Monday Morning Critic 3.23

On tap this week:
— The qualities of a good and a great comedy
— New York City gets a little Naked
— VH1 just slays me
And slightly much more!

You know, if your ever bored the best thing to watch on a Sunday afternoon is VH1. Why?


VH1 has turned it into an art-form. Whereas most of the big networks that have reality shows make them excessively competitive to the point where the human drama isn’t as big a deal, like The Amazing Race or Survivor, or the subject is so intriguing that even a pedestrian episode can be fun (The Ultimate Fighter), VH1 has tossed all that out the window for a generic formula for every show that works phenomenally well: The Train Wreck.

I noticed this during a back to back viewing of I Love Money 2 and For the love of Ray J. The former is comprised of people from the Flavor of Love, Rock of Love and the spin-offs from it. They get like a dozen plus people in one house, make them do random craziness, and each week someone goes bye-bye as they play for $250,000.

The latter is a competitive reality dating show featuring Ray J, a musician or producer or something like that. His main claim to fame is that he had sex with Kim Kardashian, video-taped it and then they both leaked it onto the web to bolster their careers. But then again if I bagged a Kardashian I’d give the DVDs to my parents and extended family, so I have to give him his propers for that. Good job, Ray J. He’s also related to Brandy or something. Essentially like a dozen slutty women throw themselves at him to leach onto his fame, or launch their own acting careers.

Throw in Tool Academy and my new favorite Tough Love and you have some amazing television. They feature people so desperate for fame and\or fortune that they’re willing to humiliate themselves in the most ridiculous manner possible for a television audience.

So I’ve come up with my own reality show to pitch to the network. I think you need three main things to make a highly rated show that’ll get renewed.

1. Deceive everyone involved
2. Make it trashy
3. Hot, young women in revealing clothes

Take all those, throw them together with a camera crew and it’s CHA-CHING!

My idea: Caged Cash.

Take a bunch of strippers, wannabe actresses and soft core film star types and place them in the female wing of Pelican Bay State Prison. The goal: last as long as you can. Last woman standing makes $2 million, tax free. They have two limitations: they can’t tell anyone inside their purpose and can’t commit any illegal acts. Each week they’re judged on various criteria by a “Parole Board” and each week someone is voted off for some slight or whatever. Instant catchphrase, too, as “I’m sorry, but you’ve been paroled” could be money.

You don’t think that’d sell? You have the potential for violence, real life, and a bunch of slutty morons with the worst of the worst at a Supermax facility. You can tell the women they’re going to something, then throw them in orange jump suits and watch the hilarity.

Thoughts like these are the reason I didn’t get a job as a TV Producer, nor did they get me into any of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

You know what makes a good comedy?

Quotability, i.e. the ability to use the film at appropriate times for comic effect.

Consider this another abridged chapter in the “Kubryk’s Guide to Film, Life and Other Important Stuff” that I plan on publishing sometime after the National Debt is paid in full.

I was thinking about this while watching I Love You, Man. I’m a big fan of Paul Rudd, and Jason Segel is slowly building a place in my inner fandom (right behind Christian Bale but right ahead of Mary McCormack), but I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the film as Travis was. Why? Because it was markedly funny, but I didn’t come away from it with anything that was really quotable.

For example, my best friend has never been much of a lady-killer. He’s my best friend, has been since we were kids, but my luck when it comes to women has always somehow surpassed his. He was always the consummate wingman whenever we went out to the bars in college. The Bulls in the ‘90s, during the Jordan years, had Dickie Simpkins to come out and celebrate when the game was out of hand. My best friend was kind of like our Dickie Simpkins. When everyone else was crushing it and had gotten theirs, he had room to operate.

It’s not like my wealth of experience would rival George Clooney, but compared to my friend well. . .let’s just say my limited amount of experience with the fairer sex puts my best friend’s to shame. And one day we’re discussing our various love lives, and I could tell he was feeling a bit down. And he’s like the best guy I know; it’s sad that he can’t find someone to slap his junk around on a regular basis.

So I used the wit and wisdom of Romany Malco from one of my favorite films of the decade (The 40 Year Old Virgin) to help him out and explain to him that he’s been making it out to be much more than it inherently is. It was sage advice, I think, and I was fortunate that I’ve watched it on DVD two dozen times (and was watching it at that point in time) to be able to repeat it. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in the foul-mouthed hilarity of Jay that has yet to be tapped.

It led to me thinking about the nature of comedy: for it to be truly great, you have to be able to repeat it to hilarious results. I wish I could repeat the conversation, but unfortunately I have this tendency to curse more than any human being alive around my best friend . . .ok. . . maybe I just curse a lot for no good reason outside of my writing pursuits. It’s a bad habit, I admit. But some of the funniest things ever said are some of the most foul things ever said, too.

And any good comedy is obviously funny, but a great one is something you can repeat endlessly until it’s markedly annoying. Over the years, I’ve been able to riff from The 40 Year Old Virgin, Bad Santa, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Annie Hall and a cavalcade of top notch comedies in appropriate situations.

And that’s why for as much as I liked I Love You, Man, I couldn’t put it up there in quality like I did with Role Models last year. It’s just not as quotable.

How does a film get quotable? That’s kind of hard, but I think a lot of it has to do with the best clips NOT featured in the trailer. Too often in a trailer you get all the best stuff in a film in a three minute or less bit. It’s why it’s getting harder and harder to tell if a film is going to be awful or not based on the trailer alone.

I loved Into the Wild and totally got the philosophical aspect behind it, but the trailer was more painful than dental surgery without Novocain. And Righteous Kill had a terrific trailer and turned out to be De Niro and Pacino taking one final crap on their legacy as the greatest actors of their generation. One film was on my top 10 of the year. The other I was hoping would go on it but would up falling wicked short of it.

Any good comedy has tons of bits you have to watch it to be able to acquire. Anyone can talk about being the “mistake” in Superbad. It takes watching the film to pull out the film’s best jokes.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – The Naked City


One can tell how far the crime film has come by watching a modern classic and comparing it to the classics of the genre from before 1970. And The Naked City is a classic of the early talkie era of film, one of the first (and still one of the best) as it’s a great example of the police procedural style of film.

What is the police procedural? Well, it’s a crime film purely from the vantage point of the cops. It’s a unique device that allows us, the viewer, to solve the crime at the same time as the cops. You don’t have any more information than they do. It’s a bit of a modern device in the crime film to show both sides, probably done best in HEAT, and usually it’s one side or the other that gets shown. Most of the best crime films are purely from either the cops (Zodiac, Dirty Harry, Brick, Black Rain) or from the crooks (Bob Le Flambeur, Goodfellas, Scarface). Doing both requires something epic and often fails.

For my 30th birthday I received a gift card to Barnes and Noble and used it to pick up the Criterion version of the film. Cleaned up a/v. as much as possible for a 60 year old flick, and a number of pretty interesting extras.

The Naked City is purely from the cops vantage point and has a pretty straightforward premise. It’s New York City in the 1940s and a model has been killed. NYPD Detective Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and his team are charged with solving it. It leads them all through the city, with some absolutely fantastic cinematography of New York City in that era, to a finale that’s a bit of a twist (but not quite).

It’s a great film for the era; any time you watch a film like this you have to be cognizant that story-telling techniques have changed dramatically. This film is heavy on narration, often times telling us the story (as opposed to letting it develop organically) but it’s a solid story that still works. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it winds up the subject of a remake. I think Michael Mann would take it, set it in L.A, and run wild with it.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and Northwestern University Co-Eds with low standards at The Keg

12 Rounds – John Cena kills a crook’s wife. He then gets out of prison and tries to kill Cena’s wife in the most retarded way possible.

Skip It – Vince McMahon desperately wants SOMEONE besides Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to be a big movie star. Preferably someone who still wrestles, I gather, hence the master of the “Five Knuckle Shuffle” being poised as an, ahem, action star. This probably won’t be as cringe-worthy as The Marine, but probably will come close to it.

The Haunting in Connecticut – Virginia Madsen plays mom to a family who buys a haunted house. Hilarity doesn’t ensue.

Skip It – It’s “based on a true story,” which means it takes one fact from a story about a family that thinks they saw a specter and turns it into two hours of mind-numbing schlock starring Michael Madsen’s kid sister.

Monsters vs. Aliens – Aliens invade the world. The U.S unveils their secret weapon against it: a super tall chick and a bunch of monsters with celebrity voices.

See It – I’m not a fan of monster films, or animation, but this surprisingly has me intrigued. Could be the surprise hit of the first quarter of the year.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.