Chelsea: The Porn King of Japan and Ben-Hur (Review)

Chelsea Handler

Chelsea “The Porn King of Japan”  was a celebration of the male form.  All of the guests were male and featured Jack Huston (grandson of John and star of the newest version of Ben-Hur) as the first male guest.

The English actor and Chelsea spoke of the film.  They revealed that Jesus was in the movie, although they did not mention  Morgan Freeman (who played God at least once in his career) who is also in the film.

A little Roman history was trotted out for the audience and Huston spoke of the William Wyler version of Ben-Hur. He mentioned that it was rather daunting to follow the film that garnered Charlton Heston his only Oscar.

Chelsea suggested that Huston was returning to England to be the next Bond. Jack laughed this off and revealed that as far as he knew, Daniel Craig was still playing 007.

Next was a pre-recorded segment where Chelsea met with the porn king of Japan. A fascinating look at  the less savory side of the country.  Shimiken,  real name Ken Shimizu, is the number one male porn star in Japan.

Curiously, his interpreter Tony Crosbie,  was a heavy-set chap from Liverpool.  The translator got on the bad side of Chelsea when he started putting words into Shimiken’s mouth.  Chelsea asked about the industry and how a growing number of people in the country do not want to have sex.

Amazingly, in Japan there are only 70 male porn stars and 10,000 female ones, at least according to Shimiken.  The porn star gave Chelsea a t-shirt with her name on it.

Back in the Netflix studio the next two guests were  hosts from American Ninja WarriorMatt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila.  Chelsea has known Iseman for years and the two used to share venues in stand-up. Iseman actually told a story about a masturbation gag that Handler used to do. From the long-shot on Chelsea she was not overly pleased at this trip down memory lane. 

The two men managed talked about the sports competition show and how contestants differ.  They also spoke of how popular the show has become and Akbar suggested that Chelsea go on the show.   Rather interestingly, American Ninja Warrior originated as a Japanese television show. Making a nice link to the Shimiken segment.

Matt talked  of being on the celebrity version of The Apprentice and being stonewalled by Arnold Schwarzenegger after doing his Predator impression.

There were no politicians on this episode, thankfully, and it proved to be quite entertaining as a result.  Chelsea finished with another pre-recorded segment. It was a very funny sexual harassment video that she shared with her housekeeper.  (It can be seen down below.)

Episodes like “The Porn King of Japan” make this talkshow different from the rest.  Of course Chelsea hosting the show makes it different already but her eclectic choices of topics make the entire thing entertaining.

Chelsea may be an acquired taste but even those who are not familiar with her laid back style will soon become addicted to her show.  The series airs three times a week on Netflix.

Ken Jeong Exclusive Interview: Dr. Ken, Dicky Wexler and a Career High

KEN JEONG (WRITER/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER)

Ken Jeong took time out of his extremely busy day, Ken actually called me from the editing bay of Dr. Ken, and spoke with Mike’s Film Talk about his start in the entertainment business, Dr. Ken, and why Dicky Wexler’s Last Show is an episode he counts as a career high. We also spoke about his stint as stand-up comedian, his fellow cast members,  the show finale, Randall Park and Jamie Foxx.

Ken Jeong has amassed a gross of screen credits on both the small screen and the larger cinema screen. He got his start in 1997 on television but the real beginning was while attending pre-med courses at Duke University. He took an acting class where he caught the bug instantly. Ken realized that he loved acting.

So much so, in fact, that he auditioned for the acting school at Duke. He was accepted and then had to contemplate switching majors.

Ken: “So in reality my love for acting began over 25 years ago way before my career in medicine ever got started. I did continue with medicine and developed a passion for it. My wife is a doctor; she still practices, and it is a big part of my life. In a way, Dr. Ken is a culmination of areas of my life.”

After making the hard decision to keep studying medicine, Ken never got over the lure of performing and started doing stand-up comedy throughout his remaining educational time and while doing his medical residency.

It was, Ken says, a logical choice.

Ken found that his natural gift for comedic acting transferred well to the arena of stand-up and he won a contest where the prize was a “golden ticket” to perform at the world famous Improve Club in Los Angeles. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Before talking about Dr. Ken, and Ken’s favorite episode Dicky Wexler’s Last Show, we talked about his passion for performing.

Mike’s Film Talk (MFT): Looking at your bio and the various interviews you’ve done in the past, it looks like stand-up comedy is your first love.

Ken: Well…I’ve got to say that acting is my first love. Although going right back childhood, my first love was for academics and then acting, without any inkling of performing either ability, or even ambition.

MFT: Oh.

Ken: What happened was I really wanted to do theatre when I was in college. When I got fortunate enough to be accepted to medical school, I had to stop the acting school and finish what I’d started medically, or pre-medically. Then once I started in medical school I still had this desire to perform, but I had no idea what to do. So I thought, ‘why not give stand-up a try.’ Because I’d always excelled at ‘comedy’ acting and this is kind of a manifestation of that.

MFT: Right.

Ken: And Stand-up became like a great hobby. You could go to an “open mic” event once or twice a month and just let off some steam. I really viewed it as my hobby while in med school and during my residency and it was not anything I was trying to do professionally. But it just so happened I could do it well enough to do it professionally, and one thing led to another. Winning the contest to go to LA and perform at the Improv in Hollywood and that got my foot in the door in LA.

MFT: The move to stand-up makes a certain amount of sense. Once you have experienced the immediacy of feedback from a live theatre audience, nothing else really fulfills that experience, so the switch over to stand-up sounds like a brilliant replacement.

Ken: Oh yes, the immediacy of the audience feedback doing is hard to describe if you’ve never experienced. But, yes there is a high, a performance high, that get out of doing that. It is funny though, while I was doing it, I had opportunities to go on the road and open for high profile comedians but I opted not to.

MFT: Why not?

Ken: Well as much as I love stand-up, and a lot of my friends are in stand-up as well; I really love acting and wanted to do ‘proper’ acting. This is what prompted me to book a part in “Knocked Up” and later Hangover. I truly love acting more than stand-up but I really enjoyed my time while doing stand-up. There is a lot of grey involved there, it’s not black or white situation as in “Oh I like this, I don’t like this.”

MFT: I know looking at the bio it seemed that comedy had been your starting point, like Steve Martin or Robin Williams, and that you’d gravitated over to acting but actually the reverse is true.

Ken: Yeah the reverse is true. It was more like theatre acting, stand-up and then acting. But to your point; like in the Dicky Wexler episode, there is an affinity for stand-up comedy with my character and that will culminate in the season finale where stand-up will be involved.

MFT: Oh brilliant!

Ken: Oh yeah, it goes there. And it will be a point where Ken will try his hand at stand-up comedy. There is a lot of “art imitating life” so I’m glad you feel that way after reading my filmography and credits and also following the show because what you said…although in my “exact” life I had a more nuanced experience than that, but in the universe of the show, Ken’s love for stand-up is real and genuine.

And I don’t think it’s coincidence that in an episode like “Kevin O’Connell” that he was doing stand-up for the HMO banquet…Which is also based on a true story. At the physicians HMO banquet every year I would do stand up comedy and that pertained to that.

MFT: Oh that’s brilliant! I was going to mention that early on in the series, in one of my reviews, I called Dr. Ken “the Woody Woodpecker” of medicine in that he said and did things no one else would dare to and was quite unapologetic about it. He was Ken Park, doctor, and he was going to do things his way.

Ken: Exactly. He doesn’t have  a filter he’s not sensitive or self aware and  I think that’s the big difference in our characters. In the life of Dr. Ken, he overreacts but has no self awareness, but in real life I overreact but I’m painfully self-aware. I’m a very sensitive guy and I really do care what other people think.

MFT: Which is all part of being an actor…

Ken: Yeah, that is part and parcel of being an actor, absolutely.

MFT: I was going to ask, just for a laugh, who you’d rather go to..obviously you wouldn’t want to go to Dr. Park.

Ken: Yeah, that’s because as a physician, in real life as a doctor I tried not to be funny with my patients. I never really liked doing that. It is funny that when people meet me they are very surprised at how low-key I am and how seriously I took medicine. That was what I wanted to do growing up so I  took that seriously. 

MFT: Yes.

Ken: I’ve said in interviews before that I never jerked around patients like Patch Adams. I never went around saying, “Aw you got herpes, but I got your nose! Honk! Honk!” 

MFT: (Laughing) Which would probably result in a lawsuit these days.

Ken: (laughs)

MFT: I’ve watched “Dicky Wexler’s Last Show” twice now. Now I have to say, my two favorite episodes so far have been “Ken at the Concert” and “Dicky’s Last Show” and both for the same reason. They each made me laugh and cry a little. Now I’m a soppy old git and I’ve cried at Scooby Doo before…

Ken: (laughing)

MFT: And the odd commercial. But these episodes  each contained the perfect blend of comedy and that little touch of pathos, or poignancy. In the concert episode, Ken is trying so hard do connect with his little girl who’s outgrowing his sphere of fatherly influence and at the concert he realizes,  in the parent lounge,  that the other parents have given up and Ken decides he’s going to “rescue” his relationship with Molly.

Dominion: Bewilderment of Heart – What Color is Your Amphora? (Review)

Dominon - Season 2

Last week on Dominion we saw “dark” Gabriel drop off the amphora of darkness at Vega, although “darkness” is a bit misleading as, Michael points out later in the episode, the spreading inky black stuff drives everyone it contacts mad.  Before the episode ends all the inhabitants of Vega have been affected by this weapon of God. There are many changes, Alex turns out to be able to do much more as the Chosen One than ever previously suspected, the two Whele’s are forced to face their “inner reality” and the other main players learn their own truth. Claire, apparently,  is dying from loss of blood after a wrenching little perfect families scenario.

*Sidenote* There was an annoying moment, or two,  of the amphora changing color or,  more accurately, its overall appearance. Obviously, this mostly jet-black vase, with a pretty important lid, that Gabriel unleashed upon Vega was considered too plain by this now very dark archangel. He obviously stopped on the way to the city he wants to destroy and got the thing gold plated…Like you do. Later in the episode, after Nome’s finds it, the object is back to its “plain Jane” appearance. Nice one chaps…Not.

This episode was brilliant in its almost epic  focus on what each character feared or wanted. Tom Wisdom’s Michael says of the visions released by the amphora (or the vase of many colors):

“Some are nightmares, but some are dreams. Beautiful but fatal; all end in death.”

Each character had their own personal reflections and realizations:

David Whele faces the truth that despite his protestations that his actions were all for “Vega”  he has essentially sold his soul. His focus on becoming the “Lord of Vega” has turned him into a monster., with the “soul of an eight-ball.”

William Whele faces the realization that he really is not the “Chosen One.” His vision has an eight-ball Claire revealing what actually happened in the desert.  She tells him that, yes the  eight-balls tortured William and did unspeakable things  to him. Perverse things that the Whele sibling liked and that the flash of light was not God at all, but the thief’s gun exploding and William was talking to himself, not God at all.

Dominion - Season 2
William Whele coming to terms with a different reality

William is also visited by Alex, who forces him to admit that he is not the Chosen One at all. There is also a “punk” version of Gabriel who visits his former “protege.” Carl Beukes as Gabriel gets what must be the funniest line of the entire episode. He bellows at William that he was never the “Chosen One.” He follows this up with:

“You’re a re-ject.”

When Gabriel’s delivers this revelation he drags the “re” part out to brilliant effect. Priceless.

Claire “lives” a perfect idyllic happy family scenario where she has given birth to Alex’s baby, a girl. In the middle of the sunshine and loving atmosphere, Lady Riesen sees blood on her arm and her vision of Alex sees nothing.  By the end of the dream, Claire is lying on the floor, with two dead troopers for company, apparently bleeding out from a wound on her forearm.

*Sidenote* It has to be noted that when Claire goes into pick up her baby;  the infant is the spitting image of Nic Bishop, aka Gates Foley.  This physical resemblance of the child to the recently deceased Gates was funny and it took a couple of moments for the laughter to subside from this inadvertent comic bit to “get back into the mood.” 

Arika (Shivani Ghai) lives a nightmare where Rose, the eight-ball that she killed in another episode, has come back to exact revenge. The vision itself is revealing in that Arika also fears turning into her mad mother.

Dominon - Season 2
David Whele facing himself.

Michael has a vision, where Noma has murdered Alex and he seeks to kill the wingless angel. Noma does not have a dream, the amphora “speaks” directly to her telling Nomes that she has her wings back.

Alex, who may or may not have had a vision (this is a little unclear as so much is going on) closes the amphora. Michael states early on in the episode that only an angel can close this weapon of God, but those markings on Alex’s body march down his arms and allow the Chosen One to close the now black amphora.

Gabriel remarks that the plague of darkness was over “rather quickly” but he is already moving on to plan “b” for the destruction of Vega.

The episode moves all the pieces together for a climax that may not leave Vega, or the city’s inhabitants above ground. Kudos to writers Katie GruelRebecca Kirsch and Jerry Shandy for digging deep and coming up with a brilliant look at the inner fears and worries of the main characters.

Director Gregg Simon, sitting in the hot seat for the first time on Dominion, handles the episode with an impressive adeptness and does not allow the show’s “darkness” to be so dark that one felt the need to reach for the brightness controls.

Standout Moments:

The amphora suddenly appearing with what looks to be a solid gold plated exterior after being black from “day one.”

Roxanne McKee as an eight-ball Claire Riesen. (Nuff said.)

Arika being oddly vulnerable. (And if  Ghai did not use a body double..Let us just say. it is obvious that someone spends a lot of time at the gym.)

Luke Allen-Gale in that final scene as William is proper creepy and disturbing as they say in the trenches.

Anthony Head as the eight-ball David. Head has got massive acting chops and he took off in this episode.

Carl Beukes as Punk Gabriel, “You’re a reeeeeeeeeject!” Never has a line been so blackly and comically rendered as insult. So good it had to be mentioned twice.

The realization that the entire episode, in Vega time, took seconds in the lives of the main protagonists. David’s “awakening” with the noose choking him as he knelt on the trapdoor of the gallows showed that all the visions occurred in a very, very short (as Gabriel notes) time.

Dominon - Season 2
Michael reflecting.

Dominion airs Thursday on SyFy. This show features some of the best writing on television in the world of fantasy and science fiction/religion. Do not miss this.

 

Longmire: Episode 6 The Calling Back (Review)

Officer Mathias and Sheriff Longmire at the Four Feathers

Episode 6 of Longmire begins the first of the final half of a fourth season storyline that will run till the season finale, episode 10. With Help Wanted ending with the hiring of Zachary (Barry Sloane) and the non-hiring of Monte Stephen Louis Grush this latest  episode starts with two hunters discovering a partly clad woman in the woods. 

Walt has to evict Vic, who initially thinks he is paying her a social visit, and the nearly nude woman in the woods turns out to be Gabriella Langton (Julia Jones). The young woman has been raped on the “Res”  by two oil-rig roughnecks. May Stillwater (Irene Bedard) comes to Walt’s office and asks if Cady will help Gabriella. The young woman is so traumatized that she will not leave May’s car.

Vic now has no place to stay as the new casino opening has filled every hotel in town. Zachary is trying to fit in and Ferg is jealous of the new deputy. The main storyline, however, is Gab’s rape by two white oil rig workers on reservation land. As Mathias (Zahn McClarnon) points out, this particular crime falls between the two men’s jurisdictions, Walt’s and his. 

Longmire suggests cross deputizing one another and Officer Mathias says if he allows Walt any authority on the Res he will lose his job. The two men find a poker chip from the new casino and Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) reluctantly helps the two lawmen, but only after blackmailing Mathias into letting one of the casino employees out of the Res jail.

This is an especially frustrating episode. Poignant and tragic, Gab needs help but the system cannot oblige  and her mother will not cooperate. Henry, Walt and Cady all try, but because the attack took place on reservation property and was committed by white strangers, the federal authorities must be “petitioned” to step in and help.

Walt, Ferg and Zach head down to the oil fields and pick up the two men identified by Gab. Meanwhile Cady works on  Federal Prosecutor Bradley to step in and help out and she agrees. Apparently this is an ongoing issue and not just at the local Cheyenne reservation . Bradley tells Cady that  oil rig roughnecks were doing the same thing in North Dakota.

Walker Browning, the boss of the two men arrested by Walt on suspicion of rape, comes to see the sheriff and says that if the men are guilty to “throw the book at them.”  Later Gab is kidnapped by someone from the oil company who tells Longmire that the young woman will be released when the two suspects are.

Vic moves in with Cady, staying in her spare room, Zach continues to learn about his new job and Walt questions Mandy about the men the girls met at the casino. He finds out the the man who was with Mandy (Tamara Duarte) took her to a storage unit. Ferg and Zachary stake out the roughnecks and the new deputy assaults one of the oil workers after provoking him by taking a video of all the men on site.

Walt finds that the footage Zach shot provides a clue to where the storage facility might be and he finds Gabriella, trussed up with duct tape and fastened to a chair, in one of the lockups. Thus begins one of the more frustrating segments of the episode. Gab’s mother Linda (Stefany Mathias) brings the investigation into her daughter’s rape by two white men to a screeching halt. 

Episode six’s title, The  Calling Back, is in reference to the Sweat that Gab attends after her rape. The medicine woman, who reveals that Gabriel’s name is Morning Star, begins the ceremony to call back Morning Star, the part of Gab that was taken by the attack.

After the sweat ceremony May leaves and speaks with Henry. Stillwater tells him that she   is writing to Hector.  This installment continues the thread of Hector’s mantle being taken over by Henry.

The story of Gab/Morning Star will continue while other storylines move into the spotlight. As usual, the actors in this show keep knocking it out of the park in terms of performance. Robert Taylor gets to show a sensitivity that is deep and impressive. Cady (Cassidy Freeman) tells her father that Gab will talk to him because he treated the victim like his own daughter. 

This piece of dialogue is telling.  To the younger members of Walt’s team, Longmire is the father figure. At times punitive and at other moments kindly and forgiving. Kate Sackhoff‘s character still seems to be somewhat fixated by Walt, not seeing him as a father figure at all. 

Kudos to Barry Sloane as the “new kid on the team” and major mad props to Julia Jones (who actually made this viewer “well up” more than a few times) and to her screen mom, Stefany Mathias.  These two ladies, as well as Tamara Duarte, knocked it out of the park. Julia’s suffering as Gab was painful to see,  Stefany was obnoxious and aggressive enough to annoy even the most sincere pacifist and Duarte was all attitude.

Without going into any detail, as the entire season has been watched now, this storyline will rule emotions throughout the rest of the fourth season and the roles of the players, Walt, Henry, Cady and Vic will shift and change as the plot plays out. Streaming on Netflix with all 10 episodes on offer, Longmire may have changed venues and format but there is no loss of quality.

Longmire: Episode 5 Help Wanted (Review)

Longmire promotional poster for Season 4 It is an interesting way to watch this new season about the Wyoming lawman Walt Longmire. The fourth iteration of Longmire, in keeping with the Netflix mode of operation, has all 10 episodes on offer at once. After immediately sitting down and watching the first three episodes, after all the death of Branch needed to be solved and then there was the whole Barlow killing his kid…

Things get back to “normal” in episode four and the decision was made to review each “new” episode seperately. The main factor was that four was directed by Peter Weller who was returning to play Lucian Connally, the late Branch’s uncle and the late Barlow’s brother. While Walt and his deputies worked to solve the mystery, and the murder, of a dead girl found in a duffle bag, there was a bit of closure for the Connally family as Lucian points out his late brother’s major character flaw.

Longmire is adept at providing the non-Native American viewers an insight into life on the reservation and the troubles faced by the members of the “local” tribe. From alcoholism to domestic violence these messages are portrayed a number of ways and all are effortlessly integrated into the storyline of the week. Now that Netflix has put all the episodes up these messages still run smoothly without the interruption of a week-long wait.

Plus, with all episodes on offer, there is the added bonus of being able to remember small details from the previous episode that makes an appearance in the next segment. Last week, in the opening montage of Walt getting his life, and self, sorted back out after the   killing of Barlow, the FBI investigation and his finally being able to move on after catching his wife’s killer, we saw Longmire sitting at the corner of his porch with a pile of books and beer cans.

The last book he reads (in that montage) is John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In the short time given, perhaps all of two to three seconds, we can see that Walt has been touched by this book. (Steinbeck’s tale is a staple of high school literature study that has been dissected ad nauseam by teachers since it became one of those “must read” books.) In episode 5, Help Wanted the Steinbeck classic makes a return.

This episode shows a depth to Walt that makes the lawman seem more rounded and more real. At the start, Walt’s tattered copy of the story about George and Lennie is plopped onto the top of his office desk. The room is filled with a group of seated people (six men and two women) wearing name badges and with their own copies of the book. Bar one, Barry Sloane as Zach, has no book in hand.

Rather comically, the scene feels at first like Walt has started a book club. This illusion is soon set aside when it is revealed that Longmire is using it as an aid. He is interviewing  to replace the now  empty deputy position. Walt asks the assembled applicants what they thought of the book. One, Monte,  tells him about the book and another states she did not like it. When Zach is questioned, he reveals, “Uh, sorry, I’m a slow reader, so I didn’t finish.”

The book figures twice more in the episode. Each time it reappears adding a layer to the action or scene. Later at the end of the episode when Zach actually finishes the book and he tells Walt that he is glad he did,  Longmire is then able ask Zachary about the ending of the tale:

“So what would you have done? To keep George from shooting Lennie?”
“I think George shot Lennie ’cause he felt it was the only option he had left.”
“I’d like to get there before things ever got that bad.”

Zach leaves and Walt catches him in the hallway asking him when he can start.

With the book opening and closing the episode one could feel that the message of this segment could be lost. This was not the case and the main storyline of veterans needing help and not being able to get it, combined with the theft of pharmaceuticals designed to alleviate PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) blended right in.

The obvious correlation was that, like George with Lennie, the people who stole the antidepressants felt they had no other choice. Tight writing like this is hard to come, even more so with  a “murder a week” show about a small community sitting next to the Cheyenne reservation, yet this is precisely what one gets with Longmire.

There is, however, one bone of contention with this particular episode and this too revolves around Longmire’s fixation with the Steinbeck book and the other time is shows up as part of the plot. Walt’s life is put in jeopardy when the third member of the team who stole the drugs comes up behind the lawman and demands that he drop his weapon. Having no real choice in the matter Walt does so and the woman, Rebecca, who is holding the gun readies herself to shoot Longmire in the head.

Walt (Robert Taylor knocking it out of the park here) talks about George and Lennie and how George’s shooting of his friend could be seen as an act of love. The woman has cocked the semi-automatic, her finger is on the trigger and the suspense builds as it looks like this she  is about to shoot Longmire. The camera revolves around after a close up on Walt’s face and the camera continues to move and suddenly the gun is seen from the side and it is not cocked at all. The hammer is closed.

What should have been a mood intensifying moment becomes a jolting splash of freezing reality, as in a split-second, and another camera angle, the gun is once again cocked and ready to fire as we move into a close up of the back of Walt’s head.

Shame on you, director James M. Muro for taking what should have been a brilliant moment and messing it up. There is no editor listed, rather interestingly Adam Bluming is listed as editor on the episode prior and the one following but not on Help Wanted. This does pretty much lay the blame on the door of James, the director.

Mood killing moment aside (And let us face facts here, how hard was it to miss the whole gun cocked, not cocked thing in the editing process? These were close ups.  Seriously??) this was a brilliantly written and acted episode. Kudos to the cast and it has to be said, Barry Sloane must be one of the most tired performers in Hollywood at the moment. Starring in the ABC series The Whispers as well as showing up as a new character in Longmire, and still turning in performances that rock.

Great episode and message regardless of the close-up gun faux pas. Hopefully the rest of the season will prove to be that little bit tighter.