Posts Tagged ‘dark comedy’

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Faults is a fantastic, even-paced mystery that is phenomenally captivating.

This movie starts out as a dark comedy showing you the desperate nature of the lead character, Ansel Roth—played by Leland Orser. Ansel is a specialist on cults and he tours local hotels to give shitty speeches and hawk his hackey book. The opening scene shows Ansel trying to re-use a hotel voucher for a free meal and getting rebuked. It goes delightfully wrong as he has to be thrown out.

Ansel in Mirror

Ansel Roth is a man at the end of his rope. Not quite literally, but he does attempt to suck a tailpipe. Ansel is a broken man, and Leland Orser does a beautiful, masterful job portraying that sense. Leland Orser is a seasoned character actor who typically plays nerdy roles, but he excelled in this larger opportunity playing a complex character like Ansel Roth. Ansel is a failure. Both his marriage and career have failed. One particular case still haunts Ansel because he failed trying to help a family deprogram a woman initiated into a cult. He pushed her too hard and she killed herself.

As a result of his collective failures, Ansel has lost all motivation to move forward.

Claire and Parents

However, he gets a second chance when two parents—played by familiar faces Chris Ellis and Beth Grant—come to Ansel desperate for his specialized help to save their daughter, Claire. For the first time in the movie, you see a light turn on in Ansel’s eyes while he’s eating breakfast with Claire’s parents. Although he blatantly states that he no longer gives a shit, Ansel needs the money and the parents are willing to pay for the job. Naturally, Ansel hires two thugs, they all kidnap Claire from a parking lot, and they transport her to a hotel in a sketchy van. Clearly, these are not professionals.

Basically, the comedy comes to a screeching halt at this point (about 20 minutes in).

However, the lack of dark humor is made up for by a wealth of Mary Elizabeth Winstead—playing Claire. I’ll take that trade-off. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of our finest young actresses. She is an amazing talent with range, but she’s hasn’t had a true breakthrough role. I have no doubt she would have had an equally impressive performance as Brie Larson in last year’s Oscar-nominated Room.

Kidnapped

Claire comes off as a fragile woman. She is confused about the situation, but not her convictions. According to her parents, she has joined a cult and cut herself off from her family and society as a whole. Claire has joined a group that refers to itself as Faults. A fault is a fracture. From a fault comes a change. Claire feels intrinsically connected and called to this group. According to her description, Faults exhibits all the classic signs of a cult. It is Ansel’s mission to deprogram the cult’s teachings.

Ansel feels obligated to help Claire, but his main motivation is the money so he can pay off his debt.

Terry is his manager who self-published Ansel’s latest book, which he can’t give away. Jon Gries plays Terry in a very understated manner as a tough but effeminate photographer. Despite his job, he still manages to provide the character with the appearance of intimidation. Terry utilizes his close pal, Mick, as the muscle to force Ansel to pay. Mick is played by Lance Reddick, resident alien-looking motherfucker with a voice of gold who I’ll always remember as Desmond Mobay from Oz and Cedric Daniels from The Wire. These two characters are constantly interfering with Ansel’s mission to save Claire.

Ansel can only survive so long having his candle burnt at both ends.

Saying too much more would threaten to ruin the story as this movie transforms into an absorbing mystery to find out who this cult is and what the hell they are doing. Although Claire is the only opening into Faults, Ansel is the key to unlock the door. Can he succeed where he failed before?

Orser and Winstead

Riley Stearns deserve immense praise for pulling off this movie as both the writer and director. His vision came to life and became much more thanks to Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. The interplay between the characters of Claire and Ansel is the core of this movie. A few minutes could have been snipped from the middle to tighten things up, but this movie deserves more praise.

Maybe I just personally enjoy the subject of cults more than most. It is a fascinating topic that Faults touches on and rolls around in—exploring why and how people are drawn to cults. In most cases, it is the cult of personality that lures people in like a siren’s call. In Faults, Ira is the name of the mysterious leader that we never see but their presence is felt anyway. The charismatic leader is often the introduction to make the brainwashing go down smooth. As people, we are very weak and open to this exploitation. While people love to single out Scientology, every organized religion is a cult.

You can all hate me equally for that true statement and sentiment.

Faults is a movie that belongs in your queue. Fortunately, this is still streaming on Netflix. Despite heavily relying on the mystery of unraveling the story, this movie holds up on a second viewing.

Just watch what you say about Faults, there some things we don’t talk about.

MEW Scream

4 out of 5 stars

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Hardcore Henry is a stupid name for a movie. We can all agree on that.

A movie that solely features a first-person perspective seems like a stupid idea.

However, Hardcore Henry is not a stupid movie. Although this is absolutely not a highbrow movie, it is quite an achievement in filmmaking for crazy rooskie Ilya Naishuller. I hope that’s not taken as an insult in the Motherland because it’s meant as a term of endearment for this outrageous Russian who made this fucking movie his debut film. I have no idea where Naishuller goes from here.

Sadly, we may never even get an opportunity to see Naishuller’s future work if this flops.

Hardcore Henry deserves better. This movie would have benefitted tremendously with a late release at the very end of summer—hitting people at the tail-end of action movie season with something they have never witnessed. Or perhaps scheduling the movie for a February release (such as Deadpool) would have been a boon to the box office. Anything was a better idea than competing directly against tentpole movies. Keeping the original title of Hardcore should have also been an easy decision. Hardcore Henry’s marketing campaign did not do the movie justice. This is more than a “video game movie.”

For whatever reason, Hardcore Henry has not hit the mark with critics or the audience.

Yes, the first-person perspective is a gimmick. But it is very well-executed throughout the movie.

Action

No one has had the balls to pull off a full-length feature film shot with a GoPro. I have no idea how some of these sequences were pulled off, but the practical effects are seamlessly blended with CGI to make this relatively smooth camerawork. If you are at all predisposed to motion sickness, sit in the back row. As a child, I learned the hard way because the 5-year-old version of myself was dragged to Aladdin and forced to sit in the front row. Needless to say, that magic carpet ride was not so magical. I wanted to throw up and we had to leave the movie. Maybe it’s a coincidence that I hate all Disney movies. But as long as you know what to expect with Hardcore Henry, you should be fine for the hour and a half runtime. While it can get too shaky at moments, I never experienced motion sickness. Naishuller gives the audience just enough breaks at the right times to serve as respite from all the murdering.

Hardcore Henry has a frenetic pace and the kinetic action drives the movie.

With a slow build, there is a nice crescendo leading up to all the ensuing chaos.

Estelle

The beginning is a beautiful introduction to the premise and plot. As the audience, you see everything from the first-person perspective of Henry. Just as Henry does, you wake up to find yourself being attended to by a sexy doctor named Estelle (played by Haley Bennett). Not so sexy is that you’re missing an arm and a leg. But good news, the doctor is apparently your wife and she can hook you up with cybernetic limbs. Essentially, these limbs are indestructible plug-and-play parts.

The party is almost immediately broken up by a mysterious villain named Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) who has fine-tuned telekinetic powers and bad intentions. Akan and his never-ending army of soldiers seize Estelle and Henry’s mission is to get his wife back. If there’s a weak part of this movie, the character of Akan leaves a lot to be desired. A more iconic villain and matching performance would have really elevated Hardcore Henry. Instead, what we got was a weird albino Joker-lite.

Akan

The story isn’t remarkable, but it still manages to be an entertaining sci-fi movie set somewhere in a more technologically advanced world. If this was filmed in the typical straightforward fashion, I would still be interested in watching the story unfold. In a sense, Hardcore Henry self-imposes limitations on the story by forcing themselves to film everything in the first-person perspective.

It’s hard to fathom how this got made, but I am glad it did.

Sharlto Copley comes out of Hardcore Henry as the shining star (Jimmy). Copley is not the titular Henry, but he plays several different versions of the same character who helps Henry on his mission. Most of the comic relief in Hardcore Henry is a direct result of Copley’s completely over-the-top performance. Sharlto puts his range on display, and he already proved very capable of performing with just his voice in Chappie. By luck or design, Copley appears to enjoy being part of interesting movies.

Jimmy

Hardcore Henry is mostly a nonstop thriller. When Naishuller needs to give the audience a rest from close-ups of hyperviolence, he still manages to make the events interesting. Considering Hardcore Henry was primarily shot using GoPro mounted cameras, that feat is a worthwhile accomplishment. However, there are few occasions where Naishuller falls a little too much in love with the GoPro.

I whole-heartedly loved the first and third acts of this movie. But Hardcore Henry threatens to stall out in the second act because there’s too much repetition of similar sequences. Henry is in a bind against Akan’s soldiers and he has to fight his way out so he can find his wife. There reaches a point where they almost make you numb to the gory violence. I promise you that Ilya Naishuller will win your heart over with the finale if you stick it through. Near the end, they recognize the absurdity of the story and Naishuller just turns up the volume level to dangerous head-splitting territory.

While this movie absolutely isn’t for everyone, I would be surprised to hear people (who went into this movie expecting to experience mindless action) were not entertained. There are so many thrilling sequences that leave your jaw agape. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Violence

I guarantee you have never seen anything like this movie. Since we’re all drowning in a sea of mediocrity, you should do yourself a favor and bear witness to a cinematic achievement that cannot be replicated. I don’t think anyone will have the balls to try to pull this off again. Even if someone makes an attempt, Ilya Naishuller already set the bar extremly high with the execution of Hardcore Henry.

Eventually, I expect this movie to find a cult audience that will appreciate and celebrate its existence. Hardcore Henry deserves that adoration because it threatens to be different. If you noticed, I haven’t even mentioned who plays Henry. A series of stuntmen and cameramen served the role—including director Ilya Naishuller, which shows some real investment. The whole crew responsible for this movie probably won’t get the respect they deserve, but they can take solace in the creativity of their labor.  Their work will likely scare off anyone else from attempting a full first-person movie.

Despite the commercial disappointment, Hardcore Henry is actually an incredibly pleasant surprise.

A-OK

4 out of 5 stars

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Bad Roomies belongs in the Pantheon of bad movies.

Normally, I would never watch this movie. I don’t seek out bad movies.

But when I was browsing through the Recently Added/Trending Now categories on Netflix, I saw a face that has deeply disturbed me since childhood. A doughy, pudgy red-haired monster that is forever emblazoned in my brain has re-appeared to haunt my nightmares. I shudder at the sight.

What comes to mind when I say the name Ham Porter? The answer should be douche chills.

Ham Porter is the little fat ginger from The Sandlot. His real name is Patrick Renna, but that hardly matters. At this time, Patrick Renna is 37 years old, but he will forever be Ham Porter. Michael Bower will always be Donkey Lips from Salute Your Shorts. Shaun Weiss will always be Goldberg from The Mighty Ducks. It is inescapable. Those actors just need to embrace it at this point.

In my mind, Patrick Renna only existed in The Sandlot. When I stopped watching that movie after the millionth time as a kid, Patrick Renna was dead to me until Netflix mushed Bad Roomies in my face. However, his IMDb page suggests otherwise. I would have never known. Renna had a nice run of guest spots on classic 90s TV shows like Boy Meets World, Home Improvement, and The X-Files. After 1999, I don’t recognize anything that he’s been involved with, but good for him for managing to get work despite his ugly mug and pedestrian acting ability. Patrick Renna peaked as Ham Porter.

Ham Porter

That’s the last time I’ll say the actor’s real name. We shall continue referring to him as Ham Porter for the rest of this review of the very terrible, incredibly cringeworthy Bad Roomies. For all intents and purposes, his character in this movie (Bobby) is basically Ham Porter all “grown” up. Ham Porter has the same face and body proportions as his 14-year-old self in The Sandlot.

My wife wisely pointed out that Ham Porter bears a certain resemblance to Chucky. It is an astute observation. Plus, he looks like my ginger cousin who I once warned not to smile and obnoxiously shake his head in my face—he didn’t listen. It would also explain why his repulsive face had such an impact on me during my childhood. His face evokes a visceral reaction from me every time.

Ham Porter is so fucking creepy. I recoil in horror when he smiles and expresses joy. He plays a disgusting, revolting character very well. Clearly, he’s in his wheelhouse in Bad Roomies. As someone stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence, his character could have easily been called Ham Porter and no one would have batted an eye. Besides, there are so many other worse parts to this movie.

Bad Roomies is uncomfortable and not in an enjoyable, awkward manner. This movie is such an unpleasant watch because it thinks it is so hilarious and outrageous. I feel bad for Tommy Savas—he’s literally the only bright spot of this entire movie as Raymond. He’s roommates with Ham Porter and the story revolves around them finding a new roommate. What are these two going to do?

Ladies Man Ham

Shockingly, they find a girl! Annie Monroe is legitimately horrible as Chloe—unless you are supposed to fucking despise her within the first 5 minutes. You cannot root for or even mildly tolerate any of these characters. None of their decisions make any sense and it’s not like their choices lead to laughs. This movie yields no humor. That’s not good for a movie that bills itself as a dark comedy.

I lasted about 20 minutes before I instinctively reached for the remote to put an end to the misery. But I persevered. I knew this would be a bad movie. I started watching Bad Roomies to discover and study the depth of its awfulness. This is one of the worst movies I have ever watched.

There are no redeeming qualities to this movie. I hate-watched this motherfucker to try to save you from potentially making the same mistake. When you see this movie on Netflix, please do yourself a favor and scroll past Ham Porter’s fat ugly face as quick as possible. Bad Roomies is objectively awful.

This movie felt like the longest hour and a half of my life. The pace is so slow, there is no rhythm or comedic timing, and the attempts at humor are sophomoric. While it wants to be crude and edgy, it’s just unpleasant and uncomfortable to experience on every level. I have already dedicated far too many words to this movie, but its terribleness continued to surprise me as the movie unraveled.

Gross Ham

By the end, the movie goes to such an extent to insult your intelligence. It feels like everyone involved took turns spitting in my face. I was aghast. Typically, I don’t enjoy eviscerating a movie, but Bad Roomies earns every negative word. It takes time and effort to write, direct, and produce a movie. But I need to know, who is this for and why was it made? It doesn’t need to exist.

My rating system of movies uses the 5-star scale to mirror Netflix. I use half-stars to try to futilely add a little more nuance—on Netflix, I’ll round up or down depending on the entertainment value. However, this is an instance where my rating won’t match my Netflix rating because they do not allow you to give a movie 0 stars. Instead of abstaining from giving it a Netflix rating, I settled for 1 star so it would at least drag down the overall rating of the movie for everyone else. Bad Roomies deserves that treatment. I have never wasted my time to write a 0-star review of a movie before, but kudos to Bad Roomies for creating such a steaming pile of shit that it merits mentioning. Fucking Ham Porter.

Ultimately, I blame myself. I don’t like to bring bad movies into my life, which is why I needed this review to salvage some entertainment value. Please heed my warning. No one else needs to be a victim. Goodbye, Ham Porter. It’s not personal, but may I never see your face again.

Kisses

0 out 5 stars

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Better Living Through Chemistry is a worthwhile comedy currently streaming.

Essentially, this is a vehicle for Sam Rockwell to act weird. While it’s not a laugh riot, Sam Rockwell is a fucking star and he can carry a subpar story. You get the obligatory, crowd-pleasing Sam Rockwell dance sequence to go along with his infusion of bizarre energy and unique presence. I’m captivated by even the mundane actions of the aptly-named Sam Rockwell—because Sam does in fact rock well.

Don’t raise your hopes and expectations too high, but this comedy is better than most in theaters. Better Living Through Chemistry is simply a goofy, silly satire of boring suburban family life.

Rock 'n Well

Sam Rockwell plays a by-the-book pharmacist named Doug Varney who recently bought the family pharmacy from his asshole father-in-law, Walter Bishop—played by the late Ken Howard. Doug is extremely unhappy in his marriage to annoying, uber-controlling Kara—who is expertly performed by Michelle Monaghan. Kara is an ultra-competitive cyclist (often at the expense of being there for their quirky, troubled son) and she practically has Doug’s balls in a jar on the mantelpiece.

Doug’s miserable existence gets a jolt of life when he delivers medicine to jaded trophy wife Elizabeth Roberts. I don’t know how most of you feel about Olivia Wilde, but she is fucking stunning in this movie and she plays the sad housewife very well. Addicted to a cocktail of prescription pills to ignore her loveless marriage, Elizabeth introduces Doug to the sordid life of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n well.

Olivia Wilde

Most of the supporting cast is admittedly unremarkable. Ray Liotta is the best of the lot as Elizabeth’s absentee husband (Jack). While the story eventually saunters towards Doug and Elizabeth plotting to kill Jack by jacking up the dosage of his heart medicine, Ray Liotta is only in two scenes so you hardly get enough of him. Ben Schwartz is probably the other slightly memorable supporting actor as Noah—a dirtbag/douchebag employee at Doug’s pharmacy who never actually does his job.

It is supremely strange to have Jane Fonda narrate this movie. It feels like an awful joke that they attempted to pay off, but it just falls flat with a resounding thud. Instead of using a confusing narrator that makes no sense why she’s involved, you have a ready-made professional with a velvety voice in lead actor Sam Rockwell. Were they afraid of having too much Sam Rockwell?

Smoking

You can never have too much Sam Rockwell.  The movie would have benefited by using different framing.  The story should have been from his perspective. Maybe it would’ve made the DEA investigation subplot more interesting instead of the stilted interaction with the aloof agent.

While Better Living Through Chemistry meanders through the second half, you can do a lot worse in terms of comedies—plus, this is still streaming on Netflix. Although it should be an easy sell to Sam Rockwell fans, this is a light-hearted dark comedy that might appeal to a wider middle-age audience because it doesn’t take itself seriously. Basically, it manages to be an enjoyable midlife crisis.

Xanax

3 out of 5 stars

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Answering a Craigslist ad is a premise that opens the door to a world of possibilities.

I can’t fathom a more fitting title to this movie than Creep. It delivers the creeps.

I still have that creepy, crawly sensation on my skin. Creep is written by the co-stars and directed by the co-star who serves as our POV-cameraman, Aaron—played by Patrick Brice. But the real star is the creep, Josef—played by Mark Duplass. You’ve probably noticed Mark Duplass in something before. Most would identify him from the TV show The League or another character in a comedic venture.

Mark Duplass

I admit, I did not know Mark Duplass had acting chops. The reason this movie works is the performance of Mark Duplass. He’s likable, but his nice nature is cloying and annoying. You’re never quite sure what the hell is going on with Josef. Aaron answers Josef’s Craigslist ad for a videographer, which is revealed to be recording videos for Josef’s unborn son because Josef has a terminal illness and won’t be able to see him grow up. This is familiar territory, but Creep shows us this trope in a different, darker light.

Like with any real good horror movie, there are some nice instances of dark humor in Creep.

I will never be able to scrub Peachfuzz from my brain. It still feels dirty.

Currently streaming on Netflix, you could do a lot worse in terms of horror movies this October. Creep doesn’t overstay its welcome with a scant 77-minute runtime, which is always nice with this genre. Less is more. Creep is a tolerable slow burn, but the third act seems longer than it is because of the writing.

I can’t say too much about Creep without spoiling anything as the journey is the experience.

Peachfuzz Dance

At times, you will feel very uncomfortable—awkwardness is abound. But there’s an underlying tension with the interactions between Aaron and Josef. Even upon repeated viewings, I found those personal scenes to be both endearing and exceedingly weird. Man, Josef is a weird fuck and unapologetically close.

While Creep is targeted more towards the horror audience, the heart of the movie is the relationship of the only two characters who appear on the screen. Until the very end, you are on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen. The palpable creepiness would have been enough for me to bail early. All warm, fuzzy feelings would be left aside about helping this dying man. But I’m a person who actually cringes whenever I watch a genuinely awkward encounter in a movie or on TV.

The Peachfuzz mask is enough by itself to induce nightmares. And then the dancing. Oh, the horror.

Will Peachfuzz ever stop haunting me?

No Peachfuzz

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Hesher is a phenomenal film that is darkly funny, daring, and unique. I have never seen anything quite like this movie. It is the reason I love independent movies because it couldn’t been made otherwise.

Hesher has balls and a distinct sense of self. Joseph Gordon-Levitt transforms himself in this movie to play the titular character, Hesher. With dirty long locks and scruffy facial hair, Joseph Gordon-Levitt embodies a carefree, anarchist spirit who enjoys rolling around in the gutter. Hesher has a badass black van that he basically lives out of while galavanting around town looking for ladies and trouble.

Devin Brochu

But before you even meet Hesher, your heart is broken and trampled on when you’re introduced to T.J.—a young kid who is reeling after the devastating death of his mother. Devin Brochu plays T.J., and the incredible performance of this 13-year old kid is the emotional core of this movie. You truly, deeply feel his loss. Early in the movie, T.J. is obsessed with the car his mother died in and he even tracks it down at a junkyard when it’s towed from his house. His father, Paul (played by Rainn Wilson), is mired in his own depression and self-pity. Instead of being there for his son, Paul tries to swallow his pain by taking pills—often falling asleep on the couch in his filthy clothes. T.J.’s grandmother Madeleine (played by Piper Laurie) is the only stable adult presence in his life, but she can only do so much.

T.J.’s sole refuge is inside that car with the memories of his mother.

Whatever the cost, T.J. just wants to get that car back and gain some semblance of his old life.

Rainn Wilson

While simple, this story is heart-wrenching. All you want to do is reach out and give everyone a hug.

Don’t expect Hesher to give him a hug. If anything, Hesher’s presence makes T.J.’s life more chaotic. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher is one of the most memorable movie characters. I cannot imagine any other actor pulling off this performance. Hesher lives to party and rage. Calling him unpredictable is an understatement. But Hesher is a shot of life when T.J. desperately needs something, someone.

Surprisingly, Natalie Portman plays third (or possibly even fourth banana) in this movie as Nicole—a homely young grocery store clerk that stops the school bully from bashing T.J.’s head into the pavement after he vandalizes the bully’s car. Her character didn’t need to be great, but Natalie Portman brought a certain credibility to the movie that you can’t buy. Piper Laurie is another great actress as the grandmother who rounds out a great supporting cast that bring elements of comedy and drama to this wonderful story.

Natalie Portman

The best compliment I can pay to a movie is to say that I wish I wrote it. I wish I wrote Hesher.

While Hesher is well-written, the actors and actresses make these characters come to life.

Hesher is not your standard, cookie-cutter movie. The beginning is a slow burn that builds to a faster pace once Hesher is introduced. You have no idea what to expect from Hesher. It is riveting.

For fuck sakes, Hesher has a giant middle finger tattooed on his back and a stick figure blowing his brains out tattooed on his chest. When Hesher follows T.J. and decides to crash at his house, T.J. puts up a mild opposition and Hesher asks him if he’s ever been skull-fucked. Although he’s completely intimidating when he threatens T.J. and has his hand around his neck, Hesher is then in his underwear smoking a cigarette on the couch while watching TV a moment later. Hesher doesn’t give a fuck.

Underwear

In a time when most movies meld together in a bland, colorless line of shit, Hesher stands out. It’s not just all attitude and balls. To Hesher’s credit, this movie is as emotional as another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie, 50/50 about a writer with cancer—which is also phenomenal in a much different way.

I don’t think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets proper credit for such fantastic acting range. His body of work is impressive and growing. While most still probably remember him as Tommy from the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has seamlessly transitioned from child actor to accomplished adult movie star. I will continue to watch anything he is in because Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of our finest actors, and he deserves more appreciation and adulation. As a creative spirit that thrives to empower and connect other artists together, we need more genuinely good human beings like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Jump off the deep end with Hesher and enjoy this off-kilter dark comedy.

Jump

5 out of 5 stars

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Yesterday was Friday the 13th. Today is Valentine’s Day. Tom Waits is awesome.

For these reasons, I present you with a review of Wristcutters: A Love Story.

In 2006, Wristcutters: A Love Story premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. A year later, it gained widespread distribution. At this point, I’ve probably watched this movie 4 or 5 times.

Wristcutters: A Love Story is indeed a love story (albeit a delightfully odd one) starring Patrick Fugit—from Almost Famous fame. Patrick Fugit does Patrick Fugit things. Playing the character Zia, the movie opens with Fugit meticulously cleaning his home. Not only is he cleaning his home, Zia is also cleaning up his life. A fresh new start is on the horizon. And then you see a pool of blood in the sink after Zia cut his wrists.

It’s an aptly named movie.

From the opening scene, Wristcutters is fucking fantastic. Instead of moving on to your typical afterlife, committing suicide sends you into limbo where you continue to live your shitty life for no reason. You have no joy. Literally, you can’t smile. Everything looks bleak and dreary. There are no stars in the night sky.

Patrick Fugit

Limbo sounds like a punishment worse than hell. This would be my own personal version of hell.

Oh, and anything that falls under the passenger seat of Zia’s best friend’s car is lost forever because it is a black hole. If this doesn’t sound like a movie you want to watch, then go away. Get off my lawn.

Although I’ve never met anyone else who has even heard about this movie, there seems to be a mild cult following building up slowly over time like a silt deposit. A big part of the appeal appears to be Tom Waits. I love Tom Waits. If you have a brain in your head, you should too—the man is an incredible artist.

Tom Waits does not disappoint in Wristcutters. As always, Waits brings the beautifully weird.

Tom Waits

With the Tom Waits song in that superb opening scene, the tone of Wristcutters remains constant throughout the scant 88 minutes. However, the same cannot be said for the pacing. While the first 45 minutes of the movie breeze by with several laughs and such an intriguing portrait of an afterlife, the second half of Wristcutters drags in certain places—leaning too heavily on the drama.

If the comedy didn’t die in the third act, Wristcutters: A Love Story would be a perfect movie.

Despite its flaws, I love this movie and acknowledge that others may not share my viewpoint. There are so many aspects to love about this movie. As mentioned earlier, this version of an afterlife is beautiful and dark at the same time. From my perspective, this world itself is worth the price of admission.

Patrick Fugit puts forth his typical performance, which is above average. The casting process must work because he’s perfect for his roles in movies. Surprisingly, the star for the first half of this movie is the character Eugene—a crazy Russian musician who killed himself on stage by pouring a beer on his electric guitar. Shea Whigham outshines Patrick Fugit in this supporting role as Zia’s best friend.

Shea Whigham

In the second half, it is the Tom Waits show as he plays a character named Kneller. His introduction is outstanding and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone interested in watching this movie. As a mysterious stranger who is anti-authority (because he’s Tom Waits), Kneller is the driving force of the story.

I won’t say anything else about the story because you need to discover this movie for yourself. With a unique story and quality supporting characters, Wristcutters: A Love Story is not your typical cookie-cutter love story. This movie is thoughtful and creative, which is increasingly rare for most movies—and damn near extinct for comedies. Treasure the off the beaten path miracle that is this movie.

In a forest of straight trees, Wristcutters is the crooked tree that’s still growing strong and strange.

Smile

4.5 out of 5 stars

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New releases rarely offer something unique. It’s almost always hyperbole to say a movie is unlike anything you’ve ever watched. Almost always. But Birdman is unlike anything I’ve ever watched.

An exceptionally well-made dark comedy, Birdman is stunning because of the degree of difficulty it gives itself. For most of the movie, Birdman is a perfect example of limited storytelling since you are restricted to Broadway’s St. James Theatre and the actors involved in the adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Whenever a character leaves the St. James, it’s typically to go on the roof and gaze at the city. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air for the viewer.

Filmed as if it were a single, uninterrupted take, the camera beautifully swoops and cranes to give you a perspective similar to a bird. I cannot recall such graceful camera movement and interesting transitions of time. If anything stands out about Birdman, it’s the direction and creativity that drives the movie.

 

Without question, the acting is superb. Several will likely be in line for Oscar nominations. Michael Keaton is incredibly believable going batshit crazy as an actor at the end of his road who craves public acceptance for being more than just Birdman. Edward Norton is flawless as usual and Emma Stone is an essential supporting character that the movie desperately needed. Zack Galifianakis plays the straight man and he’s fucking fantastic, which should be expected by now because the man can seriously act.

At the heart of Birdman is an existential crisis and struggle for relevancy.

Meaning

Michael Keaton plays a washed-up actor named Riggan Thomson who once starred as Birdman in three blockbuster movies. All Riggan was known for was a ridiculous suit. Although he’s left the character behind, the gravelly voice still rings in his ears questioning his every move. We all have those voices.

Birdman doesn’t pull any punches as it skewers both the film and theatre industry. Going through the rolodex of Hollywood actors tied up playing superheros gets laughably longer while these superhero movies increase exponentially in strength. It is great casting that Edward Norton plays the character (Mike Shiner) that comes in because all of the big name actors are involved in superhero movies.

I cannot express how happy I am that Edward Norton backed out of being The Hulk for the decade-long commitment Marvel takes for The Avengers. Norton deserves credit for not Scrooge McDucking through the mountains of money The Hulk would have garnered. In that case, it would be easy being green. Since Edward Norton is such a phenomenal actor, his bank account won’t suffer too much.

Keaton and Norton

Birdman wouldn’t be the same without Edward Norton. The acting in the entire movie is elevated thanks to Edward Norton’s unpredictable, chaotic energy as Mike Shiner. The movie is cemented in the chemistry between Edward Norton and Michael Keaton. Make no mistake, Birdman is not flawless. The first and second acts are terrific, but the story starts to unwind in the third act. While the daring nature of the director is exceptional, it’s also responsible for the reprehensible way it ended. With awful CGI sprinkled throughout the third act, it really appeared as if Inarritu had no idea how to end the movie.

I won’t reveal the ending, but it is unspeakably bad. Whatever the reason, it’s not justifiable.

Fortunately, there’s a near perfect 80-90 minutes of Birdman that will allow you to tolerate the rest of the 2-hour runtime. If you haven’t already watched Birdman, this is the movie you want to see out of the handful of other Oscar contenders in theaters. Not only is this a great movie on your first watch, but it’s so enjoyable (maybe not necessarily entertaining) that there’s more to explore on multiple viewings.

Caw

4.5 out of 5 stars