IFC’s Portlandia is As Solid As Ever Now In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

When it first debuted on IFC almost four years ago in 2011, Portlandia was little more than an unknown sketch comedy show.  Now three years later, it has gone on to quite the unexpected success.  It has garnered itself a nomination for an Emmy award and even a Peabody award win; this despite the show still being largely a cult favorite.  Now with the recent release of the show’s fourth season on DVD, audiences that might still be unfamiliar with Portlandia will be able to see for themselves just what has made this little show that could a fan favorite for four seasons now.  The first and most obvious reason that Portlandia has garnered such a fan following over the course of its run is its writing.  The writing behind this show is the sort of writing that will impress any fan of The Kids in the Hall and The Upright Citizens Brigade.  Also worth noting of this season is the acting on the part of lead stars Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein along with their co-stars and guest stars.  Speaking of the guest stars, the guest stars lined up for Season Four add their own comedic element that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  All three factors together make the fourth season of IFC’s Portlandia a presentation that audiences new and not so new to the show will enjoy from start to finish.

The central point in the enjoyment of Portlandia Season Four is the show’s writing.  This season’s writing is a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein take no prisoners with co-writer Jonathan Krisel throughout this season.  From social media to organized religion to horror movies, pet adoption agencies and so much more, nothing is off limits this season.  There’s even a spoof of the classic 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama Indecent Proposal in one episode.  The episode in question features none other than the star of HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi.  The pokes at all things pop culture alone make Season Four well worth the watch.  They’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in what makes this season’s writing work.  As with the series’ previous three seasons, each episode is split into multiple segments with one skit serving as the hub of each episode.  That hub is sandwiched by a group of other stand-alone sketches.  This aspect of the writing is likely thanks in large part to SNL head Lorne Michaels also playing a role in this series, too.  And it proves to work quite well surprisingly enough even here.

Directly related to the writing behind Portlandia’s fourth season is the acting on the part of the both Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  The characters that have become so familiar and beloved by fans throughout the show’s first three seasons are back once again.  And the way that Armisen and Brownstein handle their portrayals makes for more than its share of laughs.  Those that might not be so familiar with the duo’s brand of comedy might see the duo’s acting as being aimed at a very specific audience.  The reality is that their acting is meant entirely to poke fun at certain groups of people.  They do so by going completely over the top in their stereotypical presentation of said characters.  It works perfectly with the scripts in general to make each of the sketches even more of a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein’s acting combines with the season’s writing to make each of this season even more entertaining, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.

Both the writing and acting that went into the fourth season of Portlandia play their own part in the overall enjoyment of this cult hit series.  Adding even more enjoyment to the overall presentation that is the series’ fourth season is the inclusion of a who’s who of guest stars.  It has already been noted that Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi is on board this season.  Joining him are the likes of Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1,23), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence DayHoly Man), and singer k.d. Lang among others.  Goldblum actually makes multiple appearances throughout this season’s sketches.  And Dunst opens the season in a hilarious episode that pokes fun at all of the really bad horror movies polluting theaters, store shelves and online retailers.  It is certain to leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry.  k.d. Lang’s appearance later in the season is just as funny.  She appears in a skit about a group of lesbians on a nature retreat.  The retreat just happens to be led by an older man.  Needless to say that things turn rather interesting for him and Lang’s character.  These are just some of the laughs offered by the guest stars throughout Portlandia’s fourth season.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they pick up this season’s box set.

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Garlin’s New Movie Is Twisted, Awkward, And Completely Hilarious

Courtesy: IFC Films

Courtesy: IFC Films

Writer/comedian/director Jeff Garlin’s (Curb Your Enthusiasm) new indie comedy Dealin’ With Idiots is twisted. It’s awkward. And it’s absolutely hilarious.  The near ninety-minute comedy sees Garlin’s Max Morris living in an upper middle-class city.  There’s just one problem. He’s surrounded by some of the most peculiar individuals that one could even begin to imagine at his son’s little league baseball games. The team’s coach is a nobody, working in a dead job. He has a severe Napoleon complex of sorts as a result. The parents of the players are just as bad. They’re completely outlandish characters. Yet the irony of these parents is that there is a certain modicum of truth about their character styles. This is one of the keys to the success of this movie.  Just as important to the movie’s success is the ability of its cast to interpret the movie’s script effectively.  The case is made up of some of the most respected names in comedy today.  These two factors alone are enough to make this movie one of the year’s funniest comedies, indie or otherwise.

The story behind Dealin’ With Idiots is a simple one. It puts Garlin’s Max Morris among a group of stereotypical sports parents in the world of little league baseball.  Audiences will laugh out loud watching the behavior of Max’s fellow parents as they sit on the bleachers, watching their kids play, basically doing what so many parents do.  Any viewer that denies the reality of what’s portrayed in this story is probably in fact one of the very parent types spoofed in the story’s script.  Bob Odenkirk’s Coach Jimbo and Richard Kind’s (Spin City) Harold are two of the funniest of the story’s characters. That’s because of their realism and their portrayal by their respective actors. Far too many people can say that they know of someone like Coach Jimbo.  He’s a jobber who is trying to make up for his own lack of an exciting life by taking on coaching duties of a children’s sports team. It’s also to make up for his own shortcomings earlier in life, just as Coach Jimbo points out having had himself.  And Harold is the stereotypical neighborhood man that shows off in public as a means to cover up his less than stellar personal life. When they are put alongside their fellow rogue’s gallery of characters, Coach Jimbo, Harold, and the rest of the characters make for more than their share of laughs as Max observes their contradictory lifestyles on and off of the bleachers. Simply put, it’s something that absolutely must be seen to be appreciated.  Audiences should take into account that this is not a movie for everyone.  Not everyone will get the humor incorporated into the script.  But those that do get the story will appreciate it and find themselves laughing nonstop from beginning to end.

Garlin’s script for his movie is smart, witty, and humorously twisted in its own way.  This critic should reiterate here that it is not for everyone.  But those that do get Garlin’s humor will love it each time they watch the story.  Viewers that get his brand of comedy will enjoy just as much the cast chosen to fill out the story.  Some of the top names in comedy fill out the movie’s cast.  Steve Agee, Fred Willard, J.B. Smoove, Jami Gertz, and Gina Gershon join Bob Odenkirk and Richard Kind to make one of the most hilariously bizarre comedy troupes assembled in recent memory.  A big part of what makes the cast’s interpretation of its characters is its experience with improve comedy.  Allegedly, a large amount of the cast’s on-screen interaction if not all, was improv.  That would explain quite a bit.  It would especially at its core, explain why Dealin’ With Idiots is such a hilarious movie, indie flick or not.  It’s a movie that any comedy lover should watch at least once.  More information on this and other releases from IFC Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and http://www.IFCFilms.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Portlandia Season Two Another Laugh Riot

Courtesy: Independent Film Channel/Video Services Corporation

It’s time for another trip up the road to the one and only Portlandia.  The second season of this twisted, bizarre and completely outlandish sketch comedy show is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.  One part Saturday Night Live and one part The Kids in The Hall, this little show that could is obviously a niche show.  It’s not for everybody.  But for those who are open minded enough, this oddity of a show is a good escape from everything else currently cluttering the airwaves.

Portlandia’s second season offers more than its share of laughs.  Those who are not entirely enthused over this season are likely missing its whole point.  As with Season One, this second season continues to completely poke fun at the standard holier-than-thou too hip for the hip 90’s crowd who are stuck in that age to this day, as well as other groups.  For instance, audiences are introduced to Spyke and Iris as they plan their wedding in the episode, “Cool Wedding.”  Both Spyke and Iris fit that stereotype.  And seeing them trying to go against the grain in planning the wedding will leave anyone laughing.  It’s complete absurdity.  But there’s also a certain amount of truth to their characters as there are people still like them out there today.

Courtesy: Independent Film Channel/Video Services Corporation

Another great example from Season Two of its success comes in the form of “One More Episode.”  This episode pokes fun not just at the world of science fiction and its sometimes overly devoted fan base.  Audiences get to see what happens when Carrie and Fred start watching the recent Battlestar galactic series on DVD.  They keep saying they’ll only watch one more episode.  They become so wrapped up in the series that they lose sight of everything else.  They even become so obsessed that they go off in search of a man they think helped write for the show (but obviously didn’t).  Again, there actually is a certain amount of truth to this as there really are people like that.  The addition of guest stars Edward James Olmos and James Callis as themselves make this one even funnier.

Fans will also laugh out loud as a young man with the Surfrider Foundation tries to get a woman to sign his petition to ban plastic bags.  When she declines, his parents and even his grandparents get involved.  There’s even a great politically incorrect bit during the season’s first episode, “Mixology” that will no doubt stir up some debate among audiences.  It all comes together with the season’s other bits to make for plenty of laughs and a great escape from the current river of mindless reality television that currently pollutes the airwaves today.  Portlandia is now available on DVD and blu-ray. 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.