This is the most intense game of “Hollywood Squares” I’ve ever seen.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, M. Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer
2011’s X-Men: First Class is that rarest of things: a prequel that works. Full of snap crackle pop, First Class breathed new life into Marvel’s soggy mutant movie franchise (now fifteen years old) and emboldened 20th Century Fox to put together a sequel wherein an X-Man goes back in time and tries to erase the stuff from the original movies nobody liked. Actually, the heroes in Days Of Future Past seem to want to snuff out the first three X-Men films entirely, and who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully in an upstate New York mansion, teaching little childrens and apple picking in your spare time, instead of living on the run out of some military grade jet while humanity and other evil mutants are constantly nipping at your heels?
The line between good and evil is in truth a tad blurry in Days Of Future Past; yes, Wolverine (Jackman) travels to 1973 to prevent the assassination that kicks off humankind’s war on the mostly benign mutant species, but he also enlists a minor to help him break an incarcerated Magneto (Fassbender) out of his Pentagon jail cell. You see, in the future, Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto have buried their hatchet, and they convince Wolv that he needs to get them together in ’73 to make sure everything’s on lock. It should come as no surprise that young Magneto, whose personal allegiances similarly blow around like a windsock, decides at a critical juncture to take matters into his own hands, gumming up the entire ballgame.
And then there’s shape-shifter Mystique (Lawrence), the assassinator, convinced she has to kill her target (a gov’t contractor who builds giant mutant-hunting robots) no matter how many people from her past or her future show up. Nobody can convince her this shooting kicks off a major human/mutant conflict. They should have just cracked open a history book for her. Hey dumb dumb, ever hear of Archduke Ferdinand? Pearl Harbor? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda? You know, I won’t fault you for missing that quote, you were busy with infinitely better movies when the Jedi master dropped that one.
Though clumsy in places, Days Of Future Past serves up a pretty fun slip through time and delivers everything you want in an X-Men movie: Wolverine whuppin’ up on dudes, Mystique whuppin’ up on dudes, political intrigue, a few yuks, a take on Richard Nixon that would be at home on “MADtv,” and tender bromance moments between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the aged Xavier and Magneto (respectively). If you don’t like it, don’t worry: at some point Days Of Future Past will be retconned out of existence just like every other comic property, because that’s the way this business works.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half funky ’70s duds (out of four).
“Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial”: Three episode docudrama focusing on the infamous post-war prosecution’s most interesting defendants: the business man who was only sort of a Nazi but still took accountability b/c he knew no one else would, the Nazi second to Hitler who claimed no knowledge of the Holocaust and was apparently very taken aback by what the trial revealed, and the Nazi who believed the Jewish people had hypnotized him into being rude to waiters and that’s why he sided with his country. Fascinating peak into this chapter of history but not the full tale. If you’re anything like me it’ll make you want to read a few books.
“The Amish: Shunned”: Can you believe we’ve had a period of culture we could call Amish sensationalism? This episode of American Experience is far from that—just an honest account of what some individuals go through as they float between strict Amish society and our modern landscape. I felt it in my heart when the one girl decides to return to Amish life but laments how much she’ll miss music.
Supermensch: Alice Cooper’s manager has had a pretty bonkers life. Stumbled his way into working with several icons at once, more or less invented celebrity chefdom, is still searching for love. Mike Myers directed this doc; he definitely needs to direct a few more.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey: Classic rock band needs new singer, they scour the Internet, find some kid on YouTube many worlds away. Entertaining enough. I was more intrigued by the sight of Neal Schon in a Clash t-shirt. Had Joe Strummer lived would they have collaborated?
Radio Unnameable: The story of free form deejay Bob Fass, another great piece of everlasting New York City weirdness. You WILL be soothed by his dulcet vocal tones, you WILL want to live in the world of harmony and love he tries to create. Also, you WILL cringe the moment you hear Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s forgotten ode to King Kong ’76.
I burned through all eight episodes of “Other Space” last night. The selling point for people in my demo (thirty-somethings who spent the nineties glued to basic cable) is the reemergence of Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu as far out space nuts. Sure, it’s a thrill to watch these two spoof their “MST3K” personas, but the rest of the cast is equally great (particularly Karan Soni as the insecure boy captain). Amusing concepts, snappy dialogue, a sassy robot—what more do you want from a free program on Yahoo! Screen?
If you liked “NewsRadio” but wished it was in space and Joe Rogan wasn’t involved, stop wasting your time and go devour “Other Space.” Jimbob gives it three and a half stars. Check it out.
– the first half of this doc (covering Cobain’s frenetic childhood and rise to pop culture ubiquity) is more engaging and interesting than the latter, though the back end helps humanize the Kurt who descended into tragedy (not to mention his widow Courtney Love, an immensely likable figure throughout Heck, even when discussing drug use during her pregnancy [and she was right, her kid turned out fine])
– the Scanner Darkly style animated segments, while very richly detailed and atmospheric, ultimately feel too clean (read: too Hollywood) for the rest of the film’s aesthetic (read: notebook scrawled punk rock anarchy)
– there are no revelations here concerning Kurt’s personality or approach to life; it all just reinforces how difficult the world can be for ultra altruistic and/or ultra idealistic figures, especially when they have major aspirations
– I’m enormously satisfied this prestige work includes that hilarious circa ’91 footage of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic videotaping himself in the rest room of an airplane, joking about “this bird [goin’] down”
– it was cool at the end when they credited every person who ever passed through Nirvana equally
– the worst thing you can say about Montage Of Heck is that it gets a little repetitive and ends abruptly—of course, this simply mirrors Kurt’s final years, so maybe this entire exercise is perfectly honest and unflinching
– as sad a figure as Kurt Cobain seems this documentary does a great job proving he could be just as funny and light-hearted as anyone else; in fact, his wit seemed so quick I could easily see him holding his own on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” next to Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles; I for one would have lovingly embraced Kurt Cobain, Improv Comic
– it’s inevitable another doc on Kurt or Nirvana will be produced someday, but after Heck it shouldn’t be (Obama can secure his legacy by making this an executive order or constitutional amendment or whatever process this country uses to legislate movies about grunge)
– I’ve never been a huge Eagles fan and this three hour doc didn’t change that, though now I’m inclined to give them respect for being another band committed to their own sound; they never kowtowed to industry pressure, they just kept doin’ that Eagles thang and let success land on them
– three hours and not one reference to the “Desperado”/”Witchy Woman” plot lines on “Seinfeld”; guess most of the Eagles weren’t too thrilled with all that
– I want to say I can’t believe there was a period where these guys had their own baseball jackets emblazoned with an “E” on the front but they also had their own plane so maybe matching jackets weren’t so crazy
– I love how proud Glenn Fry is that Cameron Crowe immediately thought of him when he was trying to figure who could play a jerkier dude than Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire
– Don Henley gives off a R’as al Ghul vibe during his talking head portions (it could just be the goatee and black turtleneck)
– at one point Glenn Fry refers to Don Felder as “the biggest asshole” in the Eagles; maybe he’s right, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but I’m taking Felder’s side for now because he’s the only one in the doc who tears up while discussing all this discord (I also disagree with Fry’s assertion he and Henley deserved more cash for the reunion b/c they had solo hits)
– there are two guys named Don in this band, what are the goddamn odds?
– Timothy B. Schmit seems like a Jon Wurster character
– it hit me in the feels when they showed that note Joe Walsh’s kids wrote about how proud they are of him
– Linda Ronstadt seems cool; shame she’s too sick to sing anymore
– as suspected, they play one of those guitars with two necks on “Hotel California” (b/c hiring a fourth guitarist would have just been fucking nuts)
– this post is largely a reaction to episode three of the “Henry & Heidi” podcast wherein the titular Henry (Rollins) talks through the history of Rollins Band, a welcome discussion considering how often this group is neglected
– Rollins Band is a great example of how working hard and sticking to your guns always pays off in the long run, by which I mean you can play dissonant funk metal in your boxers and if you’re honest and don’t cop out eventually they’ll put you on MTV and the Grammys and Dennis Miller’s talk show
– during this oral recap Henry does not even give passing mention to the handful of years at the tail end of Rollins Band where Mother Superior was his backing group; this must mean the two albums from that period, Get Some Go Again and Nice, are to be considered non-canon
– re-evaluating the entire RB discography, End Of Silence has my favorite textures and moods, and overall it’s one of the most solid rock albums of its era, but when the urge to hear this unit strikes me the gut reaction is to reach for Drive By Shooting b/c it’s looser, darker, more “out there” (in filmspeak: Scorsese is the master but the slapdash of Tarantino is a bit more fun)
– interesting to learn about the heavy stuff going on circa Come In And Burn; you’d never know it from their 1997 “SNL” appearance, which belongs in the pile of that show’s legendary musical performances; first time I saw them rip through “Starve” in 8H I thought they were gonna melt the studio’s walls
– surprise: Rollins Band didn’t even want to record “Liar,” their biggest hit; it was just some goof song they did at practices until some industry person heard it and said, “That’s your next single!”
– when I saw Rollins Band in ’02 they were in a period where they weren’t playing “Liar,” which bummed me out, but they did encore with a handful of Ramones songs; if you think Rollins is intense normally you should see the guy doing “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Henry’s preamble to “BB”: “If I’m ever elected president, this will be the new national anthem”)
– trigger warning: if you listen to the podcast ep linked above, before you hear anything about Rollins Band you’re gonna hafta endure a somewhat gross story about Rollins having a hernia and not realizing it
– watching this special you’d never know exactly how rebellious “Saturday Night Live” was at its inception or various other points in history; every clip package was a parade of smash cuts set to a steady beat, like a home run highlight reel, which robbed many classic moments of the comedic tension that made them so memorable in the first place; three and a half hours and they didn’t even show the very first “SNL” sketch in its entirety (“I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines”), the program’s mission statement, still one of the weirdest things that’s ever been on television
– there was so much hoo-ha about Eddie Murphy making an appearance, finally burying whatever cold hatchet he had with “SNL”/his “SNL” legacy, but he didn’t do anything, he just came out and expressed some gratitude while making very awkward clapping gestures; maybe Eddie does have a disease that prevents him from being funny these days
– Joe Piscopo seemed as stiff and unhappy as the real elderly Sinatra; I’m sure he was hoping for a tearful on camera reunion with Murphy; I’m sure he burst a blood vessel during Chris Rock’s monologue about Murphy being “SNL’s” Superman (Rock wasn’t wrong, though)
– Wayne’s World remains the most profitable “SNL” spin-off so we’re going to have to endure Wayne and Garth reunion sketches (no matter how pointless or meandering) until Mike Myers and Dana Carvey are both dead (if Carvey dies first I’d put major cash on Myers replacing him with Bill Hader); I wish they’d let the characters age, I’m far more interested to see Wayne at fifty
– Kanye seemed pretty excited to be caught in Wayne’s World
– the best part of “SNL 40” was of course an unscripted moment: Norm Macdonald trying to swerve the Chevy Chase introduction into the nearest ditch, a fine reminder of how brutally unsentimental the show can be (times like that are when “SNL” is tops) and how you can always rely on Norm
– related to that last point: it was wild to see the varying levels of talent on display, in the sense that you have to give Fred Armisen some kind of prop or character but Norm or Bill Murray can just come out and be themselves and everyone’s delighted
– it was cool to see Jane Curtain Weekend Updating with Tina and Amy
– it was cool to see Ellen Cleghorne
– it was not cool to see famous people “covering” their favorite characters
– I don’t know how to feel about Miley Cyrus as an entertainer or a human but she clearly has talent, by which I mean she made me give a shit about a Paul Simon song; I’d buy that rendition on vinyl
– the audience kept the applause at fair levels throughout the dead person montage; doesn’t feel like anyone was slighted, and they chose really wonderful/wonderfully evocative photos of each figure
– all those fucking montages and not one devoted entirely to the rich history of musical performance on “SNL”; sorry, legendary artists who so often were the only bits of the program worth watching, this “Californians” sketch has to be eight decades long
– ego probably prevented a lot of great comedy from happening
– “SNL” has constructed a successful enough business model that it may never go off the air; I’d like it to, only to see if another comedic incubator of its caliber would ever come along
– what a shame [obscure cast member] didn’t get any shoutouts