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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Lynn Shelton

Laggies (2014)

I don’t wanna be told to grow up! Or get a job! Or get married! Or hate my life! Or, okay, it’s not all that bad, dammit!

28-year-old Megan (Keira Knightley) has come to realize that her life isn’t really going anywhere, but nor does she want it to. She’s happy staying with her high school sweetheart (Mark Webber), even if that means that they never get married; she doesn’t care about not really having her own job and just holding up signs for her dad (Jeff Garlin); and she especially doesn’t care about getting hitched and settling down like her best-friend (Ellie Kemper) has just done. But that all hits her head-on when she gets proposed to, finds her dad cheating on her mom, and has a few verbal-spars with her bestie. So, like what any other responsible, full-grown adult would do, Megan decides to run away and ends up hiding out with 17-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) who says it’s cool for her to chill out at her place, so long as so as her divorced dad (Sam Rockwell) doesn’t get in the way of the fun. But, sooner or later, he does, but here’s the strange thing: It doesn’t bother Megan. Which makes it easy for them to hit it off, which also causes a lot of problems for Megan and the life she’s trying to escape from, yet, has to confront sooner or later.

Basically, this whole premise could be simplified down to being, “growing up is hard to do”, and there’d be nothing wrong with that. Which yes, I know may bother some of those far more thought-provoking, complex individuals out there who want a little bit more meat on their one, but for someone such as myself who just goes to the movies to have a good time, be interested in what I see, believe it all, and most of all, learn a lesson or two in the process, it’s time well-spent.

"Just make sure that you don't get stuck doing pirate movies. Especially not the ones where the lead pretends to be Keith Richards!"

“Just make sure that you don’t get stuck doing pirate movies. Especially not the ones where the lead pretends to be Keith Richards!”

And that’s exactly what Laggies is: Well-time spent. Don’t expect anything else, and you won’t get anything less.

That said, being that this is in fact a film from Lynn Shelton (she’s directing a script from Andrea Seigel), who, in recent years, we’ve all come to know as a very interesting indie director who takes something which looks, on paper, obvious, simple and almost too contrived for its own good, and turns it on its head and makes you expect the absolute unexpected, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed that this isn’t as deep as I feel it could have gone. Not saying I would have wanted something as deliberately as cloying as Touchy Feely, but maybe something refreshing and breezy along the lines of Your Sister’s Sister, would have been a bit better. But the fact remains, we have a Lynn Shelton movie here on our hands and it’s a lot more polished than we’ve seen her do before.

So, with that, she’s dropped the hand-held cameras, hidden away the natural-lighting, and even let somebody else take over script-writing duties for her, which gives us a slightly mainstream-ish movie. But not mainstream in that it’s going to sell-out loads and loads of crowds, but moreso in the way that Shelton’s name will probably be heard of and/or discussed more because of the larger-amount of people seeing this. Which I’m happy for and hopeful actually happens; Shelton’s been a favorite of mine for quite some time and if this is the movie that gets her name out there out there to some who aren’t already familiar with her enough, then yeah, I’m all down for her “selling out”.

I just hope that she doesn’t make a habit of it.

Anyway, Shelton’s film may not be as deep as some may want it to be, but that’s okay; it’s still pleasant, funny, and smart in the ways that it presents these as-old-as-time coming-of-age themes, and spins them in a way to make them slightly refreshing. Not saying that I didn’t expect our main protagonist to learn some valuable life-lessons about being responsible, growing up, or keeping one’s promises, but the way in which the film presents these small moments, are well-done and surprised me on a few occasions. It’s totally predictable and conventional-as-hell, but if anything, Laggies proves that you can get by those problems by just putting a smile on, wearing your heart on your sleeve, and just trying to laugh it all off.

In fact, that’s exactly how I felt Keira Knightley’s character Megan was: Funny, ditsy, and immature to a fault, while also not caring about what happens to her life next, so long as she doesn’t have to grow up. And while, to some, this may not seem like the kind of character Knightley excels in (with an American accent, no less), it’s a role that actually works for her and her bright, bubbly screen-persona that sometimes shows in movies, yet, has never been utilized as perfectly as it is here. Because while it may have been easy for us to dislike a character as irresponsible and as narrow-minded as Megan, there’s still a feeling that we want to be like her; not care about getting old, or having to conform to certain ideas about being an adult. Yet, the movie never fully sympathizes with her, her actions, or how she can sometimes do certain things that hurt others around her. For that, we care more about her, and whether or not she does actually “grow up” at the end.

Swag doe.

Swag doe.

Same goes for Chloe Grace Moretz’s character, although she’s a bit more standard in that she’s another one of those wild child teenagers that’s sassy, rebellious, and chock full of angst. Not saying Moretz doesn’t do well in this role, because she totally does, it’s just not as rich as I think it could have been (with the exception of an angle the movie throws on us about the character’s not-present mother). But thankfully, to pick up all the pieces is Sam Rockwell who, as usual, is playing his cocky, fast-witted, and constantly lovable-self. Except this time, there’s a bit of a twist on this kind of character: He’s a daddy, with responsibilities. Still though, it’s a role that sees Rockwell using his lovely screen-presence to brighten the mood of any scene and, in ways, even add another heft of dramatic-weight to a scene that’s already full of it. He’s just that talented of an actor that no matter what he does or shows up in, he always makes better.

Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing, Sam. You’re too good at it.

Consensus: Predictable and obvious to a fault, Laggies mostly gets by on its lovely cast, pleasant feel, and relateable themes about growing up, making the right choices when you’re called on to do so, and sometimes, making sure you put somebody else before yourself.

7 / 10 = Rental!! 

Don't worry, Keira. You look great in no matter what you wear.

Don’t worry, Keira. You look great in no matter what you wear.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Touchy Feely (2013)

If Rosemarie DeWitt wants to touch me, she can be my guest. Hell, she can be my wife!

Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a woman that “feels” for a living. She gives massages to people, and they consider her one of the best and most worthwhile, mainly because she has that touch and feel for what it takes to give a good back-rub, or something like that. However, once Abby loses her touch, she finds herself in a bit of a funk that not only jeopardizes her job, but her relationship with her boyfriend (Scott McNairy). While on the other side of things, her brother, the up-tight, socially awkward dentist Paul (Josh Pais), seems to have gotten her “touch” and “feel”, therefore, giving him an ability to cure almost anybody’s problems they may have with their mouths. This boosts his self-confidence a bit, and may actually give him the chance to talk to his daughter (Ellen Page), and find out what she really wants to do with the rest of her life, rather than helping him out fixing cavities.

Writer/director Lynn Shelton has been something of an indie-darling, and practically, the go-to-gal for an indie-dramedy that’s not just funny, but heartfelt and insightful into human-relationships, and the way we all function. Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister are perfect examples of this, not just because those are her last two flicks before this, but because they show exactly the same type of balance of heart, humor, and humanity that I talk about. She knows how to make us laugh, while also having us cry by the end of the story, all because she gave us characters worth paying attention to and caring for. However, all of that goes right out the window here, as it seems like not only has Shelton gotten a bigger budget in her palms now, but that she’s also found a way to try and mesh her indie-style, with something that’s more mainstream and accessible to the wider audience.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can't "talk" to me about it, while she's doing it.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can’t “talk” to me about it, while she’s doing it.

Sadly, it doesn’t work.

And what doesn’t allow it to work is that this flick doesn’t have a single-beat that feels real, honest, or even believable in any way. It’s all quirky, all of the time, and done for a cheap-set of laughs that not only don’t amount to anything, but build characters that you can’t really reach and grab; mostly because they feel like one-dimensional characters. But I’m not saying they’re unlikable per se, it’s just that they don’t feature any type of realism to the way they act, speak, or go about their daily-life that makes you feel as if they are just like one of us, except more good-looking and talented. That’s how I felt with Shelton’s past two movies, and it’s what I expected to feel here, except, it didn’t happen. The story just went on, and on, and on, and on, and then, ended.

Which is a shame because you can tell that the cast seems to be trying. Rosemarie DeWitt is as charming and as cute as she’s ever been, and gives Abby a sense of down-to-earth honesty that makes her feel like a person, but the script takes over and makes her sort of a weirdo that feels all sorts of emotions a little too much. More than your average person should FEEL. And it was enjoyable to watch at times because DeWitt made it that way, but when you have a character that does such actions like tells her boyfriend to take off his shirt, only to walk away seconds later, bang him in her brother’s bathroom (and visibly too), and take ecstasy, only to get pissed-off when the boyfriend considers it “a random choice of actions”, you have to wonder just how unpredictable a character can be until they’re annoying. For me, I got annoyed of her pretty quick; and not just because I hate people that are like her character, but because she shows no rhyme or reason for the way she is. She knows that she can be unbearably odd at times, but never takes a second to think about why, or apologize to the people she loves the most, who are also sometimes the ones she hurts the most.

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they're hipsters!

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they’re hipsters!

Same kind of goes for the rest of the cast as well, even though they are all just as thinly-written as she is, just with less charisma. Scoot McNairy feels like the type of cool, hipster boyfriend that should be winning all of the ladies’ hearts with his good-looks, his sweet voice, and scruffy beard, but somehow comes off as a bit of a wimp, the type of dude you wouldn’t expect to see with Abby or last as long with her as he has. Granted, they do make a mention to how he was “the rebound” for her, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that his character doesn’t seem to really stand-up for himself when he needs to and tell his girlfriend how he feels, at any given time. Ellen Page plays Abby’s niece, who is also the same girl who has eyes for McNairy’s character and seems like she should have that whole “angst-ridden teen” thing down by now, but feels like she’s too much of a negative Nancy to really qualify as a teen, or a character worth watching either. She’s just here and you can tell that Shelton cared about her character and her story the least. Poor Juno, we all know she’s better than this.

Surprisingly though, the only one who walks away with this movie and makes it somewhat watchable, is the least-known name on the cast-list, even though he may be the most noticeable considering of how many pieces of work he’s shown up in all of these years. The name of the face is Josh Pais, who plays the weird, quiet, and oddly-placed brother of Abby, and does what he can with this role, neurotic twitches and all. You can tell that the heart of the movie lies with this dude, and you know that Pais is capable of making us laugh at this dude, then have us want to give him a hug when all is said and done too, however, you also know that this material doesn’t seem like the type of “breaking out” piece that he may have needed so late in his career. He’s a bit of a goofy and plays all of the weirdness of this guy very well, but it doesn’t amount to much, as his character never seems to learn anything that may have needed to be learned, in order to change the way he viewed life, his sister and what his daughter wants to do for her future. There’s a sign it may happen, but it never seems discovered and that’s a real shame. His character, the most beloved one out of them all here, also ends up having no real revelation and just goes about his daily-life as usual. Boring, and slightly depressing.

Consensus: While it certainly isn’t terrible and can be watched for some good performances from this talented-cast, Touchy Feely is probably Lynn Shelton’s weakest movie to-date, and shows her in a bit of a muddle, wondering what to say about each character, how to say it, and when it should all end for them, but ends up not really saying anything at all. Maybe that’s how life is? Actually, I don’t know!

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"So...uhm....awkward, right?"

“So…uhm….awkward, right?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Humpday (2009)

If the ladies aren’t quite working out, might as well just go for your best bud. Always seems like a safe bet.

College friends Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) finally reunite after ten years and spend a night together where they get drunk, get high, and end up talking about having sex with each other on-screen. Yup, you heard right. They actually got around to having a discussion about boning one another in front of the screen. At first, it all seemed like a bunch of “drunken talk”, until the next day where the guys are still thinking about it and have to wonder if they want to go through with it, or not. And hell, if they do end up going through it, what the repercussions would be, as I’m sure there has to be plenty for having sex with your best pal.

Alright, for all of the dudes out there, have you ever had a best bro-friend that you can talk about anything with, do anything with, and just be yourself around 24/7? If yes, then you are like most men and if not, I’m sorry, but go find one of them right now. For the guys that do have one of them (myself included), it’s gotta be pretty weird once you think about you and that other guy actually doing anything more than just being simple, cool bro’s together. I mean sex with anybody can be very weird, but sex with your best male-friend? That’s just a whole ‘nother level of weird and that’s exactly the point that this moving brings up with good reason, but trust me, it’s not exactly what you think.

"Yeah, so, uhm.....about us banging?"

“Yeah, so, uhm…..about us banging?”

Writer/director Lynn Shelton deserves a lot of credit here for going all out with a premise that seems like the snarkiest premise ever put to film, and somehow making it a sweet, insightful tale about the idea of a “bromance” and how far it can, and can’t go. Shelton’s script-skills are impressive because the gal doesn’t really write that much dialogue, instead she just points the actors where to go in the movie, and allow them to just improvise on the spot with whatever the hell it is that they think is right for that exact moment. It’s a method that works very, very well for her and makes this film seem more natural and understated, rather than a shoe-horned story that needed to happen so people could really feel awkward in their seats.

However, that idea of awkwardness is still very present in this movie but it’s used in a way that isn’t just manipulating you to the point of where you feel like this film has nothing else to do with it’s premise; it’s more about how two friends can interact with each other about anything, but the topic of possibly exploring more between one another is where the line is drawn. Not only does it discuss the idea of what binds between a friendship, but also sexuality and not closing yourself off to what you think is right for you, and what may be out there for you as well. It’s a very strange topic that comes out in the strangest way possible, but it’s so honest with itself, to the point of where I felt like I really understood why two guy-pals would actually go so far as to even try and get it on with one another.

As with most mumblecore movies, you get a lot of the same, silent sequences where people don’t seem to be talking and instead just focus on “real-life situations” which, for the most part, are done well here but it sort of got tiresome after awhile. I think what I didn’t like about the mumblecore-aspect of this movie is that it allowed these actors to all improvise their shorts off and even though they are all fine and dandy with it, some scenes seem to drag-on too long and have these people just talk like they have a gun to their head and can’t come up with anything else. Improvisation is usually one of those tricks that can either make or break a film, and oddly enough, this is one of those films that makes it and breaks it a bit. But not by too much, though.

But, like I said, the improvising didn’t really destroy the movie as much as it could have, mainly because of the cast that’s here to deliver it and they all do perfect jobs with it. Mark Duplass is one of those actors who has really been growing on me as of late and needless to say, his role here as Ben makes me realize why. Duplass is just so charming, cool, and sweet, that you really understand why a guy like him would feel the need to not only do something as outlandish as this to prove that he’s not closing his mind-off to what’s out there in life, but also not forgetting to please his wife and make her as happy as she can be. He used to be a cool guy that hung-out and did gnarly stuff with his guy-friends, but now, is all grown-up, married, and on the verge of having kiddies, which makes him a bit of a softy now. Which, altogether, makes total sense why he would want to go through with something such as sex with his best-friend.

She's handling the whole "I'm your husband, and I want to have sex with my best-friend" idea very well.

She’s handling the whole “I’m your husband, and I want to have sex with my best-friend” idea surprisingly well.

Speaking of the said best-friend, Joshua Leonard plays Andrew very well and allows you to get past the fact that yes, he is Josh from the Blair Witch Project (wait, isn’t he dead?). But that shouldn’t be a claim-to-fame that ruins him as a serious actor because the guy’s got a talent that makes you see him more as a real dude, rather than just a caricature of this total nut that just does whatever he wants in life, without any rhyme or reason. What I liked about Leonard here is that he seems like there’s more to him than just a wild-cat, and we start to see more and more revealing aspects to him that make us understand why he would also go through with something like this and also, even push his friend to do the same. It’s a great role for a guy that I think deserves more distinguished ones and it’s also a chemistry between the two that just feels real and honest, and also makes the whole “having sex” idea between the two all the more believable, a it becomes all the more painful to actually watch them as they try to get it on. Not going to spoil anything here but the scene where it’s just the two of them in a hotel room is absolutely hilarious and probably the best scene of the whole movie, for many reasons that you’ll just have to wait and see yourself, my friends.

Playing Duplass’ wife in the movie, Alycia Delmore seems to have more to her than we already expected and it’s a nice touch for her. I’ve never seen this gal in anything else before, but she seems like she’s a really talented actress because she takes the role of the jealous, annoying wife, and makes her more understandable and sympathetic enough in terms of where her view-point’s coming from. Her character gets a little weird at times, too, but it’s a believable weird and it was nice to see Shelton not only play around with the boys’ emotions, but the girls’ as well.

Consensus: Two obviously straight, male best-friends, getting ready to have sex in front of a camera is a bit of an odd premise, but it’s one that Humpday rolls with and doesn’t stop exploring until all of the layers have been unveiled, and each character has their own say on everything around them.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Humpday2

“Let’s get to it, right? Don’t be gay though!”

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

Prince Avalanche (2013)

The wilderness will break any man. Even the funny ones.

During the cooled-down, relaxing summer of 1988, two dudes named Lance (Emile Hirsch) and Alvin (Paul Rudd) spend their nights and days as highway road workers, in a isolated small-town of Texas after a huge forest fire wiped almost everything out. Though Lance hates the woods and wants nothing more than to get out, go to the city, and pick up whatever babes that he can, Alvin is very different. He loves the out-doors and basically considers it his home away from home, however, he also runs into a bit of a dilemma with that as he’s dating Lance’s sister, who also happens to be miles and miles away. Lance and Alvin are obviously very, very different from the first out-look, but once they begin to get talking, feel more emotions, and realize certain traits about the other person, they come to terms and notice how alike they truly are, in some very odd ways.

After wasting his life away with rather dull, not-so-subtle studio comedies like The Sitter, Your Highness, and the best of them all, Pineapple Express, I’m happy to announce the return of David Gordon Green to the world of effective, small indies that breath new life into a story that has been told many, many times before. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this guy go back to his roots and really get in touch with his characters, their feelings, their emotions, and who they truly are, and thankfully, no rust shows. Instead, we see a director who has practically learned all that he needed to know with a film-career such as his, but has also found a way to combine them all together in one, joyous film.

Like all us men, he just wants to get back, find a secret place, and jerk the curtain like nobody's business.

Like all us men, he just wants to get back, find a secret place, and jerk the curtain like nobody’s business.

What I mean by that is that all of the Terence Malick-y touches that he had on his earlier flicks, are still evidently clear to see here, but with a bit more of that fun, comedic-punch that he had in his later, weaker flicks. Still, the combo of funny, sad, and beautiful all come together perfectly and feel like a fully-realized idea from Green, rather than a sad-sack attempt of trying to relive those glory days he once had. Sort of like the high-school jock who returns to the 10-year reunion, still sporting the jacket, the tats, and the womanizing-skills he once had, yet, falls flat on his face because he has done nothing with his earlier-success and become something of a failure of sorts and lost his touch. This movie could have easily been the same type of example of Green and this movie here, but the man shows that he continues to grow more and more as a film-maker, and is able to soak it all in.

Let’s hope this idea continues on into whatever he oh so decides to choose next. Because as for right now, the guy’s back on the right path to being everybody’s favorite indie-auteur. For now, at least. Once he goes back to smoking weed with Judd Apatow and the rest of the gang, then he’ll probably go back to his crazy land.

Anyway, while this flick definitely reminds us why Green was such a lovely talent that you needed to see, almost less than a year ago, you can still tell that there are itsy, bitsy problems still to be seen. Because he has dipped his pen so much in the comedy ink, a lot of the drama and emotional feeling that this material would have in full-force, is played-out to a lesser effect, mainly because Green seems to be so obvious with his comedy. The comedy is funny, yes, but it also takes away from a couple of key scenes where I could have easily been lying in a pool, filled with my own tears and emotions. Instead, I left feeling slightly touched, but nothing more. That said, I can’t hate on Green too much because he shows us that he’s able to still have “it”, while also being able to grow more as a writer and director. Basically, I’m just glad to see him back. That’s all.

Where the real strength and power of this movie comes from is the casting of both Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd in these roles: Lance and Alvin. I’ve always stuck up for Hirsch in almost all that he’s done ever since he first broke-out in The Girl Next Door. Nowadays, that seems to get me more crap than actual praise, but little performances like these, in a movie such as this, remind me why I go to bat for the guy so many times. It’s obvious that Green is playing around with his comedic-writing with this character of Lance, who is practically just the idiot of the two, but still gives him enough heart and humanity to where we see him as a guy who’s definitely shallow in the way he acts and thinks, even though his heart is in the right place. Hirsch is great at making us laugh at this character, while also still having us realize that he’s like you or I, just really, really horny.

There's that lovable side!

There’s that lovable side!

The scene where Hirsch talks about his weekend, with all of it’s ups and downs, is probably the best example of his acting, as well as the flick itself, because it makes us laugh by how dumb some of the stuff he says really is, but also has us sympathize with him because the idea of being with a chick and banging her; is that all that he’s got to live for. You take that away, he’s not a person anymore. Sad, but I see it with many of the d-bags around me, so I obviously connected to that one the most.

On the opposite end is Paul Rudd, still being goofy and charming as Alvin, while also showing us something deeper and more human to this guy. Alvin does seem a bit like a tight-assed nerd who never really got to live it up in his youth and have fun, so is now taking it out on the one who person who actually is, but Rudd’s general-likability is able to allow us to get by that fact. You know that he’s a good guy, cares for the people around him, and wants nothing more than to just be happy, but you can also see him struggling with the idea of getting by in a world that seems like it’s speeding-up a little too quickly for him. There’s plenty of scenes where Rudd is goofy and “himself”, but there’s also plenty others where he lets loose on the drama and really gets to the bottom of who this person is and why. We’re supposed to not initially like him or sympathize with him when something bad happens to him, but we just do. Why? Because it’s Paul Rudd and everybody loves the guy! The chemistry these two have is what carries the flick and even though they do get a bit weird sometimes with their conversations, it all feels real, natural, and subtle; aka, just the way we like it with our David Gordon Green movies.

Consensus: While it may not affect as many people as his earlier movies, David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche is still a beautiful, hilarious, amusing, and compelling movie that shows him back in his original-form, with more kinks added to make it more suitable for anybody to watch and enjoy.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Since it's the 80's, does the Men at Work reference work?

Since it’s the 80’s, does the Men at Work reference work?

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

It’s the future, and Aubrey Plaza still does not smile.

Darius is an intern at a general interest magazine. She has no idea what she’s going to do with her life. She has no friends and no real source of income. Jeff, one of the staff writers, brings her along on a gig investigating a classified ad. Someone is looking for the perfect companion to join them on a dangerous time travelling mission. After a quick series of misfires, Darius becomes the bait for the magazine story.

Time-travel is a certain idea that most people just scoff at. However, there are plenty of those other peeps out there who believe that it’s there and that the government is still using it till this very day. Then again, those are the same people who believe it’s Doc Brown doing it so you can’t really decide on what to believe. All I know is that this film won’t really change your mind onto whether or not it’s real after all, but hey it’s an indie movie, they don’t give a shit anyway.

This film starts off as a somewhat wacky movie with a lot of goofy stuff going on with these characters as they are all being introduced to each other and a very jokey approach to a story that seems like it deserves just that. When you see a premise as wild as this, you automatically think it’s going to be one of those wild and stupid comedies, which this actually does start off with but something happens in the middle, then it all changes.

While this film does start off as your usual, quirky comedy, things start to get very romantic and somewhat dramatic, but it’s done in a very modest way where you feel like it’s genuine and you barely even notice the transition of moods. Director Colin Trevorrow gives us these characters, shows them for all that they are, some likable and some not, but by the end gives us fully-realized characters that actually go through some big changes throughout this whole story. Some of the changes for these characters are happy and others are sometimes bad, but in the end, we seem to get a full sense of who were watching the whole entire time through this whole flick. Because not only, do you feel like you know them, but you also start to root them on a tad bit by the end and that’s where the story got me, the problem is that I didn’t know what it was trying to do. And to be honest, I don’t think it did, either.

There’s a line in this movie that stuck-out for me where one guy asks one of the reporters, “so what’s your story about?”, only to have the reporter respond by saying, “I honestly do not know anymore”. To be honest, that’s how I felt about this film. I’ll give the film some love by saying it’s tone changes are nice and the story is heartfelt, but there seems to be almost too much going on here by the end that you feel like you don’t know what this story is talking about. We start off finding out about these people and how they look at time-travel, how this one quirky dude runs away from the government, has a secret life going on, and then people start to fall in love, but before the big ending where we all of a sudden are focusing on the whole time-travel aspect. Honestly, I didn’t know where this film was going towards the end and how they were going to end it, but when they did, I felt disappointed and left with a tad bit of an empty feeling. Not only did I feel like this because the last 15 minutes feel somewhat rushed as if the writer felt like he needed to end the story before it got drawn-out for far too long, but I also because there was too much going on that strayed away from the whole premise we began with for me to even feel something towards it. I also would have drew up a better ending for this flick, but then again, I can pretty much say that about any movie I watch.

If there was one thing that really attracted me to this movie was Aubrey Plaza, doing her usual sarcastic role she’s loved and known for in everything she does, especially my favorite show on TV right now, Parks and Recreations (which is saying something cause I don’t watch much TV). Plaza starts her character, Darius, off with her usual eye-rolling/sarcastic using act but after awhile, you start to see a lot of that break-down and you see here in a very vulnerable state, which is something you rarely ever see from her even when she is on TV. Plaza is so good here with all of the comedic stuff that it almost surprises the hell out of you, when she comes out of nowhere and brings out all of these emotional feelings out of her that not only feel real, but make you look at her acting in a different way. I hope Plaza gets bigger roles like this one in movies, because this chick definitely has what it takes to be a leading lady. You can quote me on that, bitch!

After seeing Your Sister’s Sister, I have come to realize that Mark Duplass is a very skilled actor and his role here as the nut-ball, Kenneth, shows just that. Kenneth is a total cook throughout the whole movie, but he’s a likable dude that you feel like wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he was pushed to do so. Duplass handles this goofy material perfectly and gives Kenneth a soft-edge that makes you see the world from his point-of-view. Jake M. Johnson also has a good role as the deuchy boss of Plaza, who starts off as this shallow and demeaning asshat, but is eventually brought to his knees and shown the ways of growing up, which was another story I was not only touched by but believed as well. I also have to give some love to Karan Soni as a fellow intern, who is so damn geeky and nerdy, that by the end, when he finally gets his time to shine, you can’t help but be so happy for the guy.

Consensus: Though it’s ending may not be as effective as it’s first hour, Safety Not Guaranteed is still a well-acted indie that features a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and a lot to show you of how you can take a time-travel premise, and push it in so many different ways to show you something just a tad different.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Your Sister’s Sister (2012)

Note to self: never bang your best friends sister, unless they both agree for three-some. Hey, call me what you want, I’m just human dammit.

Jack (Mark Duplass) is still reeling a year after his brother’s death. Iris (Emily Blunt), who was previously in a relationship with his brother, invites Jack to go to her family’s cabin where he can relax. When he reaches the cabin, he unexpectedly finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). And that’s when things get weird.

For me, mumblecore movies aren’t really my favorite to go out and seek. Some of them are very good and bring a lot of reality to their stories, but others just feel way too quirky and weird for it’s own good. Somehow though, I took a chance on this one, actually paying for my own ticket, and I think it brought a new piece of faith in me for these little flicks.

What I liked most about this film was just how realistic everything felt, and I think a lot of that is due to writer/director Lynn Shelton, natural screenplay. Actually, maybe the word “screenplay” is not the right thing to use here because this film seems like Shelton just wrote-out to these actors, what was going to happen and why, and then she just gave them the camera to run free and do whatever they want. And that’s probably my favorite aspect of this movie because the whole time I was watching this, I didn’t feel like I was watching some really good-looking people, in a small-indie, I felt like I was watching real people, going through a real situation, and having some real emotions be torn apart. I felt like I could also hang out with these people at a party, and just talk, and talk, and talk, which is exactly what they do here but it’s a lot more interesting than what I would talk to them about. Because if Emily Blunt was next to me, I highly doubt I would want to talk to her about her sister. Just being honest here, people.

Another aspect that could pretty much go hand-in-hand with what I already stated, is that this film brings out a lot of emotions in you, without you ever expecting it. For the first 30 minutes or so, I was laughing my ass off just by how brutally realistic and zany everything was. Then, there’s a slight change of pace for this flick where it gets pretty emotional and that’s when it started to hit me because it shows these people in vulnerable states and how they all respond to one another, especially when peoples feelings are thrown into the mix. In any lesser film, this change of pace would have effected it and make it come off as some sort of melodramatic mess that is so easily trying to rip tears out of our eyes, but not this flick. In fact, I got a little teary-eyed by the end and it was something that I was not expecting in the least bit, and for that sneakiness, I have to give major props to everyone involved.

And when I do say “everyone involved”, I mean just that. The cast isn’t that big (probably about 6-actual speaking roles) but you don’t really need many people when you have these three together. Emily Blunt is great in this role as Iris, because she not only gets to show her chicky, British side to her that we all know and love, but she also gets to go down a very emotional path with her character that makes us feel so much for her and it gives her more depth as an actress, more depth than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I think Blunt is a solid actress, but I don’t really think she’s been given the perfect opportunity to flaunt her drama skills, especially when she’s in flicks like The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement, Sunshine Cleaning, and plenty of others. Not that those flicks are bad by any means, but they just don’t let her strut her stuff as well as she does here and for that, I’m glad because I think this gal definitely has a brighter future in Hollywood now. And hell, she’s only 29. Live it up baby!

Rosemarie DeWitt is an actress I haven’t seen much of in anything really, but she gives off an amazing performance here as Hannah that makes me want to see more. Hannah is a character that’s very hard to read at first, but after awhile, you start to see a very sad and lonely person come out of there and even though she, out of everybody else, does the meanest things, you still feel for her because of what she’s been through with all of life and love. DeWitt is definitely not the most likable character out of the bunch, but she’s one that you can feel for even when she is doing some nasty things. I also loved the little sister-sister relationship her and Blunt had going on here and it made me feel like they actually were sisters. And come to think of it, they actually sort of look alike.

The one who really surprised the hell out of me with his performance was Mark Duplass as Jack. From the first scene, this guy totally had me won over with his everyday dude look that seemed realistic and had him come off as a guy that is really messed up from the death of his brother, but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. I don’t know what it was about him, whether it was his delivery or great improv skills, but he had me laughing just about the whole way through and it was even in scenes that were fairly serious. Duplass really shines in this movie because he’s able to take this character from scratch, and give him so much depth and emotional honesty, that it made me feel like I could be friends with this dude and stick by him whenever he needed a friend. Like DeWitt, I haven’t seen this guy in much, but I think now I’ll start to look out for him more.

If there was one complaint I had with this flick, and trust me, it’s a biggy, it’s that I couldn’t really buy “the first ending”. When I mean “the first ending”, I don’t mean that this is like Lord of the Rings or something where Peter Jackson can’t make up his mind on how to end, so he gives us about 30 minutes of extra-footage. No, what I really mean is that the resolution to all of these problems these people have with each other, plays out in a very unbelievable way and I tell you why. By the end of this flick, these characters go through so much uncomfortable and messed-up situations with one another, that sort of feels phony in a way, when it gets resolved at the end. The way that Shelton has it all resolve was a good trick she pulls off very well, but it happened a little neatly and too clean, whereas I think some people wouldn’t let it be resolved exactly like that. I know I sound very vague, but that’s because I don’t want to really spoil the actual ending, even though I did like the final shot of this movie.

Consensus: Your Sister’s Sister may be a tad disappointing by the end, but still features a trio of performances that feel natural and realistic, a script (or lack thereof) that sounds like real people, actually having real conversations with one another, and when the film is all said and done, you feel like you know these people from the inside and out, and you can only wish them happiness for the rest of their lives.

8.5/10=Matinee!!