SNL: Scarlett Johansson – Season Highlight (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

It is a clear sign of near perfection when one watches SNL in a crowded Starbucks, full of university students working their collective butts off, and tries unsuccessfully to keep the laughter down as tears of mirth stream helplessly out of both eyes. Scarlett Johansson, in her fifth stint as guest host of the show, killed it with a little help from some SNL friends.

Episode 16, which also featured Kiwi singer/songwriter Lorde, was a season highlight without one real misstep in any of the sketches on offer. (Although the Ivanka Trump advert was a tad…eclectic till the end…) Each skit was spot on and while the previous episode allowed Weekend Update to take a rest from its usual topical hilarity, it picked right up with McKinnon’s Sessions stint and Pete Davidson’s little rant.

The cold open, which opted for a “War of the Worlds” type scenario featuring Baldwin’s Trump, set the tone for the rest of the show. It was pithy, funny and perhaps a tie with the brilliant Jeff Session’s “Forrest Gump” cold open of episode 15.

The entire show was rib-tickling funny. “Zoo Pornographer'” and “Olive Garden” were flatly funny. The latter sketch relying upon broad comedy along with the brilliant reactions from the characters in the skit.

“Translator” was the perfect vehicle to make fun of the POTUS as Scarlett Johansson’s character’s dog revealed that he loved President Trump. He also tells the assorted members of the skit that his owner “masturbates out of boredom.”

The other political skit was the pre-recorded Trump perfume advert which shifts gears midway through to point an accusing finger at Ivanka as a “new” feminist who is anything but. The highlight of this skit is that Ivanka sees her husband in the mirror instead of her own reflection. A superb and somewhat spot on indication of how the world sees the woman who is definitely behind the man in the white house.

“Shud the Mermaid,” with McKinnon’s blob fish mermaid with her pal Conk, the angler fish mermaid, was funny and, like the other sketches with Johansson, proved that the four-time Golden Globe nominated actress is damned funny when given the chance. It is easy to see why Scarlett was been invited back to host SNL for a fifth time.

Musical guest Lorde, who managed to knock it out of the park with both her numbers, especially the second song “Liability” also got to make a cameo appearance in the “Woman’s Day” sketch later in the episode.

SNL has managed to make this episode stand almost head and shoulders above the rest of this season’s offerings. Clearly, the writers stepped up their game with Johansson’s talents setting the boundaries of what could be done with this incredibly talented woman.

This episode of SNL was a “win/win” as every single sketch elicited barely pent-up howls of laughter in a public place. The writers and the performances of all were spot on.

Kenan Thompson was allowed a huge nod, in the monologue, towards his being the senior cast member of the show. Leslie Jones managed to, once again, shine on brilliantly with Scarlett in the “Ninja” skit and perhaps the only downside in the entire episode were those dodgy English accents on offer (a recurring theme in SNL this year).

If you missed this latest SNL offering head over to Hulu and check it out or watch the YouTube highlights of the episode. This was a good one.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Somber Revisit to the Verse

Poster for Avengers 2

After having to wait for iTunes to stop offering Avengers: Age of  Ultron for purchase (sorry but if it’s to own, Blu-Ray with a load of extras is how this reviewer rolls) and giving punters the chance to just rent Joss Whedon and Marvel’s follow up to The Avengers (Assemble) the viewing experience turned out to be a somber revisit to the Marvel verse. The sobering sequel introduces two new characters, one lasting much longer than the other (Scarlet Witch aka Elizabeth Olsen) who becomes a member of the home team before the end credits roll.

This sequel is darker than the first. It also has less of the obvious Whedon touches. There are, most likely, a number of reason for this holding back of the Joss effect.

Firstly, it is not news to anyone who loves the Avengers films that Joss “Is Boss” Whedon  is bowing out of the business of forging the films.  As Whedon also has a small screen version of the Marvel world to produce weekly, it makes a huge amount of sense to leave the big screen shenanigans up to another director/writer to play with.

Secondly, things in the comic book world of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man (Tony Stark) Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, et al are due to become very dark indeed with the next installment dealing with the infinity war, civil war, the death of Cap and any number of dark and disturbing issues in Marvel land.

The Avengers did have  Joss Whedon all over it, a clear stamp of his wit, framing, dialogue and directorial genius. Avengers: Age of Ultron feels grim, in comparison, and dangerous. The overly clever wit has been toned down and is less Joss than usual. (Although the Iron Man scene where Stark says, after shooting all the bad guys in the room is, “Good talk,” and an obviously in-pain shot guard moans, “No it wasn’t.” Pure unadulterated Whedon.)

*Sidenote* Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury gets what may just be the best, i.e. funniest, line of the film. Speaking about Ultron’s building up of an army, he says that he is producing quicker than a “Catholic Rabbit.” While this may not necessarily go over very well with the Pope, is it very, very funny. Although Spader’s Ultron comes a very close second with his “I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but …”

Why?

Well, as stated above, Whedon is due to hand over the reins of power to Joe and Anthony Russo for Avengers 3 Part one (due out in 2018).  Also, as mentioned above, fans of the comic books for each of the main characters know that dark days are coming and this has also, apparently necessitated a change in style. The franchise should not have a huge shift in directorial influence with some transition. Hence the darker feel.

The film is not, however, without its amusing moments but the banter is either missing or toned down to near nonexistence.  The entire storyline is sobering, so much so that even the re-emergence of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury fails to elicit  a cheer.  James Spader, who plays Ultron, kills it, sounding uncannily like Tony Stark, with the way he delivers many of his  lines  and feeling like the ultimate rebellious teenager who wants desperately to overpower/outperform  his father (Stark).

The plot in the second Avengers film has Tony Stark doing what he does best,  acting independently, although he has Dr. Banner (the Hulk) helping him. He develops an AI peacekeeper to help defend earth. Ultron, his creation, is flawed and ultimately decides that mankind must evolve to survive. Unfortunately his idea of evolution is an enforced extinction of the species therefore allowing  one to take over.

All of the Avengers must reform and evolve  in order to face and defeat this threat, in the process, Tony and Banner create Vision (Jarvis with an infinity stone in his biotic forehead).  While the film feels a bit sobering, there are a still a few moments of levity and a couple of things that tell us these uneasy team members were meshing very well, until the rise of Ultron.

Hawkeye and The Black Widow are Clint and Nat. Bruce and Natasha have “a thing” and we learn a whole lot more about Barton. For instance, he has a house in the country with kids and his wife Laura is played by  Linda Cardellini.   Clint also has DIY fever and constantly remodels the house.  

This iteration of the Avengers has our heroes fighting an even bigger army with a huge threat going on all about them. A huge section of ground that, when released from its ever increasing height, will annihilate life on earth is the battleground setting where all the heroes fight Ultron’s mechanized troops.

Andy Serkis has a  brilliant cameo and he is not in a mo-cap suit for once. Elizabeth Olsen kills it as the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)  as does Aaron Taylor-Johnson who plays brother Pietro (Quicksilver). Paul Bettany finally gets to show off more than his dulcet tones and he proves to be just as impressive in the “flesh.”

The ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo comes at the start of the film and is said to be Stan’s favorite one to date. “Excelsior” aside, the film has a lot of memorable moments.  The scenes are on par with the first foray into the big screen world of Marvel heroes.  We have some backstory for Natasha, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch, and we learn what Tony Stark really fears.

By the time the film ends, we have a new group of Avengers, Stark has stepped away from the new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Cap is still heading up the organization.  Vision looks to be the new “in the trenches” leader of the group and Earth is still under threat.

As a sort of PS type sidenote, the whole Captain America schtick of “Language” was amusing as was Stark in his Hulk suit beating the Hulk’s head into the pavement while  repeating desperately “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to…” Almost as good as Tony then knocking out one of the big guy’s teeth and saying in a very little voice, “I’m sorry.”

Even though the overall feel of this Avengers outing was  a little less Joss and more transitional, the film is, like the first, an exciting experience.  There were, however, no goosebumps inducing moments, as in the first film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 5 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and because (Duh!) it’s Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chis Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Cobie…

Chef (2014) Falling in Love with Food and Jon Favreau

Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo

Written, directed, and starring, Jon Favreau, Chef is the 2014 film that could and did make the world fall in love with the food and the man who brought this small budget independent film to life. Proving that a film with no violence, sex or explosive action could be a hit, the Iron Man, and Cowboys and Aliens director showed that a film about a “cook” was profitable and enjoyable.

Starring Scarlett Johansson,Oliver PlattDustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale,John Leguizamo, new actor Emjay Anthony (with a cameo from Robert Downey Jr) the film follows Chef Carl Casper (Favreau)  who inadvertently gets into a Twitter fight with food critic Ramsey Michel (Platt). The feud escalates until Casper accosts Michel in Riva’s (Hoffman) restaurant and the event goes viral on YouTube. The chef leaves the restaurant and on his ex-wife Inez’s (Vergara) advice takes on running a food truck. 

The film follows Casper’s journey to rediscover his self respect, his relationship with his son and his ex-wife. The movie could be called a combination of travelogue and social media training film. Part of the film’s plot deals heavily with Twitter, and a little with Facebook, Vine and YouTube. The brilliant young actor Emjay Anthony’s character, Percy who is Casper’s son, is a wizard on the sites and uses his social media know-how to help his dad get business.

After a few hiccups, Percy and Casper clean up a junked out food truck, financed by Inez’s ex-husband Marvin (Downey Jr.) and Carl’s old Sous Chef Martin (Leguizamo) from Riva’s joins him. The three get the van up and running and they travel back to Los Angeles from Miami and stop at several landmark cities along the way.

It is virtually impossible to watch this film and not feel the compulsion to drool at the screen while Casper, Martin and Percy cook up Cubanos sandwiches.  Favreau hired food truck chef Roy Choi to provide technical guidance and consultant. At the end of the credits Choi is seen showing Favreau how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

The film works so well, in the food department, that it almost seems like a documentary instead of a movie. (There is one moment where Favreau’s character calls and talks to an agent who wants him to do reality TV, and appear on Hell’s Kitchen, “Like Honey Boo Boo?” says a horrified Casper.)

While watching the movie could well result in the viewer helplessly craving Cuban food, or beignets, not to mention stifling the urge to get up and dance to that addictive music, it is the acting that sells this film. From Favreau to the tiny cameos from Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. (Kudos to the  Iron Man star for reminding us of those days when he played douche bags so brilliantly, in case fans have forgotten check out Weird Science, his high school character was such a jerk. Of course it could be argued that as Tony Stark, his character’s have changed very little…)

Chef may not be 2014’s answer to the 1981 film On Golden Pond, another non-violent, no sex film that entertained brilliantly but it hits the spot. Favreau pulls off the cooking in the film and his costars all perform admirably. Kudos to Hoffman as the snotty restauranteur and Oliver Platt as the food critic is just brilliant.

The biggest surprise is the youngster who plays Casper’s son Percy. Emjay Anthony sells it 100 percent and makes the boy believable. When Percy interacts with Carl it feels natural and true, they help to bind the ingredients of the film in a real and lovely way.

A quick word about the film’s score.

Magic.

That is all, just…magic, like the film.

With no car chases, no gratuitous violence and no nudity, there could be many who would give Chef a pass, but the box office returns proves that many were ready for a film about food and family. This is a real 6 out of 5 stars, the math may not add up, but honestly this is a brilliant feel-good film not to be missed. Streaming on US Netflix right now, put on your bib and feel free to drool at the food while enjoying the scenery and the performances.

John Travolta: So Now He is Not Allegedly Gay?

Poor old John Travolta, the actor has been plagued with accusations of being a closet gay for years and now, he is being slammed for getting too “touchy-feely” with the girls at the Oscars, does this mean that the “Pulp Fiction” star is not allegedly gay? Not that it should matter one way or the other, after all Travolta has been married to Kelly Preston since 1991 and they have had three children together.

Read the rest on Viral Global News…

Jennifer Lawrence Nudity iCloud and Apple Who is Zooming Who

Jennifer Lawrence Nudity iCloud and Apple Who is Zooming Who

While the current headlines are screaming about Jennifer Lawrence and her personal nudity being stolen from iCloud and the fact that Apple may not be safe as it should be, the big question here is, just who is zooming who. Points will be given for those who can spot the obvious pun in this thoughtful query. The business of stealing celebrity’s personal images is booming and while there are teens, prepubescent males and the older curiosity seeking man or woman who want to know just what Mary Elizabeth Winstead looks like in her birthday suit, hackers will attempt to provide.