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Dave Chappelle returned to the spotlight a few months back when he hosted Saturday Night Live—and reminded us all that he’s one of the greatest comics working today. His monologue was a thing of beauty.

With his two new standup specials currently streaming on Netflix, Chappelle proves he is actually one of the best comics to ever pick up a microphone: These are two solid gigs packed with nasty, hard hitting, brilliant humor.

The two specials have similar feels, so you are safe watching them back to back and treating them as one. Chappelle shames the likes of Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson in ways they truly deserve, while his takes on marriage and some of his own wild public moments are side-splittingly hilarious.

These shows represent a man at the top of his craft. Chappelle joins the ranks of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks and Louis C.K. in the Standup Hall of Fame.

Dave Chappelle: Deep in the Heart of Texas and Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin are now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you missed the first season of Love, an excellent romantic comedy series on Netflix, get on it. It’s a true gem.

Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are back for a second season as Mickey and Gus, one of the most realistically clumsy couples ever depicted on film. Mickey is a drug and sex addict, while Gus is a nebbish nerd tutoring movie stars. They look like a strange, impossible couple, and they pretty much are—but they are also sweet together in a dysfunctional way, with Jacobs and Rust setting off constant comedy fireworks.

Claudia O’Doherty is consistently hilarious as Mickey’s roomie, Bernie.

This has the feel of some of the better movies by Judd Apatow, who is a co-creator of the show—yet it just keeps on going and going. Season 2 is already up on Netflix, available for binge watching, while Season 3 has already been announced.

The ballad of Mickey and Gus is classic TV, and yet another positive story for Netflix. The streaming service has really gotten it together these last couple of years. 

Love is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet begins with Sheila (Drew Barrymore)—a real estate agent along with her husband, Joel (Timothy Olyphant)—getting a little stomachache. That’s followed by some major projectile vomiting during a house showing.

She’s having diet problems … and, as things turn out, she’s craving human flesh. And that human flesh needs to be fresh. Basically, she’s a zombie, and Joel is doing his best to be understanding about the whole thing. When Sheila eats one of their co-workers, however, things get a little intense.

Barrymore and Olyphant make for a funny, bizarre couple. Olyphant seems a little out of place in the first episode or two, but he finds his footing and hits his stride. Liv Hewson is a good find as their daughter, Abby, while Skyler Gisondo adds a nice geek element as the helpful neighbor who knows all about zombies from his comic books.

The show is pretty damn gory (Sheila’s first kill is memorably disgusting), so you shouldn’t watch if you can’t handle stuff that goes beyond an R-rating. Walking Dead and Evil Dead fans … you will have a blast!

Santa Clarita Diet is streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Neil Patrick Harris triumphs as the evil Count Olaf in Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the latest adaptation of the darkly comic children’s books (previously made into a movie starring Jim Carrey in the Olaf role).

The film was good, but this show is better, with the first two episodes directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, former cameraman for the Coen brothers and director of Men in Black and The Addams Family. The TV version is far more twisted, and Harris’ Olaf is a dastardly villain. He’s also really, really funny.

The plot involves the truly sad and depressing story of orphaned children forced to live with Olaf as he tries to steal their inheritance. Patrick Warburton is a deadpan delight as Lemony Snicket, alleged writer of the “true” story and the narrator. The kids, led by Malina Weissman as Violet and Louis Hynes as Klaus, are perfect. Baby Sunny, played by Presley Smith, is hilarious, reminiscent of the amazing baby Pubert from Addams Family Values.

Harris gets to have a blast here, especially when Olaf goes into disguise mode. He also sings the theme song, in which he urges you to look away and not watch, because the story is just too depressing. That’s far from the truth: It’s totally worth watching.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Barry is the second film released in 2016 to depict a young Barack Obama—and it’s not nearly as good as the first (Southside With You).

Devon Terrell makes his screen debut as Barry (Barack) Obama, a young man introducing himself to New York City and Columbia University back in 1981. Director Vikram Gandhi shows the young Barry smoking a lot, drinking bad beer and sharing his weed. (We don’t actually see him smoking weed, although a friend takes one of his joints out of an ashtray.) The movie establishes Barry as a normal college kid trying to fit in.

One of the film’s main subplots is his romance with a fellow student named Charlotte (Anya Taylor-Joy). All this subplot does is make young Barry look like a total douchebag, as he leads on a perfectly nice girl who loved him, and leaves her stranded at a family wedding. It would be one thing if this girl actually existed, but she didn’t, so it seems a bit odd to make Obama the center of a complicated young-romance story that plays out in the most stereotypical of ways. Despite a good performance from Taylor-Joy, it’s also boring.

Blame Gandhi, who gives the movie a sleepy pace and no true sense of direction, for this film’s failure.

Barry is currently streaming on Netflix. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Director Christopher Guest, who hadn’t made a movie in nearly a decade, returns with Mascots, which is easily his worst. His usual acting corps (minus Eugene Levy) takes a crack at the world of mascots—and I can’t think of a dumber subject for a comedy. Much of the movie involves performers in full mascot suits doing competition routines that have nothing to them—other than eating up the running time.

There’s a laugh every now and then, but there are far more groans; the subject matter just doesn’t call for a full movie. Parker Posey has the film’s biggest laugh after eating bad sushi. It’s not a very big laugh, so that’s not saying much.

In a truly desperate move, Guest makes a cameo as his Waiting for Guffman character, Corky. That persona simply reminds us that this once very funny guy is now straining for laughs, Mel Brooks-style.

His improvisatory style has worked with better subjects (community theater, pet shows, folk music), but this one suggests that he may have run out of ideas. In many ways, Mascots rips off Best in Show, his pet-competition movie. This is just a less funny version of Best in Show with people dressed as pets rather than having real animals running around.

This is a tremendous waste of everybody’s time and should be removed from Netflix to make room for more shitty Adam Sandler movies.

Mascots is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn investigate the horror show that was the Meredith Kercher murder and the many injustices that rained down upon American exchange student Knox and her boyfriend of one week, Raffaele Sollecito, in Perugia, Italy.

Both were convicted by an Italian court, as was a third suspect, of stabbing Knox’s roommate Kercher to death, and both served time as their cases went through a series of appeals. The two, now free, sit down for interviews and speak of the confusion that was their interrogation, their whereabouts on the night of the murder, and the hell they endured in prison.

The film mostly skips over the trials, concentrating more on Knox and Sollecito’s recollections about the night of the murder and the aftermath. The subject probably requires an entire series, and not one 90-minute documentary, but the story is covered pretty well, given the time constraints.

Others interviewed include an idiotic journalist who admits much of what was reported on Knox was rushed, inconclusive or even made up. The head prosecutor on the case also sits down, and insists upon Knox’s guilt, even though there was a lack of evidence.

This story probably had many families pull the plug on plans for teenagers to attend school overseas.

Amanda Knox is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

In his latest comedy special, Making America Great Again! on Netflix, David Cross takes a little more than 10 minutes to really get going.

When he gets going … holy shit!

This guy isn’t afraid of anything. He takes on Donald Trump, the pope and the Catholic Church, terrorists, etc., with a fearlessness that is actually kind of scary. I seriously worry about him getting his ass kicked in the parking lot.

Cross has long been one of my favorite standup comedians. I’d call this one of his weaker sets, but that’s just because his previous ones are so great. Cross on a mediocre night is much better than most standups on their best night, so be prepared to laugh. Also, be prepared to moan and cringe, because this guy goes to some pretty unthinkable places with his bits. His theory on why God allows children to die is, shall we say, a little on the controversial side.

Last year, Cross got back together with Bob Odenkirk for a sketch show that also aired on Netflix. It’s official: Netflix is a kickass source for a variety of consistently excellent original programming.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

After sitting on the shelf for quite some time, Mark Osborne’s unorthodox animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic The Little Prince has finally gotten a release—a release streaming on Netflix, that is.

It’s a good-enough movie, but it is by no means a straight retelling of The Little Prince. There’s a modern story about a young girl (the voice of Mackenzie Foy) who befriends an old aviator (Jeff Bridges)—the one we know from The Little Prince. He recounts part of that story to the little girl, which we see in stop-motion animation. (The modern portion of the story is mostly told via CGI.)

There’s an interesting mix of animation techniques to go with some twists in the story. While things feel a little uneven and perhaps slow at times, it’s an enjoyable film.

Other voice performers include Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro and Albert Brooks. It’s great fun hearing all of their voices in one place.

Again, if you are looking for a traditional retelling of The Little Prince, this is not it. If you are looking for decent-enough animated fare that will entertain kids and adults alike, you could do much worse.

The Little Prince is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Netflix original movies are popping up more and more—some with big stars in them. For example, The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd.

It’s not a bad movie at all. It’s actually almost good—but not quite.

Rudd plays Ben, a distraught, grieving novelist mourning the loss of his son and going through a divorce. In order to get himself out of a rut, and perhaps start writing again, he takes a course to become a caregiver. He gets a job caring for Trevor (Craig Roberts), a young man suffering from muscular dystrophy who doesn’t have long to live.

Trevor is a bit caustic, and the two men develop a strange sort of antagonistic friendship. They wind up on a road trip during which they pick up Selena Gomez, who curses a lot. Road-trip wackiness ensues.

The Fundamentals of Caring uses all of the familiar road-trip tropes; unfortunately, Gomez takes the movie down a notch. Rudd and Roberts are pretty good together onscreen—almost good enough to make the movie worthwhile. But in the end, The Fundamentals of Caring is an uneven venture—which is surprising, considering Rudd’s involvement.

Published in Reviews