Music Video of the Day: Drinking Alone by Carrie Underwood (2019, dir by Randee St. Nicholas)

I have to say that I kind of got worried for Carrie while I was watching this video.

“You don’t know that man, Carrie!” I shouted, “Be careful!”

I’m not particularly a fan of country music but I’ve always liked Carrie Underwood, largely because she seems to be unpretentious and, all things considered, rather down-to-Earth.  That said, when she was on American Idol, I was planning on voting for Bo Bice.  But then Bo started singing songs acapella and I was like, “Uh, I don’t want to encourage that type of behavior.”  I was legitimately torn between Carrie and Bo.  In the end, if I remember correctly, I compromised by voting for Gary Johnson, instead.

Anyway, on a serious note, I don’t think Carrie Underwood could have pulled this song off 10 years ago.  There’s a kind of sad “I’ve suffered real pain” feel to this song and it’s the type of thing that I imagine only comes with getting older and experiencing some real disillusion.  That melancholy feel is there in the video, too.  I mean, there’s a lot of quiet desperation going on here and it’s going to take more than a live performance of The Sound of Music to make everything okay again.


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.

Lisa Marie Reflects on Soul Surfer (dir. by Sean McNamara)

As I was writing up my review of Shark Night 3D, I found myself thinking about Soul Surfer, another film that came out earlier this year and also featured a character losing an arm to a shark.  Oddly enough, both Shark Night and Soul Surfer feature supporting performances from former American Idol contestants.  (Carrie Underwood has a small supporting role in Soul Surfer.)  Beyond that, however, the two films couldn’t be any more different.

Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who, back in 2003, lost her arm to a shark.  I can still remember when this happened because, despite the fact that I live in one of the most land-locked parts of the country, it really, really freaked me out.  I have a morbid fear of somehow losing a limb whether by shark attack, car accident, or Jigsaw Killer.  (I guess, in my case, car accident would be the most likely possibility.)  I couldn’t help but look at the endless footage of a seemingly cheerful Hamilton being interviewed without wondering how I would react if the same thing happened to me.  Would I be able to stay as positive as Hamilton? I hope I could but, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t.

That’s one reason why I avoided seeing Soul Surfer when it was first released to theaters and instead only saw it once it showed up On Demand and I was looking for a movie to watch before bedtime.  Once I actually saw it, I was surprised to discover that Soul Surfer is an effective (if predictable) film that is occasionally even touching.

The film opens with some truly beautiful scenes set in Hawaii and rather quickly establishes Bethany Hamilton (played here by AnnaSophia Robb) as a normal teenage girl who just happens to be a very talented surfer.  Hamilton loses her arm about thirty minutes in and the rest of the film is devoted to her struggle to come to terms with both the loss of her arm and her newfound fame.  The film ends with Hamilton’s triumphant return to competetive surfing and, in its undeniably sincere and old-fashioned way, it makes for an undeniably touching moment.  Robb is likable as Hamilton though the film’s true heart and soul is provided by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.  They play Hamilton’s parents and both of them prove they are capable of making even the most mawkish of lines effective.

Soul Surfer was popular with audiences but got slammed by critics who complained that the film was 1) predictable and 2) far too manipulative.  I would say that these critics are missing the point and their criticism has more to do with their own need to show off their cynical credentials than anything they may have actually seen on-screen. 

Yes, Soul Surfer is emotionally manipulative and yes, the film is predictable but so what?  

The important thing is that the film works.  

That’s a lot more than you can say for the much more cynical Shark Night 3D.