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Movie of the Week Part I: Super 8

JJ Abrams is best known as the creator and intellectual cock tease behind one of television’s most overrated shows of all time -Lost, which also described the writing style of the show after the first season.  Lost was basically a ponzi scheme for the brain.  Instead of delivering on many of the secrets and teases in each episode it merely kept doubling down, promising more and more to deflect from the fact that it could not possibly have satsifying answers and returns on the investment people had made in the show.  That’s right, JJ Abrams was the Bernie Madoff of television.

Like the title of the movie, only the first 80% deliver anything approaching super.

But movies for JJ Abrams have actually been more satisfying.  I enjoyed Cloverfield and was pleasantly surprised by the Star Trek reboot.  Mission Impossible 3 was not good, but as Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.  So with Super 8 coming out I felt confident that it would be more Cloverfield and less mystery island.  Well, it is both.

The movie, which follows a group of kids who are making a film on their Super 8 camera, who then witness a devastating train wreck (the standard for great train wreck scenes is The Fugitive – this one is loud and overbearing – it feels like the train had about 200 cars all which exploded in CGI glory.  All I was struck by watching the first hour of the movie, which was entertaining, thought the humor only felt one grade above Michael Bay-level shtick, was how JJ Abrams was making an homage to Spielberg movies, largely ET with a touch of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  But it sort of feels like going one step beyond homage.  It feels like someone who is mildly obsessed – like instead of Single White Female, JJ Abrams could star in Married Jewish Filmmaker.

Steven Spielberg and the homeless man's Steven Spielberg.

The movie goes along revealing little details about the mysterious creature/government secret/alien/etc. that appears to be wreaking havoc on the small town that is being policed by Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights.  But as the movie reaches its conclusion all the things I hoped for came crashing down in a Lost-like ending.  The last ten minutes of the movie are incredibly disappointing.   Like Lost, the movie gets you excited because it is making promises, that although difficult to deliver, will be outstanding IF delivered.  But then, like Lost, the movie produces a highly mediocre and tidy ending to wrap up the film under two hours.  It is like JJ Abrams is Hollywood’s version of LeBron James in these NBA Finals – he awes you with all the promise and flash of talent and then when it is time to finish the job he sort of vacates and looks for a quick and unsatisfying conclusion.

Maybe JJ Abrams should review his Spielberg movies again, because he knew how to start and finish a movie.

Grade – C+

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Asheville Recap: From TSA to TNA

This weekend I was in Asheville, North Carolina for the Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival.  Here is the whimsical recap:

I woke up at 530 AM to get my flight from Newark.  Not my first choice, but when it is a free flight from American Express you go to Newark.  For anybody that doubts the toughness of Newark, NJ you need to look no further than their TSA agents.  A woman in her early 50s obviously gave a Napoleanic TSA agent some guff when she was told that she would need to have a separate screening.  I did not hear what she said, but she received a “you got something to say?” from the TSA agent.  Actually she received about 4 “you got something to say’s,” with each one drawing the TSA agent closer until he was literally in her face, which was followed by her silence.  He then said, “that’s what I thought,” and started walking away, to which she started saying something, which was followed by TSA agent turning around and walking back saying, “Don’t start talking when I turn around baby girl.” Now to clarify the tension this was not some sassy black queen talking to this woman, but a slightly more thuggish young man, so it probably didn’t help when I kept muttering, “hit the bitch.”  When it was my turn I looked at him and said, “You think you bad?  You ain’t bad!  You ain’t nothin’!”  So my trip started with an inauspicious start, as I thought of something that sounds like a tag from a terrible horror or thriller movie, “The TSA protects you from terrorists, but who will protect you from the TSA?”

Newark TSA: Let me see your motherfu-kin' boarding pass bitch!
Newark TSA: Let me see your motherfu-kin' boarding pass bitch!

So I arrived in Asheville on one of the smoothest small plane rides I can ever remember and had plenty of time to kill before my 930 pm show.  I had lunch with the producers of the show, which was nice and allowed me to get the scoop on the Asheville scene (bottom line – if you are a comedian and get a chance to do a show there – do it).

Then I spent the next few hours in my Super 8 Motel room working on my set, but then I got hungry. Seeking an authentic Southern experience I went to the only non-Waffle House across from my motel: Hooters.

There are several things strange about my trip to Hooters.  I brought a book to read, which already can indicate homosexuality to certain neanderthal thinkers at anytime, but bringing a book into Hooters is like going to a Neanderthal meeting and saying I prefer tales of Richard Nixon’s election in 1968 to breasts.  But I brought the book simply to avoid gazing into the dead eyes of the waitresses.  Another strange thing was that the televisions were playing That’s So Raven on the Disney channel.   It seemed ironic to me, but maybe Hooters can be a family restaurant,considering that signs at the restaurant indicated that today was Conceive Your Daughter At Work Day.  I kid the Hooters waitresses – but I felt like I should be pimping them to come to New York, “Ladies you know what pretty girls with big boobs can get in NYC?  Anything you want!  But you’ll want to lose that cheerful attitude.”

PYOT: Pretty Young Objectified Things!
PYOT: Pretty Young Objectified Things!

Then it was time to go over for the night’s shows.  The shuttle from the Motel was basically a golf cart, but less masculine and cool (my door closed by Velcro).  It would have been less humiliating to arrive at the show dressed as Professor Dumbledore riding a Big Wheels truck.  This was at 6 pm, which only meant that I had 6 hours until my set.   After waiting for what felt like an eternity I went on and had a great set in front of an amazing crowd.  Really amazing. 

After the show a guy came up to me to tell me that he thought the Obama impression was really good and that he is an impressionist and is struggling to get an Obama.  I very much wanted to go Kenny Powers on him and say, “Actually I don’t understand you.  I’m a comedian, not trying to be the best at imitating,” which is a lie since I like doing impressions, but it would have been funny to me to say that.

The next morning was Waffle House time, where I ate a ton of food for $7 before getting on my flight back to Newark.  it was very bumpy the whole way back and then I realized that we had a female pilot and co-pilot.  I have never seen that before, but other than the emotional instability of the flight it was pretty much a normal flight.

Water, no ice and some peanuts ple-ohhh sorry.  Awwwwkward.
Water, no ice and some peanuts ple-ohhh sorry. Awwwwkward.