Category: Movie Reviews


 

defjam

Part high school reunion, part interview show, ‘Def Comedy Jam 25’ is a fun 90 minute journey on Netflix.  As more than one comedian noted, there was a time when black comedians could be killing it for years and never even dream of being on the Tonight Show.  Russell Simmons recognized the void and got HBO to buy in.  Everyone from household names like Rock and Chappelle to the Kings of Comedy pay their respects in this show.

I’m old enough to remember Def Jam at its peak, but whoever organized the clips still did an excellent job of pulling from some classic sets and one liners you’ve just forgotten about if you haven’t seen them in 20 years.  There was a nice tribute to Bernie Mac; I still feel his Def Jam set is the best stand up routine I have ever seen (way too X rated to repost here but not that hard to find).

As for the Netflix episode, there’s a part near the end where DL Hughley and Chappelle go off script…  That’s all I need to say, isn’t it?  Best part of the show.

Worth watching if you’re a fan of urban comedy.

 

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‘Battle of the Sexes’

 

BotS_Day00_0253.CR2

‘Battle of the Sexes’ sits in a weird spot.  It’s a fun movie while not a straight up comedy; it covers a serious topic while also not being too heavy handed about it.  I think that’s why I enjoyed a lot of its individual parts more than I liked the movie as a whole.

Emma Stone puts another notch in her ‘serious actress’ belt, playing feminist icon Billie Jean King, at the exact moment in time when multiple stars were aligning.  Professionally, women’s tennis players weren’t even being offered half of what the men were making (in terms of the purses of major championships), and Billie Jean King was in the center of rectifiying that wrong.  On a more personal level, Ms. King was ‘married to a good man’, but her desires were being awakened in another direction (Alan Cumming is brilliant as the gay costumer who sees the writing in the wall before Billie Jean is ready to fully comes to terms with it, privately or publicly).

Steve Carell is equally great as Bobby Riggs.  Movies are made a year out, but even with unpredictable outcomes in real life, it’s interesting to watch Carell play Riggs as this showman/hustler who doesn’t seem to completely believe the things he says publicly, but he knows its what his benefactors want to hear, and he knows it will make headlines.

Not a Hall of Fame movie per se, but a story that surprisingly hasn’t been captured as a movie until now.  Worth seeing for the performances alone.

 

 

frankvincent

The role player/character actor tribe lost a good one today.

In retrospect, the first time I saw Frank Vincent was the ‘fire hydrant’ scene in ‘Do the Right Thing’.  Like most of you though, I’ll always associate him with gangster flicks: ‘Raging Bull’, ‘Casino’, ‘The Sopranos’…

and of course, this all-time, all-time classic scene in one of the best movies of my lifetime…

Rest in Peace Sir.

 

 

tituss-burgess

At this point, I’ve been around the block enough times, that I don’t do as many of the ‘For Your Consideration’ screenings as I used to.

This one intrigued me just because I’m a fan of the brother and his show.

Then (after the fact) I heard he performed my theme song after the Q&A, and I hated myself for a good week.

So thank you Netflix for putting this online.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to find a lonely street to walk down…

 

 

wet-hot-american-summer-ten-years-later-paul-rudd-marguerite-moreau

I was sitting at my desk when an L.A. number I didn’t recognize came up on the phone.

It was the Casting Director for ‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.’  He tracked me down through my IMdB page.  The producers, Michael Showalter and David Wain, had a small part they wanted to fill, and they remembered me from other projects they cast me in, and the part was mine if I was available.

You know my response, but I’ll tell you the why (which is what I told the CD): when I was still in the ‘trying to break into the union’ phase, they gave me one of the jobs that got me over the hump.

So a few lessons/reminders here:

Relationships: ‘The State’ alums are the most famous, but there are a few other people over the years where we’ve done enough stuff together where at this point, if I’m free, I’m going to say yes before I even see the script or know what character I’m supposed to play.  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard as an actor is ‘You only need five casting directors/producers to fall in love with you to have a career’.  If you’re playing the long game, building five relationships is an incredibly realistic number.

Reputation: I knew these guys respected me, honestly had no idea I did anything beyond being professional to make myself memorable, considering the hundreds of actors they know and I’m sure are trying to get their attention.  Anyway, made it to the set an hour before my call time with my lines memorized, shook hands and spoke to anyone who wanted to talk to me, from the security guards to the extras; a long day for the crew by the time I got there, and I did my part to get my scene (the last scene of the night as it turned out) wrapped in less than an hour.  So no, my lines didn’t make it into the final cut, but no one on set can say I made their jobs harder.  Maybe they’ll remember that…

Growth: I’m smiling as I look at the previous two paragraphs.  When I came to this town, I knew NOBODY.  And I had no playbook on how to conduct myself and treat others in a game where I was/am a complete outsider.  You figure these things out. You endure.  You try not to get too high or too low on any one thing.

And of course, you keep going.

 

 

paul

Alright, I’ve talked to people who know things…

So it sounds like my scene was cut down but not out, so…the next time you can see me in front of the camera is here.

I’ll have deeper anecdotes in a couple of weeks.  A quick one for now:

When I was in the makeup trailer, I was asked the usual, where I’m from.  So I told them Kansas City.  And the young woman perked up and we had a nice conversation because her friend ‘Paul’ is also from KC.

So I guess at least two former Jayhawks are on this.

Enjoy:

 

 

spiderman

Didn’t really go in with any expectations, and have to say I enjoyed it.

Not another origin story (thank God) but picking up where ‘Civil War’ left off, the first real ‘Marvel’ Spider-Man movie feels that way.  Not just because of the Iron Man and Captain America cameos, but just in general tone.  There are stakes, but not ‘the whole world will collapse if Spider-Man fails’ stakes (another big plus); there’s a lightness that never goes into camp…it’s not a ‘game changer’ but it’s enjoyable.

It’s early but I already feel like Tom Holland is my favorite Peter Parker.  In physique and the way the character is written, actually feels like a teenager trying to be cool and figure life out, but even with his intellect and powers, he can never completely win.  That matches everything I have in my head about Peter Parker.  Michael Keaton is equally relatable as the Vulture, the main antagonist for this adventure.  While we’re here, my favorite in joke in the movie kind of has to be seen as a ‘Batman joke’.  Don’t forget though folks, Christian Bale and Kevin Conroy got the idea of using a deeper tenor for Batman because Michael Keaton did it (in a way more subtle manner I’ll give you) in 89.

So yeah, this one is a winner.  Glad the web slinger looks to be fully back on his feet cinematically.

 

 

hasan-minhaj-07

What’s up?

So I don’t have a lot of deep thoughts this Eid. The train is rolling so this will be assorted quick hits…

‘Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King.’  Uploaded to Netflix right around when Ramadan started, so I didn’t say anything that weekend.  But if you haven’t seen it yet, give yourself an hour to watch it.  Funny dude coming from a point of view we still don’t see often enough.

For someone who enjoys social media, I have to say…really didn’t miss it.  I’m back, and I enjoy being plugged in.  Do I need to be plugged in 24/7/365?  Don’t feel like it anymore (this space included).  Definitely shifting more into a ‘when I have something worthwhile to say/share, I’ll do it’ mode…

Having said that, I got all the texts, memes, notifications, songs and more while I was ‘away.’  They were all appreciated.  A lot of important phone calls made the past month.  The Dark Knight persona has served me well, but in terms of the truth of my life, it’s always nice to be reminded I’m not ‘alone’.  Not at all.

The future has never looked better; I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you in due time.

Peace!

 

 

batmanandbill

Bob Kane created Batman.  We know this because we’ve seen his name in the ‘Created By’ credit for more than 70 years now.

Bill Finger is the person who, among other things, came up with the idea of the Bat logo on the chest.  And wearing a cowl instead of a domino mask.  And Bruce Wayne.  And Gotham City. And the Joker. And the blue and black color scheme. And ‘the Dark Knight’.

All of which begs the question…

HOW IN THE BLUE HELL IS BILL FINGER ONLY RECENTLY GETTING HIS DUE?!?

The Hulu documentary ‘Batman and Bill’ is the most comprehensive single piece that tries to rectify this creative wrong.  The short version of this story is classic Hollywood: Bob Kane was connected to the publishers and personality wise much more driven by celebrity and public validation.  Bill Finger (as the second paragraph alone illustrates) was more the ‘creative genius’ type, more interested in craft and ideas than notoriety.

Marc Tyler Nobleman is pun intended, the hero this story deserves.  I won’t ruin all the details of the journey for you; I will warn you that on a human level that has nothing to do with comics, you’ll feel a level of pity, disgust, and contempt at how the lives of Bill Finger and Bob Kane played out as Batman became one of the most iconic characters in the world.  Thankfully, ‘Batman and Bill’ ends on a happy note.  With a level of sarcasm, I’ll say it ends with one of the best parts of ‘Batman v Superman’…

The hardcore fans will find it; if you like documentaries and ‘behind the scenes’ stories, it’s excellent in that regard as well.

 

southside-you

I’m here for more biopics moving in the direction of ‘A Day in the Life’ over trying to capture a person’s whole story in 120 minutes.  ‘Southside With You’ is the better of the two features that came out about President Obama last year.

Already a big part of their mythology, the movie dramatizes the first date of Barack and Michelle, when they went to go see ‘Do the Right Thing’.  Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter both do great giving us the essence of these two people, years before they were even plotting to end up where life took them.

As I said up top, I love the day in the life approach, but the pitfall in going that route in biopics is stretching reality for the sake of dramatization.  First date, are you getting more information about this person you already have some level of interest in?  Definitely.  Are you getting their entire back stories on the first date?  Even in a movie, not very likely.  Michelle grills Barack about his dating past, he says he’s been in serious relationships with white women, but has grown weary of always feeling like the outsider.  That’s great character detail and feels very organic in a real and a movie first date.  Barack deep diving into his rocky relationship with his father?  Felt a little more forced.

As a whole though, solid date movie, and at less than 90 minutes, it moves quickly.  Streaming on Netflix, worth checking out if you didn’t catch it in the theatre.