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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Louis C.K., the Radiohead of standup comics, has dropped yet another surprise on his fans: On Saturday, Jan. 30, I—having been the purchaser of many C.K. nuggets before— received an e-mail from his website stating there was something new to watch, a show called Horace and Pete.

Well, shit. I buy anything this guy turns out—and I mean anything. I went to the website, digitally plopped down my $5, and set about watching his new experiment.

Horace and Pete, as it turns out, is a Web series staged not unlike an off-Broadway play. There are a couple of sets, and a bunch of actors seemingly going at it without the benefit of a lot of takes. There’s no studio audience, and no laugh track. It’s bare-bones—and it’s very good.

C.K. writes, directs and stars as Horace, owner of a family bar alongside brother Pete (an often-unhinged Steve Buscemi). Horace has a younger girlfriend, Rachel (Rebecca Hall), and full-grown daughter, Alice (Aidy Bryant), who has a tendency to return his calls with unwanted texts. Uncle Pete (Alan Alda) mans the bar with an intolerant and racist fist.

Jessica Lange—yes, the Jessica Lange—co-stars as a barfly, while the likes of Steven Wright, Nick DiPaolo and Edie Falco round out the stellar cast. Alda makes the most memorable impression, partly because he delivers the most-shocking lines. He has a remark about pedophilia that looks like it caught C.K. off-guard.

There’s a definite improvisational feel to much of this. Some lines get flubbed, and there are a few signs that the performers didn’t have a lot of time to get their lines down. That’s probably true, because the show feels as if it was taped just a few days ago; for example, there are remarks about Trump in Iowa.

Throw in a theme song by a little guy named Paul Simon, and you have a pretty impressive production. There are signs that this isn’t a one-time thing, which is good to know.

If you are wondering whether or not it’s worth $5 … well, it’s 67 minutes long, and it has Louis C.K. and Jessica Lange in it. Enough said.

Louis C.K. has put his FX series on hold in favor of other projects, this being one of them. May Horace and Pete serve drinks at their shitty bar for a long time to come.

Horace and Pete is available for download ($5) at Louisck.net.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I missed the latest Mark Wahlberg extravaganza—a remake of the 1970s James Caan movie The Gambler (NOT the Kenny Rogers TV movie)—when it ran in theaters early this year.

Wahlberg lost a lot of weight to play Jim Bennett, an author-turned-college professor who hates life, for some reason. The film never really delves into why Jim is so miserable, and why he has developed such a nasty gambling problem.

His problem is so bad that he can’t resist gambling even when his rich mom (a strong Jessica Lange) takes out a large loan to bail him out with criminal types. He just takes the loan and gambles some more, spiraling further downward.

John Goodman has a couple of good scenes as a loan shark who has no tolerance for weakness. Brie Larson gives a strong performance as the student who inevitably pulls Jim into a relationship, and George Kennedy makes a brief appearance as Jim’s dying grandfather.

This is a good showcase for Wahlberg, who takes his character into quite a dark place. Bitterness oozes from Jim’s pores—and I like how the roots of that bitterness remain a mystery until the end of the film. The ending is a bit predictable, but it doesn’t take away from the work of Wahlberg and Lange—two pros who make The Gambler worth your while.

Special Features: There are a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes and some deleted and extended scenes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing