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Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is the third trip to Camp Firewood after the original film (Wet Hot American Summer) and the Netflix prequel series (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp), and it’s the least-funny of the three.

It’s still one of the funniest things you will find on television.

Most of the group is back again for the eight-episode series, by writer-director David Wain and writer Michael Showalter. At the end of the original movie, the camp counselors (including Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo) promised to reunite 10 years later to see how things turned out. Here, they do just that, with their reunion threatened by an evil Ronald Reagan (Showalter) and George H.W. Bush (Michael Ian Black, in what has to be the worst and most hilarious George Bush impersonation ever). The two presidents want to nuke the place for nonsensical reasons.

Cooper, a superstar actor now, had to drop out (though he’s replaced in a very funny way by Adam Scott), while Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, manages to return as rebel Andy. This time out, Andy is sporting grunge long hair, and it often looks like he is inserted into group shots in post-production, probably because Rudd couldn’t stick around for the whole shoot. Wain finds ways to make this obvious and, yes, very funny.

There are a lot of early ’90s references. Wain is the king of wiseass humor, and this might be the most wiseass effort of them all. The humor involves a young Reagan taking spherical shits; Ken Marino’s Victor and his still pathetic virginity; and a psycho nanny played by series newcomer Alyssa Milano. Elizabeth Banks spends most of the show in a separate storyline. A moment in which a door is slammed on her hand made me laugh harder than I have all year.

This series seems like a final chapter, with everything winding up in one of those clever ’90s twist endings. However, I hope they continue to get the band together for years to come. The world needs the continuing saga of Camp Firewood.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

One of the summer’s best bets isn’t in theaters; it’s on Netflix.

David Wain and Michael Showalter have finally birthed their Wet Hot American Summer prequel as an eight-episode Netflix series. However, I see it more as a four-hour movie feast of dick and fart humor.

The film takes place in the same year (1981) as the film did, but this time, it’s the first day of camp rather than the last day. Everybody has returned, and there has been no effort to make the likes of Showalter, Janeane Garofalo, Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler look any younger. Oddly enough, Paul Rudd, A.D. Miles and Michael Ian Black somehow look younger than they did in the 2001 film.

New additions to the cast include Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm and Jason Schwartzman, and they make the day at Camp Firewood all the more special. Ken Marino’s character is even more of a virgin than he was in the original (he punches his own cock a lot), and Christopher Meloni’s Gene the Cook is living a lie with a secret identity. We also find out how his can of vegetables attained its voice.

Because this is set in the ’80s, toxic waste, bad gym shorts and “Weird Al” Yankovic all play prominent roles. If you hated the original film, you will hate this, and I feel sorry for you. If you regard the original as one of the funniest movies ever made, as I do, then this stuff is heaven—and we need more.

New songs include the Pat Benatar-like “Heart Attack of Love” and Paul Rudd’s searing rendition of “Champagne Eyes.” Paul Rudd singing is something to be cherished.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Wet Hot American Summer (Friday, July 31, Netflix), series debut: You either loved 2001 cult-flick Wet Hot American Summer, or hated it—or liked the first half and meh-ed the second; opinions vary wildly. The new eight-episode Netflix “prequel,” subtitled First Day of Camp, reassembles the original cast (Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Meloni, Michael Ian Black, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper), adds some up-for-silliness extras (Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Lake Bell, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig and Josh Charles), and rips into ’80s summer-camp movies anew (so there was Meatballs and … what?). Sure, everyone’s now even more too-old for these roles—that’s part of the joke. Or the entire joke. Either way: Ant-Man in short-shorts!

Strike Back (Friday, July 31, Cinemax), season premiere: Before Banshee put Cinemax on the map as a viable home for non-soft-porn original programming, international military actioner Strike Back was blowing up everything in sight like a Team America: World Police sequel, without all the puppets and plot. Now, after a season off, the series returns for its fifth and final season with a singular mission: Kill Hitler! (Actually, that’s Danger 5—which you should absolutely be watching on Netflix.) For black-ops badasses Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), it’s apparently time to Strike Back against North Korea, the last place on Earth where they haven’t yet wiped out 60 percent of the population, Call of Grand Theft Duty-style. So long, Strike Back; from now on, we’ll have to get our ultra-violence from, well, Banshee.

Bachelor in Paradise (Sunday, Aug. 2, ABC), season premiere: I get the purpose of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette—but Bachelor in Paradise? Losers from previous seasons of both shows go to Mexico and exchange STDs? While avoiding elimination and “looking for love”? ABC canceled the similar-but-less-exotic Bachelor Pad after three seasons, and it’s likely they’ll do the same to Bachelor in Paradise eventually, so I’ve prepared pitches for the following concepts should any Bachelor/Bachelorette producers be in a buying mood: Bachelor Jail, Bachelor in Space, Bachelor in Escrow, Bachelor S&M Dungeon, Bachelorette Raft, Bachelor Preppers, Bachelor in a Doomsday Cult, Bachelorette Ghost Hunters, Bachelor in a Tiny House, Bachelorettes Locked Up Abroad, Bachelors Finding Bigfoot and Let’s Hunt Chris Harrison Like Human Prey. Have your people call my people.

Significant Mother (Monday, Aug. 3, The CW), series debut: Shows originally developed for The CW’s “digital studio” Seed tend to, in tech terms, suck. Significant Mother sucks less than previous output, but it’s not quite worth a 10-episode series: Portland dude Nate (Josh Zuckerman) is shocked learn that the latest conquest of his love-’em-and-leave-’em BFF/roommate Jimmy (Nathaniel Buzolic) is Nate’s own recently separated mother (Krista Allen—where ya been?). How do you get 10 weeks out of that? Add Jonathan Silverman (kids, Wiki Weekend at Bernie’s) as Nate’s dad who’s determined to win mom back. Still, it’s nice to see Krista Allen again, though she’d be much better off as a guest on …

Playing House (Tuesday, Aug. 4, USA), season premiere: Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham’s cozy comedy about almost-uncomfortably close girlfriends and a soon-to-arrive baby barely survived to see a second season on USA, a cable net that’s yet to figure out what to do with smart half-hour sitcoms (R.I.P. Sirens, Benched). Which means this summer could be your last chance to see Playing House, a genuinely funny and sweet comedy that deserves another shot somewhere else. I never thought I’d be saying this, but … go to TV Land. They get it—just ask Jim Gaffigan.

Mr. Robinson, The Carmichael Show (Wednesday, Aug. 5, NBC), series debuts: With only two half-hour sitcoms on its upcoming fall schedule, it’s all too apparent that NBC has given up on comedy—but they have some factory seconds to blow out first. Mr. Robinson (starring Craig Robinson) and The Carmichael Show (starring Jerrod Carmichael—no time was wasting titling the shows, obviously) are both summer fillers designed to disappear after their six-week runs and make way for NBC’s all-drama-almost-all-the-time slate; after that, you’ll never see ’em again. Which is too bad, because, despite their annoying laugh-tracked formats (still a thing in 2015—why?!), both are headed up by funny dudes who could easily make these comedies fly elsewhere. (Damn it, I’m going to invoke TV Land again. What have I become?!) Best of luck in future endeavors, Craig and Jerrod.

Published in TV

Hannibal (NBC; Thursday, June 4, season premiere): Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) are hiding out in Europe—but can the doctor keep his “tastes” under the radar? What a bore that show would be.

Sense8 (Netflix; Friday, June 5, series debut): The Wachowski Brothers bring their Matrix-y weirdness to TV in the tale of eight people around the world who can tap into each other’s existences. Coincidentally, they’re all ridiculously good-looking.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix; Friday, June 12, season premiere): The gang’s all back—and so is Alex (Laura Prepon), as well as new inmate Stella (Ruby Rose). Larry (Jason Biggs), not so much. Please contain your indifference.

Dark Matter (Syfy; Friday, June 12, series debut): The crew of an adrift spaceship wakes up with no memories, and to outside threats galore. Based on the graphic novel (woo!) and produced by the Stargate SG-1 team (uh-oh).

Proof (TNT; Tuesday, June 16, series debut): A brilliant-but-troubled surgeon (Jennifer Beals) is hired by a dying tech billionaire (Matthew Modine) to find proof—get it?—that death is not the end. TNT, maybe, but not death.

The Astronaut Wives Club (ABC; Thursday, June 18, series debut; pic above): Imagine Mad Men, but focused on the spouses of NASA heroes of the late ’60s. That would be a better show than this reheated network leftover—but the fashion is sooo cute!

Complications (USA; Thursday, June 18, series debut): A suburban doctor (Jason O’Mara) becomes embroiled in a gang war after saving the life of a kingpin’s son at a drive-by. From the creators of Burn Notice, so expect plenty of yelling and gunplay.

Killjoys (Syfy; Friday, June 19, series debut): A trio of sexy bounty hunters (Aaron Ashmore, Hannah John-Kamen and Luke Macfarlane) work the interplanetary warzone. It’s Firefly meets Guardians of the Galaxy meets a Canadian budget.

True Detective (HBO; Sunday, June 21, season premiere): Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch navigate murder and mustaches in the badlands of California. Hold your “Season 1 was better” critiques until at least after the opening credits.

Ballers (HBO; Sunday, June 21, series debut): A sports dramedy (!) about retired and rookie football players just trying to get by in Miami, starring Dwayne Johnson, Omar Miller and Rob Corddry, and produced by Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. Hut!

The Brink (HBO; Sunday, June 21, series debut): Bureaucrats (including Jack Black and Tim Robbins), military hawks (Geoff Pierson) and fighter pilots (Pablo Schreiber) scramble to avert World War III. It’s like Veep with higher stakes and (slightly) less profanity.

Mr. Robot (USA; Wednesday, June 24, series debut): Vigilante hacker by night/corporate IT drone by day Elliot (Rami Malek) is recruited by the mysterious “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater) to e-destroy the company he works for. Never give up on TV, Slater.

Humans (AMC; Sunday, June 28, series debut): In the “parallel present” of suburban London, the must-have accessory is a “Synth,” a human-like servant/friend. But what happens when the Synths develop emotions? And, since they’re British, how do you tell?

Zoo (CBS; Tuesday, June 30, series debut): Animals are rising up against humans all over the planet, and only a “renegade biologist” (James Wolk) can stop the pandemic. People of Earth: If your lives are in the hands of a “renegade biologist,” you’re boned.

The Strain (FX; Sunday, July 12, season premiere): New York City is being overrun with not-pretty vampires, and it’s up to Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) to create a cure for the epidemic … if they can keep it in their pants. NYC, you’re also boned.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX; Thursday, July 16, series debut, pic below): A failed ’90s rock band (featuring Denis Leary and John Corbett) gets a second shot at fame with a hot young singer (Elizabeth Gillies). This will be the second-wiggiest FX series after The Americans.

Bojack Horseman (Netflix; Friday, July 17, season premiere): Everybody’s favorite Hollywood horse has-been (voiced by Will Arnett) is back! And so is Todd (Aaron Paul)!

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (Syfy; Wednesday, July 22, movie): The chompstorm hits Washington, D.C.! Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back! Mark Cuban is the president! Ann Coulter is the VP! Like you needed any more reasons to root for the sharks.

Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix; Friday, July 31, series debut): An eight-episode prequel to the beloved 2001 cinematic classic, all about the first day of summer at Camp Firewood—with all of the cast members anyone cares about! Bring on the short-shorts!

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC; TBA, series debut): A six-episode flashback to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, set in Los Angeles. No “renegade biologists” involved.

Published in TV

David Wain and Michael Showalter, longtime collaborators who are two of the funniest men on the planet, have put together a great goof on romantic comedies with They Came Together, a perfect vehicle for Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.

Wain directs from a script co-written with Showalter, and it turns out to be a nice companion piece to their brilliant summer-camp parody Wet Hot American Summer, one of the 10 funniest movies ever made. Wet Hot also featured Rudd and Poehler, performers who are right at home with the Wain-Showalter brand of bizarre, random rapid-fire humor. The film takes pokes at drippy rom-coms, most notably the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan barfer You’ve Got Mail, while still being a legitimate, authentic romantic comedy.

Wain and Showalter use the age-old framing device of two couples talking and reminiscing about relationships over dinner and wine. Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) reveal that their meeting was a “corny romantic comedy kind of story,” and indeed, it is.

We then see Joel and Molly as two recently dumped individuals living in Manhattan and toiling away on opposite sides of the candy-trade spectrum. Molly owns a little candy shop called Upper Sweet Side; Joel works for an evil corporate candy company opening across the street. They meet for the first time at a costume party—both dressed as Benjamin Franklin, and both not really interested in meeting anybody. While Joel is a corporate drone, he longs to start a little coffee shop called Cup of Joel. Molly just wants to give all of her candy money away to charity.

Things begin badly for the couple, but start picking up when the two meet at a bookstore and discover they both like fiction books, of all things. They then go through all of the standard new-couple-falling-in-love-against-all-odds scenarios, with Joel being the handsome-but-not-so-much-that-he’s-threatening prototype, and Molly the fussy, clumsy, breakfast-cereal-consuming kind of girl.

The almighty Michael Ian Black (the third member of the legendary Stella troupe, along with Wain and Showalter) scores laughs as Trevor, Joel’s competitive co-worker who is trying to steal both Joel’s promotion and Joel’s girlfriend, a woman Tiffany Amber Thigpen (a Saved By the Bell joke!). We know he’s trying to steal Joel’s girlfriend, because he takes a rubber out of the rubber bowl (yes, a hard-candy dish full of loose rubbers) right after mentioning her.

Christopher Meloni is on board as Joel’s boss; he has a superhero-costume mishap in what becomes one of the year’s funniest movie scenes. Ed Helms plays a well-meaning loser who tries to move in on Molly when she and Joel get into trouble.

The movie goes through many of the rom-com standard moments, including dinner at Molly’s frighteningly odd parents’ house; musical montages during which Molly tries on outfits for Joel (she settles on a suit of armor); and romping in a pile of leaves at the park, with the pile of leaves, of course, containing a surprise they fail to notice. The film hits its comedic apex during a dinner date featuring a waiter with a pole up his ass.

In a perfect world, Wain and Showalter would make a movie like They Came Together every three or four days, but I guess we have to settle for once a decade. Or maybe not—because Wain spoke of a potential Wet Hot American Summer prequel while promoting this film on the talk-show circuit. The project has even been proposed as a mini-series for Netflix.

The film is available for rental via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com, and is also available on demand. Watch it—not only because it will make you laugh a lot, but because its success could mean somebody will bankroll the Wet Hot prequel. I want that Wet Hot prequel!

Published in Reviews