Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Brass Tacks Edition

No fancy introduction this week – we’re getting right down to business with the pop culture roundup. Per usual, I’ve search the interwebs high and low to uncover some of the pop culture that you might have missed in the last seven days. Let’s do this.

 

 

Time for some trailers….

  • House of Cards:

 

  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant:

 

  • Keanu:

 

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (video game):

 

  • Race:

 

  • Disorder:

 

  • New Deadpool teaser:

 

  • Southbound:

 

  • Batman v. Superman:

 

  • Finding Dory:

 

  • Happy Valley season 2:

 

  • The Angry Birds Movie:

 

  • Forsaken:

 

  • Imperial Dreams:

 

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

 

  • HBO’s Animals:

 

  • The Girlfriend Experience:

 

  • The Survivalist:

 

 

 

 

As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups…..

  • A movie dancing mash-up:

 

  • All the black actors that have won Academy Awards

 

  • More mini celebrity impressions:

 

  • Alice in Wonderland re-cut as a horror movie:

 

  • 90’s Flash meets modern day Flash:

 

  • Bieber’s “Love Yourself” gets a 1920s New Orleans cover:

 

  • Here’s a supercut of actors acting opposite themselves:

 

  • Barack Obama sings Justin Bieber:

 

  • And finally, what if an episode of COPS took place in Manitowoc County (home of Making a Murderer)?
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Some thoughts on TBS’ Angie Tribeca

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Unlike most of the east coast, we didn’t get any snow here in Albany this past weekend. That’s A-OK in my book, since I pretty much hate winter, but in solidarity with the people of New York City, Philly and DC, I decided to spend most of my Saturday pretending like I was snowed in by hanging out on my couch all day. It certainly wasn’t because I was lazy 😉 Since I’m in pretty decent shape with my Oscar death race, I decided to spend my Saturday clearing out my DVR. There hasn’t been a lot of new programming lately, but that didn’t prevent me from recording random things to the point where the DVR was hovering at 45% full. That needed to be depleted before shows returned from their winter hiatus, so I set to work.

One of the things that I had recorded was the new TBS show Angie Tribeca. The network had made the interesting choice of airing the entire first season in one day; the show was on a 25 hour loop on the network with limited commercial interruptions, much like they do on Christmas with A Christmas Story. The 10 episode first season, therefore, circled through in its entirety five times Sunday night into Monday. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this programming decision – was TBS simply creating a binge-watching event to keep up with the Netflix trend or were they burning off a show that they didn’t have a ton of confidence in? Angie Tribeca has a good pedigree – it stars Rashida Jones and was created by Steve Carell and his wife Nancy Walls Carell – so my instinct was that it was more the former rather than the later. I sat down to watch the show not quite sure what to expect; I knew very little about it or its premise.

Turns out Angie Tribeca is a comedy very much in the style of Police Squad and the Naked Gun series, in that it is very silly, very slapsticky and has one of the highest joke densities for any show that I’ve ever seen. On its surface, it’s a parody of cop shows, but the jokes aren’t confined to making fun of that genre; pretty much anything and everything is in service of a joke on Angie Tribeca. If you don’t like a joke, wait two seconds and there will be another one. It’s all very low-brow humor, but it’s smart in its execution. This show is completely in on the joke; Angie Tribeca knows that it is moronic and fully embraces that. It takes some very smart people to make a show this silly yet this amusing. There are so many puns and sight gags and random lunacy that I’ll admit I groaned a few times, but all in all the show really worked for me. Angie Tribeca is a show that you don’t have to work very hard at watching, which is kind of refreshing for me. I tend to watch a lot of “prestige TV” which requires your full attention, but watching Angie Tribeca I could just kind of turn my brain off and let the silliness do the work for me.

For me what was most interesting about Angie Tribeca was its star, Rashida Jones. I know that Jones can do comedy from her work on The Office and Parks and Recreation, but she typically plays the role of the straight woman. Her characters generally are the more grounded in whatever show that she’s on and her primary role is to provide the contrast for all the foolishness and more colorful characters that surround her. I was interested to see whether she could pull off being part of the silliness herself, since that flexes a different kind of comedy muscle. It turns out that Jones can be as just as dumb as everyone else and by the third episode or so, she really finds her stride as Angie Tribeca. She’s just as willing to make a fool of herself as the rest of the cast and has a great deadpan delivery that helps sell some of the more ridiculous things that the show does. The rest of the main cast – her partner (Hayes MacArthur), her captain (Jere Burns), the coroner (Andree Vermeulen), a fellow cop (Deon Cole) who is partnered with a dog – are also as committed to delivering whatever foolishness the writers come up with and work really well together. The first season is also littered with impressive guest stars like Bill Murray and James Franco. There are a few running gags – like the police officer that throws up at every crime scene or the parody of the CSI theme song– that make me chuckle every single time.

Overall, I really enjoyed Angie Tribeca; it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel or pushing new boundaries, but it’s funny enough where that doesn’t really matter. TBS did a terrible job of explaining what this show was before it aired, but if you enjoyed Airplane! or other such movies back in the day, you’ll probably want to give Angie Tribeca a shot. I’ll be curious how long they can play this premise out – season two will debut tonight in the more traditional weekly format – but I’m on board for the foreseeable future. Sometimes you just need a little ridiculousness in your life and for me Angie Tribeca fills that void. There are so many jokes in any one episode that even when some don’t hit – and some certainly do not – there is so much going on that even a few stinkers don’t kill the overall episode. Angie Tribeca is a total trifle and its slapstick farce premise may run out of steam sooner rather than later, but for now it’s a welcome addition to my television rotation.

The first season of Angie Tribeca is available on demand; new episodes will air Mondays at 9 pm (EST).

The Revenant – A Review

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It’s kind of hard to believe that people feel sorry for a rich, young, handsome actor who seems to have his pick of roles and supermodels, but that’s the position that we find ourselves in when it comes to Leonardo DiCaprio. While the dominant buzz about the Academy Awards has been its failure to nominate any actors of color, the subplot seems to be concern over whether this is the year that DiCaprio finally brings home an Oscar. This narrative picked up steam after 2014, when DiCaprio was nominated (and lost) for Wolf of Wall Street. People were suddenly very invested in whether he would ever win the Oscar and instantly Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in perhaps the most interesting role of his life – underdog.

I’m guessing that people are as interested in this Oscar storyline as they are because it kind of feels like DiCaprio just should have an Oscar by now. Sure, there have been some clunkers on his resume, but overall he tends to pick quality projects that he’s good in. In fact, looking over his roles, especially of late, it’s hard not to think that his choices haven’t been curated for maximum award appeal. He has notably turned down some pretty iconic roles in blockbusters – smart move in passing on the Star Wars prequels – and instead has carefully selected more “prestige” projects, often with his directorial muse Martin Scorsese (a man who also knows a little something about waiting for an Oscar win). Honestly, it’s a little surprising that his nomination this year is only his fifth acting nod from the Academy – and one of those was for Blood Diamond, which is not one of his best performances. Perhaps the Academy has decided that DiCaprio is already living a pretty charmed life and his Oscar drought will make up for his abundance of riches. Build character. Humble him. It’s possible that we are all far more upset about DiCaprio’s failure to win than he is and that we are projecting on to him our own need for approval and recognition. I sincerely doubt this is in fact the case, but it is plausible. Maybe he isn’t chasing that sweet Oscar gold like we think.

It turns out that whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio’s sense of self-worth is intertwined with validation from the Academy of Motion Pictures is a moot point. Because the first thing that I tell people when they ask my thoughts about The Revenant is that the streak is about to come to the end. By the end of the 2016 Oscar telecast, Leonardo DiCaprio will be an Oscar winner.

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And if he somehow doesn’t win, I don’t know what he’s going to have to do to get one. He may have to literally die on camera.

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The Revenant seems to be a divisive movie; the people that I’ve talked to have either loved it or straight up hated it. I’m something of an anomaly in that I generally liked the movie, but wasn’t blown away by it. The detractors of the film have some points – The Revenant is way too long and the story meanders at a molasses-like pace – but ultimately I think that it is worth the extra effort to stick with the movie. It’s beautifully shot, well-acted and I became far more invested than I anticipated in the story and the outcome. The Revenant is not necessarily an easy watch; it punishes its actors and by extension it punishes its viewers. It is an endurance test for everyone involved. This is a raw story with plenty of violence and suffering, but it’s also a story of survival and revenge.

The Revenant is the story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a guide for a hunting party in the wilderness of Montana and South Dakota. He is accompanied by his teenaged son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who is the product of Glass’ relationship with a Pawnee Indian. The group is under siege by the Arikara Indians and forced to flee after losing many of their men and supplies. The commander of the group (Domhnall Gleeson) puts his faith in Glass for getting them to safety, which doesn’t sit well with trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Fitzgerald thinks he knows better and is far more concerned with their payday than the chain of command. When Glass is grievously injured and vulnerable, Fitzgerald takes advantage of the situation to kill Hawk and leave Glass for dead. Glass, however, isn’t so easy to kill and het sets off to seek revenge on the man that killed his son – assuming that he can survive the brutal wilderness.

What I think is most interesting about DiCaprio’s stellar performance is how different it is from anything that he’s done before. Most of the acting is physical; there are long stretches of the film where DiCaprio utters no actual words other than grunts. His dashing good looks do him absolutely no good in this movie as he is dragging his body across a frozen tundra or trying to survive being swept into rapids. Glass is put through the ringer physically and emotionally, which DiCaprio is beautifully able to convey. It was kind of fascinating to see an actor stripped of all his obvious strengths and give this very raw and primal performance. Shooting this film was apparently hell and while I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, the results are on the screen. You can see why DiCaprio would accept this challenge – not just for the potential Oscar bait, but for the challenge of it all. The Revenant pushes him in a way no other movie he’s ever done could.

Tom Hardy is also truly fantastic in this film; while DiCaprio is getting a lot of (well deserved) attention for his role, Hardy is the secret weapon of this movie. Hardy doesn’t have to run the gauntlet like DiCaprio, but his performance as the man who sets everything in motion is just as important. I am constantly impressed with Hardy’s ability to seemingly play everything and he quickly makes Fitzgerald a memorable character. You can’t take your eyes off him and he provides a necessary counterpoint to DiCaprio. He completely disappears into the role. Hardy’s nomination is just as deserving.

As spectacular as the acting performances are, The Revenant is a director’s movie and Alejandro González Iñárritu creates a cinematic masterpiece. This film is brutal, but it is also absolutely gorgeous. Iñárritu’s decisions behind the camera lead to some truly remarkable shots that makes this movie more visceral and intense. The camera occasionally gets so close to DiCaprio that his breath almost frosts the camera and the choices made in the point of the view of the bear attack make that scene much more visceral. The camera work in The Revenant takes this movie to the next level.

That being said, I do think that The Revenant could have been about 45 minutes shorter. There are definitely some slow moments and diversion that if removed would have told a more efficient story. The Revenant is punishing, but I think it would have been just as effective with less flashbacks and long pauses. I’ll admit that there were moments where I was a little bored and my mind started to wonder. Two hours and 45 minutes is a lot to ask of an audience, especially for a move that is as draining as The Revenant. Streamlining the story, just a little, might have pushed this film closer to a masterpiece.

The Revenant is absolutely not for everyone. It is long. It is violent. It is occasionally slow. Animals are killed (not gratuitously). You will probably walk out of the theater somewhat emotionally exhausted. For me, the journey was absolutely worth it. The performances were top notch and by the time the climactic final scene occurs, I was completely stressed out and had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. It’s not a movie I could ever imagine myself revisiting, but I’m glad that I saw it. The Revenant is challenging and draining, but I couldn’t pull myself away.