Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Pete Davidson—who barely registered on Saturday Night Live during the recently concluded season due to prior commitments and a resulting lack of screen time—comes roaring back with The King of Staten Island, another quality comedy from director and co-writer Judd Apatow.

Davidson plays Scott Carlin, a thinly veiled version of himself. The film depicts a scenario of Davidson’s life in which he doesn’t get his big break on SNL and is, instead, an aspiring (and not very good) tattoo artist. As happened with Davidson, Scott’s firefighter father died on duty, and he lives with his mom, Margie (Marisa Tomei), and little sister, Claire (Maude Apatow).

Davidson doesn’t have to stretch too much to deliver a convincing performance as a wisecracking, self-esteem-challenged, neurotic guy with a severe case of Crohn’s disease (from which he suffers in real life). He, in fact, nails the part, thanks to deft comic timing and solid dramatic chops. He holds his own against veterans like Tomei and Steve Buscemi, who plays a boss at the local firehouse. Davidson might not match them in every scene, but, hey, he’s a rookie, and he’s pretty damn good.

The plot involves Scott hanging out with a motley crew of friends and contending with his mother’s new boyfriend, Ray Bishop, played by Bill Burr in a hilarious performance that takes Burr’s acting career to the next level. Ray has a Monopoly Man mustache and a suspiciously sunny personality, and Scott develops trust issues with him—leading to turmoil in the household and comedically rich strife.

With this 136-minute long film, Apatow uses a grittier, messier visual approach, and it pays off, suiting the unpredictability of its central character and his scrappy Staten Island locale. The movie feels different from past Apatow ventures—so different that I didn’t even realize I was watching his daughter Maude (who is excellent, by the way) until the movie was over.

Davidson’s performance is also bolstered by a supreme supporting cast that includes Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) as the love interest in a very unconventional love story. While the movie is good, it wouldn’t be nearly as good if it weren’t for the presence of Burr, Buscemi and Tomei, who provide the movie with a solid dramatic and comedic base.

Will Davidson one day become a legitimate movie star? Maybe. He has The Suicide Squad, slated for release next year, on his slate, and he’s going to voice Marmaduke in an animated film.

The King of Staten Island will be available via streaming services on Friday, June 12.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The ballad of Mickey and Gus (Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust) comes to a satisfying conclusion in the third and final season of Love on Netflix.

Whenever I watched this show, co-produced by Judd Apatow, I wound up binging it over the weekend it came out. In other words … I watched all of the episodes quickly—and happily. Rust and Jacobs have proven to be one of TV’s all-time-great, and most-realistic, couples since the show premiered in 2016, and I’m actually quite sorry to see their saga has ended. I would like to see a season of this every year until I die.

Season 3 starts with two episodes directed by Michael Showalter, who hit his big-screen stride with last year’s The Big Sick. Showalter starts the season off with sure footing, and the momentum continues thereafter. Apatow himself directs an episode, all of which are consistently hilarious.

On top of the entertaining Mickey and Gus dysfunction, Claudia O’Doherty continues getting laughs as Bertie, Mickey’s roommate. Season 3 spends more time on Bertie and her strange boyfriend, Randy (Mike Mitchell), a relationship as funny as the central one.

Mickey and Gus still fight all the way up to the show’s ending, which I found to be incredibly heartwarming … and a little insane. That’s how this show made me feel the entire time watching it.

Love is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Now that we don’t have Louis C.K. anymore, I’m looking for some reliable folks to bring the self-deprecating funny.

Judd Apatow got some consistent laughter out of me with his new standup special, Judd Apatow: The Return. Apatow—producer and director of comedy gold such as Knocked Up and Trainwreck—was a standup comic before he broke into movies. He’s indulged himself now and then over the years with occasional gigs, but this is the first time he’s actually filmed it.

He’s actually quite good—often very good. Memorable bits include his experience on a daughter date; arguments with his wife, Leslie Mann; and throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game. He actually uses photos as part of his presentation, and the one of him letting go of that first pitch is comic gold.

Most memorably, Apatow uses photos to tell the stories of his meetings with President Barack Obama and Paul McCartney. Apatow’s shtick is to tell his stories in ways that makes you feel like he must be exaggerating. Then, he shows the picture … and you realize he was probably being to kind to himself.

Judd Apatow: The Return is currently streaming on Netflix, the place to see comedy these days. HBO has been left behind.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

If you missed the first season of Love, an excellent romantic comedy series on Netflix, get on it. It’s a true gem.

Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust are back for a second season as Mickey and Gus, one of the most realistically clumsy couples ever depicted on film. Mickey is a drug and sex addict, while Gus is a nebbish nerd tutoring movie stars. They look like a strange, impossible couple, and they pretty much are—but they are also sweet together in a dysfunctional way, with Jacobs and Rust setting off constant comedy fireworks.

Claudia O’Doherty is consistently hilarious as Mickey’s roomie, Bernie.

This has the feel of some of the better movies by Judd Apatow, who is a co-creator of the show—yet it just keeps on going and going. Season 2 is already up on Netflix, available for binge watching, while Season 3 has already been announced.

The ballad of Mickey and Gus is classic TV, and yet another positive story for Netflix. The streaming service has really gotten it together these last couple of years. 

Love is currently streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

It’s now been nine years since The Lonely Island—Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer—made its cinematic debut with the cult-fave Hot Rod.

The trio’s new film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, gives them a chance to play in their favorite sandbox: the music world. The result: what feels like the first fully realized Lonely Island movie. Given how damn funny the movie is, let’s hope there are many more to follow.

All three members of The Lonely Island contribute as writers and performers, while Taccone and Schaffer handle directing chores. The movie takes the mockumentary route, spoofing bio films from the likes of Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry.

Samberg headlines as Conner 4 Real, a former member of boy-band/rap-group The Style Boyz, who has gone his own way with a solo career. Following that initial success, Connor’s latest solo album is tanking (Rolling Stone gave it a shit emoji), and he’s panicking. He goes on tour with an opening act that is better than him; he gets sponsored by appliances that play his music when you operate them; and overall, he is basically selling out.

The movie features what Lonely Island does best—silly parody songs. “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” has Conner reminiscing about a girl who wanted him to do her with the military efficiency showed by the U.S. Navy SEALs who shot Bin Laden in the head. “Equal Rights” is Conner’s sad attempt to ally himself with the LBGT community; he subliminally reinforces his heterosexuality throughout the song.

The film revels in the random and weird, including a sequence in which Conner has to sign somebody’s dick through a limo window (a dick that, according to many stories on the Internet, belongs to the film’s producer, Judd Apatow), and a wedding proposal gone bad when the wolves supplied by a “Party Wolves” website become agitated by Seal’s singing voice.

A running gag riffs on Danger Mouse and Daft Punk, with Conner’s DJ—former Style Boyz member Owen (Taccone, in his best screen role yet)—wearing a cumbersome helmet that shoots out blinding light and a roar. There’s also the final Style Boyz member, Lawrence (Schaffer), who left the group during a rancorous split and became a farmer (perhaps a poke at former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry). Some of the movie’s best moments involve him being interviewed in his shed among his drab woodwork.

Other players include the great Tim Meadows as Conner’s shifty manager; Bill Hader in a quick but welcome cameo; and Chris Redd as Conner’s wild-eyed opening act, Hunter, who may or may not have orchestrated a gag that makes it appear that Conner has no dick. Yes, there’s a lot of dick humor in this film. This film might be the all time king when it comes dick humor.

Oh, and there’s also a blessed appearance by the one and only Michael Bolton. The Lonely Island are so cool they’ve made Michael Bolton cool. MICHAEL BOLTON.

Samberg finally gets a worthy follow up to Hot Rod, and he is on-the-mark funny during the entire film. Taccone, who rocked it as Chaka in Land of the Lost, shows off his versatility as the film’s funny emotional core. The big surprise is Schaffer, coming out of the shadows of Lonely Island to show off some major comic timing and acting chops.

Sadly, Popstar looks like it’s bombing, big-time, at the box office, so there you have it. Some people make a comedy that’s funny from beginning to end—and they get their ass kicked by a bunch of sewer dwelling turtles.

Hey, if it’s turtles you are looking for, Popstar features a turtle prominently. Yes, it’s a barfing turtle with a serious bone disorder, but it’s a turtle all the same.

Big box office or not, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping will eventually be regarded as a beloved look at a music world gone completely nuts. Years from now, people who passed on this in the theaters will catch it on TV and give it some life.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

It’s been 28 years since Pee-wee Herman last had his own movie (1988’s Big Top Pee-wee)—and the world’s happiest man child has not lost a step. In Netflix’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, Paul Reubens effortlessly becomes his alter ego Pee-wee, even though he’s getting deep into his 60s.

That’s right: Pee Wee Herman is almost 64 years old. Nonetheless, he’s as nimble, joyous and fun as he was when he made his big-screen headliner debut in Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 31 years ago.

The new film, produced by Judd Apatow and directed by John Lee, doesn’t quite have the visual exuberance to match Pee-wee’s bravado, but the story (written by Reubens and Paul Rust) breezes right along. Pee-wee meets a big screen movie star (Joe Manganiello of True Blood, playing himself) while working in a diner in his all-American town. The two hit it off, and Joe invites him to his big birthday bash in New York City.

This means a road trip for Pee-wee, during which he meets up with a crazy guy in the woods and a crazy lady with a flying car. He winds up at the bottom of a well, too.

While the dull production values are disappointing, Reubens elevates things so that it really isn’t that much of a problem. Plus, Pee-wee’s car is badass.

Hopefully, this will be the start of some more adventures for Pee-wee. He’s clearly still got it.

Also: Look for Lynne Marie Stewart, Simone from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in a small but pivotal role.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I binge-watched Netflix’s new series Love—the latest by producer Judd Apatow—and it stands as further proof that Netflix is becoming the king of TV comedy.

Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs are terrific as Gus and Mickey, two people who meet by chance at a convenience store and become friends. Friendship progresses into other things—and that progression happens in a crazy, unpredictable, very R-rated way.

Rust is a revelation as the nerdy Gus, a tutor at a TV studio where they are filming one of those dopey witch shows. Jacobs, so good on Community, proves she has much to offer with her wild turn as a radio-station employee with a shitty boss (Brett Gelman) and just a few addictions.

As their courtship begins, Gus sort of pines for Mickey, but things change over the course of 10 episodes, as he gets a little more confidence in himself—and notices she’s a bit of a jerk. The first season ends in a satisfying way—and since Netflix has already ordered a second season, you know you’ll be getting more good stuff.

Other performers include a hilarious Claudia O’Doherty as Bertie, Mickey’s polite and slightly deranged roommate. Iris Apatow is proof that nepotism can be awesome as Arya, a child actress prone to tantrums, yet somehow more intelligent than anybody else on the set. Briga Heelan is sweet and funny as Heidi, an actress who is complicating things between Gus and Mickey.

The show’s episodes flow into one another, so it feels like one long movie. Apatow’s work tends to be on the long side—and I’ve never had a problem with that. Maybe this was supposed to be a movie at first, and Apatow realized it was going to be lengthy. If so, it was a good call to make this a series, because every one of the 10 episodes is a gem. 

Published in Reviews

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a solidly entertaining documentary about the ups and downs of the National Lampoon magazine and production company.

Back in the day, National Lampoon was a humor magazine that was a triple-R alternative to the much-tamer Mad Magazine. (National Lampoon had cartoons and real boobs.) The doc chronicles the early days of the Lampoon’s inception, through its hit movies (Animal House, Vacation), to the eventual demise of the magazine in 1998.

Many stars—including Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow and Kevin Bacon—discuss their direct participation in Lampoon projects, and explain the ways in which the magazine and films influenced them. Other stars sitting down for interviews include John Landis (director of Animal House), Beverly D’Angelo (star of Vacation) and Tim Matheson (star of Animal House).

Before they went to Saturday Night Live, Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner all took part in Lampoon radio and stage productions. Belushi and Radner are featured in archive footage, including scenes from the stage production Lemmings, in which Belushi highlighted his soon-to-be-infamous Joe Cocker impersonation.

The magazine was a major influence in American comedy. It’s a shame to see the label being used on crappy movies these days. Somebody should step in with a reputable project and return some respect to a great American institution.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Trainwreck offers the hilarious Amy Schumer her first starring vehicle, with a screenplay she wrote under the directorial tutelage of Judd Apatow. This movie signals the arrival of Schumer as a cinematic force.

She plays Amy, a magazine writer playing the field in New York—and doing it rather sloppily. When she’s assigned a story about a sports-medicine doctor (Bill Hader), she unexpectedly falls for him, which puts her plan to just fool around into flux.

Schumer crafted a run-of-the-mill romantic-comedy plotline with her screenplay, although it’s peppered with profanity that is sometimes beautifully shocking. She shows that she has the ability to nail the laughs—but she can also bring the emotional stuff, too. She has a funeral scene that is, dare I say, sublime.

Hader is his always-terrific self as the shell-shocked boyfriend who is just trying to bring some stability into Amy’s life, and Colin Quinn is terrific as her retirement-home-dwelling father.

The storyline is a little weak and predictable, but Schumer and Hader are awesome together, so that makes this very much worthwhile.

Trainwreck is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd reprise their awesome married couple from Knocked Up in This Is 40, director Judd Apatow’s latest, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray this Friday, March 22. The duo prove their characters are worthy of full attention.

Apatow loves to make long movies, and this one is no exception, clocking in at 134 minutes. Most of those minutes are entertaining, although I would concur that this is a bit long for a comedy. Doesn’t somebody have to be getting shot or tortured for a movie to go longer than two hours?

While the main characters from Knocked Up (played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) are not back for the almost-sequel, other characters, including those played by Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi, do make it. That’s kind of cute.

The film has fun with the whole midlife-crisis thing, adding Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as much welcomed granddads. Megan Fox gets her best screen role yet as a clothing-store employee who may or may not be a hooker on the side.

Mann is especially good in the film, and both she and Rudd were deserving of Golden Globe nominations, at the least. Alas, both were snubbed.

Special Features: If you plan on taking in both versions of this film (you get both the theatrical and unrated versions) and the many special features, you had better break a foot or something so you can call in sick to work. You get an Apatow commentary, deleted and extended scenes, four documentaries, two gag reels, and more. It’s a big package. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

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