TV Review: What We Do In the Shadows (2019- )

Original Run: March 27th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jemaine Clement
Directed by: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, various
Written by: Jemaine Clement, various
Based on: What We Do In the Shadows by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, Norma Tanega (opening theme)
Cast: Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen, Mark Proksch, Doug Jones

FX Productions, Two Canoes Pictures, 343 Incorporated, 10 Episodes (so far), 24-30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

What We Do In the Shadows was one of my favorite comedy movies of the last few years. Maybe, my favorite, in fact. But I wasn’t too keen on any of the ideas they threw around for spinoffs, whether it be the werewolf movie they mentioned or this television show. When you’ve got something great, you shouldn’t diminish it by milking the cow for more.

However, having now seen it, I do mostly like the show. Granted, it isn’t a straight remake of the movie. It’s very similar with the same general premise but it follows new characters in a new city. This also explores other types of vampires, which opens the door for more possibilities.

The humor is good and pretty consistent with the film. I don’t know most of the actors but I do know Matt Berry, who I became a fan of due to his work on The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh.

Still, it feels lacking after experiencing the greatness of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi in the film version. Both men have directed episodes of the show and I think that’s helped it, along with Clement providing some of the writing. And maybe they’ll make cameos at some point.

The show, overall, is off to a pretty good start and it’ll be interesting seeing how it evolves over time. But I fear that the formula could get tiresome fairly quickly. Only time will tell but for now, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of the movie and Clement and Waititi’s brand of humor.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the film it’s based on, as well as other works by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

TV Review: Legion (2017- )

Original Run: February 8th, 2017 – current
Created by: Noah Hawley
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Legion by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart, Navid Negahban, Jemaine Clement, Hamish Linklater

26 Keys Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, FX Productions, 20th Television, 19 Episodes (so far), 44-68 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

With two seasons in the bag, that bag is a mixed one.

Legion is a mindfuck of biblical proportions. And while that works for the show, it also works against it.

The problem with Legion is that if you zone out or miss something for five minutes, you’re totally lost and it’s hard to reel yourself back in.

This show has some very strong positives, however. The cast, for the most part, is f’n stellar. Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza are exceptionally fantastic in this. But I can’t dismiss the work of Rachel Keller, Jean Smart and the always entertaining Jemaine Clement. All the other players deliver as well.

Legion also has great cinematography, set design and sort of exists in a very vivid world that is one part fantastical and one part realistic. There is a balance in the show in storytelling, style and overall tone between the fantastical and the real. It works quite well, as long as you don’t get lost in the details and the weirdness of what’s unfolding on screen.

But with all those positives, the show is also hard to watch at times. For me, it gets too strange at certain parts and the narrative gets lost in the weirdness, just as the viewer might.

Point being, this can be a very confusing show and sometimes details come so fast that you might not grasp them all. What may look profound on paper, in this case the script, might not translate well to screen. It doesn’t matter that the screen is littered with a visual smorgasbord of incredible and creative images. It almost feels like all that stuff distracts from the most important thing that this show needs: story. And not just story but a coherent story that flows at a proper pace and doesn’t come across as some dreamlike clusterfuck.

I wish that this show would find a way to tighten up it’s superficial bullshit and be a bit more accessible because ultimately, it can continue to be a total mindfuck but it won’t maintain an audience and generate the ratings it would need to continue.

Legion isn’t beyond fixing but after two seasons, I kind of don’t care about it anymore. With season one, I was able to look past the flaws because it was so nice to look at but season two was tough to get through and every time a new episode popped up, it felt like a chore I had to push through.

This should be better and it can be better but it almost feels pretentious in a lot of ways and I hate saying that but it’s definitely putting art over substance and that doesn’t work too well in television, where people have to be enticed to keep coming back.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: The GiftedThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

TV Review: Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)

Also known as: Los Conchords (Spain)
Original Run: February 26th, 2016-current
Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Directed by: James Bobin, Taika Waititi, various
Written by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Taika Waititi, various
Music by: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker

Dakota Pictures, HBO, 22 Episodes, 26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Having just watched Jemaine Clement in the fantastic What We Do In the Shadows, I was inspired to revisit Flight of the Conchords, as I hadn’t watched it since it was last on HBO in 2009. Also, I had never seen it in its entirety and in the proper sequence. Now I have and I’m glad I did. By the way, both seasons are streaming for free on Amazon’s video-on-demand service, right now.

So, as much as I loved this show when it was current, I loved it even more revisiting it several years later and after seeing Clement’s career evolve. It was nice to get back to basics and see him and his crew at their best. I wouldn’t call this their creative peak but I would say that it was where they were the most in-tune to the versatility of their talents.

Following a New Zealand band, the Flight of the Conchords, and their lives trying to make it in New York City, is a unique experience. The show ties together entertaining stories, hilarious musical segments and great characters that are unlike any other. Being that everyone in this show is pretty much an exaggerated extension of themselves makes it feel authentic despite its absurdity.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are a perfect duo and play off of each other so well, that there is nothing unnatural or forced about their relationship. Kristen Schaal and Rhys Darby are also great members of this show’s cast and are both believable and lovable. Arj Barker, who plays their best friend, is fantastic as Dave. In fact, if you have time, go to YouTube and search for “Dave’s Pearls of Wisdom”.

This is one of the best comedies HBO has ever aired and they have aired several comedies that are now classics. I wish that the show went on for more than two seasons but the quality of work was so strong, and the ending was pretty fitting. There are few shows that feel this satisfying throughout their entire run.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other films and shows created by this same group of guys: What We Do In the Shadows, Eagle Vs. Shark, etc.

Film Review: What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

Release Date: January 19th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Written by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Music by: Plan 9
Cast: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford

Resnick Interactive Development, Unison Films, Defender Films, Funny or Die, New Zealand Film Commission, Madman Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, ‘Oooh, those are some nice pants!’.” – Viago

*written in 2014.

What We Do In the Shadows is a New Zealand horror comedy that I have wanted to see for quite some time. I saw the trailer over a year ago but the film had a hard time getting distribution in the United States, even though it stars Jemaine Clement from HBO’s Flight of the Conchords and is made by some of the same people. Since it is now on Amazon’s video on demand service, I purchased it.

The film is done as a mockumentary following four vampires who live together in a flat in urban New Zealand. It shows their lives, how they make it in the modern world, examines their long friendships with one another and how they view and interact with the rest of the world. What We Do In the Shadows not only gives us vampires but it showcases werewolves, zombies, witches and other paranormal entities and how they work through their issues in a world together.

The cast in this movie is phenomenal. Each character in any other film would be a spotlight stealer but in this movie, they all shine and they all grab onto the spotlight and don’t let go from the first frame until the last.

You have Vladislav, the vampire played by Jemaine Clement, who was once a master of supernatural seduction but lost his mojo after confronting “The Beast”. Viago is a vampire that was a Victorian dandy who still embraces that style and culture. Deacon is a vampire who believes himself to be the ultimate sex magnet while ignoring his share of the chores in the flat. The fourth vampire is Petyr who is a temperamental 8,000 year old vampire that looks like Count Orlock from Nosferatu. The cast is then rounded out by a few other great characters that challenge the vampires and their relationships with humans and other creatures.

To call this film “hilarious” is an understatement. There hasn’t been a horror comedy this good since Shaun of the Dead and to be honest, this movie may be a bit better. There isn’t a scene that goes by that doesn’t have you laughing out loud. The thing that makes it work so well, is the fact that you truly care about the characters and their struggles. No one is just fodder for comedy, they all serve a real purpose and feel like real characters despite the absurdity of their situations.

What We Do In the Shadows is a rare comedy masterpiece. I haven’t enjoyed any comedy this much in years. If you are a fan of horror that is funny, this should be right up your alley.

Rating: 9/10