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.

Documentary Review: Ferrell Takes the Field (2015)

Release Date: September 12th, 2015
Directed by: Brian McGinn
Music by: John Jennings Boyd, Brian Langsbard
Cast: Will Ferrell

Funny or Die, Gary Sanchez Productions, Major League Baseball, HBO, 49 Minutes

Review:

This is a documentary of something real but being that this is focused on Will Ferrell, he plays it up almost as if it’s a mockumentary. I get that he feels the need to be funny but I think this would have been cooler had it actually documented this event with a more realistic approach.

Still, this is fairly entertaining.

I’m pretty sure that HBO wanted to make this into more of a spectacle for ratings purposes and I guess it works for Ferrell fans.

This short film follows Will Ferrell as he plays ten different positions for ten different Major League Baseball teams over five Spring Training games in the Cactus League. The purpose behind the stunt is so that he can raise money for cancer charities.

For fans of baseball, especially Spring Training, this is pretty cool to watch, as you see Ferrell travel Arizona and visit different ballparks. Being a Floridian, I would have rather he done this in the Grapefruit League but Arizona is cool too.

It’s fun seeing Ferrell interact with real MLB players and managers but as a documentary, this doesn’t do much to make me care about his charitable work and the true meaning behind this publicity stunt. I’m glad that Ferrell and company looked to be enjoying themselves but something more organic and natural probably would have benefited the film’s audience and the charitable work more.

I get that Will Ferrell is a funny guy but he didn’t need to be “in character” from start to finish. Show your human side, man. Be natural for once and show the world why this actually means so much to you. We can still laugh along the way because the humor still would have surfaced.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Will Ferrell’s sports comedies.

Film Review: Mascots (2016)

Release Date: September 10th, 2016 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Christopher Guest
Written by: Christopher Guest, Jim Piddock
Music by: Jeffrey C.J. Vanston
Cast: Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Zach Woods, Chris O’Dowd, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Jim Piddock, Maria Blasucci, Oscar Nunez, Harry Shearer

Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Well, my name is A.J. Blumquist, and I’m a former mascot, Danny the Donkey, and uh, I’m a judge this year for the Fluffies. For the two people that don’t know, uh, Danny the Donkey, my mascot alter ego, was the first one to have an anatomically correct costume.” – A.J. Blumquist

When you have something really good, you can ruin it by having too much. This can be said about cheesecake, high end whiskey, cocaine, sex with street walkers and well, sadly… Christopher Guest mockumentaries.

One could say that this isn’t Christopher Guest’s fault, he’s just making what he knows and he is a master of the genre. He can’t help that there has been a huge over-saturation of films like this and really, a lot of that could be due to how good his movies have been. But on the flip side of that, this falls flat in just about every way and there are recent mockumentaries that are much funnier than this: What We Do In the Shadows, for instance.

Guest rounds up his typical group of stars minus a few key people, most notably Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. He spends more time using newer actors in main roles and most of his great collaborators take more of a backseat here. John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and Michael Hitchcock were severely underutilized and even Jane Lynch, who got a good amount of screen time, deserved more.

Out of the newcomers, I didn’t really connect to any of them except for Zach Woods. I liked Woods in this. But even Chris O’Dowd, who I usually find funny, didn’t hit the mark here.

It’s not that this picture is unfunny, it has some funny bits, but it doesn’t keep you as amused as Best In ShowWaiting for Guffman or A Mighty Wind. It’s nowhere near as incredibly as This Is Spinal Tap and it falls short of living up to Guest’s previous weakest film, For Your Consideration.

I’m not sure what this means for Guest’s future, as other reviews I’ve seen aren’t too fond of this film and feel the same way that I do. But if he sticks with Netflix he’s probably fine, as they’ll pump out anything with a famous name on it.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Christopher Guest’s other mockumentaries but this is the worst one so all the others are better.

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.

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.