Tag Archive: netflix


 

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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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:

 

 

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!

 

‘Extremis’

 

extremis

While not graphic, ‘Extremis’ is by design, hard to watch.  This Oscar nominated short documentary covers a subject everyone needs to prepare for but no one wants to: what’s the protocol if you (or a member of your family) due to health or accident, needs to be hooked up to a machine to continue living?  How long do you let them live (usually in some level of pain)? Practically for the vast majority of us, how long can you financially afford to let them live like this?  Do they even want to, if they haven’t explicitly set up this situation in their will (which this film made me revisit)?  How big of a role do the doctors play in laying out the practical facts versus advising you what to do in what is ultimately the family’s decision?

It’s only a 24 minute film, but the filmmakers do a great job of presenting the various stages of grief/denial you would expect in this situation, as well as the toll it takes on the doctors themselves (who after all, are only human).

Now streaming on Netflix.

 

whitehelmets

Nominated for Best Documentary Short this year at the Academy Awards, ‘The White Helmets’ takes the audience (especially in America) a front row seat to a place we hear about daily on the news but don’t actually experience.

The White Helmets are a voluntary rescue group in Syria who go into the heart of the war zones and attempt to save as many lives as possible, without asking which side they were fighting on.  The film follows the group as they save lives, while also following them to Turkey where they train (both physically and psychologically) for what they’re destined to see.

If you’re reading this, you most likely are aware that the filmmakers and the White Helmets themselves are not allowed into this country (and thus will not be at the Oscars, win or lose.  However you feel about that, you should take 40 minutes out of your day or night and appreciate what these guys are doing.

Now streaming on Netflix.

 

13th

I want to stay away from the obvious cliches when I judge this film on its own and within the long view of Ava Duvernay’s career (‘this is an important film’), so I’ll try to find the right words at the end…

The conceit of this documentary is that while the 13th Amendment abolished slavery…it really didn’t.  The U.S. Civil War (like pretty much every other war, ever) was about economics.  The Southern economic system was destroyed, so…something had to replace it.  And as a side note, all those blacks who that economic system was completely dependent on…what about them?

So that’s your starting point in this, incredible film.  Writing it down as I am now really doesn’t do it justice, but you get a five star ‘the History of Black America’ story in under two hours that rarely, if ever, moves too far away from its thesis.  You want a quick lesson in why (the original) Birth of a Nation is so important for all the wrong reasons?  It’s in here.  You want to know how coded language has evolved from nigger to ‘crack users’ to ‘thugs’ over the years? It’s covered pretty well here.  You want a quick political science lesson in how Nixon won over the South to the Republican party, and how the Clintons figured out how to neutralize that advantage?  It’s in here.

It’s history but make no mistake, this is a ‘film’ as well.  It’s art.  The use of graphics to illustrate how the prison rate keeps escalating, the use of hip hop to guide us through the political eras (I reflexively threw up my fist when Public Enemy came on.)  The editing is superb; in the early sections you will question why aren’t black people constantly boiling over in anger, in the present day Black Lives Matter section, I had to look away as the film makes you relive Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and the still growing list of boys who’ve been killed for being.

I have no inside information on if Ava even cares about industry awards, but as I write this either this film or the more L.A. centric story about race, ‘O.J. Made in America’ is the frontrunner for Best Documentary.  What I can say is that this is in my opinion the best film she’s directed to this point in here in her career by far.

Streaming on Netflix.  Watch it.

 

misty-copeland

I’m late to the party on this one but glad I eventually found it…

Nelson George’s ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ is a roughly 90 minute documentary that introduces many of us to the story of Misty Copeland, the first black woman to be cast as the lead ballerina by many international ballet troupes.  Born in Kansas City(!), the film picks up when Misty is already well respected and known in the inner circles of that world, but before the outside world asks ‘Why hasn’t there been any people of color headlining Swan Lake or the Nutcracker or any of these stories that aren’t pure historical re-enactments?’

My personal favorite part of Nelson’s film was seeing how Misty was assigned a ‘consigliere’ that she could confide in and look to as ‘the first black…’ in her path.  Dihanne Carroll, Victoria Rowell, Veronica Webb, I’m pretty sure I saw Cheryl Boone Isaac in some of those pictures.  That part of what we all do that’s not so directly about your talents or gifts but just having a support system; I love that.

When Misty starts to become a name and the little girls really start coming through and the brothers who never had any interest in ballet start coming through, and Under Armour…the tracks were laid for her to be a star and she’s handling it well.

Fun, really quick watch and very inspiring.  Now streaming on Netflix.

 

artgetdown

So there’s the names you recognize because it’s been in the marketing. Baz Luhrmann. Nas. Nelson George if you’re a hip hop head.

The name not as heavily promoted but who played a significant role of his own is my brother in many things in this life, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, officially credited as a Co-Executive Producer on ‘The Get Down’, which you can start streaming tonight on Netflix (or possibly right now depending on when you read this.)

I’ve enjoyed the hype leading up to this as much as most of you have, and I know the sacrifices Aaron made to be a part of this project, so I have high hopes as both a friend and a fan for this one.

Six episodes now, with the latter six coming next year.  Can’t wait.

Congrats Aaron!  And the rest of you, make this a part of your weekend!

malikiverson

You all know who my team is.  But as you see above, my favorite player from my generation never played for the Lakers.

An undersized guy among Giants.  Wears his flaws on his sleeve.  A natural born underdog, rebel, and non-conformist.

‘Iverson’ gives you all the highlights of what made ‘the Answer’ so appealing to myself and millions of others.  Even when you know the broad strokes (as I did), the filmmakers do a good job of making the ride entertaining.

You get the clips of his high school football and basketball career (State Champion in both sports, and even at this stage, just another level of speed and athleticism over everyone else on the field.)  The circumstances around the bowling alley brawl that sent him to prison (and how that unsurprisingly shaped his attitude for the rest of his life.)  Being drafted by the 76ers and becoming a culture shock to the Association in the post Michael Jordan era (after that famous crossover of His Airness of course).

And the moment I remember most vividly: that Game 1 of the NBA Finals against my Lakers.  I was here, so trust me on this: the trash talking and arrogance leading up to that series was one of those ‘I see why people hate L.A./the Lakers.’ I kid you not, they were promoting the Championship party after Game 4 before Game 1 was played.  There was no question who the better team was, but to this day I can’t remember cheering as loudly after an upset victory over my own team as I was that night (sorry Coach Lue).  You could hear a pin drop in this city after that game was over.  I was ready to put him in the Hall of Fame that night.

So check out ‘Iverson’.  Now streaming on Netflix.