DVD Review: ‘THE SPOILS BEFORE DYING’ is another hit for Funny Or Die and IFC


Starring Michael Kenneth Williams, Maya Rudolph 
and Kristen Wiig

Available on DVD as of June 7, 2016

The Spoils Before Dying” showcases an all-star cast including, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, RoboCop, “The Wire”), Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live,” Bridesmaids, Big Hero 6), Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live,” Bridesmaids), and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay It Forward). Produced by Funny Or Die with executive producers Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Nate Young, Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, “The Spoils Before Dying” was written by Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont (who also directed). “The Spoils Before Dying” is the second book, based on fictional famous author Eric Jonrosh’s (Will Ferrell) first best-selling epic novel The Spoils of Babylon. Season two from the “Spoils” franchise premiered on IFC on July 8, 2015, and includes six half-hour episodes.
maya rudolph and michael KENNETH WILLIAMSThe series centers on Michael Kenneth Williams as Rock Banyon, who becomes the prime suspect in the double murder of his occasional lover Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph) who is found dead with another man. Panicked, Rock splits for Mexico where he reunites with his one-time big band singer Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig). With 72 hours to clear his name or fry in the electric chair, Rock and Delores embark on a dangerous quest for the truth that takes them into an abyss of sex, drugs, betrayal, and of course, jazz. While his world crumbles, Rock’s hard-charging manager Alistair St. Barnaby (Haley Joel Osment) pressures him to record a mainstream jazz album.

will ferrell TSBD stillFunny Or Die can pretty much do no wrong in my opinion. Following up on the 2014 The Spoils of Babylon, The Spoils Before Dying is another total win. If you haven’t seen the first season in IFC, imagine a Sin City narrative combined with the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse schlock and add in the compressed timing of an SNL Digital Short (sort of, each episode is 30 minutes). Tough in our age of binge-watching, you can happily run through the entire series in the time it would take you to watch any other film, half as fun. The mock commercials stuck into the episodes are as completely tongue-in-cheek as the rest of the production. kristen wiig TSBDThe performances are off the rails hilarious. Will Ferrell reprising his role as Eric Jonrosh is pure insanity. His oftentimes linear thinking combined with overindulgence and narcissism is pitch perfect. Michael Kenneth Williams is a breath of fresh air as he takes on his role with (almost) complete seriousness. We all knew Maya Rudolf has a set of pipes on her, but I had no idea that Kristen Wiig can sing. And when I say sing, I really mean SAAAANNNNNGGGG. The songs are unapologetically ridiculous AND maintain gorgeous melodies. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Haley Joel Osment, who steals each scene he appears in with total commitment and one over-the-top accent. With appearances by Tim Robbins, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon, Michael Sheen, Chris Parnell, Tim Meadows, to name a few,  you simply cannot go wrong with this series. The Spoils Before Dying is now available in DVD. Check out the trailer below!

‘The Ladies of the House’ serves up the smart and sexy. Liz talks flipping the script on genre protagonists.

LOTH posterTypical horror gene fair has the protagonist as a weak young woman who is constantly running up the stairs only to get stabbed during sex or in the shower. While I am not making a dig at Psycho, because we all know that is will always be some brilliant and sick stuff, I am bringing up the obvious that women in horror tend to be the victims. Refreshingly, in John Stuart Wildman‘s The Ladies of the House, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The premise seems relatively simple; brothers Kai and Jacob, and friend Derek, go to a strip club for Kai’s birthday. But, when they decide to follow one of the strippers as she departs, they are in for quite the surprise. This house is home to a group of lovely cannibals.LOTH wasabe - belladonna- MichellePerformances by our leading ladies are strong and quirky due to the smart writing from husband and wife team of Wildman and Justina Walford. The often funny moments come from vitriolic insults they sling at the men and one another. Each character is fully fleshed out, most likely making it a blast to perform. Michelle Sinclair plays Ginger. Perhaps best known as former adult actress Belladonna, Michelle does a great job on screen as newest housemate. Farah White plays Lin (our June Cleaver mommy monster, whose patience and civility are balanced on a razor thin edge) is fully settled into this role. The “Lady of the House,” Getty, is played stupendously by Melodie Sisk. This “take no shit” gal is pretty much my favorite performance of the entire film. Brina Palencia is our sex-crazed, emotionally-stunted lovely. Keeping men for play is her game. But can this family survive these feisty gentlemen? Speaking of which, Samrat Chakrabarti, as Derek, is real douchebag. No love lost for this total asshole, which in its own right, is a compliment. Gabriel Horn, as Jacob, plays the classic, submissive peacemaker. Doomed or not, the passive manner doesn’t help his character’s cause in this film. Finally, we have Kai. Clearly a little bit (or a lot) of a simpleton, RJ Hanson‘s portrayal is sickening… which is a good word here. This gentle giant has a sexually charged trigger that gets him into some hot water. Every beat is well thought out and I couldn’t  take my eyes off of him.LOTH stillThe ladies each have their own specific color they sport throughout the film. Their pin-up style radiates from their wardrobe to the impeccable set design by Winona Yu. The majority of the house is like Pee-Wee Herman‘s Playhouse only scarier, and I do mean that as a compliment. Not a tchotchke out of place, it is filled with delicious details top to bottom. The super cool cinematography from Beau Ethridge is a funky combination of fly on wall, handheld closeups, and my favorite shots in the film, super high angles that are akin to surveillance footage. The biggest practical effect is vomit inducing, no doubt, something Eli Roth would be proud to call his own and a dinner table scene that is surely a fandom nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with dialogue Taratino would pen in a heartbeat. I was truly impressed with the gore factor as it was just enough to make a point. The music is incredible. A rockabilly tune here, to classic 50’s make out sounding mix tape there, I want it all for my very own. THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE - Farah White as 'Lin' and Melodie Sisk as 'Getty' (Photo by Marc Lee)While, yes, we’re talking about a grindhouse indie film about lady cannibals, we cannot overlook the empowerment factor so often thrown to the wind in the horror genre. When women kick some serious ass, and are cleverly written, how can we not stand up and cheer? This film’s undertone is blatantly about love and protection… with a little bit of the kooky macabre thrown in for good measure. Not since Robert Rodríguez/Tarantino‘s 2007 GRINDHOUSE with Planet Terror and Death Proof, which flung the exploitation genre back into the spotlight, has there been a film where the ladies are the winner-winner, this time human dinner. Or perhaps more fitting a comparison in this case would be 2003 release High Tension, which if you haven’t yet seen, for shame. My only gripe is that I might trim the length 15-20 minutes to tighten up the story’s flow, but that’s being nit-picky. Anytime I can watch my favorite genre hold a candle to a bygone era of kitsch, I give Wildman and Walford major props for putting it all out there and for giving us something that can easily be shown as a drive-in cult classic in the future. Now I want to know, what’s next?

The Ladies of the House comes to VOD platforms on May 1.

You can preorder the film on iTunes. 

Santa Claus, King Moonracer and Most of the Other Reindeer Are Giant A-holes – A Reflection on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at 50


For fifty years now, families have gathered together to sit and watch the children’s classic movie Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer. As I have again started to watch this with my own children, I’ve always been struck by one thing – Santa the slave-driving fascist, King Moonracer of the Island of Misfit Toys and the bulk of the other reindeer surrounding Rudolph, including his father Donner, are just outright assholes.

From the day of Rudolph’s birth, Santa is on his ass about his nose. When Santa visits to see the new buck and Rudolph’s nose starts to glow (as the ubiquitous song points out), Santa says, “Great bouncing icebergs! Let’s hope [it stops] if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.” As if having a red nose somehow prohibits his ability to fly a damn sleigh. And his bastard of a father shows what backbone he’s got (none) by agreeing with Santa. So what does he do? He first covers Rudolph’s nose with mud and when that doesn’t work, he puts on a cap making him sound like a kid with an allergy to cats who gets locked in an animal shelter. Not exactly setting him up for success, are they?


Despite this auspicious beginning, Rudolph goes to try out for the sleigh team on the day of the Reindeer Games. There he meets Fireball and despite his ridiculous sounding voice (courtesy of the stupid nose cap), he and Fireball hit it off. When they see a couple of does nearby, the mack is on. Fireball prods Rudolph into talking to one exceptionally cute doe named Clarice. After throwing out his smooth lines and getting her to agree to walk home with him, Clarice tells him she thinks he’s cute. This literally sends him into orbit and he jumps into the sky and flies better than all of the other mean ass reindeer at the games.

rudolph - r and clarice

But when he and Fireball engage in a little reindeer fun, his nose cap comes off. And that’s when the shit hits the fan. Fireball immediately yells at Rudolph to get away from him and that’s when the other lemming reindeer come in and start the insults. Instead of stopping the nonsense, Santa scolds his father. “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself. What a pity.” And to add insult to the injury, Comet the coach, dick that he is, announces to all of the other bucks as they head back to practice, “Oh no, not you. You better go home with your folks. From now on gang, we won’t let Rudolph join in any Reindeer Games, right?” Clarice is the only stand up deer in the bunch as she is still interested in Rudolph despite his “malady”. Of course, her assfaced father comes and busts them up because he doesn’t want any doe of his with a red-nosed reindeer.


When Rudolph meets Hermey the Dentist Elf, he at least finds a kindred spirit. Hermey, like Rudolph, was run out of Christmastown because he didn’t want to be like every other single-minded toy slave that the other elves were. He probably didn’t dig Santa bagging on the elves for their singing either. They pal up and along their way, they pick up Yukon Cornelius, a precious metals prospector and loner himself. The triumvirate, in escaping the terrible Abominable Snow Monster, Bumble, end up on the Island of Misfits Toys where they, misfits in their own right, hope to stay. Of course, King Moonracer isn’t having any of it stating that the island is only for toys, stating, “Unlike playthings, a living creature cannot hide himself on an island.” I guess he missed the part where he is a living damn creature. After denying them asylum, Moonracer has the balls to ask them a favor! This guy. He asks them when they return to Christmastown, would they ask Santa to come pick up all of the misfit toys and get them to children? Uhhh, Moonracer – Santa basically consented to Rudolph being run out of town, much in the same way you did. Why would they ever go back let alone do you a favor?


The last turn of assholishness occurs at the end of the movie when Santa declares Christmas is canceled because of some storm. Now, did it not occur to Santa that Christmas could be delayed? That he would rather just ruin the lives of every child on earth who celebrate the holiday rather than reschedule is insane to me. Talk about tunnel vision. Perhaps the most insulting thing he does the entire movie is when he literally sees the light (of Rudolph’s nose to be exact). Only when he figures out that Rudolph can be of any use to him in this exact moment does he embrace him. “That nose. That beautiful, wonderful nose of yours!” Wait a minute – you told his father he should be ashamed of him because of that nose, now it’s beautiful and wonderful? Fuck that. And Donner in true fashion says, “I knew that nose would be useful someday. I knew it all along!” No you didn’t. You were as much of a dick to him as Santa was, Donner, you sycophantic ass, so cut the shit. You see a chance to capitalize on your son’s new status, no different than Honey Boo-Boo‘s mom.

rudolph - santa throwing shade

It’s no wonder kids who grow up watching this turn into assholes, too. This is the blueprint on how to be racist, afraid of “others” (poor Bumble), tyrannical, indifferent and cruel. Get ’em while they’re young, I guess. I don’t know what their intentions were, but maybe the writers and director were using the film as a mirror for American society to look at itself as a way to change these behaviors. I seriously doubt that, though.

My kids love this movie and I remember it with fondness from my childhood as well. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some bad shit in there, though. It’s a wonder kids love Santa at all after watching this. His dickheadedness is hardly subtle. The only thing he doesn’t seem to do is punch his wife or kick a dog. Maybe Tarantino will direct a grindhouse version of it and we’ll get those two elements taken care of. Fifty years on, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is still a staple in American households. My questions is, should it be?