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Love Them Or Hate Them, You’ll Never Forget Your ‘Friends From College’


Netflix’s upcoming comedy series, Friends From College, from comedy duo Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, premieres on July 14 and we’ve got the official trailer!
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Affable Chokeslam Taps Out in Quest For Rom-Com Wrestlemania

The world doesn’t need another milquetoast Canadian indie comedy. But it’s a national specialty, so they keep coming around, safe, inoffensive, government-funded and mildly amusing. Unfortunately for Chokeslam, safe and inoffensive aren’t the words you want to hear about a wrestling comedy, even if it aspires to the romantic variety. Director Robert Cuffley’s attempts to fuse the world of wrestling with the genre clichés of rom-com make for a cute, unassuming yarn that never quite gets off the mat.

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TIFF 2016 Review: “Free Fire” Is A Free-Wheeling Good Time

freefire_01
Ben Wheatley’s latest film Free Fire feels closer to the ensemble spirit of his 2009 debut Down Terrace than last year’s deliciously deranged High Rise. There are criminals meeting up with arms dealers for a trade, one which takes place in a warehouse in Massachusetts. It almost seems like too simple of a plot for a Ben Wheatley movie until everything goes ridiculously awry and you realize with delight, “Ah, here we go.”
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The Ten Percent: “Don’t Call Me Shirley”

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello and welcome to another installment of “The Ten Percent,” a regular column here on Biff Bam Pop! where every other week Ensley F. Guffey and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the ten percent of everything which is not crud. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that for each film or television show that gets people talking years after its premiere, there are hundreds of others that barely cleared the horizon before being (thankfully) shot down. The works that soar above the rest – well, those are the works that stand the test of time. And don’t be fooled into thinking that genre matters to the Ten Percent – slapstick comedy is in here, along with science fiction, animation, bloody horror, toe-tapping musicals, and more. The Ten Percent last for two reasons: (1) they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception and (2) they somehow manage to capture something fleeting and rare and preserve it for the lucky viewing public.

It’s an often-cited adage that the Academy doesn’t give Oscars to comedies. It’s also a often-cited adage that comedy is difficult – as Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swan says in My Favorite Year, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” (Yes, other people are credited with saying it first, but when you try to track that down, the footprints vanish into the mist quite completely. So O’Toole it is.) At any rate, good, gut-busting comedy is hard to come by and comedy also changes with the times; far more so than straight dramatic stories. (This is one reason why Shakespeare’s tragedies tend to be a bit easier for modern audiences to understand than his comedies. Times change, and with that, tastes change as well.) We’ve written about comedy before here at The Ten Percent, but we haven’t delved into one of the great slapstick parodies of the last half-century. This column intends to rectify that.

Parodies often work best when more than one particular item is being spoofed. If all the jokes rely on your audience having seen the One Thing that serves as your source material – well, that can be risky indeed. So Blazing Saddles spoofs the entire genre of Western cowboy movies instead of just sending up High Noon. In a similar fashion, back in 1980, Jim Abrahams, along with brothers David and Jerry Zucker, decided that the disaster film genre could use a comedic treatment. Borrowing from the 1957 film Zero Hour! as well as Airport 1975, they gave us the fast-paced hilarity of Airplane! and lo, the world was a better place.

Much of the humor of Airplane! derives from watching heretofore serious actors who have been given a very loose rein to “go big or go home.” Robert Stack, who plays Capt. Rex Kramer, had previously played the captain who loses his nerve in 1954’s The High & the Mighty, one of the first airline disaster films, and here has a wonderful, scenery-chewing time as the straight man. Lloyd Bridges, who plays Steve “Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue” McCroskey, is directly parodying his role as the airport manager in San Francisco International Airport, a television show from 1970 – 1971. And Peter Graves (Capt. Clarence “Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” Oveur) had played in the made-for-TV disaster film SST: Death Flight (seriously, what a title!).

Moreover, most viewers don’t know that Leslie Nielsen, who is so incredibly funny in this film (as well as in the Naked Gun series, which was also written and produced by the Airplane! team) began his career as a square-jawed leading man – go watch the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet if you need a refresher.* And yes, it’s that straight-ahead hero type who terrorized the Airplane! set with – yes – a whoopee cushion.

Overall, the plot is standard disaster-film issue and is basically lifted right from Zero Hour! But nothing like the rapid-fire punning, visual gags, and off-color jokes had been seen in a disaster film before – and they worked. The film made a handsome return on its cost and has been named one of the best filmed comedies of all time on a number of polls and is ranked as #10 on the American Film Institute’s list of Best Comedies. In fact, Airplane! is on the National Film Registry, which is run by the Library of Congress, thereby ensuring that generations yet unborn will delight in seeing Johnny (the late, and greatly missed, Stephen Stucker) declare, “There’s a sale at Penney’s!” (And they will also get to benefit from his extensive origami skills.)

Look, life is hard these days. Airplane! gives us an hour-and-a-half of sheer, rib-splitting laughter. Do yourself a favor and watch it again, for any movie that allows the Beaver’s mom (Barbara Billingsley) to send up that pearls-and-apron paragon of domestic perfection certainly deserves its spot on The Ten Percent.

*Plus, bonus points if you know that Gunderson, the tower tech who checks the “radar range,” was played by Jonathan Banks, who would go on to memorably play Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad. (Look at the 15-second mark on this clip.)

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Badand of the forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Babylon 5 Universe (fall 2017)You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Comic Book Collections Part 1

If you’re not coming to Biff Bam Pop! for insightful readings and interviews on your favourite television shows, movies, video games or music, then you must be coming here for the comic books! Right? Right!

And what would a Holiday Gift Guide be, here on Biff Bam Pop!, if we didn’t make mention of some of the great comic book collections that should be under the tree, or given as a gift for every fan this season?

Here it is, then:

Over the rest of the week, we’ll be listing some of the cheaper, more moderate, are quite expensive trade paperback and hardcover collections of some of the best comic book reading you or a loved one will likely experience this year! Let’s hit the more affordable ones first, shall we?

Follow me after the jump for all the winter holiday horror, detective sci-fi, comedy and heroic fiction that needs to be read!

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Repo THE PAYBACKS #1 On The Wednesday Run

You know, there are times when I pause and sit back at my office desk and contemplate things other than the work that is at hand. There are moments in the middle of a droning conversation where I’ll admittedly tune out a speaker and, still nodding “um-hmm’s”, and “yeah’s”, daydream about life’s more important questions and dilemmas.

Like: All these comic book superheroes and super-villains – how do they pay for their wonderful toys? What happens when they can’t pay for them?

Well, contemplate and daydream no longer. That’s the premise of the new monthly series for Dark Horse Comics, The Paybacks!

Follow me after the jump for the answer to comicdom’s toughest question!

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Worship Music, Comics & The Devil With THIS DAMNED BAND #1 On The Wednesday Run

This Damned Band 1 coverRemember the story of the guitar player who met the devil at the crossroads and sold his soul for guitar-picking fame and fortune?

Did you ever slowly spin your classic rock vinyl LP’s backwards on your records player so you can hear the hidden Satan-worshipping messages left by the band?

It’s all kind of ridiculously funny, isn’t it?

We hear at Biff Bam Pop! love classic rock.

And we love horror.

And comedy.

And that’s why you need to be reading This Damned Band #1, out today! More info after the jump!

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Saturday At The Movies: Birdman (2014)

birdmanposter1If you don’t know much about Hollywood and acting, this is the movie to go see. It will give you a glimpse into what goes on when you start on any type of commercial or artistic venture.

Birdman stars Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts and relative unknown, Andrea Riseborough. All are excellent. All “act” in this movie. All have deep passions that are portrayed on screen. All have subtle and effecting moments. More arresting than the performances, however, is the commentary on the nature of film, theater, art and commercialism.

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The Dumberest: Mel Brooks at TIFF

John Candy, Daphne Zuniga and Bil Pullman star in Spaceballs, mocking some sci-fi flick or other

With the Farrelly Brothers Dumb and Dumber To (2014) bumbling into theatres now, it’s fitting that TIFF has chosen this moment to look back at one of the great purveyors of goofball comedy, the legendary Mel Brooks. With films like The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Spaceballs (1987), Brooks has carved out a huge swath of send-up satire that comedy directors today are enormously indebted to. Too?

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Let’s Remember Robin Williams

Robin_Williams-EsquireRather than wallow in the sadness of the death of Robin Williams, one of my favourite comedians, I thought I would compile some videos of his great, great work. I’ll watch them tonight, perhaps you will too, and I’ll remember the genuine joy he gave us throughout his life. Rest in peace, good sir, and thank you for the wonderful memories.

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