Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Release: Friday, November 4, 2022 

👀 The Roku Channel

Written by: Al Yankovic; Eric Appel

Directed by: Eric Appel

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe; Evan Rachel Wood; Diedrich Bader; Toby Huss; Julianne Nicholson; Rainn Wilson

Distributor: The Roku Channel

 

 

***/*****

Love him or just weirded out by him, there is no denying “Weird Al” Yankovic is a success story. Anyone who has survived four decades in the music business must be doing something right. The mop-topped accordion player who became famous for humorously rewriting other people’s lyrics has exploited a niche to the tune of five Grammy wins, six platinum records and well over 12 million albums sold — more than any comedic act in history.

Now there’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, an appropriately whacky and over-the-top comedy that pokes fun at fame and films (specifically the musical bio-pic) with almost reckless abandon. Rather than offering a straightforward account of what created and sustained Yankovic’s career as a song parodist, Eric Appel’s directorial début instead takes a satirical approach, producing a movie that, like its namesake, more often than not hits the sweet spot by being both ridiculous and clever.

Daniel Radcliffe continues to reinvent himself by stepping into the shoes and loud Hawaiian shirts of the “Weird One,” again taking to the eccentric like it’s his second language. Co-written by Yankovic, the story broadly deals with a creative person’s struggle to win the approval of his conformist parents. When Al’s love for polka is exposed one night at a party a major rift in the family opens up, prompting him to leave home as soon as he can. Weird embraces tropes like these and exaggerates them to comedic effect.

Living with his roommates Steve (Spencer Treat Clark), Jim (Jack Lancaster) and “Bermuda” (Tommy O’Brien) Al finds himself in a nurturing environment. Then the bologna sandwich scene happens, setting the stage for a wild and often very funny ride that sees Al ascending on one of the most unlikely trajectories in music history, becoming a hit sensation overnight and shooting up the Billboard charts. His rendition of The Arrows’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (“I Love Rocky Road”) catches the attention of his childhood inspiration Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson).

His quick wit and extemporaneous style earn him a record deal with the Scotti brothers (portrayed by Will Forte and Yankovic in hilariously terrible wigs) but with greater success comes greater complication. In saunters a perfectly-cast Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, a bubblegum-chewing diva who seduces and manipulates her way into Al’s heart and back to another career high. The filmmakers take the “Yankovic Bump,” a real phenomenon which saw renewed commercial enthusiasm for the original songs he parodied, and create a whole new paradigm wherein Al develops full-blown egomania, determined to make it even bigger by coming up with his own original tunes.

A tale of two halves, the first much stronger than the second, Weird is nothing if not a showcase of personality. As the production threatens to come off the rails late you can’t help but admire its go-for-broke attitude. Radcliffe’s sincere performance may be the only thing you can afford to take seriously, but the cumulative effect of the weird makes for an experience that’s easy to enjoy.

Great acoustics, terrible smell

Moral of the Story: Though it would undoubtedly help to find “Weird Al” entertaining, being a long time fan of his is not necessary, especially considering how little truth there is in the way the story is told. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a pastiche of the peculiar that falls in line with the likes of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and This is Spinal Tap — so if you like those movies, good chance Weird will be right up your alley. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 108 mins. 

Quoted: “You think you’re going to stop me from playing? You’ll see. One day I’m going to be the best. Well, perhaps not technically the best, but arguably the most famous accordion player in an extremely specific genre of music!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Kevin Hart: What Now?

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Release: Friday, October 14, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Kevin Hart; Joey Wells; Harry Ratchford; Brian Buccellato

Directed by: Leslie Small; Tim Story

Kevin Hart: What Now? isn’t quite as groundbreaking as the marketing may have you believe, but if you’re a fan of his stand-up it remains a must-see event. While the venue itself suggests the next phase in the evolution of this hyperkinetic ball of energy — imagine, just for a second, this guy on a world stage (LaughAid?) — What Now? is actually the third such concert film, following up Let Me Explain (2013) and Laugh at My Pain (2011), and it is the fifth instance in which a camera crew has accompanied him on stage, fixated upon his every spastic move.

In Leslie Small’s film Kevin Hart finds himself stepping out onto the biggest stage of the biggest tour of his career at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where he’s set to perform in front of a crowd 53,000 strong. Ordinarily this cavernous space is reserved for the rituals of diehard Eagles fans — not of the band but rather of the city’s NFL franchise. But on one night in August, this sacred ground would belong to a comedian. The What Now? film that audiences get to see in theaters represents the culmination of a historic tour, not just for this performer but for any comedian who has ever aspired to promoting their brand in the arena setting.

Hart was born and bred in the city of brotherly love. He struggled in the early part of his career to earn the laughs, frequently being booed off stage and enduring endless ridicule. At one show he had a piece of chicken hurled at him. For awhile he scrounged around in Philly under the alias Lil Kev, attempting to duplicate the brilliance of those who had come before him, like Chris Tucker. His humble beginnings in some ways make his homecoming magical. It’s as if he had never gone Hollywood in the first place. Though he’s never projected the image of someone who’d rather sacrifice their soul for the allure of Tinseltown than stay true to themselves, he’s certainly found success there. He has starred in a number of action-comedy vehicles and his performances in front of thousands of live audiences from the sun-kissed beaches of California to the more distant provinces of Europe and even Cape Town, South Africa has earned him a global reputation.

In the hour-and-some-change that we get to spend with Hart on stage — the show is prefaced by an amusing sketch that implicates Hart’s swaggering shortie as James Bond negotiating the poker table in Montenegro — we learn a few things about the guy, but not as much as one might expect out of someone who never seems to hide who he is. Not that his set is intentionally distant or impersonal — he throws members of his family under the bus on a number of occasions, which is pretty funny in and of itself — but there’s a certain genericness about the material he runs with here. Nevertheless, Hart is seemingly able to pull wildly entertaining anecdotes out of his pocket at random and the bulk of his act is spent regaling us over ultimately harmless familial tensions, his insecurities over being vertically challenged, and his experiences as a black male in modern America.

Have you ever gone to a movie — perhaps something just like What Now?  where you start off chuckling at a few things but then there’s that person behind you who finds everything so amusing that some of their energy starts rubbing off on you? Laughter is contagious and the people with whom I was sharing this small theater were having a riot. I found myself committed to what can only reasonably be described as a cackling contest with this unidentified patron, laughing far harder at stuff I should not be. After the movie I wanted to scold myself for allowing external forces to influence me. I didn’t want to go back and write a review of an experience that was largely amplified by what I was experiencing in person. Manufactured, even.

I have to say, other than the running raccoon-as-gangster gag and his trademark manic energy that constantly threatens to break into full-blown Tasmanian devil mode at any moment, I don’t remember much of this set. But I will always remember the first time I was in a movie where it sounded like the guy behind me seriously soiled his jockeys.

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Recommendation: Fans of Kevin Hart’s stand-up need apply. For obvious reasons. I will always maintain that there is a major distinction between his live performance and his film roles, and take them or leave them as you so please, but I find his on-screen performances entertaining as well. So I’m an apologist. And don’t ask me whether or not you should see this if you are anything close to sitting on the fence. You already know the answer. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 96 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002)

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Ladies and gentlemen, I again force your eyes and mice/fingerpads/iPad cursor-things towards this page for the second edition of DSB TBT. Hopefully that abbreviation is relatively self-explanatory. I’m too lazy to type it all out.

Due to a request I received (nice call, Josh!!!), the Throwback of today is probably what I would describe as one of the most contentious kung-fu spoof movies; known to some others as one of the most ridiculously hilarious 80 minutes ever created for film. This movie literally caused me so much pain when I first saw it while I guffawed like a hyena — I think I remember it more for that, than for any real story it may have had.

Today’s food for thought: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist.

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Release: January 25, 2002

[DVD]

Steve Oedekerk pours all of himself — including his ass-kicking gophers — into this outrageous film that makes light of practically everything you can imagine about kung fu movies — from the awfully out-of-sync voiceovers, to the art form itself, to the characters and how they survive/die. Splicing footage from 1970s obscure martial arts films while dubbing in the main character for major fight scenes borrowed from these films and adding in other random bits and pieces, Kung Pow! is not exactly wholly original — and we get it, it’s the entire point! It’s insanely goofy (and to some, unbearably so…it’s the recipient of an 11% squashed rating on Rotten Tomatoes); to those who were/are fans, this short film is likely to withstand the test of time in the face of hundreds of other spoofs of a genre that is inherently parodic.

Even though Oedekerk wrote and directed the picture he’s at his best as an actor, playing “The Chosen One,” a kung fu prodigy at birth. He embarks immediately on a vengeful quest to find the ones who had murdered his parents in their home years ago, right before he gets tossed from the crib in the most hilarious of ways.

When he discovers that the one responsible for his orphanage is none other than the ugly-as-hell “Master Pain,” also referred to as “Betty,” yep — The Chosen One goes crazy; think Neo on five hits of bath salts but with a penchant for mischief at the same time. Along the way he encounters some strange characters and places, including a future friend in their fist-fighting frenzies, Master Tang, and the one-boobed babe named Whoa.

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There are lines galore that one could walk away with stuck in their brains permanently — I still have a few. Some of my favorites include:

  • “Let your anger be as a monkey in a piñata.”
  • “Chicken go ‘cluck-cluck,’ cow go ‘moo.’ Piggie go ‘oink-oink,’ how ’bout you?”
  • “You must take your place in the Great Circle of. . . . stuff.”
  • [narrator] “At that moment, The Chosen One learned a valuable lesson about iron claws — THEY HURT LIKE CRAP, MAN!”
  • “But that would just look stupid and leave my small, sensitive balls completely exposed. . . “
  • “We’re children, we’re children!!!”
  • “Killing is wrong. And bad. There should be a new, stronger word for killing. Like, ‘badwrong,’ or ‘badong.’ Yes, killing is badong. From this moment, I will stand for the opposite of killing: ‘gnodab.'”
  • [Master Betty] “First, a joke. What do you get when you cross an owl with a bungee cord?” [pause…] “…My ass.”
  • “Our! Sexual! Preferences! Are! Our! Own! Business!”
  • “Thank you, squirrel friend. Your soft, cushy body helped absorb the force of his blow.”

In realizing this is not everyone’s cup of tea — in general, spoofs are really a type of acquired taste for those who don’t mind letting the source material become fodder for ridiculous jokes — I have to say this is one of the better spoofs since it literally takes no prisoners in making fun of everything. There’s no escaping the silliness of it all.

So try not to fight back when watching Kung Pow!, or else you might hurt something. Especially the logical side of your brain. This is a good demonstration of what a movie needs as a bare minimum: creativity. If it’s not creative at all, then it’s a documentary. And even documentaries are creative in how they deliver their information. If you’re not in agreement that this movie is at the VERY LEAST creative in its botching of any piece of information, I might just have to have a word with you, privately. . . .

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3-5Recommendation: This isn’t likely to move people who oppose outlandish farce, but for those who enjoy shutting their brain off and laughing until it hurts, this does just fine.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 81 mins.

What’s the goofiest movie you’ve ever seen? 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.consequenceofsound.net