Film

The Wrong Missy (2020, Tyler Spindel)

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The Wrong Missy | Directed by Tyler Spindel | Netflix, 2020

Alright, I’ll come clean early and confess a weakness for rom coms. Especially after a few beers, and featuring lively young talents. When I saw the commercial for this one evening while pursing Netflix series, the presence of Lauren Lapkus as one of the leads made me file it away for future perusal.

While it was a groan at the beginning to see it was produced by Happy Madison productions (née Adam Sandler), I was intrigued enough by the Lapkus antics in the preview enough to give it a shot.

Despite co starring the excremental David Spade as the other lead (a comedian with entirely ONE facial expression), he manages to be semi convincing as a corporate ladder climber that mistakenly invites the woman from his last disastrous blind date on a company based weekend romp to Hawaii. He intended to invite a recent hook up (also named Melissa) that gave promise to his dream girl weekend scenario, but somehow got his Missys mixed up in his phone contacts and text invited the wrong one. Texted? You’d think he’d actually take five minutes to make an actual phone call, but whatever.

Once on the plane, he’s met by the wrong Missy, artfully played by Lauren Lapkus, whose comedic presence seems why this was made in the first place. While going through the typical paint by numbers romcoms usually follow, the writers here allow Lapkus a character totally driven by her outrageous, no holds barred attitude towards anything she pursues, whether it’s the nonsensical activities mandated by the company, to the drug/alcohol/sexual laced escapades that precede pandemonium in whatever she does.

Lapkus goes where few newbies have gone before, and convincingly gives us reasons from scene to scene why we are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by her exploits. The in your face physical moments, wide range of comedic expression, and overall devil may care stunts she pulls off steal every scene she’s in, which might generally ruin the flow of a romcom, but instead makes us wait in anticipation of what bullshit she concocts next in her pursuit of the perfect relationship with Spade. Spade himself turns in his typical deadpan, I don’t give a shit performance that he’s demonstrated his entire life as a comedian, a position I still don’t comprehend but he apparently keeps getting work, so I must be missing something about him.

As it goes through it’s steady motions, Lapkus keeps the ball rolling, and will not let her foot off the gas, despite all the other characters that seem to be in another film entirely. While that is certainly the fault of the director, this seems, rather intentionally or not, exclusively the vehicle of Lapkus, and she revels in it. Rarely has a comedic performance of what should be a psychotic character wonderfully likable despite depicting a driven woman whose behavior and actions seem to lead to horrendous disaster continuously.

Nick Swardson, playing Spade’s work buddy, makes the most of his mini role as the only other character in this film with personality, who really should of been given the David Spade role, a move that would of added more texture to the proceedings, and probably could of saved a butt ton of cash they gave Spade for phoning it in. Worth your ninety minutes for Lupkis alone, and you will be forgiven if you fast forward to her scenes throughout.

CREDITS

Directed by Tyler Spindel; written by Chris Pappas and Kevin Barnett; director of photography, Theo van de Sande; edited by Brian M. Robinson; music by Mateo Messina; costume designer, Kelli Jones; produced by Allen Covert, Kevin Grady, Judit Maull, and Adam Sandler; streamed by Netflix.

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p style=”font-size: 11px;”>Starring David Spade (Tim Morris), Lauren Lapkus (Missy), Nick Swardson (Nate), Geoff Pierson (Jack Winstone), Jackie Sandler (Jess), Molly Sims (Melissa), Sarah Chalke (Julia), Chris Witaske (Rich), and Rob Schneider (Komante).

Personal Foul (1987, Ted Lichtenfeld)

My initial impulse as I sat through the droning minutes of Personal Foul was to give the film a pass. Not give it any stars, but a pass. Also, when I say droning, I mean droning. The film’s music is a set of three or four songs by folk singer Greg Brown (and friends) on repeat. One of them even has a better title in the chorus than Personal Foul. I can’t remember; I was worried if I committed the songs to memory they might never leave.

There’s a lot of use of the songs. Lots of montages. Sometimes the songs are just over leads Adam Arkin and David Morse living their lives, Arkin a dissatisfied school teacher, Morse a very unromantic drifter (he lives out of his truck), and sometimes it’s over the drama as a woman (Susan Wheeler Duff) comes between Arkin and Morse’s burgeoning friendship. And sometimes it’s just over them playing basketball. Because Personal Foul, for the first half anyway, is all about how a bond basketball makes no man can tear asunder.

Duff is one of Arkin’s coworkers; a lot of the film takes place in the school, just because it gives the film something to do. Director Lichtenheld loves the basketball and the montages, but does seem to know he occasionally needs to have scenes. They don’t really have any momentum—the biggest plot thread in the first half no lives school administrator F. William Parker, who Arkin bullies and encourages others to bully, but it’s actually got zilch to do with the eventual story.

Lichtenheld shows a lot about Morse’s current life, making paper flowers to sell on the street, which leads to Arkin bringing him into school to teach an art class and Morse realizing he’s got the potential for real human connection and whatnot (while also introducing Duff to Morse). But we never even know if Arkin realizes Morse is living in a truck in front of his house. Men, even men who play basketball together, do not speak of such things. Though Personal Foul could be a lot more insensitive… well, then it gets more insensitive and it turns out it will be more insensitive. Just maybe not in exactly the ways Lichtenheld forecast he was going to do it.

The third act involves Duff revealing she has some machinations going on as far as the love triangle, which is barely implied in the story—director Lichtenheld doesn’t seem to have an understanding of actor chemistry, especially not since Duff and Morse were (and still are as of this writing) married and have oodles of it while Arkin and Duff have an inverse chemistry thing going.

The machinations are extremely cringe and Lichtenheld doesn’t seem to understand them. He’s taking a story with a terrible female characterization if it were summer vacation crushes and thoughtlessly scaling it up to thirty-somethings. Some of Personal Foul can get a pass. The third act with Duff cannot.

Arkin ransoming information about “friend” Morse cannot.

There’s also some weird thing going on with Duff being from Texas. It makes very little sense, other than to imply she’s just a good country woman looking for a husband or something.

At its “best,” Foul provides some interesting acting opportunities for Morse and Arkin. Not interesting roles or overall performances, but the occasional moment in a scene, you can see the actors working.

Is it enough of a reason to watch Personal Foul? Heavens no.

Though if you’re directing a movie with any basketball in it whatsoever, Personal Foul might be a must watch for things to never ever do when shooting a basketball game.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written, produced, and directed by Ted Lichtenfeld; director of photography, John LeBlanc; edited by Steve Mullenix; music by Greg Brown; costume designer, Elizabeth Palmer.

Starring David Morse (Ben), Adam Arkin (Jeremy), Susan Wheeler Duff (Lisa), and F. William Parker (Lester).


Ashfall (2019, Kim Byung-seo and Lee Hae-jun)

I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to see Ashfall if it hadn’t been for a blogathon. Maybe never. While I’m a Ma Dong-seok fan because how can you not be, I’ve always been lukewarm on top-billed Lee Byung-hun. Lee’s not actually the lead; the lead is Ha Jung-woo, who I don’t follow. So, yeah… probably wouldn’t have seen Ashfall if I hadn’t specifically been looking for a disaster movie and also wanted to watch a (relatively) new South Korean movie.

So I’m glad I saw Ashfall, against the various odd. Writers and directors Kim Byung-seo and Lee Hae-jun don’t have many—or possibly any—original ideas in the film, which has a real-life volcano Baekdu Mountain erupting and threatening all life on the Korean Peninsula, North and South. Lee’s a North Korean double agent (or triple agent), it’s never clear. Possibly quadruple. Ma is a Korean-American scientist who finds himself drug into the government response because he’s the one who’s been trying to tell them the volcano is dangerous—I wonder if it’s the Korean equivalent of a Yellowstone “vulcanist”–for years. Ha is the Army bomb tech who’s got two days left on his compulsory military service. Ha’s a bit of an eccentric who can never remember his appointments with pregnant wife Suzy Bae, who doesn’t quite look sixteen years younger than Ha but definitely looks a little younger. They try to play it off with Ha being just immature but… he’s more like just unreliable. It’s unclear.

So the President (Choi Kwang-il very good in a small part) puts Jeon Hye-jin in charge of figuring out how to not go the way of Pompeii and she brings in Ma, who’s got a plan involving detonating nuclear warheads in a copper mine because Ma really likes Broken Arrow, but South Korea doesn’t have any nukes so they have to go steal some from North Korea even though they’re really friendly in this nearish, post-nuclear North Korea, but also pro-disarmament North Korea. Not important. What’s important is spy Lee knows where there are some nukes and they know where Lee’s at because he’s got a GPS tracker in him. The real Army is going in to extract him and go find some nukes, Ha’s team is there to get the nukes transferred into a special case to nuke the volcano.

It’s kind of a Lee and Ha buddy movie, also kind of not because they don’t have any common foes. Not really. The U.S. Army shows up to humiliate South Korea, which Lee finds really amusing, but they’re not really a plot impediment. They’re just something else the movie throws into the batter, albeit with a lot of overt subtexts. Robert Curtis Brown is actually find as the shitty American ambassador, which fooled me into thinking it wouldn’t be crappy American acting in a South Korean movie for the rest but then, of course, it was crappy American acting in a South Korean movie for the rest. Michael Ray is profoundly bad as the general. Though Jai Day could be worse as the guy on the ground.

So most of it’s just Lee and Ha being awful to one another while getting through “Mission: Impossible: Bomb Disposal Unit” with some earthquake stuff thrown in. There’s some great CGI disaster shots in Ashfall but there’s also a lot of bad directing during the disaster scenes too. Kim and Lee are far more successful combining narrative tropes than they are executing mix and match action set pieces. The first one, Ha in a car chase type sequence during the first earthquake, shows they clearly don’t have it cracked and nothing else in the film is ever any better. You eventually just have to give it a pass on that type of action because at least the visuals are interesting. Ashfall’s an odyssey. Lots of different locations and settings. And it often looks great—Kim Ji-yong’s photography, whoever does the CGI; Ashfall’s a fine looking film.

Well, except when it looks like Kim’s got the “soap opera mode” turned on and the artifice shines bright, which happens more in the second half than the first. The first has the most successful visual sequences. The second half is when it needs to have the action sequences….

Unfortunately, the directors just aren’t very good at directing action scenes. It would help immensely.

The acting’s all fine or better. Ma and Jeon have the worst parts of the top-billed but still give the best performances. The material’s so weak. It’s a wonder what they do with it. Lee’s good enough I’m going to have to give him another chance, but he’s also a lot better than Ha, which isn’t what the movie needs.

It’s too long by twenty minutes, but Ashfall’s more than a good enough action-spy-disaster movie.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Kim Byung-seo and Lee Hae-jun; director of photography, Kim Ji-yong; music by Bang Joon-seok; production designer, Kim Byung-han; produced by Kang Myung-chan; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Lee Byung-hun (Lee Joon-Pyeong), Ha Jung-woo (Jo In-Chang), Jeon Hye-jin (Jeon Yoo-Kyung), Ma Dong-seok (Kang Bong-Rae), Suzy Bae (Choi Ji-Young), Michael Ray (General Michaels), Robert Curtis Brown (Ambassador Wilson), and Choi Kwang-il as the President.



What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s02e10 – Théâtre des Vampires

Something about the episode having three credited writers (Sam Johnson, Stefani Robinson, Paul Simms) foretold it being a grandiose season finale. I can’t remember there being another episode with three writers. It’s got to be big.

And it’s big. It just takes a while to get there.

The episode begins with Kayvan Novak waking up to find familiar Harvey Guillén has abandoned him. This Guillén dissatisfaction subplot came back a bunch last episode—to the point I wonder if some of the interview footage is done in a different context than scenes are shot in—and it’s the season finale so it seems like an appropriate plot.

Fast forward a week and the vampire house has fallen into complete disarray. Matt Berry gets bored while feeding and sends victims away while Natasia Demetriou is just leaving corpses everywhere. No one has any clean clothes because no one knows how Guillén cleans them.

Well, except Mark Proksch who decides to use that knowledge to his advantage because eventually it gets to a crisis point when the house gets a coveted invite to the Théâtre Des Vampires. They need to get gussied up and it’s not going to be easy without any clean clothes.

Meanwhile, Guillén is adjusting to his new normal and finding out he may have left some important things behind. There’s a lot of reference to Guillén’s vampire hunting throughout the season. No other episode has ever balanced Guillén’s season two stuff so well and he’s not even active in a lot of it; though he does end up getting the big set piece.

Great direction from Kyle Newacheck. There’s a nice surprise cameo and then some absolutely inspired writing. And then the performances. So good. Guillén finally gets to let loose in scenes with his regular costars and there are some great Proksch moments (including some meta-commentary on him being underutilized last season).

It’s so good.

And the setup for Season Three (it’s already been renewed, thank goodness) is perfect.

What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s02e09 – Witches

This episode is the “What We Do in the Shadows” equivalent of a dick and fart joke episode. Literally in the former’s case—the episode’s about a coven of witches kidnapping Laszlo (Matt Berry) because they want his immortal seed. Turns out they use vampire semen to stay young. Witches, I mean. The show hasn’t gotten to what the vampires use it for.

Anyway.

It’s an all-action episode, opening with Harvey Guillén check-in; while he’s appreciating getting breaks and a day off, he’s not thrilled with his life as a familiar anymore. He’s floundering (weird how the vampire hunter stuff has been dropped). But then we get right into the witches. Berry’s out tending his topiary garden when a goat appears and then he gets zoomed up. When the rest of the house goes looking for him, they realize what’s happened—because Berry’s wife, Natasia Demetriou, is constantly on guard for witches to be causing mischief and now she’s finally validated—there are witches about causing trouble.

Once the gang’s all together—they bring along Mark Proksch because the show’s realized more Colin Robinson, less vampire hunting (not a bad conclusion)—but Kayvan Novak finds himself similarly captured just as easily as Berry. So while they’re tied to racks with the witches getting them ready for the extraction, Demetriou, Guillén, and Proksch are trying to escape their imprisonment in the witches’ den. An incense shop is a front for the witches’ den. It’s a good bit.

There’s a lot of funny jokes in the episode, right up until the end, and it covers for it being something of a blah storyline with the witches. It’s very tidy, which is fine (because it’s so funny), but it also feels a lot like the episode’s just relying on the cast to sell whatever even without much of a plot. And the cast can do it, because it’s “Shadows.”

And it’s better than the previous episode, though similarly lost.

But they had an amazing run of winners this season, so even with Witches as the penultimate season two episode… the show’s in great shape. Also, Lucy Punch as the main witch… I mean, she’s fine… but she’s not good enough they shouldn’t have stunt cast.

What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s02e08 – Collaboration

Traditional sitcom writer team—seriously, IMDb them (“Frasier” and “Newsradio”—Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil contribute this episode’s script and… well, maybe things make more sense now. Also they don’t seem up on the show because they don’t know how to use Natasia Demetriou at all. Distressingly don’t know how to use her.

Anyway, the main plot involves Kayvan Novak’s familiar from the seventies (Jack O'Connell) remembering he was Novak’s familiar and showing up at the house, causing some tension with current familiar Harvey Guillén.

O’Connell returning isn’t actually the main plot, but Guillén once again getting upset about Novak not making him a vampire, which drives Guillén to the house of a newly changed vampire (Greta Lee), who promises he won’t have to wait so long to become a vampire.

It seems weird the show never came up for a good reason the vampires don’t want to make new vampires, because this episode just has Novak and other vampires staring blankly into the camera, offering empty promises about vampire-making. It’s completely unthought, not just wishy-washy. It gives Novak and Guillén some rather weak scenes to act through at times.

And O’Connell’s nowhere near funny enough, not as actor or character.

It seems like it should be funny—if they’d gotten Fred Willard or someone—but then they didn’t. They just got a bland guest star.

Meanwhile, Demetriou, Matt Berry, and Mark Proksch have a subplot about how Berry actually wrote all the popular songs in the world and didn’t get any credit for them. He and Demetriou start writing new music and driving each other nuts so, of course, Proksch wants to get them to a live music venue so he can feed off the discomfort of all involved.

It’s sporadically funny thanks to the actors and the actual singing is funny but… it’s like Johnson and Marcil didn’t know Berry could do singing and so on. Or, worse, they did and this subplot’s the best they came up with.

It’s not bad.

It’s just nowhere near as good as the other episodes this season. It feels very season one.

The Man with Two Brains (1983, Carl Reiner)

The Man with Two Brains does not age well. It’s a case study in not aging well, even more so because when the three writers—director Reiner, star Steve Martin, and George Gipe—can’t figure out how to do an ending so they just do an extended fat joke… well, it’s hard to continuing giving the film a pass. Not after a racial epithets joke, which the film doesn’t even realize is lazy.

Because it does recognize its easy jokes. There are a lot of easy, easy, easy jokes Brains wants to get away with and it usually is able to do it thanks to Martin or co-star Kathleen Turner, but the finale doesn’t use anyone well. In fact, it’s a call back to a completely different section of the film they probably don’t want to be recalling.

The movie’s got a really peculiar structure. The first act is about Martin falling for evil gold digger Turner (not knowing she’s an evil gold digger) and her refusing to consummate the relationship. So boss Peter Hobbs (who’s pleasantly sturdy and game for even the fail jokes) sends Martin off to Europe for a conference; a little continental seduction and so on.

In Europe, Martin meets mad scientist David Warner, who’s—oh, right. Martin’s the world’s premier brain surgeon. Anyway. He meets Warner, who’s a mad scientist who wants to transplant brains he’s been keeping alive thanks to hydroxychloroquine or something. Warner’s oddly disappointing in the film. I was expecting something from him and he never does anything. The film’s got problems with the supporting characters though; Warner’s butler, Paul Benedict, gets more personality than Warner in fewer scenes with less exposition. Reiner’s direction is… not great. He and Martin (and Gipe) are trying a lot of different things, some things are a lot less successful than others.

And even the big successes are often qualified. Like when Martin is prowling the streets to find a woman to murder so his soul mate—a disembodied brain voiced by Sissy Spacek—can find a new home. It’s all very complicated, with the brain stuff being Martin finally getting free of animate costars and getting to do his wild and crazy guy thing in the spotlight. It’s better when he does it opposite other cast, specifically Turner, who frequently can’t hold her femme fatale. Martin so funny she’s laughing. It’s brings Turner almost too much personality.

Back to that successful sequence—Martin lurking the streets of Vienna, looking for a woman to murder. All of a sudden the backlot shooting starts to work—Reiner and cinematographer Michael Chapman(!) shoot Two Brains like they’re trying to figure out how to not make it look like a sitcom but end up making it look more like one because of how they compensate. Like Joel Goldsmith’s ludicrously inappropriate synth score; it ups the zany so you don’t think too much about Martin’s premeditated murder scene and so on, but it’s also terrible. And doesn’t help the scene. Ever. In fact, it’s always actively hurting it.

Overall, Two Brains doesn’t have the pieces to succeed. The story’s not there. The plotting isn’t there. The pacing’s there. The direction’s not there. Martin and Turner do an excellent job doing absurd caricatures (at best, Martin does just mug occasionally), but it’s like no one’s curating the gags or even taking note of their successes. It’s got its ambitions just no idea when they realize.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Carl Reiner; written by Reiner, Steve Martin, and George Gipe; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Bud Molin; music by Joel Goldsmith; production designer, Mark W. Mansbridge and Polly Platt; produced by William E. McEuen and David V. Picker; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Steve Martin (Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr), Kathleen Turner (Dolores Benedict), Sissy Spacek (Anne Uumellmahaye), David Warner (Dr. Alfred Necessiter), Peter Hobbs (Dr. Brandon), Randi Brooks (Fran), and Paul Benedict (Butler).


Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020, Tony Tilse)

At no point does Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears introduce viewer unfamiliar with star Essie Davis’s television show, to which this film’s a sequel, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” The movie opens with an action sequence setting up Davis as an exquisitely dressed combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond. The action—a title card tells us—starts in 1929 Palestine, where the British are mucking things up for the native people… Crypt of Tears is anti-British Imperialism… but from an Australian bent.

Davis rescues Izabella Yena, who’s in British jail for snooping around the destruction of her village ten years before. During the rescue sequence, Davis evades police in a rooftop chance and has a bunch of costume changes. It’s overindulgent and flamboyant but enthusiastic. It’s fun to watch Davis get to do an exaggerated character schtick thanks to the bigger movie budget.

Until they get to the CGI train sequence and it’s clear while Crypt of Tears might have a “movie budget,” it doesn’t have anywhere near a big enough one. The film tries and tries with the desert visuals, which does showcase Margot Wilson’s costuming, albeit not so much in the digital extreme long shots, but they’re always just there. Production designer Robbie Perkins does well, so at least Tears always looks good.

Until the end, which is more cinematographer Roger Lanser and director Tilse’s fault.

Anyway. After Yena’s rescue, the movie goes through some plot hoops to bring series love interest and Davis sidekick Nathan Page to England. There’s a single scene in Australia with the TV show’s cast, but since the movie’s not really a direct sequel to the series… they’re all just doing forced cameos. The movie’s not going to involve the TV cast (save Page, and him in very supporting role), though it’s fun seeing Miriam Margolyes if you’re a TV fan.

Once Davis and Page are reunited, there’s a laborious setup with the… residents of the house where Davis is staying in England. It’s as exciting as it sounds, as Tears becomes a traditional location-bound mystery, kind of a protracted, but somewhat suspect limited Agatha Christie.

Somehow the movie, with its TV show-experienced director and screenwriter (Deb Cox), manages to avoid all the show’s familiar tropes and go instead with bland mystery movie ones. Page being background would be understandable if they were spotlighting Davis as an action hero, but they don’t. We get a bunch with the suspects, who are extremely flat.

Maybe because they’re shooting Australia for England? Rupert Penry-Jones is the single Brit in the cast. Or is it just the suspects aren’t movie dynamic enough? Yena seems like she’s going to have a very obvious woman’s empowerment arc with Davis as her mentor but then she’s just… around. The movie doesn’t do anything with her. There aren’t any subplots for the suspects, if any questions do get raised outside the main plot, they don’t get answered.

The mystery is… blah.

To someone unfamiliar with the show, Tears is just going to be a confusing and often very charming—it’s not like Davis isn’t great or Page isn’t adorable—not great period mystery with TV movie CGI special effects (think CW, not HBO), but as a “big screen” effort from the show creators… it’s a disappointment. It’s like they targeted a very specific audience and gave them something intended for the general audience they decided to exclude.

Also most frustrating is how the fumble is probably going to kill any sequel possibilities. More Davis and Page isn’t going to ever be a bad thing, you just wish it had been a good thing in Tears.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Tilse; screenplay by Deb Cox, based on characters created by Kerry Greenwood; director of photography, Roger Lanser; edited by Stephen Evans; music by Greg Walker; production designer, Robbie Perkins; costume designer, Margot Wilson; produced by Fiona Eagger and Lucy Maclaren; released by Roadshow Films.

Starring Essie Davis (Phryne Fisher), Nathan Page (Detective Inspector Jack Robinson), Rupert Penry-Jones (First Lieutenant Jonathon Lofthouse), Izabella Yena (Shirin Abbas), Ian Bliss (Professor Linnaeus), Daniel Lapaine (Lord Lofthouse), Jacqueline McKenzie (Lady Eleanor Lofthouse), Kal Naga (Sheikh Kahlil Abbas), John Waters (Vincent Montague), John Stanton (Crippins), and Miriam Margolyes (Prudence Stanley).


To Live and Die in L.A. (1985, William Friedkin)

If you’ve ever started watching To Live and Die in L.A. and turned it off because it’s terrible or just heard of it and thought you should see it, let me say… there’s no reason to see it. Or sit through it. Not even morbid curiosity. Or unless you want to see John Pankow’s butt. Director Friedkin does seem to be trying to start a macho male nudity thing with L.A.—including… umm… Little William L. Petersen, but he also does some homophobia in other parts. Not anti-lesbian though. Friedkin’s pro-objectification there.

Also… some vague racism. By some I mean every time someone who isn’t White is around. But all of it—even the dingus—is C-level L.A. shenanigans. They leave far less impression, for example, than the incredible stupidity of Secret Service agents Petersen and Pankow. Though at one point Pankow identifies himself as a Treasury Agent. L.A.’s based on a novel—by co-screenwriter Gerald Petievich—and for some reason I’d assume Petievich would’ve at least looked up the difference. Not Friedkin (the other screenwriter). Friedkin doesn’t even seem aware real guns weigh more than the rubber guns his actors strut around with.

To Live and Die in L.A., when you toss aside whatever is going on with bad guy counterfeiter Willem Dafoe, is about how adrenalin junkie, dirty Secret Service agent Petersen corrupts straight-edge Pankow, teaching him how to blackmail, exploit, and rape comely ex-cons (Darlanne Fluegel gets all the sympathy for being in this one), strut around in tight jeans (though Pankow doesn’t go with two to three inch lifts like Petersen) and shirts unbuttoned to two above the navel, and… I don’t know, act tough or something.

The scary part of L.A. isn’t the idiotic, toxic masculinity is good, actually, sentiment—Friedkin must’ve read some amazing male empowerment books in the eighties—but the idea it’s an accurate representation of the Secret Service. Though, wait, didn’t they get busted for something stupid and… oh. Yeah.

Okay, so it’s probably legit.

Otherwise the movie would be famous for the agency suing them for how they were portrayed. Because they’re idiots. Like, even if you’ve only watched “CHiPs,” you have a better idea of how to run an investigation than this group of dimwits.

The movie starts with a suicide bomber going after Reagan. The stupidest suicide bomber in the world, who comes up with a rappelling thing when he has enough explosive to just take out the hotel or whatever. Once the bomber fails—in an Islamophobic portrayal out of a GOP campaign ad—we get the Secret Service guys getting hammered and Petersen showing off his base jumping.

Every man wants to be a macho, macho man… you know what, L.A. set to Village People instead of Wang Chung (yes, really, it’s got a Wang Chung “score” and, no, it’s not good). But then Petersen’s partner, Michael Greene, three days from retirement, goes off to the middle of nowhere to investigate a counterfeiter who turns out to be Dafoe. Dafoe gets the drop on him because Greene’s an idiot too and so Petersen swears vengeance.

The best performance in the film is probably… Dafoe? Of the leads, anyway. Petersen and Pankow are risible, like they’re doing a spoof of themselves and don’t know it. Dean Stockwell’s kind of okay but then not, which is too bad because he starts better than he finishes. Fluegel’s not good, just sympathetic because she’s so exploited. Robert Downey’s terrible in a stunt cameo. John Turturro… I mean, you can tell he might be good someday but certainly not here. Debra Feuer, despite having the most potentially interesting story, isn’t any good as Dafoe’s muse.

Some of the Robby Müller photography is good. Some of it is not. They go handheld a lot, which would be a questionable choice if there weren’t so many just plain terrible choices Müller and Friedkin make. M. Scott Smith’s editing… is not bad. It’s not good, but it certainly seems like it’d be bad given Friedkin’s vibe here. It’s not. It’s tolerable. So much in L.A. is intolerable—like Lilly Kilvert’s production design and Linda M. Bass’s costumes—the tolerable parts shine.

To Live and Die in L.A. is an excruciatingly bad two hours. It’s hilariously pretentious and full of itself, but it’s got no laugh value; the joke is on whoever’s watching it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by William Friedkin; screenplay by Friedkin and Gerald Petievich, based on the novel by Petievich; director of photography, Robby Müller; edited by M. Scott Smith; music by Wang Chung; production designer, Lilly Kilvert; costume designer, Linda M. Bass; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring William Petersen (Chance), Willem Dafoe (Eric Masters), John Pankow (John Vukovich), Darlanne Fluegel (Ruth Lanier), John Turturro (Carl Cody), Dean Stockwell (Bob Grimes), Debra Feuer (Bianca Torres), Steve James (Jeff Rice), Robert Downey Sr. (Thomas Bateman), Christopher Allport (Max Waxman), and Michael Greene (Jim Hart).


What We Do in the Shadows (2019) s02e07 – The Return

It’s a team episode—or more of one—with Nick Kroll returning from the first season. Kroll was a posh New York vampire who was in love with one of Matt Berry’s hats. Unfortunately, that hat was cursed and Kroll’s having some very bad luck. He’s living in a sewer with one rapping sidekick Mike Dara and another sewer-dwelling vampire sidekick (Christine Ebadi, in some truly icky makeup).

Kroll guilts Berry and Natasia Demetriou—following a hilarious talk about their evening out at the terrible “talkes”—into inviting him over. He’s so anxious to get out of the sewer, he beats them home, with Kayvan Novak and Harvey Guillén playing reluctant hosts.

There’s some great banter—plus Novak’s harsh assessment of why Guillén’s still a familiar and not a vampire (he’s like the last donut left, everyone’s sure there’s something wrong with it)—before they end up inviting Kroll and company (of course he brought the entourage) to stay the night.

Or day. Whatever.

Unfortunately, Ebadi really wants to eat Guillén and since she’s a hardier vampire than most, she’s not scared to lurk around during the day. They get into a big argument and Guillén’s all of a sudden got to worry about Novak finding out about the whole “vampire slayer” thing.

Meanwhile, Mark Proksch has an amazing subplot about his online trolling activities.

Writer-director-show creator-source movie co-creator Jemaine Clement has a great time with the episode; it feels like he wanted to give Proksch a good solo adventure—the show’s really exploring the energy vampire mythos—while taking advantage of guest star Kroll’s antagonistic chemistry with the rest of the cast. And it moves Guillén’s vampire slayer subplot forward for the first time in quite a few episodes.

It’s kind of overshadowed by the last episode Jackie Daytona peak, but it’s still fantastic.

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