The Funniest Thing Ever (Sunnyvale Trailer Park Edition)

I’m going to tie Nietzsche and Trailer Park Boys together, ready for this?

Friedrich Nietzsche said, Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.” Jack Handey from Saturday Night Live once said, Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.”

Funny is funny. Soap is to the body what laughter is for the soul. My entire life has been not only devoted to making myself and others laugh… but in fact, is a joke in itself.  Comedy became like medicine to me the moment I saw Blazing Saddles as a kid. In the 25 years since then I’ve seen what I consider to be a treasure trove of frakin funny. So when my good friend Evan told me to “check out” The Trailer Park Boys, I took it to heart. After all, the man had only 9 months ago introduced my to Kenny Vs Spenny, and my life was changed forever.

“What is Kenny Vs Spenny” you ask? Well I’ll tell you. It’s the funniest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Until my good friend Evan said “check out” The Trailer Park Boys. Kenny is a maniacal, sarcastic, borderline sociopath who lives to drive his roommate, and competitor, Spenny, to the edge of madness- and beyond… Spenny is a sympathetic, emotional, and extremely sensitive person… a chump. The premise of the series is that each episode is a competition that they hold (such as “Who can sit on a cow the longest,” or “First one to be mean loses”), and whoever loses has to perform a “humiliation.” This might sound like something inane, however, this proves to be one of the best premises ever thought up by two guys. If you have a chance, you can catch episodes of Kenny vs Spenny on Showcases’s site, including the iconic “Who Can Smoke More Weed?” episode.  (I was having trouble with Showcase’s stream, but I have watched many episodes here on shocase.ca) You can also catch Kenny Vs. Spenny on Netflix.

Alas, the real reason why I’ve started this ramble is to tell you about Trailer Park Boys. Over 15 years ago, Mike Clattenburg made One Last Shot, a documentary-style comedy about two small time crooks named Julian and Ricky. Robb Wells and John Paul Tremblay starred in this Nova Scotia-based comedy that was the basis for the series Trailer Park Boys. Basically, it’s a mockumentary that follows Julian (Wells), Ricky (Tremblay), and Bubbles (Mike Smith) in their day-to-day lives. It might not sound like much on the surface, but dive in, and there’s one of the guiltiest pleasures you’ll ever laugh hysterically to.

Bubbles and "Shitrock"

You see, Julian is a hardcore, small-time crook who is never seen (I repeat NEVER SEEN) without a rum and coke in his hand. He spends Christmas stealing presents out of trunks, and the rest of the year trying to (usually) sell pot. Where does he get the pot? Well that’s where Ricky comes in. Ricky is a 30 year-old guy with a daughter who lives with her mom in a trailer nearby, and who sleeps in his car. Many classic slapstick moments involve Ricky’s post-barbecue (or any meal) clean up, when Ricky usually leaves appliances and food spread all over the roof and hood of his car… Ricky grabs the nearest hockey stick and sweeps everything off the side of the car onto the ground, then gets in and drives away. Finally there’s Bubbles, a guy who lives with his 20+ cats in a shed next to Julian’s trailer. Bubbles wears huge, Coke-bottle glasses and Mike Smith gives him the funniest growling voice. Oh and keep in mind we’re set in Sunnyvale Trailer Park, in Nova Scotia, where the accents alone are enough to send you into giggle fits the way these guys deliver them.

So the boys are always scamming get-rich-quick schemes, usually involving a large amount of marijuana, and the seasons are more often than not set up like so: Ricky and Julian get out of prison, get a good start with living a simple life, then get mixed up in all kinds of illegal activities, and by the end of each season… [NOT SO SPOILER ALERT]  they end up back in jail again… All because of the exploits of one Mr. Jim Lahey, trailer park supervisor, and his cheeseburger-addicted male lover Randy (who never wears a shirt). You see, Mr Lahey is a drunk, and John Dunsworth does one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen.

Mr. Lahey and Randy stumble and bumble through their “policing” of the neighborhood like a modern day Cluseau of the trailer park. More often than not a gunfight will break out for usually no reason, and Ricky is always the one catching all the lead. Even once from his 6 year old daughter who later called him on the telephone:

“Hello? Oh hi Trinity. No don’t worry, daddy’s gettin the bullet taken ooot right now… Wait a minute, Trinity why are you talking so funny? Ah man, Goddamnit Trinity, well don’t drink any more ok?” Click.

It’s jokes like this, and brilliant acting from the solid cast, that really propels Trailer Park Boys into the heights of comedy as I see it. It’s not the highest-brow, and it will never win any awards, but where else can you get Sebastian Bach from Skid Row to drop the F bomb in front of a bunch of kids at a model train show, then lose it… only to later be smoking in the parking lot with the Boys? Where else can you get Ricky and his estranged wife Lucy driving off on drunkenly romantic “bang trips” behind the (enter abandoned business or warehouse name here). Or the likes of the resident park rapper, J-Rock? The whitest white-boy (named Jamie) of them all underneath… whose skills by the end of the series actually skyrocket!

There’s enough stuff in the 7 seasons and 3 movies made to keep you laughing for weeks. It got us through the long winter, and I offer it to you to spice up your summer life. Trailer Park Boys is available on Netflix Streaming, all seasons of it. It’s also available at Showcases’s website here (again, if the link is acting up, I apologize ahead of time and I don’t know what is up with it if it doesn’t work for you, sorry! 🙂  )

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What are the Bees Telling Us? (a review)

Do you eat honey as an alternative to sweeteners? Did you know that the bees that produce that honey are given a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup? Try and run from the cold hard truth of this warm and delightful movie, Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?, and you won’t make it far. The truth is that the mono-cropping practices of large farms in America have caused over 5 million bee colonies to disappear. We rely on bees to pollinate our crops. It’s as simple as that. I don’t know about you, but only having oatmeal and bread for the rest of time (because the price of fruits and vegetables skyrocketed due to massive crop shortages, and even losses) does not sound healthy. Queen of the Sun is a documentary that takes an alternative look at a topic that most people are downright afraid of… bees.

read more>>

‘4orgy of Violence’ as I Take a STAB at Scre4m

Scream 4 Brings Fun Back to a Genre

scream4poster.jpgDoes the latest installment of the iconic Scream franchise live up to the hype? Toomb takes a stab at Wes Craven’s latest horror reboot.

Apr 20 2011 | Posted in Columns,Latest | Read More »

From my Desk at EDN

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How Danny McBride and James Franco Saved The Princess (and the Movie Business)

What do you get when you cross an evil sorcerer, a beautiful princess, a brave warrior, and a truck-load of special herbs? One of the greatest medieval adventures of recent times, that’s what. …

Apr 19 2011 / Read More » /

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Toomb’s New Blu Rays (and DVDs)

Matt Toomb takes a look at today’s new DVD and Blu Ray releases.…

Apr 19 2011 / Read More » /

HBO’s Foray into Fantasy Off to a Solid Start With ‘Game of Thrones’

When you think of good adult fantasy, well… (I probably just lost half the readers) In all seriousness, what is there? Name a truly epic adult fantasy (on either film or television) that has tried to take itself seriously, and succeeded? Even the Lord of the Rings movies aren’t “cool” to like anymore, and they made more money than Avatar. There are plenty of good fantasy stories, but when it comes to adapting them and making them work, Hollywood has been gun-shy.

So when i first heard of HBO’s plans to adapt a multiple-book epic that takes place in a medieval-type world where swords and barbarians fight in ancient kingdoms… I knew it would be good. I heard of it three or four years ago, and have been an avid HBO fan. I began watching back when shows like the Sopranos and The Wire were just getting started… Oz had been changing the face of television for years, and HBO on it’s own ushered in a new age of serious, dramatic, adult entertainment on television. So a medieval fantasy epic? Oh hell yes.

Four years or so later, and Sunday night was the premiere episode of Game of Thrones. ‘Winter is Coming’ begins the story of what has been jokingly called, The Sopranos in Middle Earth. Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring), Lena Headey (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Mark Addy (The Full Monty) are just a few of the HUGE cast of characters that populate this world.

Let me stress the importance of that word in this context… world. The world is set in the fictional, large, South America–sized continent, with an ancient history stretching back twelve thousand years. The seasons last for years in this strange place, and as the title of the pilot episode would have us now, ‘Winter is Coming.’

The product value of this saga is feature-film worthy, the effects amazing. I haven’t seen anything this large since HBOs Rome… One of the best things ever put to film. The first episode picks up in the middle of a crisis. The king of the land is under threat from many sides, and the main character, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark must leave his wintery home land for the capital city. Meanwhile trouble brews to the north, where an ancient ice wall guards a terrible secret. There is swordplay, feasts, elegant costumes, and superb special effects. There is also a level of class that HBO brings to all of it’s productions, and they haven’t missed a beat. This series is bound to be one the greatest achievements for fantasy fans.

Plus the recent news that Ron Howard is making Stephen Kings epic The Dark Tower series over a span of three movies and three seasons of a television show… Well it’s just proof that special effects have caught up to the level where studios can make quality, adult entertainment for enough to still turn a profit. I can’t expressed the level of excitement I have for The Dark Tower… (It is the greatest epic fantasy story written in the past 50 years.) Bravo to HBO, to Ron Howard, and to those of us who’ve known these stories are out there… And the special effects guys.. Game of Thrones‘ first episode is brilliant, I can’t wait to see more.

Oh and check out one of the greatest opening sequences ever made. Everything about this series is extremely well done so far.

“Come With Me If You Want To Live…”

So, you’re a cold-blooded killing machine from the future.. Does that mean you can’t be hot? Take for instance Summer Glau, the teenage ass-kicking cyborg sent back to protect the great John Connor. You know the story, in the future an artificial intelligence called Skynet becomes self aware and realizes mankind is a threat to its existence… So it nukes us. Afterward the machines, most called Terminators, rule the world. Skynet controls everything, and humans are being hunted to extinction. From the ashes, a hero, John Connor, rises to lead the resistance on a successful campaign to destroy the machines. In its desperation, Skynet sends a terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor before she can have the future leader of the resistance. In the future, John Connor sends his best-friend and soldier (Kyle Reese) back in time to protect his mother… Kyle ends up sleeping with her before getting killed, and actually BEING John’s father.

I’ve been a Terminator fan from, oh, let’s see mom was a huge Sarah Connor fan- so i guess 1984. I remember seeing Terminator 2: Judgement Day (the movie that the entire decade of the 80’s built up to) in the theater when I was a wee lad of 13. It was one of the last R-Rated movies I got into without parental units actually coming with me to the theater… and it changed my life. All that metal and killer-cyborgs-from-the-future turned the promising young man into a Judas Priest, Guns N Roses, and Metallica freak (for a year at least… until Seattle happened).

Is James Cameron responsible for my adolescent rebellion and macabre obsession with the dark side? I’m not saying he’s the reason… I’m just saying everything was fine until I saw his movie- played backward it says “In the name of Lucifer, spill the blood of the innocent” you know… (sorry, Judas Priest joke).

Linda Hamilton - 'The Movie' Sarah Connor

Since that quintessential movie there have been a campy sequel (T3: Rise of the Machines, just had the wrong cast- simple as that– but a brilliant twist ending) and an action-packed “super-sequel” (Terminator: Salvation, a movie that begins another Terminator trilogy, this time surrounding John Connor in the future and the fight against the machines & Skynet).

Lena Headey as Sarah Connor

Somewhere in between trilogies, came the FOX television show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (or SCC). I’d caught the first episode when it aired a few years ago, but laughed it off (like most things on FOX) and forgot about it. Leave it to Netflix… since they started their instant streaming service, I’m never without some sort of fictional escape. So in between seasons of 24 and Trailer Park Boys I decided to give Sarah Connor Chronicles a shot.

All the John Connors

It’s classic FOX TV by the way. If you’re a fan of any FOX show, you know what I mean. Heavy on melodrama, not a lot of character development, political undertones… and that distinctive FOX Filter that makes everything a little darker and grainier… basically right up Terminator’s alley. Everything that makes the Terminator series GREAT (the bad-ass cyborgs, the time-travel, the mythology) is given a TV treatment, and while it’s not the best show I’ve ever watched- It definitely leaves something to be desired when it comes to actual production. The dialogue is atrocious at best sometimes, other times the performances are so over the top that cheese actually spills out of the HDMI slot on the front of my LG… but the rest of the time it’s not bad, seriously!

The plot follows Sarah Connor, John Connor, Derek Reese (brother to Kyle, John’s father-from-the-future), and the brilliant Summer Glau as ‘Cameron’- a female Terminator known as an Infiltrator– sent back to protect John. The timeline starts post-Terminator 2 with John and Sarah on the run, evading the FBI and any cyborgs that might pop up (even though the time-travel-device was supposedly destroyed in the first movie there is a HELL of a lot of time-traveling going on in this series). They are quickly joined by Cameron, the Infiltrator, and soon become wrapped up in continued efforts to stop “Judgement Day,” the day Skynet becomes self-aware and destroys most of the human population with nukes. They time-travel from 1999 to 2007 in the first episode, that way the series can take place when it was filmed, and exists on a separate timeline than that of T3: Rise of the Machines.

The show brings a depth that most cookie-cutter action shows don’t have, mostly in part to the amazing performances by Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, and Summer Glau as the three on the run. It boils down the essence of the Terminator universe, stripping away the big action-sequences and explosions (of which there are still PLENTY), and revealing more of the humanity that lies there.

One thing I’ve always loved about the Terminator series is the parallels it draws between the machines and us humans, how when our civilization is destroyed and our humanity is strained, how much different are we from these machines? James Cameron did an excellent job in T2 to make us question where the line is between human and machine, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles expands on that. We get to see what these characters are pushed to do, how they love, fight, struggle, and ultimately (because we know the future) die…

If you’re a fan of the Terminator trilogy and haven’t checked out The Chronicles yet, do it! FOX TV made only 31 episodes (2 seasons), but this highly rated show is definitely worth kicking back with.

Insidious is a Creeptastic Fright-fest

♣♣♣♣ 1/2  out of  ♣♣♣♣♣

Sooo…  strange things are happening in your house. From late night security alarms going off, to objects moving by what seems like themselves, and what’s worse? No one believes you. It’s shrugged off as some kind of stress reaction to the recent move… or perhaps an accident in the family. Your husband starts staying at work late because he doesn’t want to deal with what is becoming a grueling home life, and you are hearing things… Like whispering voices in the baby monitor, or shuffling around in the attic. Then one night, after a fight, you roll over in bed to stare at the empty space beside you to see a man pacing back and forth on your balcony- then he’s in the room with you, coming after you, and you are alone.

In James Wan‘s latest thriller Insidious, out this last weekend, we meet Josh and Renai (and their three kids) after they’ve recently moved in to a new house. Josh is a teacher and Renai is a stay-at-home mom/songwriter who has primary daily-duty when it comes to their two older sons Dalton and Foster, and baby sister Calli. The house is a beautiful old 2-story with a full attic and basement, and Wan films it creepy from the first frame. I love a good haunted-house movie, and there haven’t been that many good ones in recent years… however Insidious makes up for all of that waiting. A movie that is so well put together and so goddamn scary, that I was periodically checking over my shoulder to see if there was an uber-creepy-old-lady-with-a-candle behind me.

When I was a kid, I watched Poltergeist fairly early. It’s one of the first movies I remember watching besides Swamp Thing or Star Wars. It was also one of those, “I was just old enough to be severely scared” moments in life that tell more about me than 10 minutes with my analyst. I will have the image of that guy peeling his face off burned into my memory forever (thanks mom and dad). The better part of my adult life has been spent watching scary movies and horror films trying to get that same scare I got when I was a kid. There have been a few films that have truly scared me (and I’m talking jumping out of my seat, uncontrollable utterances of “Oh my god!”) over the years, like A Tale of Two Sisters, The Orphanage, The Shining, or The Devil’s Backboneand now Insidious.

Insidious is a masterwork of low-budget film making (it was made for under a million and earned $13 million it’s first weekend, you do the math). James Wan has hit his stride as a director. After causing a huge splash with his first movie Saw, Wan made a few R-rated movies (Dead Silence, Death Sentence) that were… ok… and frankly I didn’t think he had a movie like Insidious in him. From the opening moments of dark silence Wan gives us what most Hollywood genre-makers don’t anymore, TIME. Slow-moving cameras, no Saw-like edits, and not a drop of blood (barely) is spilled… and yet it might be one of the scariest films I’ve seen in 5 years.

It’s made me think a lot about what scary is… and I don’t mean the BOO factor either, it’s more than that. Anyone can drop the camera down, pause long enough, and create a loud sound effect to get a quick scare… but creating an ever-building sense of dread and suspense where I’m riding the edge of my seat and chewing my nails frantically? That’s something else entirely. Through the use of tricks we’ve seen and heard before, Insidious crawls underneath your skin and keeps you terrified, and while there are plenty of BOO moments, they aren’t forced or due to an over-active soundtrack.

The story starts simple enough, with the family getting used to their new house. While working at home, Renai finds a wooden-ladder in the attic with a broken step (the light bulb’s string is just out of reach) and a door that won’t lock shut. Of course later that night, son Dalton fearlessly explores the house with his LED-lantern- only to come across the open door of the attic. He walks up to the attic and sees the light bulb, carefully climbing the ladder to reach the string he doesn’t see the broken step. When he climbs up to the fourth step he reaches for the next one only to have it give way in his hands, and he falls. Mom and Dad and Co. are downstairs playing with the baby, and Dalton sits up on the attic floor to hear a noise in the corner… We hear his shrieks as Josh and Renai run to his rescue to find him with a bruise on his forehead but otherwise okay. That night Josh dreams of his son sleeping, and when he tries to wake Dalton up for breakfast- he will not wake up. This scene is vital to the movie, and Patrick Wilson (Lakeshore Drive, Watchmen) handles it perfectly. His cheerful taunting of the boy while he believes he is sleeping that gives way to panicked shakes as he finds his son will not wake up… I don’t know if Patrick Wilson has kids, but that is exactly how I would react. The doctor tells Josh and Renai that Dalton has no signs of brain damage, and no trauma of any kind, he isn’t technically in a coma- he just doesn’t wake up. We cut to 3 months later, and Dalton is home in his own bed, still unconscious. The situation has become extremely stressful, Josh works late, Renai is stuck at home with all of the kids, and things start happening… out of the ordinary. The film ramps up from here and despite Act III being a bit… “Ok…?” Insidious comes in as a straight-up horror-film, in the vein of The Others, The Haunting, or El Habitante Incierto (a genre-busting Spanish film that is beyond creepy).

What are a parents worst fears? The death of a child? A horrible accident or disfigurement? What about a coma? Or perhaps the sneaking fear that you are losing your mind? That, despite your best and loving intentions… You can’t trust yourself? Insidious captures the old-school haunted house movie and frames it with current popular horror themes and tricks (it feels like a “real” version of Paranormal Activity in some places- but in a good way) to make a solid horror film. Take your date, take yourself, just go see this movie. If you like bumps and shrieks and long, dark hallways, run out to see Insidious.

It is rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language.

House of the Devil…? Yes, Please!

♣♣♣♣♣  out of  ♣♣♣♣♣

I want to start off bold because this movie got to me- This might be my new favorite horror film. I must also clear up the distinction between “scary movies” and “horror films.” This is a fine example of the later. Aside from the PG-13 Prom Nights and Shutters as well as your typical R Saw, Hostel, and any other of the recent remakes of 80s flicks, sits a genre of film so close to my heart- horror. When I go to a scary movie I want to jump in my seat, I want to see awesome and gross special effects, I want to shove popcorn in my face. On the other hand, when I see a horror movie I’m signing up for something different. I want to be on the edge of my seat, I want to be disturbed, I want to feel the panic that characters feel, I want to be scared. The House of the Devil does just that, and without any of the tricks and CGI that accompanies so many movies these days.

Released in 2009 HOTD looks like it was shot in 1983- straight down to the grainy film stock and the huge cassette tape player with big black headphones. (Although, during the pizza place scene toward the beginning the sign in the background says “Margarita Pizza” on sale- did they have that in ’83?) It is set sometime in the early 80s, and the detail is painstakingly dead-on. I literally could not tell that this movie was made a year ago, I was convinced it was some gem I’d never caught when I was a kid, and was blown away when I found out. HOTD manages to pull off sheer terror with simplicity.

A broke college girl takes a babysitting job in the middle of nowhere and, of course, at the wrong house. Turns out there aren’t any kids, just the old lady sleeping in the upstairs room. I guess no one responds to “elderlysitter” anymore? Anyway, some time during the night the strange noises start coming from upstairs, while outside there is a full lunar eclipse. There are no quick-and-flashy edits here, no thundering sound effects to try to scare us, just a lot of long and stable camera work that follows the heroine around the house. There are a few instances where the camera lingers beyond the girl’s frame of sight, revealing to the audience what the heroine doesn’t know, and they are shocking and effective.

Toward the end all hell breaks loose, literally, and where any other movie would spend the last half of the film with a never-ending chase scene, HOTD picks up fast, and leaves off just as quick. Once the blood begins to flow, the climax of the movie is upon us, and the burner gets cranked up to HI. All the while the subtle-yet-scary scraping of strings soundtrack slowly grates away at our ears… what else do you need in a horror movie?!

In my opinion, House of the Devil is one of the great horror films in the last few years. It’s a horror film disguised as a scary movie from 1983. I strongly recommend it for any fans of suspense (there is little gore and only at the end) no matter if you are a horror buff or not. See this movie soon!! THIS MOVIE IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 14 AT LEAST (AND THOSE 14 YEAR OLDS WILL LOVE IT I’M SURE)

“House of the Devil” Directed by Ti West Starring Jocelin Donahue and Tom Noonan Rated R for Some Bloody (good) Violence