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Headlining this week in streaming is something of an unlikely suspect – comedians Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery’s hidden camera prank film Bad Trip, which purposefully emulates the structures of a typical scripted studio comedy while roping in the unsuspecting public into absurd set pieces and some genuinely charming moments.
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Bad Trip - Netflix
In director Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip, it’s all in the execution. Hidden camera comedy with performed characters (here done by Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery) is hardly a new concept in cinema – both Borat films, Jackass and more all played with the format to widespread success – but with Bad Trip, the latest spin on this brand of comedy is in how it formally mimics its scripted, studio comedy peers – right down to its pacing and narrative construction.
Watch a trailer for Bad Trip
The comedic set-ups and set pieces are wonderful and like the best of its type, even touches on some genuine moments that something scripted could not replicate.
Eighth Grade - Netflix
On paper, YouTube comedian and songwriter Bo Burnham’s feature debut sounds like prototypical Sundance fare. But in fact, Eighth Grade manages a compelling balance between the acidic comedy for which the performer became famous, and an almost uncanny empathy with its young characters. Following the 13-year-old Kayla (the magnificent Elsie Fisher), a budding vlogger enduring her final week of middle school, Burnham observes the embarrassments and complications of contemporary adolescence with a deep understanding of the real implications of the advent of social media on this young generation.
There’s also a broader relatability in the more straightforward, mortifying terrors of being a teenager, whether that’s going to parties where you don’t know anyone or trying to be cool around older peers — while it’s a high school coming-of-age comedy, you wouldn’t be far off calling Eighth Grade a horror film.
Also on Netflix: Greta
Tina - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
The latest documentary from T.J.Martin and Daniel Lindsay, directors of Undefeated and LA 92, Tina often feels like it came off an assembly line at the documentary factory, complete with all the heightened visual quirks you’d expect of such a film.
The usual panning shots of contact sheets, dramatic zooms into rolling tapes, cross-cutting between audio interviews and their published print versions, melodramatic piano cues doing their best to emulate Philip Glass. Its constant centring on Tina Turner’s voice is its saving grace, always coming back to her own words in telling the story of her professional career and her abusive marriage to Ike Turner.
Watch a trailer for Tina
The film is meant to be a paean against the cruel sensationalising that the news media made of that long and traumatic chapter in the singer’s life, but through their visuals Martin and Lindsay come dangerously close to doing that very same thing, heightening and focusing on the worst parts of her life in the same way so many have before. The music can sometimes feel secondary to the rest, but the documentary is handily at its best when it figures out how to balance its frequently astounding performance footage with the person behind it and her newfound emotional closure.
Also on NOW: Six Minutes to Midnight, Finding The Way Back
La La Land - BBC iPlayer
Harkening back to the bright pastels and melancholic romance of classic musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (as well as Hollywood’s history of musicals — winningly opening with the “Presented in Cinemascope” title card) Damien Chazelle’s widely acclaimed follow-up to Whiplash, La La Land, is preoccupied with imperfections. Whether that’s in the dreams of its protagonists, their relationship with each other, the respective careers they chose, their relationship with each other, hell even the performers’ talent for song and dance.
That’s where both the film’s optimism and emotional realism comes from, in the idealism to keep pushing forward with seemingly untenable desires, and also knowing when something isn’t meant to work. La La Land is better for its delectable visuals and immersion in that tumultuous romance than it is for any real innovations in the musical format, but it’s a beautiful pastiche and a lovely weekend watch regardless.
Also on iPlayer: Detroit