Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (9/21)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest content I consumed last month (in no particular order):

Awkwafina as 'Nora' in "Nora From Queens" (ep #2.06) (2021)

Awkwafina gave a couple quick-fire interviews to ELLE (UK) and Bazaar (UK)… then “broke down” various on-screen/red-carpet looks for WhoWhatWear. She also went full Goth in an episode (#2.06) of her sitcom, Nora From Queens, but sadly it was only for a couple scenes, as her way of “acting out” at her father. Incidentally, I still can’t get used to seeing BD Wong playing an easy-going everyman, rather than a stylised super-villain… somone get that guy a death-ray, stat!

ELLE (US) challenged St. Vincent to a game of “song association”… and if you don’t find yourself yelling the name of a certain Nick Cave single at the screen by the end of it, then I’m afraid we can never be friends.

Chvrches performed three songs (“California“, “Good Girls“, and “He Said She Said“) from their new album (Screen Violence) for CBS Mornings… which seems like rather an odd booking to me, considering how bleak some of the lyrics/themes are. Lauren Mayberry has also been sharing behind-the-scenes clips (to TikTok and Instagram) of how each track came to be, along with other exclusive snippets.

– Warner Bros (yo!) posted a “gag reel” from The Suicide Squad (2021)… the highlight of which for me was seeing Steve Agee standing-in for ‘King Shark’ on set, wearing a fish-shaped frame around his head!

Kristen Schaal as 'The Guide' in "What We Do in the Shadows" (S3) (2021)

What We Do in the Shadows kicked off its third season by switching up the premise a little, and adding Kristen Schaal as a recurring/supporting vamp character (yay!), while another of Schaal’s beloved shows, Bob’s Burgers, returned for its twelfth season (yay again!). Shamefully, I’ve started to take that series for granted these days, but it’s worth re-stating how sweet, funny, and cheering every episode is. Apparently, there’s also a feature-length instalment in the works, scheduled for theatrical release in 2022…!?

Taskmaster (UK) also returned for its twelfth “season”, with another batch of socially-distanced contestants, including the brilliant Victoria Coren Mitchell, Morgana Robinson, and Desiree Burch. Fabulously silly/salty fun as always… though the premiere wasn’t nearly as sweary as usual, due to an unfortunate mix-up on Ch4’s end. [Bleep]heads!

– I fast-tracked the second season of TrollsTopia (2021) when I realised that the fourth was already about to drop, and I was lagging far behind… though they’re only 6/7 episodes long these days, and I tend to skip any stories that aren’t rock-troll-centric, so it shouldn’t take me too long to catch up again! As before, I find the sometimes-shaky friendship between ‘Poppy’ (Amanda Leighton) and ‘Val’ (Lauren Mayhew) totes adorable, and love the way they ended this batch frolicking off into the sunset together. Aw!

Milana Vayntrub as ‘Doreen Green’ (aka “Squirrel Girl”) (plus Tippy-Toe!) in a behind-the-scenes image from the cancelled “New Warriors” series (circa 2017)

– Writer/producer Kevin Biegel went on a (since deleted) twitter-tear, posting a slew of behind-the-scenes content from the cancelled (?) Marvel show New Warriors, which included photos of Milana Vayntrub in-costume as Squirrel Girl (plus Tippy-Toe puppet), along with the claim that the series was curb-stomped by a single executive with an anti-gay agenda! Official sources have denied that accusation, but regardless of the reason, it fills me with nerdrage/sadness that we came so close to seeing Vayntrub bring the character to life on-screen, and were so cruelly denied! Gah!

– Aaand The Pretty Reckless posted an acoustic/“unplugged” version of “Only Love Can Save Me Now”, once again showcasing Taylor Momsen’s inimitable voice.

– Perennial faves include Meg Tilly‘s Cozy Tea Time chats, Ryan George‘s Pitch Meeting skits, Bailey Meyers‘s gaming streams, and Screen Junkies/Jon Bailey‘s Honest Trailers!

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Rant: “The Suicide Squad” (2021) [SPOILERS!]

Daniela Melchior as ‘Ratcatcher 2’ in “The Suicide Squad” (2021)

Right off the bat (pun?), it has to be said that this movie is a vast improvement on its predecessor in every possible way!* Sure, there were several dud lines of dialogue and plot-holes a-plenty… it’s one of those stories that crumbles to dust the more you think about it after the fact… but it’s also a super-fun, sweary, ridiculous, hilarious, psychedelic, blood-splattered thrill-ride in its own right. There are even occasional moments of actual, earned emotion… mostly thanks to sleepy/sweet-hearted newbie ‘Ratcatcher 2’ (aka Cleo Cazo), as originated by Daniela Melchior. With the ability to summon a plague of rats at will, she’s kinda like a grunge-y Squirrel Girl… so the fact that she also played such a crucial role in bringing down the baddies was very much appreciated/cheered by me. And the “Mystery Mini” and Funko figures of her character are straight-up adorable… though sadly there aren’t (currently) any comics to buy, because she was created exclusively for the movie (by de-aging and gender-flipping a pre-existing character).

Margot Robbie as ‘Harley Quinn’ in “The Suicide Squad” (2021)

Meanwhile, I also felt a genuine pang of disappointment/“grief” when ‘Captain Boomerang’ (Jai Courtney) got snuffed in the beach assault, just as I was starting to remember why I enjoyed that character so much the first time! Ack! I realise that’s the whole purpose of him being there, to underline the fact that anyone can be killed off at any time, but even so… I’d love to see him get a spin-off prequel movie or mini-series in the very-near-future, please and thank-you!

And speaking of returning characters, as a Harley Quinn fanboy from waaay back, I obviously have very strong opinions about how she “should” sound/look/behave, and this is certainly the closest that the Margot Robbie incarnation has come to meeting my expectations. For one thing, they scrubbed the “rotten” face tattoo, and got her back in her trademark red-and-black outfits… they also dropped her annoying habit of aggressively psychoanalysing the other characters for no good reason, and gave her some proper jokes, along with a crazy “whirlwind romance” subplot, and some impressive contortions/acrobatics. I mean, she’s still only my third favourite live-action Harley**, but she’s definitely closing the gap, so yay for that!   

———–

* Though I do wish they’d given it a less lazy/needlessly-confusing title! Gah!

** First is Francesca Root-Dodson as the proto-Harley ‘Ecco’ in Gotham (S4-5), and then Tara Strong when she cosplays at conventions, icywc.

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (8/21)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest content I consumed last month (in no particular order):

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in a “dance cover” video of the song “Sheila Ki Jawani” (8/21)

Pinkvilla (“the world’s leading Bollywood news and gossip website”) posted a “dance cover” video of the song “Sheila Ki Jawani”, performed by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Richa Moorjani, co-stars of Mindy Kaling‘s Netflix sitcom Never Have I Ever.

– Symphonic singer/growler Melissa Bonny has been very busy lately, releasing two new music videos, with two separate (but not entirely dissimilar) bands: First was The Dark Side Of The Moon (who proclaim themselves to be on an “epic quest [to] transform our and your favorite cinematic themes into powerful metal tracks”) with a cover of “Jenny of Oldstones”, and next was Ad Infinitum with “Unstoppable”, the lead single from their forthcoming album Chapter II – Legacy.

Awkwafina appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to give guest-host Sean Hayes some behind-the-scenes goss about throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game to her dad, and absolutely no behind-the-scenes goss about being in Marvel’s new movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Amy Hoggart listed some of her “funniest things” for the Guardian (and gave Cole Escola a namecheck, so yay for that).

Sierra McCormick as ‘Scarlett’ in “American Horror Stories” (ep #1.1/2) (2021)

American Horror Stories (plural) finale-d out last month, to make way for the new (10th) season of its parent-show, American Horror Story (singular), currently in progress. The spin-off anthology series was pretty patchy overall, but I did enjoy a couple of the episodes: Ep #1.1 (“Rubber (Wo)man”) starred Sierra McCormick as ‘Scarlett’, a sadistic girl whose parents have foolishly chosen to move into the infamous “Murder House” (from OG AHS) to renovate it as a hotel… ep #1.5 (“Ba’al”) starred Billie Lourd as an aspiring-mother who inadvertently engages the services of a demon to help her conceive… and ep #1.6 (“Feral”) starred Aaron Tveit and Tiffany Dupont as bereaved/estranged parents returning to a super-creepy woodland campsite in an ill-fated attempt to rescue/recover their missing-presumed-dead son. I also got a kick out of Danny Trejo’s cameo as a murderous “Mall Santa” in ep #1.4 (“The Naughty List”), but sadly he wasn’t the main character and didn’t get nearly enough screentime! Weirdly, one of my favourite recurring cast-members (besides McCormick) turned out to be Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson! I didn’t even know she acted until now, but I thought she was very funny/charming here as the alpha-mean-girl (in eps #1.1-2/7).

– Oh, and I belatedly discovered the music video for Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings” (2012), starring Aubrey Plaza as a mourner going out of her mind at a funeral. Beware the strobing, but dig the gothiness!

– Perennial faves include Meg Tilly’s Cozy Tea Time chats, Ryan George‘s Pitch Meeting skits, Bailey Meyers‘s gaming streams, and Screen Junkies/Jon Bailey‘s Honest Trailers!

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Rant: “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” + “Fast & Furious Crossroads”

To satisfy my completist-curiosity, I’ve utilised YouTube “walk-throughs” to check-out a couple notable spin-offs from the F&F franchise (“Fastchise”?), neither of which really lived up to the main movies, despite the talent involved:

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious: Supercharged” (2015)

Fast & Furious: Supercharged is a screen-based theme-park “ride”, which opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2015, then at Universal Studios Florida in 2018. It begins with the guests being invited to a warehouse party by the Toretto crew, only for their tram to be diverted and attacked by ‘Owen Shaw’ (Luke Evans), who’s looking for an unidentified “witness” hidden among them. Thankfully he’s fought off by ‘Roman’ (Tyrese Gibson), ‘Dom’ (Vin Diesel), ‘Letty’ (Michelle Rodriguez), and ‘Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson), who ensure that everyone reaches their supposed destination safely… which should in theory be an epic booty-shaking shindig, but is in fact the exit of the attraction, sending everyone back out into their boring everyday lives again. Seems a little bit of a let-down to me. Obviously it wouldn’t be fair to judge the “live” experience purely on the basis of some sneaky/shaky camera-phone footage, but it did give me some inkling why noted theme-park enthusiast Jenny Nicholson is so scathing of the increased use of screens, as opposed to physical sets and animatronics…

Fast & Furious Crossroads (2020) is a “hybrid racing & action-role-playing” video game, starring Sonequa Martin-Green as ‘Vienna’, a former street-racer forced to re-enter the shady world of car-based criminality, in order to avenge the death of her lover, and help the Toretto crew (specifically Dom, Letty, and Roman, voiced by their actual actors) take down an international terrorist organisation led by Peter Stormare! She’s aided by her faithful techy sidekick, ‘Cam’, played by Asia Kate Dillon, who is depicted as “non-binary” and referred to by gender-neutral pronouns throughout… which is very admirable and inclusive, even if their actual personality is annoying as hell. All of the main characters were physically modelled on the people who played them, so it’s theoretically possible that they could crossover (pun?) into the movie-verse someday… though, judging by the reviews, it doesn’t seem as if this game has attracted a particularly fervid fan-base!

Sonequa Martin-Green as ‘Vienna’, Asia Kate Dillon as ‘Cam’, and Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty’ in “Fast & Furious Crossroads” (2020)

Again, it seems a little mean to “review” something I haven’t experienced first-hand, but I did watch the entire play-through over the course of a couple days, and feel like I have *some* basis for a critique. Initially I was quite intrigued by the concept of a secret, old-timey society for highway bandits, as suggested by the opening scene, but this eventually lead to the same knock-off-Bond-villainy you get in all the movies these days, so that was a real wasted opportunity, imho. I also thought the gameplay (which has been savaged by critics/players far more experienced/informed than me) looked exceptionally boring, with a skin-deep veneer of interactivity disguising what basically amounted to driving down highly-limited “corridor” tracks and occasionally shooting stuff (when ordered/allowed to do so). It seemed like a huge step-backwards, considering the remarkable freedom (and fun) that games like Driver (1999) provided, back in the day.* There’s also a bizarre disconnect during the driving scene sometimes, where the audio simply doesn’t match the visuals tonally… in the sense that the characters will be carrying on an earnest (or light-hearted) conversation about personal stuff while their vehicle is leaping off a huge ramp and ploughing bumper-first into a cop-car, as if they’re completely oblivious/insensitive to the carnage they’re causing! Surely that sort of high-velocity impact should at least make them pause for breath, even if they don’t comment on the potentially fatal crash? Meh. I do give them points for name-checking ‘Suki’ though… and the scene where one of the baddies calls Roman an annoying idiot! Tee-hee…

Oh, and Hobbs & Shaw (2019) was just unwatchable dreck, with inconsistent/off-putting characterisation and immature “dick measuring” throughout. Feh!

———–

* That game also had a function that allowed you to “film” and edit your own action scenes using the in-game vehicles, which would seem a perfect fit for a franchise like this… so, I guess what I’m saying is that they should’ve just reskinned/remastered Driver instead!

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Rant: “Fast & Furious 9” [SPOILERS!]

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious 9” (2021)

So, after a couple years of Covid-extended anticipation, I finally got to watch Fast & Furious 9 (aka “F9: The Fast Saga”) (2021), and… eeesh! Obviously everyone has differing tolerance-levels for unrealism in action movies, and I’ve been able to enjoy most of the previous instalments despite the increasing absurdity of the stunts… but this is the one where my brain finally revolted, and proved unwilling to suspend its disbelief. I can happily accept standard genre fare like people surviving falls and explosions which would have been fatal irl, but for some reason a car driving up a collapsing/near-vertical untethered rope bridge was too much for me to swallow, and just kept nagging at me… somehow topping the quasi-magickal-magnets and space-car sequences, in terms of insults to my “intelligence”! At one point ‘Roman’ (Tyrese Gibson) realised that they’d somehow become immortal, reality-bending gods, and I thought the movie might actually go somewhere interesting with the premise, and have all the characters becoming self-aware, or discovering that they’re secretly mutants or something… but no. Instead his friends simply laughed it off, and carried on being invulnerable superhumans without having the courtesy to acknowledge it, or disprove it. Somehow even ‘Han’ (Sung Kang) has returned from the dead, via a sloppy retcon of a sloppy retcon (despite them already having played the “saved from a fiery car-explosion” card in a far more interesting way with ‘Letty’ (Michelle Rodriguez) back in F&F6), and ‘Dom’ (Vin Diesel) now has a previously unmentioned estranged brother (‘Jakob Toretto’ (John Cena)), who also happens to be a vaguely-defined international super-spy! I just… I just can’t anymore. This movie broke me.

Anna Sawai as ‘Elle’ in “Fast & Furious 9” (2021)

On the plus-side, there was a badass fight scene where Letty, ‘Mia’ (Jordana Brewster), and the newly-introduced ‘Elle’ (Anna Sawai) worked together to take down a unit of armed soldier-men*… Helen Mirren had another entertaining cameo as the kinda-cockney “Queenie”… and Nathalie Emmanuel got some properly funny scenes playing ‘Ramsey’ as the crew’s clumsiest driver… but other than that, it was a total wash. The return of Charlize Theron as ‘Cipher’ was especially unwelcome… partly because she spent all of her early scenes imprisoned in a small glass-walled “cell” situated in plain sight of the baddies and their underlings, and I couldn’t stop wondering where/how she pooped. I assume there are some people out there who actually think her character is clever and cool… clearly director/co-writer Justin Lin is one of them… but for me she’s the equivalent of nails-on-a-chalkboard.

Of course, I’ll probably still end up buying the BR a year-or-so from now if there are some decent extras on it, because I’m compulsive like that… but I’m very glad I didn’t bother going to see this at the cinema (as I’d intended to do, pre-lockdown), because it really wouldn’t have been worth the ticket-price.

———–

* There is a brief-but-fun behind-the-scenes featurette with Sawai online, where she talks about her training, and M-Rod praises her badassery. Yay!

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (7/21)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest content I consumed last month (in no particular order):

Geraldine Viswanathan as ‘Prudence Aberdeen’ in “Miracle Workers” (S3) (2021)

Miracle Workers began its third season with a brand new setting/premise, this time focussing on the “Old West” era, as its characters negotiated the infamous “Oregon Trail” in search of a new home. I hadn’t really been able to get into the previous iterations of this show, but apparently they have new showrunners now, and the humour seemed a little closer to my wavelength somehow. Steve Buscemi is on top form as unrepentant-bandit-turned-trail-leader ‘Benny the Teen’, Daniel Radcliffe is great as the super-square ‘Reverend Ezekiel Brown’, and Geraldine Viswanathan is extremely winning as feisty proto-feminist ‘Prudence Aberdeen’. Oh, and there was a fun cameo by Shay Mitchell as a gleefully anachronistic (and slightly brain-addled) lifestyle “influencer” in ep #3.2.

Sleater-Kinney returned to Halfling Studio in Portland, where they recorded their most recent album Path of Wellness, to perform a short “live” session, hosted by NPR Music.

Sarah Silverman re-posted a Live from Here clip (circa 2/19) of her harmonising with her sister Laura Silverman, on a country song composed by the latter, titled “Dislocated Heart. And I really wish they recorded/performed more music together, because Laura’s contribution to the Jesus Is Magic soundtrack album (“So Great”) was legitimately single-worthy, imho.

Carrie Barrett as ‘Cyndi’ and Katy Fullan as ‘Connie’ in “Luxury” (S1) (2020)

– I chanced upon a bunch of retro-pastiche Adult Swim sketches (circa 9/20), written by and starring Katy Fullan & Carrie Barrett, in which the inept presenters of a local public-access lifestyle show titled “Luxury” serve up a confusing fever-dream of montages, while tangentially touching on the supposed themes of each episode (such as “Food”, “Cars & Boats”, and “Dogs”). There was also a short critically-praised soap-opera parody called Chowder from way back in 2019, which had the same writers, cast, and director/editor (Paul Emerson)… but that seems to have mysteriously vanished since I watched it a couple weeks ago! Dun-dun-dunnn! I guess that chowder was just “too hot” for the internet…?

Patti Harrison shared her uniquely inconvenient technique for turning switches on-and-off… and also co-directed/co-starred in a beautifully insane video for Sasami’s hardcore cover of “Sorry Entertainer”. Not safe for children (or the epileptic)!

Interview Magazine hosted a (transcribed) phone conversation between former-cast-mates (and current-besties) Amber Midthunder and Aubrey Plaza, which touches on everything from how they first met, to the rigours of filming in freezing temperatures, to the responsibilities that come with having a public platform.

Awkwafina at Citi Field Stadium (home of The New York Mets Baseball team) (circa 7/21)

– The New York Mets invited Awkwafina to their Citi Field stadium, to throw out the first pitch of a game… which she rather sweetly threw to her father, who she describes as a “devoted lifelong fan” of the team. Bless. I assume they also gave her the custom shirt pictured on her Insta? Either way, it was a “dream come true” for them both… and almost enough to make me a Mets fan too, if I didn’t find all sports insanely tedious to watch/follow. But in the words of Garfunkel & Oates, “Go team, yeah”!

Band-Maid posted an extended clip from their “The Day Of Maid” show from a couple months ago, featuring two dynamic, hard-rocking performances (“Manners” and “Black Hole”). Hurrah!

Sleigh Bells released a disturbing video for their banging new track “Locust Laced”, to whet the world’s appetite for a forthcoming album (Texis, due next month) and lengthy North American tour.

– Aaand, last but not least, Sandy Honig shared her not-entirely-authentic “Vogue: 73 Questions” video

– Perennial faves include Meg Tilly’s Cozy Tea Time chats, Ryan George‘s Pitch Meeting skits, Bailey Meyers‘s gaming streams, and Screen Junkies/Jon Bailey‘s Honest Trailers!

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (6/21)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest content I consumed last month (in no particular order):

Band-Maid

– I’ve been working my way through the videos of a Japanese beat combo called Band-Maid, after overlooking them for far too long… I was initially put off by their gimmicky outfits, but I finally got the joke when I heard how hard they rocked. Seeing Kanami Tōno shredding out guitar solos with a frilly doily on her head is objectively hilarious, and I often find myself wishing the camera focussed on her for longer, ‘cuz she’s awesome! I’d also love to see more of drummer Akane Hirose, who always seems to be having the time of her life bashing away at her kit.* During my “research” for this post, I found a (slightly techy) interview with Kanami on the Guitar World site, which ends with the line: “We wear cute maid outfits as a band, but our music is as good as any male group, so please check us out for yourself!” Amen. Meanwhile, the group’s super-cool “co-vocalist”/rhythm-guitarist Miku Kobato has launched a separate side-project, called Cluppo, whose “Peace&Love” promo dropped in March.

St. Vincent released her unique “Art-rock” take on Metallica’s “Sad But True”, to herald a forthcoming charity covers compilation called The Metallica Blacklist, which will also feature contributions by Cherry Glazerr (“My Friend Of Misery”), Imelda May (“The God That Failed”), and Corey Taylor (“Holier Than Thou”), among many others. While searching for more info on this album, I also found an old Rolling Stone article, in which Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) discussed what a huge influence the band was on her as a teen, while chatting with their lead guitarist Kirk Hammett!

Alison Becker as 'Alisson Becker' in her “Best Goalkeeper Award” acceptance video (12/19)

– Apparently Mouse Rat, the fictional band from Parks and Recreation fronted by Chris Pratt‘s character (‘Andy Dwyer’), are now releasing music irl, and recently posted an endorsement from ace Pawnee Journal reporter ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’ (aka Alison Becker) to their Insta. This then inspired me to watch a bunch of Becker’s old online skits, including CollegeHumor’s “If Google Was a Guy” compilation, in which she has a brief bit-part as a human manifestation of ‘Siri’, while Brian Huskey stars as ‘Google’ it/himself, Milana Vayntrub and D’Arcy Carden appear as curious search-engine users, and Randall Park plays the upstart rival ‘Bing’. Fun fact: Becker kinda shares her name with a (male) Brazilian footballer, hence her recording a spoof video accepting his “Best Goalkeeper Award” back in 2019!

– For some reason I haven’t mentioned Honest Trailers here before (possibly because it’s hard to find a single link for all the eps, with Screen Junkies arranging them by “seasons” instead!), even though I watch them compulsively every Tuesday, and frequently rewatch a couple of old eps as a quick, reliable pick-me-up at the end of the day. To summarise for those who aren’t already hooked, it’s a web-series of parody trailers for various films and TV shows, using genuine footage overdubbed with a snarky, mocking narration (usually by Jon Bailey alone, sometimes joined by a special guest)… though, true to the “honest” part of their title, they do sometimes compliment the movie/show in question. Either way, like Ryan George‘s Pitch Meetings, it makes me laugh super-hard, but also spurs the scriptwriter in me to examine and dissect my own work a little more sharply, to avoid the imagined jeering of these critics! If you’re curious, some kind souls have compiled a list of eps over on Wikipedia (Imho the pre-2013 ones, which had different narrators, are a little rougher on the ears… but that may just be in comparison to the later ones…?).

Sophia Mitri Schloss as 'Emma Korn' in "Big Shot" (S1) (2021)

Big Shot finale-d out last month, with [SPOILERS!] a pleasantly weepy/sappy ending, and a refreshing absence of nail-biting cliff-hangers! Phew! I’m not sure this season as a whole has really lived up to the pilot episode, with potentially interesting conflicts quickly resolved/evaded (largely off-screen, in the case of ‘Louise’s (Nell Verlaque) overbearing father), and amusing quirks forgotten (such as the character “Giggles” (Cricket Wampler) swiftly losing the nervous tic that earned her that nickname), but then again they were trying to get this show made during a global pandemic, and suffered several Covid-related-shutdowns during production, so it’s probably unfair to judge them too harshly. The romance between “Mouse” (Tisha Custodio) and ‘Harper’ (Darcy Rose Byrnes) was very sweet and engaging, with the latter’s mother/drama-teacher ‘Miss Goodwin’ (Kathleen Rose Perkins) also proving to be a fantastically flamboyant/eccentric foil for ‘Coach Korn’ (John Stamos). There were a couple storylines I skipped through, and several super-convenient plot contrivances that pained my brain, but overall it was a good, fun, heart-warming ride, and hopefully it will put its younger cast-members on the map (especially Sophia Mitri Schloss, who’s impressive singing-voice was showcased in several eps), even if it doesn’t return for a second run…

Garbage performed a track called “Wolves” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, to promote their new album No Gods No Masters… while Sleater-Kinney performed “Worry With You” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (“live” from a drained/disused swimming pool!), to promote their equally new album, Path of Wellness! Both discs were scheduled to drop on June 11th, which would’ve been a very exciting day at the record store for me, if such things still existed, and we were legally allowed to visit them…

Samantha Bee roped her “close friend” Steve Buscemi into helping her prepare for the return of live audiences by heckling her over a video-call, which doesn’t seem super-helpful to me, but it is very funny, so yay for that!

Awkwafina a la Allure's “9 Things She's Never Done Before” (6/21)

Allure challenged Awkwafina to try “9 Things She’s Never Done Before”, including naming lip-sticks and “reading” a crystal ball… endearing shenanigans ensued.

– Oh, and I finally finished the first volume of Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews (“Finding the Words: 1000BCE – 1492CE”) (2013), which I’d originally picked up for historical research, but found to be a surprisingly entertaining/addictive page-turner. It’s quite eye-opening/depressing to learn just how long-lived certain Anti-Semitic canards/practices really are… such as forcing Jewish people to wear distinctive clothing/badges to mark them out from the majority population, which dates back to the Middle Ages! Feh! Despite the subtitle suggesting a strictly chronological order of events, Schama occasionally skipped forward to the 19th/20th Centuries, to discuss the archaeologists/archivists who’d discovered/surveyed the artefacts/evidence he was referencing, which could get a little confusing at times… but then again I’m easily confused, and was only reading it in short bursts at night, so I’m probably more to blame for that than the author is!

– Perennial faves include Meg Tilly’s Cozy Tea Time chats, Ryan George‘s Pitch Meeting skits, and Bailey Meyers‘s gaming streams!

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* Apparently the limited-edition deluxe version of their new live BR (Online Okyu-Ji) comes with a bonus disc that allows you to watch various performances with the camera fixed on a single member… but that sells for around £72 (before p&p), which is waaay too expensive for this miser! They’ve also just launched a “subscription-based video distribution service” (named “Band-Maid Prime”), which includes clips focussed on individual players… but again it costs ¥1,100 per month (roughly £7.17), so it’s too rich for my blood!

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (5/21)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest content I consumed last month (in no particular order):

‘Kaede Honjō’ (aka “Maple”) in “Bofuri: I Don't Want To Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense” (S1) (2020)

– A couple weeks back, an advert for a new anime called “Bofuri: I Don’t Want To Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense” caught my eye*, and I’ve just finished watching the first season. It’s a very sweet/cute series about a girl (voiced by Kaede Hondo) who enters a virtual-reality role-playing-game, and takes an eccentric approach to levelling up, acquiring various strange skills and abilities, and making lots of friends along the way. There isn’t really an over-arching “plot” as such, just a series of battles and competitions with some team bonding in-between, but it’s a mood-lifting watch with likeable characters and great visuals, despite the pain of having to pause the picture to read some of the onscreen text during the computer-interface and “chat-room” scenes (though, tbf, that’s my own fault for not knowing Japanese).

– The Guardian interviewed teeny-punk band The Linda Lindas, who recently went “viral” with a video of their righteously-angry anti-bigotry anthem “Racist Sexist Boy” (as performed live at the LA Public Library, in honour of AAPI Heritage Month)… the main takeaway from which is that they’re (roughly) 30 years younger than me, but already 300% cooler/more talented. So, that’s depressing.

St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) and Carrie Brownstein (circa 2020)

– The trailer for a new music-themed mockumentary, The Nowhere Inn, linked me back to an old IndieWire interview with its co-stars/writers, Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), plus director Bill Benz.

Phoebe Robinson invited Amber Ruffin to teach her gymnastics, with, uh, “mixed” (but hilarious!) results.

Elle had a brief natter with cover star Zazie Beetz, touching on such topics as cats, knitting, and [SPOILER!] cats again.

Chelsea Peretti attempted to hype her expertise as a master makeup artist, posting a sample tutorial for “paintless” brushwork via her Insta. Top stuff!

Lupita Nyong’o starred in a video for Jonathan Singletary’s new track “Never Like This” (ft. Adeline), which is basically just one continuous shot of her as a camera-hogging angel slowly rising up into the clouds, and I am very much here for that.

Sumo Cyco posted another day-glo, skull-filled video, this time for their new single “Bad News”, from the recently-released album Initiation. Rockin’!

Fran Drescher as ‘Fran Fine’ in “The Nanny” (S1?) (1993-ish)

– A harsh retrospective review of Friends on the Forward site (titled “The Jewish jokes from ‘Friends’ have aged poorly… so has the rest of the show”) made a hard push for Fran Drescher’s 90s sitcom The Nanny as a better-aged alternative… prompting me to check out the pilot episode, which is freely/legally available on YouTube. Considering my previously confessed crush on ‘Janice’ (a minor supporting character in Friends), I’m kicking myself that I somehow missed out on six seasons’ worth of obsessing over ‘Fran Fine’, a vastly superior (and far more sympathetic) take on the same “type”, promoted to the starring role. Shame on me! I’d also agree with the article’s observation that this show is still consistently, snicker-out-loud funny, despite the slightly gimmicky premise… and there’s even the added fun of seeing a now-famous actor in a fleeting cameo, but I won’t spoil the surprise…

– Perennial faves include Meg Tilly’s Cozy Tea Time chats, Ryan George‘s Pitch Meeting skits, and Bailey Meyers‘s gaming streams!

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* Which is apparently why Japanese comics/novels/shows have such long/intriguing titles these days, to help them stand out on the (increasingly crowded) shelf.

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Rant: “Fast & Furious 8” [SPOILERS!]

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious 8” (2017)

Fast & Furious 8 (aka “The Fate of the Furious”) (2017), kicks off with ‘Dom’ (Vin Diesel) getting blackmailed into betraying his much-loved “family” by a boring-ass cyber-terrorist/second-rate-Bond-villain named ‘Cipher’ (Charlize Theron). I really don’t know what the Oscar-winning actress was going for here, either in terms of her performance or her character’s distracting “hair-don’t”, but her scenes are a real snore-fest. I also think it would’ve made for a much more suspenseful/engaging flick if we (the audience) hadn’t seen Dom being reluctantly coerced into switching sides, and were actually led to believe that he’d hooked up with Cypher for real… though obviously that would have meant far less screen-time for Diesel (as the supposed “villain”), so it’s unlikely he would have signed-off on that! Meanwhile, we got what I’d describe as an “adequate amount” of ‘Letty’ (Michelle Rodriguez), in the sense that she had enough to say and do to keep me watching, but none of it was very exciting or memorable… especially compared to her epic stunts and fight scenes in previous instalments. It’s pretty much the dictionary definition of “perfunctory”. I will admit to feeling a little ripple of emotion when she and Dom got back together at the end, but I think that’s purely because I’m so fond of M-Rod already, and like to see her happy.*

Nathalie Emmanuel as 'Ramsey' in “Fast & Furious 8” (2017)

Meanwhile, the only other female characters were Dom’s old squeeze ‘Elena’ (Elsa Pataky) who was being held hostage by Cipher along with her baby (which many commentators have pointed out is far too young to actually be Dom’s child, considering how much his nephew aged between F&F6 and F&F7)… and ‘Ramsey’ (Nathalie Emmanuel), who contributes very little beyond a typically hilarious “competitive hacking” scene, in which she and Theron randomly mash computer-keys while staring intently at their respective screens and commenting aloud about how tricky their opponent is being. Tee-hee! Oops, no, almost forgot Helen Mirren’s uncredited cameo as ‘Magdalene Shaw’, the (“cockney”?) mother of ‘Deckard’ (Jason Statham) and ‘Owen’ (Luke Evans), which added plenty of (intentional) comic relief, but was also kinda confusing in terms of the plot… in that it’s not immediately obvious how Dom got from his car to the bar where he meets her… or how/why he arranged for the Cuban baddy (Celestino Cornielle) from the opening scene to be the one who blocks Cypher’s view of this vanishing act. Shrug.

There were a couple things I enjoyed here though: The opening car race was good, dumb (psychics-defying) fun, and the prison breakout scene was a real blast, even if it seemed to suggest that ‘Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard are straight-up super-humans now! I really don’t think they did enough work to sell/earn the latter’s redemption, but Statham’s such a charismatic performer, and they gave him so much funny stuff to do, that I really don’t care. Dude stole the whole movie with that “rescue-the-baby” run-and-gun on the plane! Also, after complaining about Letty only being allowed to face-off against female opponents in past chapters, I have to give them credit for letting her beat-up a dude this time around… even if he was just a random, anonymous goon.

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious 8” (2017)

As for the extras: I hate to say it, but director F. Gary Gray’s commentary track is a bit of a chore to get through, because he has an unfortunate habit of simply describing what’s happening onscreen at the time, or teasing upcoming plot-twists as if we hadn’t already seen the whole movie! That said, he’s very upbeat and effusive about getting the opportunity to work with all of the cast members, especially Mirren who he repeatedly describes as “the queen”, and he lauds M-Rod’s acting choices (highlighting the scene where she nabs the “nuclear football” case from Dom in particular), as well as the history/chemistry between her and Diesel. He also gushes over her action scenes, hailing her as “kick-ass”, “hard-core”, and “such a really great talent”, before declaring “I love her, she’s awesome”, so clearly the man has great taste! Apparently Gray also fought hard to include the penultimate scene where Dom introduces his newly-discovered son to Letty and seeks her approval, with the director insisting that it shouldn’t be a foregone assumption that she’d accept this unexpected “blessing” into her life, and I’m definitely with him on that one.

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* Apparently she gets a bit more screen-time in the “Extended Director’s Cut”, but they didn’t bother including that on the disc (or any disc anywhere, as far as I can tell), so I can’t really comment. There’s a digital-download-code for it included in the case, but the “Ultraviolet Library” where you’re supposed to redeem it went bye-bye last year, so that’s a bust. Gah! Apparently, there was also an Asda-exclusive DVD version with a bonus disc boasting another 30-mins of extras, but at this point in the lockdown I don’t really have enough spare energy or cash to bother hunting that down…

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PSA: All The Cool Kids Wanna Get Vaxxed!

Sarah Nixey showing off her vax scar (circa 26/3/21)

So, this week I got my first dose of vaccine… but since I don’t have a phone to take “selfies” with, and I’m not a glamorous celebrity, I thought I’d post a photo of Sarah Nixey here instead (“borrowed” from her Insta, circa 26/3/21). My decision to get the jab was influenced not only by the best available facts, but also by the sort of people who were most vocally arguing for and against it… i.e., all the cool, funny, smart, creative, friendly, socially-conscious types tend to be pro-lockdown, pro-mask, and pro-vaccination… and anything that gets me one step closer to potentially hanging out with the likes of Nixey, Rachel Bloom, Ilana Glazer, Riki Lindhome, Sarah Cooper, and Natasha Lyonne, is well worth the discomfort! Still, part of me is kinda bummed that there isn’t a more concrete/immediate reward to claim, like the ones that some hold-outs in America are being offered… I mean, queuing up to get stabbed by a stranger with a syringe full of shivering-night-sweats* isn’t my ideal way to spend a Saturday, y’know? I didn’t even get a plaster! Tch!

Sadly, bona fide “national treasure” Meg Tilly just revealed that Canada (where she’s currently living) is running a little behind, so she’s still got another two weeks to wait for her first shot… meaning that she can’t meet up with her sister Jennifer Tilly, who recently arrived in the country to start work on a Chucky TV series, and is currently languishing in quarantine! Harsh!

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* Tbf, that was my own fault for not taking a paracetamol like the leaflet suggested… but the side-effects didn’t kick in until I was getting ready for bed, and I foolishly thought I could sleep through them!

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