Good call, Universal.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are two of the funniest people on television right now, and their sketch show "Key & Peele" is brutally funny, week after week, bit after bit. Peele seems to be the guy who disappears into his characters, while Key is just plain hilarious, as outrageous and oversized a comic presence as Daffy Duck. As long as these guys are given room to follow their own voice as a team, they represent pretty much unfettered potential.
It was just a matter of time before someone got them to make a movie as a team. So far, I think Keegan-Michael Key has had better opportunities in movies. Whatever you think of the film as a whole, it's pretty hard to deny that he is in amazing form in "Hell Baby," where he plays a character named F'resnell who is basically Bugs Bunny. He's that character who can step in from the edge of the frame, make any joke, do anything, and then skate away with no consequence. It's the sort of role that a comic must love just as an exercise in pure unbridled energy. I liked him a lot when he guested on "The League," too, as a character named Carmenjello. The moment Key starts speaking, in pretty much anything I've seen him in, I'm laughing. He has that sort of energy as a comic performer. He is innately funny, and seems to have an endless appetite for pushing things to strange and hilarious places.
Good call, Universal.
Andy Kaufman is alive.
Ultimately, it is irrelevant if he actually still occupies a body and is actively participating in things, because it is obvious just from reading reactions to Monday night's amazing events at the annual Andy Kaufman Awards that he is still creating conversation and speculation, which seems to have been his lasting legacy.
I've read anything i could find today about the incident, and I'm still not sure what to think. I do know that I wish I'd been in the room, and I am hoping someone got this on tape so that we can actually see it at some point. For now, here's what we know. Every year, there is a talent competition to help foster new comedy voices, and it comes down to a performance/awards show where they pick the winner. This was the ninth annual event, and as part of the ceremony each year, they have a special guest come to speak.
Considering the conversation around "Nebraska," it surprised me when Bruce Dern was not at the press day for the new Alexander Payne film. Having said that, the three actors who were there were great interviews, and it's obvious how much the film means to them when you hear them talk about it.
For Will Forte, this is a redefinition, and I'm excited to see what it does for him overall. I feel like I might have phrased something wrong to him when I said that there were a lot of guys up for the role. What I really meant was that the script was a favorite for a lot of actors, and there were a ton of people who wanted to play that part and who pushed to get into the room with Payne. I think Forte's been under-utilized in general, which seems like a weird thing to say about a guy who works as hard as he does.
June Squibb is one of those actors who has been working for decades, but who has never really had that breakthrough role, and she seems to be enjoying the conversation about "Nebraska" enormously. It helped that when I walked in, she was paired with Bob Odenkirk, who I've known for years at this point.
What really strikes me about the ensemble that Payne put together is that he's not really interested in just working with movie stars. Sure, "The Descendants" starred George Clooney, but I honestly think Payne casts based on the role and not just based on some math equation.
"Nebraska" is the sort of film that doesn't have any special effects or giant high concept set pieces, entirely dependent on your investment in the characters, and Payne put together a heck of a cast to make that happen. Here's hoping you enjoy the conversation with them as much as I enjoyed having it.
"Nebraska" opens this Friday.
Bob Nelson's got to be floating on air right now. The screenwriter of the new film "Nebraska" has been working in the industry since at least 1996, and this is his first produced feature. Not only did he manage to find a filmmaker who was excited about his work, but that filmmaker turned out to be Alexander Payne, and the film is a smart, subtle, stripped-down gem, a low-fi version of what we're used to seeing Payne do. Even better, Nelson's script may finally earn Bruce Dern a sort of lifetime achievement award, a full season of people seeing the veteran actor's praises thanks to a performance that highlights what it is he's done so well for so long.
Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is, for lack of a better term, an old cuss. He has never been particularly easy on his sons David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk), and his wife Kate (June Squibb) has long since curdled. As he's gotten older, Woody has maintained a more and more tenuous grasp on reality, and it seems like he may have finally turned a corner. He has become fixated on a piece of sweepstakes mail that came to his house, convinced that he's won a $1 million prize, and all he has to do is get to their office in Nebraska to pick it up. Each day, he starts out to make the trip on foot, and it's become a real problem for his family and for local law enforcement. He seems to have no regard for the conditions or the weather or how he's going to survive while he's en route.
"Trust the system."
Right away, this episode felt different to me. The opening sequence, in which Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the rest of his team rescue an Agent Shaw from an underground base in Siberia in order to retrieve whatever information Shaw has managed to steal, felt to me like an episode of "Alias," and that's high praise if we're talking about spy TV. I like starting shows like this in media res. I'm not sure about those dodgy hover-sled effects, but I like the energy and the ambition of the way this episode kicked off.
Saffron Burrows is introduced this week as Agent Victoria Hand in a major classified base called The Hub. We haven't had many looks so far at the larger infrastructure of S.H.I.E.L.D., and for Skye, this is her first look at it as well. I like how Simmons references the Triskelion in passing, and there are a few other passing nods to the larger world that feel like they would have actually happened instead of just being fanservice. That's hard to pull off, but they're getting better at it. Bonus points for even getting the hair coloring right on Hand. Longtime comic fans are going to be pleased to see that sort of detail included.
What do we call these Marvel mini-series events that have been announced?
They're not movies, of course, but they're not conventional TV projects, either. They're small and self-contained and also part of a larger plan that builds to a brand-new group for Marvel, the Defenders. Netflix is planning to release them, and I assume that means we'll get each of the programs in a batch so we can binge-watch if we want. It should make for a very different type of conversation than we're having week to week about "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." I'm sure they want these to land in a very different way, and a big part of that is going to be what sort of talent they attach to each of the shows.
Sign #1 that they're doing it right: Drew Goddard will be writing "Daredevil," set to run for thirteen episodes. They're looking to do series of the same length starring Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones, and then they'll do a cross-over event with all four of them together. It sounds like all of the shows will be set in the same corner of the Marvel Universe, New York's Hell's Kitchen, and I like the idea of painting in some of the grittier details of what's happening in this world using these characters.
One of the great partnerships of modern film comedy is between Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, and getting a chance to watch the two of them as they work is a treat, no matter how many other comedy sets I've been on over the years.
Ferrell and McKay shouldn't even technically count as two people, since they appear to share one brain. One very strange and hilarious brain, I might add. There's an amazing chemistry that happens between them, and while I've had a few opportunities to observe it in progress, it's one of those things that you always say yes to if an invitation is extended.
In this case, I was asked to attend one of the final days of production on "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" in San Diego, where they were using Sea World for a scene that comes near the start of the film. In particular, they were using several of the dolphins, since Ron Burgundy's rock bottom turns out to be a gig announcing for the dolphin show at the park.
Gary Ross is going to end up being the Chris Columbus of the "Hunger Games" franchise, the guy who set up a solid template before stepping aside for a director who brought a much stronger sense of style to the series. I think the first "Hunger Games" film is a much better movie overall than the first two "Harry Potter" films were, but I think the weakest link in what Ross did with the first film was his visual plan. I liked that he seemed unconcerned with spectacle, but there could definitely have been a richer sense of world-building in someone else's hands.
What Ross got completely right, though, was casting, and he got really lovely performances out of his entire cast. Jennifer Lawrence may have seemed like a gamble when she got the role, but now Ross looks positively prescient. It's one thing to cast one person correctly, but Ross built a very odd ensemble that doesn't make completely sense on paper, but that seems to perfectly embody the world that Suzanne Collins created. With this second film, new director Francis Lawrence takes that solid ensemble, adds some important new pieces to that group, and then expands the world in a way that doesn't throw out Ross's film, but that uses it as a way to get to something even better.
As "Man Of Steel" arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week, it will be greeted by another three weeks of articles written by people willfully mis-interpreting much of what happens in the film, and I will spend those three weeks resisting the urge to get into a million pointless flame wars about the film.
What is apparent to me at this point is that the "complaints" that drive me most crazy are the ones that people simply aren't willing to debate, not even when they hear or read something that contradicts the point they think they're making. You can have the director and the writer specifically discuss what happened in the film, and people will still insist that they saw something else entirely happen.
I'm not talking about "I liked it" or "I didn't like it," either. I'm talking about looking at one scene and seeing two totally different things. I don't know that I've ever seen it happen to quite the extent that it happened with this film, but it amazes me. I'm doubly curious to see what happens with the sequel with this level of division in the audience.
Who is The Collector, and what the hell is he doing in the middle of the credits of "Thor: The Dark World"?
That question, or some variation on it, has been hammering my e-mail inbox all weekend long, and I was asked it by my kids as soon as the movie ended as well. I've seen a fair number of people complaining that the scene is "pointless." While most of the Phase One post-credits tags were concerned with laying groundwork leading to "The Avengers," Marvel's playing a different game this time around, and one that's not as easy for mainstream audiences to get immediately.
After all, it's easy to understand what it means when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up and asks each of the Marvel characters to join something called The Avenger Initiative. Makes sense, and even if you're not sure what the Avenger Initiative is, you get that there's a program and Sam Jackson's the man in charge and he needs a bunch of superheroes.
Considering how little we've seen of Marvel's cosmic side on film so far, it's not surprising people are unsure what to make of the scene that appears about a minute and a half into the credits for "Thor: The Dark World." From this point on, we're going to be talking in very explicit spoilers with some speculation factored in.