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Thursday, June 9, 2016

HypeCast: X-Men, Popstar, and Movies You Shouldn't Watch on Netflix

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Tyler and Collin discuss a slew of movies available for viewing both in theaters and in the comfort of your own home. First up is our latest superhero bash X-Men: Apocalypse, a film that Mitchell genuinely enjoyed for its back-to-basics simplicity, and one that Elwyn can't wait to stop talking about. He perks back up to sing the praises of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a film that he adored despite being one of only 17 people in America who saw it last weekend. Finally we move to Netflix, where Tyler watched something called The Iceman, and struggled through the first half of the latest Adam Sandler flick The Do-Over while Collin's copy of Birdman continued to sit idly right next to his television. Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-29:33---X-Men: Apocalypse
29:34-48:45---Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
48:46-1:00:04---The Iceman
1:00:05---The Do-Over and Birdman-related frustration

Monday, June 6, 2016

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (6-3-2016)

        When it comes to comedy, there's an awfully thin line between clever and stupid. Many prefer to maintain a sort of binary between the two, slotting their Woody Allens in one file, and their Adam Sandlers in another, and while the two aforementioned examples would certainly support that level of genre organization, many of our best laugh-fests locate something of a sweet spot in between. Describing Dumb and Dumber as an intellectual feat would raise eyebrows in any room in which the claim was uttered, but there's a brilliance to the film's steadfast devotion to exploring the deepest depths of idiocy. Same goes for Anchorman, This is Spinal TapAirplane!, or any other movie so brazenly moronic that it simply must have been made by a genius. Flicks baring this lofty level of inspired lunacy are few and far between, so let's take a moment to observe the accomplishment of The Lonely Island (among our generation's most heady dunces), and their pitch-perfect film debut, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

        Comprised of SNL alums Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, the three-piece mock-rap outfit has been making side-splitting bangers since 2009, graduating from an NBC sideshow into semi-legitimate band with three albums to their name. Though their lyrics constantly vacillate between comic shrewdness and goading randomness, the group's production values have always remained strikingly on par with the popular music of the moment. Popstar pulls off a similar trick, relaying a story of relentless absurdity with the conventions and trappings of a legitimate Concert Documentary. Given the movie's easy classification as a Mockumentary (they still make those?), it's almost impossible not to compare it to the aforementioned Spinal Tap. That film found its humor in observing the death knell of the gloriously gaudy rock of the late 70's and early 80's; this one lambasts the cliches of modern stardom, and does so with an acute awareness of its many influencing factors, from social media to technological advances to our fascination with knowing the political stances of famous individuals whom we will never meet. Music movies, wether they be documentaries, narrative features, or concert films, have a tendency to look backwards, making the of-the-moment freshness of Popstar stand out from the pack, and affording it a whole new set of targets at which to take aim.

        Though we know them in real life as The Lonely Island, the new movie rebrands the trio as The Style Boyz, a Beastie Boys-type outfit who made their name on crass lyrics, and pop hits absurd enough to remind us that, as a collective society, allowed Who Let the Dogs Out? and The Macarena to become global phenomenons. The least overtly talented but somehow most charismatic member Conner (Samberg) ends up going solo under the moniker Conner4Real, and while his initial monetary success is measured in millions, Popstar prefers to observe his failures, and subsequent unraveling. He's joined on tour by a hoard of clingers-on, including a publicist (Sarah Silverman), a manager (Tim Meadows), and former bandmate-turned-DJ Owen (Taccone). What ever happened to the original band's third member, you ask? Well, he's taken up a reserved life as a farmer on a particularly isolated plot of land in Colorado, from where he just about steals the whole movie.

        He also directs it, along with Taccone, and their collective prowess behind the camera is not to be ignored. The movie at large plays like a series of 3-minute-long sketches, but the filmmaking tandem shows an unteachable understanding of when one joke is played out, and it's time to move on to the next. Clocking in at 86 minutes in total, I'm not sure Popstar could stand to be even five minutes longer, but entirely too much would be lost were it five minutes shorter. Despite the movie's utter madness, there's a heartening level of control on display in all levels of production, especially in the editing room. Today marks the fourth day of the film's existence on the big screen, and after its opening weekend struggled to make it past 4.5 million dollars, you'd be wise to anticipate its theatrical existence to only live on for another ten days are so. Given the financial history of this type of film, it's a fairly easy deduction that both music movies and Mockumentaries are not genres that prompt excitement in most people. I suppose I'm just a sucker for funny songs, and if this movie doesn't sound appealing to you on paper, I won't try to force my praise of it upon you. But I will say this; Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping accomplishes virtually everything it sets out to do, and if this premise is at all in your wheel house, I implore you to see it, and on the big screen, where the musical numbers manage to legitimately impress. That line between clever and stupid has never been so blurry, nor has the divide between sloppy mania and attentive perfectionism.

Grade: A-

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Comparing your favorite NBA players to Game of Thrones characters, Volume 2

        As book-readers and show-watchers alike well know, the world of Game of Thrones continuously expands, adding more places and people every time you blink your eyes, all while constantly developing its previously established characters. The NBA is the very same, and while the Comparing Your Favorite NBA Players to Game of Thrones Characters article from last year around this time was meant to be a one-off, so much has happened in both universes that we're back for round two. In honor of tonight's Game 1 of the NBA finals, here's the second chapter in perhaps the most wildly asinine article in the history of this blog... Don't rule out a third. A link to the first volume can be found below.

***Warning: this article contains more Game of Thrones spoilers than there are scales on Drogon's back. You've been warned***

Klay Thompson is Jorah Mormont
        These two badasses might be regularly out-shined by the messiah figure they spend most of their time with, but make no mistake, both would be running the show in any other situation. Mormont has been one of the realm's most feared swordsmen for decades now, and Thompson morphs into one of the best all-around players in the whole league whenever the moment arrises. What's more, both are loyal and committed to their leaders, Jorah because he loves Daenerys, and Klay because he loves winning.

Manu Ginobili is Littlefinger
        No one would argue that either Ginobili or Littlefinger don't know how to play the game, the latter coming up from modest means to become the acting Lord of the Vale, while Manu emerged from Argentina to win four titles and a olympic gold medal. But boy, are they both shifty! There's no telling when Littlefinger has conducted a deal behind your back that could lead to your demise, just like there's no telling when Ginobili will flail about wildly and earn three fraudulent foul shots with the clock winding down. You have to respect the hustle, but this might be that rarest of instances in which you're allowed to hate the player but love the game.

Isaiah Thomas is Bronn
        You need me to pour in 20 a night in Sacramento? Done. Same deal in Phoenix? I don't see why not. How about in Boston? Let's go get it! It's hard to imagine either Thomas or Bronn playing a particularly large role in the ultimate battle for all seven kingdoms/the NBA title, but if you need somebody to just get out there and make it happen, they're both ready anytime, anywhere... assuming you can pay handsomely enough. Though neither wields one, these two are guns for hire.

Kristaps Porzingis is Bran
        Much like the Anthony Davis is Melisandre claim that I made last time around, these two are bound together by their seemingly limitless potential. The Stark boy can inhabit the minds of other living creatures and has unspecified time-traveling abilities. The rail-thin Latvian can run the court, protect the rim, and drill a corner three. So why is it so hard to see either of them turning into a conquerer? Poor Bran is paralyzed from the waist down, and Porzingis is 7'2'', a height that virtually guarantees his whole body breaks down within the next few years. Powerful as they may be, those are some pretty concerning footnotes.

Draymond Green is The Hound
        Look at these two, mugging as always. Sturdily built men who are not to be trifled with, both Green and the Hound carry themselves with absolutely outrageous amounts of bravado and confidence, and actually have the skills and killer instincts to back them up. Both possess legendarily foul mouths, and there's little doubt in my mind that a chicken eating contest between the two would prove hard fought. They also have softer sides as well, devoting much of their time to caring for someone smaller, sweeter, and more important than themselves... but they'll still kick you in the crotch if you get in their way.

Jimmy Butler is Davos Seaworth
        The dictionary definition of a great guy to have in your corner, both Butler and Seaworth are hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone pragmatists who value honor, valor, and stalwart devotion to their cause. They also both picked the wrong cause. Poor Davos put his faith in a man who cut off the tips of his fingers and burned people alive for sport, which is basically what Tom Thibodeau did to all the Bulls players over his multi-year reign of terror/success. Neither Stannis Baratheon nor Derrick Rose turned out to be the Prince Who Was Promised, and yet their right-hand men continue to soldier on. Here's hoping they both find a cause worth fighting for.

D'Angelo Russell is Shae
        Don't trust these two. Not now. Not ever.

Kyrie Irving is Loras Tyrell
        It doesn't get much sexier than Kyrie and Loras, two living, breathing embodiments of swagger. The way Irving slices through the lane to hit a teardrop over the fingertips of men literally a foot taller than him is not so dissimilar to Tyrell's out-jousting The Mountain, and even doling out roses before doing so. Another commonality? They both might be more style than substance, and good god, no defense is played by either party. How else do you explain the Knight of Flowers being imprisoned in a crappy dungeon by religious lunatics, or Kyrie getting his ankles broken by the lunatic Russell Westbrook? They've both got a good thing going, but a little more time spent honing their craft probably wouldn't hurt either party.

Steven Adams is Tormund Giantsbane
        The two toughest dudes you will ever lay eyes upon, both Adams and Giantsbane relish getting into the nitty-gritty of things, and are both capable of taking an L without completely losing their cool. Would you be as patient as Tormund was when Jon Snow's men killed half of his Wildling compatriots, and took him captive just for good measure? How about Adams' resolve when being kicked in the junk, and having guys intentionally land on the small of his back with the entirety of their body weight? I for one would take umbrage with such foul treatment, but not these warriors. Their goals are simple: fight on, grow absurd facial hair, and make eyes at the women they might someday love
Kyle Lowry is Grey Worm
         Seriously you two, don't talk the talk if you can't walk the walk. Despite their rigorous training and seemingly battle-ready mindsets, both Lowry and Grey Worm stay losing. Having the entire Unsullied behind you is not unlike having all of Canada support your cause, but when it comes to taking down the Sons of the LeBron, they never fail to come up short. Yes, they're tough, and yes, both are capable of emerging victoriously, but is there anyone in all the seven kingdoms and six divisions whom you'd more readily bet against in a pressure situation? That's what I thought.

Kevin Love is Olly
        How soon they forget. Did it just sort of slip Olly's mind that he would have been murdered and likely devoured by the Thenns were it not for Jon Snow? Kevin Love knows that LeBron is the only reason he's not still going 40-42 in Minnesota every year, right? Why are these two so petulant? Sure, the former Lord Commander might have formed a treaty with the savages that ate Olly's parents right in front of him, and King James' passive aggressiveness toward Love via social media can't feel too good either, but we're capable of compromise here, right? No? Ok, I guess just keep whining then (Side Note for Olly: you killed the woman Jon loved right in front of him! Can't we call this even?).

Blake Griffin is Jaqen H'ghar
        Are we sure these guys are cool anymore? They certainly were, H'ghar changing identities and slaying some unsuspecting sap at the same frequency with which Griffin posterized Pau Gasol and starred in decent Kia commercials. All that awesomeness feels like a long time ago at this point, and while both remain undeniably powerful, all of that Yoda-speak and mean mugging at the refs has grown a little stale. You never really know which Griffin will show up for a given game, a concept that Jaqen takes to the next level by swapping out faces like they're dirty laundry. Are you proud of me for holding out this long before making a joke about how they both like to hit unarmed people who are much smaller than them? Because I am.

The Atlanta Hawks are the Sand Snakes
        The Hawks are powerful. They finished last season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, and ran it back this year to the sound of a solid regular season, and an appearance in the second round. The Sand Snakes are equally formidable, having now employed their lethal abilities to overthrow the entire Dornish government (which consists of two or three people, depending on the day). I also never want to see either of them ever again. Seriously, there are White Walkers coming from the north and contenders coming from the west; why are we watching these teams merely annoy the Cavs and commit to the worst accents ever captured on film? We get it, you guys are good at what you do, but you're also boring and inconsequential. Can we just... you know... not?

Sam Henke is Craster
        Outside of Cleveland and occasionally Miami, true hoops fans have made a habit of largely ignoring the Eastern Conference. Same goes for the Westerosi and all territory located north of the wall, but Craster and Henke have managed to capture our attention none the less. The former was a shame to every living thing while the latter served as an affront to anyone who's ever cared entirely too much about team sports. We took our eyes off of them, and they each created an ungodly abomination while no one was looking. The only real difference is in Craster's determination to keep everything 'in house,' while Henke exports every valuable asset in his arsenal as soon as the asking price is right. They both met untimely ends, and I believe I speak for the masses when I say 'good riddance.'

Karl-Anthony Towns is Euron Greyjoy
        Well that was fast. Just when you thought Yara Greyjoy and Andrew Wiggins were set to lead their countrymen into the future, in stepped Towns and Euron, snatching the crown away as if it was their's to begin with. Karl-Anthony does seem a bit more civil, but if anyone had gotten in the way of his march to this year's Rookie of the Year trophy, you best believe he would have no problems throwing that chump off the nearest bridge. Perhaps these two were always meant to ascend to the throne, but who could have seen it happening this fast?