There have been numerous speculations as to where and why creator Charlie Brooker named his dystopian TV series BLACK MIRROR. Obviously the speculators are not Neil Gaiman readers and/or have never seen the SANDMAN graphic novels written by Mr. Gaiman.
Cuz in the SANDMAN graphic novel “A Doll’s House” I found the following quote: … “ablack mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront …. “
I know Mr. Brooker respects and admires Mr. Gaiman’s work because he asked the author to write an episode for BLACK MIRROR (Mr. Gaiman has written several eps of the British sci-fi series “Doctor Who”). However, according to reliable sources (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase) he begged off due to an already heavy workload. I blush to admit I had already watched all three seasons on Netflix before I realized this.
Generally I don’t find alleged laff riots starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd or former members of Saturday Night Live especially humorous. My little sister (eleven years my junior) tells me she sat through one of these movies, bewildered, while members of the predominantly youthful crowd howled with laughter at the dick and fart jokes, common to these movies. Don’t get me wrong. I thought this type of “humor” was hilarious during my prolonged adolescence.
Maybe it’s a generational thing.
Nevertheless, I was relieved to discover I found POPSTAR (Never Stop Never Stopping) both funny and clever.
Popstar is the second feature from twisted trio The Lonely Island (responsible for those “Digital Shorts” on, yes, SNL) The group comprises Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Messrs. Schaffer and Taccone directed the film and all three co-wrote and co-produced with the help of modern-day comedy maestro Judd Apatow, whose patented blend of humor’n’heart is prominently on display.
There is enough lowbrow humor here for the multitude of fans who embrace it (it’s no accident that during my “research” I was directed to a website called “Tastefully Offensive”) but there is also some witty dialogue for non-fans of this kind of funny. There is also a truckload of savvy pop cultural references that even a grizzled former media type like me could figure out) and cameos from real life music biz types (50 Cent, Danger Mouse, Adam Levine, Simon Cowell and Ringo Starr, just to name a few) saluting the exploits of mythical group The Style Boyz.
The Style Boyz could be inspired by early Beastie Boys. The frontman, Conner4Real, played by Andy Samberg, bursts out of the group to become a successful solo act just as Justin Timberlake left ‘NSync to become a best-selling solo act.
Remember when U2’s Songs of Innocence appeared free of charge on millions of phones and iPods? Well, in this movie, Conner cuts a deal with fictional company Aquaspin. Everytime the door of a home appliance manufactured by the company opens, music from Conner4Real’s second CD starts playing. (The CD is released to mixed reviews, to put it charitably. Rolling Stone and Pitchfork hate it. The Onion gives it, uh, a rave review) Conner’s DJ, Owen. a former member of The Style Boyz (played by Jorma Taccone) wears a large piece of headgear just like Deadmaus. Conner’s song, “Equal Rights” bears a suspicious resemblance to Macklemore’s “Same Love” (although Conner goes to great pains in the lyrics to point out he’s not gay). Canadian popstar Justin Bieber is the target of several jibes. In fact, the whole movie is shot much in the style of self-indulgent pop documentaries like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.) And so on.
Naturally ,there are brief appearances by SNL alumni like Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader and Jimmy Fallon along with humorous perfs by Tim Meadows as Conner’s manager, Sarah Silverman as his publicist and Imogen Poots as starlet Ashley Wednesday (a play on ’60s starlet Tuesday Weld?)
As Mikey might say (a reference Popstar fans will probably not “get”) – “Lowbrow, yes, but I like it too.”
You know how certain now deceased celebrities make a record or film which seems to eerily foreshadow their demise?
Well, the most surreal example of this may well be the above mentioned DVD in which the character played by the late (and sorely missed) Robin Williams contemplates (and later attempts) taking his own life.
He is saved from drowning after jumping off a bridge by the character played by Mila Kunis only to later die in hospital.
Ironically, this flick (from Field of Dreams director Phil Alden Robinson, no less) scored a dismal 10% appoval rating with critics (3 positive, 27 negative) and only 29% with audiences (“It’s too cynical and uh, well, angry to be a full on comedy and it’s too much of nothing to be anything else. Watching Robin Williams go against character as a jerk who hears he has 90 minutes to live also has a sour aftertaste, considering his recent fate. Not the best eulogy for such a talented man …” wrote RT reviewer Stephen D.)
Although this flick went straight to video it could prove a hit on DVD for macabre curiosity seekers. Personally, this film (picked out unwittingly by my brother-in law from a Redbox) had a unnerving effect on this blogger and definitely creeped out my sister for the evening.
At one point in my duties as a disc jockey/broadcaster/host/producer/whatever I was in charge of an early morning (midnight – 3am) shift called “The Soft Music Show”. As the title indicates the tracks selected were designed to help the average Israeli/kibbutz volunteer fall asleep or at least relax after the pressures of the day. And, as you can guess, the average Israeli faced a number of pressures during the average day (although, in all fairness, there was not a single bomb blast, shooting or other act of violence during my six month stay in Israel – three months on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv and three months employed by the Voice of Peace.)
One morning while working “The Soft Music Show” I heard a thump on the outside of the hull. I assumed it was an especially vigorous wave and went on listening to Chet Baker crooning “She Was Too Good To Me”. Then I heard another thump. I cued up “Angel Eyes” by Jack Jones (we still had turntables back in those days.) Then there was another thump (more insistent this time.)
I wearily climbed the ladder that snaked out of the hold where the control room was located and set foot on the deck. A few feet away I saw the outlines of another craft silhouetted against the night sky. There seemed to be guns of some sort mounted above the cabin or maybe I just had an overactive imagination. However, I didn’t imagine figures dancing and waving. Suddenly an object that looked like a grenade sailed across from the other ship. I hit the deck amid sounds of laughter wafting on the breeze.
I gingerly picked myself up and walked over to the greenish colored object. It turned out to be an avocado with a note stuck in it which read, in scrawled English: “Please play ‘Sailing’ by Rod Stewart
and ‘She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.’ by Joe Cocker. ”
The latter tune didn’t exactly fit the format but I was not about to argue. Later, a veteran VOP DJ told me that since The Voice of Peace did not have phone service this was the manner in which some of the listeners delivered requests. That same ship got my attention about a week later (on the same shift) and threw me a bottle of wine. I caught it this time (and drank most of it).
“We now find ourselves in an age when typewriter usage has transcended the status of an act of nostalgia and attained the status of an act of rebellion; if you insist on using a classic old Underwood Remington, or an Invicta, or a Continental Standard, or Olympia Monika Deluxe, well, you must really have a statement to make.”
Hard to explain the plot. Something to do with a couple of laid-back stoners named Dave and John and an alternative universe.
Throw in reanimated corpses, invaders from another dimension, a dreadlocked wannabe named Robert Marley (yes, you read that right), a troupe of topless women, a telepathic dog and a drug that looks like soya sauce and gives the user a … well … out of this world experience and you’ve got some of the ingredients in this latest cinematic bonbon from cult film fave Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep, The Beastmaster).
Harder to explain what Oscar nominee and A-list talent Paul Giamatti is doing in this unabashedly over the top B movie. According to an interview with a suitably cadaverous gent from fangoria.com (included among the extras on the DVD) Mr. Giamatti has always wanted to be in a horror flick since he snuck into the original Phantasm when he was a kid.
In the movie, Mr. Giamatti plays a cynical reporter who gets more than he bargained for when he meets David to hear his side of the story. (Mr. Giamatti is also listed as an executive producer.)
Mr. Williamson has a zany repertoire of blank and/or WTF expressions to call upon when confronted with, among other things, a monster made of frozen meat (every vegetarian’s nightmare!) Don’t ever play poker with this guy while he’s on a movie set. You’ll lose.
I’m reliably informed that the book from which the movie is adapted is even wilder. In fact, I am told that fans of the book (credited to David Wong, the nom de plume of an editor at cracked.com) regarded it as unfilmable.
Thanks to the playfully twisted imagination of Don Coscarelli, the freaky characters and the ferocious monsters come to life.
Near as I can figure, this is some sort of sci-fi/horror parody. If you like your humor dark and strange and/or you have been waiting for something new from the creator of Bubba Ho-Tep this movie should be for you.
John Dies at the End got a surprisingly high rating from the critics at the (infamous) Rotten Tomatoes website. (61%, 49 Fresh, 31 rotten). Guess they snuck into Phantasm as kids, too.