“Which is the worst monger: fish, iron, rumor or war?”

Returning cast and situations from I’m Alan Partridge, which I watched eight years ago and barely remember, and Mid Morning Matters, which I haven’t checked out yet. Alan is wedged into a hostage plot, in which Colm Meaney (The Road to Wellville) takes over the radio station in revenge for the corporate takeover that got him fired. I knew all this going in, but I watched it anyway in the hopes that it’d be unremittingly hilarious – and it is! Even the opening titles are pure pleasure, and in fact I restarted the movie to see them again and almost watched the whole thing twice.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 2 (1990)

This season included three episodes of Bela Lugosi in The Phantom Creeps, and the first appearance of Mothra. Favorites: Sidehackers, Jungle Goddess and First Spaceship on Venus. Also great: Wild Rebels & Hellcats

Sports Night season 2 (2000)

We finally made it. Katy was not romantically satisfied with the ending, except of course for Sabrina Lloyd and Joshua Malina ending up together again. The “show” is saved last-minute by Agent Coulson, but the show was not saved, and Sorkin moved on quickly to West Wing. Of the Sports Night directors, Don Scardino did a lot of 30 Rock, Marc Buckland made TV movies with Ken Marino and Jane Lynch, Dennie Gordon made Joe Dirt, Alex Graves works on Game of Thrones, Robert Berlinger made a Dukes of Hazzard prequel and Thomas Schlamme made So I Married an Axe Murderer and Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure.

Man to Man with Dean Learner (2006)

The laugh track wrecks the deadpan comedy, but as with most laugh tracks, you learn to ignore it after a while. Dean’s first guest is, of course, author Garth Marenghi, followed by a racecar driver, a prolific sci-fi actor, a folk guitarist, and a psychic, all played by Matthew Holness. The final episode reminds of Look Around You s2, bringing back the whole cast (all the Matthew Holnesses) for a memorial to the would-be-sixth guest, downward-spiralling star of the film Bitch Killer. I love how Dean blatantly mistreats his guests, sometimes to disfigurement and ruination, through flashbacks and insinuation and even live on the show.

The Day Today (1994)

Based on a radio show called On The Hour, this show saw the brilliant debuts of Christopher Morris (Jam, Brass Eye, Nathan Barley, Four Lions), Armando Iannucci (Time Trumpet, The Thick of It, Veep), Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character, Rebecca Front (Big Train, Nighty Night), producer Peter Fincham (Ali G, Look Around You, Smack the Pony), and weirdly, writer Patrick Marber (Closer). And I’m going to assume it inspired Charlie Brooker as well, since it’s a fake news show, but instead of making fun of current events, it’s mocking the manner in which they’re generally presented – so it’s still relevant and hilarious twenty years later.

My Life in Film (2004)

Starring the blond guy from Love Actually (the one who picks up American girls with his cute British accent) as a self-described “independent low-budget filmmaker”. He never gets around to making any films, but each episode is in the style of a different classic (I loved the driving-school homage to Top Gun). Fake-hitchcock cameo in the Rear Window ep by Ron Burrage (Double Take).

The Sarah Silverman Program season 1 (2007)

Hadn’t watched this in a while.
Co-created by Sarah and the guys behind Community and Heat Vision & Jack
It costars Brian and Jay from Mr. Show, Sarah’s sister Laura (of Dr. Katz/Home Movies) and Steve Agee (Cyberslut Killers in the Hollywood Hills) with guest spots by Zach Galifianakis (as Sarah’s homeless ex-classmate), Jill Talley (as a ghost), Doug Benson, Jimmy Kimmel, Ron Lynch, Rachael Harris, Scott Aukerman, Tig Notaro, Paul F. Tompkins, and Tucker Smallwood as God.

Important Things With Demetri Martin season 2

Man this was such a brilliant show.
And Jon Benjamin!

Metalocalypse season 2 (2008)

I can never keep straight which ones Malcolm McDowell and Mark Hamill play.
The other thing I can’t keep straight: the entire plot, or any non-band-member characters.
But is that so wrong? I’m enjoying myself.

Revenge of the Subtitle (1992)

Short public-access series in which comedians take clips from foreign films and maliciously re-subtitle them. Hoy!

AD/BC: A Rock Opera (2004)

A 1970’s-style nativity musical from the innkeeper’s perspective, mashing up the casts of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh. Not a lost masterpiece, but cute enough. Next Christmas I will see if Katy will sit through it.

more shows to find: Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and Horrificata Illuminata.

Steve Coogan’s possibly-ex-girlfriend is in the States, so he gets fellow TV comic Rob Brydon to join him for a would-be-romantic road trip to high-end northern England restaurants. Along the way, Steve makes anxious calls to his girl, to his agent (an American cable series is offered, with a seven-year commitment) and to his ex-wife and son. Rob’s only phone usage is for a nightly phone-sex appointment with his wife. Steve fusses over his career, wonders why he’s not the star he considers himself to be, and constantly puts down and one-ups Rob.

The fun of the six-episode series (which I watched since the movie version isn’t out yet) is in the often hilarious, somewhat bitter but always ultimately comic conversations between Steve and Rob, plus the great scenery and food. The movie aspires to more, though, and it’s more successful with its portrayal of a complicated friendship than with the time given to Steve’s personal and professional unhappiness. Each episode ends with him sighing heavily after an unpleasant phone call, looking unhappily into the distance, trying to make himself look younger in the mirror, and imitating Rob’s TV characters which he derides in public. I get the intent, to make Coogan a deep, sad character, but it comes off as repetitive and slightly self-indulgent. Brydon is given less depth, just a satisfied family man who loves doing the celebrity impressions that made his TV career. Coogan has a point that Rob gets annoying in large doses, but Rob confidently holds his own against Steve’s constant jabs.

The AV Club reviewers liked the film version in general, had some complaints I can’t disagree with. N. Murray: “While I liked the movie, there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been something I loved.” S. Tobias: “The choices [Winterbottom] makes in the editing room (and perhaps on set, too) seem off here … there are scenes that are allowed to go on too long or repeat a scene earlier in the film.”

Slant: “Its wry pricking of supercilious egos suggests a more self-aware version of Sideways.”

This post has been released under the Movie Journal Amnesty Act of March 2011, which states that blog entries may be short and crappy, since I am too busy to write up proper ones.

Machete (2010, Robert Rodriguez)

I loved the Machete fake trailer in Grindhouse, but felt R.R. was stretching the joke too far by making this. It didn’t get stellar reviews, so I skipped it in theaters. Oops. So wonderful, probably better than Planet Terror. Baddies Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal and Jeff Fahey all get brutally killed, along with Cheech Marin and about two hundred others. I don’t know how Rodriguez stays on the cool/fun side of the campy comic-action tightrope, instead of stumbling like Sukiyaki Western Django or falling clear off like Tokyo Gore Police. Dude is good.

Hatchet 2 (2010, Adam Green)

Ugh, a boring waste of time. Good for you if you make a self-aware, post-Scream horror movie full of fun references, movie veterans and tons of humor and gore. But boo on you for throwing away all accumulated goodwill on an obvious rehash sequel. Boooooo.

Frozen (2010, Adam Green)

Watched to give Green another chance after Hatchet II. Full of “why don’t they try…” and “why wouldn’t they just…” moments, and I thought the cinematography was boring, but the story and acting are undeniable… quite a good little horror flick.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, John Carpenter)

When bad horror gets me down, I like to watch this again. It’s clunky at times and likes to montage itself (each cool shot is shown three times or more) but Sam Neill is great, and it’s one of few horrors I’ve seen that takes its Lovecraftian apocalyptic premise all the way to a satisfying conclusion.

Barres (1984, Luc Moullet)

A whole movie about dodging payment in the Paris subway – only 15 minutes long with no spoken dialogue. Cute and instructive. Told myself I’d finally check out Moullet but this is all I’ve gotten to so far.

Barres:

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

Watched with Katy. What’s this new cleaning song doing in here? Must all Disney movies have a cleaning/work song?

The Clash: Westway to the World (2000, Don Letts)

A member of Big Audio Dynamite makes an interview film with some concert footage about The Clash. Very conventional, would’ve rather read The Clash’s wikipedia page and watched a full concert DVD.

Marty (1953, Delbert Mann)

The TV version from that rad Criterion DVD. I enjoyed Mann’s smooth Jimmy Stewart voice on the DVD commentary. He died two years before the DVD came out. A big shot in television through the early 50’s, he started working in cinema beginning with the film version of Marty, reaching the heights of a Cary Grant/Doris Day rom-com in ’62, then by the early 80’s he came back full-time to TV. Written by Paddy Chayefsky, acclaimed for this and Network, and also surprisingly the author of Altered States.

I’m still not clear on the kinescope process – so it was a camera aimed at a TV screen during broadcast? And this was done by the network, not by some enthusiast at home with a proto-VCR setup? And it was set up for time-shifting to the west coast? How did they get the film developed and send it to LA in an hour? Is the kinescope the reason why lateral camera moves make the movie suddenly looks like I’m watching it inside a cylinder?

“Girls: Dance with the man who asks you. Remember men have feelings too.” Marty is bored, has no luck with ladies, finally meets one who is his own speed. Meanwhile his mother is worrying over him and his aunt is moving in and his friends are telling him to forget the girl. Will love conquer all? Yes. A very small-scale but wonderful movie.

Rod Steiger would go on to star in Run of the Arrow and In The Heat of the Night, and more importantly, as the warmongering general of Mars Attacks!. He was recast as Borgnine in the feature film, but his mother and aunt made the cinema transition – the mother (Esther Minciotti) also played mother to Cornel Wilde and Henry Fonda in Shockproof and The Wrong Man, respectively. I had to subtitle her thick accent at times on the DVD here.

Parks & Recreation season 1

Now maybe I’ll be able to remember who Amy Poehler is, even though I’ve seen her in four movies. Also good to see Aziz again after Human Giant, but this was surprisingly not too funny/brilliant a season. Things have already picked up at the start of s2, so hopes are high.

Lars/Real Girl’s well-meaning brother Paul Schneider is low-key ladies’ man Mark. Nick Offerman of The Men Who Stare at Goats is mustachioed manager Ron. Bored receptionist April is Aubrey Plaza, a minor hostile character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Poehler’s new friend Ann is Rashida Jones, the lawyer (?) who talks to Mark Zuckerberg after-hours in The Social Network, and her boyfriend Andy is Chris Pratt of nothing I’ve seen yet.

Saxondale season 1

Steve Coogan plays less of a buffoon than usual, actually kind of a bright and capable guy. He’s not super classy though, an ex-roadie for various rock groups turned independent exterminator with anger management issues, with a new young assistant whom he and his wife Mags (Ruth Jones of Little Britain and Nighty Night) somewhat adopt. Not a masterpiece of a show, but a happy diversion with some sharp comic bits.

Stella (2005)

The only season of Michael & Michael & David Wain’s show. Once I learned to tolerate how awful and stupid it is, I started to appreciate its stupid, awful, brilliant sense of humor. Or maybe I’m just stupid. Still to see: Michael & Michael Have Issues and rival series Wainy Days. Plus I never watched Reno 911, and maybe Viva Variety will come out on DVD some day.

Flight of the Conchords season 2
The Mighty Boosh season 2

These two are currently competing for best musical comedy series of the decade. Metalocalypse doesn’t stand a chance. Conchords may have the edge, because the music in Boosh season 2 was less prominent and awesome than in its first season.

This is a spinoff movie from a series called The Thick of It, which also starred Peter Capaldi as the terribly insulting PR guy, and which I must watch soon. Tom Hollander as the wishy-washy but morally secure minister and his head staffer Gina McKee (of MirrorMask) are new to the movie, but Tom’s assistant Chris Addison was in the show playing a different character. Kinda surprising, that, since in the movie he’s the new guy (and kinda our main character).

One lucky break: the new guy/main character isn’t a bland, naive kid who leads us insultingly through the situation, a conceit used by so many crappy movies. Everyone sorta knows what they’re doing here, and even though our guy is a fuckup (misses a major meeting, his girlfriend leaves him for cheating), he knows his way around his job. Anyway, movie follows these government guys as they trade secrets and rumors, fiddle with their publicity, and ultimately start an international war for the stupidest reasons possible – and it’s damned hilarious, and I’ve forgotten every joke so I must watch it again after catching up with the show.

Of course it’s not a british comedy without a Steve Coogan cameo (The Boat That Rocked, therefore, was not a british comedy). Here he plays Tom’s neighbor who starts a PR stink over a crumbling garden wall. I wouldn’t say it’s a non-comic role, but he has less funny dialogue than anyone else in the film, which seems odd.

December 2008:
Watched again on video, and it only gets better. Five (five!) commentary tracks to go, and two discs full of extras, wooo!

Peter Jackson as Father Christmas:
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Marsha from Spaced:
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March 2007:
The trailer set it up right – supercop Simon Pegg is making the department look bad in comparison, so he’s shipped to the safest small town in England and paired up with lazy son-of-the-chief Nick Frost. All is well until the town elders turn out to be involved in a Wicker-Man-like conspiracy to beautify their town by any means possible (usually murder). Very suddenly it turns into an all-out war, with the police dept. (minus the evil chief) and Simon and Nick (or Shaun and Ed, as I still think of them) against the neighborhood watch.

Extremely funny and a great action flick. Nothing much or bad to say about it. The crowd gave big response to particularly gruesome killings, the jump kick to an old woman’s head, and Bill Nighy. Edgar says they were happy to be working with an ex James Bond (Timothy Dalton) and three oscar winners in this one (Cate Blanchett, Peter Jackson and Jim Broadbent, the former two uncredited). Such a very fun movie, this and Grindhouse have put me in the mood to watch less serious-minded movies, hence the appearance of Saw 3 on this page.

Cute meta-movie, seems less revolutionary than it might’ve been, with its “8 1/2” references and coming soon after “Adaptation”, but it’s funnier than both of those. My favorite explanatory bit:

Tony Wilson: Why Tristram Shandy? This is the book that many people said is unfilmable.
Steve Coogan: I think that’s the attraction. Tristram Shandy was a post-modern classic written before there was any modernism to be post about. So it was way ahead of its time and, in fact, for those who haven’t heard of it, it was actually listed as number eight on the Observer’s top 100 books of all time.
Tony Wilson: That was a chronological list.

Just having Tony Wilson appear as an interviewer says more about the movie’s constant folding-in upon itself than I should bother putting into words. Winterbottom is forging a strange career making this, “24 Hr Party People”, “9 Songs”, “Code 46” and “Road to Guantanamo” all within a few years.

Movie is a chaotic in-joke with Altman sound mixing, portraying Tristram’s birth (Coogan plays Tristram, his father and himself) and conception, a battle scene, the filming of the battle scene, further research into filming battle scenes with help from a historical re-enactment society, the last-minute casting of Gillian Anderson as the romantic interest, and the final cast/crew screening of the film minus any battle or romance scenes. Plus all the behind-the-scenes stuff with Coogan getting in trouble and trying to one-up his funny co-star Rob Brydon.

I did not recognize Dylan Moran (the uptight guy torn apart at the end of “Shaun of the Dead”) as the doctor or Naomie Harris (Jamie Foxx’s wife in “Miami Vice”) as the film-buff production assistant who hits on Coogan.

Kelly Macdonald, playing Coogan’s girlfriend, was Renton’s underage girlfriend in Trainspotting and plays the female lead (?) in No Country For Old Men. “Director” Jeremy Northam is a Katy fave hunky actor whom she knows from “Emma”? Or maybe Gosford Park.

The text of the novel is searchable on google, so I could confirm that the phrase “meat curtains” does not appear.

With no backstory, Kirsten Dunst (Austrian Marie) is married off to the prince of France, Jason “the director’s cousin” Schwartzmann. The two of them soon come to bigtime power when king Rip Torn dies, and run around doing whatever they like. Jason sure doesn’t want any sex with Kirsten, but finally agrees to consummate in order to get everyone off his back about an heir. Kirsten lazes around, has at least one affair and two baby heirs, and ends up with her own custom-made house in a custom-made garden with all her friends and fancy fancy food and clothes. Meanwhile, people in France are poor and angry and something is happening with Austria but nobody cares about that until it’s way too late and the people are storming the castle and beheading people.

Kirsten’s always seeming totally out of her element as an actress finally works for the part, as Marie is an awkward princess who becomes an awkward queen, then once she realizes she can do anything, runs around doing anything. The movie sort of lets her off the hook, because really, she knew hardly anything about her position and had no reason at all to try and find out more. The king apparently had policy meetings but they were kept simple and short (and both of the ones they showed us involved sending money to America, maybe Sofia’s little rebuke for the freedom-fries thing).

Who else? Molly Shannon from SNL is a snippy friend with a possibly fake nose, Asia Argento is King Rip Torn’s slutty & improper (natch) girlfriend, and Alan “Steve Coogan” Partridge is Queen Marie’s ambassador to her family and/in Austria.

Beautiful scenery, clothing, sets, everything… nice low-light photography. Kirsten Dunst is pretty. Fine idea, this whole showing off Marie’s life from inside, as if she’s just a carefree teen who won a neverending shopping spree at the mall. Nicely paced, as Katy says, slow but purposefully so, following Marie’s languorous lifestyle. But the movie never gets around to proving itself necessary or rewarding me for watching it, besides the odd beautiful shot or good use of a Bjork song as mood music. Feels somewhat flat, though I can’t point at just why. Double Life of Veronique a few days later confirmed the feeling… Marie is missing something big. If I knew what it was missing, I suppose I’d be writing this someplace other than here. Katy liked the movie pretty well but feared the hype.