Lockdown Uplift (5/20)

Just a quick note of some of the funnest online content I watched this month (in no particular order):

Taylor Momsen ala The Pretty Reckless album "Death by Rock And Roll"Taylor Momsen performed an acoustic cover of Nick Lowe’s anthemic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding”, scrubbed-down and unplugged for the Fearless At Home livestream. Meanwhile, in her day-job as the glammed-up lead-singer of The Pretty Reckless, she’s also been promoting the title track from the band’s upcoming album Death by Rock And Roll.

Jessica Ball, lead singer of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, delivered a short set of solo numbers via the band’s Facebook page, which I managed to catch (and thoroughly enjoy) live. She may have had some wobbles with the stool she was sitting on, but everything else was rock solid!

Mitra Jouhari, Sandy Honig, and Alyssa Stonoha gave a conference-call interview to NPR’s Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, discussing how they came to form/name their comedy act Three Busy Debras, and how they later adapted it into a TV show.* It’s a funny and insightful listen, though I’m weirdly disappointed nobody made the classic Carnegie Hall joke when the venue came up in conversation… ‘cuz I’m old-fashioned/unimaginative like that…!

– The BBC gifted us with three cracking episodes of Limmy’s Homemade Show, in which the eponymous sketch-comedian (aka Brian Limond) managed to evoke a remarkable sense of suspense/unease in amongst the jokes, considering he was playing all the characters with minimal costumes and imaginary props!

Caitlin Doughty in “The Real Moby Dick Was So Much Worse” (2020)Charlie Brooker also delivered an all-new “Antiviral” episode of his brilliantly scathing Wipe series, co-starring Diane Morgan as ‘Philomena Cunk’, and Konnie Huq‎ as the host’s exasperated wife/baby-mama!

Caitlin Doughty revealed that “The Real Moby Dick Was So Much Worse”, in a video detailing the tragic/bizarre/grisly fate of a C19th American whaling ship (called simply “Essex”), and its disaster-prone crew’s descent into (racist) cannibalism and murder. Shudder.

– On a slightly cheerier note, Jenny Nicholson used her convalescence (from suspected Corona) to watch all 14 Land Before Time flicks, and then review/rank them for our entertainment. I’ve never seen any of the movies myself, but still found this video compelling viewing, thanks to the typically hilarious presentation and snappy editing.

– Oh, and Film Theory-ist MatPat (aka Matthew Patrick) posted a fascinating (if understandably biased) analysis of how various late-night talk-show hosts are faring as newbie YouTubers… (SPOILER: Not so great, by his reckoning)

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* Which has since been renewed for a second season, hallelujah!

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“Let’s Paint The Town Colin!”

Jemaine Clement as ‘Colin Keith Threadener’, Aubrey Plaza as ‘Lulu Danger’, and Matt Berry as ‘Rodney Von Donkensteiger’ in “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” (2018)An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (2018) seems to be a pretty divisive movie, with a (close as dammit) 50/50 split between positive and negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, from critics and users alike! And I can totally understand why so many people might find it off-putting… writer/director Jim Hosking opts for deliberate ugliness and low-key oddness throughout, with many supporting cast members delivering extremely “amateurish” performances, working from a rather shambling shaggy-dog of a script… however, I for one fall on the “thumbs up” side of the fence, thanks largely to the lead actors, who could probably make a phone-book sound hilarious with their collective mastery of comedic inflection and interpretation…

The ever-awesome Aubrey Plaza stars as small-town femme-fatale ‘Lulu Danger’*, working as a waitress in a coffee shop managed by her husband (Emile Hirsch), until he shamelessly “downsizes” her out of a job and commits an armed raid on her wealthy brother ‘Adjay’s (Sam Dissanayake) store! When the aggrieved elder sibling sends eager-but-untested “enforcer” ‘Colin’ (Jemaine Clement) to retrieve the stolen money, Lulu seizes the opportunity to escape her humdrum existence, and co-opt Colin as her own escort/driver. However, rather than going on a Bonny-and-Clyde-style spree across the country, the couple hide out at a nearby hotel which is hosting the title’s eponymous entertainer (played by Craig Robinson), and grow closer as they await the “magical night” promised by his enigmatic publicity material.

Aubrey Plaza as ‘Lulu Danger’ in “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” (2018)While fans of Plaza and Clement (like myself) will find plenty to enjoy here, Robinson’s admirers might feel rather more cheated despite his character’s prominence, as [SPOILER!] he spends the majority of the run-time grunting and growling like Frankenstein’s monster, rather than speaking or singing… and while there’s a valid reason given for his non-verbal status, which also builds a great deal of suspense around what exactly will happen when the spotlight finally hits him, it’s still a shame to see such a charismatic and outgoing actor suppressed like that. On the other hand, despite the artificiality evident in many aspects of the film, Matt Berry delivers a surprisingly sincere and natural performance as Beverly’s besotted manager/keyboardist ‘Rodney’.

So, overall, I had a good time with this movie, and look forward to rewatching it on DVD sometime… but I’m not sure I’d actually recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already crushing on (at least) one of the main cast members!

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* To be fair to the writers, naming her petty weasel of a husband “Shane Danger”, as if he were some sort of daring pulp-fiction adventurer, was a solid gag, imho.

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Debrastated

Mitra Jouhari, Sandy Honig, and Alyssa Stonoha as/in “Three Busy Debras” (2020)Aw, looks like the first season of Adult Swim’s delightfully deranged “short-form” sitcom Three Busy Debras was only six episodes long! To ease the pain of parting a little, the finale did feature a scene-stealing cameo by Sunita Mani, and a surprisingly poignant ending… but I’m still going to miss this series like a mutha. I know it’s wrong to have a favourite Debra, as all Debras are equal in the eyes of God, but I couldn’t help crushing super-hard on Sandy Honig, who – it turns out – has made frustratingly few onscreen appearances in the past. Barely a named role to call her own before this, in fact… presumably because she was otherwise engaged pursuing her passion for photography, as exhibited on her website… which includes a (NSFW) spoof “stock photo” gallery for her (fictional?) agency SandyStock™! Hopefully, when/if the entertainment industry gets back on track, TBD will get picked up for another couple (hundred) seasons, and she’ll have acting offers aplenty to sift through! Ah well, at least until then we still have her Tweets (and brilliant skits like this one) to enjoy… also her self-penned (and extremely premature) obituary, for some reason…!

Meanwhile, fellow mind-f*cker Patti Harrison showed her support for the series by posting an Instagram snap of herself wearing a “Debra” name-chain, which has now inspired me to collect similarly branded tribute merch… er, assuming we’re ever released from lockdown, and gift shops are still a thing in the after-times…?

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A Spoonful Of Metal

Moametal (aka Moa Kikuchi) of Babymetal circa 4/20Last month, as a treat for their fans (and music-lovers everywhere) Babymetal kindly posted two of their Tokyo Dome stadium shows (from September 2016) on YouTube for all to see, for free! Due to my own stupidity/tardiness, I managed to miss them both, which was especially gutting as the DVDs/BRs from that tour are so rare/pricey in this country… but thankfully they’re re-streaming one of the shows (“Black Night”) today, from 12:30 GMT! Yay! Apparently this set was recorded a couple months after the release of their second studio album (Metal Resistance), when Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno) was still an active member of the group. As with the 2014 Budokan shows, there was a “Red Night” and a “Black Night”, each with totally different set-lists, so you have to watch ‘em both to get the full experience… which is kinda pesky, but hopefully I’ll get to see Tokyo’s “Red Night” someday… sigh…

Additionally, on May 10th they’ll also be streaming their 2016 Wembley show for everyone except the UK to see (“due to an exclusive broadcasting contract with Sky TV” according to the disclaimer!)… instead we’ll be getting an “exclusive” viewing of their 2014 O2 Academy (Brixton) show, so praise be to the Fox God for that!

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Rock ‘N’ Rule!

‘Queen Barb’ in “Trolls World Tour” (2020)I’d fast-tracked my viewing of Trolls (2016) and Trolls Holiday (2017) in anticipation of (possibly) going to see Trolls World Tour at the cinema… but then everything got shut down, and my tentative plans were dashed. Still, Universal went ahead with an online-only release, and the movie has now broken numerous streaming records, thanks to the captive/quarantined audience. Yay?

To sum-up the (sorta) trilogy so far, they’re eye-searing psychedelic “jukebox” musicals, with super-cute/sweet-hearted central characters, and plenty wholesome messages to promote in-between all the manic action and surreal sight-gags… which had me chuckling and sniffling throughout, despite my occasional frustration with how (severely) truncated/mashed-up the chosen cover songs were.

I’ve been pretty hyped for World Tour ever since I saw the first trailer almost a year ago, which had started seriously stanning the movie’s (supposed) villain ‘Queen Barb’ (Rachel Bloom)… and I have to say she didn’t disappoint! I mean, I wish we’d spent more time with her, and deepened her character a little… it seemed like there were the seeds of some great pathos there, with her attempting to bring the neighbouring genre-themed lands under the sway of Hard Rock, in an attempt to impress (heal?) her ailing/senile father (voiced by Ozzy Osbourne, inevitably), before he lost his marbles entirely, but they didn’t really flesh that relationship out as much as I would have liked. Tbh though, even if they’d spent the entire runtime with her and the other rock-trolls, I still wouldn’t have been sated! I loved everything about their old-school Metal aesthetic, and “Fury Road”-style shenanigans… which made it all the harder to root against them as “baddies”, no matter how diabolical their ambitions were. I also find it hilarious that “Classical” music is given such short shrift, despite the “we’re all awesome/equal” acceptance promoted by the movie’s adorable heroine ‘Poppy’ (Anna Kendrick)… because, as Barb so astutely points out, orchestral instrumentals are boring as arse, and no amount of upbeat idealism can change that scientific fact!

‘Queen Barb’ in “Trolls World Tour” (2020)The pro reviews for World Tour have been kinda lukewarm, and I can understand that, because it does repeat some of the beats from the first two flicks, with a slightly weaker/shallower storyline… but any movie that introduces kids’ ears to songs like “Crazy Train”, “Barracuda”, and “Rock You Like a Hurricane” gets a hearty thumbs-up from me! True, they only get to hear a couple snippets in the movie itself, and the lyrics have been altered to fit the plot, but the soundtrack album boasts full-length renditions with Bloom on lead vocals, as well as the anthemic closing track “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rules” by HAIM, which can all be purchased as individual tracks! Hurrah!* I guess if you’re home-schooling your kids, you could also use it to touch off the old “melting pot vs salad bowl” debate, regarding metaphorical models for colonisation/integration…? Shame this movie wasn’t around when I was at uni…

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* I’m also quite partial to Kelly Clarkson’s “Born to Die” Country ballad, but recognise that may not be the best vibe to be putting out there right now…

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Debrastating

Mitra Jouhari, Sandy Honig, and Alyssa Stonoha as/in “Three Busy Debras” (2020)Last week saw the debut of a delightfully deranged new Adult Swim “short-form” series called Three Busy Debras, which my reductive brain wants to describe as a suburban cousin of The Heart, She Holler, dealing as it does with the surreal, blood-soaked misadventures of the eponymous (super-privileged) housewives, in the white-picket purgatory of Lemoncurd, Connecticut. The show is written by its stars Mitra Jouhari, Sandy Honig, and Alyssa Stonoha, who’ve been performing together as a comedy trio since 2015, and previously played the same characters in a couple of startling/stylised YouTube skits on topics such as “fashion” and “brunch”. As established in the sneak-peek preview, the pilot episode finds the Debras attempting to cover up the careless manslaughter (?) of a pool-boy, and sticks to that plot throughout (despite the title’s suggestion that it should be a (mid-spring) Christmas special), as ‘Debra #1’ (Honig) “auditions” replacements (ahem!), ‘Debra #2’ (Stonoha) infiltrates the local police department, and ‘Debra #3’ (Jouhari) disposes of the body*… all to avoid getting their “tubes tied” as punishment for making a mess of the neighbourhood! It’s a real trip, and beautifully shot/designed, cheerfully running the gamut between both kinds of “funny”, and having a ball(gown) doing it. I know this sort of sweet-and-sour absurdity won’t be to everyone’s taste, but personally my appetite is well-and-truly whetted now, and I’m hungry for more! Is “six seasons and a movie” too much to ask…?

Incidentally, this show is produced by Amy Poehler, who also co-created the existential Netflix comedy-drama Russian Doll (2019), which I’ve only just brought myself to watch, despite claiming to be a Natasha Lyonne admirer from way-back. I think it’s more fun if you go in “blind”, as I did, so I won’t give any plot details away here… suffice to say there are some great jokes and colourful/lovable characters, every episode ends with a real mind-bending/heart-wrenching cliff-hanger, and broken romantics should absolutely adore it.** Meanwhile, not only does Lyonne deliver an incredible lead performance and look cool AF, she also co-created the show (with Poehler and Leslye Headland), and wrote-and-directed the brilliant and beautiful finale! So, a hearty “Bravo!” to her… and a shout-out to Greta Lee, who plays her bestie ‘Maxine’, somehow managing to keep the character fun and engaging despite the inherently annoying nature of her role.

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* I numbered them in the order they first speak in this episode, no offence meant!

** SPOILER: Assuming you can quell your happy-ending-envy, which isn’t always so easy for me…

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Alive And Twitching

Lindsay and Jenny Nicholson (aka "Skylarky" and "ProGamerJenny") streaming on Twitch (3/20)As Covid-19 plays merry hell with our world, more and more countries are urging their citizens to remain isolated indoors, thereby creating a growing need for fresh “home entertainment”. To help fill that gap (and fight their own fears/boredom, presumably) a number of my fave YouTubers have started streaming game-play videos on a site called “Twitch”*. Technically, Jenny Nicholson launched her channel (ProGamerJenny) last year with the help of her visiting older sister Lindsay (aka “Skylarky“), but only managed a couple streams before her sibling left town and the set-up broke-down, bringing a swift end to her dreams of big-money sponsorship deals. Now they’re both quarantined together and streaming as a duo, with Lindsay continuing her own separate, long-established channel using Jenny’s equipment.

Their pal Bailey Meyers (aka “bailienvspredator“) has also just switched to Twitch, after posting a couple Pokemon videos on YouTube back in the day, and is currently winning her way through Rollercoaster Tycoon (accompanied by a playlist of “good jamz”). All three streamers make for great company, and have deliberately chosen casual, low-adrenaline games which leave them plenty of  time/attention to charm/chat with viewers. Bless.

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* Meanwhile, several high-paid late night TV hosts have become homebound YouTubers, with, uh, fairly “mixed” results… Seth Meyers (no relation) either needs to hire Ryan George as a consultant, or just sub the monologues out to him for the immediate future. Seriously, dude gets paid $3 million a year, and he can’t be bothered to buy a decent unidirectional microphone, or at least wait for his neighbour to stop mowing their lawn before he records!? Samantha Bee, on the other hand, is still killing it out in the woods… and I actually think I prefer John Oliver‘s show without a studio audience, but it’s probably not as much fun for him…?

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