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What Are We Up To? 08/05/22

The world is full of surprises. Here are some of them.


Shoresy

Shoresy is a spinoff of popular sitcom Letterkenny, both of which air on Hulu (not a plug). The latter show concerns the hilarious problems of the eponymous Ontario town. The former is a sports comedy in the vein of Slap Shot or Goon, but with a heaping helping of blue-collar Canadian wit.

The Bulldogs are an underachieving triple-a hockey team in the hardscrabble mining town of Sudbury. They’ve lost 20 straight games, and their manager Natalie (Tasya Teles) is on the verge of folding the team. Her star player, “Shoresy” Shore (Jared Keeso) isn’t so keen to give up. In the first episode he implores “Nat”, as she’s called, to turn recruitment of the team over to him.

In return, he promises the Sudbury Bulldogs will never lose another game.

What follows is a six-episode journey through the lives and minds of some of the Great White North’s least exemplary citizens. It’s a four-team league, and there’s only a handful of games left. If he’s to make good on his promise, Shoresy must conjure a series of minor miracles to make it happen. Obviously, this involves a lot of wildly sketchy people.

Very few of whom have all their teeth.

The show’s aesthetic is similar to its predecessor, but the production is more polished. The humor relies no less on precise wordplay and imputation but there’s a vaguely cinematic vibe that isn’t part of the Letterkenny experience (probably due to the need to make low budget hockey filmed in in largely empty venues look dramatic).

Like Letterkenny, Shoresy is a provincial comedy with arguably limited appeal. And I could argue that lies primarily among Letterkenny fans in particular and amateur hockey players in general. But don’t sleep on this show. While much of the humor is uniquely Canadian, it succeeds by making light of human contrasts rather than merely punching down or degrading anyone.

This is a lighthearted weekend binge that you may or may not enjoy as much as I did, but you certainly won’t regret it. Special props to Keeso, the star of Letterkenny who is nearly unrecognizable as the star of this show.

The man is truly Ontario’s Orson Welles.

– Bruce Hall

 

The Devil Wears Prada

I was way late to the party with Prada, but thankfully movie night with my Special Friend took a turn this week. The idea had been horror, but I realized no greater horror exists than living in a world where I somehow missed watching Meryl Streep profoundly humiliate Anne Hathaway for 109 minutes.

You don’t need to understand anything about fashion to identify with the idea of being in over your head at the office. Don’t let the fancy clothes and posh Manhattan backdrop fool you. This is a garden variety workplace comedy elevated by the fact that it is totally Streep’s garden.

But she’s not the only one doing good work.

Hathaway is achingly sympathetic, what with her big doe eyes and disarming pout. And before you accuse me of anything, I could say the same thing about Adrian Grenier. Their scenes together are like watching a couple of puppies chase an ice cube across a hardwood floor. Emily Blunt is just that as Hathaway’s stylishly neurotic supervisor, and Stanley Tucci’s character might deserve a limited spinoff series on HBO.

If you haven’t seen The Devil Wears Prada, don’t be the fool I was. A great cast, dryly hilarious script and breezy runtime make this a brisk watch for anyone who has a little time to kill but isn’t necessarily interested in watching Canadians bust each other’s grills.

– Bruce Hall

The Bear

My rule for new shows is you get 3 Eps to hook me. If by that point I’m not onboard I bounce. That doesn’t mean the show has to be firing on all cylinders out of the gate, but there has to be something there to keep me coming back. The new Hulu dramedy The Bear is a unique and realistic kitchen-based drama with tinges of dark comedy that hooked me quickly.

I liked the premise, I liked the look, and as an ex-kitchen worker, I immediately related to the characters.

The Bear is a fast-moving, dark dramedy about Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), an acclaimed fine dining chef, returning to his native Chicago to take over the family restaurant after his brother Michael dies. He spends most of his time defusing his hot-head cousin Richard (Ebon Moss-Bacharach) and managing large and small crises for the drowning-in-red-ink restaurant. It is a thirty-minute show that moves fast.

If you have ever worked in a restaurant it feels immediately authentic from the set to the verbal give and take between the kitchen staff.

I enjoyed the show from the start but it wasn’t until episode 4 that the pieces coalesced into a whole. That episode sends Carmy and Richard to host a kid’s birthday party for their uncle, played wonderfully by Oliver Platt. The clash of personalities leads to some of the funniest scenes so far.

Back in the restaurant, the young sous chef Sydney (Eyo Adebiri) tries to corral the unruly veteran staff in the absence of Carmy and start to earn her co-worker’s begrudging respect.

I am mid-way thru the season now and may have a full-length review when this first season is over. I strongly recommend The Bear if you are looking for a well-acted, dynamic show that is not afraid to get raw and earn that TV-MA rating.

-Rob

Ash vs Evil Dead

The Evil Dead franchise is not a surprise. It has been around since 1981.

Or if you’re Bruce Campbell, the lantern-jawed hero who plays the title character, since 1979. That’s how long he has played Ash Williams, a man routinely hurled across rooms into stationary objects and sprayed with gallons of fake blood and demon brains. If you’re not sure what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to elaborate: 

Ash takes his girlfriend to a remote cabin in the woods, where he finds a book written in ancient Sumerian, which he somehow is able to read in phonetic English, opening a portal to Hell, from which demons emerge. Reading the portal back closed would be simple, except demons torment their victims by altering reality and murdering you with your own worst, most ironic fears.  

A rather sober first film was followed by comedic-oriented sequels that set the tone for everything thereafter. Ash vs Evil Dead is a collaboration between Campbell and Sam Raimi, creator of the franchise. It continues the story from the films, following Campbell and a motley band of demon hunters as they battle Evil across whatever sound stage the show’s budget can support.  

It expands the Evil Dead mythos in ways a handful of 90-minute films couldn’t quite manage. Ash has long since morphed from a wide-eyed college kid into a jaded, misogynistic middle-aged professional killer with a fatalistic worldview and a cool robotic-hand-chainsaw thing going on.  

He is joined by former coworkers Pablo (Ray Santiago), whose mystical South American heritage might hold the key to defeating Evil, and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), a dour but capable young woman who has revenge on her mind for her own reasons. Pablo’s fawning admiration of Ash often seems misplaced, and even Kelly’s allegiance seems up for debate, at least at first.  

But having a protege around forces Ash to occasionally overachieve, and the presence of a tenacious female in his life helps keep his misanthropic brand of bias (somewhat) in check.  

The delicious twist is that the main antagonist is Evil itself, so you can never be sure who is on the side of our heroes and who is not. Key roles are played by Lucy Lawless, Michelle Hurd, Lee Majors, Ted Raimi and others – sometimes to the benefit of Ash and his friends, and sometimes not. The campy, self-aware tone of the films is on full display, right down to the series’ histrionic theme song, which accompanies each episode’s cold open.  

And anytime you kill anything, you are required to be sprayed in the face with 50 gallons of fake blood.  

Always

Ash vs Evil Dead is cartoonish fun that jumps headlong into imaginative, thrilling, and often outrageous territory. The final season crafts a genuinely absorbing arc shaped by the reality of the show’s inevitable cancellation.  

If you’re a fan of Campbell, a fan of horror in general, or of the iconic, self-aggrandizing brand of dread peddled by The Evil Dead, step right up. It’s all here, and then some. If you’re into the genre and you haven’t already, check out Ash vs Evil Dead. An animated revival has been discussed, with Campbell himself apparently ready to lend his voice.

Hail to the King, baby.

– Bruce Hall  


Criticult will return…

Bruce Hall View All

When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."

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