Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

I was a little worried about The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale, the eponymous host’s return to riffing on bad TV. The Soup, which he hosted for 11 (!) years, was a good time, but it ran its course—and after McHale’s thus-far so-so sitcom and movie career, a return to bad TV riffing sounded a little desperate and wrong.

Well, shame on me: McHale still rocks at this shit.

Granted, the first episode of this series—released each Sunday on Netflix—compounded my worries, because it was quite bad. The bits fell flat, and the timing of the gags and jokes was awkward. But then a funny thing happened: The show got really, really funny in its second and third episodes. Yes, McHale and friends have hit their stride, and this series turns out to be a happy return for McHale rather than a sad retread.

While a long bit with Jason Priestley in the first episode doesn’t work at all, Billy Eichner makes numerous appearances in Episode 3 that are pretty gosh darned hilarious. McHale goes from looking kind of lost to being totally into the groove by Episode 3, and the future for this series looks strong.

Long live Joel McHale, and may he make fun of shitty TV forever!

The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Duncan Jones, director of the classic film Moon and the so-good movie Source Code, has continued his slump that started with Warcraft: The Beginning.

Actually, Netflix’s Mute qualifies as a total disaster—a film so bad that Jones might find himself looking for sitcom-TV gigs in the near future.

Alexander Skarsgard plays Leo, an Amish bartender in future Germany (you read that right) who lost his ability to speak in a boat-propeller accident as a kid. His girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh) disappears, sending him on a wild search that involves him hitting bad guys with big wooden sticks, like Joe Don Baker in Walking Tall.

In what seems like an entirely different movie, Paul Rudd plays Cactus Bill, a crooked doctor trying to get back to the United States with his daughter. Oh, and Cactus Bill hangs around with a pedophile doctor (Justin Theroux, saddled with a goofy wig). While this indeed feels like another movie, it’s also terrible.

Skarsgard runs around a lot looking all helpless, while the usually ever-reliable Rudd resorts to lots of gum-chewing and a big, meaty mustache with chops to look tough. (God dammit, I hate that!) Theroux relies far too heavily on the word “Babe!” to distinguish his character in what amounts to his worst role to date. It’s not easy to make the likes of Rudd and Theroux look bad—and Jones makes them look awful.

The future setting looks like a cheap Blade Runner knock-off; the dialogue is deplorable; and, to repeat, Rudd and Theroux look terrible. That’s a cinematic crime.

Mute is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Netflix’s When We First Met doesn’t have an original bone in its body.

Wait … movies don’t have bones in them. They are made from celluloid. Actually, movies are mostly digital now, so they don’t even have the film stuff. They are just computer megabyte things that are easily manipulated and …

OK, bad comparison. Let me start over.

This movie isn’t the most original thing you will see. In fact, it rips off a lot of movies (Groundhog Day, Back to the Future, Every Rom-Com Ever Made). Yet … I will recommend it thanks to the charm of its leads: Adam DeVine, Alexandra Daddario and Shelley Hennig.

DeVine plays Noah, a goofy but sweet guy who meets Avery (Daddario) at a costume party. They hit it off, but he winds up in the friend zone, and watches her wind up with another man (Robbie Amell). Through the movie magic of time travel, Noah travels back to the night he met Avery (many times) to try to win her over. In some scenarios, he does, but complications ensue.

This thing is pretty gosh darned cute, and I enjoyed it; DeVine and Daddario are bolstered by Hennig, who brings class to the “best friend” role.

It’s not original, but it is clever—and often funny, like when Noah makes the mistake of going “full asshole” on one of his time trips. The movie does take a slightly original left turn in the final act, giving it some sense of uniqueness.

Bottom line: If you like DeVine and Daddario, check this film out.

When We First Met is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Originally planned for an April theatrical release, the third Cloverfield movie got a surprise release on Netflix immediately following the Super Bowl. While I’m a big fan of the first two installments in the Cloverfield series, J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company are kidding themselves by referring to The Cloverfield Paradox as a legitimate chapter in the Cloverfield universe.

The Cloverfield Paradox was originally a project called God Particle, a standalone science fiction film directed by Julius Onah. Somewhere during production, Bad Robot decided to make it a Cloverfield film. How is it a Cloverfield film? A few short, badly constructed scenes are shoehorned into the narrative, including a 10-second final shot that feels like a total cheat. They did this sort of last-minute tinkering when they made 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that resulted in a good movie. This one results in a muddled mess.

The plot involves a space station trying to create a free power source to revitalize a struggling Earth. The crew members (played by Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang and David Oyelowo) accidentally zap themselves into another dimension. While they struggle in the other dimension to find their way home, the dimension they left behind is dealing with a new problem.

The events happening back on Earth might’ve made for a better movie, because the one we get is an Event Horizon rip-off.

It’s no mystery why Bad Robot avoided a theatrical run for this: It stinks.

The Cloverfield Paradox is now streaming on Netflix.

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Even if you are a David Letterman fan, let’s face it: You probably decreased your viewing of his Late Show in the final years of its run. As with most late-night shows, you caught some glimpses of it the next day in video snippets—but without a concentrated viewing of Letterman doing his thing.

Letterman’s new Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman, is a blessed reminder of how damn good of an interviewer the man is. The show is slated to be a monthly program, featuring an hour-long interview. The format loses the desk, the set and the band (although Paul Shaffer does provide the theme music). The result is marvelous.

The first guest of the initial six-month run is some unemployed guy named Barack Obama, a charming, funny, well-spoken guest who Letterman clearly admires. Obama does not directly attack the current president, but he sends some thinly veiled messages to Mr. Trump about doing the job with dignity. It’s an absorbing glimpse at Obama’s life a year out of office—as well as a welcomed return for Letterman.

Other late-night stars—like Johnny Carson and, to an extent, Jay Leno—disappeared after their runs. Thankfully, Letterman is back, and it’s a real treat to see him doing something worthy of his talents when he could just be puttering around his ranch.

Future guests will include George Clooney and Howard Stern.

The first episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

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English-import limited series The End of the F***ing World, based upon a dark comic book, is as insane as TV generally gets. If you like your humor dark, dark, dark, this will suit you just fine.

Jessica Barden (The Lobster) and Alex Lawther (Black Mirror) are incredible as Alyssa and James. Alyssa is the new girl at school; Alex is the strange kid who sits alone in the cafeteria, fantasizing about one day killing a person. Alyssa walks up to him and immediately qualifies herself as his potential first murder (not counting a slew of animals in his backyard). He fakes being interested in her, and they go out on a few dates, while James secretly fantasizes about slitting Alyssa’s throat.

This is not your average set up for a standard rom-com, now, is it?

Somehow, these two performers not only pull off the premise; they do so in grand fashion. The eight-episode series (each show is about 20 minutes long) breezes by, and somehow, Alex winds up being more heroic than psychotic. Don’t get me wrong—he’s still nuts. Yet somehow, somehow, he winds up being strangely sweet.

As for Barden, she’s a star in the making, and this show wouldn’t be the success it is without her. Her comic timing is impeccable; she will break your heart. Steve Oram chips in as James’ dad, and he does a beautiful job of portraying a well-meaning doofus.

We’ll see if this is a one-season-and-done season show. If so, the way it ends is perfect. If not, I would not mind seeing the further adventures of Alyssa and James.

The End of the F***ing World is now streaming on Netflix.

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Dave Chappelle solidified his claim to the title of Best Working Standup Comedian by dropping not one, but two standup specials on Netflix on New Year’s Eve.

The first, Equanimity, is a little longer and takes place in a standard concert hall with a large audience. The second, The Bird Revelation, is more like a town hall, with Chappelle seated in a more-intimate club and smoking a cigarette (as opposed to the vape pen he constantly hits in Equanimity). With each puff of smoke he blows into the closer-than-usual front row, he becomes more unapologetic with his sharp comedy.

The sets, although presented in two different fashions, combine for close to two hours of fantastic comedy. (By all means, watch them in a row.) Chappelle addresses his good-luck wishes to Donald Trump the night he hosted Saturday Night Live about a year ago. He also, in a roundabout way, talks about why he abandoned Chappelle’s Show. As for Louis C.K., the guy who held the Best Working Standup Comedian title up until a couple of months ago, Chappelle has some choice words for both him and his victims.

Chappelle took some heat for his first Netflix specials, released earlier this year, which contained his admittedly selfish insights into transgender issues. He’s told comedy fans that they need to have thicker skins, because too many people these days are too easily insulted. Just about every joke out of Chappelle’s mouth has a tinge of controversy, but it’s that high-wire act that makes him so watchable. You become convinced he’s going to fall to his death with his next words … but the guy has wings.

He hints he’s going to go away for some time after these specials. I hope he’s just teasing. We really need this guy.

Dave Chappelle: Equanimity and The Bird Revelation are currently streaming on Netflix.

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Now that we don’t have Louis C.K. anymore, I’m looking for some reliable folks to bring the self-deprecating funny.

Judd Apatow got some consistent laughter out of me with his new standup special, Judd Apatow: The Return. Apatow—producer and director of comedy gold such as Knocked Up and Trainwreck—was a standup comic before he broke into movies. He’s indulged himself now and then over the years with occasional gigs, but this is the first time he’s actually filmed it.

He’s actually quite good—often very good. Memorable bits include his experience on a daughter date; arguments with his wife, Leslie Mann; and throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game. He actually uses photos as part of his presentation, and the one of him letting go of that first pitch is comic gold.

Most memorably, Apatow uses photos to tell the stories of his meetings with President Barack Obama and Paul McCartney. Apatow’s shtick is to tell his stories in ways that makes you feel like he must be exaggerating. Then, he shows the picture … and you realize he was probably being to kind to himself.

Judd Apatow: The Return is currently streaming on Netflix, the place to see comedy these days. HBO has been left behind.

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There are actors who are difficult to work with … and then there is Jim Carrey.

Carrey took difficulty to otherworldly levels behind the scenes of 1999’s Man on the Moon, the Milos Forman-directed biopic of Andy Kaufman. Carrey, who played Kaufman, decide to go method, and insisted upon remaining in character as Kaufman every second he was on set, or even near the set. The documentary Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, directed by Chris Smith, features an extensive interview with Carrey, along with long-hidden footage of Carrey’s antics during the production.

One of the highlights takes place when Carrey, as Kaufman, spits on wrestler Jerry Lawler. Lawler had a legendary (but staged) feud with Kaufman back in the day, and Carrey tried to build upon that. Carrey also got his ass kicked, which you will see in this movie (along with the aftermath, during which Carrey momentarily insisted that Lawler get fired).

Carrey was incredible in Moon. It was shocking when he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. Now that I’ve seen this movie, I’m not surprised: Word probably got around about what an ass he was on this movie, and people probably boycotted him when it came to voting.

That said, Carrey’s antics made for a good original movie—and this interesting documentary to boot. He’s a true nut.

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Director and co-screenwriter Dee Rees paints a bleak picture of post-World War II Mississippi in Mudbound, a performance powerhouse that showcases the talents of Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke and, most notably, Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton).

After the war, a traumatized Jamie McAllan (Hedlund) returns home to stay on a farm with his brother, Henry (Clarke), and Henry’s wife, Laura (Mulligan). Ronsel Jackson (Mitchell) also returns to the farm, but while both men were regarded as heroes overseas, their return is fraught with alcohol abuse for Jamie—and rampant racism toward African-American Ronsel.

Henry and Laura have problems of their own as they deal with the troubled Jamie and Henry’s hateful father, Pappy (a sinister Jonathan Banks). This is one of those movies you know won’t end well, and while Rees allows for occasional moments of relief, it is a mostly somber affair with a devastating finish.

Mitchell continues to emerge as one of his generation’s best actors, while Hedlund does perhaps his best work to date. Both actors put full body and soul into their roles and create characters that leave a mark. The always-reliable Mulligan is great as the wife forced to live out her life on a muddy, flooded farm in order to appease her dopey husband. Clarke paints Henry as a man of few commitments and quiet reserve—the kind of guy you can’t depend upon in a fight.

The movie is packed with stellar acting, and Rees does a solid job with the technical elements.

Mudbound is currently streaming on Netflix.

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