Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)

Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

Playing Catch-Up: The Accountant, Carnage Park, The Choice, The Legend of Tarzan

Continuing my look back at the films of 2016, here are four mini-reviews of some films that really didn’t make enough of an impression to demand a full review.

The Accountant (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

2016 was a mixed year for Ben Affleck.  Batman v. Superman may have been a box office success but it was also such a critical disaster that it may have done more harm to Affleck’s legacy than good.  If nothing else, Affleck will spend the rest of his life being subjected to jokes about Martha.  While Ben’s younger brother has become an Oscar front runner as a result of his performance in Manchester By The Sea, Ben’s latest Oscar effort, Live By Night, has been released to critical scorn and audience indifference.

At the same time, Ben Affleck also gave perhaps his best performance ever in The Accountant.  Affleck plays an autistic accountant who exclusively works for criminals and who has been raised to be an expert in all forms of self-defense.  The film’s plot is overly complicated and director Gavin O’Connor struggles to maintain a consistent tone but Affleck gives a really great performance and Anna Kendrick reminds audiences that she’s capable of more than just starring in the Pitch Perfect franchise.

Carnage Park (dir by Mickey Keating)

I really wanted to like Carnage Park, because it was specifically advertised as being an homage to the grindhouse films of the 1970s and y’all know how much I love those!  Ashley Bell plays a woman who gets kidnapped twice, once by two bank robbers and then by a psycho named Wyatt (Pat Healy).  Healy chases Bell through the desert, hunting her Most Dangerous Game-style.  There are some intense scenes and both Bell and Healy are well-cast but, ultimately, it’s just kind of blah.

The Choice (dir by Ross Katz)

The Choice was last year’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation.  It came out, as all Nichols Sparks adaptations do, just in time for Valentine’s Day and it got reviews that were so negative that a lot of people will never admit that they actually saw it.  Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer play two people who meet, fall in love, and marry in North Carolina.  But then Palmer is in a car accident, ends up in a coma, and Walker has to decide whether or not to turn off the life support.

As I said, The Choice got terrible reviews and it’s certainly not subtle movie but it’s actually better than a lot of films adapted from the work of Nicholas Sparks.  Walker and Palmer are a likable couple and, at the very least, The Choice deserves some credit for having the courage not to embrace the currently trendy cause of euthanasia.  That alone makes The Choice better than Me Before You.

The Legend of Tarzan (dir by David Yates)

Alexander Skarsgard looks good without his shirt on and Samuel L. Jackson is always a fun to watch and that’s really all that matters as far as The Legend of Tarzan is concerned.  It’s an enjoyable enough adventure film but you won’t remember much about it afterward.  Christoph Waltz is a good actor but he’s played so many villains that it’s hard to get excited over it anymore.

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Awful Truth, Notorious, North By Northwest, Charade

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

Happy birthday, Cary Grant!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Awful Truth (1937, dir by Leo McCarey)

The Awful Truth (1937, dir by Leo McCarey)

Notorious (1946, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Notorious (1946, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

North by Northwest (1959, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

North by Northwest (1959, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Charade (1963, dir by Stanley Donen)

Charade (1963, dir by Stanley Donen)

A Movie A Day #18: Breaker! Breaker! (1977, directed by Don Hulette)


Somewhere, in Southern California, there’s a small town called Texas City.  Texas City is run by a corrupt judge (George Murdock) and a sadistic cop (Don Gentry).  The residents of Texas City make their money by arresting truckers, forcing them to pay huge fines, and selling their rigs to the savage yard.  But they made a mistake when they arrested a trucker named Billy Dawes (Michael Augensten).  Billy has an older brother who is also a trucker.  His name is J.D. and he’s Chuck Norris!

After appearing as an “honorable” villain in Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon and providing martial arts training to the Hollywood elite, Chuck Norris made his starring debut in Breaker!  Breaker!  This is one of those weird only in the 70s hybrid movies.  Mix in a little Deliverance, add a little Smokey and the Bandit, and then toss in Chuck Norris doing a roundhouse kick.  Shake it up and you get Breaker!  Breaker!

The main problem with Breaker!  Breaker! is that it does not really know what to do with Chuck Norris.  While he’s stil a step above someone like Steven Seagal, Chuck has never exactly been a great actor but, in Breaker!  Breaker!, his inexperience in front of the camera is especially noticeable.  Chuck is at his best when he’s fighting but he spends too much of Breaker!  Breaker! sitting behind the wheel of either his truck or his super groovy 70s van (check out the eagle painted on the side) and doing CB radio patter.  When he does fight, his opponents are all rednecks who, unlike Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon, don’t stand a chance against him.


I did like the movie’s ending, in which an army of big rigs descend on Texas City.  Don’t mess with truckers!

Two final notes: Breaker! Breaker! was edited by Steven Zaillian, who 16 years later, would win an Oscar for writing Schindler’s List.  Also, keep an eye out for Eraserhead himself, Jack Nance, as one of J.D.’s friends.


Music Video of the Day: Moments Of Pleasure by Kate Bush (1993, dir. Kate Bush)

The song is about Bush remembering friends and family who have died. She spells that out for you visually at the end of the video as we see other people dance past her that she calls out to. From what I can find, Smurf is Alan Murphy who played on some of her albums and Bill is Bill Duffield, a lighting engineer, who died during a concert tour of hers in 1979. There are some others including her mother who died right around the time of making the album this song is on–The Red Shoes.