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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Joe Swanberg

Win It All (2017)

A better Gambler, than the actual remake of Gambler.

Eddie (Jake Johnson) doesn’t quite have the best life. He makes a living directing traffic, parking cars, and doing the odd job every now and then. But rather than saving it all so that one day, he can eventually make something of his life, he spends it all on late-night poker games where he mostly ends up losing, without any cash in his hand, or pocket. However, when Eddie thinks he’s dead and totally broke, he looks inside of an old acquaintance’s duffel bag, and in it, just so happens to buckets of cash. Seeing this as a new lease on life, Eddie intends to change his ways and not gamble anymore. He strikes up a relationship with a sweet single-mother (Aislinn Derbez), starts to work for his brother (Joe Lo Truglio), as a landscaper, and begins to attend recovery meetings more frequently, and keep up with his sponsor (Keegan-Michael Key), on a much more regular basis. But still, Eddie can’t help but gamble a little bit of the money away, which wouldn’t be so bad, until he finds out his old acquaintance is getting out of jail soon and is expecting all of his money to be there waiting for him.

As long as there’s free coffee and donuts, I’ll always go and admit a problem.

People like Joe Swanberg make me so happy that indie-movies still exist, and it’s movies like Win it All that make me so happy streaming devices/studios like Netflix still exist. For one, they’re studios that allow for these smaller, more low-budget movies, not just see the light of day, but grab an audience who, otherwise, wouldn’t have heard a single thing about it. For awhile now, that’s how mostly all of Swanberg’s movies have been; while he’s been getting bigger names involved, his movies still go mostly unnoticed and automatically ready for a VOD release, where only cool, happenin’ kids who are curious will stumble upon it.

But for others, such as myself, who love and adore everything Swanberg does and stands for, it’s nice to just see a movie like Win it All, get a bigger release. But it’s also nice to see this happen because, well, the movie’s quite good; it’s typical Swanberg in that there’s a lot of improvisation and scenes of people talking, but there’s a little bit more to it this time around. If anything, Win it All shows Swanberg at least extending his arms out a bit at trying some sort of genre-fare, what with the gambling subgenre of flicks, but it’s much more like the criminally underrated Mississippi Grind, than Mark Wahlberg’s ill-conceived the Gambler.

It’s weird, though, because the movie isn’t all about gambling, or even the rush, the thrill, and the excitement about it all – it’s much more about this guy, Eddie, and how he doesn’t seem to quite get a grasp on life and accept that the way he’s living, just isn’t ideal. If anything, Win it All is actually a character-study about this guy, who he is, why he does what he does, what’s there to love about him, and what’s there to get mad at him for.

And oh yeah, Jake Johnson is pretty great in the role, too.

So sad, yet, still so cool. How does he do it?

Johnson’s honestly a pretty commanding force in these low-key indies, because we get to see all that he does on New Girl, in that he plays a bit of a silly goof-ball, but instead with that show, there’s a rawer feel to it all. Rather than laughing along with him, we’re actually laughing at him and looking at him in a sad way, not knowing how far his lovable grin is going to take him from scene to scene. And sure, while a good portion of Win it All is improvised, meaning that we don’t always get to know each and every single little thing about Eddie that we should know, what Johnson helps to do is create a portrait of a sad, but still likable guy, who we’d much rather give a hug, than a punch to the face.

As his brother, Joe Lo Truglio is quite surprising, too, especially by how good he is without ever trying too hard to make us laugh. It’s the one role where we get to see someone who is usually known for being a scene-stealing cook-ball, actually show his dramatic-side and it works out well, creating a lovely, heartwarming bit of chemistry between him and Johnson. Derbez is also sweet and charming as Eddie’s eventual girlfriend, and Keegan-Michael Key, showing a more dramatic-side here, too, gets a chance to be both funny and serious, while always providing a nice glimmer of light every time he shows up.

And because these performances and these characters are so strong, it’s easy to get past the fact that, yeah, the story’s a bit weak and conventional, but honestly, it’s really not all about that. Swanberg knows that and as an audience, we know that, too – it’s about these characters, their relationships, and exactly how they all relate to this Eddie fella. It’s a true character-study, just with some gambling on the side.

Like life.

Consensus: With a terrific lead performance from Johnson, Win it All works as a smart, interesting character-study that, unfortunately, doesn’t care a whole lot about the plot.

7 / 10

It’s love at first sight. Until she realizes he loves playing Go Fish a bit too much.

Photos Courtesy of: Time OutTeaser TrailerThe AV Club

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Joshy (2016)

When depressed, hang with the bros.

Josh (Thomas Middleditch) and his fiancee (Alison Brie) were all set and ready to get married. However, she decided to take her life, leaving her family, friends, and most importantly, Josh, heartbroken. Why did she do it? Well, no one really knows why, however, Josh’s friends intend on cheering him up the way that they feel is necessary for someone dealing with a tragedy of this kind. That’s why, nearly four months later, the bros all come up to the house somewhere in the mountains, dedicated to them all partying it up and living life, as if it was Josh’s bachelor party, which was what it was supposed to be in the first place. But the guys don’t get bogged down by the sad details and decide that it’s time to get all of the beer, drugs, guns and women that they can find to get Josh’s mind off of everything. But it’s not just Josh who has some problems to wade through, as most of the guys seem to be going through their own issues on this one weekend, figuring out where to go next with their lives and how, just how the hell on Earth, are they going to grow-up and be responsible adults.

Cheer up, Joshy. They don't call you that name all of the time, right?

Cheer up, Joshy. They don’t call you that name all of the time, right? Cause if they did, that actually would kind of suck.

The mumblecore movement may not be quite as vibrant as it once was back in the beginning of the decade, however, it’s still alive and well, bringing in more and more outsiders to the indie-world, showing off their talent for improv and on-the-fly film making that can, often times, create things of beauty. Drinking Buddies seems like the highlight of the mumblecore flicks, in terms of its scope, who it involved, and what it actually did, but there’s been a few every now and then, offering up lovely bits of insightful entertainment.

And now, with his second-feature, Jeff Baena seems as if he’s ready to throw himself into the mumblecore world and doing a pretty good job at it, too.

Of course, what makes a mumblecore movie as good as it may set out to be, is that it needs a reason, or better yet, a purpose to exist. Most of the time, these movies can sometimes seem like low-budget versions of Adam Sandler flicks where, just like him, they use the excuse of a movie being made to get away with having a bunch of their friends around, do and say silly things. While this may work for most film makers because it doesn’t ask for all that much dedication and money, the problems that it can sometimes bring up is the fact that the story itself isn’t always the snappiest and, if anything, made-up as the film-making runs on by.

Here though, Baena does something smart in that he allows for the actual tragedy of Josh’s ex-fiancee to really carry the movie along, feeling less of like an excuse, and more of something resembling a reason. Of course, the darker aspects of the story come out in full-form by the end, and doesn’t quite connect, but at least it’s a movie that’s trying to be something more than the typical “cool, funny, and talented people hang out for a weekend”. While those movies can tend to be quite fun and exciting, they can also become a tad mundane, when you don’t have much of a narrative-drive moving it along.

In Joshy, aside from the tragic suicide early on, the real plot is figuring out these characters, their lives, their problems, and just how they’re going to get out of them. It’s almost too simple, but it kind of works, because Baena has been able to assess a great group of actors to make the material work, even when it seems like they’re just going with the flow. Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Alex Ross Perry, Brett Gelman, and Adam Pally play the core group here and they’ve all got their own problems to work through, some clearly more important than others, but all at least registering on some level.

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don't know!

Longed-hair Adam Pally? I don’t know!

Of course, this doesn’t always allow for the characters to come off as likable, either, which is probably fine, in Joshy’s case.

Baena doesn’t allow for his movie to be too pleased or happy with itself; eventually, the characters do have to learn a thing or two about the lives that they live and why it’s not always best to act 13, when you’re 35, or at the very least, nearing it. Joe Swanberg himself shows up and brings these characters down to real life and it’s a honest, relatively tense scene, which is what Joshy seemed to be missing the most of. With the exception a confrontation by the end, Joshy doesn’t really have any confrontation or tension in the air, which I felt was necessary for a movie like this to really work, where jerks are hanging around each other too much, getting on each other’s nerves constantly.

Of course, Baena may not have cared much for this, but while watching Joshy, it’s hard not to imagine what could happen, had the movie tried a tad bit harder. It’s nice to get all your talented and lovely friends all together, in one room, let them do their things, and start shooting, but after awhile, it can start to feel like just a bunch of fun-sequences, and that’s about it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how charming the cast is – sometimes, more story is better.

Consensus: With a likable and talented cast, Joshy‘s improvised, low-budget feel works, but also doesn’t allow for there to be much of a story, either.

6.5 / 10

I'll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

I’ll jump in. No skivvies is fine with me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Bollywood Reads

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Happy Christmas (2014)

It’s ironic. I guess.

20-something Jenny (Anna Kendrick) is a bit of a wreck right now in her life. Not only did her boyfriend just break up with her, but due to emotional problems of hers beyond comprehension, she’s decide to move the ‘eff out and stay with her brother (Joe Swanberg) and his sometimes writer, sometimes stay-at-home momma, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Though her brother is fine with her being around and watching over his child, his wife isn’t so keen on the idea, due to the fact that she feels like Jenny is a bit too immature to really put another life ahead of herself. Some part of her is right; other parts of her isn’t. But over time, the two get to connect, talk about life, and eventually get Kelly back into her writing-process, with Jenny right by her side, feeding her idea, after idea, after idea. It’s a neat process that gets Kelly all wrapped up in something that isn’t watching over her kid and having to stay at home all day, and keeps Jenny away from her personal problems, or her feelings to a new guy she meets (Mark Webber).

Not only was I happy to see that last year’s Drinking Buddies, was actually a good movie, but that it began to bring some more exposure to the undeniable and creative talents that are Joe Swanberg. Sure, the guy’s been around for quite some time and it’s not like people haven’t ever heard of him before, but outside of the usual, movie-geek crowd, a name like “Joe Swanberg” wasn’t officially known, or on somebody’s radar. Hell, I don’t even think it is now, but at least they know a little thing or two about what this guy does behind the camera and the constant movies he churns out, once and sometimes even twice, a year.

Is "Hipsters with babies" a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

Is “hipsters with babies” a thing? If not, I hope it stays that way.

That said, something like Drinking Buddies, is something that Happy Christmas is not, in that they are both simple premises, but actually feel like they’re building towards something, rather than just more scenes of people talking about whatever the hell the discussion of the hour is at that given moment. Here, there’s not much of a central-conflict, and I was fine with that, however, it did make me wonder what the main problem of this whole movie was going to be. Was it going to be that either Jenny can’t seem to settle down in her life, or, is that she causes too much of a ruckus at a house where a quiet, relatively safe family lives?

It’s never made abundantly clear where this movie’s going to go, or what sort of path it’s going to take, which I commend on Swanberg’s part. He could have easily made this movie a conventional “battle of the sister-in-laws”, but he doesn’t. He ops instead for showing us real ladies, who feel real pain and have real wants and needs that aren’t just sitting at home, watching over their young ones, and cooking dinner, while their hubby gets to do everything he wants to do with his job, his money, and maybe even possibly, his own mistress. But that aside, what I’m trying to say is that Swanberg goes for actually explaining who these characters are, rather than what they could be in the face of a plot that changes.

Which, honestly, is sort of why this film just isn’t as interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, but there’s just a feeling that Swanberg was a little too relaxed with his filming here and much rather just wanted to hang out with Anna Kendrick again. Can’t say I blame him too much, but when it’s at our expense and we aren’t the ones actually “hanging around with” Anna Kendrick, it can seem to be a bit of a bore. Not to mention that the movie never really seems to care about whose story it’s exploring – most of it wants to just be about Jenny and the problems she’s facing in this time of need, yet, also wants to have it another way and much rather focus on Kelly and her “problems” with motherhood and losing her inspiration for her creative-expression. It’s not that neither stories aren’t interesting, it’s just that there’s not much of a focus on either of them, nor does Swanberg really make it seem like he wants to go anywhere with them. It’s just like life, but maybe a little bit too much of so.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

Me practically every Christmas morning after I discovered that he was, well, you get the drift.

But with that said, both of these women character’s are performed very well by both Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey respectively. Lynskey herself hardly ever gets a chance to fully unveil the true talents she has hiding underneath those lovely looks of hers, and it’s nice to see a lot of that “average-lady” persona come out here. She’s good at it and it feels like she’s an actual mom who has responsibilities on her plate and doesn’t want to screw it up. Yet, at the same time, she wouldn’t mind having a little bit of “alone time” either, just so that she can gather her thoughts and feel somewhat sane for a second. Like how I imagined my mom must have acted when she was raising me.

With more downing of Scotch, of course. But that’s another story, for another day.

But the one who really makes this movie work so well is Anna Kendrick herself, and it’s hard to be surprised about that. Kendrick uses her lovable, sometimes ditsy charm the only way she knows how to and it’s absolutely lovely to watch. Also not to mention that it feels so incredibly natural, that when she has to use all of this everyday lingo like “like”, or “uhm…so…yeah”, it doesn’t feel forced or thrown upon us to make us see how real this material is. She sells it like that and if Swanberg wants to keep on making movies with her for the rest of his life, I’m totally fine with that.

Just give me something of a better movie is all and we’ll be fine.

Consensus: Feels less thought-out than past movies, Happy Christmas finds writer/director Joe Swanberg spinning around in circles, figuring out what to film about, and instead, just focuses enough on his characters and the cast to make it worth while, if only slightly.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I'm pretty sure that's a crime!

Lena Dunham around a young child?!?! I’m pretty sure that’s a crime!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Write this down men: Twenty-something blondes who play the trumpet are bad news.

Recent college-grad Hannah (Greta Gerwig) is working as an intern at a production company and realizes that she needs to make a big change in her life if she wants to be happy at all. Therefore, she decides to break-up with her boyfriend Mike (Mark Duplass) and set her sights possibly on other men; even if those other men just so happen to be her co-workers, Matt (Kent Osborne) and Paul (Andrew Bujalski). Hannah begins one with the later, while the former sort of just sits around, does his work like he’s supposed to be doing and basically be all upset that he’s being left out of the mix. But Hannah’s the type of girl who can’t seem to stick to one thing, regardless of if her life depends on it or not, so you can never tell exactly what she’s going to do next, or with whom either.

It’s a short premise, but at an-hour-and-23-minutes, it’s a short movie, and there’s something inherently charming about all of that. See, writer/director Joe Swanberg likes these small, intimate and rather raw stories about people just living their lives, on a day-to-day basis without all of the schmaltzy, over-dramatic bullshit that we usually see in much-larger, more mainstream movies. Does he do this to save some money and actually be able to make his movies? Sure, you could definitely make that argument. However, there’s something nice and refreshing about a writer/director who likes to create real stories, about real people, doing, well, real things.

Even if one of those “real things” does consist of constantly being shacked-up with whomever is around you.

Oh, Gret.

Oh, Gret.

And yes, that is exactly what Hannah does here. To be honest, the hardest aspect to like about this movie is Hannah herself; she’s self-involved, yet, not overbearingly so. She clearly has a nice conscience and wants to do the right thing for herself and those around her, but when it comes right down to it most of the time, she takes matters into her own hands and doesn’t always fully think things through. Does that make her flawed? Of course it does! But does it also make her somewhat human? Oh, totally!

So with that said, it may be hard to at least accept Hannah as a person you want to watch a movie about, but this isn’t necessarily a movie that’s trying to test your patience. It’s trying to give you a story of a young, sometimes brash and difficult lady that doesn’t know what she wants with life, except just to be happy and feel like she’s working for, or towards, something. Hannah herself doesn’t want to be left behind by the wind and forgotten about – she wants to be remembered, loved, and most of all, happy. Though her ways of making sure that happens are a bit questionable, it’s still interesting to watch because there’s a feeling that this is a real woman we’re watching on screen, and not just figment of a dude’s imagination.

And if she was, she’d be a pretty depressing one, considering that there’s a lot of heartbreak and sadness here, all as a result of her own doing, mind you.

Also, another reason why Hannah is so enthralling to watch is because Greta Gerwig’s an on-screen presence worth paying attention to every second her lovely face is on screen. Which, in the case of this movie, is the whole, damn time. So, if you’re annoyed of Greta Gerwig’s bubbly, warm mug, then this is definitely not something you should bother with. Especially since Swanberg seems to really love focusing in on that mug and watching as each and every emotion she feels, is spelled out on her face. In a way, it can sometimes be annoying by how much zooming-in Swanberg does on not just Gerwig, but on everything else, but I felt like it was something you have to sort of expect with a mumblecore movie, and it’s easy to accept after awhile. Is it uncomfortable to sit around and watch sometimes? Yes, but it’s something that’s easy to get used to once the story actually gets going.

Gerwig does something quite exceptional here in how she’s able to make us see Hannah as a female, rather than a contrivance that Swanberg would have created. She’s more than just a gal who likes to kiss boys and try them out as if they were a new pair of shoes; she’s trying to work towards something. Of course Gerwig’s a lovely presence, but it’s in these spare, raw moments of emotional truth where you really get a sense for who she is, and you sort of feel sympathy for her. Even if she is making a lot of problems for herself, rather than solving them, but that’s who she is. She’s a complicated, confused gal and Gerwig’s great at displaying both sides of Hannah’s personality.

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

Trumpet-playing is still a thing?

That’s not to say that the whole movie just ends up being Gerwig’s show from beginning to end – in fact, quite the opposite. Because this is a story about Hannah and the sorts of men she interacts with in this short time-span in her life, we get to view a different side to her, all depending on the guy she’s gunning for at the point in time. Though he’s displayed quite apparently on the poster, Mark Duplass isn’t in this film as much as you’d like to think and it’s a bit of a shame. The dude’s always a charming presence in anything he shows up in and here, he’s no different. But because the story needs him to be kaput early on, it’s only necessary that we get a small dosage of his charm, and get a chance to see it head-to-head with these two other dudes, Matt and Paul.

Both are pretty charming dudes, but in a nerdy kind of way. But they’re not totally nerdy in that they can’t ever hold a conversation with any normal human being; they’re just sort of the type of guys who have their own set of interests, in their own little circles. Bujalski and Osborne both display enough likability and realism to make it easy to see why they’d be both perfect, and not-so perfect for Hannah’s wants, needs and desires, and it makes you wonder who she’s going to end up with in the end.

Which, like it is in life, is incredibly unpredictable.

Consensus: The constraints in budget and scope may make Hannah Takes the Stairs feel a bit claustrophobic, but for those who can get past that, will realize it’s a heartfelt, emotional and sometimes funny drama about a gal just being herself, while trying to figure out who it is she wants as a mate in her life.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Me. Everyday of my life.

Me. Everyday of my life.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Sacrament (2014)

Hey, if a Southerner has a certain way with words, I too would follow him anywhere.

Fashion photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) gets a strange letter from his sister (Amy Seimetz), who he knew went away to a rehab of sorts and is inviting him. Patrick decides to tell his buddies (Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen) this and considering they’re both journalists who love whenever a good story comes their way, all three of them take the trip out to see just what this secret place is really all about. What all three discover, at first, is a pretty shady place considering it has guards defending it with AK-47s and tells them to turn off their cameras or don’t come in at all. Eventually they’re allowed in and they see the type of safe haven this place was being hailed as by Patrick’s sister. There’s food, a hospital, goats, and heck, even a day-care center for the young, as well as the old. It seems like the pretty ideal place for anybody who has ever came at a crossroads in their life and needed a change, and mostly all of that can be credited to a man everyone knows as “Father” (Gene Jones). Though he hardly comes out at all, Father decides to do an interview for the camera-crew, which is when strange things start happening around the camp and the three guys realize that maybe there’s something dark and sinister lingering beneath what’s being shown to them as “perfect”.

With his past two flicks (the House of the Devil, the Innkeepers), if there’s one thing that Ti West shows, is that he knows a thing or two about creating, building up, and maintaining tension. In both cases, we get a sense that West is just reeling us in, more and more, for something big and completely terrifying to happen, yet, we don’t care all that much about it because we’re so swept-up in having him distract us with other stuff. That other stuff being character-development, ideas, and a feeling of some “fun” in the air.

Exactly how I feel whenever I show up to a party two hours late.

Exactly how I look and feel whenever I show up to a party two hours late.

However, while West still shows us here that he knows a thing or two about making tension, he still loses everything else that made his movies so worth while in the first place: Their personalities.

And it’s not like West’s other movies have shown him to have a keen-sense of humor in any way, but he’s shown us that he’s able to tell one story, while simultaneously hinting at us that there’s another one just brewing somewhere in the deep end. Here though, it feels like there’s nothing else here except for what Ti West presents: A found-footage horror movie documenting a cult, that clearly resembles the same one of Jonestown. I guess just stating that fact in and of itself could be seen as a bit of a “spoiler”, but to be honest, you get the sense of what’s going to happen as soon as we enter the camp.

We all know that there’s some dark, mysterious and disturbing force hidden behind all of the happiness and smiles, and while the mystery itself may keep us interested, it’s not hard to see what the end-result of it all is going to be. The only aspect that really could keep us even more glued are the characters, and for the most part, they’re all pretty boring. Which is a shame because when you have a hand-held camera film such as this, the one thing you can depend on working are the characters themselves and whether or not they’re worth rooting for, even if/when they make/say stupid decisions. West hasn’t really written anybody out to be at all interesting, just as plain as you could see them.

Which is very disappointing considering the great cast he’s assembled, who are all, essentially, people that he’s worked with in the past five years or so – AJ Bowen plays the main reporter who wants to ask all of the questions and get down to the bottom of this cult, while still dealing with issues at home with he and his pregnant-wife; Joe Swanberg plays who is basically “the camera guy” and says some snappy line here and there, but doesn’t get nearly as much to do here with his face blocked; Amy Seimetz is, at first, quite chilling because you never know what to make of her character, but as she begins to get more and more developed, then Seimetz’s starts playing a bit more over-the-top and crazy. Maybe that’s how she was told to play it, I don’t know, but I will say that it’s a very B-ish performance in a movie that never knows whether it wants to be smart, sophisticated, and trying to get its point across, or just be another freaky, fun, and chilling found-footage that wants to place us, the audience in front of all the action.

Not exactly the type of welcome wagon I'm sure anybody feel comfortable with.

Not exactly the welcome wagon I’m sure anybody feel comfortable with.

In fact, the only time whenever the movie seems to have any sort of bright ideas just rolling around, is whenever Gene Jones shows up as the almighty and alluring “Father”. I’ve never seen Jones in anything before, and although I definitely might have and I just totally forgot, I’ll make sure to never make that same mistake twice considering he’s great here and never allows himself to get too far, or too deep into this movie’s own wackiness. Jones, for what it’s worth, plays mostly everything subtle and by being able to hind behind those dark, thinly-rimmed glasses of his, we never truly have an idea what he’s thinking, or going to do next; all we know is that he’s a simple man who has a certain power over all of these people, and you can totally feel it everytime he’s in front of the camera and talking about God knows what (no seriously).

However, he’s not really in the film all that much, and it shows. Whenever he’s not around, his presence is felt in the air, as if he himself is a guardian angel just looking down upon everybody else around him. Okay, maybe that’s giving the dude too much credit, but I’ll put it like this: When the best part of your whole movie is in it for about 15 minutes, you may have yourself a huge problem. And a huge problem is exactly what Ti West has.

Next time, dude, stay away from the hand-held cameras. It’s a style just waiting to die out.

Consensus: Ti West still has his sense of creating tension, yet somehow, with the Sacrament, he can never quite maintain it as well as he’s been able to show in the past, which is mostly due to the fact that the story is conventional and at times, too wacky to be taken as seriously as it wants to be.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Suck that, Matt Lauer!"

“Suck that, Matt Lauer!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

You’re Next (2013)

Next family reunion, G-Mom and G-Pop better bring their arsenal. Just in case.

The very rich, but very dysfunctional Davison family reunites for the 35th wedding anniversary of the mother (Barbara Crampton) and father (Rob Moran). Everybody in the family comes, and hell they even bring their own significant others to get everybody acquainted. However, it becomes abundantly clear early on that nobody in this family really gets along, and as a result, fight at the dinner table over something utterly and completely dumb. But once somebody gets an arrow shot through their head, all of the family-squabbling is put to the side, and the feeling of danger arises throughout the house. Why? Well, it’s simple: A bunch of masked-killers are attacking these family members and killing them one-by-one. Some are unlucky, and some get very lucky, but staying alive and being fight off the enemy is only where the night begins.

After this movie being postponed for what seemed like a century (in reality, it was only 2 years, but it was a long two years!), I am finally able to get a taste of You’re Next, and figure out just what all of the fuss was about. Home-invasion thrillers come, and they go as they please, and rarely re-invent the wheel of the horror genre, especially in today’s world of modern-day cinema. However, that doesn’t mean a little movie like this can’t just come out of nowhere and completely shock us, but not by changing the game up and offering us something new, but by simply having fun and remembering the old-school days of horror movies, where one used to cheer for the goodies, and boo the baddies.

Yeah, those were the days my friends, and You’re Next reminds us that they’re back and still as fun as they were all those years ago. Hurrah for that!

Relax! It's not like it's real blood or anything....

Relax! It’s not like it’s real blood or anything….

The aspect of this movie that totally works is how the screenplay from Simon Barrett and the direction from Adam Wingard totally compliment one other; almost in a way that I haven’t seen from a writer-director combo in quite some time, especially within the horror genre. Barrett’s tone for this movie may weird some viewers out at first by how jokey it is, despite being terribly gory and gruesome in the first 5 minutes or so, but once the movie gets going, the plot starts to thicken, and you’re ultimately set-up for what the rest of this movie is going to be and look like, and it only gets better from there. One second, Barrett will have us laughing our assess off by a random sight-gag, or something silly a character does; and then the next second, have a disturbing sequence of someone getting a bodily-organ torn from them, in the most gory way possible. However, with most horror movies where it seems like it would not work and just become a disjointed affair, Barrett surprisingly keeps it grounded in a sense where you know what to expect from the comedy, and you know what to expect from the inordinate amount of violence.

Then again though, a lot of that same credit I just gave to Barrett, could easily have gone to Wingard as well, considering he seems to be having just as much fun with this material, if not more. Once the first person at this family reunion is killed, it’s an all-out slug-fest from there, and every chance Wingard has to do something new, cool, or simply righteous with his kills, he doesn’t back away and embraces it. You would think that all of the killings in this movie will just make you numb after awhile, but Wingard surprisingly finds newer, more exciting ways to bring out as much awe-inspiring and cheerful moments of violence, as humanly possible as it is to do for a horror movie. He never goes over-the-top with it; nope, instead, he keeps it bloody, brutal, in-your-face, and mostly compelling, even when he does seem to be pulling whatever he can out of his ass. However, I think more horror directors need to be pulling stuff out of their ass, especially if it’s this fun and entertaining to watch.

Which may be weird for some to hear, especially considering this a horror movie, and as we all know; horror isn’t necessarily the most joyous genre of all. But Barrett and Wingard think differently: They know that horror movies should be just as disgusting and as horribly gruesome as it has been perceived as being, while also being scary whenever possible. Also though, they know that horror movies should be an entertaining experience you can only have at the movies, especially when they’re done at this caliber, and with this much of a playful tone and feeling. The two do get a tad bit “too jokey” at times, almost, dare I say, falling into the territory of being “meta”, but most of the times, they were able to make me laugh, while also expecting the unexpected with it’s story, the violence involved with it, and the direction.

Hello 2013's most-demanded Halloween costume!

Hello 2013’s most-demanded Halloween costume!

Thank you, Mr. Wingard and Mr. Barrett. It’s been awhile since the last time us movie critics remembered how much fun it could be going to the movies, and seeing a horror movie, without necessarily having to be scared shitless. Thank you very much.

And of course no good horror movie would be considered “good”, if it wasn’t for the perfectly-pitched cast they have on hand here. Everybody’s good here, especially because of the fact that nobody’s really a bigger star than the other here, and even if they are, they sure as hell aren’t treated as such. With the exception of maybe one chick, everybody’s demise is left up in the air, flying, and soon to land at any second, for any reason. Every character here is actually like a pawn on Barrett’s and Wingard’s chess-table: They all have their reasoning for being there, their strengths, and their weaknesses, however, they could be gone without any fair warning. Literally, you could be watching a character on-screen, seeing them do something cool, courageous, or even bad-ass, and then the next second, see them taken away from you because they weren’t thinking all that straight or got caught off-guard. That was a whole bunch of fun to watch, and it was only made better due to the cast being totally up for anything that Barrett and Wingard were able to throw at them. And yes, blood-flavored corn syrup was one of them.

Consensus: While it may not be the game-changer or revolutionary flick that most have been deeming it as, You’re Next still goes back to the basics, keeps it simple, bloody, fun, entertaining, wild, unpredictable, and always worth watching, even if the horror genre isn’t your favorite flavor of pie. It sure as hell isn’t mine, and look what I’m saying about it!

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If they are in fact "Next", they better get a move on and start the love-making later. Idiots.

If they are in fact “Next”, they better get a move on and start the love-making later. Idiots. What? Have they never been home-invaded by killers in animal masks before?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nights and Weekends (2008)

Just move in already!

James (Joe Swanberg) and Mattie (Greta Gerwig) are happy and in love. So happy and in love in fact, that when we first see them together, they close the door, get right on the ground, take each other’s clothes off, prepare for some love-makin’, and do the deed. Now if that’s not a true sign of two people in love, I don’t know what is! But as we begin to learn more and more about James and Mattie’s relationship, it isn’t necessarily a normal one as much as it’s one that has to be spent together when one is in town or around and ready for a little hang-out. What I mean by that is that they have a long-distance relationship that seems lovely and going very well at first, but as we see once we get a fast-forward to one year later, things are a bit different between these two as we may have never suspected judging from the first shot of this flick.

The term “mumblecore” is usually referred to in a negative way, however, like with most films of any genre, I don’t find that a negative term per se. The movies that can be associated with this term are usually easy-to-make, as if you or I could get up right now, grab a camera, and start filming anything you want, and usually feature real, down-to-Earth scripts, or sometimes, not even a script at all. The point of a “mumblecore” movie, really, is to show us how real and frank something is, whether it be a simple story or one that provides plenty of thinking. These types of movies are usually my favorite kind, but yet, I still haven’t latched onto the movement as a whole.

"The Plastic Lion Gift": We've all been there before, right men?

“The Plastic Lion Gift”: We’ve all been there before, right men?

Then again, I’m just a 19-year-old dip-shit from the suburbs, so what do I know about real life?

Anyway, where I’m getting at with this flick is that despite the movie being as cheaply-made as possible, there are still some god-to-honest truths that come out here that are more than just “long-distance relationships blow”. No, believe it or not, there’s more of a thought-process needed to be had here when watching because, as co-writer/director Swanberg continues to remind us, everything we are seeing, hearing, and feeling is all real. Maybe almost too real. So real, to the point of where you feel like you can almost connect with their relationship in a way that makes their’s more inferior to yours. We all think about it, especially when we watch movies about relationships and for me at least, it usually doesn’t work because most of my relationships have started off perfect and prosperous, then turned into total miserable affairs, mixed with some pleasures here and there.

However, watching these two made me very happy to not only have those relationships in my life, but also to still be single. Actually, it’s probably more of the latter in this situation, but it still got me thinking about the former. Probably too much actually. Damn you, Swanberg! Now I want a girlfriend back in my life!

But I think what Swanberg is trying to get at here with this honest look into the relationship of a couple that doesn’t seem to really know what they want with one another just yet, is that all humans feel and need love in our lives. It’s just a statement of fact. We will always and forever continue, no matter how hard or painful the outcome may be, to look for that special someone, even if it takes us a hundred years to do so. That’s just how we are functioned as a society to automatically think: If you don’t find that special person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, don’t worry, he/she’ll come around eventually. That idea pisses me off, but as I get older, more hair starts to fall out, names are forgotten, and the vision gets blurrier, somehow, it can’t help but be all too true.

That’s why when I had somebody like Swanberg practically pointing his finger at me, telling me that I should listen up to what he has to say, turned me off right away. The style of this is one that will tee most people off, mainly because it is all about improv, as if everything these people came up with on the top of their heads were moments of pure genuineness, almost like you or I could have the same moment as well. However, it feels more forced than it actually does natural, and that’s not a hit against the two performers here. Both are amazing, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. Basically, it’s almost like the movie knew it had to touch a sensitive spot in our hearts, so rather than just giving us some bits and pieces of character-development that would have us understand these character’s a tad more, it just gives a bunch of pretentious conversations that these two constantly have, whenever they aren’t boning or fighting. Come to think of it, that’s all relationships are: Boning and fighting.

However, that’s not the point of this movie and sure as hell not what Swanberg was trying to get across. What he is trying to get across is that most relationships will die-out, but you have to feel some real truth and passion in them, and if not, if there’s one crack to be found in that persona of you or that other person, then all hope is lost for the relationship. Once again, a very sad fact. but a very honest one that needs to be said more, especially in the slew of mainstream rom-coms that seem to get churned out each and every year. It’s not like Swanberg is telling us that this happens to every relationship, albeit long-distance ones, but just this relationship in particular; a relationship where we the two involved seem like they honestly love one another, but begin to find more and more about each other as time goes on, and don’t really like what they see.

For instance, Mattie tells it like it is, what she’s feeling at a certain moment, and rarely ever holds anything back. Makes her a pretty cool chick to hang out with I think, but that’s just me. But sooner or later, once we get to see Mattie in all of her full-on form (and I’m not talking about the nudity, although there’s plenty of that), we realize that she’s probably the most-invested one in this relationship, constantly crying whenever her boyf isn’t around to keep her company, or put on a “real” smile when she wants to have fun. But it’s weird too, because when she’s not crying and being all emotional for no reason, she’s then talking about how she feels that “love shouldn’t be so precious”, as if she’s just that ice-cold bitch that every man should steer away from. She’s an odd duckling, and an inconsistent one at that, but she still feels like a real person for that reason alone. There’s an under-lining honesty to her, that comes out more and more once the flick continues on and gets further into it’s own emotional crossroads.

Cue the Marvin Gaye. Or not music at all either. Just heavy-breathing and moans is fine too.

Cue the Marvin Gaye. Or, no music at all. Just heavy-breathing and moaning is fine too.

This is of course, made to happen because of the amazing performance from Gerwig who’s been churning out great-performance-after-great-performance ever since this movie came out, but yet, it’s still nice to get a small-glimpse at her career when she was getting bigger by the mumblecore flick. Same goes for Swanberg, who probably isn’t as big of a name as Gerwig is, but still shows us enough dramatic chops as an actor to where I feel like he could be a welcome-presence, had I have to get used to seeing him all of the time on the big screen. Together, they forge a wonderful relationship that’s filled with plenty of ups and downs. I could also tell that these two were legitimately two friends who got together, realized that they wanted to make a movie, not have it cost all that much, and just let it all hang loose (literally and figuratively). They actually have a nice bond together, where instead of telling each other how they feel through simple words, they convey most of their emotions usually through eye-contact or a certain physical-trait the other one has, allowing them to latch onto one another. Pretty beautiful thing, if you don’t mind me saying so myself. It’s something you can tell between two people who honestly know and love each other, which only makes it more accessible to understand that these two really are besties in real life and better yet, are ones that love to make movies. But not just any sort of movies, movies with messages about two people that feel they have it all, but don’t know half of what’s about to happen to their relationship and their lives.

However, such is life. Suck it up. Move on. Find that special someone. I guess.

Consensus: Though Nights and Weekends strategy of getting it’s point across feels a bit self-indulgent, we still get the point, and it hits us in a spot that we like to keep clear any bad vibes from hitting: Our hearts.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Ehh, whatever they're fighting about, they'll forget about it in T-minus 10 years.

Ehh, whatever they’re fighting about, they’ll forget about it in T-minus 10 years.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Hipsters and beer: Let the sexual-fluids begin to fly!

Luke and Kate (Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde) work at a brewery in Chicago and could probably be confused as a loving, long-term couple. They bicker, they flirt, they play around, they constantly hang out, they get drunk together, and they’re always talking, so why the hell aren’t they together? Well, for starters, Luke is with a modest school-teacher Jill (Anna Kendrick), and Kate is tied-down to the quasi-intellectual, older Chris (Ron Livingston). Eventually, these four all hang-out and spend the weekend at Chris’s mountain house, but that’s when things begin to get a little weird for these four, and they eventually all come to terms with who they want to be with, why, and just who they are as people. Well, that, and a whole bunch of drinking as well. Can’t forget about that fact.

Many will probably dub this as the “coming out” of sorts for writer/director Joe Swanberg who, in case you don’t know, has been the name to run by when it comes to looking for “Mumblecore” films. The style irks some, but recently, it’s been getting a lot of notice and it seems like Swanberg has finally picked-up all of the momentum and speed he needed to finally get his beloved genre out there for the rest of the world to see. Whether or not they’ll take it and accept it for all that it is, is totally left to be decided, but if it’s is this movie that’s going to bring that somewhat annoying genre to the center-fold of the rest of the movie world; then I can see a brighter-future ahead. For the genre at least.

Playing with one another's food? Yup, totally in love!

Playing with one another’s food? It’s gotta be love!

What works so well with this flick is that everything about it, from the conversations, to the style, to the plot-transitioning, all feels real and natural, as if we’re watching real-life happen right in front of our very eyes. Granted, these characters are probably a lot better-looking than us normal-beings, but it’s easy to take them in as real people, who obviously have real feelings and emotions, despite them trying to hide it with all of their might. Most of what happens in this movie, actually, is very small and subtle, but the reactions and the feelings are real, and never make you feel like you’re watching a movie, where a bunch of really talented-people are acting their assess off, just so they can seem “indie enough” to be respected. For most movies, that is obviously the case, but everything here feels so normal and well-played, that you don’t feel it.

Despite it being a very naturalistic movie, it’s also a very thoughtful one that isn’t preachy or as obvious with it’s message as one may think. Swanberg touches on several points about our human-psyche like love, attraction, infidelity, and what cost they have attached to them but never anything too emotional or heavy-handed. It all plays itself out in a way where it makes you feel like you have just as much to learn as these characters in this movie, and that can sometimes be a blessing or a curse. However, with these characters and this script, it’s definitely more of the former than the latter. You’ll be happy to be hanging-around with these characters, feel a bit of an attachment to them, and also hope that everything churns out well for them, whether or not they fully deserve it.

And to be honest, there’s never any real “unlikable” character here to be found. The character of Chris should, on-paper, seem like a total and complete deuche-cake that thinks way too much, about nonsensical, meaningless things, but he actually comes off as just a dude that wants a little bit of love in his life, hasn’t quite found it yet, and is just waiting for that time to come, despite him being a little bit too old in the game to be slumming-around. He’s the only one that comes close to be considered “a bad guy”, which means that everyone else is lovable and easy-to-like, even if they do have some flaws. Actually, major flaws, but what would a human be if they didn’t have a little bit of flaws here and there, eh?

Probably the loveliest part of this whole flick is watching Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde on-screen together. Not only do they share a pitch-perfect chemistry that makes you believe these two as besties on and off the screen, but they also continue to have you guessing throughout the whole movie. Since there’s so much sexual-tension and under-lining love between the two, you can just feel like anything could happen between these two, at any given moment, for any reason. And hell, since they’re always around each other getting a little crunked-up, the odds get even more and more stacked-up as each and every new brew is consumed. These two together, whether it’s mostly improvised or scripted, is a work of beauty to behold and it’s made even better because both are great performers respectively.

The drink of death.

The hospitable drink of death.

Everybody knows Jake Johnson can act his ass off. Whether it’s being serious or comedic, Johnson’s always the go-to guy to make you laugh one second, and then cry the next. He just has that skill and it’s shown to full-effect here. However, when it comes to trumping Olivia Wilde’s screen-presence, Mr. Johnson can’t help but retreat and let her do her thing, which was great because it’s probably Wilde’s best performance ever. Not saying that she won’t get any more of these down the line, but for right now, the girl’s shown us something that not only impressed me with not only how unsympathetic she can be with some of the actions and decisions she decides to take, but with how sad and vulnerable she can be as well. We rarely ever see that side to her act, and it’s one that I wish to see more from her in the future because she’s so good at playing up the dramatic-side, but also still be able to charm us with her light touches as well. Wilde allows Kate to have a presence that isn’t all about being the life of the party or constantly-funny, but just a real person that lives in the moments and tries not to get too tied-down by dumb crap like break-ups or heartbreak, as hard as they may be to avoid.

Let’s hope this means better roles for Wilde, even if they don’t concern her getting naked. Although, I wouldn’t mind that that much either. I’m a man, dammit! I have needs!

Anna Kendrick is also here and very good as Luke’s gal-pal, Jill, who’s actually a bit more confused and depressed than anybody else in this flick. Kendrick is good at being all cute and cuddly when she wants, but also shows an under-lining sadness to her character that works and makes us feel like she’s more rounded-out, than just being known as “the girlfriend.” Same goes for Ron Livingston as Chris who, as I alluded to before, should be a dick, but somehow isn’t. He’s sympathetic, wholesome, and easy to care for, even if he does pull some odd actions here and there. Everybody here is good and all work off of each other perfectly. I can only hope that this means brighter, and better things for all of these stars in the future, even if some of them are already established ones as it is.

Consensus: Drinking Buddies sure as hell won’t last in your mind long after it’s over, but Swanberg’s writing and directing-style, and perfectly-cast group of workers, don’t really seem to be all concerned with that, and more concerned with showing us the realistic, if heartbreaking aspects of friendship and love, no matter how hard you try to stray away from it all.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Practically sleeping together...

Practically sleeping together…

Halloween Horror Movie Month: V/H/S (2012)

That’s why it’s usually best to get DVD’s instead.

The film more or less centers on a group of petty criminals who are hired by a mysterious third party to steal a rare VHS tape from a rundown house. But as they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last.

Here’s a great idea for a horror movie: take what is essentially the new and cool thing in horror (found-footage), mix it in with something old (anthology), and see what happens from there. It’s what you usually get from these anthology films, but it’s still a great way to remind us that found-footage films can still kick-ass, especially when they got a grainy look to them as well.

Being that this is all pretty much 5 short-films that have nothing to do with each other than being terribly freaky and featured on a VHS tape, I’m just going to go at it and give each story their own little mini-review. DTMMR readers, you are all in for a treat my friends!

1) This story is about a bunch of drunken frat guys that go out one night, go to the bars, drink it up, snort cocaine (always a good idea), pick up chicks, and try their hardest to get laid by the end of the night. You know, the schedule that I’ve been holding up everyday for the past 5 years. It’s cool because not only does this story go from hilarious to scary at the drop of a hat, but it’s all filmed by this one dude’s glasses who has the camera built into them. Shows you that the found-footage genre can still be pretty inventive when it comes to how they capture all of these crazy happenings on film, and it’s even better here, because the story gets so tense that I actually watched the last 3 minutes of it through the spaces in my hands that were covering my eyes. I’m a big baby, I know, but this was a perfect way to start off this flick and had me hoping for the best.

2) This story is about a vacationing, young couple who actually stumble upon a weird chick, asking them if she can get a ride somewhere. The story here is set-up with a very tense and strange atmosphere, but what really bummed me out is where they end up actually going with it. This ends up being one of the weaker stories in this flick not only because it takes a dumb-ass turn about half-way through, but because it features a twist that’s even dumber and comes out of nowhere. There’s an on-screen killing that I think is pretty cool, but that’s about.

3) This next story features, as you guessed it, a bunch of horny and wild teenagers that go out into the woods where a murder happened not too long before that. Typical horror shit, right? Anywhoo, this film is probably the goofiest of the bunch but it seems to have a bunch of fun with itself by playing up a lot of the conventions we have with these sort of “teenagers in the woods” stories: kids do some drugs, kids try to get laid, kids get naked, kids jump into lake while they are naked, and the horniest kids are the first ones to get “offed” because they can’t seem to control themselves. Doesn’t sound as interesting as I may make it, but it’s fun to watch and when the actual “killer” comes out, it seems pretty cool at first, but then when you think about it, makes no sense at all. Why the hell was this guy all blurred out as if he was naked on live television? I don’t know, it just looks cool.

4) This is probably the most inventively-told story of the whole bunch, as it takes place through a bunch of Skype calls, that all seem to have some deep, dark twisted meaning. This segment probably has the most tension throughout but what I didn’t like about this one is how music continued to play in the background, telling us when and where we should “freak out” at what’s happening on-screen. Silence would have been perfect for this segment, as it was for plenty of the other ones, and the eventual reveal at the end seemed a bit cheap and unbelievable. Still, I was tense throughout this one and that’s all that mattered for me.

5) Even though all of the other stories may have not been the scariest pieces of shite that I have ever seen in horror movies, let alone found-footage movies, V/H/S does a great job at keeping the best, for last. The story takes place around 1998, and follows a bunch of guys that go to a Halloween party to what they think is a haunted mansion, and well, actually ends up being just that. Literally. This is probably the most exciting and most entertaining segment in the whole film as I was laughing my ass off for a good 10 minutes or so, while the last 10 minutes, I was absolutely pissing my pants by how freakin’ scared and tense I was. There’s a great deal of tension that builds and builds and builds until the final shot, and it’s a great little piece of 20 minutes that ends this film on a high-note, rather than just a so-so note like I was expecting it to be before this one came up.

Of course, all of these other segments revolve around one big segment where these douche bags break into a house just to find one tape, which is scary but since it’s told in fragments, doesn’t really do much to excite us until the end. But other than that, this is overall a pretty scary, anthology film that’s a mixed bag (as you would expect), but overall, the nice kick in the ass that the horror genre needed, ever since the idea of Paranormal Activity 100 started running through producers minds. Call up your buddies, get in a big room, turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and be ready to be scared. I didn’t do that at all. Actually, I watched it by myself, on my computer, at 3 a.m., and I found it hard just to go from my bedroom to my bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s honestly like 5 steps, too.

Consensus: V/H/S may not always hit the scary-spot we expected from all of the hype and promotion this flick has been getting, but all of the segments will hold your interest, have you tense, and have you redeem some faith in the horror genre and show you that maybe these films can still work, given the right talent in front-of and behind the hand-held camera.

8/10=Matinee!!