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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

Check out my other column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp


kidsOver the course of a couple of weeks I made it my mission to go through the entire Kids In The Hall series in this slimmer version of the series that was recently released a few years ago. It’s been a while since I sat down with the modern progenitors of sketch comedy. Yeah, Monty Python blah blah blah I’ve heard it before and I am in complete agreement.

However, if Monty Python was the pater noster of this religion of sharp and incisive comedy then it was the Kids In The Hall who were born of that great legacy and thrust it into a modern sensibility. Through the use of basic comedic setups on sound stages that looked like anything else you could have seen on SCTV or SNL the KITH brought an intelligence, not necessarily lacking in either formerly mentioned shows but it was just these five guys and their minds that helped guide this show into stratospheric heights.

It could have gone either way but the funny clicked with the audience that was not only operating on their same beta wave but were hardcore enough to support a show that would have blown up the Internet with their fandom if the Internets were as robust as they are today. Alas, all this was, perish the thought, more than two decades ago but this series is, without question, worth your money. It is actually CHEAPER to buy now, along with getting their new miniseries, Death Comes To Town, that the Kids made last year, than it was when you had to buy each season separately. It’s the one DVD purchase that you must make this month if you’re any kind of fan.

I actually have to admit that even though I received a review copy I bought a copy on Amazon just because it was important to support the one program I could watch again and again on reruns for as long as they would run for there are no clunkers here. Not one episode falls flat or is unworthy, certainly you could point out dozens upon dozens of television series that had a rough patch or a bad season even, of your attention but I understand I am coming at this as a decades long fan. However, those of us who discovered them at the turn of the 90’s and then lived with the reruns through that decade would be hard pressed to say what kind of impact this troupe had on our collective comedic conscious.

Watching the seasons from one to five you can see the sharpness of the KITH get tighter and tighter. If you were a fan of the E-E-E-E-Eradicator or were more of the D0-Re-Mi sketch (that one kind of encapsulates what they were going after) kind of enthusiast there are more than a few nuggets that will cause flashbacks to a more creative time in sketch comedy. The reason why the Kids in the Hall still endure as a troupe worth classifying as legendary is because they played with the medium. They subverted your expecations (who here was stuptifyed by Sausages? I’m still analyzing that one decades later) but they, more importantly, delivered with every single episode. Not only is it worth the price because it’s cheaper than buying all five volumes of the previously released version of this series but you also get the Kids’ newest offering: the Death Comes to Town miniseries.

This isn’t a recommended buy, it’s a MUST buy.

More details about the DVD:


For five groundbreaking seasons, Canadian-bred comic prodigies THE KIDS IN THE HALL stretched sketch comedy to its ultimate limits with hilariously off-the-wall results. With a cast of comic creations only the brilliant– or truly twisted — could imagine, THE KIDS IN THE HALL: THE COMPLETE SERIES MEGASET presents the Kids’ nearly 800 sketches from every single episode of each season in this stunning 22-disc set with 50% less packaging, but 100% of the laughs!

From the infamous Chicken Lady and Crushing Your Head to Buddy Cole and the romantically challenged Cabbage Head, these pioneering, edgy, and ever-charming comedians always managed to land on the stranger side of funny–and look good in floral dresses while doing it.  This best-selling MegaSet, now refreshed with new eye-catching art in a slim, shelf space saving package, includes all five of the groundbreaking, Emmy®-nominated series, plus two bonus discs featuring the new IFC 8-part mini-series “Death Comes to Town.”

Run Time: 42 h, 5 mins. + extras
Format: DVD/22 Discs



For those died-in-the-wool-dress KiTH fans, this May, A&E will release THE KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN a must-own, all-new 8-episode comedy series that originally ran on IFC in 2010.  It will be available individually, as a 2-DVD set,  as well as part of the KiTH MegaSet.

When Death gets off the Greyhound bus in small town Shuckton , Ontario , everyone in town is implicated when one of its most distinguished citizens is found murdered. As a suspect is arrested and the trial plays out, the entire town is affected and its dark secrets are unraveled and exposed.  Featuring the Kids playing all the characters, this uproarious mini-series showcases Canada ’s most irreverent exports in a must-see production that marks the return of the audacious comedy troupe to U.S. television for the first time since their cult series ended in the mid-1990s.  Extras include audio commentaries with Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch; deleted and extended scenes and bloopers.


submarine-500In the battle for stories that deal with coming-of-age issues it’s hard to believe that a tale about a young man who is very tough to love would win out over a film that depends on tapping into the halcyon days of Gen X’ers would be the last man standing.

Truth of the matter is that the latest from director/writer Richard Ayoade trumps fanboy wunderkind J.J. Abrams’ attempt to mine the countless childhood memories of those who remember being personally affected by the tender relationship between a boy and his alien who just couldn’t stop eating Reese’s Pieces in ways that put the blockbuster in the making to shame. Shame being, you understand, that Abrams’ story about a pack of kids who inadvertently stumble upon a train crash that is more than just a crash just rings hollow.

When we meet our main protagonist in Super 8, played by Joel Courtney who does all he can with the character he’s inhabiting and is easily believable as a good-hearted young man, he’s reeling over the death of his mother. This presentation of information at the very outset of the film should propel us forward in feeling a connection to the kid but this is where Abrams fails to create an emotional spark and, really, this is an issue that plagues the rest of the film. Like primitive man trying to knock two rocks together to create a spark, you simply have a film that is invested more in making us aware that this movie is happening in 1979 than it is with stoking the fire of some obvious kindle that sits before us throughout the entire film. We are exposed to some tired tropes of the father who doesn’t understand his son after losing his wife, and is emotionally adrift, a father who can’t be bothered to get off the sauce and raise his daughter the way she ought to be, and a pack of friends who have to come together to overcome an obstacle in a way that they only can, and Abrams does nothing with the two former elements and only shows up to blow out the latter. The problem, you see, isn’t that this is a bad movie but it’s a movie that’s just good enough. Good enough to see at full price and good enough to take the kids to but there’s not much else to say about it.

There are moments of great camaraderie between our pack of friends, the movie calling back to the days when you could spend a whole film with a bunch of pre-teens and have it be completely exciting, and Elle Fanning as Alice is a delightful surprise in the way she just lights up the screen with her youthful exuberance, but that’s about it. Abrams wants to spend the rest of his time, it seems, reminding us that this movie really is happening in 1979. With a fetish for detail not seen since Wes Anderson, Abrams fills more than a few scenes with unnatural quantities of period bric-a-brac to the point of distraction. Case in point, at one point in the film the town sheriff comments to a gas attendant who is listening to authentic music from 1979 on a first generation Walkman that portable music is a harbinger of bad things to come it not only feels inauthentic but it’s disingenuous pandering. As well, Abrams’ copious use of lens flares is a signature style that now is becoming a trademark that is growing as tired as John Woo’s doves. I need to be submerged into your world, not reminded that you’re behind the curtain pulling the levers every ten to fifteen minutes.

super-8-posterAbrams, ostensibly, smarter than this but who’s to say he is after listening to a script that is filled with enough cliched situations and over-the-top melodrama you wonder who this movie really is aimed at. Certainly not anyone with the kind of taste who can see through the veiled notion that there is anything of note to keep secret, because there isn’t and honestly it’s like Godzilla circa 1998 all over again with the film’s insistence to keep you from seeing the alien in question, as the movie’s ultimate denouement is both facile, disappointing, and aggravating. It’s maddening to try and make sense of what’s really at fault in this picture because, at its core, it’s a fun film. It’s just not the steely guarded fairytale the movie’s marketing would have you believe.

If you’re needing a real catharsis I would recommend Richard Ayoade’s tale of a borderline unlikable protagonist Oliver Tate, played by the excellent Craig Roberts, in Submarine. The story about a young man’s quest for female love and attempting to keep the fire alive between his mother and father. Again, just like Super 8, there are conventions we’ve seen before and this film would be in serious jeopardy of simply being a movie you would see once and forget but Ayoade’s confidence as a filmmaker makes this movie hum with the electricity of true love. Love that is in every way silly, pathetic, sad, hopeful, and every other adjective you would associate with young people trying to make a go of things when there are competing interests.

Tate’s love interest, Jordana, is a surly kind of woman who you wouldn’t think would be the object of desire for a boy like Tate but the story’s strength comes from the way it positions the relationship as something that Tate needs while Jordana is a woman who could leave it at any moment. You have moments where you think that the two are coming together on common ground only to pull apart in a constant battle between what is a normal human relationship and an immature coming together that is bound to end badly for both. Lucky for us, we’re able to see both and witness Ayoade’s deft ability to also incorporate a story of the relationship between Oliver’s parents and make that simply heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time. Both Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor are wonderfully cast as the adults who are trying to help their son through his adolescence while also trying to figure out whether they would better be served to leave their married lives behind them.

To talk about the amusing nuances of how Ayoade makes this film compelling is to really spoil the secret sauce of a director who wants, and succeeds, in fashioning a world that feels torn out of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre but doesn’t ever feel stolen. If Anderson and Mike Leigh ever had a cinematic love child this movie would be the result. It’s heartbreaking to see a kid go through the growing pains of a young boy becoming a man but usually where there’s a buffer between observer and subject Submarine pulls you into its well crafted world and generates real emotionality.

Even though the story of how boy meets girl and how boy loses girl is something we’ve seen before there hasn’t been a more compelling reason to give it another look than Submarine. Through the use of effective musical direction as well as a color pallate that evokes something more akin to to sadness than it does the young blossoms of blooming love there hasn’t been a love story this good since Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

For more with Richard Ayoade here’s a link to a recent interview he gave to some journalists regarding the film.


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