Posts tagged #parody

Wet Hot American Summer's Netflix Series - Best Sequel Since Gremlins 2

Before you jump to the comments to immediately express outrage like, "You're insane! Is that a cynical insult? Are you serious? What about Godfather Part II? Empire Strikes Back? Terminator 2: Judgment Day?" calm down. Hold on. Let me explain that headline, which could absolutely read as the clickbait I so loathe.

The cult-film Wet Hot American Summer was not only the first starring vehicle for some of the most successful present day actors and comedians, it was also a commentary on the tropes of camp films. The whole sequence where Michael Showalter's Coop rallies Camp Firewood for their big softball game against their rival across the lake only for it to end with everyone agreeing that it's a trite concept that's been played out in too many other films was indicative of the tone and approach the film took. It's only fitting that its eight-episode "sequel" currently on Netflix, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, took that tone and cranked it to 11.

It occurred to me this morning on my (always) lengthy drive into work that the latest installment of Wet Hot American Summer isn't just another mirror on the camp film, it's also a mirror on the prequel as a whole. 

Looking back at the series, without delving too much into spoilers, the new mini-series not only explores origin stories, it explores EVERY origin story. Even things that you didn't think had or needed an origin story like the "Higher and Higher" song used in the original film. The radio broadcast? Here's the origin story for it. Beth becoming the camp director? Here's the origin story for that. Christopher Meloni's Gene having a torrid love-affair with a fridge? Yup, here's the origins of that. By the eighth episode of the series, you realize that it's not a storytelling device, it's a comedic device that's poking fun at a prequel's need to detail the origin stories of anything and everything, leaving nothing to mystery. Much like the Star Wars prequels where we get the origins for anything and everything like C-3PO (wait, Anakin Skywalker built him from scratch? Huh?), Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp follows the same pattern by giving us backstory to many things that we didn't even think needed a backstory.

And that's where the comment about Gremlins 2: The New Batch comes into play. 

The oft-maligned sequel to Joe Dante's dark-humor Christmas film usually gets a bad wrap. So many of the critiques of the film is that it "just rehashes everything from the first movie" and is way too "silly." Those criticisms aren't without merit, both of those statements are true but the film is purposefully a commentary on sequels, especially those in the late-1980s. The movie takes the exact same premise, rehashes it on a larger scale in a different environment (Gremlins: In Space!) and pokes fun at the tropes that sequels often fall into that everything has to be bigger, better, heightened, and the same beats from the first film have to be hit no matter the cost or the placement in the second film. Phoebe Cates reiterates her hatred of certain holiday because of a bad memory associated with it. Gizmo sees a television broadcast of a larger than life hero and chooses to imitate it to save the day at the end of the film. All the while, this very pointed commentary on what sequels have to be and achieve continues on a runaway train.

Taking that same logic, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is to prequels as Gremlins 2: The New Batch was the sequels. A very biting satire on the formula that I think I'll only appreciate more and more with follow-up viewings.

Posted on August 6, 2015 and filed under TV.

Weird Al's "Mandatory" Fun Comes Naturally

Everybody MUST have fun, and they will like it!

Updated! 7/15/14 1:26pm - Added the brilliant video for "Word Crimes" below!

Second update! 7/16/14 3:49pm - Added another peach of a video for "Foil" below!

Fourteen albums later and Weird Al is just as sharp as he was back in the 80s. His latest album, titled "Mandatory Fun" (which also seems to have a title and album cover art inspired by one of my previous employer's lunchroom murals, which makes me giggle) is solid from start to finish. I can't remember a Weird AlBum that has given me so much glee with each and every track since Alapalooza.

No doubt if you were on the interwebs at all yesterday or today, you've seen the video for "Tacky", his spot on parody of Pharrell's "Happy". But here are some of the other offerings on the disc:

"Handy" - A send-up of Iggy Azalea (don't worry, I had to look that up) and her song "Fancy" which is the hard sales pitch for the self-proclaimed best handyman on the block. 

"Lame Claim to Fame" - A Weird Al original akin to "Dare to Be Stupid" that pays tribute to all those friends you have that have six-degrees of six-degrees of separation and use it for social status.

"Foil" - Probably my favorite track on the disc next to "Tacky" which is a clever take on Lorde's acclaimed "Royals" which begins with the practical uses for aluminum foil and then takes a turn to hilarious result. Update: The music video for "Foil" went live, here 'tis!

"Sports Song" - A marching band fight song that you'll soon be hearing clips of at sporting events to be sure. To put it in a rudimentary way, "We're the best and you suck."

"Word Crimes" - Which takes the Robin Thicke/Pharrell team-up and turns blurred lines into lessons in proper grammatical use. This song shall henceforth be used as the Still Playing with Toys style guide. Update: Staying true to his word, Weird Al has released the second video in as many days, check it out:

"My Own Eyes" - Would you believe that he's seen these things? Would you believe it if he said he saw them with his own eyes?

"NOW! That's What I Call Polka!" - Always the delightful track on Weird Al's offerings, his mega-mix of bubblegum pop songs mashed into one romp doesn't disappoint. Bonus points for Gangam Style working in a Jerry Lewis "Hey sexy lady!"

"Mission Statement" - Have you ever worked in a corporate environment and had to read the mission statement filled with buzz terms that sure sound great but don't make a whole lot of sense? Weird Al turns them into a beautiful and catchy Crosby, Stills & Nash "Judy Blue Eyes" melody. Value added synergy never sounded so serene.

"Inactive" - Oh Imagine Dragons, I bet you never thought your "Radioactive" single would be in everything from car commercials to stadium rock applications. Nor did you imagine Weird Al would turn it on its head as a tribute to supreme laziness.

"First World Problems" - How many are you guilty of, be honest? 

"Tacky" - Pharrell's catchy ear worm gets the Weird Al treatment, and if you haven't heard the song nor seen the video, stop what you're doing and do so now.

"Jackson Park Express" - Closing out the album is an epic seven-plus minute love story of a man who meets a girl on a bus, and the two read a little too much into each other's body language.

Overall a great album, one that kept me entertained (over two full listens) in morning traffic this morning and kept a smile on my face. Welcome back, Al.

Posted on July 15, 2014 and filed under Music.