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Frank in all directions

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Entries in dick cheney (146)

Tuesday
Sep062016

In Which We Start Things Up With Adam Brody Again

The FK

by DICK CHENEY

StartUp
creator Ben Ketai
Crackle

Adam Brody's girlfriend Taylor (Ashley Grace, Topher Grace's real-life wife) is the kind of woman who feels that because she loves someone it is okay to put down certain parts of him. During sex, she demands Adam Brody put on various Enya-sounding music while he fucks her. She asks, often, whether or not this or that is "OK" in the bedroom, and tells him that he doesn't have to go down on her, like it is some kind of imposition.

Adam Brody is the kind of man who enjoys sex with Topher Grace's wife at the end of a hard day. You can feel he has a general angst that he is exacting on her during intercourse. Adam Brody is focused on acting very mature during his new series StartUp because at the end of the day there is really no reason he could not be playing a high school student. His face and body have barely changed at all in ten years, whereas Jason Priestley looks like he was run over by a truck.

Adam Brody is a white man living in Miami. He is completely unhappy with his job at an investment firm. He meets Izzy (Otmara Marrero), a Cuban woman who went to Stanford. She has created a currency called GenCoin — maybe she was unaware BitCoin already existed? Everyone is like, haven't you heard of BitCoin...? but only Adam Brody is stupid enough to believe this is a new, revolutionary idea. He gives her two million dollars that his dad gave him.

Before her big break, Izzy was living in the Florida Keys with a man she described as a "key rat"; she had debatably consensual intercourse with him because he paid her electric bill. There is a lot of sex on StartUp, most of it completely cynical, because without these tiny little expressions of emotion there would be absolutely nothing exciting about this story.

I had to look up what a key rat was, because the only time I've ever been to South Florida was with my eyes closed. According to my internet sources, a key rat is "someone who lives anywhere on Key Biscayne except the Grand Bay or the Ocean Club, attended KBCS, smokes the chronic, is generally an undesirable character, likes Budweiser, and has spent excessive time at the skihole." This led me to look up what a skihole was. I never did find out, because I got distracted by Lynne asking me whether I thought Taylor Swift had breast enhancement surgery.

Substantially more interested in Adam Brody than his girlfriend is Phil Rask (Martin Freeman). Martin Freeman is doing an American accent that is top of the line. He is introduced on StartUp running on a treadmill, and Martin's new body is absolutely phenomenal. Phil Rask is a federal agent of some kind who has an ex-wife who looks like an underwear model and he goes around South Florida like every single person in his path is nothing more than a hurdle to be surmounted. I immediately loved this man.

When Phil Rask meets Adam Brody, he says, "Huh?" a lot and generally makes him feel uncomfortable. They talk about how much Adam Brody loves to fish, which is a strange topic of conversation, given that there is no way Adam Brody has ever caught a marlin in his entire life.

On the plus side, StartUp features a very ethnically diverse cast. On the negative side, none of these actors seem to be very comfortable with one another or share any emotional connection at all. StartUp is so derailed by Adam Brody stammering through various scenes that Martin Freeman's evil agent becomes a protagonist-in-waiting.

In order to cleanse the taste of this Crackle original series from my palate, I took a trip down memory lane this week and started watching some episodes of The O.C. For people who had never seen Beverly Hills 90210, The O.C. was somewhat watchable until Josh Schwartz' writing became painful. Adam Brody was a better actor in 2003 than he is now. Martin Freeman is the kind of versatile performer who can play anyone, Adam Brody should only play a self-effacing rabbi in a Coen Brothers movie if he wants to reinvent his career, because this is not it.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Aug222016

In Which We Already Made Our Choice And We Regret It

Spill the Beans

by DICK CHENEY

Sausage Party
dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon
88 minutes

Sausage Party was made for a cool $19 million. The animation was done by Nitrogen Studios, whose disgusting reputation for awful treatment of their employees emerged during the press surround the film's release. It seems even more egregious that animators weren't paid or credited for their work on Sausage Patty considering the production company behind the film is Annapurna Pictures, which was founded by the daughter of Larry Ellison, the fifth wealthiest man in the entire world.

The real tragedy is the end product itself. Animated movies require substantial financial investment in order to look good, and Sausage Party is an aesthetic mess. Most of the work is focused on a group of sausages that include Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. The sausages themselves are a little too glossy, but it makes sense for them to not really resemble meat in any way, since no other living flesh in Sausage Party is given human personification.

Ethically, the most egregious animated film was Ratatouille, which turned a monstrous species of vermin into a cuisine loving pet. It had the advantage of looking substantially better than Sausage Party, where the character models so infrequently resemble food of any kind and yet don't go completely in the direction of being entirely unrecognizable. You spend a lot of time during the movie asking yourself, "What kind of food is that?" and not really caring whether you can figure it out.

Bill Hader plays a bottle of Firewater, and he was instructed by the directors to adopt a Native American accent for this important role of the liquor who warns Barry (co-writer Rogen) that the world beyond their supermarket is not exactly the happy place they had been led to believe. Most of the jokes revolve around the idea that Barry is a penis who needs to be in a vagina. If you find this idea hysterical, it is relatively certain that you thought Knocked Up was a powerful and important statement about pregnant women.

The racial humor in Sausage Party is actually pretty tame, and a lot less offensive than the general visual direction and the meandering nature of the script. The voice acting is also all over the map, with Kristen Wiig sounding like she recorded her audio in an afternoon and Michael Cera doing an almost unrecognizable boy's voice. Edward Norton portrays a Jewish bagel since there are no Jewish actors in the cast to take on this key role.

There is nothing actually funny about Sausage Party, since only amusing part of the concept was pretty much encapsulated by the trailer in which a bunch of sausages were upset about being cooked. With such a flimsy concept, it would have made considerable sense to make Sausage Party a musical, but unfortunately hiring songwriters would have cost too much money. There is an opening theme but it is rushed through as quickly as possible since there is no humor whatsoever in it.

Later, a package of Meatloaf sings "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" for about ninety seconds. Seemingly at a loss for another direction to take things, Rogen immediately has one of the characters get incredibly high in a scene that features prominently in every one of his projects. In this state, he is able to communicate with Barry (Michael Cera). Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig's bun gets involved in a lesbian subplot with a taco (Salma Hayek).

In order to escape from the supermarket, the food products shoot a bunch of toothpicks infected with bath salts at the store's shoppers, so that everyone becomes real to each other. They tie up a man with licorice, and murder a bunch of other people, but this is all just preface to the sausage penetrating the bun while all of the other food watches. It turns into something of an exciting orgy, but even the massive, um, hilarity involved in watching sex among inanimate objects aren't enough to salvage this disaster.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Aug152016

In Which Women Are Rarely Found Around The Rock

Wear and Tear

by DICK CHENEY

Ballers
creator Stephen Levinson
HBO

Since Ballers is usually a term that refers to people living life well, it is strange that it does not seem to apply to anyone on this show. Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson) is a deeply unhappy ex-football player trying to represent athletes in the greater Miami area. The Rock is just 44, but due to decades of wear and tear on his body from life as a professional wrestler, he looks considerably older. The fact that he is so completely hairless makes him resemble something like a cross between Lord Varys and the Predator.

In the ring, The Rock was not much of an artist. When he looked to transition to acting, he did the only sensible thing, which was take as many lessons as he could. His first major foray into this new art form was a role in the 2002 action romp, The Scorpion King. Christ was he bad in this movie, giving absolutely no indication that even fourteen years later he could manage the role of Spencer Strasmore, as close to his own background as that part is.

Wrestlers, in Vince McMahon's world, are classified as independent contractors. This is the immoral way that a company with a billion dollar valuation gets away with not paying for their employees' travel and lodging on a grueling road schedule that keeps them away from their families for almost three hundred days a year. Being a football player requires a lot less work comparatively, although depending on how hard you are hit, it can be even more dangerous.

The Rock did not like to be hit, but he never minded doling out the punishment. In a tragic night at the 1998 Royal Rumble, he got overly excited and bashed a chair into the skull of his opponent more than twenty times, causing a severe concussion that would end the man's career a few years later and permanently scar him for life. It was these disturbing moments that turned The Rock into Dwayne Johnson — he never planned to take such risks with his own body and saw the chance as a safer, more lucrative career.

Still, the fact that men (his father Rocky Johnson and his maternal grandfather Peter Maivia) on both sides of his family tree were huge stars in that industry keep him coming back. The Rock's last professional wrestling match was three years ago. He tore his tendons from his pelvis in a match with John Cena. The months off in rehab delayed shooting on his next film. Brett Ratner's version of the Hercules myth did well overseas, making $244 million on a budget of $100 million. For the role Johnson received $10 million; substantially more than his payoff for that year's Wrestlemania. The movie was shit.

It is in fact hard to think of a movie Dwayne Johnson has starred in that was actually any good. The Fast and Furious films are so completely painful and devoid of any inspiration whatsoever that they certainly make Johnson stand out as the only interesting aspect of them. Comedy should suit him, but for some reason he was the straight man in this year's Central Intelligence: watching Kevin Hart act is painful enough.

Despite the fact that all his projects are garbage, Johnson has improved so much as a performer. This was inevitable, as the innate charisma he possesses was only waiting for the right role. Spencer Strasmore is this role. The main relationship in Ballers is the friendship between Johnson's Strasmore and his partner Joe (Rob Corddry). It is fun to watch the normally spastic Corddry portray more of a laid, back realistic character, and he was the absolute best part of the Hot Tub Time Machine duology, where his acting chops were sorely underused.

The two are so good together in Ballers that you ignore how painful is it to watch an ancient Andy Garcia mug for the camera as their antagonist, Andre. The rest of the largely African-American cast completes Johnson far better. As Dolphins general manager, Dulé Hill is magnificent in a role that plays to all his strengths, and John David Washington is almost as compelling as Johnson himself in the role of a Dolphins wide receiver.

The weakest part of the show is its realism. Ballers presents itself as a behind-the-scenes type look, but it never approaches any of the excess that might shock or appall viewers. It is more about how everyone involved in this disturbing industry of destroying black mens' brains and paying them on non-guaranteed contracts is actually not terrible.

Wrestlers never had a union, because they never had the leverage for one. Their general mistreatment is a ghastly unreported story, but the responsibility the NFL players union abdicated should be a worse one. In every other sport, contracts are fully guaranteed. The NFL is as popular and successful financially as all of those other disciplines combined. You can feel that the particulars of this absurd situation are toned down because of HBO's pre-existing relationship with the NFL, but Ballers highlights some of these wretched moments despite that.

The most depressing moments in Ballers are more subtle. Strasmore's girlfriend Stephanie (Taylor Cole) barely ever sees him and the two have intercourse even less. Strasmore has no love in his life, and it is unclear whether or not Strasmore is even capable of intercourse given the amount of painkillers he subsists on. The Rock seems so sad now.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.