hopes were high. Sadly it did not meet them. I expected to sing this film’s praises. To talk about how funny it was and how I can’t wait to see it again when I buy it immediately on DVD the day it’s released. After seeing this I can say with absolute certainty that I’m not going to be buying it on release day, or at all. I don’t need to buy it, I don’t even need to see it again. When it was funny, it was funny, but outside of the puppets it was incredibly mediocre. It relied on the puppets waaaaay too much. There was a period in the 90’s where films thought they hit a formula:

Old person + swearing/drug/sex references=COMEDY

Replace “old person” with “puppet” and you have at least 50% of the jokes in this film. It thinks that just making them swear and make sexual references count as jokes. The actual jokes often aren’t much better, it’s the only film I’ve seen in like forever which does the “amoronsayswhat?” joke sincerely, twice. The last one I can remember doing that is Waynes World. That’s the biggest issue with a lot of the jokes in this; they’re too easy. They’re “we need a joke, this will do” level. They’re the first jokes you’d think of, no actual thought seemed to go into it. It’s like they didn’t care about the quality of the jokes, they just wanted to put jokes in, it goes for quantity over quality, but the quantity isn’t even that high. This wouldn’t be as unforgivable if the story was compelling. But it’s not, not really. There’s two big reveals in this, one is revealed in the poster, and one is incredibly obvious to anybody who has seen a film before. There’s no compelling mystery to keep you emotionally invested in the story. There’s no exciting twists and turns, or clever plot developments.

It does have some funny moments though. And the fact that the puppets use sugar as drugs is great, as is the subtle parallels to racial tension and discrimination. The bad thing about it? Both of those have been done before, and done A LOT better in the short-lived series The Fuzz. And that show had Rachel Bloom of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend fame. Does this? Does it bollocks.

How We Got Through: July 2017

Alien: Covenant

I can’t really make a fair judgement on this as I have never seen any of the others. Despite that, I did recognise a lot of scenes from this that seemed to be taken straight out of the other films in the series.

ASDF

Funny, easy to get through, and kind of quotable too. Great youtube series.

Baby Driver

The opening scene alone ranks it among one of the best films of the year. Very well done. Great films usually inspire you into film-making. I think this has the opposite, this is like “yeah we can’t match that”. Bound to inspire a lot of poorly-done imitators.

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Canadian Bacon

Not the best film ever but a great time-waster. The kind of film which I could see buying on VHS from a boot fair in the 90’s. Some great jokes, and very unsubtle. Odd that this is seen as a John Candy movie, I see it as more of an ensemble piece. Alan Alda, in particular, is great. Unlike a lot of satire, this has actually aged REALLY well, particularly in regards to the American invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan/Cornwall. There’s one line in particular which has aged, erm, weirdly. When they’re trying to find a new enemy to declare war on, someone suggests international terrorism, to which someone replies:

“Well, sir, we’re not going to re-open missile factories just to fight some creeps running around in exploding rental cars, are we, sir?”

Cars

Doesn’t really seem like Pixar. More like Dreamworks. Even the way they use music seems very Dreamworks. Pixar movies are supposed to be monumental events that change your life, this really isn’t one.

Cars 2

The worst Pixar film I’ve seen (and I think I’ve seen all of them). Doesn’t help that it focuses on the worst character from the previous film. I usually describe Pixar films I don’t like as being “almost like a Dreamworks movie” (see above for evidence). This was more like “Mid 90’s Disney straight to video sequel”

Cherry Blossoms – Ala.ni

A song I loved so much I used it in a script almost immediately after hearing it.

Despicable Me 3

Too much going on. Has about five separate plots going on. The story (well, stories) are only there as an excuse to tie chaotic scenes together. It’s like the scenes were written first, then the actual story was thought of later.

Dunkirk

One word to describe this: impressive. Visually, in terms of performance, in terms of the way the story is told, it’s all very impressive. The one thing that stops it being perfect (in my eyes, anyway), is that it’s missing that one standout scene. That one “even if you don’t watch the film, you have to watch this” scene.

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This guy, this guy is going places. AMAZING performance.

Ever Fallen In Love – Billy Talent

Picture what you think this song sounds like, yup, that’s exactly what it sounds like.

Gone Baby Gone

Amy Ryan is really good in this. Almost unrecognisable from her role in The Office. I wrongfully assumed she was just a comic actress, but her performance in this is sensational, almost makes me wish this was released this year so I could put her in the “best performance” category at the end of the year. Casey Affleck is, erm, he’s okay. Nowhere near as good as he was in Manchester By The Sea, but you can see the genesis of his performance in that film in this one. It also has one of the most brutal endings I’ve seen in a while.

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Honey – The Hush Sound

The sound of a drunken party in New Orleans. But a “teenage movie” drunken party where the worst thing that happens is somebody spills their drink. Nobody vomits, nobody fights, and nobody gets angry. They just drink and dance.

It Comes At Night

I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. Probably because I saw at the cinema. I know some horror works great at the cinema, but I feel this would work better on your own in a small room. You need to feel part of that world, feel isolated, like a visitor in their world, and sitting in a vast room full of other people takes you away from that.

Next Goal Wins

A documentary about the Western Samoa national football team (or “soccer” team to those of you are wrong) who suffered one of the biggest defeats in international football when they lost to Australia. Interesting moment in here where they talk about one of the players who is “third gender”. At first, I was annoyed at how they talked about it, to me that seemed like a much more interesting story than the one being told, then it hit me; the fact they’re not treating it as a big deal is fascinating, and is a big deal. It’s not about them, it’s about the team as a whole. The fact they are so nonchalant about it is wonderful, and kind of beautiful.

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Saw

Some of the dialogue makes me think the writer has a rom-com in him somewhere. So natural and brilliant. Performances are a little stilted at times, very “end of year school play” air to some of the line deliveries. There’s a child in it, very briefly, who has the best delivery out of all of them. Her tortured cries are so realistic it makes me wonder whether this is actually a snuff film. This film is actually a lot better than its reputation would have you believe. Yes, the series did eventually descend into torture-porn, but the first film has one hell of a plot (also, one hell of a plot-related issue, but meh). Remarkably restrained, a lot of the horror comes from the situation, and one of the most brutal scenes is one where you don’t actually see anything, you just hear it.

Spiderman: Homecoming

I love it. So so much.

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This scene is genuinely one of the best-written scenes so far this year

Stuart Saves His Family

Dark, but could afford to be darker.

The Fuzz

The opening episode features a puppet prostitute getting shot in the head. What more do you want from a TV show? A buddy cop comedy set in a world where puppets not only exist, but deal jelly beans instead of drugs. The main character is called Herbie Smooshiloops, and at one point gets a ukelele out for a police press conference. Very funny, and a really good story. That kind of thing is usually not done in comedy, people have a tendency to think “well if the laughs are good, you don’t need a story”, wrong. Very very wrong.

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The Last Word

Holy crap where did this come from? It’s like High Fidelity mixed with Christmas Carol. Really good. I really wish this film had a better marketing campaign so that more people would have seen it. Genuinely one of my cinematic highlights of the year. Seemingly just with me though, a lot of reviewers really hate. I loved it though, very dialogue and character-heavy. Genuinely sweet and heartwarming, there’s a scene near the end which is a bit “meh”, but other than that I loved it. A story about an elderly woman who hires someone to write her obituary before she dies, only a lot better than I made it sound.

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The Omen

Weird references to 9/11 and Katrina (i think it’s Katrina anyway). On the one hand, it places it in the world. On the other, it seems a bit, I dunno, weird to use those things where thousands of people died as a plot point in your piece of shit movie. I think that might actually be my biggest problem with it, not that it uses real life deaths in a film, but that it uses real life deaths in a shit film.  This series will definitely have to suffer through a Halloween-watching live blog at some point.

The Space Between Us

I was actually looking forward to this. But no, just no. Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman do the best with what they can, but what they’re given was not great. My main issue is the obvious lack of scientific accuracy. May seem a bit nerdy, but it’s not high-level science they fail, what they do is the equivalent of a medical TV show saying “she got pregnant because she held hands with a man”. You wouldn’t see that in a TV show as it’s obviously false and only belongs in Alabama sex education classes.

Why We Love…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

1. The Songs

Start off with obvious here; the songs in this show are really good, and not just “good for comedy music” good, I mean “you will end up with at least one of them stuck in your head for weeks afterwards”. They range from the incredibly catchy, the deeply inappropriate, and the incredibly catchy yet also deeply inappropriate. The songs mean it’s different from almost every other sitcom around. It’s also GENIUS from a marketing point of view. You can post all the adverts you want, yet what is likely to get people to watch sitcoms is word of mouth and personal recommendations. With sitcoms that can be hard to do as you need to find the clip on youtube and send it over (if the show hasn’t taken legal action and got the clip taken down off youtube for breaking copyright. If it was the entire episode I’d understand, but a scene? You’re killing a chance for new people to discover your show), or force someone to watch an entire episode. With this you can go “hey, I’m watching a new sitcom called Crazy Ex Girlfriend, you should watch it” “I don’t know man, what’s it like” “I’ll just send you a song. A quick 3 minute clip that I feel is funny and encapsulates the show yet also showcases the characters in a quick, easily digestible and easily shareable manner”. I’ve got people into this show through my almost constant posting of songs from it.

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2. The Characters

In sitcoms you usually have your typical cliche characters within the core group; you have the ditz, the sexually active idiot, the “couple” etc. This doesn’t really do that, the characters are all snarky, bitter, and messed up. Not just that but holy crap the diversity is astounding. The male romantic lead can best be described as an “Asian Frat Bro”. Also, one of the story arcs of the first seasons is one of the characters coming to terms with his bisexuality. That may not seem like a big deal but there are very few bisexual characters (especially male ones) in television, and the ones there are tend to be either:

  1. Serial killers/sociopaths.
  2. People who use their sexuality for power.

So just having bi visibility in this show is something that’s incredibly progressive, and the fact that’s the case is deeply disappointing and says a lot about the state of current television. That story arc also gives us one of my favourite lines of the show:

“you’re gay? Then why do they call you White Josh not Gay Josh?”

“”They don’t call other Josh “Straight Josh””

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3. The Actors.

Yes, this is definitely Rachel Bloom’s showcase, she’s the lead actress, executive producer, co-creator, and writer, but the show belongs to everybody else just as much. Despite her character being the main character, she’s not afraid to let the other cast members shine, this is more than a vanity vehicle and comes off more like “look what we can do”. Santino Fontana will probably be recognised more for this than being the male lead in Frozen (and I’m glad I still haven’t watched Frozen as hearing a Disney character sing a song about UTI’s would either be weird or brilliant, I’m not sure which). Donna Lynne Champlin gives her character an air of what can best be described as “powerful vulnerability”, whilst Gabrielle Ruiz is thrown into the role of “sympathetic not-quite villain”, and carries it off beautifully, being an ultimately sympathetic character (from her point of view the series is about her downfall), yet one you still can’t like too much.

4. It’s Really Funny

It’s not just the songs that make this show funny, the script is hilarious. Whilst it’s the songs that draw you in initially, it will be the jokes that keep you invested. I was completely sold on this series before the first song (actually within the opening few minutes). Quick background about how I got into this show. I knew absolutely nothing going in, I didn’t know what it was about, what style it was, almost nothing. All I knew was Rachel Bloom was in the poster and I was bored. I got into her after hearing Fuck Me Ray Bradbury in Mitch Benn’s Podcast, two years ago. Since that I’d only really seen her in the deeply under appreciated puppet cop sitcom The Fuzz, but she wasn’t in that as much as she should have been. Then I saw the poster for this and noticed her in it, thought I’d give it a go. Within the opening we see her have a slight mental breakdown at work at the prospect of promotion, run outside and then pray whilst saying “dear God, I don’t pray to you because I believe in science”, which for an American show is a majorly risky firing shot, but hits the target easily. Although I suppose what makes this show more than just a standard sitcom (besides the music, obviously), is the emotion it portrays. Everyone who read my Bojack Horseman review (or has spoken to me for longer than 21 seconds) knows I like funny, but I LOVE emotion in sitcoms. Jokes can wear thin after the third time you’ve heard them, yet good emotional stories will stick with you. I identify with some of the characters here in ways that’s probably emotionally unhealthy (seriously, this song I feel is practically my theme music, but this also comes close). As one person I know said “[this show is] the best musical sitcom about a woman having a nervous breakdown I’ve ever seen”. And that sums it up wonderfully.

5. Season Two Is Out This Weekend (with a new theme song)

Or today if you’re in America (you lucky people). I watched the first season of this on Hulu, but I had to abandon that website when they started charging (you can have either adverts, or you can charge, having both is just greedy and highly user-unfriendly, especially with the amount of problems the website has with shows suddenly skipping back to the beginning and making you watch all the adverts again. It’s a good service for free, but a diabolical service if you pay for it). As such I was unsure of how I was going to watch the second one, would I have to resort to illegally finding it (which is something I have issue with. Although if the show is not shown in the country at all, is that still ethically dubious? Because you’re not taking viewing figures away from them as you have no way to participate to those numbers anyway). But then joy of joys, they announced it will be shown here on netflix, which makes sense as I think it was that which got the show over with people in here, they put the entire first season on a few months ago and people just fell in love with it. Best part is, UK fans won’t have to wait long, the episodes are shown in America on the Friday, then over here on the Sunday (which is actually less waiting time than Hulu, where you’d have to wait a week after airing). So yeah, this Sunday, it starts again, and I begin the process of getting songs stuck in my head on a weekly basis, I can’t wait to handle this in a solemn and dignified manner.

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This will be me this weekend