This Is A Movie Review: The Beach Bum

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CREDIT: NEON and VICE Films

There are a lot of bare breasts in The Beach Bum. In the interest of naked parity, I must report that there is sadly not a whole lot of corresponding male nudity, although we do get a peek at Matthew’s McConaughey while he’s taking a drunken leak. This movie is basically the diary of a hedonist in Florida, and frankly, it could have been even more hedonistic, though it is having plenty of fun with itself in its shaggy structure. There actually does seem to be a bit of a message here, something about whether or not great men should be given the rope they’re often given to make great art, as Moondog’s shenanigans are sort of excused while he’s encouraged to write his next brilliant poetry collection. But this is also the movie in which Snoop Dogg plays a character named “Lingerie” and Martin Lawrence gets his foot bitten off by a shark, and those things seem just as important as any high-minded social consciousness.

I give The Beach Bum An Agreement to Drink a Few Sips of PBR.

Movie Review: In ‘The Hidden World,’ The ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Franchise is Not Particularly Fresh, But the Animation is as Beautiful as Ever

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CREDIT: DreamWorks Animation

Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, David Tennant

Director: Dean DeBlois

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG for High-Flying Fantasy Danger

Release Date: February 22, 2019

I do not remember a whole lot about the first two How to Train Your Dragon films other than the fact that I generally enjoyed them. The first one was among the initial wave of expansive 3D animated blockbusters. But nine years later, studios hardly ever bother to even screen their films in 3D, and I almost never seek the extra dimension out myself. But the CG animation is still of the utmost quality. Hair blows delightfully in the wind, and from what I have heard from the trenches of animation, realistic hair movement has been one of the biggest bugaboos in this medium. And this is a franchise about dragons, which don’t have a lot of hair! So the fact that the HTTYD team cares that much about rendering its human characters as well as its fantastical creatures should tell you all you need to know about the level of craft at play.

The Hidden World, the third in the series, finds Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his trusty dragon Toothless realizing that they are running out of room on their little island for all the humans and dragons to fruitfully co-exist. Meanwhile, an infamous dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) has declared he has his sights set on Toothless and all the other domesticated fire-breathers. There are admirable messages here about looking past surface differences and treating nature with respect, but there is also a bit of a sense of same-old, same-old. At this point, shouldn’t everyone know that these dragons are as loyal and affectionate as dogs? But while the story may be a little pedestrian, the animation continues to stun. Toothless develops himself a bit of a crush, and let’s just say, the dragon seduction dance is a (family-friendly) sight to behold.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is Recommended If You Like: The Most Thorough Animation in the Business

Grade: 3 out of 5 Night Furies

SNL Review November 3, 2018: Jonah Hill/Maggie Rogers

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

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

Love It

Teacher Fell Down – Now here’s a welcome example of SNL being more experimental than usual: starting the scene right after the inciting incident, combined with generally weird (but mildly so) behavior. Then a bunch of confused spectators comment on the strangeness of the situation and try to restore some sanity, but without getting too worked up about it. Honestly, a lot of this is just solid sketch writing, but deployed in a way one would ever think to do.

6-year-old Adam Grossman cracking Catskills-style jokes at the Benihana never fails to be a delight. Giving him a (not actually) Jamaican nanny proves to be a stroke of genius for providing him with fruitful material…Oh man, those Pug Wigs are legendarily adorable.

Keep It

Jonah Hill’s Five-Timers Monologue – I always love a visit to the Five-Timers lounge, and since we’ve seen it multiple times before, subversion is a good idea, too. The basic idea here is that the #MeToo movement has spread to the Five-Timers Club, thus only female members are there to welcome Jonah. This approach doesn’t quite fit, though, as none of the male members are really known for their mistreatment of women (notwithstanding the recently arrested Alec Baldwin’s anger issues and Chevy Chase’s noted difficulty to work alongside). Of course, this could also be a commentary on the relative lack of women in the club and in the history of SNL and in comedy in general. Which is a fine idea, but then a lot of the jokes are just the ladies lightly teasing Jonah. This is all to say, there are several worthwhile avenues present here, but overall it’s a bit scattered. Side note: I gotta give it up to Candice Bergen for being a legend who just stares at her phone during the goodnights.

The Ingraham Angle has some funny gags about FOX News overreaction, though no great overarching point…The Democrat Midterm Ad‘s biggest laugh comes from Mom Aidy Bryant screaming that kidding about voting is NOT FUNNY!…Divided We Stand is fairly amusing self-satisfied theater, but I am most tickled by the fact that it is taking place at 43rd and “Lincoln Tunnel Service Road”…Michael and Colin really have to fight for desk time with all those correspondents, but at least they get a good crack about Gritty in there…I would say making fun of people’s appearances is not political satire, but Pete Davidson does acknowledge that and makes fun of his own looks as well, so he knows what he’s doing…Brittainy, Every Teen Girl Murder Suspect on Law & Order is one of those Update bits that pretty much perfectly captures the trope it’s tackling but doesn’t quite fully integrate itself within the context of Update; so: funny, but a little disorienting…Kenan’s David Ortiz really knows how to be a spokesperson for products and concepts that we never realized needed endorsing…America’s Got Talent: Wait, They’re Good? identifies what I assume is an actual overdone reality competition trope. It’s a good joke, but the execution is a little dragged-out…HuckaPM features some intense falling-over physical comedy; bangin’.

Leave It

KCR News Albany – Hoo boy, this is a mess. The writing is all wrong, what with the tone veering wildly in multiple directions, and the direction isn’t great either, with technical glitches and bad timing. The tragedy is, there are some decent jokes in there, but it is never clear what the base reality is. Thus, I am too confused to laugh. At least the sketch doesn’t end on a bummer, but alas, that happy ending only makes everything more confusing.

Jonah Hill

On a scale of SNL Five Timers, Jonah Hill is steady and effective enough. He has a memorable recurring character in his repertoire, so he hasn’t scaled this height with nothing, though he is still a far cry from the most legendary in this hallowed club. In this outing, it’s clear that he’s happy to play along pleasantly with the cast and that he doesn’t feel any need to go out of his way to make himself the star. It makes for a mostly functional episode.

Maggie Rogers

On a scale of musical guests I’ve hardly heard of before their SNL debut, Maggie Rogers has definitely caught my attention. For someone in her twenties, she sure looks and sounds polished. Plus, there’s always room in the pop scene for more folk music without getting all Mumford & Sons-artisanal about it. And you gotta love that Suspiria-style red dress.

Letter Grades:

The Ingraham Angle – C+

Jonah Hill’s Five-Timers Monologue – B

Benihana – B+

Democrats Midterm Ad – B

KCR News Albany – C

Divided We Stand – B-

Teacher Fell Down (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

Maggie Rogers performs “Light On” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Pete Davidson – B
Brittainy, Every Teen Girl Murder Suspect on Law & Order – B-
David Ortiz – B

America’s Got Talent: Wait, They’re Good? – B-

Maggie Rogers performs “Fallingwater” – B

HuckaPM – B-

Pug Wigs – B+

This Is a Movie Review: In ‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,’ Joaquin Phoenix is a Recovering Alcoholic Quadriplegic, And Jonah Hill is There to Help Him Out

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CREDIT: Scott Patrick Green, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2018.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Mark Webber, Udo Kier, Kim Gordon, Beth Ditto, Carrie Brownstein

Director: Gus van Sant

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for General Alcoholic Behavior, And Maintaining a Sexual Appetite Even When Your Body Can’t Move Freely

Release Date: July 13, 2018 (Limited)

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, based on John Callahan’s memoir of the same name, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, a recently paralyzed recovering alcoholic who discovers a passion for and makes a career out of wry, off-color cartoons. His moment of rock bottom could not be more dramatic, as an all-night session of non-stop partying ends in a terrible car crash that renders him a quadriplegic. There is plenty to Callahan’s story, but for my money, Don’t Worry is really about Jonah Hill’s weirdly transfixing performance as Donnie, John’s AA sponsor.

Hill was on hand for an interview after the screening I went to, where it was noted that Donnie’s homosexuality was probably the least interesting thing about him, and not even all that noticeable. While Donnie is certainly well-rounded enough to not be defined by his sexual orientation, that orientation is in fact clear eno9ugh. Although, the possibility that a straight man could be as fey and as much of an aesthete as Hill plays Donnie is plenty intriguing. He is an inspiration for everyone to be themselves. It is a lesson that John takes to heart. Extreme trauma is a roadblock that is always lurking; if you survive it, you shouldn’t let it stop you from discovering who you are.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is Recommended If You Like: 50/50, ’70s Style and Interior Decorating

Grade: 3 out of 5 Motorized Wheelchairs

SNL Recap March 5, 2016: Jonah Hill/Future

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SNL: Future, Jonah Hill, Future (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in March 2016.

Jonah Hill does not proclaim “I’m six!” during any part of his fourth stint on “SNL.” This is not the sort of episode that relies completely on steady favorites, nor is it the sort of episode in which the host is clearly promoting something. (Hill’s last movie was “Hail, Caesar!,” which he appeared in for all of five minutes.) Also, Future is the musical guest. He is one of those artists who is really hot right now even though a significant portion of the “SNL” viewership have surely never heard of him.

CNN America’s Choice 2016 – After a few weeks off, “SNL” gets back in the groove of cold openings that run down the latest electoral goings-on. This is a low ceiling/high floor venture: it is too scattered to have a real selling point, but nothing lasts long enough to stink up the joint and the individual parts are all decent. The highlight, such as there is one, is a returning favorite: Jason Sudeikis’ reprisal of his Mitt Romney. The material is predictable (he’s a vanilla Mormon milquetoast), but refreshing, as there are only so many incisive jokes that can be squeezed out of the current candidates. B-

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SNL Recap January 25, 2014: Jonah Hill/Bastille

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jonah-hill-saturday-night-live-snl
Heterosexual Men’s Figure Skating Championships
Comedy based on stereotypes can work, but if it isn’t subversive, then it tends to perpetuate those stereotypes, intentionally or not.  It’s also just difficult to make it work as far as funny goes, because it tends to lack the element of surprise.  You have to do a really good job of playing the stereotype straight.  The performances were decent, but not spectacular.  The last routine was a little bit better than the others, in that it went beyond “stereotypical straight guy” material into “creepy guy” territory. C+

Jonah Hill’s Monologue
I was just thinking of how, in light of his Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a “Comedy,” Leo DiCaprio would make a great SNL host.  He would follow in a distinguished line of primarily dramatic actors whose dramatic chops can be effectively parlayed into comedy.  But he’s never seemed like he would be interested.  So, when everyone was asking Jonah about him, it was weird to be thinking, “So, Leo is here, right?”  This ended up being solid way of addressing an aspect of Jonah Hill’s personality – his self-seriousness as an AC-TOR – which is, I would argue, generally a better approach than addressing a single moment of the host’s life.  (Why does Taran keep making those noises at the end of his sentences as Brad Pitt?) B

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SNL Recap March 10, 2012: Jonah Hill/The Shins

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Coolio: 1963-3162

Cold Opening – The Rush Limbaugh Show
The gag got old, but there was enough variety such that the laughs had no definitive endpoint.  Taran’s Rush was solid; at first, I figured that Bobby would be playing him, and then for about a minute or so, I thought it was Jason.  So what I’m saying is, Taran did a good job of playing what I imagine Jason Sudeikis playing Rush Limbaugh would be like. B

Jonah Hill’s Monologue
Jonah does a good job playing pompous.  Now that he’s lost weight, maybe he should get fewer lovable schlub roles and more entitled jerks. B

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