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Chop Socky Boom
Tonight's Webseries Presentation

CHOP SOCKY BOOM

Starring: Khanh Doan, Jay Irwin, Jen Page, Darlene Sellers, Brandon Ryan, Andrew McMasters

Written By: Darlene Sellers Directed By: Heath Ward, Darlene Sellers

See It Here: www.chopsockyboom.com


What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEDDAR.

Perhaps served on crackers and creatively sliced to look like little ninja stars.


Pairs Well With...

SAKE.

Like “Chop Sake”!  Ha!  What?  Yes, I know that Sake is Japanese and that Final Zodiac Warrior is about Chinese zodiac fighters, but…  Oh, come on!  Half the “Chinese kung fu” on the screen is really Japanese karate, anyway!  Sheesh!


“'Final Zodiac Warrior' is more than just an action webseries!  It is a metaphor for the soul!  It stirs the mind, the spirit, and the groin!”


Chop Socky Boom is a webseries about making a webseries, but you won’t believe that it’s a webseries.  Why?  Because the quality is so incredible across the board that even before the first episode is over, you might have to pinch yourself to remember that you’re not watching HBO.  And by that, I mean the good HBO that dominates water cooler conversations day in and day out.

Combing comedy and drama in as much of a down to earth fashion as a show about show business is ever likely to get, Chop Socky Boom is the kind of stuff that independent filmmakers want webseries to be when they discuss their hopes for the medium: honest, smart, fun, and of a quality that’s on par with the best stuff on “regular” television and that crushes most of the rest of what lives there under its knee high boots.  The premise of the show – following the lives of a group of actors first auditioning for and then filming a “chop socky” style webseries with a side of “Final Fantasy” – may sound like A Chorus Line, but it’s much, much better than that.  It also does not in any way resemble the narcissism that often occurs when writers start writing about writers.  Rather, Chop Socky Boom simply tells the truth in a very approachable and very magnetic fashion.

Given the title of Chop Socky Boom and the nature of its “show within a show,” Final Zodiac Warrior, one might expect an atmosphere of super wacky hilarity; I know that I certainly was.  It quickly becomes clear, however, that Chop Socky Boom is a series that swims in a different – and deep – pool.  This isn’t to say that the show’s not funny – quite the contrary; it’s very funny – but rather, that the story isn’t focused on the humor so much as the humor is a product of the story.  After, nothing is funnier than the absurdity of life; it just so happens that for these characters, life is acting.  (At least, the best part of life is acting.  Since the funding just isn’t there yet, Final Zodiac Warrior pays deferred, which means that the part of life that pays the bills still involves delivering Chinese food and guiding tours.  This is why you hit the “donate” button on your favorite webseries’ site if you can afford the few extra bucks, even if it means skipping a latte.  Just sayin’.)  And as in anyone’s life, sometimes the humor comes in the form of a zinger, sometimes it’s a ridiculous situation, sometimes it’s a misunderstanding, and sometimes, there’s actually a moment or two of seriousness in between jokes.  So while there are some side-splitting laugh out loud moments to be had, the overall tone of Chop Socky Boom is that of a smile that never ends.  (This is also helped along by outstanding music composed by Matt Sayre that has an old school “feel good” quality to it that subliminally forces facial muscles to tic upward, and by a title sequence that deserves its own award.)

On the dramatic side, in almost every case, “wow” just isn’t enough.  You’ll watch this show and wonder why certain big names in Hollywood are getting paid millions of dollars to suck while these people are not getting paid millions of dollars to be brilliant.  Khanh Doan, Jay Irwin, Andrew McMasters, Jen Page, and Darlene Sellers all blew me away, and their fellows are no slouches, either.  If you think “indie” means “not good enough to act on television or at the multiplex,” grab the ketchup, because once you see these guys in action, you’re going to have to eat those words.

With that said, as the creator, writer, and co-director of Chop Socky Boom, Darlene Sellers deserves additional praise.  This series is so wonderfully written and so beautifully directed…  Frankly, any studio exec who sees this and doesn’t want to hire her on the spot is just plain nuts.  This lady should be going places.

Does all of this mean that Chop Socky Boom is perfect?  No.  Though he hasn’t crossed the line of “actively annoying” yet, the character of Max can be a bit much in some scenes.  Beyond that, the show touches on one particular peeve of mine: Khanh Doan plays a character named Khanh Doan.  I have never, ever liked the idea of people playing fictional characters named after themselves.  It crosses a doc/not doc line which to me is too close to lying, and it’s especially unnecessary in this series, given that all of the other characters who are actors have fictitious names.  Would it have been so hard to come up with a different name?

Not that either of these quibbles should stop you from watching Chop Socky Boom, of course; as far as sins go, they’re pretty minor, and this show has so much more to offer that’s so much better than 95+% of what’s out there.  If you’re looking for a new webseries to try and maybe want to get a little insight into the world of the people who make them while you’re at it, Chop Socky Boom isn’t merely just what the doctor ordered: it’s like stepping out of jungle to find El Dorado.


- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2012


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Season One (In Progress) | Five Episodes, 7.5 – 10.5 minutes each


Episode I: “Auditions” – I think that “wow” is an understatement here.  I was already giggling before the credits finished rolling, and then was treated to a series of intro scenes so beautifully shot that I had to remind myself that I wasn’t watching HBO.  The flow of the episode is fabulous; there’s so much going on that you’ll be amazed that it takes only seven and a half minutes, inclusive of credits, and yet it never feels rushed.  Highlight #1: an accidental invitation to an audition thanks to a slip of paper being handed over by mistake during a food delivery.  Highlight #2: a crash course in kung fu delivered via video game.  Highlight #3: the “Charlie Brown” adult voice that plays during a chat between a character and her mother.  Highlight #4: wow, that director is out there, and I bet lots of working actors recognize the type immediately, too.  Highlight #5: a nosebleed resulting from an accidental punch in the waiting area lands someone a part!  And yes, for the record, I’m already hooked, and was before the three minute mark.

Episode II: “Callbacks” – Everything that caught my attention about the first episode is reinforced here.  As the actors we saw auditioning for roles in Final Zodiac Warrior during the first episode return for three rounds of callbacks, the story still flows wonderfully, the direction is still fabulous, the music’s still great, and the actors never miss a beat.  Highlight #1: “Movie karate isn’t real karate!  It’s movie karate!”  Highlight#2:  a hilariously godawful rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” that any male alive in the mid-1980s has been guilty of at one time or another.  Highlight #3: “West Side Story” dance fighting!  Highlight #4: Paige wins with no questions asked!  Highlight #5: a beautifully presented collective moment as four of the actors wait to hear whether or not they got the parts they were after.  Split screen is usually a mistake; here, it’s magic.

Episode III: “Day One on the Set” – The pre-title sequence with Max goes too far, but this is still solid stuff.  The audience has been in on the actors’ world from the beginning, but in this episode, the immersion gets even deeper.  Indeed, it’s more focused on that immersion than it is on the comedy aspect (which is still there, mind), but that’s just fine: it’s where the story needs to go, and it is in no way out of place.  Highlight #1: “Why would I be nervous?” Highlight #2: “Why are we here at oh dark thirty?” Highlight #3: “I’m just standing in.”  “For who?”  “Everyone.”  Highlight #4: “Can I get some water?”  “Dammit!”  Highlight #5: “I’m a big scary demon!”

Episode IV: “The Nude Scene” – Calm down, folks; Chop Socky Boom may be a webseries, but it doesn’t live on that side of the web.  Any nudity is implied, okay?  With that said, both the dramatic and the comedic possibilities of a scheduled nude scene (or possibly scenes) are handled very nicely here, along with some unexpected but sensible twists, including actors who feel either too much or no chemistry at all for a kissing scene.  Highlight #1: “I told them I would not exploit my body.”  Highlight #2: Ty’s strut, which is the funniest scene in the series so far.  Highlight #3: “What I really want to know is: where is my cock?”  Yeah, the joke is sophomoric and old, but it’s a classic, and it’s funny.  Highlight #4: “Don’t question my vision.”


The high quality of this season so far just blows me away.  I can’t wait to see more...

...and after a hiatus, what’s still officially the first season continues…


Episode V: “The Day Job” – Wherein the concepts of sexual harassment and “jobs that pay the bills” are explored.  The tone has changed somewhat here, there’s a bit of a harder polish, but it still plays very well.  With that said, I do miss the fun opening sequence from the first four episodes.  Highlight #1: Hey!  It’s “Final Zodiac Warrior” footage to start us off!  Highlight #2: Coffee!  Highlight #3: “Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”  Highlight #4: 1-800-PENGUIN!  Highlight #5: 008?  Wait, what?  Highlight #6: Busted!

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2012 / September 2014

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