Feelin’ TV: July 24-30

In the spring of 2002, a group of comic actors including hardworking character actor Paul Rudd, new Saturday Night Live cast member Amy Poehler and Hollywood newcomers Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks, now all household names, got together with director David Wain to make the 80’s summer camp comedy spoof Wet Hot American Summer. The film, which also stars such comedy mainstays as Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Christopher Meloni and the great H. Jon Benjamin (who lends his voice talents to a talking can of vegetables) was a box office and critical flop at the time. Since that spring though, the film, penned by Wain and Michael Showalter, has aged like a fine wine. It’s a glorious, self-aware little movie that chronicles the last day of summer camp in 1981. It’s relentless in the number of jokes it throws at the wall, not taking the time to come back and see which ones stick.

While a lot of the content that Netflix has found it necessary to revive has been mediocre (Fuller House) to poor (Arrested Development Season Four), the 2015 revival of Wet Hot American Summer that chronicled the first day at Camp Firewood in a short 8-episode season was inspired. It took everything that worked well about the film and gave us more. It added the talents of Jon Hamm, Chris Pine, Jason Schwarzman and many others. It worked well enough that last week, Netflix gave us 8 more short episodes to hang with our campers. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is completely insane. To outline the plot here in a way that made any sense at all would be impossible. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot of poking fun at early 90’s nostalgia (seriously, the number of times we hear about B. Dalton Booksellers is astounding) mixed with the exaggerated versions of the tropes we’ve come to expect from movies and TV shows about reunions. If that isn’t enough, there’s a good bit intrigue in the B plot involving Ronald Reagan, the first President Bush and a nuclear warhead. The humor is as broad as the Atlantic Ocean but has the depth of a baby pool, but man, is it a lot of fun. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is currently streaming on Netflix.

If one were judging the merits of an episode of Game of Thrones based on the number of memorable scenes, this week’s episode would have to be one of the best of the series. Arya’s return to Winterfell and her sparring session with Brienne, Bran’s interaction with Littlefinger, Dothraki soldiers in battle on the open field and, of course, large amounts of dragon fire, were all moments that brought waves of satisfaction to long-time fans of the show. But “The Spoils of War” is an episode that didn’t add up to the sum of its parts.

Last week I discussed the hastening of the action of Game of Thrones and mentioned how I was enjoying the change of pace. This week, I’ll admit, I’m beginning to change my tune. It isn’t even taking characters an entire episode to travel across continents. They’re going ridiculous amounts of distance, from Dragonstone to Casterly Rock for example, in between scenes. It’s all becoming a little too convenient for my taste, and I don’t think I’m alone. So while it was pretty cool to see the Mother of Dragons ride Drogon into battle and Arya’s long awaited reunion with Sansa, overall, this was my least favorite episode of the season.

What say you? Do you think that GoT needs to slow its roll? Who saved Jamie from the wrath of Drogon? What will become of him when he surfaces? Leave your thoughts in the comments or our Facebook group. Game of Thrones can be viewed Sunday nights on HBO or streamed on the HBO NOW and HBO GO platforms.

That’s all for this week! Leave us your thoughts in the comments. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered that hasn’t been yet, let us know.

What We Learned This Week: June 11-17

LESSON #1: WHEN IMPORTANT DIVERSITY IS IN PLAY, EXTRA HYPE IS WARRANTED— Not understanding the important opportunities for diversity is equivalent to being tone deaf.  Recently some people tried to bash the female empowerment frenzy over the very existence of Wonder Woman, no matter if the film itself was any good.  After its trailer debut, pockets of ostriches with heads in the sand are doing the same with the new trailer for Black Panther and the fervid immediate and early hype from the black audiences.  Let me put it like this when it comes to Wonder Woman and Black Panther: “If you don’t understand why these films are important on principle alone, then you are part of the problem.”  The marketplace doesn’t just need these films, they deserve them.  Their importance assigned by their demographics and fanbases grants them warranted extra hype.

LESSON #2: NEW SOURCES WILL INVADE AWARDS RACES THIS WINTERIndiewire had a nice story recently talking about the Oscar chances of Get Out and Emmy chances of Netflix offerings.  I, for one, am all for it, but early-year films like Jordan Peele’s hit are going to need help coming November and December thanks to good old “out of sight/out of mind” syndrome.  More critics and voters need to keep these films in the conscientiousness of viewers and watchers.

LESSON #3: WHEN STEVEN SPIELBERG CALLS, YOU SAY YES— Speaking of the Oscars, just about everything the legendary Steven Spielberg touches becomes some kind of Oscar nominee or winner.  For his upcoming and fast-tracked December film The Papers (and no, it’s not about supplies from your weed guy), he is multiplying that Midas Touch with having fellow Academy darlings Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep headlining.  If that wasn’t colossal enough, take a gander at the supporting ensemble cast assembled by Spielberg behind Hanks and Streep.  If that’s not an eclectic “Murderer’s Row” of character actors, I don’t know what is.  The Spielberg clout is real.  Get Out and Netflix be damned, but say an early hello to your new Oscar frontrunner.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG APPARENTLY NEEDS TO CALL MORE WOMEN— Well-liked actress and emerging filmmaker Elizabeth Banks attempted to put Steven Spielberg on blast for not ever having directed a film with a female lead.  Her rant, which lead to a public apology, was quickly dispelled when she learned of The Color Purple.  That’s the only film it takes from Spielberg to negate the “never” in Banks’ words, but I think the crux of her argument remains fair.  Even when you add Sugarland Express and the little girl from The BFG, Steven is  more than a shade low in his percentages of female leading roles.  It wouldn’t kill him to rethink that.  Watch him follow in the footsteps of Banks and direct a Pitch Perfect sequel to shut everyone up.

LESSON #5: ARTSY-FARTSY PEOPLE APPARENTLY HATE JARED LETO— Academy Award winner and Suicide Squad actor Jared Leto was recently named the Chief Creative Officer of the film streaming service Fandor, pissing off film snobs everywhere.  Fandor fashions itself as a database for indie films, documentaries, international features and shorts.  Apparently to the high-end cinephiles, Leto has sold out and is not qualified.  People forget before he was Joker, the man won an Oscar and worked with off the beaten path with the likes of Fincher, Aronofsky, Malick, Toback, Mangold, Schumacher, Stone, Niccol, and Villeneuve.  Beyond his work resume, Leto has championed his own broadcast and social platform business VyRt for five years.  Dude, he’s quite qualified.  He’s not going to ruin the place.  In fact, watch it multiple with a driven guy at the helm.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.