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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bojack Horseman Review: Dark Horse Comic.

I gotta say, I did not expect to write a review about this. I only liked the show, usually I need a stronger reaction than that to get me tuh' writtin'. But the critical reaction being as tepid as it is, I feel the need to wade in amongst the "mehs" and shine a light on what this show does well. Which is plenty.

Will Arnett plays an anthropomorphic horse who's trajectory in the entertainment business went from struggling comedian, to long running sitcom lead in "Horsin' Around," to a solitary has-been who's self aware enough to want to change, but too much of a coward to do anything about it. Yeah, this show gets existential. Darkly so.

You can blink and miss 4 second gags about Bojack waving his hand over a stove top muttering "nothing on the outside, nothing on the inside" that are just fast enough to be funny, yet manage to add just a touch more character depth. Like the director just dropped an ice cube down your back. It's surprising in the moment, and it's funny in retrospect. But if he just held the ice to the back of your neck, it'd be painful. In some respects this method works a hell of a lot better than most straight dramas I've seen. Bojack does this again and again. It lured me into thinking it was another Mission Hill (the most thunderously boring animated series yet unleashed upon the world) but would routinely sneak in either clever anthropomorphized animal gags (maggot morticians, paparazzi birds, penguin publishers, middle aged women as lap dogs, a wolf in a bar wearing a t-shirt that just says SHEEP while hitting on one, I could go on... it's marvelous.)  or decent story beats and dialogue.

This is a show meant to be paused and savored.
The voice cast is talented enough that footage of the taping session would almost be enough for me. Seriously, where has Amy Sedaris been? If nothing else, her character guaranteed a Colbert cameo. But as Bojack's agent Princess Caroline (did you guess she's a cat?) she gets more depth in one season than Lois Griffin has had in 5. In fact, her boyfriend near the end of the season is my favorite running gag in a long time. Aaron Paul is, unfortunately, playing a slightly more well adjusted Jessie. But he plays it so well I didn't mind. And while most of the time the show struggles to find something for him to do, they usually pull it off. Just wait until "Boreanaz house" before passing judgment.

What else? Stanley Tucci is great as Bo's old showrunner/back stabbed best friend. Paul F. Tompkins tears it up as golden retriever, Mr. Peanut butter. He's dim, over eager, stupendously vain, yet you can't stop loving him. There is simply no better analogy for a dumb, pretty boy, actor than a golden retriever.  Which  brings us to Alison Brie's, Diane. As well as a great low key performance from her. There's not a lot to say about her barring spoilers, except she's Bo's ghostwriter as well as the near central source of conflict for the season. For those of you that think she could never really swim in the deep waters of mad men, I say that you should watch what she does here. A charming, three dimensional, love interest that could carry the show on her own.

Intellectually I can accept this show will be rule 34'd... but emotionally I cannot.

I don't think I'm overselling how damn good the acting is, but there are serious issues that hold it back. Small, but consistent things. It's true there's a lot in common with this and Californication, and in terms of basic structure I don't think it branched out enough. It's also true it never got a real "belly laugh" from me either. Just bemused snickering, not that it's a bad thing, I just wish it went for bigger laughs a few times.

But unlike Californication, where there must have been a clause in Duchovny's contract that forced his character to always be at least slightly badass, Bojack is allowed to be pathetic. It's depths of pathetication is the single most interesting thing the show does. The monologue at the end of episode 11 cut through me like butter. A passionate demand that the person on stage "like" him. Not "marry" him, not "love" him, just think highly enough about his capacity for humanity to simply enjoy being around him. It's a spectacular monologue. One that exempts this show from a low score entirely on it's own. It was more moving that anything Zach Braff has ever managed to cobble together... but that's not selling my point much, is it?  

Let me leave you with this. There's a lot in this show that have been done before as well as a few things in there that have been done to death. But what it does well (the acting, the story, the relatable existentialism) is so well done, by the end of the season I could barley notice the warts anymore. Remember how irritating it was on Family Guy when Brian would just unleash a diatribe or whiny monologue out of nowhere? Bojack Horseman is structured to earn those moments. It even writes them more coherently. Simply put, clinical depression has never been more entertaining. 

...That's praise.

Also I love the opener just... so much:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mr. Stewart's Opus.

Remember last year when John Stewart left the Daily Show for the summer and made that movie? I've been trying to put it out of my mind for some time now. I the show and I love John Stewart. I feel like he's a pretty good judge of character and has a spectacularly minimal tolerance for bullshit. So I'd hate to see his heart break over all this.

I can't find the exact clip, but a few months ago I remember him just riffing off on how something you think is going to be pretty good, ends up being embarrassing. He was joking, but it was obvious that the post production prognosis did. Not. Look. Good.

No one really tries to make a bad movie, it just something that happens. Making anything that gets released is incredibly difficult. So the trailer for Rosewater was released and... I can see it. I can see  the inkling of grandiose hokyness (the last thing this story needs) in some of the lines.

But there's something else too. The lead is acting his ass off. The interrogator isn't some slobbering sub-human. I could see this being pretty good.

See for yourself:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The agony and the ecstasy of the getting the perfect entertainment system set up.

Apparently in some places internet can be set up over the phone! My new apartment complex is one such place. After hearing horror stories of my west coast friends dealing with Comcast, Time Warner was shockingly, shockingly, friendly and helpful. This was a refreshing change of pace from my simple internet life out in the sticks. Apparently being a stone's throw away from Duke University has it's perks... 

I've also been meaning to get back to the crackpot, but I've also been busy moving in/getting pimp slapped by Best Buy/Best Buy employees just doing their job. And I am just this close to a comfortable living room set up that's also physically attached to the monster PC in the other room.

You see, I pride myself on not being a dick neighbor, and last night while testing out my new TV with The Winter Soldier (at 11:00) I failed miserably. As soon as I heard the first angry out-of-bed foot stomp I knew I fu**ed up. I can change that. I want to change that. It should be stupefyingly simple to change that.

Not so.

Radio Shack had only half the parts I needed, the rest have to be ordered special. All to plug my PC into a TV in the next room and have headphone capability. It's taken an extra $80 and 6 trips to Best Buy and Radio Shack collectively. Granted half of that is negligence on my part, but I can't be the only person that wants this... can I? 

Yet seeing a maxed out Far Cry 3 at 1080p on a 32 inch screen for the first time makes up for all of it.


And soon my rig can stay comfortably perched on my desk while I switch screens and furniture with ease.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Crackpot has gone dark....

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to set up an internet connection at my new apartment. And while I know some of you out there can write novels on your damn i-phones, it's almost physically painful  for me.

I like my new digs though...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rectify is... really damn good.

Apparently the Sundance channel is in on the shockingly good original series game. Something that just seems to be happening a lot lately. Outlander is getting some good press, it's production value is excellent, it's story is fun, it's cast uniformly excellent... but I don't know. In two episodes there have been at least 4 sultry "nurse the charming soldier back to health" scenes. They've been well done, but I know when I'm not the target audience, and that's ok.

It's really slow, too. Agonizingly slow.

But Rectify! That's what I'm here to talk about.  Remember Labor Day? That face-palmingly awful Jason Reitman movie where an escaped conflict is Jesus Christ? Rectify is like that if it was almost 100X more believable. And enjoyable.

Daniel has served 19 years on death row, sentenced when he was 18 to a Georgia prison. The tireless efforts of his sister have turned up inconclusive DNA evidence and released him from his cell. Though the local State senator made his career on the Holden case and he will be damned if it's overturned. It's pretty good stuff so far, but sprinkle in a stepfather that Daniel's mother married 9 years into his sentence, a teenage half brother, and the fact that you don't know if he's really innocent, and this becomes something far greater than the sum of it's parts.

It's no masterpiece... yet. But brother, it's the best southern drama I've seen in a good long while.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Five Nights at Freddy's: Creepy-Pizza.

Why does a duck need any teeth, let alone two sets?! One of them looks awfully human...
There's something about age that can somehow make horror games... scarier. I think that's why Silent Hill 2 is still the de-facto masterpiece it is today. You can't make out much on the polygon count of 2002 era monsters and that's a good thing.

Five Night's at Freddy's looks like cheap, pre-rendered, shovelware from the late 90's and it's a pretty brilliant design choice, if you ask me. If you want to sell "cheap" and "other worldly" this art style nails it in spades. But what the hell is this game anyway? It's kind of a resource management affair. You can control a few light switches and two reinforced steel doors... but why would you need to control lights and two reinfroced steel doors? I'm getting to that.

You've been hired as a night watchman at a hellish Chuck e. Cheese rip off. You're are paid $120 a night to watch a bunch of animatronic animals on closed circuit tv...

You can see where this is going:

I think it looks great; if playing "weeping angels" with the inbreed homunculus offspring of everyone's favorite cheese eating rat sounds like it's worth $5 to you, I say pounce.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm Officially a Professional Journalist!

After a bit of a wait, I've finally been compensated for my work at Durham's Herald Sun. For the very first time, my English degree has produced tangible results! It does not suck, this feeling.

It does not suck.