Saturday, January 24, 2015

Great Comedies You Aren't Watching

Comedy on television is hard and complicated. There are so many different types of comedy that it's impossible to please everyone. Some people love over-the-top (Modern Family), some like it dumb (Two-and-a-Half Men), some like it sarcastic and raunchy (Two Broke Girls), some like it brash (black-ish), and some like it with heart (Parks and Recreation).

I have three comedies that I'm going to list here that I adore because they have a humor that matches my comedy style...which I can't really classify. So if you have seen these shows and can give me a good classification, I would appreciate it!

Cougar Town

The comedy with the horrible name stars Courtney Cox as a realtor in Florida and her wino-loving friends. It started out on ABC before being revived by TBS for three additional seasons. This is one of those shows where you can pretty much skip the first season, because the show was still trying to figure out what it was. Once it realized it was about a group of adults (not young adults) who love to drink wine together and be dumb with each other, then it got hilarious.

The series was created by Bill Lawrence, who also was behind Scrubs, another fabulous comedy that I loved when it was on. I keep telling people that if you loved Scrubs, then Cougar Town would be right up their alley. (It ends at the end of the season.)

Marry Me

Marry Me was created by David Caspe, who also created a show that most of you probably didn't hear about when it was on: Happy Endings. Both of those comedies are full of pop culture zingers and hysterical one-liners. While in Marry Me there is a main plot (a boy finally proposes to the girl he's been dating for six years), the funniest parts are when the show skewers ridiculous cultural happenings, like brunch, organic produce stores, or British royal drama television (The Moors!).

While this isn't as good as Happy Endings (may it rest in peace... *sniffle*), Marry Me provides great comedic performances in a very unorthodox way. (This show just started, so you don't have much catching up to do!)

The Middle

Why aren't you watching this show yet?! It's been on for 5+ seasons and it's fantastically funny and way better than Modern Family. Patricia Heaton plays a much better character than what she played on Everybody Loves Raymond and Neil Flynn is much more deadpanned here than his character on Scrubs, but it works perfectly! They are a married couple with three children - Axl, Sue, and Brick - and they are trying to survive living in small town Indiana.

This was the first comedy that I watched where I audibly rooted for something to happen - namely, when Sue starts dating one of Axl's best friends, Darrin, and they kissed at the end of prom. Sue is a wonderful character (played by Eden Sher) who is constantly ignored and underappreciated but usually never loses her positive, sunny attitude.

Just...please watch this show.

Do you recommend any comedies? Comment below!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Procrastinator's Movie Review: Attack the Block

Attack the Block

Release Date: May 13, 2011

Who was in that one again? John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Nick Frost

I can't remember the plot. A gang from South London witnesses an alien invasion and arms themselves to defend their block (AKA their apartment complex).

The review: I'll be honest - the only reason I watched this was because the lead, John Boyega, is in the new Star Wars movie and I wanted to see him in something before that movie comes out. He plays the leader of the gang that mugs Whittaker - who I immediately recognized from Broadchurch - and then comes upon an alien that crashed into a car. Because of the choice they make concerning that alien, the gang must face the invasion of crazy-gorilla-looking aliens with no eyes but seemingly electric teeth.

I loved the look of the gorilla alien, since they were such a unique design. I also loved that the whole movie takes place within the neighborhood of the gang - there's no cutaways to a police station or the British government talking about what is taking place. However (unlike War of the Worlds) by the end of the movie you understand completely why these aliens are attacking.

Although this is a horror movie, it does keep some comedy, which alleviated some of the tension. I made sure to watch this in the morning, because I didn't know what to expect and I didn't want to freak myself out. Yes, there are some incredibly gory and disgusting parts, but if you know horror or pacing of movies, you'll know when to shut your eyes or look away if that isn't your thing.

Now how did Boyega do? He's pretty stoic and sullen in most of the movie, taking on the role of a quiet force in the gang. He does show some other emotions, but just for a brief moment. I thought he did fine for the role. Now I am interested to see his acting range when he takes on a role in a galaxy far, far away.

MVP: Jodie Whittaker wins for being the just-moved-in nurse who has to tag along with the gang who mugged her in order to survive. She doesn't treat them like kids, but she does show plenty of resentment and doubt in them before she finally is convinced they are her hope for surviving.

Blurb Musing Rating (out of five): Four dimly lit apartment hallways. Fun stuff! (Truth.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Music Zone IV

Welcome to another Music Zone Blurb! If you like to get new music as much as I do, then you'll love this post. You'll probably like at least one of the songs that I post.

And if you haven't read my other Music Zone posts, here are links:

The Music Zone
The Music Zone II
The Music Zone III


Shut Up and Dance - Walk the Moon
I gotta start with my current favorite - one that makes me stop what I'm doing and lose myself in awesome music. It's so catchy!

The reason I like it: There isn't any build-up to this song - it just starts right in with the refrain and then backtracks. That's different from most songs, and I liked that. Get ready to dance!

Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
This is that song that you keep hearing if you watch commercials, which means my dad probably has never heard it before. But it is a great throwback to those great James Brown songs of the 1960s and '70s.

The reason I like it: This was a recommendation by my sister, and she has pretty great taste in music. She wasn't wrong on this recommendation!

Let Go - RAC
Well waddya know, here's another song you might recognize from a commercial! I notice that some of my favorite songs were first discovered by me through commercials. I don't buy the product, but I do buy the song!

The reason I like it: The bass is very simple, and everything builds nicely around it. It's a head-bobbin' song.

The Staunton Lick - Lemon Jelly
Speaking of head-bobbin' songs, this one fits perfectly. From 1999, this song is great to cruise down the highway on a sunny summer's day. It's very upbeat, all from two basic chords.

The reason I like it: No frills with this one. The basic principle is maintained throughout the song, and it's enjoyable even as more layers are slid on top of the lick.

Us - Regina Spektor
You hipsters out there might already own this song if you're a fan of the film 500 Days of Summer. I actually have a couple of songs from this soundtrack without actually owning the soundtrack. I should really look into the rest of it.

The reason I like it: It isn't your basic feminine beauty song. This is a song dictating the rise and fall of civilization, even declaring that the nose on our statue "has begun to rust!" Plus it's pretty much strings, piano, and voice. Super easy.

Waterfall - The Piano Guys
I heard this piece, and I thought, "This is a great four-handed piano piece!" And then I saw the video, and one guy plays the whole thing. Then I learned it was the composer of the piece. Then I learned he was 17 years old when he composed it! 

The reason I like it: I like it because it covers the whole piano. It doesn't just stick with 16 piano keys on either side of middle C. It hits the notes on the very bottom and tinkles the notes on the very top. Any piano that gets this played on it will be in for a workout!

Rockstar - A Great Big World
There is a possibility that I have indeed suggested this one before. But if I haven't, then this is a huge recommendation. This was my 2014 summer jam. 

The reason I like it: Any rock song with a piano automatically gains 2 Cool Points, and this one gained 5 by starting with just the piano and building off it. The words remind me a little bit of "Stars" by Hum - another great recommendation.

Harlem - New Politics
A super-catchy song, even if you have no idea what these 20-somethings are talking about. I am a 20-something and even I have no idea what they're talking about. 

The reason I like it: It does not take itself seriously at all. We all need some ridiculously fun songs in our life without any serious messages or depressingly emotional feelings. 

Come With Me Now - Kongos
From something clearly defined as "fun" to something I define as "raw," this song is edgy and rock and roll and something you might hear in the sports arenas. I have heard it a few places.

The reason I like it: Hard to say. It gets put in your head and just stays there. Plus it starts with an accordion - that's gotta be cool.

I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today - Guster
Never heard of Guster? Have you never been to college? Guster is one of those bands I heard in college and really enjoyed, and this song is one of my favorites, out of their great album Keep It Together. This group is on a shortlist of bands I'd love to hear live someday.

The reason I like it: This is two different songs. The first part is melancholy, whimsical, and happy. Starting at 2:04 it kicks into gear, wrapping up the song on a triumphant note. I love that.

That concludes another Music Zone! Based on what you've heard so far, do you have any recommendations for me to check out? Comment below!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cool as the other side of the pillow

Growing up in the mid- to late-1990s allowed me to experience some pretty amazing things, most of which shaped my adult life as well. I got into the boy band 'N SYNC. I played the piano and started to play the organ. And I started following sports.

My father was a huge part of that last one, since he took me to tons of sporting events and taught me the rules of the games. But I'd be lying if I said that television didn't help that obsession grow even bigger.

ESPN had started out small, but by the 1990s they were a juggernaut in cable television, and our basement television was tuned either to ESPN or Nickelodeon. I initially just watched SportsCenter when my dad watched it, but eventually I was turning on the TV to ESPN at 6:00 in the evening and again when I woke up in the mornings. I loved the mad rush of highlights and news that filled my mind and helped me understand what Detroit radio personalities like Stoney and Wojo were talking about when my dad picked us up from school.

This was also a time in my life when I started picking "favorites." As a young child you love everything, but then you get into grade school and everyone's asking "What's your favorite...?" When it came to SportsCenter anchors, I had two pairs or favorites. Dan Patrick and Kenny Mayne were hilarious, and I knew that I would listen carefully for their ridiculous catchphrases or anecdotes before the highlights began. But my favorite pair was, without a doubt, Rich Eisen and Stuart Scott.

When I tuned into SportsCenter and those two were the ones welcoming me on my television, I knew my day was going to be just a bit better than normal. It wasn't just the "Boo-yah!" or "You want me on that NEED me on that wall!" that made them my favorite. They just seemed to really enjoy sitting next to each other and hanging out with each other every show. It wasn't just sports, it was hanging out with two happy dudes who loved sports.

When Eisen left ESPN in 2003 and went to the NFL Network I was bummed. Even though the two had branched out with other ESPN anchors and did other ESPN shows, they would occasionally come back and do a SportsCenter and I would cackle with delight.

Any ESPN show was made a gajiliion times better with Scott doing the broadcast. Heck, he even made NBA coverage tolerable, back when the Pistons were good. There was always a sense of genuine joy when Scott showed up on the screen. While SportsCenter was filling up with anchors who were trying to be personable, Scott didn't need to try. He just did.

Stuart Scott died today at the age of 49, and the news was deeply saddening to me. What made the news even worse was watching Eisen's tribute to Scott on the NFL Network. Even twelve years after they parted ways on the air, it was clear that both of them appreciated each other and still had a friendship.

Sometimes childhood memories can be made out to be better than they actually were. However, my childhood education of sports through my father, SportsCenter, and the duo of Eisen and Scott don't have rose-colored glasses attached to them. It was a great time to be a sports fan, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to learn about sports and feel the joy that comes with them.