Rant: “Cowboy Bebop” (2021) [SPOILERS!]

Daniella Pineda as 'Faye Valentine' in “Cowboy Bebop” (2021)

By the time I’d finished watching the first season of the live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation, Netflix had already cancelled it, which was kinda disappointing news. Don’t get me wrong, the show had a lot of flaws and “dead weight”, but it also had a lot of plus-points and potential… I’d say it was a “fixer-upper” rather than a junker, but then it wasn’t my money they were spending to make it!

Personally, I dug the scruffy rundown sci-fi aesthetic, and (attempted) world-building… a couple of the crazier bounties-of-the-week were fun… and there’s no question that John Cho (‘Spike’), Mustafa Shakir (‘Jet’), and Daniella Pineda (‘Faye’) had a great “odd-throuple” dynamic, even if Spike and Jet’s personal side-stories were a total drag, imho. I did really enjoy the flashback ep (#1.9) where we saw Spike and his frenemy ‘Vicious’ (Alex Hassell) working together as hitmen, as this actually gave me a reason to care about that character’s relationship to the show’s hero… unfortunately, it was the penultimate ep before their big season-ending showdown, which seems waaay too late in the game, considering all the tedious time we spent watching Vicious hack-and-slash his way up the crime-syndicate ladder in the previous eps.

By contrast, Faye’s quest to recover her pre-amnesia identity was the most compelling thread in the series, leading to some great scenes with her faux-foster-mother (Christine Dunford), and even making me a little teary when she watched the time-capsule video from her childhood-self (#1.7). Sadly, this plot was still left dangling at the end of the finale, so now I’m just going to have to hope/pray that someone gives Faye a spin-off series, and that Spike and Jet will drop in occasionally as guest-stars…

[Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the original anime, so for all I know the stuff I liked could have been lifted directly from that…? I should really check it out sometime…]

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (12/21)

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

Kristen Wiig as 'Vicki St. Elmo' in "MacGruber" (S1) (2021)

– I watched the 2010 MacGruber movie for the first time, in preparation for its belated TV-series-sequel. Based on a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, this nostalgic parody of the old-timey action-adventure show MacGyver (1985–1992) stars Will Forte as an insanely-arrogant, military-grade a-hole, aided by a suicidally-submissive love-interest (Kristen Wiig), and far-more-sane-and-competent wingman (Ryan Phillippe). It has a pretty dire rating on the review-aggregate sites (48% at Rotten Tomatoes, and 43% at Metacritic), and didn’t manage to earn back its budget at the box-office, but I really enjoyed it, and would gladly watch it again (and again). The jokes don’t exactly come thick-and-fast, but they’re usually so bizarre/macabre that they hit a lot harder than a more light-hearted spoofing might. Fun fact: Multi-award-winning filmmaker Christopher Nolan is a “big fan”, and has said “there are a couple of moments in that film that had [me] howling uncontrollably.”” So there! For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie in a while (or at all), Peacock released a handy (NSFW) musical summary of the main characters/events, starring Maya Rudolph (as MacGruber’s deceased wife ‘Casey’!), which also serves as a prologue for the first ep.

– Napalm Records posted a “One-Take Singthrough” video of Ad Infinitum’s “Animals” by lead-singer Melissa Bonny, who (imho) is the dictionary definition of “star quality”.

Aubrey Plaza, Drew Barrymore, and Renee Plaza on "The Drew Barrymore Show" (circa 12/21)

Renee Plaza appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show, as a front-row guest dishing on her celebrity sister, Aubrey Plaza (who is still doing the rounds promoting her children’s book “The Legend of the Christmas Witch”)… though weirdly she wasn’t included in the discussion of her elder-sibling’s recent impulse-marriage to writer/director Jeff Baena (tbf, the newlyweds had been “together” for over a decade already, so it’s not like she eloped with a total stranger!).

– Comedy Central’s A Clüsterfünke Christmas (2021) is a lovingly-crafted parody of Hallmark-style festive rom-coms, starring Vella Lovell as a cynical city-type stranded in a small backwoods town for the holidays, after being dispatched by her boss to try and buy a quaint family-run hotel from a pair of prematurely-aged sisters (Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer, who also wrote the screenplay). Her requisite rustic hunk of a love-interest is played by Cheyenne Jackson… who I was simultaneously seeing as a sophisticated urbanite in American Horror Story: Hotel, causing me a little dissonance when I switched back and forth. Oh, and this TV-movie was directed by Anna Dokoza, who also helmed the first season of Three Busy Debras!

– I haven’t taken the slightest interest in Lana Del Rey before now, but a couple weeks back I heard her 2015 single “High By The Beach”, and my ears were hooked, without even knowing who the artist was! I’d also recommend watching the video, which builds to a pretty awesome/cathartic crescendo.

Miku from "Band-Maid" circa 12/21

– Miku from Band-Maid shared a couple super-cute photos of herself cosplaying as a reindeer, possibly to promote the acoustic show that her band streamed (for pay) on Christmas Day, shortly before announcing their (hypothetical) 2022 American tour!

Sarah Nixey released a dreamy cover of “Toyland” (from the 1903 operetta Babes In Toyland), with backing vocals and percussion provided by her children, for extra seasonal charm!

– I’ve skipped the last couple “Big Fat Quizzes”, due to fatigue/over-familiarity, but I did watch this year’s edition, largely for the reliably hilarious Sarah Millican. Her (equally “oblivious”) team-mate was Guz Khan, as they competed against Sara Pascoe & James Acaster, and Jonathan Ross & Judi Love. Despite checking various (reputable) news sites every day for the past couple years, I was still unable to answer most of the questions, and I doubt I would’ve even broken into double-digits by the end of it, if I’d been keeping score… but I had a good time, so I’m counting that as a “win” anyway!

– After “rediscovering” South Park recently, I was excited to see the 2007 Christmas Time compilation DVD appear (new/sealed) in a charity shop just before the holidays, and purchased it immediately. The disc contains seven seasonal eps from across the first eight seasons, including such classics as “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo” (#1.9), “Merry Christmas Charlie Manson!” (#2.16), and “Woodland Critter Christmas” (#8.14). Apparently that was the last Christmas-themed episode until 2014’s “HappyHolograms” (#18.10), which aired a decade later! Not all of the eps made perfect sense divorced from their original seasons, especially where Kenny’s perilous existence was concerned, but overall it worked pretty well as a spirit-lifting pick-me-up.

Ego Nwodim for "Saturday Night Live" (circa 2021)

Kate McKinnon returned to Saturday Night Live after a seven-week absence, once again flexing her comedy muscles in such hilariously-odd sketches as “Lonely Christmas Ad” (link), “Santa Song” (link), and “Hotel Ad” (link), all of which co-starred a slightly-giggly Billie Eilish, who was the 2-for-1 host/musical-guest that week (ep #47.8). Meanwhile, I was also inspired to check out more of Ego Nwodim’s work, such as this surprisingly entertaining rundown of her “Night-time Skincare Routine” for Harper’s Bazaar, a “stir-crazy” rap video co-starring Pete Davidson, and an impression of “Dionne Warwick” as a clueless talk-show host!

– Sadly Paul Rudd’s historic fifth show as SNL host was scuttled by a Covid resurgence, but there were a few new (pre-recorded) sketches to enjoy, including a holiday-themed commercial shoot starring two aspiring grandmothers (McKinnon and Aidy Bryant) who kept going wildly off-script.

– Netflix Is A Joke released a gut-busting/brain-melting sequel to last year’s Holiday Film Written Entirely By Bots (aka “Carol’s Christmas Carol For Carol, A Woman Named Carol” (link))… tho if you check the video description, an actual person (Keaton Patti) is credited along with the “bots”, so I think it’s fair to say the short was “shaped” by human hands to some extent…? Nonetheless, when a horse is this gifty, you probably shouldn’t look it too hard in the mouth!

– 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 (11/21)

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

Josie Totah (circa 11/21)

– In honour of Transgender Awareness Week, I watched a year-old ET interview with Josie Totah, in which she talks about her journey as a performer, and contributions as a producer on the Saved by the Bell reboot (while also casting some well-deserved shade on the original series!). I then followed that up with her “Taste Test” for Cosmo, in which she warmed my heart by casually describing her preferred press-on-nail shape as “a beautiful coffin”! And finally, I found an interview she did with Variety for Pride Month earlier this year.

– I started getting myself into a “festive” mood by listening to Hanukkah Gone Metal (2009) by Gods of Fire, a comedy heavy-metal album themed around the eponymous Jewish festival. “No Gelt, No Glory”!!! Meanwhile, Rachel Bloom has apparently beaten the copyright claim on her “Santa Baby” parody (“Chanukah Honey”), so I may as well plug that again as well!

Saturday Night Live subjected “freshman” cast-members Aristotle Athari, James Austin Johnson, and Sarah Sherman to a quick Q&A.

BuzzFeed prompted Stephanie Beatriz to talk about some of her major “firsts”, such as her first celebrity crush and her first impressions of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast.

Daniella Pineda as 'Faye Valentine' in “Cowboy Bebop” (2021)

Wired challenged John Cho and Daniella Pineda to answer “the web’s most searched questions” about themselves and their new Netflix series Cowboy Bebop… which I’ve now seen 2x eps of, and am really enjoying (though I note with trepidation that the IMDb ratings drop severely towards the end of the season…)

– Dr. Martens “presented” a short film about Los Angelean “Women in Punk”, featuring Exene Cervenka (of X), Patty Schemel (of Hole), Backstage Pass, L.A. Witch, The Linda Lindas, and a butt-load o’ boots!

The Linda Lindas also chatted to Guitar Center about their early days and influences in-between random cutaways to them performing recent single “Oh!”… before being invited to appear on Sesame Street by the show’s newest addition (and “First Asian American Muppet”), Ji-Young!

Aina The End released a poetic/cathartic video for her single “Kamisama” (“God”), taken from the J-Pop idol’s second solo album, The Zombie, which “dropped” on November 24th. I don’t speak/understand Japanese, so I’m just going to take it on faith that the forlorn visuals reflect the lyrics… whatever they may be…? Either way, it makes an interesting contrast with the previous video (for “ZokingDog”), in which she dressed in a cyclone of fabric and did a happy puppy-paw dance!

Nova Twins ala their "Antagonist" video (11/21)

Nova Twins posted a cartoonishly-sinister video for their banging new track “Antagonist”… and I do love the way the body-bags nod/bounce along to the song! Can’t blame ‘em, really…

– Out of curiosity, I watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the South Park: Post Covid one-hour TV-movie-thingy. I haven’t seen the actual show since the early 2000s, but loved it back in my student days, and still listen to the ‘Mr. Hankey’ Christmas album every year. Because this special is set forty years into “The Future”, after the kids have all split up and gone their separate ways, I was hoping I’d be able to jump back in without too much confusion about the current continuity, and thankfully that proved to be the case. I mean, I’m sure I missed a lot of in-jokes and references along the way, but overall I found it very funny, with just enough nods to the past to give me a nostalgic glow, and some great running gags and shocking reveals. This instalment ended on a cliff-hanger, and I’m eager to see what happens next… while also eyeing the boxsets of the previous 23 (!) seasons, and toying with the idea of hurling myself down that rabbit-hole…

Nichole Sakura posted a “Halloween tribute to the icon of our times”, cos-playing as Britney Spears for a dance-cover of “I’m a Slave 4 U”, complete with a fake white snake… and only a couple days later Spears was finally freed from her contentious conservatorship, so I’m going to assume Sakura manifested that result with the power of her performance…

Aubrey Plaza manifesting 'The Christmas Witch' on the Today show (11/21)

Aubrey Plaza appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (link), Late Night with Seth Meyers (link), and Today (link) to promote her new/debut children’s book, “The Legend of the Christmas Witch”, dressed as the title character and cackling like a maniac. She also spilt some (metaphorical) tea on Sir Michael Caine, who announced his retirement from acting shortly after working with her in Best Sellers, earlier this year. Coincidence???

– Carried over from last month, Mila Kunis braved the spicy wings and deep-dive questions for which Hot Ones is rightly (in)famous… while also occasionally haranguing her off-camera husband, Ashton Kutcher.

– 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 (10/21)

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

Alison Brie as 'Annie Edison' in "Community" (S1) (2009)

– In the wake of my Fast & Furious fest, I was curious to revisit the first season of Community (2009), as several episodes of that sitcom were directed by franchise mainstay Justin Lin (though, oddly enough, not the ep with an actual “car”-chase in it!). Personally, I still don’t find the premise or characters especially engaging (all that “meta” fourth-wall breaking really kills any affection/empathy I might have had for them as fictional people), but in retrospect I do now have more appreciation for the supremely talented cast… Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, Gillian Jacobs, Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, and Jim Rash absolutely aced it, and it’s always a joy to watch them, regardless of the spoofy scenarios into which they’re placed (the “Bert & Ernie” homage was a particular stand-out for me). Truth is, as soon as I was done with S1, I moved straight on to S2, and when I’m finished with that you can betcha bottom dollar I’ll be streaming S3 next. Fun fact: Lin was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series” for his work on ep #1.23 (“Modern Warfare”) (aka the one with the paintball apocalypse), and I totally agree that it’s the highlight of the run, combining laugh-out-loud jokes with genuinely impressive/tense action sequences. Bravo!

– Vespa Los Angeles chose to honour Elvira‘s 40th Anniversary by unveiling a (very) limited edition scooter with goth-y embroidered seat, customized graphics, wheels, tires, badging, license-plate frame, and a fresh autograph from the “Mistress of the Dark” herself!

Kelly Marie Tran in “Periods Aren’t That Gross” (2016)

– Trawling the YouTubes I discovered a previously overlooked (and very sweary) “Inspirational Lockdown Vlog” by Natasia Demetriou & Ellie White, from June of last year… a Medium video-profile of Sarah Cooper from 2017, when she was best known as a “Corporate Satirist”, and author of the book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings… and a couple old CollegeHumor skits co-starring Kelly Marie Tran (“Philosophical Truth or Dare”, “Are You Asian Enough?”, “Periods Aren’t That Gross”) from 2014-2016.

Jenny Nicholson posted a (fantastically) thorough roast of the movie-musical Dear Evan Hansen (2021), which has already racked up over 2 million views! Ftr, I really enjoyed Ben Platt’s performance in The Politician (2019 – 2020), and was keen to see more of his work… but now, not so much…

Later with Jools Holland posted an archive clip of Regina Spektor performing “The Light” (from Remember Us to Life) (2016), which made me tear up a little bit. She’s just got such a beautiful voice! Sniffle.

– The trailer for the forthcoming live-action Cowboy Bebop series got me pretty hyped… though I do find the trademark jazz score kinda distracting! Still, at least they didn’t cast ScarJo in John Cho’s role, eh?

Victoria Coren Mitchell chatted to The Guardian about her current TV shows (Only Connect and Taskmaster), as well as off-screen activities such as pub quizzes and “porn films”…!

Band-Maid

Band-Maid posted a clip of two live performances (“Dice” and “Different”) from their J-Lod Live2 show earlier in the year, *and* a video for their storming new single “Sense”! Happy Halloween to me!

– Warner Bros (yo!) posted another (hilarious) trailer for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and I once again found myself wishing it was an animated movie rather than a video game on a fancy console I can’t afford. Hopefully someone will eventually post a full-length play-through with all the cut-scenes included, or it will be popular enough to spawn a comic book adaptation or something…? Sigh…!

– I’ve been obediently watching the 47th season of Saturday Night Live, ever since Sandy Honig tweeted that she’d smoosh the head of anyone who didn’t support her friend Sarah Sherman (aka “Sarah Squirm”), who recently joined the cast as a “featured player”. So far she’s co-starred in a sketch with Owen Wilson, and scored some good coverage… especially considering how many other peeps there are competing for screen-time! Still, the stand-out for me was the week that Rami Malek brought his “resting villain face” to host the show… and I’ve re-watched the [SPOILER-ish] “Squid Game” parody song he recorded with Pete Davidson plenty times on YouTube since then!

Sleigh Bells performed their new single (“Justine Go Genesis!”) live on Full Frontal, then stuck around afterwards to play a Halloween-y game of “Would You Rather?” with Samantha Bee.

– Oh, and Amber Ruffin authored one of the greatest tweets of all time!

– 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 (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!

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* 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.

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* 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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