This Is a Movie Review: Never Goin’ Back

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I give Never Goin’ Back 3 out of 5 Beer-Soaked Waitress Uniforms:

This Is a Movie Review: With ‘Brigsby Bear,’ Kyle Mooney Applies His One-of-a-Kind Style to a Rescued Kidnapping Victim

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Ryan Simpkins, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill

Director: Dave McCary

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for First Times: First Time Doing Hand Stuff, First Time Tripping, First Time Making Dynamite

Release Date: July 28, 2017 (Limited)

It is certainly possible for a film about an escape from kidnapping to be about the triumph of the human spirit. But is it also possible to also make one in which the spirit was never really beaten down in the first place, just slightly confused? Brigsby Bear sure seems to think so. It’s basically what Room would have been if it were a quirky, offbeat comedy. If you’re a fan of writer/star Kyle Mooney, then you have already bought your tickets. If you’re unfamiliar, then let me explain a little more.

Like a lot of young adults who spend most of their time at home, James Pope (Mooney) is obsessed with his favorite TV show. But unlike most TV fanatics, he stays indoors because he has been led to believe that the outside air is toxic, and also unusually, his particular favorite show, “Brigsby Bear Adventures” (a sort of charmingly low-budget live-action spacefaring Saturday morning cartoon) is produced for an audience of one. Because, as it turns out, the people James thinks are his parents actually abducted him when he was a baby. When the authorities track down the compound and return James to his real family, he struggles to move forward in this strange new world. He is able to accept that these people are who they say are, and his social adjustment is relatively smooth, but what really bothers him is the astounding realization that he will never know how the story of Brigsby Bear concludes.

But wait – there is a solution to be had! James decides to put together his own amateur production of a Brigsby Bear film, and the result is a paean to the stirring power of filmmaking. Although… is it perhaps irresponsible to present the story of a kidnapping victim whose recovery consists mainly of a major element from the time of his captivity? It is acceptable that the pull of the familiar, however distorted it may be, cannot be denied (James revisits the bunker in a moment that plays exactly like the return to the shed in Room). And to be fair, every individual captive’s experience is unique. So it is ultimately inspiring to see James’ family and entire community embrace his Brigsby Bear obsession, because they recognize that as strange and as risky as it may be, this is his best chance to recover and flourish. There are certainly discomforting moments (especially in the case of Mark Hamill, who, as James’ impostor father and the man behind Brigsby, toes a tricky line between detestable and genuinely human), but they are among the intrinsic elements that make this story as heartwarming as it is.

Brigsby Bear is Recommended If You Like: Room, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Kyle Mooney’s YouTube/SNL videos

Grade: 4 out of 5 Giant Costume Heads


This Is a Movie Review: Zoolander 2

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The first Zoolander worked as satire because it was about an industry desperately holding onto its relevance (with the existence of said relevance questionable in the first place) and the bobos who represented that last grasp. There is nothing inherently wrong with a sequel premiering a decade after the original, but it is always a challenge, especially so in the case of Zoolander 2. Its setting is so far removed from a natural one in that the setup necessary to get everyone where they need to be is convoluted and exhausting. The sweat comes from effort, not embarrassment.

The film comes to life when it focuses on the here and now. Hot designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) is where the real story is at. Fashion – or any industry in 2016 driven entirely by trends – keeps dying and rebirthing and eating itself. Mooney plays Atari as 100% ironically hipster and 100% earnestly enthusiastic, expressing his admiration for Derek and Hansel by simultaneously praising and dismissing them. It is infuriating and intoxicating. This paradoxical approach is scary, but it is how films as broad as the Zoolander’s need to distinguish themselves (see also: Fred Armisen’s face digitally transposed onto a pre-teen’s body).

SNL Recap February 13, 2016: Melissa McCarthy/Kanye West

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My full review can be found on Starpulse:

I Can’t Make You Love Me – B

Melissa McCarthy’s Monologue – B-

The Day Beyoncé Turned Black – C+

The Cul-De-Sac Test Screening – B-

Movie Night – B

Kanye West featuring Young Thug, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and El Debarge – “High Lights” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Rachel from Friends – B-
Von Miller – C
Leslie Jones – C+

The Art of the Pickup – B

Rap Battle (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Bus Ride – B-

Kanye West featuring The-Dream, Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper, and Kirk Franklin – “Ultra Light Beams” – B

Whiskers R We – B-

SNL Recap March 28, 2015: Dwayne Johnson/George Ezra

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My full review of this episode can be found on Starpulse:

“If you don’t have a boner right now, you should just kill yourself.”

The Rock Obama – B

Dwayne Johnson’s Monologue – B

Pep Boys – B+

Wrestlemania Promo – B+

Bambi – A-

Anniversary Dinner (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Escape From Jungle Island – B

Brogaine – B+

George Ezra – “Budapest” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Olya Povlatsky – B
Willy – B

Cooking with Paul – C

Robert Durst Improv – B-

George Ezra – “Blame it on Me” – B-

Interrogation – C+

The Circus with Kyle – A-

SNL Recap March 7, 2015: Chris Hemsworth/Zac Brown Band

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My full review of this episode can be found on Starpulse:

A Message From Hillary Clinton – B

Chris Hemsworth’s Monologue – C-

American Express – C+

Brother 2 Brother – C+

Empire – C+

S.S. Orion – C+

The Iggy Azalea Show – C+

Zac Brown Band – “Homegrown” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Leslie Jones – C+
The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party – B

Action News 7 Special Report – C-

Love Ain’t Fair – C+

So you think you can Live with Brian? (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Zac Brown Band ft. Chris Cornell – “Heavy is the Head” – B+

Dolce & Gabbana – B