Dr Ken: Ken’s Big Audition – Cameo Cornucopia for Season End (Review)

DAN HARMON

The season finale of Dr. Ken “Ken’s Big Audition” offers up some great cameos, some life changing events and a lot of laughs. As we said in our preview of this episode (which was a tad secretive, we admit) there “is a positive cornucopia of performers from Ken Jeong’s career and there are a few surprise cameo’s thrown in for good measure.” At the time of publication, there was a slight problem with revealing too much of who would be appearing on the last episode of season two.

Now, however, we can gleefully point out the blink and you’ll miss him cameos of not just Seth Rogen but his producing partner Evan Goldburg. We can also sing the praises of the oh so beautiful (and wildly talented) Alison Brie, Nia Vardalos – who pops up at the very end as Pat’s wife who suddenly wants to reunite with her ex.

“Ken’s Big Audition” spells change and leaves the audience with a bit of a cliffhanger. (Will John Cho take the call?) Ken’s life changes when he gets a call from Dan Harmon. Harmon wants Ken to audition for a new television pilot and the wannabe performer is over the moon.

Before that bit of excitement, Molly reveals that she has gotten into Stanford.  (This was a brilliant bit of comedy. The eldest Park child bursts into the kitchen announcing that “I got in!” D.K. responds “Congratulations! You can use a swinging door.”)

Dana Lee
Congratulations…

Dana Lee managed, once again, to bring some brilliant bits to this packed episode. His short, and loudly delivered, line about not using stereotypical accents was perfectly timed and very funny. Kudos to the actor and the writers for that one.

While Allison has to deal with her first born moving away from home, Dave and D.K. both vying for Molly’s room and Ken’s new change of fortune, Pat and Damona almost take their new relationship to the next level; matrimony. Clark talks Pat into possibly popping the question and he seriously considers it.

The episode itself, however, belongs to Ken Jeong and his cast of many cameos. (See what we did there?) Some of the highlights included Ken enlisting Damona and Clark to help him learn his lines for the audition. Later, when he meets with Alison Brie to read with her, she apes Clark’s “baby voiced” deliver of “I have a tummy ache.”

Dr. Ken reacts just as badly to Brie’s interpretation of the line as he did when Clark did it. Ken’s over the top audition leaves him feeling very uncertain and ready to turn his back on the whole thing. As he calls Allison to complain about Hollywood and to grumble about the business, Rogen and Goldberg appear just long enough to Seth to insult the depressed doctor.

Ken’s distress is uncalled for though as Harmon actually casts the doctor as a Spanish teacher with an attitude (a riff on a character Jeong played in Community.) and it looks like Dr. Ken’s new career is off and running.

KRISTA MARIE YU, SUZY NAKAMURA
Molly and Allison share a touching moment.

At the end of the episode Ken looks to be dangerously close to being replaced by John Cho because he cannot stop laughing at Alison Brie and spoiling take after take.  Molly and Alison become even closer with their upcoming separation and Pat gets the surprise of his life when Tiffany turns up to ask for another chance.

There are a number of obvious funny moments in the show. There are also  some bits that one has to look at closely to find the humor. For instance: Just before Ken bumps into Seth and Evan, he is on a stereotypical Hollywood “lot.”

There are actors, makeup artists and so on scattered throughout the scene. What almost slips past the viewer are the external sets themselves. Each building facade is “Ken” sized. Just as funny is Ken’s “mark” (where the actor must stand in order to be in the shot). It is clearly visible and it is a big yellow square; a clear indication that Ken Park is afraid that he has blown his big chance.

KEN JEONG
Ken Jeong

Ken’s concerns are groundless though as Harmon, who apparently likes to punish his fans, hires Ken even though the audition was horrendous. Ken gets the part and then spends his first shooting day blowing the scene because he cannot stop corpsing at Brie’s character.

The kicker of the episode though is Tiffany returning to get Pat back into her life. This leaves things hanging with his new relationship with Damona and we wonder if he loves her enough to turn Tiffany down.

A lot of things could be different in a third season of Dr. Ken. Molly could well be absent (and we would be heartbroken if this were the case as Krista Marie Yu is a personal favorite) Pat and Damona could break up and last but not least, Ken could leave Welltopia all together.

While there would still be room for the delightful brand of comedy that Dr. Ken brings to the table each Friday night, it would be…different.

Questions and musings about season three aside, this was a brilliant end to the season. Dave getting one up on D.K. and Pat’s dilemma were all part and parcel of the overall storyline and that familiar feel of comedy done just right.

If you have not seen the season two finale, catch it later via Hulu or On Demand. Tune in and see why this is a topnotch comedy offering from Ken Jeong and his brilliant ensemble cast. Or stop by to catch the always watchable Alison Brie…

DAN HARMON, ALISON BRIE

Cast:

Ken Jeong – Ken
Albert Tsai – Dave
Suzy Nakamura – Allison Park
Krista Marie Yu – Molly
Tisha Campbell-Martin – Damona
Jonathan Slavin – Clark
Dave Foley – Pat
Dana Lee – D.K.
Justin Chon – Jae
Stephen Guarino – Connor

Guest starring Dan Harmon, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Alison Brie and Nia Vardalos

 

Dr Ken: Ken’s Big Audition – Season Two Finale Fun (Preview)

TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, JONATHAN SLAVIN, KEN JEONG

The clue is in the title of this season finale of Dr. Ken. It appears that Ken Park’s dream to perform may just become a reality. He has a big audition (there is that hint in the title after all) that may just become a game changer.

“Ken’s Big Audition” is the perfect ending for the show’s second season.  There are a bevy of special guest stars in the final episode. Dan Harmon (creator, and rumored sourpuss, of Community) and there are a few “in-jokes” as well as some other special guests from Ken’s past (and present) who appear.

Another theme, one which has been prevalent throughout season two, is “change.”  As evidenced in the most recent episodes (Clark’s Big Surprise and Ken and the CEO) romantically, at least, things have changed dramatically for some of the characters.

Pat and Damona are now a couple and Clark just tied the knot with Connor. Prior to that, Molly and Jae went through their first, and second, argument, and are now a couple who seem to know what they want. (On a sidenote, Jae has moved into the background for the time being.)

The season finale of Dr. Ken keeps the comedy factor high as several things happen almost at once. As the title implies, Dr. Ken gets an audition, based upon someone seeing his open mic stand up, and this runs parallel with all the other events that crop up in the episode.

Everyone, sans Clark, has a life changing event of some sort and there is a delicious twist on the Pat/Damona romance. Molly learns something important and D.K. works to outmaneuver Dave at the Park house.

In terms of guests, this episode is a positive cornucopia of performers from Ken Jeong’s career and there are a few surprise cameo’s thrown in for good measure. (Hint: Keep your eyes open for two guests in a “blink and you will miss it” spot midway through the episode.)

There are some very funny cringeworthy moments mixed in with the usual dose of Dr. Ken comedy with its touch of poignancy. One gets the feeling that, like the rest of the series, that Ken and his team have amped up his real-life story to good effect.

After watching the season finale, which airs Friday; 31 March on ABC, one is left wondering about the future of the series.  If it comes back for a third season who will be left on the roster. More importantly, however, is the question of where will the show head next?

The finale, with its comic cliffhanger ending, can be interpreted in several ways. It will be up to the fans to decide whether this is the prelude to an end or a comic misdirection to titillate viewers who wonder what will happen in season three.

Dr. Ken has managed to keep an average viewing audience of 4.426 million. The last two episodes have kept an even demographic rating.  However, there has been a drop in figures from the first, shortened, season despite the show’s comedy output increasing.

It could be argued that the loss of Kate Simses as series regular hurt the show early in the season and that this, more than anything else, affected the overall ratings.  However, the family friendly comedy and that signature “touch of poignancy” in so many episodes has made this season far superior to the first outing of Dr. Ken.

The Dr. Ken season finale airs Friday on ABC. Tune in for some guest star fun and the usual quotient of comedy with just a touch of tears.

 

The Purge: Election Year (2016) Republican Paradise (Review)

The Purge

Written and directed by James DeMonaco, The Purge: Election Year sees the return of Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) and the end to a short, successful franchise.  In this last visit to a country that takes a note from an old Star Trek episode “Return of the Archons” – where Landru lets its people legally murder, maim and rape for a few hours – things appear to wrap up nicely. 

Senator Charlie Roan (played by the brilliant Elizabeth Mitchell who was so wasted in her role on the Freeform horror snooze-fest “Dead of Summer“) is against the whole purge night scenario. Mainly because she watched her entire family die at the hands of a purge participant as a teen. 

Roan is getting quite a following from people who also want to see The Purge disbanded. The opposing party, the NFFA (New Founding Father’s of America,  want the senator silenced and the film follows her escape from the opposition party as well as the group of people who struggle to keep the senator alive.

DeMonaco takes this last in the trilogy towards a new direction. He focusses on the “bigger picture” this time around and while we do follow a group of disparate strangers struggling to survive the night it is more about the politics behind The Purge.

Linking the NFFA party to the current Republican party, whose values do seem disturbingly similar to the film’s politico’s way of thinking, was a masterful touch. In a year where America’s “King George” (Donald Trump) was elected president it feels particularly apt.

The Purge franchise has always been about killing off the lower classes. In each film, it is the moneyed classes who do the most killing. While the focus is on the ethnic minorities being allowed to murder their fellow citizens, this time around the process has been given a religious connotation.

Leo Barnes, who was so pro-purge in the second film, is back and he is the Senator’s head of security.  He is also a bono-fide tough guy whose mission, throughout the film, is to protect Roan. Barnes is also against The Purge this time around.

DeMonaco moved to end the franchise with this film but with the current political climate in America it seems almost a certainty that there could well be a fourth installment in this cynical and entertaining horror tale.

Looking at the reasoning behind The Purge program which is about saving money on health care programs, food stamps and low income housing (only to apparently spend a fortune on rebuilding structures damaged by the widespread mayhem) it matches the Republican party’s mission statement and intent perfectly.

So why not have The Purge 4? It could be titled “The Trump Years” and feature the players from the current POTUS’ cabinet who are trying so hard to punish the poor for their lack of status. (While greasing the palms of those who lavishly gave donations to the Republican party.)

Armchair politics aside, The Purge: Election Year is a solid 4 star film. It loses a star for basically taking us back to the same story yet again, and for that botched practical stunt in front of the deli.

*The two schoolgirls who return to kill the owner and take a candy bar are struck down by Laney (Betty Gabriel) and her van. The “bride” and her mate are both run over and the vehicle drags them both underneath its carriage. However…The bride is then shown being knocked onto the windscreen of a parked car, which would only happen with a glancing blow.*

There are other things wrong with the film in terms of plot holes and so on but the film is worth watching and does entertain. It features a lot of violence, some cursing and absolutely no nudity.

Train to Busan (2016): World War Z on Wheels (Review)

Train to Busan still image

Written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon, Train to Busan is the follow up to the auteur’s animated zombie film “Seoul Station” (2016).  Sadly, the animated film is not available on Netflix – like its sequel – but TtB is a high octane mix of “World War Z” on wheels with a bit of “Snakes on a Plane” thrown in. 

(One could even argue that some of the film’s base plot owes a bit to Kramer vs. Kramer…)

The story revolves around businessman Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) who is estranged from his wife and fighting for sole custody of their daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim).  As things appear to be unravelling in his business life, he agrees to take Soo-an to Busan to see her mother. It is the child’s birthday and this is what she wants to do. 

It is clear that Seok-woo is struggling to cope despite the love he feels for his daughter. As they start their journey, zombies suddenly appear in the city, the train station and on the train itself. It becomes apparent that the undead are flooding the entire country.

As Seok-woo works to keep Soo-an safe he gets help from Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and his heavily pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung).

Sang-ho Yeon has obviously been influenced heavily by the 2013 Brad Pitt zombie apocalypse film.  His zombies favour the Pitt film’s undead in behavior and amped up speed. Yeon has been even more influenced by the  later film than, say,  the 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake of the 1978 Romero classic. The earlier film (remake) featured super energized zombies that were, in essence, damned scary. Much more effective than George’s shambling and slow-footed flesh-eaters.

(Although Romero himself dislikes the speedier undead creatures, the new improved models, that can chase their victims down with insane speeds, are terrifying.)

World War Z gave us zombies that were more akin to Army ants with a sort of group mentality and a intense sort of adrenalized activity that made the James Gunn/Zack Snyder (Yes that Zack Snyder.) zombies seem turtle-like in comparison. Train to Busan also uses the WWZ ant-like behavior to good effect and while using some well established tropes, if you will, that have been established in the long running AMC zombie fest “The Walking Dead.” One being the “sound attracting the undead” cliche that has been a feature of the Robert Kirkwood series from the beginning.

There are other nods to film tropes that are present in other genres. The turning away of survivors by a larger group because they “might be infected” has been used before but its presence in this film fits perfectly.

South Korea has been top of the pack for some time with their “Z-Horror” creations. Train to Busan marks their first foray into the zombie film and, like other auteurs in the country, Sang-ho Yeon has managed to make film that is scary, entertaining and fast paced enough to keep us on the edge of our seats.

The performances are solid across the board. Dong-seok Ma, who was brilliant in The Good, The Bad, The Weird as the nearly silent giant hammer wielding villain in that film, is perfect as the muscle bound soon-to-be father with an attitude. The child actress Soo-an Kim, like other young performers from this country, offers up a truth in her role of the daughter and it helps the film along.

Sang-ho Yeon manages to keep the film moving along well, making the most of the claustrophobic feel of the setting. Unlike the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle of “Snakes on a Plane,” with its unintentional collapse into comedy, (“I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHER****ING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHER****ING PLANE!”) Train to Busan manages to keep things on an even keel.

There are a number of familiar South Korean characters to help the audience feel at home. A douche businessman, some young romantically inclined teenagers who happen to be on the train, a couple of sisters who, despite their bickering, really care for one another and of course the pregnant mother struggling to keep her pushy husband in check.

While the main action is around the estranged father and his daughter, a trio soon forms where the expectant father, Soo-an’s dad and one baseball playing teen (Woo-sik Choi) all try to save their respective female counterparts. 

At one hour and 58 minutes the film could have bogged down in the middle but the action and the storyline keep things moving as quickly as the high octane zombies that are flooding South Korea.

Train to Busan is a solid 5 star film that hits every mark spot on. There are no lags, lapses or mistakes in this satisfying action/horror.  The film is streaming on Netflix and is presented in Korean with English subtitles. There is a good bit of violence, not too much blood and no nudity.

Dr Ken: Clark’s Big Surprise – Snowball (Review)

 KEN JEONG, JONATHAN SLAVIN, STEPHEN GUARINO

Love is all around in Dr. Ken “Clark’s Big Surprise.” It starts off with just Clark and Connor working to secretly tie the know but the show’s amore factor snowballs quickly and soon every couple are feeling the point of cupid’s bow.

This season has seen a rounding up of a few relationships.  Pat and Damona are now officially a couple (both express their love for the other in this episode) and Clark and Connor prove their love by inviting all of Welltopia to a Vegan barbecue so they can get married.

Another thing that snowballs is the lie that Ken tells in order to get a maximum turnout to Connor and Clark’s little surprise.  Dr. Ken overhears Clark’s secret, he is taking a nap on a couch where Clark spills the beans about the real reason for the barbecue.

Clark makes Ken promise to talk everyone into coming to the event.

Meanwhile, Allison manages to snag tickets to the stage version of “The Bodyguard” and the entire Park family are meant to attend. D.K. invites himself along as well and it will be a real family get together. Pat and Damona have planned a non-refundable romantic weekend at Catalina and Ken must talk them out of going.

The receptionist almost guesses that Clark and Connor are going to exchange vows and Ken lets her believe that he and Allison are going to re-exchange their own vows. Damona then tells Allison what she believes Ken will be doing at the barbecue.

Ken’s lie has taken on a life of its own and Allison is overjoyed at her husband’s romantic gesture.

SUZY NAKAMURA, PATRICK MONAHAN, JERRY BECKER, JONATHAN SLAVIN, STEPHEN GUARINO, MEAGEN FAY
Allison and Clark in gushing mode.

At the party, Allison gushes over Clark, and vice versa, while things go slightly askew as the ordained minister cannot perform the ceremony. Ken takes an online course and marries the two men instead.  Allison is sad to learn that they are not going to renew their vows but she is overwhelmed when Ken explains how complete she makes him.

Pat and Damona both fight to get their non-refundable hotel deposit back and later give the honeymoon suite to Connor and Clark.  After the barbecue the Park’s return home and Ken does renew his vows with Allison after all. D.K. has taken the same online course and he will perform the ceremony. (He also took less time than Ken to complete the course.)

Dr. Ken has moved to bring all the couples in the show closer together. This episode also brought things “up to date,” as it were, on the series’ nod to Ken Jeong’s real life. In “Clark’s Big Surprise” Ken is tired from his late night spent doing stand-up.

He is overly tired at the start, where he reminds everyone he “killed it” at the comedy club and later he is napping on a couch; where he overhears Clark’s secret plans. Clearly the show is imitating Ken’s life even more now.

It would not be at all surprising to see Dr. Ken “become” the real Dr. Ken at  the end of this season. Although that would be disappointing as it could mean the end of the show as we know it.

Kudos to Dana Lee for once again grabbing the comedy by the horns and killing it at the barbecue. His dour off the cuff remark about the lack of meat was priceless. (As was his preoccupation with seeing “The Bodyguard.)

Pat and Damona professing their love for one another was touching, cute and funny. Allison and Ken’s romantic renewing of their wedding vows was also touching and it reminded us of just how perfect these two are for one another.

The highlight of the show was, of course, the marriage of Clark and Connor. With the family Park watching on and the vows exchanged being done with the right amount of comedy and care, it was a splendid moment.

KRISTA MARIE YU, SUZY NAKAMURA, ALBERT TSAI
Molly, Allison and Dave are enthralled at the ceremony.

The message of this episode was simple: Love knows no bounds. It also proved that, as the old saying goes, ” the world loves a lover.” Dr. Ken “Clark’s Big Surprise” also makes a valid point, with its loving nod to a LGBT wedding, there is room for everyone at the altar and that all love is accepted.

It is also lovely to see that the “ebony and ivory” relationship between Pat and Damona has solidified to more than just to opposites attracting.

Suzy Nakamura continues to show off those impressive skills that make her an irreplaceable member of this cast. Her range of emotions throughout the episode helped to make this one of the funnier bits of the season.

Dr. Ken airs Fridays on ABC. Tune in to this brilliant slice of comedy and stay awhile.

Cast: