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Whether you like metal or not...
I highly recommend this show. I don't qualify that by saying 'if you like metal', that's not necessary. It is, however, aimed at people who like adult cartoons.
In this age of South Park and Family Guy, people shouldn't be shocked by the sight of animated gore that is found in Metalocalypse. And by gore, I don't mean simply seeing blood spattering around the screen. A dream sequence has one character having his head cleanly cleft down the middle, showing a detailed cutaway view of his cranial whatnots. The gore is one area of the show the creators are getting decidedly creative about. Gore, and inept reconstruction, like in the song 'Sewn Back Together Wrong'. It's a running theme here, ancillary characters that manage to survive their first show often reappear sporting cobbled together artificial appendages.
The big draw, for me at least, is the characterization and dialogue. The show revolves around the five members of the fictional heavy metal band Dethklok, each with his own unique, and identifiable quirks. Skwisgar is my favorite, a nihilistic prima donna who just wants to live the rock star life. Murderface is repellent yet fascinating. A tension-filled ball of insecurity and self-hatred. The singer Nathan is huge and scary-looking, and an enthusiastic booster of all things dark and brutal. Toki seems perfectly innocent, still smarting from his overly strict upbringing, and Pickles seems the most normal of the bunch, providing a personality we can most easily identify with, albeit with a strange 'skullet' hairdo and a thick midwestern accent.
These five are virtually inseparable, and their overlapping, back and forth dialogue provide most of the humor here. The two Scandinavians struggle with English still, making them even more quotable. Together they create a group dynamic that really feels lived in, like they've been dealing with each other for years.
I first found out about this show by seeing the DVD set in the stores. I liked the idea of a metal-themed cartoon, but figured it was just pandering to the metal-heads. I made a point to see it on Adult Swim and found out how good it actually is. Brendon Small is a co-creator, and provides many of the voices and he also writes and performs the original music in the show. He clearly has a great love of metal, putting together a collection of songs good enough to make him an established artist in his own right.
Adult cartoons have been improving by leaps and bounds the last 10 years. South Park is far better now than when it started out, and the other new series that come out now are usually more ambitious and creative than they used to be. It's hard to imagine that the Simpsons seemed so subversive when they started. Supposedly the Flintstones were considered a walk on the wild side back in the day. This is the state of the American cartoon art now, and it's well worth a serious look. It's smart, it's creative, and it shows us things most of us hadn't seen before.
And it's really, really funny.
Looking back on this film in a post Betty/Prada world.
First off, I must say that I am not the likely audience for a film like this. I know almost nothing about fashion and have difficulty getting into documentaries. I did see this years ago, about the time it hit video, and while I liked Isaac, the movie didn't hold my interest.
Fast forward to 2008, I've been watching Ugly Betty for two seasons. It is another unlikely choice for me, but it's over the top enough to be fun. Everyone around me loves The Devil Wears Prada, so I've seen that several times as well.
Then Unzipped reappears on satellite TV, and as I watch it I see a first hand look at the world that Betty and Devil are only reflecting. Seeing it in this context I found a whole new appreciation for this movie. It's interesting, funny and dramatic in places, and it's beautifully shot. Maybe there are a lot of documentary clichés at work here, but who better to give the glamorous black and white treatment to than supermodels and fashionistas? It works, extremely well, now I understand better where it comes from. Why settle for an 'inspired by' Anna Wintour when you can have the real thing? Anyway, I'll be getting this on DVD to add to my expanding fashion-themed section. Who knew?
The Sarah Silverman Program. (2007)
Once you get it, it's great!
When I first saw this show, I thought it looked interesting. I watched it, saw how it revolved around Sarah, like the character sees the world...revolving around her. I got it, but wasn't laughing very much.
Onstage and in her show, she's racist, crude, insensitive and hugely self-centered. I didn't get her at first, and took it all at face value. Then I got to see her movie, Jesus is Magic. I think that served as a Sarah Silverman primer for me, explaining to me just what 'language' she's speaking. She's like Marilyn Manson, working so hard to give us a faceful of horrible ideas and images, but you eventually realise it isn't an assault, it's a statement. And once you understand that, you find you're glad someone's finally giving it to you straight.
I don't mean to suggest only smart people will understand, or that to hate this show is to prove your idiocy. While I like a lot of 'smart' shows, I still to this day do not see the humor of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I get the impression that it's good, but I just don't get it. Many people will never get the Sarah Silverman Program, but I'm glad I eventually came around.
The creators of this show do work hard, every episode is loaded not just with dialogue and plot, but with songs, or dream sequences, production numbers. These people aren't putting together something to fill a time slot and please advertisers, they appear to be on a mission to make the best show they can put together. If I was to predict the future of this show, I'd say it will go the way of Arrested Development and Freaks & Geeks. It will get canceled before it's time and live on in fans' hearts and on DVD. But take heart, SSP creators, your audience IS out there, and we'll be watching for as long as they let you make the show.
The last scene
I just finished watching this movie on VH1 Classic, and I'll definitely be getting the DVD tomorrow. Fantastic documentary loaded with interviews with mostly pertinent people. It is well written from a more intellectual, anthropological point of view, but not so high minded as to alienate anyone.
At the end of all this, in the last scene, the writer-director sums up his conclusions, and is followed by sound bites from the various musicians' interviews. This is played over a lingering shot of a crowd at a metal show, moshing, fists pumping in the air, devil horn salutes flying. And playing behind it all is Metallica's Master of Puppets, first the quiet intro - leading into the various movements while the sun glints through the knotted mass of arms. It's a fantastic moment that ties up the entire film and leads into the closing credit sequence that runs up the screen as Metallica's magnum opus builds its inevitable head of steam.
The final analysis was something to the effect of 'either you get it or you don't'. I'm a lifelong metalhead, myself. My impression was that they got it, they understand the soul of it and explained it perfectly. I can't say if it will change any minds, but it's a good thing to watch for those of you getting ready to pass judgments.
Good for headbangers and for the metal-curious.
Seven Up! (1964)
Only two movies in and I'm drawn in completely
I've read about this series elsewhere and was always curious to see it. Thanks to an internet movie rental chain I've now seen 7 Up and 7 + 7, and the rest of the series is queued up and ready to ship. I can't wait.
Viewers who are not used to the various English accents will likely be struggling to understand what some of the kids are saying in the first movie, 7 Up, but it's a short film, and deserves repeated viewing. My vague memories of previous reviews of this series suggest that this may be the most lighthearted of the series. While it is fascinating for many reasons, it is also vastly enjoyable just for the experience of the 7 year-olds' high spirits and humor.
It's jarring when you get your first look at 7 + 7, which revisits most of the kids 7 years later. Their individuality, only hinted at in the first movie, is obvious in these now-14 year-olds. As a parent I feel that familiar combination of the sadness at the loss of the child and anticipation of the future adult. Here we run through this in a matter of minutes.
As it stands now, the series goes as far as 42 Up, somehow turning these frolicking little kids into my peers in the space of a few hours. (I've always been a sucker for special effects.) This series is unlike anything that came before it, and while a quick scan of titles suggests that it's been imitated since, I'm waiting to see what happens to this particular group.
Arrested Development (2003)
Strange, Fox's promos almost made me miss out on this whole thing.
It's a sit-com made with very high standards, it's a career revival for Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Liza Minelli, and it's a show that puts Fox's profile into HBO territory. "It's Arrested Development"
"In fact...", a Ron Howard quote that has become a cliché around our house, in fact, it's all those things and more. The writing is as good as everyone says it is, the cast is on par with that of Seinfeld or Roseanne. (Say what you will about her, that was a dream cast) Whenever new characters appear, they are inevitably played by people familiar to fans of edgy, intelligent humor. People like Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman are dependably good, Michael Cera is a standout, and David Cross is finally being seen for the talent that he is.
The strongest thing I can say about this is that I find myself repeating various running gags, things that, like "In fact...", have become clichés. "I've made a huge mistake." "I'm having the time of my LIFE in here!" "surprisingly cat-like" "Take a powder, willya fellas?"
This last one, uttered by Liza Minelli as Lucille Austero, sticks with me especially, and I hope that Liza stays with the show longer. As good as the principles are, she manages to outclass even them. The same with Henry Winkler, whose Barry Zuckercorn is the sort of lawyer television's been dying for. Among those main players, Lindsay and Tobias are pretty strange characters to begin with, but when you consider that they are an old married couple, that crosses the line into the bizarre. This show is full of people and situations you just won't see anywhere else, at least until other derivative shows start appearing.
Watch carefully, as there are many bit and pieces lingering in the background that you might miss. Recently, George Michael was dumped by his girlfriend. As he trudged home in a state of misery, you could hear sad Charlie Brown music. In the background, you could see a real - but bright red - dog house, with a real dog lying on top of it. It's things like these that tell me that the creators are just pleased to be doing this show for it's own sake, and that kind of love of the work shows through in the end.
Who knows if this show will last? There's an audience out there for this sort of thing, but they've generally settled into the Sunday night HBO schedule. Hopefully the Emmys, the word of mouth, and the critical raves will draw attention to this show. If not, we'll just have our A.D. dvds to keep us warm, and thank God for 'em!
Will & Grace (1998)
Great show, great cast, great writing
Will & Grace is a great show and will continue to be so even after its gay theme loses its novelty. The writing is usually great, sometimes exceptional, the hour long flashback episode was the best thing I saw in the 2000/2001 TV season. But I would credit the cast most of all. Eric McCormack is (comparatively) subtle and nuanced as Will, Megan Mullally bizarre and sharp as Karen, but I reserve my highest praise for Debra Messing and Sean Hayes. Hayes' Jack is endlessly energetic, always plotting, and watching Hayes' performance is like watching a Van Halen guitar solo, almost too fast to follow but every note perfect. Debra Messing's Grace seems to be the character that everything happens to, and you can see every bit of it on her face. Her bio tells of her extensive arts education, and it shows. If there's ever been another Lucille Ball, it would have to be Debra Messing. Will & Grace has all the necessary sitcom ingredients: interesting situations, hilarious comedy, and characters you care about.