Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Usually around the end of a year I take some time to go through my favorite albums of the year and I still might do that, but I also felt like looking back at my favorite horror experiences of 2015. Thanks to Netflix, the library and a gaggle of fun freelance assignments around Halloween I got to see a good mix of old and new films this year that I wanted to look back on one more time before moving on to the new year. Continue reading Halloween Scene: 2015 Horror Recap

Halloween Scene Movie Roundup: The New Style

creep posterLike I said in my previous post, I was pretty busy with horror-related work leading up to this most glorious of holidays. I was actually able to reverse-engineer a binge on new horror movies into some lists which made the whole thing feel a lot more productive. Continue reading Halloween Scene Movie Roundup: The New Style

Quick Movie Review: The One I Love (2014)

the one I loveOver the years, I’ve become a huge fan of Mark Duplass. The League is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, but he’s also done amazing work in movies like Safety Not Guaranteed, The Puffy Chair, True Adolescents and behind the scenes on Jeff Who Lives At Home.

I can’t think of many other actors who can be crass and awful in one part and then so emotionally devastated (and devastating) in another. So, any time one of his movies pops up on Netflix Instant, I get excited.

At some point along the line I saw the trailer for The One I Love, which also stars Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss and Ted Danson. I only remembered that this couple goes to a secluded property on vacation and some weird stuff starts happening, like Twilight Zone-level stuff.

I could go into more details on the subject, but I really think the less you know about the film, the better, but this trailer should give you enough to know whether you’d dig it or not.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the larger story, the smaller bits revolve around Duplass and Moss, a married couple who have been having a hard time lately and discover that their supposed retreat includes an uncanny guest house with seemingly supernatural properties that may or may not exist to help with their marriage. As the story progresses you not only learn more about these two — including the major source of their problems — but also the rules and boundaries of this mysterious manor.

I loved how I got bits and pieces as the movie progressed. I found myself wanting to know the rules while also feeling really worried about these two people, which is something I can’t say about many other stories. Hitting my mythology-loving buttons at the same time as my relationship ones is fairly uncharted territory. Duplass and Moss get huge mountains of credit for this as do writer Justin Lader and director Charlie McDowell who do a stellar job of taking what might seem like an Outer Limits episodes and filling it with heart and care, but also mystery and intrigue. These are two filmmakers I will definitely be keeping an eye on going forward.

Not-So-Quick Movie Review: True Adolescents (2009)

I realize I’ve been talking a lot lately about why I’m watching a movie. I think it’s interesting the ways we get to the entertainment choices we make. I’ve got a lot more time than most people I know to watch things, so I don’t consider my movie-watching time as valuable which means I’m more likely to try different things than I would otherwise. Take True Adolescents for instance. I became a big fan of Mark Duplass after seeing him in The League, which lead me to check out one of the movies he made with his brother Jay The Puffy Chair. I was then lead to True Adolescents by Netflix based on the previous movies I’ve watched. I’m glad they did because I’m not sure if I would have even heard of this movie otherwise.

Much like Puffy Chair, this one stars Duplass as a an immature adult, Sam, who wants to hang on to his adolescent dreams. He doesn’t have a job-job, his girlfriend just broke up with him and he’s in a band that plays for a handful of people at a bar. The first third or fourth of the movie just shows his life and soon gets him to his aunt’s house. Said aunt is played by the amazing Melissa Leo and also has a teenage son Oliver who’s kind of a jerk. We’re introduced to him as he throws a squid meant for dissection at a girl in his class. Turns out that Oliver’s estranged father was supposed to take him and his pal Jake on a camping trip, but flaked out, so Sam eventually agrees to take them.

The trip to camping and the actual experience in the woods/on the beach (they’re in Washington, so I guess that’s a thing that makes sense) makes up the real meat of the story as the boys not only explore their relationship with girls and each other and Sam gets a taste at some real responsibility in watching over a pair of teenagers. In a relatively short period of time–the movie has an 88 minute run time–writer and director Craig Johnson does an excellent job going through the characters’ stories without being super obvious and “movie” about everything.

Here’s an example that gets into some spoiler territory, so if you want to go into the movie completely clear, skip this paragraph. There are hints during their travels to the camping area that Jake might be gay or at least questioning his sexuality including a somewhat confusing scene where he stops making out with a girl in a pool to swim over and start wrestling with Oliver who was also making out with a girl in said pool. There’s a quick moments where Sam opens the boys’ tent and they’re kissing. This event spurs on the rest of the movie from that point, but I was really impressed with how it was handled. In a clunkier movie you would have seen a whole scene between the boys leading up to this, but none of that is necessary.

In a way, the movie reminded me of Cold Weather which I didn’t like. They both have main characters who could be considered averse to responsibility, but Duplass pulls off this kind of role with a confident brashness that makes me like him instead of annoyed with him. Both films also take advantage of the beautiful scenery in the shooting area, but while Cold Weather simply shows you these scenes, True uses the environnents for the purpose of the scene and builds the story around them (or at least the second half). That way, you get both the beauty and actual story instead of stopping the latter for the former.

So, to put it simply and state the obvious, I really dug True Adolescents. It showcased it’s players really well and also showed an economy of story that fit very well with the tone of the film. Plus, kind of like the Duplass Brothers films, I got the idea that Johnson made it on a pretty low budget. I could be wrong about that and haven’t done any research, but as always, that “I’m gonna make a movie” spirit is one that I can appreciate and feel the need to foster in myself. Maybe this year!

Quick Movie Review: The Puffy Chair (2005)

After watching and really enjoying Mark Duplass in The League, I did a little reading here and there online and decided to give some of the movies he’s made with his brother Jay a look. I’d heard of the Duplass Brothers and the movies that they made together, most of which have been added to the mumblecore sub sub subgenre of film which, as far as I can tell, describes inexpensively made films starring dudes in their 20s trying to deal with life as an adult.

And, as you might expect, that’s what The Puffy Chair is about. Mark plays Josh who’s been dating Emily (Katie Aselton, who is also on The League) for a while. He has plans to pick up a chair much like the one his dad used to have as a birthday gift, but a buddy cancels, so Emily goes with him. They also wind up picking up Josh’s hippy dippy brother Rhett who goes along on the trip. But, the movie’s not really about that, the trip and the chair are really just opportunities that lead the characters to question the status quo of their lives.

The heart of the story really revolves around Josh’s inability to grow up and become a mature guy. It’s the kind of thing that a lot of low budget movies like this deal with because it’s the kind of things people who would write and make movies tend to devote mountains of thought to. At one point while watching the movie I thought, “I’ve seen this movie before, why am I watching it again?” But then I realized that it’s more about the creator’s personal spin on that story that interests me. I can’t say that about every kind of movie (I’m not really into boxing or shark movies after seeing Rocky and Jaws), but this is a kind of film I can get behind.

There’s one moment that really spoke to me and is probably the most revealing scene in the film for the characters. Rhett has met a girl and they want to get married, so Josh performs an impromptu ceremony at the woman’s house that night. The vows he makes up are incredibly telling. One set of vows involves not judging the guy or asking him to change with the ones for the woman ask her not to freak out too much when things eventually fall apart. But, in my experience, life is all about changing and growing. Too many people think they’re perfect just the way they are and have no room for improvement, but we all do. There are plenty of things we all need to work on to help ourselves grow and develop over our lifetimes. It’s never too late. I’m not sure if that message is really relayed in the rest of the film–I’m leaning towards yes–but that was what I got out of that scene and the whole flick overall.

I’m definitely intrigued by the Duplass Brothers’ filmography now, most of which I believe is on Netflix Instant. I very much like the idea of a pair of guys just getting their shit together and making a movie. It’s not the most spectacular looking film of all time, but it exists. That’s more than I can say. This makes me want to write more!

Just Finished The League Seasons 1 & 2

Here’s how I started watching FX’s The League, don’t worry it’s not a long story, but I think it’s interesting how we come to certain blocks of entertainment. I had heard that show about a group of friends in a fantasy football league existed, but didn’t know anything about it aside from the fact that Paul Scheer was in it. Then I started hearing the hilarious Nick Kroll on various episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast (here’s my previous post about the podcast, and here’s the official site). After that I watched and loved the first season of Louis CK’s Louie on FX. Then I finished watching Party Down and Xbox Instant recommended The League. With the combination of FX’s new-found in my headspace, a desire to see Kroll in action and the desire to simply watch another fun comedy, I was in. Boy, I’m glad I did because this show is fantastically funny, honest and often terrible all in wonderful ways.

Like I said, the idea is that these five high school friends (well four high school friends and a brother of one of the guys) are in a league. Much of the humor comes from the ins and outs of their relationship and the pressure that get to fantasy fans, but there’s also a lot of relationship stuff going on that is right on the money. Kroll plays a lawyer whose married to the maid from My Name Is Earl and has a young son. He’s kind of a jerk and overly intense about things he shouldn’t be (like fantasy football of course). Scheer is rich, but super gullible and mostly terrible in the league while Mark Duplass is the lovably ass-ish Pete. Then you’ve got Kevin who’s married to Jenny who actually runs his team. They have about the cutest little girl on TV and she is utilized perfectly from the episodes I’ve seen. Finally, you’ve got Kevin’s stoner brother Taco who is incredibly stupid, but also comes up with some great songs throughout the series.

Personally, I’m not a fantasy footballer. I tend to like doing, watching or experiencing things without feeling the need to get much deeper than that. With comics, I just read comics and now write about them on here, I don’t need to go all over the internet telling everyone what I think and why they’re dumb. When it comes to football, I just want to watch games, get into them and then move on to other stuff. I don’t mean to disparage people who do like fantasy leagues, it’s just not my thing. However, I get the intensity that comes with being a big fan of something and I’ve been watching a lot of Mike & Mike on ESPN 2 in the mornings, so I’ve got enough knowledge to laugh when they’re talking about playing or benching certain players even if I’m not really sure what half of the fantasy league jargon even means. Not a big deal.

Like the other shows on FX that I’ve liked, like Louie or It’s Always Sunny which I’m way behind on, The League revolves around realistic characters who maybe don’t have to deal with the consequences of some of their jerkier actions which makes it a great kind of release for regular people. Pete might be the biggest jerk on television, but he’s got that boyish charm that you just can’t stay mad at.

I don’t know if I’d want to be friends with guys like these because of the huge amount of ball busting going on at all times, but I love watching them in their natural habitat. I don’t think I’ve laughed louder or harder at a comedy in quite a while and the best part is that there is a whole third season not yet on Netflix Instant that I can look forward to watching.