Bruno Mars, you sly dog, you. Earlier this week the singer claimed he wasn't going to be funny during his first go as a Saturday Night Live host, but who could have guessed that he'd not only be funny on the show, but also be the best host of Season 38 so far? (He'll certainly have some competition when the funniest man in showbiz Louis C.K. hosts in two weeks.)
The episode kicked off, predictably, with a cold open riffing on the Town Hall Presidential debate that took place earlier in the week. While the whole thing dragged a little too long (10 minutes, to be exact... if you want to fight me on that, I'll have Candy get the transcripts) and had no mention of "binders full of women," it was all worth the wait to see Jay Pharoah do the mic drop we all wished President Barack Obama had done during the debate and Tom Hanks pop up for the first of his four wonderful surprise appearances during the show. No live television blunders here: Hanks nailed it and earned solid laughs as a nervous Town Hall attendee. When can he host again?
But it was time for the real star of the show, host/musical guest Bruno Mars, to take the stage. And, boy, did he! The Grammy-winning artist put fellow song-and-dance openers Seth MacFarlane and Christina Applegate to shame with his catchy, self-aware (even he pondered "Can I be like Timberlake?"), and undeniably entertaining opening monologue number. At one point, the hat-friendly singer assured the crowd "I'll be amazing, I'll be great" and he wasn't kidding. Watch:
Even when the material wasn't at its best, like the mediocre "Haters" talk show sketch (in which Mars donned drag to play a fast-talking teen with attitude named Crystal) or the downright terrible Yeti cabin getaway sketch, the pop star gave the same level of commitment to each bit. Luckily for Mars, and viewers, those two were the only real lowlights of an otherwise truly standout episode.
In addition to Taran Killam's very funny, splendiferous, mintalicious — albeit, slightly too long-running as it certainly lost steam by the fourth go — take on Brad Pitt's cliched, terrible and prime-for-the-mocking Chanel ad ("Do I look super homeless?"), which took up a good portion of the show, the episode was all but Mars' for the taking. While the Pandora sketch wasn't exactly the funniest or most creative sketch of the night (let's be honest, it was just an excuse to have him sing more), it was hard not to be impressed by the host's wide range of imitations of everyone from Michael Jackson to Justin Bieber to Katy Perry to Steven Tyler to — who knew? — Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Watch the best of the four faux Pitt ads here:
Instead, my favorite sketch of the night belonged to the delightfully off-beat and surprisingly moving "Sad Mouse." Less of a sketch and more of a short film, Mars played a depressed man who dressed up as one of those depressing mascots that wave to tourists in Times Square. Set to melodramatic music, the soul-crushed performer had a smoke and laid down in the middle of a busy New York City street. (For any non-NYC readers, let me assure you, the sight of a patriotic mouse mascot at the end of his rope would not be out of the ordinary.) Just as all hope was lost, Mars' mouse found another down-on-their-luck mascot. The two locked eyes (well, mascot eyes, anyway), waved at each other, and walked off into the night together. If this is how SNL is hoping to fill the Digital Short void, they're off to a good start. Check it out:
If there was anyone or anything that was going to get the SNL audience as riled up as Mars (who put on two solid musical performances with the head-bopping "Locked Out of Heaven" and the soulful "Young Girls," both off his upcoming album Unorthodox Jukebox) and Hanks, it was the one-and-only Stefon. SNL fans have been eagerly waiting since May to see their favorite Weekend Update city correspondent and Bill Hader and his already iconic character did not disappoint.
Stefon's Halloween-themed visit had everything: Stefon's dog Bark Ruffalo, fraisans (that's raisins that look like Frasier), a human piñata (that's a midget — sorry, fun size person — that eats a lot of candy and throws up), and Hader's biggest scene break yet. It was Jewish Dracula Sidney Applebaum that, understandably, did him in. It was all well worth the wait. Plus, there was a rare bonus Stefon appearance when he introduced Mars' second musical performance, while Hanks took care of the first. Watch Stefon's welcome return here:
Since this was technically 2012's Halloween episode of SNL (though there wasn't much focus or mention of it), the creepy and consistently funny animatronics-come-to-life sketch made an overdue appearance this time. In addition to Killam's astoundingly impressive creepy robot moves, this installment featured Mars (who kept up effortlessly with Killam) and Hanks (who made a hilarious nod to how everybody thinks he has a "very likable face") as a murderous ride characters. Watch:
Typically the last sketch of an SNL episode is the worst, but since they'd already gotten that one out of the way with the uncomfortably bad Yeti sketch, they instead filled the space with one of their strongest recurring bits: a commercial for the latest festival from the sadly fictitious Under Underground Records. Imagine if Stefon was a Juggalo and you'd get something like this demented hilarity.
It had everything: a band named Todd Akin and the Legitimate Rapes, a Lincoln/Douglas debate reenacted by Linkin Park and Buster Douglas, a job interview with Herman Cain, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (the already great Kate McKinnon) doing a Borat impression, and the reappearance (and subsequent re-death) of Bobby Moynihan's Ass Dan and his twin Butt Dave. RIP. Even with his brief moment in the sketch as fake ID distributor Troy Kamanawana, Mars was getting big laughs and applause right up until the last minute. Justin Timberlake, you might not want to take too long of a honeymoon, Mars has some serious potential to take your spot.
What did you think of Bruno Mars' turn as both host and musical guest? Which sketch was your favorite? Least favorite? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Photo credit: NBC]
Saturday Night Live: Bruno Mars Pulling Double Duty As Host and Musical Guest
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Alpha Dog has been in the headlines quite a bit ever since last year’s Sundance Film Festival and not coincidentally the headlines actually spawned Alpha Dog. The true story concerns a drug dealer named Jesse James Hollywood who would become one of the youngest people ever on the FBI’s most-wanted list; Alpha Dog for the most part and rather glossily tells the rest of the story. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch)—the Jesse James Hollywood character—is a hothead drug dealer well respected in his suburbanite posse which includes sycophant Elvis (Shawn Hatosy) and burnout Frankie (Justin Timberlake). After speed freak Jake Marzursky (Ben Foster) shorts him in a pot deal and vandalizes his house Johnny exacts revenge by kidnapping Jake’s young brother Zack (Anton Yelchin). To Zack the kidnapping is a blessing an intro to the party lifestyle he’s always wondered about and Johnny and co. aren’t sweating what they think is a scare tactic. But when they learn they’re looking at (long) hard time for the kidnapping the guys realize that simply returning Zack to his house might not be an option. Even though the only real difference between Timberlake and his Frankie may lie in the number of tattoos his (for all intents and purposes) debut performance is a genuine eye-opener and further proof that when you’ve got “it ” the medium just doesn’t matter. Throughout much of the movie Timberlake’s best work is simply making you forget he’s the world’s biggest pop star but he shines most during the movie’s dramatic climax. Yelchin (TV’s Huff) also excels. He’s blessed—or perhaps in Hollywood cursed—with a face that will probably always look younger than it is and that along with his accompanying expressions makes you feel a number of things for his character. Rising star Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown) plays Truelove—in real life the central figure—with equal parts cool and A.J. Soprano hissy fits while Foster (Hostage) is his archenemy and antithesis simmering or exploding in every scene. Audiences will laugh at Foster’s over-the-top turn but it suits the absurdity of his character. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone as parents thrown into the ordeal don’t add much beyond their names but Stone’s botched fat suit in one scene kills an otherwise raw moment. Writer/director Nick Cassavetes turned The Notebook into a surprise box office hit (with a little help from Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling of course) and unfortunately that’s what he tries for with Alpha Dog. It’s a movie that should be more along the lines of Larry Clark’s uncompromising Bully instead of a cross between that film and say Malibu's Most Wanted. Furthermore it seems the Timberlake Effect swayed the director into MTV territory as he apparently tries to reel in some of the pop star’s contingency when this is certainly no kids’ tale even though it’s about kids. But despite the movie’s often ambiguous tone and frequent testosterone injections Cassavetes manages to engage us and take us along for the roller coaster ride. He captures with great accuracy the reckless abandon and invincibility complex with which these specific people operate (and party)—it’s pure hedonism for them and the audience. Until he sets reality into place at which point it inches closer to the aforementioned Bully.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.
We meet the two very unlikely sisters while each are having sex. Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is a successful lawyer who is sleeping with her boss and thinking of ways it can improve her career. Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a party girl and at her 10-year high school reunion--after trying to have a fling in a bathroom stall--she ends up puking instead. Inevitably Maggie gets kicked out of her dad and stepmother's house and winds up on the doorstep of her sister. The Feller girls were close once when they were young girls especially after their mentally unstable mother died. But now their grown-up personalities clash rather dramatically. And when Maggie seriously crosses the line by seducing Rose's new boyfriend the straw is broken. Forced out Maggie stumbles upon some birthday cards from a long-lost grandmother and decides to go hit her up for cash. Turns out Grandma Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in a senior citizen's community in Florida that gets its humor from Golden Girls re-runs. Maggie may ingratiate herself within this new environment but isn't any more redeemed by reconnecting with Ella. She still acts like a petulant child. But rather than throwing her out Ella along with the gang of old folk forces Maggie to take some responsibility.
Collette (The Sixth Sense) is fantastic as the frumpy pudgy Philadelphia lawyer who gives up everything so she can walk dogs and lead a simpler life. But she's done this many times before--and honestly is so much better than Muriel's Wedding. Diaz (my personal favorite Charlie's Angel) doesn't need to stretch too far to play a conniving ditz with a heart. This is her There's Something About Mary role albeit a tad more screwed-up with a sister and lost grandma. So that leaves MacLaine as the saving grace for any worthwhile acting in this movie. Despite the obvious shuffleboard clichés--and the occasional leers at Diaz by the old guys around the pool--when the old folk are around the film gets lively and tolerable believe it or not. MacLaine leads the way with the quips and barbs but in a more subtle way than we are used to from this usually eccentric actress. The supporting cast of cranky cronies have some great moments especially veteran actor Norman Lloyd as the blind professor who teaches Maggie a thing or two about manners trust and family.
If this were Nora Ephron directing that would have been one thing but coming from Curtis Hanson the Oscar-winner who gave us L.A. Confidential it just doesn't mesh. Hanson can do quirky (Wonder Boys) he can do adventure (The River Wild) he can do hard-hittin' rap stories (8 Mile) and he can even do scary (Hand That Rocks the Cradle) but why in the world would he attempt a saccharine-soaked female family story that threatens to be a Crimes of the Heart tear-jerker? Screenwriter Susannah Grant who adapted In Her Shoes from Jennifer Weiner's popular bestseller of the same name also wrote Erin Brockovich and 28 Days. She understands strong female characters but there's still a major layer of sugar coating that Hanson can't scrape off. He doesn't tone anything down from Grant's script--not the overly cute dogs nor the embarrassing bridal shower nor the expected moments of guilt-tripping between the ladies. Instead he plods through the paint-by-number script and wraps it all up nicely into a crowd-pleasing film that is ultimately forgettable.
Holly Hunter got game. A game of tennis, that is. The Academy Award-winning actress ("The Piano") is going to portray tennis legend Billie Jean King in the ABC television movie, tentatively titled "Battle of the Sexes," which follows the 1972 match between King and Bobby Riggs.
King, the No. 1 women's player at the time, handily defeated Riggs, ranked No. 100, in the highly publicized match. Riggs had boasted that the No. 100 men's tennis player could defeat the top women's player.
DUNCAN GOES 'APES': Michael Clarke Duncan, the colossal actor of "The Green Mile" fame, is in final talks to join the cast of Tim Burton’s "Planet of the Apes," The Hollywood Reporter says.
SPIKE ON BOXING: The Reporter also informs us that director Spike Lee is currently working on a biopic on boxing legend Joe Louis. The project, which is expected to go into production in August or September 2001, will chronicle the boxer’s career and longtime rivalry with Max Schmeling.
STONED ON CONSPIRACY: The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the conspiracy-minded Oliver Stone is interested in making another conspiracy-minded film. This one's about an alleged plot by Republicans to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
POITIER AS 'BRICKMAKER': Entertainment Weekly Online reports that Sidney Poitier will star in the CBS movie "The Last Brickmaker in America," about a real-life brickmaker who loses his wife and job, then finds a friend in a troubled teen.