fbpx
Connect with us

Entertainment

Review: On The Count Of Three

A past-due calling card for actor-director Jerrod Carmichael

Published

on

WARNING: This review, and this film, contain discussions of suicide.

On the Count of Three’s premise—two childhood friends who make a suicide pact and spend their last day on Earth together—is certainly fresh. So what feels stale about it?

It’s not that we’ve seen too many comedies about suicide before. It does, I suppose, bear some resemblance to other race-against-the-clock (Good Time) or apocalyptic (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) comedies. Maybe it doesn’t commit to darkness as much as these comedies; there’s certainly a humanist core deep down here.

But I think we all sort of know why this movie can’t fully work in 2022: it’s a movie Jerrod Carmichael made in 2020. The director and star has seen a long-overdue rise to stardom in these past months after a series of false starts. He’d already had a breakout role in a hit comedy, a sitcom starring vehicle, a special directed by Spike Lee, and a recurring feature on 2019’s biggest album.

Last month, the stars finally aligned. He came out as gay, dropped a smash-hit comedy special, and hosted SNL all in the span of a week. It’s no surprise that Annapurna Pictures quickly moved to release On the Count of Three, which they picked up at Sundance in January 2021.

Here’s the rub: On the Count of Three lacks the self-assuredness of Carmichael’s recent rise. It doesn’t feel like the film, or the version of this film, that he would’ve made today. His performance as both actor and director is good, but held to a certain restriction.

Carmichael plays Val, a down-on-his-luck laborer who ventures to commit suicide with the help of his recently-hospitalized friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott). 

While there’s a certain comical bleakness to Val’s life—he essentially shovels dirt for a living—there’s an interesting idea of suicidal ideation here. Val’s thoughts of killing himself don’t come from stagnation or trauma, but from dissatisfaction with achievement. He makes his first attempt right after getting a promotion, and we later learn that he had planned to propose to his now-pregnant partner, Natasha (Tiffany Haddish).

As director, Carmichael wisely avoids eating up the film and splits lead duties with Abbott. If anything, Abbott gets the real star showcase here, again proving his dynamic magnetism after a series of weirdo indie turns like Vox Lux, Possessor, and Black Bear.

Still, there’s a classic comedic duo chemistry here. Carmichael is the rock around which Abbott orbits. The setup also gives them plenty of opportunities to subvert that dynamic. When Val’s confrontation with his father (J.B. Smoove) gets heated, Kevin has to be the one to pull him back. But, when they come to blows, Kevin’s the one with the tire iron.

Black comedy is always a tricky balancing act. Penn and Teller Get Killed is notorious for going all-in on nihilism and failing to connect. I think this film mostly succeeds, but its uncertainty with its own dark philosophy is, again, reflective of a more self-conscious point in Carmichael’s career.

In Kevin’s first scene, he delivers a monologue about how doctors have been trying to fix him since he was eight years old, and if his life was worth saving, they’d have done it by now. Much of the film follows Kevin’s quest to kill a childhood doctor who molested him (played by Henry Winkler). Ultimately, it’s Val who pulls the trigger, but only after he decides to choose life. His decision to choose life only comes after a guilt trip from Natasha, who lays out how he’ll still be guilty in death if he abdicates his responsibility as a father.

All of which is to say, this is in many ways a philosophically bleak movie. But at the same time, the humanism of the direction kind of betrays that philosophy. There are a lot of monsters around the central players here, but the cashiers, receptionists, and other random side characters they meet along the way are given a stark innocence.

I’m not sure how I feel about any of this. Is it too bleak? Not bleak enough? Or just not made with enough confidence to come out strongly in either direction? Whatever the case, I think this movie hums along perfectly fine. Until the last minute.

For the most part, On the Count of Three is very insular. We’re never not following Val and Kevin, and it takes place over the course of a day that they spend almost completely alone. 

The final shot, which I won’t give away, finally pulls us out. We recognize that Val’s story is one of a million stories, all different, all wrestling with life and death, and all ending in the same rotten place. It’s certainly the most striking ending I’ve seen this year, and it made me think twice about the film overall.

When I’m reflecting on this year, I don’t think On the Count of Three will end up one of my favorites. Seeing how far Carmichael has come, this film’s steady, dry lob isn’t the catapult that Annapurna hoped it would be. Still, it’s a perfectly solid film. It’s absolutely worth seeing for its final shot alone. B
On the Count of Three is now playing at Landmark’s Ritz Five and available on digital.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Entertainment

FN Meka, the world’s first AI rapper, gets booted out by record label

Published

on

fn meka

It’s not unusual for companies to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create artist personas. In the 2022 VMAs, Eminem and Snoop Dogg performed in the metaverse with their digital alter egos. And AI rappers are no different. In April 2019, FN Meka debuted as the world’s first AI-powered rapper. 

Soon enough, he gained a huge following on Tiktok for his Hypebeast aesthetic and larger-than-life personality. In 2021, his Tiktok ballooned to 10 million followers. His popularity prompted Capital Records to sign him on August 14 this year. But, internet users began pulling up records of his questionable online behavior. Ten days later, his label booted him out.

Here’s how it happened. 

Apparently, AI rappers exist. 

FN Meka’s concept isn’t a true original. In fact, when it comes to virtual rap avatars, you’d probably think of British rap group Gorillaz first. 

Brandon Le created the AI rapper avatar to sell non-fungible tokens. However, executive Anthony Martini led the avatar to new heights. Martini signed the rapper to Factory New, a record label he made for virtual artists. 

His first single, “Florida Water,” features Gunna and Cody “Cix” Conrod, a Fortnite player. On the day FN Meka signed the deal, the single was released.

The rapper is the first artist to sign in Factory New. 

The downfall

A few days after his new record deal, Industry Blackout, an online activist group, called out FN Meka over his questionable actions. 

For one, the AI rapper had used the N-word in several of his songs, including his first single. He also mocked police brutality and posted a picture of himself being beaten up by the police. 

Plus, FN Meka was criticized for racially stereotyping Black people because of his appearance and aesthetic. Furthermore, rumors began circulating that no actual Black people were involved in his creation in the first place. 

Other news outlets also criticized the AI rapper for collaborating with Gunna, who is in jail for racketeering. 

The record company has since dropped him. In a statement, the record label offered “their deepest apologies to the Black community.” Because of FN Meka’s actions, the label has cut ties with him “effective immediately.” 

More and more problems

It doesn’t end there.

Kyle the Hooligan has come forward as the voice behind FN Meka. And the rapper has dropped new information on the issue. He alleges that the company did not pay him for the first three songs he made for the AI rapper. He also claims to have been ghosted by the creators at around 2021, when FN Meka just started gaining traction.

Of course, this comes as a surprise. Factory New claims that the AI writes the song while the humans only perform it.

Kyle doesn’t know who currently voices FN Meka, and he hasn’t probed it. What we know for sure, though, is that the rapper is based on other trendy rappers like Ice Narco, Lil Pump, and 6ix9ine. 

On August 28, Kyle the Hooligan announced that he would file a lawsuit against Brandon Le and Factory New. 

There’s a sort of irony in FN Meka. The AI rapper, voiced by a Black artist, is the product of white creators. And some activists and critics even call the AI rapper a new form of blackface. Here, critics argue that anyone can use and adopt Blackness without being Black. Today, a majority of FN Meka’s music and videos have been deleted from TikTok. Martini has also walked away from Factory New and FN Meka, leaving the rapper’s fate hanging in the air.

Continue Reading

Entertainment

How Diddy Turned a Nothing Vodka Into a Success

Published

on

You remember the early 2000s, right? All about the flip phones, rented tapes from Blockbuster, those low-rise jeans I could never pull off, and of course, a music revolution. 

Pretty much every decade had its unique flavor of popular music. But from 2000 to 2010, while garage rock was making a comeback, we also saw the uprise in amazing hip-hop tracks. One of the big artists from that era was Sean Combs. Better known as  P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Love, or whatever you wanna call him. 

Diddy; you’ve probably heard of him. He’s responsible for the hit tracks such as Bad Boys for Life, I’ll Be Missing You, and I Need A Girl (Parts 1 and 2). He’s also known for being the face of a well-known vodka company.  Although Ciroc is one of the most coveted beverage brands, things weren’t always so easy for them.   You might be surprised to learn that Diddy is the sole reason you know the name in the first place.

About Ciroc

From the Spruce Eats

 Ciroc is a French brand that produces alcoholic beverages.  Established in 2003, it mainly creates different flavors of vodka. But it also sells brandy as well. Ciroc is different from other vodkas in that it sources its alcohol from grapes rather than grain or potatoes. Its quality is, well, questionable. Well, it generally has good reviews some have claimed otherwise. According to Wine experts, the fruit used for Ciroc and many other beverages is Trebbiano grapes. They’re known as an unsophisticated grape; the type that doesn’t cost much and tends to produce undistinguished alcohol. 

Well, wine experts, I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t care. As long as the alcohol tastes good and does its job, then people will buy it. The success of alcohol depends mainly on marketing. And nothing is better proof of this than Ciroc. 

At first, Ciroc had a stupidly tough time establishing itself within the American markets. For a while, they collaborated with some no-name athletes. Earl Little was one of the first to promote it. They soon introduced Ciroc to various nightclubs with minimal success. Still, they were the 50th-ranked premium vodka. They were struggling just to sell 40000 cases. Something needed to change; they needed to do something drastic in order to become a success. 

How Diddy Elevated It

From Fortune

In 2007, Diddy was recruited to be a spokesperson for Ciroc. He was sort of a last resort, as the company decided they didn’t have much to lose. In typical Diddy fashion, he took this unknown brand and made it really cool. He took over Ciroc’s marketing in the United States, applying his unique salesmanship to it. And by that I mean, he was shocking. 

Here’s a good example. In the early 2000s, one of the key events of the decade was Obama’s run for president. Meanwhile, Diddy began calling himself  “Ciroc Obama,” basing much of his promotion on that one pun. 

Aside from the jokes, Diddy would also give the company free product placement and his music videos. He went on to create endless flavors for Ciroc Vodka, promoting it whenever he had the chance. His advertisements emphasized the “sexiness” of using grapes as the source of alcohol. He made it clear that no other vodka was like it. Over time, Diddy’s name became intrinsically tied to the brand. Within a few years, Ciroc skyrocketed to #2 on the premium vodka listings.

Nowadays, Diddy still creates flavors and promotes Ciroc in his own unorthodox way.

Featured image from Rolling Stone

Continue Reading

Business

Is The “Death” Of Choco Taco A Marketing Ploy?

Published

on

Guys, I have bad news. On July 25, 2022, Klondike made a devastating announcement:

Over the past two years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide.

“A necessary part of this process is that we sometimes must discontinue products, 

“even a beloved item like Choco Taco.

“We know this may be very disappointing, but we hope you’ll try one of our other great products, including–

Shut up! I don’t care about your other lame products! We want Choco Taco!

I don’t get it, Klondike. You’ll drop Choco Taco but keep Klondike Shakes?! This is the saddest ice cream news since Coldstone Creamery insisted on making their employees sing as a means to distract consumers from their inadequate business model. 

But I digress…

This Doesn’t Make Sense

What’s this about, Klondike? Why discontinue an ice cream truck staple? Were sales really lagging that much? Why do you have to make room for other products? You have, like, four other things. You can’t hang onto the iconic Choco Taco?

None of this makes sense. Unless, of course, it’s all a marketing scheme. 

After the announcement, Twitter had an eruption of expletives (what’s new?). 

Why would the Klondike brand make a decision like this? Either this is a marketing scheme to create surge profits down the line. Or Klondike is being run by a bunch of morons. 

The Klondike brand is owned by Good Humor-Breyers Corp. which is owned by Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company. Fun fact: Unilever is the largest producer of soap in the world. 

We have ice cream decisions being made by a bunch of limey soap-hawking suits. 

Unilever’s YTD stock is down, though they’ve had a teeny tiny upward trend in the last month. Could this giant international conglomerate be faking the discontinuation of a beloved summer treat in order to regain profit? Unlikely.

Still, one has to wonder whether the discontinuation of Choco Taco is a simple marketing ploy to increase sales. Why not? 

There’s a Precedent for Bringing Back Discontinued Products

Plenty of products have been discontinued only for them to later return. Notable products include Dunkaroos, Waffle Crisp, 3D Doritos, and Crystal Pepsi. Planters, known for their immortal mascot, brought back their Cheez Balls after a public campaign for their return

Perhaps the most famous of these is the McDonald’s McRib. The irresistible boneless pork sandwich molded into the shape of ribs was first introduced in 1981 but discontinued in 1985 only to be brought back later that year and discontinued again in 2005. Now the McRib is available here and there as a limited edition option

It’s the “limited edition” that makes consumers salivate the most, isn’t it? The very idea that something could only be available only for a short while increases desire. A sudden sense of exclusivity or rarity makes something immediately valuable. It’s a classic supply-and-demand tactic. We want what we cannot have. 

We see you, Klondike/Good Humor-Breyers/Unilever. 

Will Choco Taco Return?

Maybe one day. For now, there will be ice cream fiends hoarding and rationing out Choco Tacos, trading them like currency in an increasingly dystopian society. 

Reddit user FilthyGunger eloquently wrote

I thought it would be here forever, and I always told myself I’ll have one later but later is here and a choco taco is not.

“It’s [sic] like losing a dog, but instead of a loving animal, it’s an ice cream-filled taco topped with chocolate and nuts. 

“Honestly, if there was anything I could say about its passing, I would say that the world didn’t just lose an ice cream taco, it lost its way.

RIP Choco Taco. For now.

Continue Reading

Trending