Apr 14, 2020

"No Activity":Two Gay Subtext Couples Waiting for Godot

No Activity sounds like a coronavirus "Stay home" order, but it actually is a comedy tv series on Amazon Prime,advertised as "quirky" and "hilarious."  I just paid for the first episode.

Establishing shot of San Diego (although the theme song is "Happiness, Missouri.)

The cops: Tolbeck (Patrick Brammell, left) and Cullen are on a stake-out to make a drug bust.  Cullen asks Tolbeck for a head massage with his Afro comb: "I can do itmyself, but it's really good when someone else does it."  He pretends that the combing is giving him an orgasm until Tolbeck calls him on it. Then he pretends to be masturbating.

Homoerotic first scene?  Promising!

The dispatchers:  Jaded, seen-everything Janice (Amy Sedaris) teaches new recruit Fatima (Sunila Mani) what to expect.

The drug runners: Angus (Jesse Plemons, right) and Marco have been waiting for a shipment forever. They act like a gay couple.  Marco shows Angus  the gun he bought to impress him.

Back to the cops: They are having a conversation about nothing, like on Seinfeld, or Pulp Fiction, or Waiting for Godot.

Back to the drug runners: Another conversation about nothing, except for a gay-subtext reference:  "Sometimes you wake me up..."

Back to the dispatchers:  Janice is upset that her 15-year old son keeps masturbating to internet porn.  She wants to bring him to the office and introduce him to Fatima, so he'll have a real person to masturbate to.

Back to the cops: Having a conversation about nothing. Tolbeck says "God, this is boring." I tend to agree.

Back to the drug runners:  Marco (Jason Mantsoukas) tells a long, involved story about waiting for the cable guy and finding shag carpet in his basement.  Oh, and killing a rattlesnake.  Angus complains that the rattlesnake is the best part of the story, but Marco disagrees: it's the shag carpet.

Back to the cops:  Their coworker Fritzell is dead.  Cullen didn't really know him, but once in the bathroom he was heading to his favorite stall, when he saw Fritzell looking at him through the crack. It was "a profound, life-changing moment." Sounds homoerotic again.

Back to the drug runners:  Who will empty the piss bucket?  Marco decides to go outside to piss, so he doesn't have to empty it.

Back to the cops:  Still on stakeout, they see Marco the Drug Runner leave the warehouse.  They decide to arrest him.  Cullen (Tim Meadows) gets out of the car and approaches.  Marco pulls out a gun.

Switch to Tolbeck's point of view:  There's a gunshot.  Marco falls to the ground.

Wait -- what?

Marco is actually not dead -- he appears in 14 more episodes.  But still, endless conversations about nothing followed by violence is jarring.

Beefcake: None.

Other Scenery:  None.

Plot: None.

Gay Characters: Two deliberate gay-subtext couples.  But I don't think they are trying to be gay inclusive.  It's more: "He said something that makes it sound like he is gay!  Isn't that hilarious!"

On the other hand, all of the male cast members have played gay characters, so....

Will I Keep Watching: Not unless an episode synopsis mentions Marco and Angus kissing.

Apr 13, 2020

"Onward": Not Your Grandfather's Teen Nerd Movie

I've seen any number of teen nerd movies, where the nerd gets mystical powers or goes on a quest for the sole purpose of wrestling the Girl of His Dreams from the obnoxious jock she's dating.  On the way, he is terrorized by bullies and sadistic big brothers, and savagely rejected by the "it" kids.

So I wasn't interested in seeing the new Disney-Pixar Onward  (dumb title). But Netflix is a desert and Vudu is getting slim...

The Premise:  A world populated by beings from folklore and mythology: elves, dwarves, pixies, centaurs, and so on.  They used magic until they discovered that technology is easier, so now they live in urban-sprawl cities with rush-hour traffic (this is better?), identical to our world except for some clever touches, like houses are shaped like mushrooms and they keep tiny dragons as pets.  Magic still exists, as a weird hobby pursued by a few eccentrics.

The Players:
1. Shy, socially-awkward, anxiety-ridden elf Ian (Tom Holland, top photo).
2. His widowed Mom (Julia-Louis Dreyfuss), apparently a troll or an orc.
3. His big, brash older brother Barley (Chris Pratt), also a troll or an orc.
4. Mom's new husband, by-the-books cop Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), a centaur (insert joke about being hung like a horse).

The Set-Up:
It's Ian's sixteenth birthday.  He's agonizing over the prospect of inviting kids from school to his party, when Big Brother bounds down the stairs.

Uh, oh. Time for insults and name-calling.

Nope: Barley is exuberant and physical, but not bullying.  He's super-excited about Ian's birthday.

On to school.

Uh-oh.  Time for the Girl of His Dreams to walk by in slow motion, her hair blowing in the wind.

Nope:  No teenager in the movie displays or expresses any heterosexual interest.  John Hughes must be turning over in his grave (if he's dead)

Hesitating, petrified, Ian approaches the it-kids to invite them to his party.  Is one of them a troll with cerebral palsy?  Disability inclusive!

Uh-oh.  This is where they savagely reject him. "Come to your party, dick-wad?  I'd rather kiss a goblin!"

Nope.  They are perfectly willing to come to the party.

The Plot:  Ian's Dad (Kyle Bornheimer) was into magic, and left him a special gift: a mage-staff, with a spell that will bring him back to life for 24 hours, but only once.

Thrilled with the prospect of spending a day with his Dad, Ian starts the spell,but only gets Dad's bottom half revived before the Phoenix Stone that powers the staff breaks.  Ian, Barley, and Dad's Bottom Half are off on a dangerous quest through the urban wasteland to get another stone and finish the spell before the 24 hours are up.

They are pursued by Officer Bronco, Mom, and a helpful Manticore.

There are some minor complications.  The brothers have some minor disagreements:   It's all rather mild stuff up to the dragon at the end, the father resurrected only for a few seconds, and final brother-brother hug.

I think that the writers were trying so hard to be nice that forgot to be exciting.

Beefcake: No animated beefcake.

Gay Characters:  One of Colt Bronco's fellow officers mentions that she has a girlfriend, and the two are shown among the patrons of Manticore's restaurant in the final scene.  I expected a gay subtext between Ian and Barley, but their relationship is blatantly fraternal.  But not to worry, I'm sure the high school has a Gay-Straight Alliance.

My Grade:B+.
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