The Apple; a very good, very bad, very disco musical

Over the weekend we got together with some friends to watch a very bad movie. What we watched was a really great bad musical called, The Apple. The Apple is a post-apocalyptic movie from 1980 telling an allegorical story of a future 1994 in which the boyfriend-girlfriend duet of Alphie & Bibi is tempted to music fame by Mr. Boogalow and his biggest stars: Dandi & Randi. Sure this movie is really loose on the plot and heavy on the allegorical retelling of Adam & Eve but it makes up for it in COSTUMES! And well choreographed (by Nigel Lythgoe, no less) numbers in which the lyrics and singing isn’t great but the music is usually bangin’.

If you like bad movies, bad musicals especially and you haven’t seen The Apple, you need to correct yourself immediately. It has everything. From the devil with one horn, Mr. Boogalow, the song about Coming that is as unsubtle as a brick the forehead, a mandatory nationwide dance-hour, to the biggest and most literal version of Deus Ex-Machina that’s ever happened in any movie ever; this movie has everything. And did I mention the costumes?

This movie, meant as a Hebrew stage presentation was being written in the mid-seventies and then updated to a musical movie meant to cash in on the musical movies fad that America was going through in the late seventies. And it might’ve been collectively panned when it came out, once you watch it you’ll see the hints of its influence all over the nineties and early aughts. It’s amazing. Speaking of influences, it’s filming location of West Berlin which is painfully obvious throughout the movie.

I don’t think you can watch the whole thing anywhere for free — though the soundtrack is on YouTube. There are also a lot of amazing clips from the movie on YouTube if you need a taste of just how fabulous it is. The video of BIM Hour is my favorite. BIM Hour is of course the hour of 4-5pm when everyone everywhere sets aside what they’re doing to dance. And it’s mandatory. Just like the holographic stickers (BIM marks) everyone is wearing. Don’t let the police catch you without one.

A word of warning if you take this on: there is a really unfortunate and tone-deaf reggae song where Mr. Boogalow talks about what a great ‘master’ he is. It’s an obvious reference to the allegorical part of the story, Mr. Boogalow is supposed to be the devil but it just comes across racially insensitive given that two of the principal singers are black.

I mentioned that it began as a Hebrew stage place, so it is also worth noting that the story was written by an Israeli husband-wife writing team, Cory & Iris Recht. And that the script for the movie was written and produced an Israeli man, Menahem Golan, who created a lot of movies under The Cannon Group a production company run by his cousin. The Cannon Group is well-known for it’s slate of early 80’s low-budget American action flicks, including Superman IV: A Quest for Peace.

If you’ve got 90 minutes to spare and want a few well-deserved laughs, The Apple has them waiting for you. I’ve heard there’s a Rifftrax’d version of this out there too, so if you prefer your laughs pre-filtered give that a shot instead.

After all, how can you say no to this masterpiece? It even comes complete with an ‘actual vampire’.

Requiem

Over the weekend I watched all six episodes of Requiem, a supernatural thriller series on Netflix. I hesitate to call it horror because there’s nothing overt about whatever’s happening in the story. Even the supernatural elements are subtle for most of the episodes. Although your mileage may vary depending on how much you like or dislike horror, I suppose.

Requiem is a series in part by the BBC and it takes place in small town in Wales. The main character, Matilda (played by Lydia Wilson), is a cellist whose mother dies in the first episode. As Matilda goes to her mother’s house to clean up she discovers a collection of photos that somehow relate to a disappearance of a small girl from this Welsh town. Matilda and her friend/accompanist, Hal, go to this town to figure out if or how her mother was involved in the girl’s disappearance.

What proceeds is a series of episodes in this fictional Welsh town of Penllynith where Tilly & Hal look for clues while meanwhile being shunned by the members of the same community. No one wants to think about the disappearance from 23 years prior, let alone when the past is being dredged up by some strangers harassing the mother of the missing girl.

 

At the same time, Tilly & Hal have been invited by a Australian man in town after the death of his uncle, to stay at what locals call the “big house”, a large estate owned by the deceased. This man, Nick, is hoping to sell the house, the land, whatever he can, in order to make some cash and return to his home in Australia.

The big house is also somehow tied to the missing kid from two decades prior. Strange things are happening in the house, to people in town, and to Tilly as she remains in the house.

Requiem is a slow-moving plot not unlike a lot of British mystery/thriller series. Think Broadchurch or The Fall. It’s going to take more than six episodes to get to the bottom of what’s happening. If you’re not up for the slower pace, the mystery may not keep you interested. I can’t even say I enjoyed it so much as I was interested in the supernatural mystery of it, which were both tied to the mystery of the missing girl … and also separate in its own way. If it comes back for a second season, I’ll keep an eye out for it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising; spoiler-free review

I LOOOooooooooooooooooooooVED Pacific Rim. Listen until Wonder Woman came out, the Pacific Rim theme was my ring tone. (Now it’s the WW theme if that wasn’t clear.) My love for it was only partially because of my love for Idris Elba in pretty much every role he’s ever in, the other part was the depth Guillermo del Toro put into what was essentially a robots vs. monsters movie. Good old GdT doesn’t do sequels and the writer Travis Beacham didn’t return for Uprising… but I know how to go into a movie with low-to-middling expectations, so that’s what I did.

I’m not going to go into detail here, this is after all supposed to be spoiler-free. But, I will say that if you’re going into this movie for a lot of plot… or science… or solid ties to the original… you might not find what you’re looking for. But if you, like me, are going into Uprising looking for a robots vs robots or robots vs kaiju extravaganza, well, buckle up and prepare for a good time. Go for the new cool-ass jaegers, stay for the mighty morphin power kaiju.
And if you’re on the fence, check out this Nerdist vintage kaiju movie version of the trailer and tell me that doesn’t look like a good time.


Nailed It: pure distilled schadenfreude in a 30 minute baking show

If you need something to watch for a few hours, do yourself a favor and watched Netflix new show, Nailed It. I’m not a huge fan of baking or cooking shows, but there really needs to be more than six episodes of Nailed It. Or at least there’s a promise for a second season.

Nailed It is a baking show for home bakers who… aren’t really very good, or experienced. There are three challengers in each show, and two challenges. The first challenge, Baker’s Choice, gives the baker’s a chance to pick from one of three similarly decorated treats to try and recreate. They’re given between 45-50 minutes to attempt the recreation and then judged on both sight and taste. The winner of Baker’s Choice gets a prize (a stand mixer in several episodes) and the chance to wear a bright gold chef’s hat for the second round signifying that they’re the one to beat.

In the second round, they start from scratch and all three are tasked with recreating an amazing cake – a shark, a volcano, a floral wedding cake – in 2 hours. A daunting task for even a professional. The baker’s get recipe’s of course, and during this second round are each given a panic button where they can call for help from one of the judges. In most episode the person who performed the worst in the first round is also given some kind of helper button to either distract or freeze their opponents for three minutes.

Inevitably, the bakers aren’t quite up for the challenge. They spin around their creations to the judges while saying, singing or jazz-handing their way through “Nailed it!” And usually their delivery is met with chuckles from the judges. Comedian Nicole Byer, the host of the show, is hilarious and her laugh is thoroughly contagious. At the end of round three the judges again make a decision on taste and presentation and this time the winner gets $10k. I’d probably let someone laugh at my failed baking decisions for ten thousand dollars too. 

 

Tomb Raider 2018; no-spoiler review except this spoiler: I loved it

I’d planned to take my little sister out to see Love, Simon tonight but it was nearly a sold out show, which rarely happens at our theater. So, rather than wait for a later show, we went to see Tomb Raider instead. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve seem some pretty cynical reviews and some really shitty ones from manbabies that care more about the size of Lara’s chest than anything else in the movie. Taking everything I’ve heard with a huge grain of salt, I thought we’d check it out. I was never a fan of the early Tomb Raider games, they felt unnecessarily difficult and way too focused on Lara’s appearance (they were).

In recent years with the reboot of the video game series, I decided to check them out again. And I fell in love with Lara, the story, the game play. They’re fantastic games. A little bit open-world, a little bit puzzle-platformer, a little rpg. They’ve got good story, good puzzles and a great protagonist. I’ve never really gotten into the multiplayer aspects, but I’ve loved the single player content of both games and am eagerly awaiting the third.

I’m really pleased to be able to say that I loved this movie. It’s everything the rebooted games are but in live action. They follow a similar story path, we see the same younger, scrappier Lara the games have gifted us and plenty of room to expand. I do have a soft spot for the cheesier Angelina Jolie movies, but this movie is a world apart. The action scenes are really great, none of it felt like too much CGI for me and several of them gave me really great flashback moments to the 2013 Tomb Raider game.

There’s a lot of new stuff coming out soon (YES, I DID WATCH THE INFINITY WAR TRAILER AND GET SUPER EXCITED WHY DO YOU ASK?) but I’d love to go see this again if I get the chance. It’s not perfect — I wish there were more women for one — but it’s a really good place to start for a new series and I hope that we get the chance to see where they take it. Alicia Vikander is a great Lara Croft, playing up the athleticism and the feisty sarcasm as her video game counterpart. I think she could make something great out of this series. 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick; reading different and switching up genres

Typically I read a lot of fantasy, modern (read: urban) and low-magic, but I also love a good historical fiction or horror novel. As not picky as I am about music, I tend to be pretty particular about the stuff I read. But lately, I’ve been a little tired of fiction, finding it difficult to get through the ends of books if it slows down even a little. I talked a little bit about it when I talked about reading Mamrie’s book. But since then I’ve picked up a few other memoir/non-fiction/celebrity kind of books to read. They tend to be a little short reads, but since they’re typically set up in short chapters/stories as well it feels like they’re faster too.

I finished Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick today. Memoir isn’t really the right word but it’s sort of a collection of her stories of getting into show business and the business of being a sort of an anxiety-ridden misanthrope. I’m a fan of her work both musicals and movies, I even saw Camp, which is … recommended only if you’re a fan of musicals and can stomach a poor teen comedy.

Anyway, I enjoyed her stories and honestly, it was just kind of nice to be grounded in stories about places and things that are recognizeable. It’s less work for my stressed brain. It might be one of the reasons I’m enjoying podcasts that are less about adventures and fantasy as well. As much fun as escapist fantasy can be, personally I think it requires more thought on my part that I’m not in the mood for lately. Especially on busy or stressful days.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this too. I doesn’t happen to me very often at all but this is lingering a little. Next up, I picked up I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee.

Jessica Jones Season 2 — AKA I’m not sure how I feel about it

I managed to finish Jessica Jones Season 2 tonight and as the title might suggest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I didn’t watch The Defenders (maybe I’ll get back to it, but it’s not a priority) so I’m not sure how well any of it ties in, or doesn’t, to what happened there. Although I feel like it’s probably pretty stand-alone from it, given that the only real ties I saw/heard in season two related to Jeri.

For a pretty spoiler-free review I can say that I both enjoyed Jessica’s progression in this season and what the focus was for her with Kilgrave out of the picture. I can also say that it’s pretty freaking cool that they employed female-only directors for Season 2, however there was also a long way they could’ve gone to improve some of their diversity issues. Black women specifically got an unfair shake on screen and in ways that absolutely could’ve gone any direction. It’s not enough to cast black actors, there’s no excuse from writers not to be more cognizant of the roles those actors will be playing and what it’ll look like on screen.

What I’m not really happy about (again in a way that’s the most spoiler-free I can make it) is the direction they took Trish in this season. I understand the progression from her interests in the first season that this is one of the directions that could’ve gone. But, I felt it was really predictable in the beginning of season two and by the end, it was tiring and played out. To be a little more specific that’ll only be spoilery once you get a few episodes into the season — I really hate that she gets rewarded for that, even if we don’t see it explicitly by the end of the season, it obvious enough.

One of the other things that’s sort of holding back my complete enthusiasm for the season as a whole is the very cyclical nature of the arguments that start to happen in every episode about half-way in as Jessica makes the biggest discovery of the season. I don’t have to say what it is to say that the way she talks herself in and out, or other people talk her in and out of the same decision in almost every episode gets old fast. And then to have the decision taken out of her hands entirely by the end of the season, undid part of the work of the first season. I get the character choice that was made and what that could set up for a third season, but it didn’t have to go that way. It could’ve ended a dozen other ways and season three wouldn’t suffer for opportunities to rehash the outcome.

I’m not really going to address Jeri’s story line. I feel the same way about the whole season as I feel about her story. I do like Carrie Ann Moss as an actress though and I really feel like she and Robin Wright and she need to have some show where they play high-powered lesbians with great hair and expensive clothes. Or just give me some President Claire Underwood/Supreme Court Justice Jeryn Hogarth fanfic and I’d be good.

Rewatching The Good Place — What we owe to each other

I had some friends in town overnight who had never seen The Good Place. However we started it pretty late in the night so they didn’t make it very many episodes into the first season before everyone crashed. But as someone that doesn’t rewatch very many shows, just getting a few episodes in to season one made me watch to continue. It’s also really entertaining to watch the show with people who haven’t seen it before, knowing exactly what they have to look forward to by the end of the first season. Even my expectations feel different despite knowing what’s coming.

There’s so much about that first season I’d forgotten, especially about those first few episodes the prevalence of Michael’s neurosis even before the reveal. (This won’t be long, and I’m doing my best not to spoil anything specific, or the specifics about the end of Season One.)

There’s something about a show like this one where the end of Season One changes the show fundamentally that makes going back to the beginning feel like a different show. I’ve seen the full impact of Season Two, so this like innocence of beginnings is so different.

That said, in fact despite the anxiety the main characters feel in the first season everything is just inherently cheerful in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with their location. And while the circumstances are different in the second season, the hope is still there. Though anxiety has given way to something deeper so the happiness is something they have to snatch in small moments for themselves.

I want these characters to succeed in a way that feels new, because I’m now seeing where they started all over again and the growth is pretty monumental.

Have you seen The Good Place? Rewatched it now that it’s on hiatus?
I’d be curious to know if the rewatch feels like this for everyone.

Painter’s Guild with Will Friedle; enjoying hobbies I will probably never pick up

Project Alpha has a show called Painter’s Guild that’s now in its second season. It’s hosted by Will Friedle who is best known for his role as Eric on Boy Meets World, but who has also done a ton of VO work for DC in addition to be well known to the critter community as Kashaw on Critical Role.

On Painter’s Guild, Will and a guest dive into the world of miniature painting. Will, with no previous skill in the hobby, and his guest(s) who have been in the hobby for some time. The first few episodes of season one he started with Matthew Mercer (beloved DM of Critical Role) who showed him the basics of getting started. From there he had on other guests who are both advanced hobbyists or professional painters (which is such a cool job).

In Season Two the show has recieved an upgrade both to the format and the studio setting. Now instead of a simple table, Will and his guest sit surrounding by a variety of paints and tools to use on their projects. In addition, mid-episode there are advanced tips from professional painter Bryan Merlonghi or a interview by Will with different miniature companies about their process.

Fans of Will’s appearances on Critical Role will find Will’s humor comes through strong on Painter’s Guild which makes the show more than a simple project show. He engages his guests about personal and professional topics while they teach him about the hobby. But most of all what’s enjoyable is the process of the show. In almost two seasons we get to watch Will’s knowledge and technique grow as he works with these guests. Now we can see the work he’s doing look (at least from a distance) pretty similar to the works of the talented guests he’s hosting.

I’m not a painter, I’ve barely dabbled in miniature painting. And I doubt I’ll ever seriously pick up the hobby, it requires far more patience than I have or am willing to learn. But I really enjoying watching Will’s process and I think he’s such an entertaining host that I don’t need to be watching the show to pick up technique to find it interesting. I also find it a little bit relaxing, kind of comforting to watch a show and see he and his guest start and finish a project in one or two episodes. It reminds me of being a little kid and watching This Old House with my dad. And I think that’s kind of the niche this show fills. Haven’t we all been stuck inside on the weekend watching HGTV for longer than we ever intended? I find Painter’s Guild far more interesting. I hope when this season is over, G&S picks it up for a third.

Below is the trailer for the first season. However if you find yourself on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel you’ll also find Will’s mid-episode interviews from season two.

Fables, Wednesday Club and the Five Minute One-Shot

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s comic book show on Alpha, hosted by Queen of Comic Knowledge Amy Dallen, Goth Dad Taliesin Jaffe & Dr. Strange mega-fan Matt Key. Each week (on Wednesday) they meet for about two hours to talk about some comic book related topic. I’m not enough of a comic fan that this was an immediate watch for me, despite my love for Amy’s old G&S Vlog series about comics. However, last night’s topic was the epic Bill Willingham series, Fables.

Fables is a series I’ve loved for years. I started collecting the deluxe hardbacks when they came out because I love getting all the extra art and behind the scenes bits in them. So for the first time last night I tuned in to catch a live episode of The Wednesday Club in order to listen to their talk on Fables. I really, really enjoyed the chat although I knew going in that there was so little they could talk about without giving things away. And the three of them did a really good job keeping things spoiler-free and still communicating a lot about the series.

Part of the amazing work of Fables is it’s ability to surprise you constantly with the characters, even when you’ve seen them before. Which was something talked about a few times, in addition to the fun topic Taliesin brought up about the stories of Fables being public domain. They briefly delve into Once Upon a Time and what it meant for Fables fans when that show got picked up. Amy has a really great idea for the opening sequence for a Fables tv show, which I LOVED.

At the end of the show, they take a topic question from chat and spend five minutes in discussion on that specific question. Those segments are related to the show’s topic, but then are also fielded to YouTube so if you don’t have Alpha, or watch on Twitch, you can check those out.

If you’re a comics fan — or if you want to get into comics, I highly recommend The Wednesday Club. It’s just a casual chat about comics between friends (and sometimes with guests). It’s a good time. 
[Ps. I really love that they do a letters column at the start of the show. The one in last night’s episode from a fan that had been encouraged by the show to try and get through their bad brain days and maybe make some new friends was incredibly sweet.]