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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Howard Stern, sporting a silly gray beard in order to give his pal David Letterman a hard time, sits for a terrific interview in the latest installment of Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

Stern, who got his big television break on Letterman’s show many years ago, is shown in footage from their first meeting together on TV—sporting a terrible mustache and somehow looking older than he does now. The action then skips to present-day, with Letterman sporting that crazy beard and Howard with shades—but without upper-lip hair.

The two talk about broadcasting in general, Howard’s upbringing, and the hazards of celebrity. Stern is his usual self-conscious self, complaining about his looks and worrying he’s ruining Dave’s show. He looks fine, and he’s a great guest.

Of course, they touch upon Donald Trump and his many visits to each of their shows, including Trump’s gross bragging about his own daughter’s hotness. Letterman invites Howard to visit Utah with him, and not surprisingly, Howard declines.

The show—the final episode of the first and possibly only season of My Next Guest—ends with Letterman riding off into the sunset on a horse. Is this the symbolic end to Letterman’s TV days? Gee, I hope not. This show is proof Letterman has plenty left in the tank.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Two comic legends come together for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a variety special that has its shining moments … but gets by on the general good feeling of seeing the two sharing a stage.

It’s not remarkably funny. Actually, it really isn’t that funny at all; a lot of the attempts at humor fall flat. It does have a couple of gigglers, including Short’s nasty talk-show-host Jiminy Glick transformed into a puppet that Martin works; the two also enjoy making fun of each other. But a musical number by Short that winds up with him in a very low-grade naked suit is lame.

The show really shines when Martin simply sits down and plays his banjo. Honestly, I could’ve watched an hour of Martin playing his banjo by himself on the stage. I didn’t even need the moment when his backing band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, showed up to finish the song. Martin playing a banjo, by himself, is one of my favorite things the entertainment industry has to offer.

While Short keeps chugging as an actor, Martin has put that part of his life aside to tour as a musician, sometimes with Edie Brickell. So if anything, this special is nice in that we get to see Martin doing some comedy again. Still, I’m one of those folks who is perfectly content to watch him pick those strings.

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life is now streaming on Netflix.

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I’ve had it up to here with zombies (I stopped watching The Walking Dead after Season 2)—but Cargo, set in the Australian Outback, is actually pretty good.

Martin Freeman stars as a man who is surviving a zombie apocalypse on a houseboat with his wife and baby daughter. Things go very badly not long after the movie starts—and he must battle on land to ensure a future for his family. Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (Ramke also wrote the screenplay) keep the origins of the apocalypse shrouded in secrecy, and that’s a good move.

There are cool elements, like government-provided survival (and disposal) packs for those who become infected, and the fact that Freeman has a baby strapped to his back during a rather harrowing medical emergency. The film relies more upon a sense of dread and impending doom rather than straight-up zombie violence. The humans who aren’t sick turn out to be a lot scarier than the ghouls.

The movie is more The Road than Dawn of the Dead, and Freeman’s stellar work makes it worth seeing, even if you’ve had your fill of flesh-eaters.

Cargo is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

After a strong, sweet and funny start, Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix effort, The Week Of, falls apart in its second half.

Sandler plays Kenny, a dad whose daughter (Allison Strong) is getting married in a week. He sees it as his last chance to do something for her, so he tries his best to put together an impressive spread for the two families. Chris Rock plays the father of the groom, a wealthy heart surgeon who isn’t impressed with the hotel Kenny has picked. Others on hand include Rachel Dratch (It’s good to see her!) as Kenny’s wife, and Steve Buscemi as a sleazy family member with amazing climbing abilities.

Directed by Robert Smigel, the film goes on long enough for the jokes to start dying from old age. A joke involving a legless uncle starts funny, gets funnier, almost gets really funny … then goes stale.

As a Howard Stern fan, I was happy to finally see the culmination of Ronnie the Limo Driver’s hard work; he’s a bad actor, but he was better than I thought he would be. (He’s a convincing sleeper.)

Having grown up on Long Island, I can say the movie does a good job of capturing the region, from the accents to the undying loyalty to Billy Joel. You have to have some respect for a comedy that kills a legless man by throwing him into a bounce pit in the middle of a strip club—but that’s not enough to make it a winner. That’s a shame, because Sandler is actually fairly endearing here, and some of the performers bring at least their B- game. The Week Of just needed to be about 25 minutes shorter, and 35 percent funnier.

The Week Of is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

A dying photographer (Ed Harris) coaxes his estranged son (Jason Sudeikis) into going on a road trip with him and his nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) to get some Kodachrome film developed before the world stops developing the brand in Netflix’s Kodachrome.

Yes, it’s yet another road movie, and yes, it has the “somebody’s dying” gimmick to go with it—but don’t write this one off based on the synopsis. The three stars are pretty good here, with Harris especially good as a miserable man trying, in a very strange and peculiar way, to make nice with his son before checking out.

Sudeikis is one of the more underrated actors out there, and he does a lot with a fairly stereotypical role. Olsen, one of my favorite actresses, puts the whole thing over the top as a nurse who’s more than just an extra passenger calling shotgun.

The movie falls into some of the typical trope potholes, but Harris and company consistently pull it out of the muck. There’s a music-business subplot involving Sudeikis’ character that is pretty good, too.

Kodachrome is not a great movie, but it is worth a shot late on a Saturday night.

Kodachrome is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Wow! Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet was a show that was just OK in its first season—but not only does it hit its stride in the second; it becomes one of the funniest shows on TV (or streaming, or whatever).

Why? Mainly because Timothy Olyphant’s performance as mildly agitated Joe—husband to recently undead cannibal Sheila (Drew Barrymore)—has gone from slightly off to totally on. In the first episode alone, he has a solid 10 moments that are worth a laugh. He not only gets the laughs; he gets them with pitch-perfect timing. Barrymore is no slouch, either, although she’s simply continuing her great work from Season 1.

The writing on this show is done by a group of people (including Victor Fresco) who have just said, “Who gives a fuck anymore?” All the proverbial stops have been taken out. There are lines in this show that are as nasty/funny as anything you will find in your living room watching things on the rectangular doodad that spits out imagery and sounds and whatnot.

Here’s a line of dialogue for an example: “If this helps you be less murdery … that’s great. My concern is, if somebody sees you running around snatching at rabbits like a coyote in yoga pants, they might start asking questions, like ‘What the fuck is that?!’” Olyphant delivered that line with a combination of deadpan and agitation that was drop-dead funny.

This one gets super-violent, so beware of hardcore gore. As entertainment that gets an equal amount of gross-outs and laughs, this one just crossed into Evil Dead territory.

The second season of Santa Clarita Diet is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The ballad of Mickey and Gus (Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust) comes to a satisfying conclusion in the third and final season of Love on Netflix.

Whenever I watched this show, co-produced by Judd Apatow, I wound up binging it over the weekend it came out. In other words … I watched all of the episodes quickly—and happily. Rust and Jacobs have proven to be one of TV’s all-time-great, and most-realistic, couples since the show premiered in 2016, and I’m actually quite sorry to see their saga has ended. I would like to see a season of this every year until I die.

Season 3 starts with two episodes directed by Michael Showalter, who hit his big-screen stride with last year’s The Big Sick. Showalter starts the season off with sure footing, and the momentum continues thereafter. Apatow himself directs an episode, all of which are consistently hilarious.

On top of the entertaining Mickey and Gus dysfunction, Claudia O’Doherty continues getting laughs as Bertie, Mickey’s roommate. Season 3 spends more time on Bertie and her strange boyfriend, Randy (Mike Mitchell), a relationship as funny as the central one.

Mickey and Gus still fight all the way up to the show’s ending, which I found to be incredibly heartwarming … and a little insane. That’s how this show made me feel the entire time watching it.

Love is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing