Category Archives: The Big Screen

U2 Jump Street: Before “Friends”

Penhall & HansonWith 22 Jump Street opening last weekend I thought it would only be appropriate to open up the digital archives and take a look at the source text, the original TV series, the pre-meta, pre-spoof, sincere-to-a-fault 21 Jump Street. And when thinking about what to write about I was surprised to learn that I never spoke about one of the most vivid memories of 21 Jump Street from my childhood, something that has stuck with me for decades, even if I wasn’t sure it was real until I just confirmed it. Something that, as a consequence, always bothered me about Friends. And that is the use of U2’s “With or Without You.”

It was easy to think that I had made it up. My memory said that the series on the fledgling Fox network once featured an episode in which Officer Doug Penhall (the incomparable Peter DeLuise) travels to El Salvador to locate his missing wife (in my recollections, however, it was not El Salvador – I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that El Salvador existed at the time – I just had a vision of Penhall going to some Spanish-speaking place, or, perhaps, due to the outbreak of the first Gulf War during that time, the Middle East somewhere). And I recalled that the emotional climax was set to “Without or Without You,” a song that I hadn’t put in context yet, by a band I wouldn’t really be aware of until they had a pretty popular video from the Batman Forever soundtrack. But that couldn’t have actually happened right? This the show in which Johnny Depp goes undercover as a high school student to break up an amateur weed-dealing ring, in which Peter DeLuise was still somehow eligible for the varsity football team, in which Holly Robinson-Peete cornered the market on denim. So there couldn’t have been an episode in which Penhall and Hanson get embroiled in a Latin American revolution, right? With machine guns and rebel armies and jungles and explosions? Nah. In which Penhall grieves over his dead wife at her makeshift grave? No. No way. Now an episode in which Hanson is afraid to share chocolate milk with an HIV-positive student? Sure. Richard Greico’s Booker getting super high and then absolutely dominating on the schoolyard basketball court? I’ll buy that. But not an epic, emotional, tragic trek through a Latin American nation in turmoil set against the most moving and gut-wrenching song from the Irish Beatles (before the pomposity and pretentiousness of later fare like “Beautiful Day”). We think not.

But it was real! Sure, if you look up that episode now – “La Bizca” (translation: “the cross-eyed”) – and watch on Hulu, or view it on your complete series DVDs (which I know you have), the song has been replaced with some generic stock music. To be fair, it’s amazing that they were able to use it for the original broadcast in the first place, so it would be greedy to expect to fire up your Amazon Prime and still hear the strains of The Edge’s guitar. But, thanks to some intrepid, heroic YouTube users, the original version exists (taken from what we think was a German broadcast, naturally), and it can be seen in its original glory, the way that Bono never intended because he probably didn’t know that 21 Jump Street was a thing.

And when we say “its original glory” we also mean before “With or Without You” was usurped and recontextualized by Friends when Ross and Rachel couldn’t agree on the terms of a “break.” Years after “La Bizca” we remember watching Rachel stare out her fake window in her fake NYC apartment as fake snow fell down and we were immediately bothered by this song being appropriated as the soundtrack to their not-really-star-crossed romance. These two selfish, self-obsessed, entitled yuppies let a little fight and a copy shop girl get between them, and they have the audacity to proclaim this as their theme song, the anthem to their dysfunctional, overwrought, will-they-or-won’t-they romance? That, we recall then and recall now, was very upsetting. The emotional depths of “With or Without You” should be reserved for a Doug Penhall traveling halfway across the world only to learn that his wife has perished in the midst of a brutal civil war, not for a fashion buyer and a whiny guy with a monkey who break up after every petty squabble. It’s an insult to “With or Without You,” and its an insult to the late Marta Penhall. Would you use Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to accompany Phoebe giving birth to her brother’s triplets? No, you wouldn’t. And this was arguably worse.

And when we say “its original glory” we also mean the manner in which “With or Without You” was used in the television series versus how it might be used in the movies; which is to say without any trace of irony, but instead just dripping with earnestness. The polar opposite of 21 Jump Street the movie (and its sequel), 21 Jump Street the show was hyper self-serious. Sure, you don’t have a series with Peter DeLuise at the forefront and not have your fair share of yuks, but the show did not allow for any degree of winking or self-parody, any even vague allusion to its absurdity. Racism in high schools and a Vietnamese extortion ring and a clown kidnapping his grandson and revolutions in El Salvador, this was never played for laughs, but for very special episodes at best, didactic social commentary at worst. But good or bad, the original 21 Jump Street was committed to the integrity of these stories, and that probably goes a long way towards explaining why Johnny Depp was so eager to flee the Jump Street chapel. It wasn’t the best show – not by a long shot – and it didn’t always do a great job of tackling the big issues – again, not by a long shot – but you can’t say they didn’t aim high. And if their aim wasn’t true – and it usually wasn’t – their intentions were.

Much like, you might argue, a little rock band out of Dublin.

 

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Filed under Count Bleh, Jump Streets Ahead, Must See TV, Nostalgia Corner, The Big Screen, Tyranasaurus Sex

Parting Shot: Peeples is Peeples

Peeples is PeeplesNo is buildings. Is Tyler Perrys, huh? Is peeples, is dancing, is music, is Craig Robinsons. So, peeples is peeples. Okay?

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Filed under Huh?, Muppets, Parting Shot, The Big Screen

Jumped the Snark Shorty: The Avengers’ Pandora’s Box

In last summer’s The Avengers, the Earth’s greatest heroes contend with an army of otherworldly creatures bent on our world’s destruction, alien soldiers brought to our planet through a portal opened up by supervillain Loki. The rag-tag group rallies together – despite their differences – and manages to save humanity, sending back the Chitauri fleet, capturing Loki and raking in $1.5 billion worldwide. The Avengers was nothing but an unqualified success, a culmination of years of cross-promotion Easter eggs and post-credit teasers. It changed the paradigm of what could be done with a film franchise, something that Warner Bros will no doubt try to replicate with DC’s Justice League. And with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 on the way this year, and a captain Captain America sequel the next, the Avengers may have served to make its parts greater than the whole, making its super hero stars even more super. However, in closing that rift in space, and doing it with such fanfare, the Avengers may have opened up another Pandora’s Box of sorts, one their super powers and heroism cannot shut.

The Avengers phenomenon, for all the sequel possibilities it opened up for its core members and ancillary personnel, might have actually had an inverse effect on the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, at least from our perspective. In The Avengers we see Nick’s Fury great vision come into focus, that one day there would be a threat large enough, menacing enough, to require some force or resistance greater than anything S.H.I.E.L.D. or any army could offer. Fury had a hunch that something fierce was coming, and played that hunch in recruiting the team – an arduous process we had seen in and around the individual films since Iron Man kicked this all off in 2008 – and when the time came that there was some truly epic evil, the Avengers would put aside their pride and egos and band together to save humanity.

But there’s an inherent paradox in all of this. If the idea of the Avengers is that they’re needed to combat Earth’s greatest foes, then how seriously should we take the villainy in, say, Iron Man 3. If what Tony Stark is facing – the Mandarin in this case – is so grave and terrible and dangerous, then wouldn’t he call in his new buddies for backup (although, we do assume that The Hulk – but not necessarily Mark Ruffalo – will make an appearance in the film)? After The Avengers the stakes just feel lowered for any non-Avengers movie. Admittedly, it’s a little less clear for Thor: The Dark World, because much of it appears to take place outside of our realm and in Thor’s home of Asgard, but the principle still rings true. If the situation is so dire wouldn’t Thor summon his team if he could? Or else, if he doesn’t need them, then the bad guy can’t be so bad, right?

Of course, you could argue that it’s all a moot point anyway. The approaching enemy forces in these films can be far more powerful and dangerous than the evil in The Avengers, but it doesn’t really matter because we know that none of our heroes will ever be vanquished in their own films. They need to survive until the next Avengers movie. And then live on for their next individual movie. And so on. And so on. And so on…until the whole thing is rebooted once again.

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Filed under Be careful what you wish for, Geekery, Shorties, The Big Screen

Parting Shot: Argoes Corproate

Argo Corp

I liked Argo back before they were mainstream. 

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Filed under Conspiracy Theory, Parting Shot, The Big Screen

Girls, Girls, Girls*

Well, if you still needed something to wash out the taste of misogyny and disrespect towards women after the Oscars, then a trio of announcements concerning female-centric projects might just finally cleanse your palate.  Basically, it’s Ladies Night and all the girls drink for free. To wit:

1. Comedy Central has, very wisely, picked up a ten-episode order of Broad Citya comedy based on the web series of the same name created by and starring the brilliant Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (full disclosure: they are close personal friends and two beautiful, strong, hilarious, independent women). Loosely based on their own lives, it’s the anti-Sex and the City that Girls** isn’t. Here is the Season 2 finale, a love letter to NYC that features Amy Poehler, who is executive producing the series (and is another beautiful, strong, hilarious, independent woman):

More: K. Bell and the future Belle of the Ball…

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Filed under Brilliance, Flashback!, Freak Out Control, Good News!, Mars Investigations, The Big Screen, Virulent, Yasmine Bleeth

A Jumped the Snark “Shorty” – Predicting the 2014 Oscars

We’re unveiling a new feature on this blog today: Jumped the Snark Shorties, very brief thoughts and commentary on various topics and issues. Could be a follow-up to a previous post, an ad-hoc op-ed, or a random non-sequtiur. Opinions that are too short and partially formed to necessitate a full-length analysis, but too long for a tweet. Today we revisit our post from last week, our response to response to the Oscars and the outrage fired towards Seth MacFarlane. 

With all the bitter criticism and outcry following Seth MacFarlane’s Academy Awards hosting turn, it’s only natural to wonder who will take the stage next year. Likewise, it’s safe to assume that the Producers will be walking on glass with their next selection, aiming to pull in a host that can pull in the laughs (and ratings) while omitting the more the more offensive elements, effectively compensating for this year’s (alleged) disaster.

Our prediction: Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy

Why? Coming off the upcoming The Heat these will be two very bankable, very likable, very current commodities. And, unlike Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, these are movie stars, and, perhaps more importantly, actresses more than comedians. Their comedic reputation and integrity won’t be at risk; they’ll be more likely to be tame, to be good soldiers, and more amenable to it than the former SNL standouts,  neither of whom, it should be noted, have yet to truly break out on the big screen.

But Jumped the Snark, won’t the “Body Cops” be all over that with Melissa McCarthy’s size? 

No, the Body Cops themselves are handcuffed after this year’s show, nobody would dare say anything remotely misogynistic or negative towards women; it would instead be a celebration of the fairer sex, in all their shapes and forms. And, privately, the producers would feel comfortable tapping an overweight woman because they paired her with a thin, classic beauty, and they’ll pat themselves on the back for being so progressive.

Follow-up question: Is it a requirement that a human hosts the Oscars? I feel like everyone would approve of Kermit the Frog. 

While we would, of course, love a Muppet up there on that stage, but our understand is that non-humans can present, but not host. It’s like how non-native citizens can be Governor, but not President. And now that we say that we do like the sound of “Governor Kermit.” We’ve certainly done worse.

 

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Filed under Muppets, Saturday Night Live, Shorties, The Big Screen

In Defense of Seth MacFarlane: Comedy is in the Eye of the Beholder & Peeling Back The Onion

Seth MacFarlane OscarsFirst, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.

So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic  and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.

Read on: 9 things that we didn’t find so sexist, and a rotten Onion…

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Filed under Analysis, Fashion Show at Lunch, In defense of:, Lists, Other people's stuff, The Big Screen