Monday, April 25, 2011

Talking Funny

You may be wondering, “Wasn’t Talking Funny promoted in the 2011 season of the Daily Show? Doesn’t that mean you don’t have to review it?” Yes, that’s true, I don’t have to. But on Friday night I happened to watch it, and I also happened to need something to review for this week, so it worked out all around.

Talking Funny, an HBO special created by Ricky Gervais, consists of Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. sitting around and talking about comedy for about 45 minutes. However, despite the title, Talking Funny is just not funny. Granted, I don’t know that humor is its intention; instead of making jokes, the four comedians talk about standup, how they got involved, and their take on the trade.

To be honest, I was disappointed. Though their discussions were interesting enough, when four of my favorite comedians are together, I want to hear some jokes, damn it! Also, Seinfeld came across as pretty self-involved and arrogant—and not in a funny, intentional way like Gervais does. And sometimes the conversation wasn’t that engaging (who cares whether or not Rock does a sound check?). Neither funny nor interesting? No thank you!

There’s really not that much to say about the special; it was okay, worth the 45 minutes it took to watch, but not that much more. It gets a 2/5. However, if you’re looking for some great stuff by these comedians, catch an episode of Seinfeld or Louie (the best rated TV show in Daily Shill history), watch Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, or watch one of Gervais’s “Out of England” comedy specials.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Morning Glory

I approached Morning Glory with an open mind, not because I thought it was going to be a high quality movie, but because I thought it had to be better than the crappy action flicks that have populated the Shill over the past month. Unfortunately, that hope was soon crushed—by the first scene of the movie, no less.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), producer of a morning TV program in New Jersey, devotes herself entirely to her job. At the beginning of the film, Becky is on a first date that is clearly not going well. Though this date was intended to show how much Becky values her job above personal relationships—she babbles about it, can’t resist picking up phone calls from work, and doesn’t manage to keep a conversation going with her date—it ends up showing that Becky is absolutely crazy. So when she gets fired from that job and begins frantically looking for a new one, I somewhat expected her to end up in a mental hospital. (Okay, not exactly true since the previews heavily indicated that Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton were going to be news anchors in the movie, but it seemed as though Becky was destined for a breakdown). Instead, Becky gets a job producing a different morning show, where she has to deal with the drama-queen antics of anchors Mike Pomroy (Ford) and Colleen Peck (Keaton) while attempting to combat the show’s tanking ratings.

Though the idea has some limited potential, Morning Glory didn’t go anywhere with it. Becky doesn’t stop placing an incredibly high priority on work, and I can’t imagine she would have any more success with future first dates. Of course, Becky doesn’t have to worry about first dates because Adam (Patrick Wilson), a dreamy guy she meets on her first day, somehow gets over the crazy and falls in love with her. Truth be told, the character of Adam seemed shoe-horned into the movie—perhaps to try to counteract the strange sexual tension between Becky and Pomroy.

As much as I like Ford (I will always be a little bit in love with Han Solo and Indiana Jones), he sure phoned it in for Morning Glory. When he was “angry” he used a voice akin to Christian Bale’s Batman, and his heartfelt moment towards the end of the movie lacked any believable emotion, (seriously, I thought he was being sarcastic). Nothing is worthy of comment about any of the others' “acting.”

Morning Glory gets, as you may have guessed, a 1/5. Still feel like watching a movie set in a newsroom? Pick up Anchorman instead; it’ll always have a 5/5 in my book.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Harrison Ford
Yes, that’s the interview that Daily Shill correspondent Andrea Levine attended. Read her report on the experience here!

Buy the movie

Monday, April 11, 2011

When Harry Met Sally 2

Friends, this is going to be the first (and probably only) Daily Shill post that has complete spoilers. So, avoid that disappointment and begin this review by watching Billy Crystal’s Funny or Die video: When Harry Met Sally 2.

Seriously, watch it now because I’m going to spoil it for you if you don’t.

To be honest, I would have been satisfied with the funny sequel to When Harry Met Sally without the twist. But when “Grampires” popped up on the screen, I burst into laughter. The idea of senior citizen vampires is funny enough—pepper it with When Harry Met Sally references, and I am on board. Throw in “Grombies” at the end (with the iconic shot of a couple talking over “It had to be you”) and I couldn’t ask for any more.

Billy Crystal and Helen Mirren completely committed to the bit; sometimes I forget how much I love Crystal, but When Harry Met Sally 2 brought it all back. It did get a little too bloody at times (and there was one too many eating scenes), but still hilarious and worth the watch. It gets a 4/5.

Since the video was available to all with internet, and only 4.5 minutes, I asked my Facebook/Twitter followers to submit ratings of their own.

My mom gives it a 3/5, saying it would have gotten a 4 if it weren’t so “gross” UPDATE: My mom has asked to upgrade her score to a 4/5, and I'm letting her because, well, she's my mom. Here's the reason it went up: "I just watched it again and looked away at the extra-gross parts and caught more funny lines this time. (Kumadin... Ha Ha)"

Jeremy W. also gives it a 3/5, saying “I like the twist, but think it would have been funnier if they'd cut a majority of the feasting sequences.”

Renjie S. didn’t give it a rating, but said, “OMG!!! I can't imagine what Sally would think if she knew this!!! Haha”

Brodie B. gives it a 4/5

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Billy Crystal

Last week was an exciting week for the Daily Shill. Jonathan Eig (who wrote Get Capone, the book I reviewed last week) read the review and commented on the Shill’s Facebook page, saying “Thanks for the great review! I think you hit on all the key points. I'm honored.” Let me tell you, I flipped out when I got that notification. This project can get frustrating at times—to tell the truth, I can’t wait until I can go back to reading whatever I want. Hearing that anyone has read a review keeps me going—hearing that the author read one reinvigorates me.

So thanks, everyone, for reading the blog. And let me know if you have any suggestions (or have anything featured in the 2011 season that you’d like me to review. I take requests!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Get Capone

Back when I read Daniel Okrent’s book Last Call, I wished it had “less politics and more parties, less Al Smith and more Al Capone.” Though Jonathan Eig’s book Get Capone: The Secret Plot that Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster didn’t show me the party scene of the 1920s, it certainly satisfied my curiosity about Capone. In the book, Eig follows Capone’s rise and fall as one of the best known (if not the best known) gangsters in the world.

Though Get Capone is filled with facts worthy of a research paper, Eig writes in an engaging and exciting style (that the subject matter of drinking, gambling, and shooting lends to nicely). Even though I knew what happened to Capone in the end (time at Alcatraz for tax evasion), I was still curious about what happened along the way, and the book sure told me. Get Capone didn’t pull me to read like a good novel does, but whenever I did take the time to read a few chapters, I was interested.

What I found most satisfying about Get Capone was that Capone is presented as neither a mostly good man who was wronged, nor an evil man who deserved his fate. Instead, Eig reported Capone’s virtues (like his soup kitchens for the poor) alongside his many faults (the murders, for one). In the end, while reading of his trial for tax evasion, I almost wanted Capone to get off easier—even though I believed he deserved a harsh sentence for the crimes (read murders) related to his bootlegging business. But then I’d realize I was ridiculous, and that the man belonged in jail. (And then I’d flip-flop back… it was an ongoing process).

Additionally, Get Capone gave me a new point of view of two historical figures: Herbert Hoover and Eliot Ness. I’ll admit, most of my opinion of Hoover comes from the musical Annie (and its sarcastic song “I’d like to thank you, Herbert Hoover”); not a good source, and one that portrays him in a negative light. However, though Hoover was unable to push America out of the Great Depression, his political life was not really all that bad. Turns out, Hoover was devoted to making government work more efficiently and did not seem to be in it for the power. Though Eig points out that Hoover was probably better suited to be Commerce Secretary (a position he held) than president, Hoover was apparently rather successful in his attempt to increase the government's efficiency. As far as Ness goes, I’d always heard that he was largely responsible for the capture of Capone and I never doubted it. Turns out, much of the credit belongs to George E. Q. Johnson and Frank Wilson. However, when Ness sold his life story to Oscar Fraley, Fraley inflated Ness’s role and his book, The Untouchables, became accepted by many as the true story.

All in all, I recommend Get Capone, and I give it a 4/5. Though it got a bit slow toward the end, it is still worth reading—especially if you’re interested in the subject. My dad was also reading Get Capone and will have a rating for The Shill as well within the next week or so. His rating will be posted on The Daily Shill’s Twitter (@dailyshill).

Yes, The Daily Shill now has a Twitter account. In addition to posting links to new reviews, I’ll also post commentary on the project, mostly consisting of facts from what I’m currently reading.

Watch Jon Stewart’s Interview with Jonathan Eig

Buy the Book