Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Lawyer reacts to the (On Cinema) Trial of Tim Heidecker

June 20th, 2021

The cult comedy series On Cinema has had many crowning achievements, but arguably the largest is The Trial of Tim Heidecker. In the trial the host of the series is accused of a felony regarding an unpermitted concert in San Bernardino where 20 people died after using a toxic vape system Heidecker was promoting.

In the trial Heidecker takes a wide defense, not only defending himself pro se against the charges but also bringing in witnesses to testify against his On Cinema guest/co-host Gregg Turkington and attempts to litigate their ongoing disagreements under oath. This goes so far as to bring in writer/director Nicholas Meyer to settle a dispute about which Star Trek movie is the one that takes place in San Francisco.

YouTube’s mysterious algorithm led many outsiders to believe The Trial was a real event, leading to an unlikely if confusing introduction to On Cinema for those who had never even heard of it.

Due to this unlikely combination, many fans have been pushing for a “reaction” video. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a reaction video can be anything from kids trying to use some obsolete technology like a VCR to (in this case) a real life lawyer reacting to a fictional trial.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with the format there are plenty of videos out there of lawyers reacting to Better Call Saul or even the last episode of Seinfeld. Lawyer reaction videos are very much a thing.

While it may be a couple years late, credit where credit is due to YouTube channel AttorneyTom for covering The Trial of Tim Heidecker. Though Tom is unfamiliar with the series he’s easily able to grasp what’s going on and for the most part praises the realism of the trial and explains some of the legal concepts.

Without further ado, here are the reaction videos from AttorneyTom:

Eight most outrageous moments during the 2021 On Cinema Oscar Special

April 27th, 2021

“It’s been” a little over a year after the last On Cinema Oscar Special, and many changes have happened. Aside from the pandemic, On Cinema was dropped along with the entire streaming portion of Adult Swim’s lineup. Thankfully this wasn’t the end of On Cinema; fans (self included) chipped in financially for the next season and this Oscar Special. It streamed this year on the new HEI Network behind a paywall. Sort of…

We can’t talk about this year’s Oscar Special without talking about last year’s, as it ended with a carbon monoxide poisoning that killed two people, including the caterer Tom Chaplin. Many blamed this on Gregg Turkington as he left his car running in the studio.

But the big thing is, On Cinema somehow manages to top itself every year. Despite the behind the scenes financial issues somehow this year did not miss a beat.

Even for those of us who’ve been fans for a long time the amazing thing about On Cinema is that the jokes go so deep it’s like peeling back layers of a thick onion, and by the time you understand them you’ll be crying — with laughter. So here we go again.

 

8. The dueling feeds

After Tim Heidecker announced his 8th Annual On Cinema Oscar Special guests — and the list didn’t include Gregg — we quickly learned that Gregg would be hosting his own 9th Annual “Our Cinema” Oscar Special, effectively one-upping Tim. And the best news? It would be completely free!

Gregg started his feed on YouTube over an hour before Tim’s “official” Oscar Special with a screening of the 1937 public domain film Affairs of Cappy Ricks. Following that, Gregg appeared on a shaky handheld camera phone camera to introduce us to a parking lot that was used in Back to the Future, and wouldn’t you know it — his car, which is now a mobile film archive, is parked there and decorated like the DeLorean from the Back to the Future films. But it gets better! Gregg himself is dressed like Marty McFly from Back to the Future 3.

Now a normal comedy show would back down on this premise of having two separate feeds right when the main one kicked in, but this is On Cinema we’re talking about. Even after Tim eventually backs down and invites Gregg to his Oscar Special, Gregg’s feed continues even to the point where he’s in the bathroom at the studio and driving away at the end.

This second feed adds an element of pure chaos. You never really know which one you should be watching, and at some points both Tim and Gregg are talking at the same time. But for the most part Gregg’s feed is pointed at the ground and you hear him grumbling and making snarky remarks about Tim’s show.

 

7. The rat test

Unable to let the events of last year’s Oscar Special go to rest, Tim has a miniature version of the set built in a glass case with a live lab rat. He intends to pump car exhaust into the case with the help of his “investigator” LaRoux in order to prove that carbon monoxide is lethal.

Things don’t quite go as planned however when the car exhaust enters the set through a hose and everyone begins coughing, apparently having learned nothing from last year. After his wife Toni protests killing a rat to prove a point, Tim relents and abandons the experiment.

Tim later claims the rat died of unrelated causes, so even if he had gone ahead with the experiment it would have rendered the results entirely inconclusive.

 

6. Fox News parody

Over the years Tim has taken on the personality of a particular brand of a conservative blowhard, and that’s very much on point here as the entire set for this Oscar Special looks straight out of Fox News.

Tim goes all in on this, kicking things off with a parody of Greg Gutfeld’s late night “comedy” show on Fox News. Despite having the appearance of The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight, all of Tim’s conservative jokes fall flat and show no self awareness whatsoever. (The entire segment can be watched above.)

(On the meta side of things, Gregg used to be a regular on Gutfeld’s previous show Red Eye but in character as Neil Hamburger.)

 

5. The repulsive catering

This year the show went in a new direction with catering, this time with a sponsorship from the shady supplement company Rio-Jenesis with their RJ’s Shake Station brand. 

Tim gets a shake that’s made with an inexplicable combination of vegetables, some kind of potato soup, hard liquor, and a supplement from Rio Jenesis called “VaxxBlock” which is intended to prevent the COVID-19 vaccines from working.

After all, as a Trumpian conservative Tim wants the advantages of the vaccine like being able to travel abroad without the disadvantages such as whatever conspiracy theories are being touted this week.

But most importantly, he wants to get drunk.

 

4. The singer

Wendy Kirby, a young friend of Toni’s from her church is brought in as the singer for this year’s Oscar Special. She’s also the brother of the guy running the catering stand.

She sings a version of Tim’s song “Empty Bottle,” perhaps the fifth or sixth version we’ve heard so far, over a karaoke version of the song. It quickly becomes clear she doesn’t know all the lyrics though nobody seems to even notice or care.

At the end she’s trotted out again over the disastrous ending — which I’ll get to a moment — to sing a rendition of “Back In the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood. (Or should it be “Back in the HEI Life Again”?) 

 

3. Toni’s cosmetic face masks

Tim’s horrible wife Toni Newman is just as much of a scam artist as her husband, and is now hawking a line of cosmetic face masks. To demonstrate them she applies them to both Tim and his bandmate Manuel, with Tim immediately complaining of a burning sensation and is unable to remove the mask despite pouring ice all over his face.

After a break, Tim’s face has gone from spray-tan orange to bright red, and he’s kicked his wife Toni off the set. Manuel hasn’t suffered, though it’s worth noting that part of Tim’s facial skin was grafted from Manuel’s lower back or “ass” in season 8 after Tim accidentally set himself on fire.

 

2. Tim’s stepson and potential new child

Matt Newman was introduced at the last Oscar Special as Tim’s stepson from his current wife Toni. Despite an awkward conversation between the two of them it was clear that Matt was into online video games and not much else.

This time Matt was back via an unstable Zoom call and seemed more focused on playing games than interacting with Tim.

Tim drunkenly told Matt — or tried to anyway — that he’ll soon be having a new sibling as he just got Toni pregnant. Toni isn’t particularly appreciative of Tim sharing this news as it wasn’t meant to be public yet. It also doesn’t bode well for the pregnancy as Toni is drinking schnapps throughout the special.

 

1. Gregg storming off the set and escaping LaRoux

Tim’s ongoing plan to investigate the carbon monoxide poisoning of the last Oscar Special ends with LaRoux blaming everything on Gregg. This causes Gregg to storm off the set and lock himself in his car/mobile film archive. 

When Gregg attempts to leave he’s intercepted by LaRoux who tries to block him. It’s implied (though not shown) that Gregg ran over LaRoux with his car while escaping. None of this is shown in either feed, though we soon see Gregg driving away on his feed and Wendy singing “Back in the HEI Life Again” on Tim’s feed.

Over the credits, Tim claims that LaRoux was injured but will be okay, implying that yet another Oscar Special has resulted in needless injuries. Plus a dead rat.

 

Honorable mentions

  • Tim unveils a new song for his wife, “Your Love Gets Me HEI,” which is just as cringe-inducing as the title would suggest.
  • Mark is back… sort of. A fan’s home footage of Mark included Mark saying he didn’t want to be involved with the “VFW”, which may have been a confused reference to Gregg’s VFA or perhaps something else? It raised more questions than answers, but the point is that Mark is still alive after all.
  • Al Pacino’s birthday! This didn’t go anywhere despite several segments including Manuel and Axiom impersonating Pacino. Gregg verbally shat all over Pacino for declining to participate in several of his favorite film franchises.
  • The Minions! Ever since Tim announced the HEI Network, he’s complained off and on about Minions — the characters from the Despicable Me franchise — appearing on his website allegedly due to hackers. During this Oscar Special a Minion stuffed animal appeared in various shots, sometimes noted by Tim but often not. 
  • Josh Trank, who directed the Fantastic Four movie (which Tim had a small part in) called in via Zoom. Gregg used this segment to reignite a debate about whether or not Tim paid a fee to appear in this movie, though it was ultimately unresolved as Trank’s Zoom connection was unstable.
  • Despite Tim’s ongoing social media claim that Axiom is his new “Mister Movies” it was clear Axiom hadn’t seen any of the movies nominated for this year’s Oscars. The usually spineless Joe Estevez convinced Tim to bring Gregg back to the show to provide movie expertise. And wouldn’t you know it, underneath his Back to the Future 3 costume Gregg was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a custom screen print that says “The REAL Mister Movies.” 

Recent movie review round-up (second half of 2020)

January 18th, 2021

In the last installment of my movie review roundups I expressed some concern about new movies in 2020 due to the pandemic. Thankfully I was wrong: while many big budget movies were delayed, 2020 turned out to be a great year for new indie and medium budget movies debuting on streaming services.

Surprisingly three movies on this list take place right here in San Francisco, which I was not aware of going in to any of them.

So in no well thought out order here’s what I watched in the latter half of the year.

 

Black Bear

An outcast actress named Allison who was deemed “difficult to work with” tries forging her own path by becoming an indie filmmaker. She’s sharing a giant cabin in the woods near a lake with an unmarried couple with a child on the way. The couple doesn’t get along at all and after a series of arguments and too much wine, all three of them become the third wheels of the trio.

Without spoiling too much there’s a film within a film aspect happening here which is revealed about halfway through. What’s real? Who’s acting and to what extent? Is this all imaginary?

This film has some great moments and plenty of thoughtful dark comedy. But it ultimately just made me go re-watch Mulholland Dr. again. Both movies share very similar neo-noir and film-within-a-film concepts. However, Black Bear doesn’t feed on the uncertainty it creates nearly as well as Mulholland Dr., which makes it the weaker — though more approachable — of the two films.

Best moment: When the first twist hits, and you realize in retrospect that you should have seen it coming a mile away.

Rating: 6/10

 

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character from Da Ali G Show is back for a second film. This time there’s more upfront explanation of the backstory, which starts to drag after a while despite some genuinely hilarious moments. The gist is that once again Borat is coming to America, but this time he’s stuck with his 15 year old daughter Tutar who, naturally, lives in a cage.

Cohen’s typical cringe comedy antics are on display here with various disguises, trying to learn about different aspects of American society and failing miserably, etc.

While you’ve probably already read about at least one spoiler for the movie, there are plenty of shocking moments that surprisingly did NOT make the news. Perhaps that’s more of a testament to 2020’s crazy news cycle than what happens in the movie though. And yes, that Rudy Giuliani scene is far more alarming than it was made out to be in the news.

One unfortunate aspect of this movie’s distribution on Amazon is that you will most likely have to enable subtitles to understand certain scenes as their player — at least for me — didn’t turn on subtitles automatically for non-English scenes. 

Although I have to admit I didn’t see the twist ending coming, this particular style of prank/cringe comedy is so widely imitated these days that it doesn’t feel as fresh as it did when Cohen debuted his Borat character two decades ago, let alone his more recent efforts like Who Is America. But it’s still a wild movie with plenty of uncomfortable laughs.

Best moment: Professional babysitter Jeanise Jones who isn’t just the only sane person in the entire movie, but actually cares about Tutar’s well being.

Rating: 7/10

 

The Trial of the Chicago 7

This is the story of the 1968 Democratic Convention protests in Chicago told primarily through a courtroom drama and flashbacks to a Vietnam War protest. 

Yes, Sacha Baron Cohen also starred in this movie, cast perfectly as 1960’s activist and prankster Abbie Hoffman. It’s hardly the only spot-on casting choice in this film though it’s interesting that Cohen appeared in two very different political films this year.

Let me point out that the film gets a lot of things correct, in particular the ideological clashing between the protestors themselves and the courtroom antics. It also gets the gist of the case correct with the judge being unsympathetic to the defendants, how the defendants should have been tried separately (if at all), and most notably that you don’t want a high profile jester in the court, let alone two — Hoffman and Rubin.

At the same time, I think the film’s flashbacks undercut the true story with a variety of embellishments from inventing new characters to inaccurate representations of events.

Taking some liberties with a true story clearly worked for writer (and director here) Aaron Sorkin before with his script for The Social Network, yet this time his tale fizzles out as he attempts to dramatize a much better known story that simply doesn’t need any additional drama. The actors manage to elevate the material from time to time but can’t salvage it entirely.

The biggest issue is there never seems to be any justification as to why this story needed to be told in 2020. I appreciate not being hit over the head with an obvious message, but the parallels to Trump’s America could have at least been ever so slightly underlined.

Best moment: Hoffman and Rubin’s courtroom antics are all funny, but the best one was when they came in dressed in judicial robes. And yes, that’s based on a real event.

Rating: 5/10

 

Sonic the Hedgehog

Remember Sega? Remember their iconic 90’s Sonic the Hedgehog series of video games? For a lot of people the answer to both questions is going to be a resounding no, which leads to a pretty obvious question: who is this movie made for? That was the main question I went into with this one and I’m still not sure I entirely have an answer.

While it’s a pretty universal law that all movies based on video games are going to be bad, a notion cemented by 1993’s Super Mario Bros., in Sonic the Hedgehog thankfully nobody is taking anything seriously. This is a movie well aware of its own absurdity.

The story setup is basically this: after being hunted on his home world, the speedy Sonic the Hedgehog is given a bag of rings that let him teleport to other planets. He winds up on Earth in a small town and eventually befriends a sheriff’s officer named Tom who’s on his way to becoming a police officer in San Francisco.

Meanwhile after Sonic accidentally causes a power outage, the Pentagon decides to bring in Dr. Robotnik, a mad scientist played by a mustache-twirling Jim Carey, to hunt down and eliminate the problem.

My expectations were low going in and while I can’t say Sonic is going to be a classic film by any means, it’s a reliable and fun diversion. Not every joke lands — or even most of them to be honest — though the movie manages to capture a similar feel to not-very-serious comic book movies like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Best moment: The mix of real footage and computer animation is solid throughout the movie — if I had to pick just one example I’d go with the bar fight scene. The animation is particularly remarkable as Sonic’s design underwent significant alterations shortly before release.

Rating: 6/10

 

The Invisible Man

This new adaptation of The Invisible Man is very loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel, so if you’ve read it or seen the previous film adaptations you’ll still be going in fresh. Even the genre has shifted slightly to lean on horror more than science fiction.

Cecilia is trapped in a controlling relationship with her husband, an optics engineering genius named Adrian. One night she makes an escape with the help of her sister and goes to live with a detective friend for her safety.

Cecilia soon gets the news that Adrian has killed himself, a relief at first… but given the title of the movie you can easily guess where this is headed.

Can’t say too much more about the plot without going into spoilers. Check out the trailer though, which provides the gist of the story while slightly misdirecting the viewer. At least one scene in the trailer is not even in the movie.

Overall I enjoyed this film. Like the best horror movies it keeps the audience guessing without revealing the villain too soon, for obvious reasons in this case. The cinematography masterfully presents empty space as potentially treacherous. For a two hour film it manages to keep viewers on their toes until the very end.

My only complaint is why set this in San Francisco when only the establishing shots are filmed here? Places have their own distinct visual language and it’s distracting when it doesn’t line up with what’s presented on screen, occasionally breaking the tension.

Best moment: The big reveal and its immediate aftermath. Can’t much more without going into spoiler territory, except that it’s the best kind of jump scare: the one you’ll anticipate long in advance.

Rating: 9/10

 

Feels Good Man

This documentary is like peeling back the layers of an onion to explain a strange phenomenon; an alt-right internet meme that started out as an innocent and completely unrelated comic.

Matt Furie, a soft spoken San Francisco artist created a comic called Boys Club while working at Community Thrift. One of the characters in the comic is Pepe the Frog, a humanoid with a frog head. At one point Pepe takes his pants off to pee while standing up with the dialog “feels good man.” For various reasons both this phrase and the image of Pepe become an instant internet meme, eventually finding its way to the 4chan imageboard popular with disenfranchised basement dweller types.

Matt Furie initially ignores the spread of Pepe across the internet until it becomes classified as a hate symbol after being associated with white supremacy. Far too long after it’s spiraled out of control Furie decides to fight back, officially killing off the character and suing sellers of counterfeit Pepe merchandise such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Oh and just like the “doge” meme before it, Pepe becomes the mascot of a cryptocurrency because of course it does.

Much of the film centers on interviews with Furie and his wife with a mix of archival footage and animation. Self-described druid John Michael Greer is presented as a voice of reason in this completely insane story.

It’s a very well put together documentary and while I do recommend it at times it comes across as a little too sensationalized. I legitimately do feel bad for Matt Furie though.

Best moment: On a personal note as someone who’s been stopping by Community Thrift here in San Francisco every now and then for ages, this one surprised me. If anything I’d expect an anarchist zine to come out of that place.

Rating: 8/10

 

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns hasn’t had a hit in decades. To make matters worse they now have to write a song to unite the world and don’t have much time to do it; not only is time itself collapsing, but a killer robot named Dennis is coming after them. Given access to their old time traveling phone booth they decide to go into the future and attempt to steal the song from their future selves

Meanwhile their respective daughters — Billie and Thea, naturally — borrow a more modern time machine to recruit some of the best musicians from throughout history to join their dads’ band. 

Going in I was skeptical of a sequel to a funny but old pair of movies from nearly 30 years ago. Turns out when the concept essentially boils down to an absurd lighthearted comedy with time travel, outdated slang, and music, there’s plenty to room to craft a ridiculous tale that only needs to be fleshed out enough to get from one funny moment to the next. What more can you expect from a Bill & Ted movie, dude?

My only real complaint is it left me wanting to learn more about Billie & Thea’s relationship as it felt like a one-note joke here. That said the last half of the movie really delivers. In terms of making a new entry in a movie series from decades ago I’d rate this as a solid effort.

Stay for the post-credits sequence which is most excellent, my dudes.

Best moment: A posthumous George Carlin “hologram” as a nod to the previous two films.

Rating: 7/10

 

Another Round

Normally I won’t see a film just because of who’s in it, but after seeing Mads Mikkelsen’s eccentric performances in everything from Casino Royale to the Hannibal television series, I’ve been curious to see him in a film from his home country of Denmark. When this one appeared on my radar with good critical reviews I figured why not, if you’ll pardon the pun, give it a shot?

Another Round is an original dark comedy about a middle aged teacher named Martin (Mikkelsen) at the equivalent of a high school in Copenhagen. He’s stuck in a rut, rarely gets to see his wife, and when his students (and their parents) blame him for their bad grades it seems clear his interest in life is fading.

In the first quarter or so of the film we see Martin and three of his fellow school employees bond over drinks. One of them gets to talking about an obscure philosopher who once remarked that humans were born with a blood alcohol content 0.05% too low. This leads to an experiment starting with Martin taking a swig of vodka in the school bathroom. Soon all four of them become day drinkers.

Best moment: Again I’m steering clear of spoilers here but the ending is very memorable and surprisingly fun.

Rating: 8/10

 

The Last Blockbuster

Remember Blockbuster Video? Even though most of us probably associate Blockbuster with fees for not rewinding your tapes, the company didn’t go under until well into the age of DVDs. Despite the company’s demise a few franchisees held on — and now there’s only one left. 

This documentary presents several different angles about Blockbuster: nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s, the rise and fall of Blockbuster corporate, and a look at the life of the woman who runs the last Blockbuster.

The first two aspects of the film are largely through talking heads. The nostalgia angle is covered by the likes of director Kevin Smith and comedian Brian Posehn, the latter of whom rented VCRs since he couldn’t afford to buy one.

Likewise a separate roundup of talking heads familiar with Blockbuster’s business guide us through how the company started, the tactics they used to muscle out (or acquire) their local competitors, and ultimately why the company didn’t make it.

And finally we also get the story of Sandi, the woman running the last Blockbuster. She’s a very hands-on type who does everything from purchasing movies to solving IT issues. Her family and various current and former employees from the store are interviewed along with her. These glimpses into the daily life at the store end with Sandi trying to figure out how the store can survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the film the number of remaining stores steadily decreases, despite the efforts of John Oliver on Last Week Tonight promoting the three remaining Blockbusters in Alaska by sending one of them memorabilia from Russell Crowe movies.

While all these individual stories and tidbits are interesting, unfortunately they hardly overlap enough to make for a cohesive documentary. It banks so heavily on (frankly, undeserved) nostalgia that it struggles to find a good argument for why Blockbuster should still exist as a physical store. Many of the people we see treat the last Blockbuster more like a living museum than an actual store. Even Sandi herself seems nostalgic, looking backward rather than to the future.

Best moment: Gen-Xers remembering how they struggled to find a good date night movie at Blockbuster. I laughed out loud at this, as though younger generations don’t spend time scrolling through Netflix or whatever for the same reason.

Rating: 7/10

 

Wild Mountain Thyme

Perhaps the weirdest movie of the year — but not necessarily for the intended reasons. The movie kicks off with Christopher Walken’s character telling us he’s dead before backtracking a couple years.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The real problem with this movie are the Irish accents, which seem evenly split between “actual Irish actor” to “failed an audition for a Lucky Charms commercial.”  Walken in particular doesn’t sound like he’s even trying. The differences are so jarring it’s hard to believe these actors are even in the same scenes together.

Getting back to the story it’s about a man named Anthony Reilly and a woman named Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) who work neighboring farms in Ireland. The two are clearly in love but too stubborn to do anything about it.

This all changes one day when Anthony’s cousin (Jon Hamm) comes to town from New York City with eyes not only on the farm, but on Rosemary as well.

Aside from the accents the big problem with this movie is the script: the dialog is cheesy, the characters are flimsy with little backstory, and there’s no real sense of pacing.

Whereas an average movie tends to sag in the middle, Wild Mountain Thyme’s entire first half is largely pointless. It’s all very day-dreamy filler until Jon Hamm shows up and kicks the story in motion. From the halfway mark it’s at least enjoyable, if not completely obvious where it’s headed.

At some point I had to stop the movie and look up if it was written by an Irish or American screenwriter. Turns out it was written and directed by an Irish-American living in NYC. I’ve never been less surprised in my entire life.

Best moment: Any moment Emily Blunt is on screen as she’s the only actor trying to make this idiotic movie work.

Rating: 2/10

 

I Used To Go Here

Kate is a writer whose first book “Seasons Passed” isn’t selling well and her book tour has been cancelled as a result. This comedy film more or less begins when Kate’s former writing professor invites her for a reading at her old college (hence the name of the film) and she jumps at the chance.

From there it turns into a predictable nostalgia trip for Kate, catching up with old friends and meeting the new batch of roommates who live in the same home she used to.

The characters are very much cookie cutter tropes, which is fine for a comedy. I mean if you expected Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun movies to have any character development, you were watching the wrong movie. But what works fine for a comedy (and worked for the first two acts of this movie) doesn’t work when it shifts suddenly into a drama in the last act. A drama with no well established stakes simply cannot work.

While I will have to say this is a funny movie with a lot of sharp jokes and cringey moments, the ending let all the steam out for me. That said it’s not a long movie so it’s tough to complain too much about something I got a kick out of, even if it didn’t work entirely.

Best moment: The line “Honestly I just can’t think of a good lie here,” which I may have to use if I’m ever in a similar situation.

Rating: 6/10

 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Lucy goes on a long drive with her new boyfriend Jesse, despite her apathetic feelings toward him, to meet his parents. During the drive they have a long, philosophical, and meandering conversation filled with silent pauses. During the silent moments, Lucy’s inner thoughts are presented to us as a voiceover, with Jesse’s voice interrupting her internal monologue.

During the ride Lucy recites a poem she wrote about the dread of coming home, which foretells what’s about to come.

The meeting with parents gets inexplicably awkward at first, with her boyfriend’s embarrassingly oversharing mom telling uncomfortable stories about Jesse’s childhood.

Soon various shifts and jumps happen which I won’t spoil here, other than to add that a (seemingly) different story cuts in here and there. 

If you liked Charlie Kaufman’s other movies (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc.) you’ll probably find much to like in this movie’s maze of dream logic. Otherwise you might consider checking out those earlier films first.

Best moment: Whatever moment you first notice that something is off, which I’d suspect is a little different for each viewer.

Rating: 7/10

 

Jiu Jitsu

A tough young American man suffering from severe amnesia wakes up in an army base in Burma, proceeding to kick everyone’s ass with his bare hands for no clear reason. After being reunited with his team of fellow ass-kickers it’s revealed his name is Jake — and he’s a key part of their mission.

Jake soon meets the eccentric Wylie (Nicolas Cage) who explains the backstory: an alien fighter named Brax returns to Earth regularly and, according to legend, demands a “fair” fight for some definition of fair that is never explained. The stakes? If Brax isn’t satisfied it’s the end of life on Earth.

As you can easily guess from the above description this is not a good movie. At the same time it’s not the unwatchable schlock some critics made it out to be. Yes, the story is very thin, the CGI is mediocre, and cinematography is wildly inconsistent.

Yet at the same time the story is so goofy and the fight scenes have such laughable sound effects (whoosh! whip!) that it’s clearly an homage to action comedy movies from twenty plus years ago. Come to think of it, if this came out in the 1990’s it would probably feature Jackie Chan. Even the major plot points are so absurd and often inconsequential I couldn’t help but to laugh at them.

Best moment: Whenever Nicolas Cage is on screen doing his thing. Unfortunately despite receiving top billing that’s maybe 20 minutes of the entire movie at most.

Rating: 4/10

 

Soul

Joe, a music teacher at a New York City middle school is tiring of his students’ poor performances just as he’s offered a full time teaching position. Meanwhile he’s excited by an offer to perform on stage with a famous jazz musician at a local club, foreshadowing that if he could perform with her he could “die a happy man.”

So naturally after auditioning for the part, Joe dies and ends up in a cartoon pastel-colored purgatory of sorts where all of the administrators are abstract beings named “Jerry.” In this afterlife the former and future souls appear as Smurf-like caricatures of themselves.

Unlike most of Pixar’s works, Soul focuses on an adult character facing adult issues. I suspect children might find Soul watchable or even fun but won’t fully appreciate it. 

Which leads me to my only complaint about this film. If Pixar can pull off a unique story like this that can only be told through animation, why does it need to be dumbed down with a sense of humor for six year olds? I wish Pixar’s writers weren’t always so bound to Disney’s “we need a comic relief character” mentality. But then again, Hollywood seems addicted to making movies for children (and adult children) so it wouldn’t be entirely fair to take out these general annoyances on this particular film.

Best moment: Joe’s cartoonish walk past a number of dangerous obstacles before he inevitably enters the purgatory.

Rating: 8/10

Recent movie review round-up (first half of 2020)

July 4th, 2020

It certainly hasn’t been a great year for movies with the global pandemic so a handful of these are from last year. What can I say, it’s been a good year for streaming and catching up on good movies we missed in theaters.

The order here is disjointed just like last time. Whatever, roll with it.

 

Spaceship Earth

This documentary looks back at Biosphere 2. For those unfamiliar, Biosphere 2 was an experiment where a group of eight people lived in a large greenhouse with an airtight seal for two years starting in 1991. Ostensibly the goal was to attempt to live as though they were on the moon or another planet. (Biosphere 1 being the planet Earth.) The project was largely met with skepticism from scientists and created a media sensation.

The movie starts when everyone involved met in the 1960’s in San Francisco and formed a theater company that sailed around the world. After returning to the US, the group moved to Arizona and got started on their new project: Biosphere 2. It doesn’t go into the personality clashes or the tourism aspects very much — but it does contain a lot of footage from inside Biosphere 2 and interviews with the various participants you won’t see anywhere else. 

Oh, and it does cover the part where a certain Wall Street guy named Steve Bannon got involved, tossed out all the data, and tried to use it to “disprove” climate change.

Like a lot of documentaries, Spaceship Earth covers an interesting topic broadly, though barely scratches the surface of any of the questions it answers. It’s also remarkably non-critical of the inherent problems with Biosphere 2. I think it would have been better as a miniseries where each episode takes a deep dive into each of the questions it’s asking about the project and the group (or cult?) that was behind it.

Best moment: Let’s just say it’s an oddly fitting movie to watch during a pandemic when we’re all sealed off from the outside world.

Rating: 5/10

 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Somehow I missed this one when it was in theaters — a big mistake on my part. The story centers on a young Black man named Jimmie living with his friend Mont in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. A bit of an outcast, Jimmie’s obsessed with the Victorian home he grew up in in the Fillmore neighborhood. When the current owners get kicked out of the home, Jimmie and Mont squat the place.

This is one of those rare low-budget indie films where everything from the writing to the performances are completely perfect. But this movie has another trick up its sleeve; it depicts San Francisco as a real place with real people instead of some postcard idealist fantasy.

From its heartfelt message to its philosophical moments, this is the kind of movie that would win an Oscar in an alternate universe. 

Best moment: The skateboarding scenes, especially the long one near the beginning. These add a sense of scale and space to the movie that I suspect would simply come across as padding in the hands of a lesser filmmaker.

Rating: 10/10

 

The Vast of Night

Framed as an episode of a Twilight Zone style TV show, this indie sci-fi film tells the story of a small town in the southwestern United States in the 1950’s where a teenage switchboard operator and her friend at a nearby radio station investigate a mysterious electronic signal.

Despite an unoriginal concept the storytelling is more gripping than one would expect. The nearly unknown cast pull off excellent performances.

I think this film would have benefited from a theatrical release at art house theaters. Due to COVID-19 it’s streaming exclusively on Amazon instead and their clumsy marketing department didn’t do this one any favors.

Best moment: For a low budget flick I was really wowed by the cinematography, particularly the moment where the camera goes through a basketball game at a gym, exits out the back window, and then continues down the street.

Rating: 7/10

 

The Lighthouse

In the late 19th century a young man named Winslow (Robert Pattinson) accepts a job at a decrepit lighthouse and has to put up with poor working conditions — especially the longtime lighthouse keeper (Willem Dafoe), a demanding and potentially insane man who speaks like a Moby Dick character. 

Winslow quickly begins going mad himself while trapped in the remote location, a process that accelerates when the two start drinking together and a massive storm arrives. In a twist of fate this makes the movie perfectly suited for sheltering in place.

I don’t want to give away much else as this psychological thriller is best watched fresh. 

My only issue with this movie is there’s a lengthy stretch before the end where it becomes repetitive. I do realize it’s an intentional choice to serve the story’s mood, though it’s edited in such a way that makes it feel more dull than I think was intended. There’s a nearly perfect ~90 minute movie in here somewhere.

Best moment: Willem Dafoe’s unhinged monologues are all absolutely golden.

Rating: 6/10

 

Cat Video Fest 2020

People have been filming their pets for as long as home video has been around. The yearly Cat Video Fest is devoted to new and classic cat videos. As expected there’s a lot of things being knocked off shelves, harassment of dogs, and generally odd feline thinking.

This “film festival” raises money for cat rescue organizations, including Give Me Shelter in San Francisco. 

Rating: I’m not sure how to rate this one as it’s not a typical film at all. I’ll just say if you like watching cat videos on YouTube or TikTok, it’s for you. That said, humorous content is best watched with an audience — and this was the last movie I was able to see in theaters so far this year.

 

Color Out of Space

In an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, Nathan Gardener (Nic Cage) moved his family to an old house in the middle of a forest to run a small alpaca farm. A wise but eccentric old hippie (Tommy Chong) squats in a nearby shack.

A meteorite crashes just outside the house, and after it gets repeatedly hit by lightning everything goes bonkers.  The town’s hydrologist warns them not to drink the water from their well though it’s far too late — unusual plants grow, insects and animals mutate, everyone slowly goes crazy, and even reality itself collapses into psychedelic madness.

The film comes across as more uneven than unsettling, careening between 1980’s throwback sci-fi horror to outlandish comedy. Which isn’t to say a film has to be one thing, it just tends to work better if it has a central foundation other than “weird.” What does work very well in the film’s favor is the vibrant cinematography, especially for a story that seems unfilmable. “It’s just a color, but it burns.”

Best moment: There are many “Nic Cage dialed up to 11” moments in this film it’s a challenge to pick just one, but I’ll have to go with Nathan (Cage) shouting at his older son to “get the alpacas back in the barn by ten” as he’s preparing to take his wife to the hospital.

Rating: 8/10

Six most outrageous moments during the 2020 On Cinema Oscar Special

February 14th, 2020

This year’s On Cinema Oscar Special was a little bit of a surprise. Online speculation led many to believe it wouldn’t happen as Tim Heidecker was on the East Coast leg of the Tim and Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour. Tim actually flew back to LA for one night just to do the Oscar Special this year, which is some serious dedication for a relatively low budget production.

As a huge fan of On Cinema, here’s my top six most outrageous moments during this year’s On Cinema Oscar Special. Watch it yourself online here.

Gregg Turkington in a purple outfit, white facepaint, and green hair as the Joker

6. Gregg’s appearance as The Joker

To celebrate the new Joker movie, the normally dull, mild-mannered movie buff Gregg dressed up in a full Joker get up. But not as the Joker from the recent 2019 film, instead going with the Jack Nicholson-style Joker from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film.

This is somehow funnier than it should be for those of us familiar with Gregg through his Neil Hamburger alter-ego. The Joker and Neil Hamburger are almost kindred spirits somehow. It probably deserves a higher spot on the list as it was hilarious just seeing Gregg dressed up as the Joker, but the rest of this list kind of depends on this so what am I supposed to do?

What can I say, I’m a slave to the format here.

Not-Mark, with LaRoux standing behind him

5. The search for Mark

Mark Proksch was sent to jail last season for a copyright violation involving Gregg’s tapes. Poor Mark hasn’t been seen or heard from since in spite of Gregg’s best efforts.

Tim’s investigator, weapons expert, and conspiracy theorist Michael Matthews (aka “LaRoux”) calls Tim with the happy news he’s located Mark. Sadly, LaRoux shows up with some guy named Steve who happens to look kind of like Mark.

Mark’s celebrity impersonations of W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers have been a staple of On Cinema for years. In a case of mistaken identity, this time someone else “impersonated” Mark.

The search for Mark continues…

The pastor performs Tim and Toni's marriage ceremony

4. Tim’s convoluted marriage plan

Although we learned last season Tim married Toni (a juror during his murder trial who became his campaign manager in a failed attempt to unseat the district attorney) Tim felt the marriage ceremony at the local city hall wasn’t “Christian enough.” For the Oscar Special he secretly prepared an annulment which Toni reluctantly signed in order for them to have a proper marriage.

Tim awkwardly tries bonding with Toni’s teenage son Matt despite having little in common. When Tim interviews Toni’s (female) pastor Lewis he keeps starring at her legs and flirting with her. Not exactly off to a good re-start of the marriage.

Perhaps the funniest part of this was Gregg’s toast to the couple, which was just a string of references to Gregg’s favorite films — James Bond and the Oh, God! movies — all of which Tim vehemently hates.

Gregg sits in his car (the Mobile VFA) while Tim sits in a director's chair

3. The Mobile VFA

Gregg’s Victorville Film Archive (VFA) went mobile in season 11 when he stacked his VHS tapes in the back seat of his car. In the Oscar Special, Gregg drove the car into the studio. This wound up being a safe space for Gregg when Tim started going on his angry rants. Gregg spends a lot of episode in the car, watching from the perspective of a drive-in moviegoer.

Gregg’s finest moment as the Joker occurs when he’s in the Mobile VFA and honks its horn, interrupting Tim’s conversation with Manuel. Tim looks like he’s about to break character and several people off screen are heard laughing. Gregg opens the car door and smugly says “the Joker strikes again!” before turning to the camera to repeat his new catch phrase.

The Mobile VFA also winds up playing a major part in the finale, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Gregg dressed as the Joker pointing out his Arthur memorabilia

2. Gregg’s tribute to Arthur

Despite being dressed up as the Joker, Gregg has a series of segments and a small display set up to preview a tribute to the 39th anniversary of the film Arthur staring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. Although Gregg intended to air a full tribute next year for the 40th anniversary, Tim insists Gregg just get it over with now.

As usual Gregg wasn’t able to find any real celebrities related to Arthur but he did interview an actress who stared in the recent Arthur remake as well as an affordable Dudley Moore impersonator. Both are interviewed in the passenger seat of his Mobile VFA.

Everyone's laying motionless as the room fills with smoke

1. The carbon monoxide poisoning

Gregg left the Mobile VFA car running in the closed studio, slowly filling it with carbon monoxide. Tim’s wedding dinner meanwhile is staged suspiciously to look like a painting of the last supper with Tim (obviously) as Jesus. Everyone started passing out in their seats or on the floor as several songs play including a remix of Dekkar’s “Empty Bottle.”

After several minutes passed I wondered if this might be the end of On Cinema for good? Fortunately Tim’s bandmate Axiom shows up several minutes later and heroically saves the day.

Many theories abound online about this incident overall. Did the one-handed Axiom from Dekkar single-handedly save everyone from “de car”? Was this the Mobile VFA’s revenge on Tim for destroying Gregg’s previous tape collections? Is it all part of the Joker’s evil plan? There are more questions than answers at this point.

Honorable mentions

  • Tim’s dead son “Tom Cruise Heidecker Jr.” appearing once again in horribly broken CGI form. This was much funnier the first time though it’s still a solid laugh.
  • The ongoing saga of catering company Chaplin’s Chili and their confusing ownership structure and name changes. Worse yet they forgot the salmon, although Mr. Chaplin himself insists that he cooked the chicken in a way that makes it taste like fish.
  • Gregg’s incredibly boring visit to a Hollywood thrift store that sells costumes used in films. He proudly displays two “priceless ensembles” he purchased for $20, which look like generic men’s clothes you might buy at Wal-Mart.
  • Tim ranting about the film Parasite being an actual “parasite” against America, since it’s not an American movie. The fact that clueless pundits unironically made the same point a few hours later somehow makes this predictable political take funnier than it had any right to be.
  • Gregg’s “Tribute to the Joker” is a hallucinatory mashup of the Joker’s various movie appearances. It also subtly foreshadows the smoke-filled ending.

For me it was my first time watching an On Cinema Oscar Special in a movie theater. Yes, I know that doesn’t make much sense but Alamo Drafthouse was livestreaming it several locations, including here in San Francisco. I got there a few minutes early. Fortunately an employee wearing a VFA t-shirt spotted my Dekkar t-shirt and let me know they were running a little behind schedule.

On my in I noticed they were patching a MacBook Pro into the theater’s projection system. I was pleasantly surprised it streamed in HD without AdultSwim.com’s notorious lag and glitch problems.

If you can, it’s definitely more fun to see this type of cult comedy special with a room full of people laughing along — people with a sense of humor as weird as your own.

Recent movie review round-up (2019)

January 21st, 2020

Despite intending to on plenty of occasions, I’ve never used this blog to review movies. In an attempt to change that I’ve written up short reviews of movies from the past year or so. Films are reviewed from newest to oldest.

 

 

VHYes

In the mid 80’s a boy gets a camcorder and starts filming random stuff with his friend… over his parent’s wedding video. The first half or so of the film is a comedy based mostly around the deeply weird stuff the boys record on late night television including an Antiques Roadshow knockoff with an unflappably chipper host, a home shopping show hosted by a clueless bickering divorced couple, and a Bob Ross style painting show hosted by a woman who’s clearly nuts.

Oh, and there’s an “edited for television” porn flick about global warming.

For the first half of the film’s short 72 running time it’s packed with genuinely funny, though not always original sketches; making fun of low quality TV has been a staple of sketch comedy all the way from Monty Python to, say, Key & Peele.

Unfortunately the film falls apart as it tries to tug all the different threads into a coherent plot, relying on Lynchian nightmare logic to arrive at a conclusion. The ending makes very little sense and drags on far too long for a movie this short.

Best moment: Mark Proksch’s character smiling as he happily describes how a stained antique bowl was used in unsuccessful heart transplants.

Rating: 6/10

 

 

Uncut Gems

Howard has a lot of problems: he’s deeply in debt with dangerous mobsters, hopelessly addicted to gambling, and his marriage is failing. His fortunes are finally about to turn around though as he’s acquired an uncut gem (under mysterious circumstances) reportedly worth millions.

When NBA star Kevin Garnett shows up and sees the uncut gem, he insists on borrowing it as he thinks it’s a good luck charm. This triggers a series of events that send Howard further into his chaotic downward spiral.

What sets this movie apart is how it manages to ratchet up the tension for over two hours without much physical action. It’s more of a fast-paced drama than a traditional thriller. The synth-heavy soundtrack somehow pairs perfectly with the tone.

Best moment: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but everything about Adam Sandler’s performance as Howard is perfect. I suspect his reputation for lazy frat boy comedies may have unfairly turned audiences away from this one.

Rating: 10/10

 

 

Knives Out

Bestselling mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey died under strange circumstances after a family party at his creepy mansion. As it turns out Harlan has cut off the family financially, so almost everyone at the party has a reason to be angry with him — but would any of them resort to murder?

Private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a goofy southern accent) is hired to solve the murder, but by who? He doesn’t know, which presents a second path to investigate. Like any good “whodunnit” story there’s a lot of twists and turns — and the discovery of a secret passage — before the detective can unravel the mystery.

My only criticism is the movie takes its time in the beginning with a slow setup, though to be fair there’s a good balance between setup and payoff throughout this movie once it gets going.

Best moment: Detective Blanc using the novel “Gravity’s Rainbow” metaphorically, only to immediately reveal he’s never read it and suspects nobody else has either.

Rating: 8/10

 

 

Us

When a family travels to Santa Cruz for a vacation, the mother (Lupita Nyong’o) has flashbacks to her unsettling experience visiting the Beach Boardwalk as a child. Her concerns are brushed off… until a family of scissors-wielding doppelgangers appear outside their vacation home one night.

Us blends horror with social commentary and a few dashes of humor, which won’t be a surprise for those familiar with Jordon Peele’s previous film Get Out. This time around the same ingredients are much better prepared and presented.

Everything gets a little doughy in the middle of the movie when the characters start killing each other. After a certain point it feels like you could take a bathroom break and still know who killed who.

Best moment: Without spoiling it, the twist ending left me thinking about this movie for days. If you like this movie you’re going to want to see it a second time.

Rating: 8/10

Six most outrageous moments during the 2019 On Cinema Oscar Special

February 28th, 2019


 

Last Sunday I stayed home to watch an exciting live event: the 2019 On Cinema Oscar Special (video available here). What, did you think I’d waste time on the “real” Academy Awards?

I mentioned On Cinema here before — to sum it up it’s a tragic comedy about a pair of would-be movie critics, Tim and Gregg, and their many personality clashes. For a complete backstory of the On Cinema universe check out this article at Vulture.

Due to the outcome of a civil lawsuit Tim lost control of On Cinema last season. The Oscar Special was advertised with Gregg appearing as the movie expert and a new host by the name of Rafael Torres. How would this turn out? Could On Cinema possibly outdo itself again?

The short answer is yes. Here are the top six most outrageous moments in this year’s On Cinema Oscar Special.

Warning: spoilers!
 

6. Dekkar’s awful cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Tim often interrupts On Cinema with his latest music, much to Gregg’s chagrin. This time Tim’s band Dekkar reunites to perform a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which at the very least is on topic due to the Oscar nominations of a film of the same name. Unfortunately their performance is… well, it’s a train wreck. Tim’s vocals are slurred, off-key, and it’s unclear if he even knows most of the lyrics.

I might have rated this moment in the special higher if I hadn’t seen a similar version last month at their live show here in San Francisco. It’s a solid laugh, but like any joke it’s better the first time.

 

5. Gregg’s unmentioned reference to Scientology

In a segment called “Where The Stars Were Born,” Gregg shows us the birthplaces of various Hollywood actors using shaky footage he presumably shot on his phone.

Gregg casually displays recent footage of the former hospital where Jamie Lee Curtis was born without commenting on the fact that it’s now the Hollywood Scientology building. These days the building serves a rather different purpose for certain Hollywood celebrities, including Tim’s favorite actor Tom Cruise.

 

4. Tim’s entrance and latest conspiracy theory

During a pre-taped interview with Steve Carell, Tim is heard in the background forcing his way onto the set of the special. He barges on set with pepper spray and a gun-toting security guard/actor named Mike. Somehow Tim wins back Gregg’s trust despite having blocked all the doors and exits, accidentally hit everyone with pepper spray, and forbidden phone calls (especially to 911.) The official host Rafael retreats to his dressing room after being assaulted by Tim and won’t come out.

Tim demands they run a Q-Anon style conspiracy theory video he put together regarding the allegedly impending arrest of elite Hollywood liberals — at 7:10 PM, specifically — during the Academy Awards. Gregg immediately rejects this conspiracy. When Tim’s prediction doesn’t come to pass he blames his security guard for giving him bad information.

 

3. Tim’s latest quack medicine… or is it?

Lifting his shirt to reveal a suspicious vest, Gregg is initially concerned Tim is wearing a suicide bomb. But it turns out the vest is only loaded with magnets — for health reasons. Tim claims he bought the vest at Magnets.com, and the powerful magnets have finally cured his diarrhea.

At first this seems relatively benign compared to Tim’s many other questionable health choices. But after Tim takes a tour of Gregg’s archive of VHS tapes while wearing the vest, a new problem develops. More on that in a moment.

 

2. The Living Oscar

Celebrity impersonator Mark Proksch nearly died during an on-set accident in last year’s Oscar Special; since then he’s been in a coma under Gregg’s care. For a new series of “Live Oscar” segments Gregg dressed Mark’s limp body in a tight-fitting gold suit and propped him upright. Gregg asks the Living Oscar statue questions, answering them with sound clips from Mark’s past performances.

In the final Living Oscar segment Gregg activates a turntable under the stand. When Mark becomes tangled up in the tube for his breathing device, Tim rushes over to help, accidentally knocking Mark onto the floor. The fall causes Mark to snap out of his coma. Tim’s hardly a hero though as he still refuses to let anyone call 911.

 

1. The grand finale

Gregg’s intended final segment is a “live sequel” to the movie Kramer vs. Kramer. Unfortunately Gregg loses focus on the segment because his tape of the original Kramer vs. Kramer won’t play. After Joe Estevez points out Tim’s magnets might be the problem, Gregg fumbles and curses while trying to find if any tapes in his collection are still playable.

The episode wraps up with a distraught Gregg going through his tapes while Tim’s band mates from Dekkar arrive with more liquor. Dekkar performs two songs including the aforementioned Queen cover. Suddenly the police show up — almost as Tim predicted would happen at the real Academy Awards. Tim drunkenly escapes the premises before the police can catch up to him. The police have questions about “gold man” Mark, who’s still wearing the gold Oscar suit and has blood on his face. As the episode ends Gregg is clearly talking to one police officer about Tim’s crimes against his prized VHS collection.

 
Honorable mentions

There were a few pretty crazy, but not completely outrageous moments that didn’t make my top six cut. In no particular order:

  • Gregg interviews frequent On Cinema guest Joe Estevez. Meanwhile Tim gets drunk on spiked Mountain Dew and makes loud, obnoxious comments the entire time.
  • Tim eats raw noodles from a Cup Noodles with a crazed look on his face, at one point squeezing the cup so hard it explodes sending dry noodles everywhere.
  • Gregg’s obsession with the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies continue as he hires Hobbit-themed band “Thains Of The Shire” to play despite his own personal distaste in On Cinema’s music features. When Dekkar shows up they borrow Thains Of The Shire’s instruments and equipment without asking.
  • The “Whaleman 2020” shirt Tim wears as a reference not only to his cameo role in Ant Man And The Wasp, but also is a subtle dig at Gregg who had a cameo in the first Ant Man movie.

On Cinema Live in San Francisco

January 13th, 2019


 

Last night I went to a show I’ve meant to see for ages: On Cinema Live. This particular event was at the Palace of Fine Arts and is the first of On Cinema’s upcoming live tour — for that reason I’m going to try my best to avoid major spoilers of the live show here. That said I’m dropping many spoilers of On Cinema overall so stop now if you’d like to go back and watch it all first.
 

What is On Cinema? Well… it’s tough to explain. At the core it’s a dark, slow burn comedy disguised as a Siskel and Ebert style movie review show. The two main characters are:

  • Tim Heidecker (best known as half of the Tim & Eric comedy duo) plays a version of himself as a blowhard conservative with no attention span. He’s a big fan of Trump and also alternative medicine — but only because it’s not covered by Obamacare. Tim rarely watches the movies he reviews, and often struggles to pronounce the names of well-known actors.
  • Gregg Turkington (best known as off-the-rails stand up comic “Neil Hamburger”) plays a version of himself devoted to movie expertise. In practice he cares more about quantity than quality such as when he set out to watch 501 movies in 501 days. His pride and joy is his extensive collection of VHS tapes. Unfortunately for Gregg, Tim regularly destroys these VHS tapes; often accidentally. Gregg is simply billed as a “guest” rather than a co-host due to Tim’s out of control ego.

The best way to watch On Cinema is to start with Season 1 and work your way up to the latest episode. If you don’t want to invest the time just yet here’s a brief recap.
 

The story so far

First go watch this YouTube video. It quickly sums up the first eight seasons better than I could.

Since that video was put together a few things happened in the On Cinema universe.

Tim was put on trial when 20 teenagers were killed at his “Electric Sun Desert Music Festival” after using Dr. San’s vape system (Dr. San himself committed suicide before the trial.) Once in court Tim decided to represent himself. Tim wasted most of his time settling scores including bringing Star Trek writer Nicholas Meyer to the stand in order to best Gregg in a long standing debate about which Star Trek movie takes place in San Francisco. Eventually Tim “won” the trial due to a hung jury. Gregg didn’t buy it and accused Tim of bribing a juror.

Frequent collaborator Mark Proksch nearly died during the show’s most recent Oscar Special, and has been on life support ever since.

In the 10th season of On Cinema, Tim went full Alex Jones with a sponsorship from Rio-Jenesis, a questionable company promoting germ removal products. Partway through the season the show switched to “virtual reality” which gave viewers a 360 degree view. Clever viewers discovered if you flip around in Gregg’s filthy closet you can spot Mark Proksch in a vegetative state on a hospital bed. The season ended when the family of one of the the victims seized Tim’s assets including his sponsorship income. To add insult to injury, the new owners handed control of the show to Gregg. Tim lost it, destroying the show’s set in a fit of rage and angrily announced his run for district attorney of San Bernardino County as vengeance against the current DA who nearly bested him in court.

Following Gregg’s cameo in the first Ant-Man movie, Tim had a cameo in the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp.
 

The live show

Some first impressions: the place was packed. It hadn’t technically sold out but there weren’t many empty seats. I had no idea On Cinema had so many fans in the Bay Area.

In typical sketch format the show alternates between live performances and prerecorded videos to allow time for costume and stage changes.

My general observations:

  • Aside from Tim and Gregg, Joe Estevez appears on stage along with Tim’s Dekkar band mates Axiom and Manuel. Other characters appear on video.
  • Much to Gregg’s annoyance Tim insists on several music performances. Dekkar performed their “hits” along with two covers. Tim’s act as an incompetent rock star faking his way to success seems even funnier after someone tried to do this in real life.
  • The merchandise stand integrated into the show. Even if you don’t want a t-shirt or a hat it’s worth stopping by to participate.
  • The pacing was absolutely perfect. A lot of the show is improvised and some of the audience’s biggest laughs were Tim’s repeated failures to stifle his own laughter at Gregg’s potshots.

Some observations about On Cinema coming to San Francisco:

  • Predictably Tim and Gregg bickered about whether it was Star Trek II or Star Trek IV that takes place in San Francisco. I’ll let you decide.
  • Tim joked about taking one audience member to North Beach for an Italian meal. Gregg said fans could find him tomorrow at the Sundance Kabuki.
  • When Joe referred to mayor London Breed as “he,” Tim immediately stepped in to correct him.
  • Tim ended the show in character complaining about “San Francisco values.”

 

In honor of Gregg’s fascination with running times, the show ran about two hours and twenty minutes including an intermission.

Overall this is the funniest live show I’ve ever seen. Somehow the sheer absurdity of On Cinema is full throttle at a live show, yet unless you’ve watched the YouTube series and the companion show Decker there’s a lot of material that may fly over your head.

The live show brought its tongue-in-cheek online bickering into the real world. On the internet fans typically either side with Tim (Timheads) or Gregg (Greggheads.) Hardcore fans in the audience ate this up, frequently shouting at the stage to support their favorite character or to scorn the other.
 

My recommendation: The live show is a perfect extension of this quirky series — fans will love it. If you’re unfamiliar with it, each episode of On Cinema is only around ten minutes. You’ll know if this is for you or not after watching a couple episodes.

Remembering the Red Vic Movie House

July 30th, 2011


 

In spite of their uncomfortable seats and strange popcorn toppings, many of us have fond memories of Haight Street’s Red Vic Movie House, which closed forever on Monday after more than 30 years.

Their silent “Dishes” video (above) was of course shown prior to every film. It served as a reminder to not make a mess and to return your popcorn bowl after the film. Otherwise, of course, you might find yourself pulled under the seat in front of you down into the depths of hell. An important lesson for us all.

But what really made the Red Vic memorable wasn’t just their funny film bumper or their selection of cult classic films — it was the guests who showed up. For example, when I first saw mumblecore classic “Funny Ha Ha,” director Andrew Bujalski stuck around to answer questions and just hang out with us in the audience. That sort of interaction between filmmaker and audience was the rule, not the exception at the Red Vic. You rarely find that at any other theater.

And that’s why the Red Vic will be missed.

Trick question!

July 18th, 2010

“Angelina Jolie”
“SALT”
“Who is salt?”

…um, is this a trick question?