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Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a 2015 Netflix original series and a prequel to the 2001 cult classic film Wet Hot American Summer. Don’t watch the show unless you’ve seen the movie. The movie is required viewing. You won’t pick up on half the jokes and you won’t appreciate it as much if you haven’t seen the movie already. The movie is an absurd comedy about the last day at a summer camp. The humor is not for everybody but you will love it if you can open your mind a little.

The movie has a large ensemble cast featuring Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, David Hyde Pierce, Bradley Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, A.D. Miles, Zak Orth, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Marguerite Moreau, H. Jon Benjamin, and Judah Friedlander and they all came back for the prequel series. The film is about the last day of camp and the show is about the first day of camp. All the actors are playing three-month younger versions of their characters despite everyone being fifteen years older in real life. If you thought it was funny watching twenty-year olds pretending to be teenagers, wait until you see forty-year olds pretending to be teenagers.

There are eight episodes, each about a half hour long, and each one is about a certain time of day: Campers Arrive, Lunch, Activities, Auditions, Dinner, Electro/City, Staff Party, and Day Is Done. All the episodes were directed by David Wain, who also directed the movie and co-wrote both projects with Michael Showalter. The end result is a TV show that feels like a really long movie. It’s very easy to binge watch and you probably will end up binge watching it. It’s hilarious, filled with jokes and gags from beginning to end. The style of humor is very diverse. It’s slapstick, it’s witty, it’s brash, and it’s subtle. It warrants repeat viewings. I just finished the series and can’t wait to watch it again.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young


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Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American Summer is a 2001 comedy about the last day of summer at the fictional Camp Firewood. It’s not just a comedy; it’s completely off the wall and ridiculous. It’s more like Airplane! than most comedy films that come out. It’s packed with jokes, one-liners, and sight gags. It has a pretty solid cast featuring Michael Showalter, David Hyde Pierce, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, Molly Shannon, and more. The movie was a flop when it came out but it’s become a cult classic in the years since.

There’s a plot, albeit a nonsensical one. It’s the last day of camp and the big talent show is tonight. Coop has a crush on Katie, but she’s in a relationship with the douchey Andy. Camp director Beth has a mutual crush on Associate Professor Henry Newman, but they are both too awkward to act on it. And to make things more complicated, Henry has detected a piece of NASA’s Skylab has broken off and is heading directly for the camp and he must find a way to stop the disaster. Even though the film takes place in one day, there’s no way that all the things that happen in the movie could happen in one day. It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but they acknowledge the fact that it’s impossible and have fun with it, like the scene where the camp counselors go into town and have a crazy drug-fueled montage and return to camp an hour later.

This movie is the smart kind of stupid. And it’s not for everyone. Watch it for ten minutes and give it time to settle in. If you don’t like it by then, stop watching it. But if you manage to make it through the whole movie, it will become one of your favorite comedies. Well, it should be at least. You might have awful taste in movies.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young


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The Hunger Games (film)

Director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) takes on the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins. I never read the books, and all I knew to expect was a strong female character with a knack for archery. In a future dystopia, a girl is entered into a life or death contest that is part sacrifice and part entertainment. If you take Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, add a little bit of The Running Man and a splash of the Truman Show, and throw in some Fifth Element-esque costumes, and you end up with The Hunger Games.

In the future, the world we know has come and gone, and it is a new era. America is gone, and a new nation has arisen: Panem. There are twelve districts of varying levels of poverty surrounding a wealthy Capitol. There is an annual event called the Hunger Games where each district must sacrifice a twelve to eighteen-year-old boy and girl to fight to the death until a single victor emerges.

At the yearly lottery to choose the lucky pair, a plucky young lady named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) bravely volunteers to compete when her younger sister is chosen. The other representative from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son. Katniss is brave and has skills with a bow. Peeta is cowardly and knows it.

The two leave District 12 and head for the Capitol. They meet their mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a drunk and former Hunger Games champion. He gives them solid advice, like learn your enemy’s strengths and to be weary of the “Careers.” The Careers have been groomed from birth to compete and survive and thrive in the games.

All the contestants are treated like celebrities and they all appear on a TV show hosted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). They try to be as appealing as possible in order to gain sponsors to provide them with supplies during the games. Peeta reveals a hidden crush on Katniss during his interview.

Katniss isn’t sure if she can believe him, especially when he forms an alliance with the Careers as soon as the Hunger Games start. Half the contestants are killed on the first day, but Katniss uses her skills to survive the first night.

Peeta leads the Careers to Katniss, but she’s able to drop a tracker jacker hive on them. Tracker jackers are like mutant wasps with hallucinogenic venom that’s deadly in large amounts. Katniss forms an alliance with Rue, a young girl from District 11. Rue basically saves Katniss from dying, and she saves her a few times. They find out where the Careers are staying and hatch a plan to destroy their supplies. The plan works, but Rue dies and Katniss feels bad.

Haymitch Abernathy is busy promoting Katniss and Peeta as star-crossed lovers in the attempt to get them more sponsors. This results in the Gamemakers announcing a new and unprecedented rule: there can be two winners if they are from the same district. Katniss hears this and decides to go find Peeta. She tracks him down and discovers that he’s badly wounded from a fight with Cato, the leader of the Careers. They get to know each other, more shit happens, more people die, some crazy mutant dogs show up, and eventually only the two District 12ers and Cato are left. And then there’s more fighting and only Katniss and Peeta are left, but instead of being declared dual winners, the Gamemakers change the rules again and say there can only be one victor.

Katniss decides a suicide pact with Peeta is a great way to get out of this jam, and the Gamemakers change the rules again and they are both winners. Hurray for District 12. Unfortunately, this action will rock the boat and threaten the dominance of the Capitol. The stage is set for the sequel.

All in all, this is a pretty satisfying movie. Jennifer Lawrence does a great job as Katniss and she carries the movie. Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland also play supporting roles and they add a little flavor. The cast in general was pretty solid, and that’s a tough thing to do with so many teen-aged actors.

I know that the books are probably a lot more detailed, and the movie leaves a bunch of stuff out, but the movie can stand on it’s own. There are too many characters to care about and there are a few plot holes, but that’s typical of most movies these days. It’s worth watching and maybe someday I’ll get around to reading the books.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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