SNL Love It/Keep It/Leave It: John Mulaney/Thomas Rhett

1 Comment

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Toilet Death Ejector – I’m going to say it, folks. I’m walking on hallowed ground here, but I believe it’s warranted: Toilet Death Ejector is on the same level as Old Glory Insurance. It took nearly 25 years, but SNL finally innovated another bona fide solution for what ails today’s seniors. There is a strong chance that this fake product will enter the cultural lexicon as shorthand for the embarrassing death that we all want to avoid.

More

This Is a Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Sony Pictures Entertainment

This post was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, Bryan Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Kathryn Hahn, Chris Pine, Zoë Kravitz

Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: PG for Superhero Bumps and Bruises and Dimension-Altering Explosions

Release Date: December 14, 2018

Even if you prefer Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield’s versions of Peter Parker, it is fundamentally outrageous that the cinematic Spider-Man has been rebooted multiple times so soon after the massively successful Tobey Maguire chapters. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse avoids this pitfall by forgoing the same old Peter Parker origin story, or even the same old Peter Parker himself. Instead, the focus this time is on Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Puerto Rican and African-American teenager who inherits the Spider-Man mantle after he too is bitten by a radioactive arachnid. Additionally, while Miles is the primary protagonist, room is also made for just about every parallel universe version of Spider-Man that has ever existed in the comics (including noir, manga, and porcine iterations). I would love it if the live-action Marvel action movies were similarly diverse, but there is more space to be bold within animation (at least according to how the blockbuster industry currently operates).

A running gag throughout Spider-Verse is each version of Spider-Man giving us the rundown on his (or her) origin story. The film assumes that the audience is significantly familiar with the web-crawler’s mythos, and thus we get shout-outs to iconic moments from both the panel and the screen, like the murdered uncle and the upside-down kiss in the rain. These moments could play as cheap nostalgia, but instead they are far from it because there is so much visual information to digest. The effect is more one of self-awareness and reinterpretation.

Spider-Verse follows in a line of recent animated franchise films like The Lego Movie and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies that benefit from their deep wealth of knowledge about their own histories. They all comment on their own pasts, avoiding snark in the name of favoring celebration while also managing to craft new adventures that stand on their own. Spider-Verse takes its unique place as one of the most visually vibrant entries in the history of CG-animated cinema, with a cornucopia of expressive and energetic styles. Add to that a sterling voice cast, and this is one of the witties (vocally and visually), and just plain most satisfying, experiences you’ll have in all of 2018.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Recommended If You Like: Every Spider-Man Comic Ever, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, The Lego Movie

Grade: 4 out of 5 Alternate Dimensions

 

SNL Review April 14, 2018: John Mulaney/Jack White

1 Comment

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2018.

News Cult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Hollywood Update – Mulaney finds brilliant inspiration from his very own “Family Flix” (aka “Rocket Dog”), one of the greatest sketches he ever wrote during his SNL tenure. This time around, the objectionable material for supposedly family-friendly entertainment is squarely present both in front of and behind the camera. Simply mentioning the uncomfortable sexual ramifications of a parent-child body switch premise would have been enough to make this sketch a winner, but the disturbing details just keep on coming.

Horn Removal – The second sketch of the night to take obvious and winning inspiration from a previous SNL bit hearkens back to a pre-Mulaney time, namely the Will Ferrell-starring Bad Doctor. This time around, it is the patients who are more the crazy people, although the biggest laughs come from Mulaney’s plastic surgeon calmly explaining to the horned fellow and his fetishistic girlfriend just how idiotic they are.

It always bodes well for the Monologue when you have a stand-up comedian hosting, and I furthermore appreciate that Mulaney delivered jokes I had never heard from him before. Maybe this was material that he had used on stage previously, but it was new to me…I have to give it up to Big Nick’s Greek Diner, or any comedy sketch past or present, that turns into a full-blown Les Miserables homage.

Keep It

Robert Mueller/Michael Cohen Lie DetectorMeet the Parents came out 18 years ago, which was around the time that my SNL fandom was really starting to bloom. So this Mueller investigation homage to the Fockers is like if Steven Spielberg and Drew Barrymore had cameoed in 2000 for an ET-centric parody about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Anyway, we certainly don’t need Ben Stiller and Robert de Niro to rehash their “you can milk anything with nipples” routine in 2018, but it is a unique enough entryway into the current scandal du jour.

The Drag Brunch is what we can refer to as precision comedy, and the target is hit…Mulaney’s student leader attempts to hide a boner on National School Walkout Day, and we should all know from Big Mouth how masterful he is at humorizing awkward bodily functions…Ah, a parody of Wild Wild Country, that new Netflix documentary series about a cult that a lot of people are obsessing over but that I have not watched (yet?); this isn’t the first time a sketch has revolved around Kenan’s insatiable appetite for booty, nor is it the best, but it is still fairly amusing (and props to the audience for cheering Nasim Pedrad’s cameo without prompting)…Michael and Colin’s most memorable bits this time around involve bringing the Cleveland Browns’ futility into all this and a zinging follow-up about cream soda…I have never subjected myself to Laura Ingraham, so I have no idea how accurate Kate McKinnon’s impression is, but the list of all her disreputable new sponsors is on-point…Kenan’s Lavar Ball routine is a steady, unwavering formula, but damn if I don’t lose it when he claims that his son Lonzo is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes or that he has a long-lost Mexican son named “La Biblioteca.” And “You say ‘tomato,’ I say ‘this tomato costs $500’” might just be the quote of the season…The Real Intros of Reality Hills zeros in on what that genre is all about, doesn’t it?

Leave It

No terrible sketches on John Mulaney’s watch!

John Mulaney

How many former SNL writers who were not also cast members have returned to host? The only other one besides John Mulaney that I can think of is Larry David. Mulaney is certainly well-known enough among comedy nerds to justify booking him as host, but is he famous enough among the general public? The correct answer is: who cares? The episode he is in charge of runs smoothly, and it appears that he had a powerful effect on the writers’ room, what with the plethora of concept-driven sketches. Also, Darrell Hammond twice refers to him (on purpose?) as John “Mulvaney.”

Jack White

On a scale of “absolutely essential” to “playing the hits,” this is hardly a landmark performance from Jack White, but of course his chops are as strong as ever. Are “Over and Over and Over” and “Connected by Love” future classics in his oeuvre? I’m not banking on that legacy, as they do not sound terribly different from his typical garage rock numbers, but maybe after a few more listens, I’ll notice some peculiarities.

Letter Grades

Mueller/Cohen Lie Detector – B-

John Mulaney’s Monologue – B+

Drag Brunch – B

National School Walkout Day – B-

Wild Wild Country – B

Big Nick’s Greek Diner – B+

Jack White performs “Over and Over and Over” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Laura Ingraham – B-
LaVar Ball – B

Hollywood Update (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Horn Removal – B+

Jack White performs “Connected by Love” – B+

The Real Intros of Reality Hills – B