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Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
One more review for the pile
I read a whole host of reviews on this site before renting this film, and despite all the warnings, I gave it a chance. Hell, I gave this film more than a chance. I had low expectations but this collection still failed to impress. First of all, I can't even believe some of the reviewers on here had to point out that the shorts are, in fact, connected. Wow, really? With every sketch featuring coffee and cigarettes, dialogue that is reiterated in a number of sketches, and every single damn sketch dealing with a part of the spectrum of social awkwardness; interpreting the themes in this film and making your own connections does not make you an appreciator of finer things, no it merely confirms that you aren't completely retarded.
So let's get off our high horse and stop using the words "metaphysical", "surreal", and "existential" for a moment, and look at what this film does have to offer. Yes, the Molina/Coogan sketch is absolutely brilliant and hilarious. Had this been the only short released to the public, then I never would have anything bad to say about Jarmusch. The Iggy Pop/Tom Waits meeting comes in a close second comedy-wise. Not just a piece of great casting, Waits gives such a natural performance that takes dry humor to a whole new level. Cate Blanchett's dual role is pretty cool and fun to watch, but compared to Nic Cage's dual role in Adaptation (which also came out in 03), this doesn't even come close.
Beyond those three sketches, I don't know what to say. Bill Murray gives a great performance that is ruined by two rappers who clearly needed better direction, there's a sketch titled "Renee" that sets up a character who is almost OCD about her coffee and then goes nowhere with it, "Those Things'll Kill Ya" plays like a scrapped Seinfeld sketch, "Twins" features more bickering that is clearly meant to be comical but never works because there is no chemistry between the actors (who are twins for Christ's sake). I could go on but its a waste of time. The problem is that Jarmusch keeps trying to tell a joke, gets halfway there, and then abandons the punchline because he's trying to paint a bigger picture. It's like sitting through 90 minutes of someone saying, "Knock knock, who's there? We all get defensive when we're uncomfortable". And there is the biggest problem. This was never meant to be released as a movie. There's a lot to like about these sketches individually. Lots of tiny little nuances in the acting and very subtle humor that works for the short film format. But these should have been released on Youtube for people to discover on their own, not as a film that has a character deliver a nice hamfisted epiphany at the end.
A couple diamonds in a lot of rough
As a whole, Idiocracy is a pretty bad movie. The narration, for starters, really dumbs things down, which isn't the smartest thing to put in a movie that is about dumbing down. The last half hour is virtually laugh free and also very stupid. And Maya Rudolph, despite being one of the main characters, could have been cut from the film completely and you wouldn't even know anything was missing. Not to mention her whole prostitute gag isn't even remotely funny, yet she commands a significant amount of screen time, sucking the life out of the movie frame by frame.
So why a 7 out of 10? Because despite its numerous flaws, its been nearly a year since I've first seen Idiocracy and I still regularly quote the movie and it still comes up in conversations between my friends and I.
In Idiocracy's future of the damned, there are some over the top ideas of what a low IQ society would be like. And in present day America, I regularly see things that aren't too far off. For instance, in Idiocracy, Carl's Jr. offers everything with "Big Ass Fries!" Almost by coincidence, Idiocracy contains a shot of Fuddrucker's, which has menus that downplay their sensibly sized burgers but champion their "will cause diabetes" sized items. I'm pretty sure that if you order a salad at Fuddruckers, the cashier is instructed to call you a pussy.
It goes on from there. The overt sexuality in advertising, the lowest common denominator movies and TV shows, news broadcasts that will do anything to avoid being boring, pornstar/ fighter presidents, a costco that offers everything (from furniture to law degrees), most of these ideas are worth a laugh or two, but they're much funnier when you start to see similar things happening right now.
Idiocracy is still a pretty bad movie, but I highly recommend that everyone see it and take what they can from it.
Primetime Glick (2001)
Ahead of its time
I can see why this show has such a low rating. When Primetime Glick was on the air, I hated it too. However, I caught some repeats of this under-appreciated gem late one night and laughed long and hard. Maybe my comedic tastes have matured (or devolved) a little, or maybe I appreciate the lampooning of a late night talk show more nowadays since I've lost interest in most of the late shows except for the occasional Conan. What ever it is, if you ever see this show on again, give it a chance. Glick grows on you, and Short's complete immersion into this character is a performance that's up there with Borat or Andy Kaufman's various guises. That said, Glick isn't perfect. When the celebrities he's interviewing try to get in on the act, it doesn't always work. The ones who try their best to pretend Glick is just another late show host, that's where Martin Short can do his best work. Still, the openings of the show that would follow Glick back stage during an intentionally poor first act, and the closings in the steam room were always priceless bits of comedy.
Talk Soup (1991)
The weekend recaps were always the best
I can't believe how many people hate Hal Sparks! He was my favorite host of the show, hands down. I hate celebrity gossip and generally dislike talk shows, but when Hal Sparks hosted Talk Soup, it was must see TV for me. I rarely missed an episode during his run, and was saddened when the guest hosts started pouring in (although most of the guests still did a fine job).
Anyway, for all the people who dislike Hal Sparks, I imagine they must have never seen the weekend specials. They were hour long episodes of Talk Soup that comprised the best clips from the entire week, and were padded out by sketch comedy bits. The original bits that Hal Sparks did were hilarious. In one he got possessed by a bad comedy demon, and in an exorcist like scene his head spun as he told dated jokes about airline food. One episode was dedicated to making fun of Multiplicity, as a bunch of cloned Hal Sparks kept multiplying through out the episode, over-running the studio.
OK, maybe these don't sound as funny when I describe them, but all I know is that besides Talk Soup, the only other two shows I watched consistently during those years was The Simpsons and Late Night with Conan O'Brian. So if you like the comedy stylings of those shows, then you'd probably like Talk Soup during the Sparks years.
That said, Henson and Tyler were both great hosts as well. All three hosts brought something different to the table but they were all fine comedians in my opinion. Of course, throughout the Tyler and guest star years, my interest in this show began to wane, but every now and then I catch The Soup, the show's spiritual successor, and sure enough, the new host can bring some pretty unexpected laughs from time to time.
OK, I've wasted enough time talking about a TV show that isn't on the air anymore and on a channel that I generally despise. Go watch something else!
Reno 911 this ain't.
TBS sees Reno 911. TBS tries to duplicate Reno 911. TBS fails miserably and airs this garbage show at 1am for a few nights during the summer of 2006. That is the story of Blotter, a show so awful that I believed that I had fallen asleep while watching TV and imagined it. It was only later when a friend of mine asked if I had ever heard about the show that I realized it was all too true. The problem is that the show really was a carbon copy of Reno 911, but with a completely generic cast. Blotter failed to realize that a cop taking down a clown isn't funny in itself, its how the participants act and react. Reno 911 has a great cast of character actors who know how to play off of every situation and find the funny. Blotter was clearly amateur actors who were unaware of how difficult it is to successfully pull off dry humor.
I'd warn everyone to avoid this show like the plague, but in the highly unlikely chance you ever see it air again, make a point to watch it. The awfulness of this show will deepen your appreciation for the few good TV comedies out there.
Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn (2002)
It all depended on the crowd...
To me there were two versions of this show. There was Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn featuring Jim Norton, and Tough Crowd featuring the struggling Colin Quinn. Poor Quinn just can't hold a show on his own, but as a college student who needed something to bridge the gap between the Daily Show and Conan, Quinn became the show to watch. Most people give Quinn a hard time for constantly flubbing lines and barely getting jokes out, but eventually I noticed it was funnier to see him mess up and accept failure. Quinn never acted like he was a comedic genius, and he was always the first to point out his failures.
...Anyway, onto Norton. Jim Norton is such a versatile guy, after his over the top schtick on the Opie and Anthony Show, you'd never think he'd still have material suitable for Leno. But Norton always delivered the lines that had the rest of the guests rolling on the floor. Whereas Quinn would always claim that the show would get edgy, it was always Norton that did the actual pushing. Quick to point out the short coming of any argument and then follow it with a edgy insult, Norton was usually a guarantee for a good show.