Reno 911!  - Miami (2007)

Michael Buening

Rather than continue to play off their stock traits, the writers and cast of Reno 911!: Miami should have used the new locale to reveal deeper abysses of their ineptitude and richer shadings of their hypocrisies.

Reno 911! - Miami

Director: Robert Ben Garant
Cast: Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney, Robert Ben Garant, Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd
Distributor: Fox
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Fox
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2007-06-19

Reno 911!, Strangers with Candy, Stella, The Sarah Silverman Program, Viva Variety: Comedy Central has been fleshing out its programming with side projects by established writers and performers for years. The shows are low budget, rushed, tossed off, and wildly inconsistent. But they often radiate an "it doesn't matter so let's do what we want" insider chumminess and eccentricity that makes for enjoyably offbeat couch viewing.

These types of shows are also ripe for cult fandom, which leads to DVD sales, which leads to somebody thinking there's enough financial windfall to justify a spin-off movie. But a show that is little more than a glorified sketch rarely makes for a good movie. The feature length running time of Reno 911!: Miami, like the Strangers With Candy (2005) movie from two summers ago, magnifies the show's faults without offering clever plotting or unique situations to make up for it. On the big screen, for 10 bucks, the seeming apathy with which a storyline is stitched together loses its slacker charm.

On DVD, Reno reclaims some of the low-key appeal of the show while remaining a rather pointless exercise. It's bolstered by two in-character commentary tracks, promotional clips, and media coverage of the casts' Borat-style (2006) marketing blitz. The commentaries, stream-of-consciousness conversations covering everything from turtle sex to "monkey poop coffee" and the outdated name Twentieth Century Fox, are actually more inventive than the on-screen action.

After a Die Hard (1988) style opening sequence (says Deputy Travis Junior [Robert Ben Garant] on the commentary, "What I always wonder is, if this is a documentary, how do they document the dreams?") and then proceeds in the fashion of a typical episode with the sheriff's department assembled in their briefing room. The television crew follows them to a Miami police convention where, through a Homeland Security scare, they end up having to patrol the city, and get mixed up with a drug cartel run by a lousy Scarface impersonator played by Paul Rudd.

This plot is barely developed and the movie is mainly an excuse for the cast to walk their usual bumbling beat patrol in a new city. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Despite trying to develop more sustainable storylines, the show's funniest moments usually occur during the obvious COPS spoof as situational improv that was its founding premise. The movie similarly finds most of its best moments working such set ups, as when Deputy Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui) and Deputy Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) come across an alligator in a swimming pool and when the cops try to wrangle a beached whale. Both the actors and the camera seem much more comfortable in the casual situations of the show.

Elsewhere, the film-style sequences are stiff and strained. A central set-up consists of one long crane shot, taken outside a motel, where the cops enter and exit their rooms, bumping into each other, only to end up masturbating in their rooms alone. The scene was surely a pain-in-the-ass to block, but is still a thudding homage to Jerry Lewis' The Ladies Man. Mostly these scenes create a jarring and amateurish juxtaposition with the primary reality TV aesthetic.

This movie did not need to be brilliantly polished to succeed. The characters, shallow and stupid, can't be expected to change (and shouldn't). But screenwriters Garant and Thomas Lennon don't give them enough to work with to keep us engaged. Most of the cameo characters, besides an appearance by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, that normally enliven the comedy are thinly sketched and unmemorable. Being shallow doesn't mean one-dimensional. Kenney has created endlessly unpredictable material with the lonely, put upon, racist, mean-spirited, married-to-an-incarcerated-serial-killer Trudy Wiegel. But Wendi McLendon-Covey's Clementine Johnson is still playing the same blond tramp after four seasons. Rather than continue to play off their stock traits, the writers and cast should have used the new locale to reveal deeper abysses of their ineptitude and richer shadings of their hypocrisies.

Garant and Lennon are successful Hollywood screenwriters (Night at the Museum [2006], Balls of Fury [2007]) and could certainly have crafted a real story if they wanted. Yet they seem to be operating under the illusion that the Reno cast functions best when approaching material with the same competence as their characters. The bare structure of the episodes collapses at just 80 minutes and the free wheeling improv doesn't hold it together.

This is a movie that practically dares you to care that it doesn't. Why fault something that clearly doesn't aspire to offer anything besides broad laughs? Individually it doesn't matter, but Reno 911!: Miami is part and parcel of a comedy trend that's been churning out crap by people who should know better. On the The Onion AV Club this week, in a discussion titled "Is Improvisation Ruining Film Comedy?" Nathan Rabin rightly bemoans the "endless parade of half-assed, kinda-okay movies with a smattering of good ideas and funny scenes that would benefit greatly from a few more drafts and a lot more discipline."

The best improv-based television shows and movies, from This is Spinal Tap (1984) and other Christopher Guest movies to The Office, allow the comedians to ad lib within the confines of intricately developed characters and a tightly scripted plot that allow comedic situations to ripen and play off each other to an organic climax with thematic resolution. Though Reno 911!: Miami's similarity to Police Academy 5 was probably a deliberate tongue-in-cheek reference, does self-conscious mediocrity really make a movie any better?


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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