Film Review: Three Amigos! (1986)

Also known as: The Three Caballeros (working title), ¡Three Amigos! (UK spelling)
Release Date: December 10th, 1986 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Randy Newman
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Randy Newman (song lyrics)
Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana, Patrice Martinez, Joe Mantegna, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz

L.A. Films, HBO Films, Broadway Video, Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“You dirt-eating piece of slime! You scum-sucking pig! You son of a motherless goat!” – Lucky Day

When I was a kid, I probably saw this movie two dozen times between renting it and seeing it on HBO. It featured three of the funniest guys of the era (and ever, really), it was a bizarre concept but it also had action and heroism. When my mum brought back sombreros from a Mexican cruise, my cousins and I used to play “Three Amigos” in the backyard.

Now after exposing my absolute dorkiness in the ’80s, I still really enjoy this movie and kind of wish that stuff like this could still be made. Hopefully, Hollywood’s pendulum swings back towards sanity and fun in the near future.

Anyway, the story sees three singing cowboy actors from the earliest era of film getting called down to Mexico because they’re mistaken for their characters. The Mexican village is under the threat of a warlord and the people summoned the Three Amigos for protection. However, the actors have just been fired by the studio after a box office failure and are under the assumption that their trip to Mexico is an acting gig. Once there, they slowly figure out what’s happening, want to flee but then rise to the occasion and help the village free themselves from tyranny.

The best part about the film is that the three comedians have incredible chemistry. While all three very easily could’ve succumbed to their own egos and desire to be the movie’s one true star, they gel as an ensemble in a way that is similar to the casts of Ghostbusters and Tropic Thunder. While I’ve heard for years that Chevy Chase was a hard guy to work with, if that was true on this picture, it didn’t effect the final product.

Overall, this is a lighthearted, fun movie. The action is great for a comedic picture and I think the action really made this a much cooler film, especially for those of us who grew up with this.

Looking at it through a modern lens, the film serves as a reminder that we could have entertaining, mindless escapism and not feel guilty about it. Three Amigos! was (and is) a movie that just wanted to entertain its audience and make them not think about the world and its problems for 104 minutes. I wish Hollywood would tell stories like this again and just lay off of their political/social agendas from the point-of-view of a fantasy land that’s the furthest place away from reality.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: Portlandia (2011-2018)

Original Run: January 21st, 2011 – March 22nd, 2018
Directed by: Jonathan Krisel, various
Written by: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, various
Music by: Washed Out (opening theme)
Cast: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein

Broadway Video, IFC, 77 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

I have come to learn that Portlandia is one of those shows you either love or hate. Weirdly, I don’t love it but I certainly don’t hate it. I quite enjoy it most of the time and it is lighthearted and amusing and usually puts a smile on my face. So I figured I would watch through it again, after really enjoying Fred Armisen’s other IFC show Documentary Now!

Portlandia is damn funny when it is on point. However, some skits can run too long and some are just so bizarre that they get lost in the shuffle of better gags going on around them. Regardless, it is cool seeing the duo of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein commit to sketch comedy their way and to see each segment through – giving it 100 percent.

The duo of Armisen and Brownstein is one of the best comedy duos to come around in years. Their execution and the way they play off of each other is pretty flawless. It is their relationship and camaraderie that makes the show special. Where some skits may not work or run over, it is their unrelenting devotion to their roles that makes this more than a typical sketch comedy show.

Also, the fact that Portland, Oregon is the backdrop of the show, makes things pretty unique. It is a beautiful, artistic and interesting city. While the characters that Armisen and Brownstein play aren’t reflective of all of Portland, it does represent some of the oddballs you could run into in a city like Portland. I think we’ve all encountered people similar to most of their characters, at one point or another.

Also, using Washed Out’s “Feel It All Around” as the theme song to Portlandia kicks the show off with such a laid back and chill vibe, you can’t take it too seriously but it sets you up to accept what is coming. Who doesn’t get in a chill mood and feel pretty pleasant after that song?

I wouldn’t call Portlandia one of my favorite shows of all-time but I like it, a lot. Mostly because it is harmless but it is fun and it does challenge some social and political issues. Plus, it is hard to be in a funk while watching it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Armisen’s other IFC show Documentary Now!

TV Review: Documentary Now! (2015- )

Original Run: August 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: Rhys Thomas, Alex Buono
Written by: Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, John Mulaney, various
Music by: Josh Moshier
Cast: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Helen Mirren (host)

Broadway Video, IFC, 14 Episodes (so far), 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

Probably due to the immense success of Portlandia, IFC allowed Fred Armisen to do a second show on their network, Documentary Now! Like Portlandia it is also produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

Each episode of the show parodies a well-known documentary film from history. Each one is shot in the same style and presented in the same way as the work it is parodying. This makes each episode feel unique and sort of timeless. They did a pretty outstanding job at recreating the essence of the films they’re emulating.

Armisen is joined by another SNL alum, Bill Hader. They act out the main roles in all of the films and have a great supporting cast full of cameos of a lot of recognizable people.

Each episode of the show is a half hour. On Netflix without commercials, they’re around 23 minutes. I think that this show could easily run for an hour and be just as engaging and entertaining. In the end, it is pretty damn hilarious.

The show is hosted by Helen Mirren who brings a level of class and legitimacy to this series. Seth Myers, also from SNL writes the show alongside Armisen and Hader. Sometimes John Mulaney contributes to the scripts as well.

There is only one season of this show, which has just seven episodes, but so far, I love it. I don’t know if it can maintain its quality level as it rolls on into the future but we have at least two more seasons to find that out, as IFC renewed the show through season three.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Armisen’s other IFC show Portlandia.