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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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (4/21)

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

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

David E. Kelley (of Ally McBeal fame) has a new series on Disney+ called Big Shot, which is based on an idea by Brad Garrett (of Everybody Loves Raymond fame), and stars John Stamos (of, uh, Scream Queens fame?). It centres around a temperamental basketball coach who is fired from his high-profile job with a major team, and forced to join the staff of an elite private girls’ school in order to make ends meet. There he forms an uneasy alliance with his assistant-coach (Jessalyn Gilsig), rankles under the watchful eye of the school’s no-nonsense principal (Yvette Nicole Brown), clashes with an interfering parent/patron (Michael Trucco), and rubs various other faculty members up the wrong way, while slowly winning over “his” squad. I doubt any actual teenage girls watching the show will be wowed by its verisimilitude to their own lives, but as an out-of-touch old man myself, I found it to be entertainingly snappy/sappy comfort-food. There’s also some great performances from the younger members of the cast, including Nell Verlaque as the team’s “poor-little-rich-girl” MVP, Tiana Le as the coach’s sassy surrogate-daughter, and Sophia Mitri Schloss as his estranged actual-daughter. Note: While there may not be any “crying in baseball”, there seems to be plenty of it in high-school basketball!

– I discovered* a Facebook group called “Japanese Girl Bands and other music”, which provides daily links to videos by previously unknown (to me) artists… including the fairy-tale spookiness of Aimer’s “Wonderland”, the shopping-centre surrealism of Nakigoto’s “Unknown Planets”, and the gothed-up splatter of Bridear’s “Bloody Bride”.

Superstore posted a bunch of deleted scenes from their Final Season, including several featuring Nichole Sakura as ‘Cheyenne’… which is probably the last we’ll ever see of that particular character… sniffle…

Jenny Slate as 'Rose' in "My Blind Brother" (2016)

– I finally got around to watching My Blind Brother (2016), a low-key rom-com starring Nick Kroll as the under-appreciated brother of an overachieving blind athlete (Adam Scott), who both (kinda) fall for the same do-gooding gal, played by the ever-adorable Jenny Slate. It’s currently rocking a score of 60% over on Metacritic, which seems about right to me, despite my pre-established crush on Slate (as well as a lesser-crush on Zoe Kazan, who plays her snarky BFF), and admiration for Kroll, who’s very winning here as the cast-against-type underdog. It’s just never as funny as it should be with so much comedic talent upfront, or as emotive as it could have been with such a potentially explosive premise.

– SXSW hosted a video-call confab between Samantha Bee and Amber Ruffin about various topics, including their respective late night shows, and mutual love of cheesecake. The sound is a little choppy, and the perpetual split-screen makes it kinda hard to know who to focus on at times, but there’s a lot of good insightful meat on the bones, if you can get through the gristly bits.

– And, er, that’s about it! There was plenty stuff I started watching and gave up on last month, including several new shows starring people I really like that have garnered great reviews, so… maybe I’m just getting too impatient/dismissive in my old-age…?

– 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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* And by “discovered”, I mean the algorithm kept “suggesting” it to me until I finally gave in and “followed” it!

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R.I.P. Helen McCrory (1968 – 2021)

Helen McCrory as ‘Narcissa Malfoy’ in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

Damian Lewis has announced the tragic death of his wife (and occasional-co-star), Helen McCrory, at the age of just 52, stating that she passed “peacefully at home … surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.”

Technically, the first time I saw her on screen must have been her film-debut as ‘2nd Whore’ in Interview with the Vampire (1994), but the first time I actually became aware of her was when she stole the show in North Square (2000), a Ch4 ensemble drama about a barristers’ chambers in Leeds. Since then, of course, she’s gone to appear in (and storm) a slew of hugely popular/acclaimed productions, such as Peaky Blinders (2013 – 2019), Inside No. 9 (ep #1.6) (2014), Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2015), and the later/gothier instalments of the Harry Potter series. Along the way she earned numerous award wins and nominations, as well as an OBE for “services to drama” in 2017.

In short, McCrory was a fantastically talented/prolific performer, and will be sadly missed.

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (3/21)

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

Carrie Brownstein circa 2021– Fender (the guitar people) posted a socially-distanced chat with Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney) about how their song “A New Wave” came into being. Although I didn’t understand a lot of the technical-talk, it’s heartening to see how much joy they still get out of making music together, after all these years. Many, many years ago I heard a radio DJ (possibly Mark Radcliffe?) talking about how silly it is for songs to simply fade out at the end of recordings, because if the band plan to play those songs live then they’re still going to have to figure out how to end them properly… and I always think of that whenever a song ends on a fade-out, so it’s great to see Brownstein discussing that very issue here, and joking about possible solutions.

Sumo Cyco produced a very colourful (potentially seizure-inducing) video for their new single “No Surrender”, with lead singer Skye Sweetnam playing four separate characters… so, kudos on the hair and costuming, though I think Harley Quinn’s lawyers might have a thing or two to say about the “red-haired roller-girl” look!

– The reliably hilarious Taskmaster returned for its 11th series (though only its 2nd on Ch4, since deserting Dave), which continued the in-studio social-distancing, and boasted Charlotte Ritchie, Jamali Maddix, Lee Mack, Mike Wozniak, and Sarah Kendall as panellists. I know there’s still plenty weeks to go, but so far Wozniak is probably my favourite, both to win and to watch.

‘Val Thundershock’ in "Trolls: Trollstopia" (S1) (2020)– I finally finished the first season of Trolls: Trollstopia (2020), after rationing myself to one episode a week, only to realise that the second season has already started on PeacockTV! D’oh! This flash-animated series is a direct sequel to Trolls World Tour (2020), picking up the story with ‘Poppy’ (voiced here by Amanda Leighton) inviting all of the different music-genre-themed tribes to send their ambassadors to live/learn/laugh together in a specially-built village, called “TrollsTopia”. Naturally, my fave character is ‘Val Thundershock’, a Hard Rock Troll voiced by Lauren Mayhew, though I also have a soft spot for ‘Holly Darlin’’, a Country-and-Western Troll voiced by Megan Hilty. Each episode features separate stories, focussing on different tribes/characters/conflicts, and I have to admit to skipping through any that Val didn’t appear in… but the (grudging) friendship that developed between her and Poppy was very sweet, and a major sub-plot throughout the season, so I caught plenty of the series overall, and found it to be very amusing, and extremely efficient at warming this old, grey heart of mine.

Nova Twins scored two shout-outs as part of Alternative Press’s celebration of International Women’s Day… ranking in both their “10 women and non-binary pop-punk bands who are taking over the genre” listicle and “10 rising all-female bands making waves across each alternative sub-genre” listicle! The subtitle for the latter was “A woman’s place is in the music industry”, and amen to that! Although I was familiar with a couple of the other bands mentioned, such as pop-punkers Bad Cop/Bad Cop, most of them were new to me, so I’m grateful for all the new leads to follow…

Kelly Marie Tran in Elle's “Who Said That?” (3/21)Elle challenged Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran to guess “Who Said That?”, matching isolated lines of dialogue to previous co-stars, including a couple from their current high-profile project, Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)… and I can’t help feeling sorry for any parents who have to steer their kids away from checking out the rapper’s earlier work, after watching her playing an adorable dragon in that Disney flick… her tracks really aren’t very child-friendly! The artist-formerly-known-as-Nora later went solo to chat with InStyle Editor-in-Chief Laura Brown about various “firsts” in her life/career, including her break-through hit “My Vag”. Ahem.

– St. Patrick’s Day inspired me to revisit the work of my favourite Irish singer (and arguably one of the most entertaining front-people of all-time) Róisín Murphy… not only are there plenty mind-bending Moloko viddies to enjoy on the web, Murphy has also been posting “live” performances of tracks from her latest chart-topper Róisín Machine, to keep the locked-down masses entertained. Bless ‘er.

Garbage released a video for their sweary new single “The Men Who Rule The World”, to herald the upcoming release of their album No Gods No Masters on June 11th.

– As part of their “Festival of Funny” season, the Beeb posted recent stand-up specials by Rose Matafeo (“Horndog”) and Fern Brady (“Power & Chaos”), who have very different vibes but are equally hilarious, imho. There’s also a selection of shorts, including the brilliant horror-comedy skit “Asparagus Tips”, starring Cariad Lloyd.

Nichole Sakura as 'Cheyenne' in "Superstore" (6) (2021)– Before Superstore‘s tear-jerking series finale aired, the main cast (including America Ferrera, Lauren Ash, Nichole Sakura, and Kaliko Kauahi) shared some of their favourite memories from their time together… played their own game of “Who Said That?”… and gave us a glimpse of their original “casting tapes”, from back in the day. Various other retrospective vids have been posted to the show’s Facebook page, and there’s also a compilation of extra unused interview footage of Sakura responding to unheard questions and drumming-up support for the proposed “Bo & Cheyenne” spin-off, which is sadly a non-starter for now. I have slightly mixed feelings about that, because I always enjoyed Johnny Pemberton‘s appearances on the show, and hoped that ‘Bo’ would keep his job at the store once he landed one, but I’m not sure if he was ever really “main character” material, y’know?

– [SPOILERS!] Kathryn Hahn talked to Seth Meyers about the fan-reaction to her scene-stealing heel-turn in WandaVision, and how her kids helped acclimatise her to the MCU… then ponders the contrast between playing a super-powerful witch (with her own catchy theme song!) on-screen, while spending her off-screen time cleaning up foster-cat poop. Ew.

– Oh, and I’m reliably informed that Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat (1974), starring Erica Gavin, Rainbeaux Smith, and Barbara Steele, is now streaming for free on Pluto TV, so yay for that! Now I just wish Arrow (or whoever) would release a fancy DVD/BR edition, with all the trimmings…

– 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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Rant: “Fast & Furious 7” [SPOILERS!]

Nathalie Emmanuel as 'Ramsey' in “Fast & Furious 7” (2015)Although Fast & Furious 7 (2015) boasts the “freshest” rating of the series over at Rotten Tomatoes (with 82%, compared to the original’s 53%), I wouldn’t rank it nearly so highly myself… partly because two of my fave characters (‘Han’ (Sung Kang) and ‘Gisele’ (Gal Gadot)) were killed off in the previous instalment, and partly because my least favourite character (‘Roman’ (Tyrese Gibson)) is still living large. Personally I find him intensely irritating and painfully unfunny, but apparently I’m in the minority on that one, because they keep bringing him back, and allowing scenes to grind to a halt so he can do his schtick. I vaguely recall him being a lot cooler when he was first introduced in F&F2… a button-pushing rebel, rather than a cowardly clown… but maybe my memory’s playing tricks on me? Either way, I don’t want to focus on the negative, because there was still plenty to enjoy in this instalment…

I’ve always had a soft-spot for Jason Statham, and he’s great fun here as ‘Deckard Shaw’ (the vengeful brother of F&F6’s (now comatose) villain ‘Owen Shaw’ (Luke Evans)), who keeps popping up and pursuing the heroes like he’s ‘The Nemesis’ from Resident Evil 3 (the game, not the movie). It’s funny how “God’s Eye”, the big macguffin everyone’s fighting over in this flick, is a computer program that supposedly uses digital devices to instantly locate/track a person anywhere in the world, when Shaw appears to be able to do that already using nothing but, er, The Force? Kurt Russell also has a scene-stealing cameo role as ‘Mr. Nobody’, the apparently benign “covert ops” agent who recruits the gang to recover God’s Eye and rescue its creator ‘Ramsey’ (Nathalie Emmanuel) from yet another forgettable cookie-cutter baddie.

Ronda Rousey as 'Kara' (and back-up fighters) in “Fast & Furious 7” (2015)Meanwhile, ‘Letty’s amnesia gives Michelle Rodriguez some meaty acting scenes, as she struggles with the imbalance between her and ‘Dom’ (Vin Diesel), feelings-wise… she also gets to kick ass in a fancy dress, and smash up a billionaire’s schmancy apartment, so that was a highlight for me, even if it felt like a step down from her face-off with ‘Hicks’ (Gina Carano) in the previous movie, since her main opponent here is a generic bodyguard (Ronda Rousey) we’d never met before, and would never see again, rather than a recurring antagonist. I also think it’s kinda lame that only (unarmed) female guards were allowed to pursue her, because god-forbid she fight a man!

Tragically, series star Paul Walker died in an unrelated car accident mid-way through the shoot, forcing the film-makers to rewrite the script, repurpose old unused footage, and even hire his brothers, Caleb and Cody, to serve as stand-ins. Despite actively looking for “the seams”, I can’t say I noticed anything awry until the very last scene, in which Dom races against a slightly ghost-y digitally-pasted-in ‘Brian’. Personally, I think they should have left him playing on the beach with ‘Mia’ (Jordana Brewster) and their son, which seemed like a happy enough ending to me… even if it does mean consigning Brewster to the stay-at-home-off-screen-worried-wife-y role.

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious 7” (2015)As for the extras: No commentary track, sadly, but there were a couple Letty-centric deleted scenes following her side-quest to “find herself”, including a grainy flashback co-starring the otherwise-absent Gadot! It took me a second to figure out where it was supposed to fit in the series’s continuity, until I realised it was set immediately after Letty’s explosive “death” in F&F4… which would mean that Gisele knew Letty was secretly alive the whole time she was hanging out with Dom and the gang in F&F5/6, but never bothered to tell them? Confusing! There’s also a big She’s-All-That-style walking-down-the-staircase reveal of Letty wearing her swanky red dress, with all the men drooling over her… which is a worn-out/regressive movie cliché, I know, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time M-Rod’s ever received that sort of attention on-screen! I still prefer her in “grease-monkey” mode myself, of course…

In the “Talking Fast” featurette, M-Rod notes how much the franchise has grown since the early days, muses on what a person is without their memories, and identifies the now-iconic cross-necklace as a symbol of the “unbreakable bond between [Letty and Dom]”… she also credits Diesel for his “relentless” campaign to keep her character “alive in the franchise”, with the “very special” and “beautiful” wedding scene as a “cool kicker” to their 14 years together. Bless. Away from the lovey-dovey stuff, she enviously enthuses about how much “fun” the stunt-performers must have getting shot at and blown up… an attitude echoed in a featurette about the “flying car” sequence, where she claims to be jealous of Gibson for getting to ride a big gimbal-thingy and be “tossed around like [he’s] inside a washing machine! I thought that was the coolest thing ever!” M’kay.

Gal Gadot and Michelle Rodriguez on the set of “Fast & Furious 7” (2015)In “Back to the Start”, M-Rod reiterates how much she’s enjoyed seeing the characters “evolve” over the course of the series, and how much she values the “rapport” she’s built with the other core cast members… though she also thinks it’s cool when new people join the party, and praises Russel thus: “He’s got some swag!” Indeed.

The “Girl Fight” featurette focusses on Letty’s rumble with the gender-segregated security-squad… a sequence that M-Rod describes as “the ultimate expression of girl-power”, asserting that “even though she’s in a dress for the first time, she’s still Letty. Which means, if the situation calls for it, she’s always ready to throw down!”. Though she concedes that fighting in a gown and high-heels “was definitely the challenge part, ‘cuz you know I don’t wear them often!”, newbie director James Wan was interested in contrasting the glamour/glitz of their clothing with the brutality of the brawl, which he insists is “just as hardcore as any of the guy fights”! Meanwhile, Stunt Co-ordinator Jeff Imada praises M-Rod’s dedication, as she often powered through two intensive training sessions a day to get her moves down.

Michelle Rodriguez as ‘Letty Ortiz’ in “Fast & Furious 7” (2015)Fyi, I couldn’t help flinching every time someone mentioned “Race Wars” (the illegal desert drag-racing competition that our heroes attend in the first act), because… well, that’s not the sort of thing they should be bragging about starting irl! A featurette on the BR proudly acknowledges that the scene was straight-up fan-service, with M-Rod marvelling that the extras must be true fanatics “to be screaming in 110-degree weather, while the sun is bearing down on you, take after take, and still be showing love. I can see it in their eyes.”

Being an obsessive-completist myself, I felt compelled to buy the Tesco-exclusive DVD version solely for its bonus disc, to augment the BR version I already owned. You only get another 30-mins-or-so of extras on there, but it’s fun watching the Weta Workshop SFX crew blow up a scale model of the Torettos’ home a couple times… while also revealing that they only built the house/front-lawn itself, rather than the entire street, which explains why the surrounding buildings are completely unscathed in the finished composite shot! Oopsie! In her introductory spiel, Brewster claims that the house has come to symbolise what this franchise is about: “Family, trust, memories, hope.” So now you know.

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Plug: “Three Busy Debras” (S1) (again)

Mitra Jouhari, Sandy Honig, and Alyssa Stonoha as/in “Three Busy Debras” (2020)Apparently the first season of surreal short-form sitcom Three Busy Debras (2020) is now available to stream via HBO Max in various countries… and I’ve just discovered it’s also available on Channel 4’s All4 app here in the UK! Hurrah! In theory, Adult Swim has renewed the show for a second season… but I’m guessing that’s dependent on the Covid-restrictions in Lemoncurd…?

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Rant: Monthly Dee-Lights (2/21)

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

Awkwafina for "Vanity Fair" (circa 2019)Awkwafina appeared on a socially-distanced episode of Hot Ones, “the show with hot questions, and even hotter wings”, where guests are expected to answer Sean Evans’s thoughtful queries while attempting to swallow increasingly savage hot sauces (and not vomit/“shart” on camera). She acquits herself very well, and ably promotes her forthcoming animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon (due to drop on March 5th), in between bigging up Charles Bukowski, and the culinary multiculturalism of New York City.

– A couple days later, Vanity Fair subjected her to their “Proust Questionnaire”, based on a parlour-game made popular by the eponymous French novelist, featuring “35 questions designed to reveal the nature of Awkwafina‘s true personality”. Eep!

Aubrey Plaza starred in an advert for Bumble, “a location-based social application that facilitates communication between interested users”, that basically amounts to a vicarious video-date with the actress. Yay! The company’s website doesn’t state how many world-famous celebrities/sex-symbols you’re likely to hook up with by using their app, but apparently Sharon Stone actively fought to be listed as a user, so the odds are a lot higher than I would’ve assumed!

Nichole Sakura as 'Debbie' and 'Kiko' in "Debbie is Single" (2021)Nichole Sakura wrote and produced a new short film, Debbie is Single, in which she takes on the dual roles of a middle-aged mom looking for love, and her adopted daughter from Japan (both of whom were first introduced in a previous skit, Kiko in America, where she played four separate characters, all interacting with one another!).

Sandy Honig linked to a field-piece she recorded for Comedy Central last year, in which she and comedy-partner Peter Smith attempted to “[Track] Down the Legendary Groundhog in Punxsutawney”. Going in blind I’d expected it to be a little more cynical/experimental than it actually was… I mean, they clearly have their tongues-in-their-cheeks a lot of the time, but they’re still getting into the spirit of the event, and even enhancing the fun for others rather than undermining it, so snaps to them for that. And (spoiler?) the scene at the end with Smith calling out for their van in the car-park like it was a lost dog was absolutely adorable.

Taylor Momsen (from The Pretty Reckless) in "And So It Went" (2021)The Pretty Reckless posted a properly-fancy promo video for their super-catchy new single “And So It Went”, swiftly followed by the (plague-delayed) release of the album it was plucked from, Death By Rock And Roll… which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart, and is a total banger, as the kids these days would say.

– 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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