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We Just Got Hit with a Tidal Wave of Movie Trailers

07.27.16 at 9:00 am ET
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Courtesy: San Diego Comic Con website

Courtesy: San Diego Comic Con website

I have a love-hate relationship with movie trailers. Have I been known to disappear down an internet rabbit hole of movie trailers from time to time? Yes; 100 percent. I have blown off rehearsal dinners to watch movie trailers. I have faked illnesses to watch director’s commentaries. I used to tape (like with a VCR) the show “Coming Attractions” on the E! channel. Movie trailers are kind of my thing.

But without question, they ruin movies. Earlier this week, Chris Ryan wrote a piece for The Ringer advising people to stop watching movie trailers. He’s not wrong: Movie trailers make good movies seem great and bad movies seem good.

In either case, the bar is set too high. Walking into the movie theater, the thought of “I hope I haven’t seen all the best parts of this already,” is hanging in the air, and walking out of the movie theater, the feeling of being swindled sticks to your feet along with gum, popcorn, and various other concession stand left-behinds.

Trailers make going to the movies seem predictable, which is the last thing you want from a $12.00 ticket to escapism.

Having said that… movie trailers are the best, right?!

This past week, the San Diego Comic-Con wrapped up and in the wake of the SuperBowl of nerd culture, we got a batch top-notch expectation raisers. Let’s dissect the best of the best and hand out some Movie Trailer Superlatives:

WE DON’T NEED THIS MOVIE… OR DO WE?

“Kong: Skull Island”

Based On The Trailer: A movie with a cast this strong, that looks like a cross between “Saving Private Ryan” and “Apocalypse Now,” with special effects this good, stands a 0.0 percent chance of living up to the hype. Warner Brothers is pushing all of their chips into the middle of the table with this potential franchise starter, which means the script probably got rewritten into oblivion.

Having Said That: I will be seeing this movie

The Bar Has Been Set: Too High. No way it can be this good.

WHAT EXACTLY AM I LOOKING AT HERE?

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Based On The Trailer: “What is this, when does it take place, how did I get here, and when can I leave?” are all of the thoughts I had in the first three seconds of this trailer. As far as I can tell Jax Teller is King Arthur, but it’s set in modern day London, only it takes place in a universe where modern day London looks like the 12th Century.

Having Said That: I will catch this on a plane and be excited about it.

The Bar Has Been Set: Adequately. I do not and will not understand this movie because it has obviously not been made for me. It will however do hundreds of millions of dollars in Europe.

THERE IS FAR TOO MUCH RIDING ON THIS TO BE BAD

“Wonder Woman”

Based on the Trailer: This might be the first DC movie of the Zak Synder era to not look like it was filmed exclusively to push merchandise at Hot Topic and Newbury Comics. Wonder Woman is the best chance at being DC’s version of Captain America in the sense that:

  • It will be both the anchor and the spirit of the DC cinematic universe for the next decade.
  • It is an origin story that takes place in the past, jumps to the present, and bridges the gap between the casual viewers and comic book truthers.
  • Gal Gadot looks like she belongs in the lead role, Chris Pine is there to be a male Bond girl, and if I’m not mistaken, she’s fighting in World War I. Lots going on, but that’s fine — the golden lasso is pretty cool looking.

Having Said That: I will see this movie after the internet makes its judgement call, which will inevitably ruin the movie for me.

The Bar Has Been Set: Lower than it should be because I do not trust DC comic book movies.

EYE-ROLLAPOLOOZA

“Justice League”

Based on the Trailer: This looks like less fun “Ocean’s Eleven.” I want this to be good, I really do. I’ve been pulling for Ben Affleck ever since he was the bad guy in “Mallards” and seeing Khal Drogo get to be the Khal Drogo of the ocean sounds great on paper, but I don’t know. There are a lot of ideas jammed into this sizzle reel and I’m not sure there is a steak underneath it.

Having Said That: I will mean to go see this for two months and never go.

The Bar Has Been Set: Insanely too high. Even if this movie is “Ocean’s Eleven,” the hype surrounding every post-“Dark Knight”-Trilogy-DC-project is insurmountable.

I FEEL LIKE I’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE BUT WHO CARES BECAUSE I LIKED IT THE FIRST TIME

“Doctor Strange”

Based on the Trailer: So this is part “The Matrix,” part “Inception,” stars Sherlock Holmes and is based on a Marvel Comics property? I’m in. They made me care about a walking tree, a talking raccoon and turned the fat kid from “Parks and Rec” into a half-Indiana Jones, half-Han Solo mega star. Marvel Comics is on a David-Ortiz-retirement-season hot streak; this will most likely be fantastic.

Having Said That: I will see this movie opening weekend and the think-piece I write about it will be packed with hot takes.

The Bar Has Been Set: At the formulaically perfect height. Marvel knows what it’s doing at this point; this won’t push any new boundaries, but it will be a mega-enjoyable 120 minutes.

Read More: Doctor Strange, Justice League, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Kong: Skull Island

What MisterWives’ ‘Same Drugs’ cover says about Chance the Rapper’s brilliance

07.26.16 at 4:19 pm ET
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Cover bands aren’t always great. Bands doing covers? That’s a different story.

With the exception of really crusty and stubborn people, anyone can appreciate a good cover. Artists can take their favorite songs and completely reimagine them, or they can pay tribute by trying to replicate the original. Neither practice should be considered superior to the other, though shot-for-shot remakes are often pooh-poohed.

On Tuesday, pop group MisterWives released a cover of “Same Drugs,” a wonderfully delicate-yet-ambitious ballad off Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book” mixtape. The original is below, followed by the MisterWives version.

Aside from taking the song up a whole step to accommodate for a female singer, this rendition would probably fall into the category of a shot-for-shot remake, yet it isn’t. If anything, MisterWives doing a cover close to original helps to highlight the brilliance of Chance the Rapper’s process.

Structurally, both versions are the same. They’re done at exactly the same tempo, and aside from the aforementioned key and Mandy Lee jumping up an octave in the second verse, MisterWives doesn’t play with the song’s main elements. Even the percussive scatting that opens the piece is there, and it’s just as charming as it is in the original.

Yet they do the song like a pop song, which is what it’s dying to be (side note: this song was also dying to be sung by a woman; more on that below). MisterWives’ traditional pop approach is where it strays from the original most; that’s where Chance the Rapper should receive even more praise for his performance.

The MisterWives version sees Lee’s vocals treated with the reverb that accompanies nearly every pop vocal. That reverb should be there; it isn’t on the original. Lee gives an honest, straightforward vocal performance; Chance sits behind the beat on the melody throughout.

Therein lies the song’s majesty: Chance wrote a touching pop song and recorded it like a rap song, but he didn’t do it the way Jeff Bhasker or Miike Snow would (big beats, samples, etc). Given that this song uses minimal percussion, Chance had to rely purely on dynamics.

Interestingly enough, the only well-known pop artist who might do such a thing (and does such a thing often) is Regina Spektor, who originally sang on the Coloring Book version before being cut.

In this respect, Spektor and Chance have long seemed to be a perfect fit for a collaboration. At the very least, they’ll be heard on the same project when “Hamilton Mixtape” comes out later this year.

 

Read More: Chance the Rapper, MisterWives, Regina Spektor,

‘Arrested Development’ Season 5 in the works?

07.25.16 at 10:46 am ET
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It seems the door is open for yet another season of “Arrested Development,” according to one of the show’s stars.

Tony Hale, who played Buster, recently told Entertainment Tonight radio he is pushing for a fifth season of the hit show. But only because he wants to see what happens to his on-screen love, Lucille Austero (or “Lucille Two”), played by Liza Minnelli.

“I want to see what happened to my sweet girlfriend Liza Minnelli,” Hale said. “I want to know what happened to my woman!”

Hale said it’s not out of the question, but it would be more difficult to put a show together now.

“It’s a lot of scheduling. A lot of people are doing different stuff and it’s nine people to get together. I really want to see where the story continues.”

Hale also posted a pic to his Instagram that day with AD costar, Will Arnett:

BLUTH BOYS!!! #sdcc2016

A photo posted by Tony Hale (@mrtonyhale) on

Now, I loved this show. I think the first few seasons were brilliant. But the fourth season was terrible and I’m grateful they never made the Arrested Development movie because that would have also been terrible. I really hope they don’t come back with a fifth season and I probably wouldn’t watch it if they did.

So please don’t campaign for this, Tony Hale. I don’t care what happens to Lucille Two and it would be pretty selfish to put us through another dreadful season just so you can have on-screen sex with Liza Minnelli.

Solving ‘The Night Of': Things Go From Bad to Worse in ‘A Dark Crate’

07.25.16 at 1:33 am ET
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Hello, Michael K. Williams. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Hello, Michael K. Williams. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Okay… stay with me.

I say this for two reasons:

  1. After an all-time great premiere episode, the last two weeks of “The Night Of” have been slow for the type of show we assume we’ve been watching: a week-to-week procedural. It should be obvious by now that it is only a procedural in the sense that we’re dealing with crime and those who investigate it.  What gets wrapped up in 60 minutes of “Law & Order: SVU” or “Criminal Minds” is going to take eight weeks to solve on HBO.
  2. The fun part of watching and conversing about a show like “The Night Of” is exploring all of the ins and outs. Dissecting the influences is more than half the battle; you have to stick with it.  

Last week, I drew some heavy comparisons to Season 1 of the This American Life podcast “Serial.”  After a slow-burn episode like “A Dark Crate,” there is an even more apt comparison to draw in how we are consuming this show.  

I, like many other people in the Fall of 2014, discovered the “Serial” podcast in mid-October.  Patton Oswalt — a writer/comedian and cultural commenter/big deal on Twitter — was going Tweet happy about it, so I decided to check it out.  At that point, there were four episodes already released, so I was able to binge through nearly half the season in an afternoon. I was left more than enough time to get thoroughly hooked and re-listen several times before new episodes debuted.  

We’re attacking “The Night Of,” a piece of media with very similar themes, threads, and layered storytelling, in real time. We don’t have the luxury of binging it and allowing it to sink its jaws deep into our culture consuming throats.  

For every minute tonight that was spent away from the crime scene and away from Det. Dennis Box exploring who could have done the crime, we spent learning more about who is being defended and who is doing the defending. It’s all important. It’s all connected. So let’s stick with it.  

Questions heading into Episode 3:

  • Who does Naz meet in prison?
  • How is Box & the DA building the case against Naz?  How is Stone building the defense?
  • What does the crime scene tell us about the killer?

Theory Heat Check:

  • Don Taylor, the step-dad, is no good.  Could his indifference towards Andrea’s behavior, his cold reaction to the events of “The Night Of,” and his reluctance to actually face Andrea’s body or evidence of the murder be masking a guilty conscious? 

You can check out the full Notepad for all three weeks HERE.

About half way through “A Dark Crate,” it became pretty clear that we’re watching two shows at the same time — one is a legal drama that is looking more and more like “The Verdict,” and one is a crime drama that is looking more and more like “The Shawshank Redemption,” with the two sides posturing for top position in the battle for who gets to defend Naz.

We spent a lot of time with Jack Stone this week and I’m not entirely sure that is a good thing. His Willie Loman-esque adventures around New York really painted a picture of the depths through which this character must swim. From being talked down to in the men’s bathroom at the courthouse by a lawyer who looked like he was running late for a Chemistry 201 final, to his podiatrist telling him to rub Crisco on his feet before wrapping them in saran wrap to sooth his ailing feet, to being the funniest guy at an eczema support group, the show “Jack Stone at Home” would be the saddest drama on TV right now.  

Seriously, imagine paying a co-pay to have a doctor tell you to rub baking grease on your feet… and now imagine that man defending you in court. The only detail this was missing was his tightening his tie and muttering, “no respect, I tell ya, no respect at all,” delivered with all the heartbreaking realness of an Arthur Miller play.

For all of those highlights of life kicking sand into Jack Stone’s face, they were shown to us to tell the audience that he can only go up from here because we cannot possibly sink any lower.  

Throughout episode three, Stone break our hearts by resorting to every trick in his bag to treat this case like any other on his desk. This isn’t because he is a bad lawyer, or because he just wants to be rid of another guaranteed loser of a case. His fear is that he won’t be able to pull off saving Naz, and his frequent attempts to take the legal version of a dive builds throughout the episode until he is cast aside.  

As this limited series is much closer to a novel than it is an anthology in the vein of “True Detective,” it is layered with some pretty heavy metaphoric imagery — specifically the worsening eczema. Simply put, something is eating away at Jack Stone and the skin ailment is the manifestation of his guilt he has over what could have been his life.

My theory is that he gave up a promising career as a serious litigator in exchange for as many take-the-money-and-run cases as he could get to support his family. If I were to guess, the eczema starts to get better as his hero’s journey brings him onto the team with the Kahn’s new shark, Allison Crowe, and back into the courtroom. Why else film him starring longingly at the shoes he would have worn to trial?

Meanwhile, things are going from bad to worse for Naz at Rikers which is made even worse because he has no idea how much danger he is in.  While it looks like Naz has made an ally in Freddy — played immaculately by HBO’s strongest go-to guy, Michael K. Williams — the situation that Naz finds himself in is just too big for one person to protect him at all times; Naz is just too naive to know that, which Freddy immediately takes advantage of.

Their interactions are so packed with twists and turns it is nearly impossible to unpack, so I’ll leave it at this: The Naz/Freddy interaction mirrors the pitch that Naz’s new defense attorney, Allison Crowe, gives to the Khans. Both the offers made for protection from persecution and the prosecution are offered to Naz and his parents without any discussion of payment and both hang over the scene like the blade of a guillotine.  

While we don’t know exactly what they want — presumably, material goods in exchange for protection is how Freddy keeps his flow of cash and merchandise coming into prison and TV ratings for high-profile cases is how Allison Crowe maintains great white status in the legal sea of New York City — it is plain to see that neither of these characters care at all what happens to Naz. The only person that does is Jack Stone, who continues to dig into Naz’s case even after his is dismissed.  

Episode 3 did nothing to help the army of internet sleuths solve the case before the finale, but that is completely fine. If the episode titles of the next five episodes are any clue — which include next week’s “The Art of War,” and future episodes, “Sampson and Delilah,” and “The Call of the Wild” — the two separate show threads are about to start getting braided pretty tightly together.

THE NOTEBOOK

  • Lots of bargaining going on — nothing comes without a price. Family with Crowe, Naz with Freddy.
  • Freddy getting favors from the guards is probably not unique to the two guards he interacted with tonight. His entire setup in Riker’s could be built around payment for protection from other inmates, former inmates, and prison employees.  
  • That veal speech was definitely one he has given before. He has seen many cases like Naz’s and is reeling him in as a big fish. It’s nearly identical to what Allison Crowe is doing to Naz’s parents.  
  • Det. Box ripping into the two arresting officers was fantastic. Telling them to keep Officer Maldenado’s puking at the scene in the official report is a brilliant chess move — humanizing the officers, the victim, and putting the jury directly in the shoes of a “fresh out of the academy” officer seeing his first dead body is genius. It’s also foreshadowing as to the picture that Allison Crowe is going to paint in Naz’s defense. I cannot wait for this.  
  • CROWE vs. STONE: “I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase.”  Even more perfect because Michael K. Williams is part of this show now.

UPDATE: The cat theory is dead. The cat as a literary device is alive and well.  

  • The cat represents the truth and for the third week in a row is right under a character’s nose and just as quickly dismissed.  
  • Just give the truth a little attention and it will open itself up to you, just as the cat wrapped itself around Stone’s leg because he gave it some milk.  
  • Stone bringing the cat to the MSPCA — and almost assured death — is going to haunt Jack, metaphorically speaking. He sent the truth away in this instance, and is going to be searching for it from here on out.  
  • Stone, like Naz, is allergic to cats. He’s defending Naz because he sees himself in him — a young kid with a bright future scraping away in a city designed to destroy him. He is compelled to help Naz and give him the chance he didn’t fight to give himself.  
Read More: The Night Of,

New ‘Seinfeldia’ book is porn for ‘Seinfeld’ fans

07.22.16 at 12:14 pm ET
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Getty Images

Getty Images

When Jerry Seinfeld was asked a few years ago what TV shows he watches, he said, “I don’t watch that much television. I was television.”

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything proves this was true to some extent.

If you’re a die-hard “Seinfeld” fan, you probably already know all the stuff in this book. But if you’re a younger or more casual fan, or you just get off on reading about the show, then this book is for you.

The book is basically a complete history of the show. It begins with Larry David and Seinfeld realizing their funny back-and-forth in a deli could be a television show and goes all the way up to the hoopla surrounding the finale a decade later. It explains the origins of “yada yada yada,” the Soup Nazi, Susan’s death, Elaine’s “little kicks” dance, the J. Peterman Reality Tour, and even the development of the theme song.

It also details all the ways in which the show almost died on the vine and what it almost was before it fully developed into what we know today. Elaine wasn’t even going to be a character at first and it was originally going to be called “The Seinfeld Chronicles.” 

Some of my favorite “Seinfeld” moments not mentioned in this book: When Kramer starts Kramerica Industries and hires his own intern, the whole “Merv Griffin Show” episode, George’s answering machine song and one of the greatest scenes in television history: when Kramer unfolds his coffee table book about coffee tables into a coffee table.

Eventually “Seinfeld” will be irrelevant to a generation so far removed it can’t relate to it at all, but the the main point of this book is the show is still a dominant force in pop culture almost thirty years after it debuted. 

Heavy on nostalgia, this will make you want to go back and watch the show over again. When Armstrong recounts the extreme public interest in the finale and that episode’s enormous viewership, it’s easy to see how Seinfeld can make the case that he was, in fact, television.

Solid book. I’d give it a B.

Read More: Seinfeld,
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