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“Documentary Now!” Review – Life After SNL

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Predicting the career trajectory of SNL cast members after they leave the show is all but impossible.* Many of the cast members with the most successful post-SNL careers, A-listers like Ben Stiller, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Downey Jr., all had (at best) forgettable stints.

Even more frequently, many former stars of the show never seem to find their footing once their tenures end. For every Will Ferrell success story, there are two or three Joe Piscopos (or Dana Carveys**, or Chris Kattans, etc.). Keenan Thompson, who is fantastic on the show, is the most likely candidate for this type of post-SNL career flame out.

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, cast members for 14 and nine years, respectively, are prefect examples of that third type of SNL alum. Much like Jenny Slate and Will Forte, (who are both having very deserved moments right now), Armisen and Hader parlayed their time at SNL into smaller, often indie-skewing careers. They will likely never reach the heights of some of their more famous cast mates, but their ability to consistently deliver in a variety of projects has endured them to a small, but dedicated, fan base.

Armisen, who has already created one cult classic in IFC’s  Portlandia, teams with Trainwreck star and prolific voice actor Hader in Documentary Now! (also on IFC), which just released it’s second season on Netflix. Much like Portlandia, “Documentary Now!” is as funny, as it is incredibly polarizing. You either consume seasons in a single afternoon or find them so incredibly dull and unwatchable that you can’t get through one episode. In fairness, even I had to bail on episode five of the second season.

As a huge Armisen fan, I am of the former opinion but it’s very easy to understand the latter. It’s not just comedy you have to ‘get’…it’s comedy you have to want to get. The show’s format is a series of 30-minute satires based on documentaries (some well-known, some a bit obscure) all staring Armisen and Hader. It’s not always requisite to have seen the documentaries that the episodes are based on (struggling door-to-door globe salesmen returning to a hotel and finding that their arch rival had pooped in their beds can be funny without a lot of background info) but having a familiarity with the source material definitely adds something to the experience.

The seven-episode season features four episodes written by John Mulaney, easily one of the 10 best standup comedians working today, and two written by Late Night host Seth Meyers, both legitimate comedy heavyweights. The direction, handled by Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono, is absolutely superb as they are able to re-create the tone and look of a new and entirely different style of documentary film making in each episode. I’d never seen the documentaries “Grey Gardens” or “The Thin Blue Line”, the basis for episodes “Sandy Passage” and “The Eye Doesn’t Lie” in season one, but the episodes are so good and so bizarre, I couldn’t help but look up the originals.

For the uninitiated looking to get into the show, I’d recommend starting with season one, as the episodes tend to be a bit more accessible.  If you start with season two, I’d recommend beginning with the second episode “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken” (based on “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”). You’ll know within the first five minutes if you’ll be going back for more.

Documentary Now is now streaming on Netflix, with limited episodes available at IFC.com

* The nerds at FiveThiryEight.com have an interesting piece on post-SNL careers here. It’s a good read and really solidifies how absolutely gigantic of a movie star Eddie Murphy used to be.

 

** Do yourself a favor and go watch The Dana Carvey Show on Hulu, which is absurdly loaded with talent. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK, Robert Smigel, Charlie Kaufman, Dino Stamatopoulos and Jon Glasser all contributed as performers and/or writers on the short lived show. It’s not great, mostly because there’s just too much Dana Carvey, but it’s as weird as network TV has ever been and worth your attention for an episode or two.

 

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Frogfathers lessons from the Normandy surf

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Frog Fathers: Lessons from the Normandy Surf” is a deeply moving documentary directed by Bob Whitney, narrated by John C McGinley, and presented by World of Warships and FORCE BLUE. It chronicles the journey of four Navy SEAL veterans revisiting the site of the D-Day landings to honor their forefathers and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during World War II.

The film’s strength lies in its raw emotional impact and historical significance. It blends personal narratives with archival footage, offering a poignant tribute to the bravery and resilience of those who fought on June 6, 1944. The veterans’ reflections and the cinematography effectively capture the solemnity and reverence of their pilgrimage.

While the documentary focuses primarily on the veterans’ experiences, it also serves as an educational tool, highlighting the strategic importance of the Normandy invasion and its pivotal role in shaping modern history. The film’s respectful approach and engaging storytelling make it a compelling watch for anyone interested in military history and the enduring legacy of the D-Day heroes.

Overall, “Frog Fathers” is a powerful and heartfelt documentary that honors the past while inspiring present and future generations to remember the sacrifices made for freedom 

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American Horror Story: Delicate

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As most of us are already aware, the 12th Season of AHS has been fraught with all kinds of differences to the previous seasons, mainly in that this is the first one to be based entirely off a novel, ‘Delicate Condition’ by Danielle Valentine. The first half of the season aired in October 2023 to mediocre reviews, while the SAG-AFTRA strike caused production and airing delays for the latter half of the season, and the episodes of Part 2 were all cut to less than an hour long apiece. And none of that is even getting into the disjointed attempt at storytelling for Season 12, so let’s dive into this! 

Meet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), former young ling star of Hollywood now struggling to recapture fame as an adult, who wants a baby, very very badly. Bad enough to drive herself and her husband Dex (Matt Czuchry) through multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization), bad enough to keep trying no matter how crushing each failure turns out to be, bad enough to involve her purported best friend and bougie publicist Siobhan Corbyn (Kim Kardashian) in her struggles, and maybe, just maybe, bad enough to give up on a burgeoning resurgence of her career after interest in her comeback role for The Auteur begins garnering her Oscar-worthy attention. 

So, Anna and Dex are going to go through yet another round of IVF, likely one of their last attempts at it, from a different doctor, Dr. Andrew Hill (Denis O’Hare), and clinic based on Siobhan’s recommendation. And already, strange things are beginning to happen to Anna – her appointments that she set herself begin springing up incorrectly, a doom saying woman called Preacher (Julia White) shows up spouting warnings about trusting no one, dire warnings appear in unlikely places, and BTW, it seems as though long-suffering but good-nurtured Dex has a side-piece too. It doesn’t help that Dex’s new partner at his art gallery, Sonia Shawcross (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), bears a striking resemblance to his dead ex-wife Adeline, either. Those spiked emerald heels start appearing weirdly too, and it seems as though no one will listen to Anna as she grows more and more suspicious that some sort of sinister cult has designs on her as-yet-unborn baby. At the same time, Anna tries to live the life of a successful returning actress, attending parties and gallery openings while draping her rapidly-expanding middle in shimmering fabrics and actively ‘campaigning’ for that little golden statue that most actors covet. Competition is fierce, even among her co-stars of The Auteur, and while Anna wants to be supportive of her fellow entertainers, she clearly appears to be incapable of doing both at the same time – wanting the baby and the little gold award at the same time is too much to ask, apparently. 

Elsewhere, mostly in the past, various women in states of desperation formed from one situation or another are visited by sinister-looking women in prim black dresses, headgear reminiscent of – to me anyway – an odd cross betwixt birds and bunnies, my guess is an ostensive nod to fertility in general, and a general feeling of blood-bound witchery about them at critical moments of crossroad choices. 

Though the second half of the season moves a good deal faster than the first, the attempts at callbacks and reminder flashes to Part 1 hit with all the impact of a dropped bag of garbage onto their friends Talia’s (Julia Canfield) borrowed bougie kitchen floor – splat, into incomprehensible silence, from all parties, both characters and audience, concerned. Even the reminders that, in Part 1 of Delicate Dex’s mother Virginia Harding (Debra Monk) did indeed have perfectly valid memories of abuse at the hands of a black cult and Dex’s own father Dex Sr. (Reed Birney), the revelation pales and peels away in the face of Dex’s true parentage. 

Which brings us back around full circle kinda sorta, to the only real character worth a damn in this entire miserable season of strange feminism and aspirations of world domination through a kind of idiotic Rosemary’s Baby nightmare scenario, we should have known she’d steal the show when Kardashian was cast for it, Siobhan Corbyn, leader of the blood cult her high and mighty (old) self. Throughout the whole show her character has remained exactly the same, and it’s a wonder Anna can stare at her all stupefied while Siobhan does her villain speech at the end of the last episode. Siobhan never masked her ambition or greed, her mysterious protective vibe and even deep love for Anna, and can always be counted on to have secret plans of her own, already in motion, bitch. 

The idea that Anna herself was used as a surrogate for Siobhan and her incestuous eugenicist plans, plus the sweet little demon baby she just birthed, has an ironic the-world-is-tilting-the-wrong-way kind of witchy madness to it. Sure, Anna really can have it all, the baby and the golden statue, if only she joins the patriarchy-crushing cabal of blood witches with world domination plans, got it. 

I have questions, or I would have, but things are moving on and Anna is being saved by … Dex’s dead ex, Adaline the former member of the coven right okay her, she’s going to show back up and offer Anna a simple chant to Hestia her patron Goddess, and that is somehow enough to deal with Siobhan entirely – poof. And finally, after all that rigamarole, decades of planning and scheming and witchy plotting finally settled, Anna really can have it all as a White Witch of Hollywood, heaven help us, with her perfectly human baby and that damned little golden statue, clutched in an only slightly desperate grip. 

As with any season of AHS there are a great deal of statements that could be implied just under the skin of the season – the canker way of ambition, the millenia-old pain of a woman giving birth, the savagery and bloodshed that comes with bringing forth life, pushback against both the patriarchy and ultra-feminism, the absolute desperation of humans wanting to have a child, and perhaps strangest and most open to interpretation of all, what it means to be feminine. The worlds population of women who can’t or don’t or simply won’t have children, for any reason or none, are relegated to servants, expendable servants at that, for this new world order that Siobhan is proposing, and that is far too close a comfort to things like outright slavery. A dictator is a dictator, no matter how great she looks in those emerald spiked heels. 

It’s not the really beautiful grotesquerie that Ryan Murphy and his AHS gang are often known for, nor is it utterly terrible and should be burned at the stake. What Delicate should be, is put back together with missing and cut footage, an hour long per episode again come on folks, fleshed some more of Siobhan’s baby-stealing adventures in the past and given us an actual reason to like anything about the whiny Anna, at least the Part 2 we as longtime AHS fans deserve. Toss in some more spidery hijinks! Give us the actual origin of those weird feather bunny-ear headdresses! 

American Horror Story Delicate the whole season can be seen on FX! 

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Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery in a World Gone Prehistoric!

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Hold onto your hats, dino fans! The highly anticipated sequel to the adrenaline-pumping Camp Cretaceous saga is here, and it’s taking us on a wild ride six years in the making. Following the harrowing events of Camp Cretaceous, our beloved “Nublar Six” are back, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. In fact, they’re about to plunge headfirst into a world where dinosaurs roam freely alongside dangerous humans, and trust us when we say, it’s a Jurassic jungle out there!

Picture this: a world where survival isn’t just about avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also navigating the treacherous waters of human greed and deceit. As our resilient heroes reunite in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching tragedy, they quickly realize that danger lurks around every corner, and trust is a luxury they can’t afford. 

But wait, there’s more! Prepare to embark on a globetrotting adventure like no other as the Nublar Six find themselves thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens not only the fragile balance between dinosaurs and humanity but also their very existence. From the lush jungles of Isla Nublar to the bustling streets of bustling cities, buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions as our intrepid group races against time to uncover the truth about one of their own and, ultimately, save both dinosaur and humankind from certain doom.

So, dear readers, if you thought you’d seen it all in Jurassic Park, think again! With heart-stopping action, pulse-pounding suspense, and jaw-dropping revelations, this latest installment promises to be a game-changer in the Jurassic universe. Get ready to roar with excitement because Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery is about to take a bite out of your imagination and leave you hungry for more!

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