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Category:    Home > Reviews > Reality TV > Cable > Filmmaking > Comedy > Vulgar > The Chair: The Complete First Season (w/Holidaysburg and Not Cool/2014/Starz/Anchor Bay DVD)/Let's Kill Ward's Wife (2014/Well Go USA Blu-ray)

The Chair: The Complete First Season (w/Holidaysburg and Not Cool/2014/Starz/Anchor Bay DVD)/Let's Kill Ward's Wife (2014/Well Go USA Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/B- Sound: C+ Extras: C/C- Main Programs: C+/C-

Here's two seeming different releases that show how bottom-of-the-barrel comedy is played out and how badly hoping any feature-length version of could work is a lost cause.

We start with a 'reality TV' series that is part of a smaller cycle of competition shows where people are chosen in a contest to make a feature film. This time we get The Chair: The Complete First Season (2014) from an Executive Producer of Project Greenlight, the best of these shows that never turned up a memorable and/or hit feature film. In this case, the two picked first-time directors will make a film based on the same (bad?) comedy script in Pittsburgh, PA in an attempt to show off the city and see who can make the best version. Instead, we get two duds in a 10-episode exercise that is like watching Showgirls with smart people. It is amazing (and not faked) how everyone seems to make the worst possible decision at every turn.

Among the people that are involved, many do not even appear on the show (hmmmm), but Zachary Quinto's production company is involved and he shows up with his two partners often. After all the people who entered to be part of this, we get Anna Martemucci (who is with one of the producers in private life) and Shane Dawson (an Internet star who has been making shorts for 6 years and allegedly has 10 Million followers on social media). Those choices right there already means this is going to be too safe and there is likely trouble ahead.

Miss Martemucci does a whittled-down rewrite, moves it to a town smaller than Pittsburgh and dubs her project Holidaysburg, while Mr. Dawson goes for an even more gross-out direction that also ignored Pittsburgh for the most part and ironically names his with the highly appropriate title Not Cool. Indeed. From there, they start the process of hiring people for this (we see some Pittsburgh film production regulars, but the contradiction we get it that this should show off the city while the city is said to (generically?) be able to stand in for any other city. So much for promoting production there.

Then the films (both shot on HD) start production and you can see two slow-motion train wrecks in the making. If anything, this is an extended guide on how not to make your feature debut or make any kind of indie production. Miss Martemucci lands up making a warmed-over mumblecore comedy with no laughs, little energy and much confusion, while Mr. Dawson (somehow unaware of himself, but soon boxing himself into a corner that becomes his undoing; not listening to any advice, for instance) wants to go over the top and hog up the camera behind the scenes and in front of it at every opportunity with the excuse that it is being made for his fans. He says he wants to expand his audience, but his sheer inexperience catches up with him big time and does zero to add anything for a new audience.

I will save the rest of the twists and turns for another time, but the makers picked the wrong people and genre for this experiment and it landed up costing them almost $1.5 Million on both films when both directors could have shots them in a weekend with friends for free on an old camcorder. Wow, is the indie film scene in deep trouble! If there is a second season, could they do worse? Yikes! All screenplays should have been fried in an electric chair!

The two finished features, plus Deleted Scenes for Not Cool, are the extras.

Scott Foley's Let's Kill Ward's Wife (2014) may have Foley making his directorial debut and have older actors (including Patrick Wilson, Donald Faison and Nicolette Sheridan), but it manages to be worse than the two Chair films and part of the as-played-out 'we-accidentally-killed-someone-we-did-not-like' cycle that was a dud the first time out. Of course, you'd expect somewhat experienced professionals with some success to not make the same mistakes as novices on a TV show, but incredibly, they somehow do worse and the result is beyond unfunny, overly precalculated and barely qualifies as comedy. See it at your own risk.

Outtakes and a trailer are the only extras.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Chair and the two films are about even, with some softness and sloppiness, but the shots of Pittsburgh (often supplied by the great, landmark PBS public television affiliate WQED) are often artificially darkened and denatured so much, how in the hell are they supposed to promote Pittsburgh. The shots make Dance Moms (also partly shot in Pittsburgh) look like a Smithsonian Channel special! The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Kill looks a little better than the three DVD presentations offered, but not as much as you might think as it is a little dark and dim, much like the production itself.

As for sound, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Chair and the two films have their ups and downs, though you'd expect location audio issues on the 10 episodes of the show, but sound on both final films were not that great to my surprise. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Kill should be better by default, but the whole thing is moire poorly recorded than usual throughout and I double checked it. Guess they were laughing amongst themselves too much to notice?

- Nicholas Sheffo


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