Life After Beth (2014)

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Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Production Companies: Abbolita Productions, American Zoetrope, Destro Films, Starstream Entertainment
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Kendrick
Genre: Comedy/Horror/Drama

What It’s About: Zach’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead…but she’s not quite what he remembered.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.

Thoughts: We start out the film with Beth (Plaza) walking in the woods. She thinks she hears something, and looks back…then continues on.  Fade out.

Flash forward a few days, to Zach (DeHaan) in a supermarket purchasing napkins. They’re for Beth’s funeral.  Apparently she received a fatal snake bite out on her hike. The funeral is really very awkward, but we get introduced to nearly all of the key players here. This movie starts out in a very dramatic way, but seeing actors such as John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon and Cheryl Hines makes you rethink that.

One night, when Zach is going over to visit Beth’s parents (Reilly and Shannon), he can’t get anyone to answer the door. He goes around the house peaking into windows, trying to figure out what’s going on. Much to his surprise, he spots who appears to be Beth in one of the windows. Unable to believe his eyes, Zach busts into the house through a window and confronts them. There stands Beth. Looking just as beautiful as he remembered. However, she couldn’t remember a thing. She didn’t even remember that just before her alleged death, they had actually broken up. Beth has no recollection of what happened to her.

Instead of being completely weirded out by this, they all carry on like it never happened. Occasionally, Zach becomes concerned that maybe she’s becoming a zombie. Lots of things that Beth does now, are uncharacteristic of her usual self. For one, she wants to live in the attic (perhaps to be as far above ground as possible?). She breaks out into violent spurts…which can only be calmed by listening to smooth jazz. She bears un-human strength. Oh, and she’s slowly but surely rotting inside and out. I think Zach can start to worry now.

Aubrey Plaza’s performance as a zombie is…interesting. There were times when I found her really hilarious–a lot of those times being very reminiscent of her role as April Ludgate on Parks and Rec. Other times, she just seemed to…growl and act like either an animal, or insane child.

Whatevs.

Whatevs.

Eventually, we discover that Beth isn’t the only one of the local dead walking the earth. We get glimpses through the film of people who look pretty zombie-ish, but eventually long-lost relatives start returning home and everyone takes notice. It’s time to put an end to the madness…and thus begins a somewhat comedic apocalypse scenario: the living killing the living dead to reclaim the earth.

This movie is a VERY dark and subtle comedy. This isn’t your slapstick zombie comedy. I think that the supporting cast is what really sells this movie for me. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon play perfectly concerned parents with a heavy dose of denial. There’s a scene toward the end when Beth is in full-zombie mode, that Shannon is actually feeding Beth her own fingers because she’s concerned about her being hungry.  😄

Zach’s family is pretty hilarious as well.  Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser team up to play the unbelieving parents. Then we have Matthew Gray Gubler playing the older brother who has an unhealthy obsession with firearms. Gubler’s part was one of my favorites, even though he played the douche-tastic military wanna-be.  He did it well.

My Rating: Meh.

While I love dark comedies, this one had a hard time holding my interest. The star-studded cast adds some flavor, but ultimately doesn’t pay off as well as I would have hoped. I was sort of on the line about this movie. Part of me wants to say that I like it, but it didn’t quite tip my meter one way or the other.

How Can I Watch It?: Available on Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu.  I rented this from the local Family Video.

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

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Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman
Production Companies: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, LStar Capital, Screen Gems
Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris
Genre: Horror/Detective Movie

What It’s About: Supposedly inspired from the journals of NY Police Sergeant, Ralph Sarchie. Soldiers in Iraq bring home some sort of evil to the states, and Sergeant Sarchie and his counterparts team up to fight it.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Gloomy afternoon.

Thoughts: **Definitely spoilers**
We start out with a flashback to Iraq in 2010.  U.S. Soldiers end up down in some sort of cave–we switch to one of their helmet cams (found footage style) and there’s a bunch of screaming and things go black.  Well, alrighty.

Then, we flash forward to 2013 in the Bronx. Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Bana) is crying over a dead dumpster baby in an alley. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this scene was, other than to give the character “depth”.  Then he gets all angry and walks away….and I’m not entirely sure why, but a weird shaky filming technique was used at that point…with some intense music.  Almost like as he’s stomping away, he’s making mini earthquakes or something.  I see that it was to show the anger….buuuuutttt that wasn’t used ANYWHERE else in the film. Seemed sort of misplaced to me.

Then Sarchie and his partner Butler (McHale) are out on patrol.  Seeing Joel McHale threw me off for a bit.  I’m so used to him being just an over-the-top goofball, I wasn’t sure how well he’d fit into the setting of this movie.  No worries, though.  He turns out to be the smartass “funnyman” sidekick to the Sergeant. He gets to kick a little bit of ass, though.

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Anyway. They answer a domestic disturbance call because Sarchie just gets a sense that they should….Butler calls this his “radar”.  Meh.  It’s just a cop thing.  Right? They get there, and the husband is one of the Marines that we saw in the opening. He fights back, slicing open Sarchie’s arm, then he makes a break for it and runs out into the neighborhood. They catch him and take him in.

Later on, they get a call about a woman at a zoo who threw her 2-year-old son into the moat of the lion’s den. The boy survived, but the woman went crazy and ran off somewhere on the zoo grounds…and apparently when this happened all of the electricity in the zoo went out. The duo search the grounds using night vision and heat sensing equipment. Sarchie finds her and she’s bein’ all crazy and clawing at the ground.  She keeps mumbling lyrics from a song by The Doors. Sarchie spots a hooded figure (Harris) who appears to be painting. When he approaches to ask him questions, he runs. Sarchie has to enter the Lion’s sanctuary to chase him…and guess what?  Lions are free.  He barley makes it to the gate to escape death as lion chow. No geese on the weird painter.

They take the woman in, and eventually a priest (Ramirez) who has apparently being helping this woman, comes in and takes her to a mental institution.

Then they’re answering more calls that all seem to be connected with each other in a weird way.  Painters and possessed houses, corpses full of bugs.  Eventually they deduce that the hooded man was also one of the Marines from the opening scene.  When they watch the footage from the zoo, he approaches the woman, Jane, and she seems to become possessed just before she throws her son into the water.

There are also weird markings on the wall and…ya know what?  I’m getting sick of explaining this.  There are wayyyyy to many details to this story.  Basically, the Marines brought back evil with them. They were possessed by strange markings in that cave in Iraq. The same markings continue to show up throughout the movie, because it’s apparently a doorway for demons.

Sarchie’s “radar” is apparently some special ability that allows him to hear things others can’t. This basically means that he hears a lot of static, and children giggling, and….music by The Doors.  Weird. I mean, I won’t complain about having a kickass soundtrack full of their music, but still. Apparently that music is used….because they’re called The Doors..and it’s…a doorway for evil….

Yeah. Okay.

Blah blah blah. They catch the hooded Marine and perform an exorcism on him because he’s possessed by some demon named….Junglar?  Doesn’t sound very demonic…but I didn’t write it.  But yeah.  Everyone’s safe (except for Butler….he dies….spoilers).  And we’re told that several months later, Sarchie retires and continues to fight evil with the priest.

There are some decent effects in this movie, but there are also some cheesy ones that kind of take me out of it. Most of the effects were CGI, but some of the makeup effects were alright.  Pretty creepy.

Eric Bana did a pretty solid job. I got really tired of his back-story, though.  If you’ll notice, I barely mentioned it in my synopsis…because I don’t care.  😄

My Rating: Meh.

I didn’t hate it, but I found myself getting pretty bored. The story gets really involved and intertwines too much, to the point of almost being confusing. If nothing else, I enjoyed the chemistry between Bana and McHale–I’m always a fan of buddy cop dramas.

Where Can I Watch It?: Available on Amazon and iTunes.  I rented it from the local Family Video.

The Guilt Trip (2012)

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Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Production Companies: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions
Stars: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen
Genre: Comedy

What It’s About: A man takes his mother along with him as he travels cross-country trying to pitch his new organic cleaning product, with the hopes of reuniting her with an old love interest.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.

Thoughts: Andy (Rogen) visits his mother while out making a pitch for his new organic cleaning product.  While visiting, Joyce (Streisand) tells Andy all about her first love AKA “the one who got away”.  He comes to find out that he is actually named after this guy. She wanted to name him after someone that she loved so deeply. Shocked and somewhat curious, he tracks this guy down on the internet. Then, Andy plots out a surprise reunion for his mother with her long-lost love by adding a stop on the end of his business trip, and then inviting her along. They set out for a week-long journey with plenty of interesting stops along the way.

Alright. Well, Seth Rogen is adorable as always.  This isn’t his usual obscene and awkward stoner role, but he’s still pretty funny.  After all these years, Streisand’s still got it too.  Pairing these two together was one of the best mother/son pairings I’ve seen on screen in a long time.  They click incredibly well, and look the part too.

This movie is the typical story about an overbearing mother and her kid overcoming their differences and learning to love each other more.  There really weren’t any big surprises along the way.  A few heartfelt moments thrown in, which were nice.  What’s great about these two in these roles, is that they know how to keep it simple.  None of their acting was too in your face–pretty understated comedy.  They act like an actual mother and son would–they don’t get into outlandish situations that seem completely unbelievable.

That being said, the pacing seemed to drag a bit in certain parts of the movie.  I started to lose interest.  I started paying attention when they went to a Texas steakhouse and had her eat a 50 oz. steak, only to earn the affections of the ever-hunky Brett Cullen as Ben. He makes a fine lookin’ cowboy, if I do say so myself.

**SPOILERS**

They have ups, and they have downs. Eventually Joyce finds out that Andy brought her along so that she could reunite with Andrew, and she gets upset because she thought he wanted her there to spend time with her.  But they patch it up REALLY quickly, and head off to see him anyway.  They come to find out that the Andrew Margolis that they tracked down, was actually the son of the man they were searching for.  The real Andrew died several years before.  Upset and shocked they settle in to talk to Andrew.  In walks Andrew’s sister.  Her name is Joyce.  Dawwwwwwwwwww.  **feels**

My Rating:  Meh.

It had its funny moments.  I had its heartfelt moments.  I didn’t hate it, but it’s not something I’ll ever re-visit.  Just a fun, brainless watch to fill up some downtime.

Where Can I Watch It?:  Available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, VUDU, iTunes

Bad Milo! (2013)

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Director: Jacob Vaughan
Writers: Jacob Vaughan, Benjamin Hayes
Production Companies: New Artists Alliance, Floren Shieh Productions, Duplass Brothers Productions
Stars: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Patrick Warburton, Stephen Root
Genre: Horror/ Comedy

What It’s About: A man with unusual stomach problems learns that he has a demon living in his intestines.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.  Evening.

Thoughts: To boil it down to brass tacks here, Duncan (Marino) is getting a lot of strange stomach problems whenever he gets stressed. One day he discovers that he has a small demon living up his butt.  The demon comes out to play and terrorizes people who have caused him stress.

This movie is…strange.  😄  I knew what to expect going into it, but it still managed to surprise me.

One thing I can give praise to in this movie is the special effects.  The creature, AKA Milo, is adorable yet terrifying and really creates some hilarious moments.  Most of the effects in this movie appeared to be practical, which is always something to be praised.  Kudos to Fractured FX for their work on this film.

Pretty solid comedic performances all around.  Ken Marino was great as the lead in this–just a normal down-to-earth guy….stuck working in a 9-5 office job….with a demon up his butt that pops out and kills people.  But it really was well played.  He didn’t make it too over-the-top, which was a necessity for him to be successful.

Shout-out to Peter Stormare who plays Duncan’s shrink, and also to Stephen Root who comes into play as Duncan’s father.  I don’t even really know what to say.  This whole plot line and all of the characters in it are just ridiculous.

My Rating:  Meh.

It had it’s funny moments, and I loved the creature effects.  However, the sheer amount of toilet humor in this movie gets tiring after a while.  And yes, I understand that you HAVE to have toilet humor for this plot, but still.  I feel that I may have enjoyed this more in a group setting

Where Can I Watch It?: Currently available on Netflix Instant and Amazon Instant.

Otis (2008)

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Director: Tony Krantz
Writers: Erik Jendresen, Thomas Schnauz
Production Companies: Warner Home Video, Raw Feed, Flame Ventures
Stars: Bostin Christopher, Ashley Johnson, Illeana Douglas, Daniel Stern, Jared Kusnitz, Jere Burns, Kevin Pollak
Genre: Horror/ Comedy

What It’s About: A young girl is abducted by a serial killer….and her family decides to get their own breed of revenge.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Late evening.

Thoughts: The movie starts off in some dungeon-like room with a girl strapped down to a bed. She is obviously being held captive.  I love this set.  The mass amounts of lightbulbs above and beside the bed make for some really cool lighting for the room.  But I digress.

**THE FOLLOWING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

You get introduced to Otis (Christopher) right away. We see him tormenting a girl that he’s captured and put in his little fetish dungeon.  Otis apparently likes playing out this sick fantasy that involves him being a football player taking a pretty young high school cheerleader to the prom.  He also wants to call his captors Kim (Tarah Paige).  We discover the source of this fascination later. Well, “Kim” fights back…but ends up getting accidentally electrocuted in a tub. Oooops.

Then we pan over to a family of four: two parents (Douglas and Stern), a beautiful teenage girl, and a rebellious son.  We get a small introduction to them as we watch someone play Peeping Tom with the teenage girl, Riley (Johnson). We come to find out that her brother Reed (Kusnitz) was the one taping the video footage of her romping around her bedroom in her underwear. Probably one of the creepiest moments in the movie, in my opinion, and it wasn’t even Otis!  That’s just fucked up.

Anyway, the family orders a pizza, and guess who plays delivery boy?  You guessed it–Otis. Riley makes the mistake of being a little too nice to him, making him take notice of her.  The following morning, as she walks out the door to head for school, Otis swipes her up and throws her in his trunk to take her back to his lair. Somewhere along the way we also meet Otis’s brother, Elmo (Pollak) and we discover that Otis’s strange fascinations and fetishes spring from his brother’s life.  Creeptastic.

Once the parents receive a phone call from Otis asking them if he can take their daughter “Kim” to Prom, they bring in bring in Agent Hotchkiss (Burns), who plays annoying very well. And blah blah blah.  He holds her captive and does weird things with her, until eventually, he slips up and she manages to escape.  Riley calls her parents and she gets taken to safety.  And then her family decides that they’re gonna handle Otis on their own…

This was a pretty fun movie.  I really enjoyed all of the creative uses of lighting throughout the movie: the lights in the bedroom, the projector, the disco ball.  They really stuck out to me.

As far as performances go, everyone was decent in this.  Great breakout performance from Bostin Christopher as Otis.  The only character that really annoyed me was Jere Burns as Agent Hotchkiss.  He just seems the same in almost every role I see him play.  He played the role well, but I guess that I just feel he’s maybe type-cast a lot.
Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas were fun as Riley’s parents.  There scenes together were some of my favorite.

My only real complaint about this movie is how it ended.  I won’t completely spoil it, but it didn’t tie things up very well.  Sometimes I’m a fan of open-ended stories.  The ambiguity can sometimes be more frightening than explaining what happens.  But this is a horror/comedy.  I feel like it could have used a more defined ending.  But that’s just me.

My Rating: Meh.

There were parts of this movie that I really enjoyed, but there were several that I found myself kind of bored.  I feel like I could have had more fun with this movie if I wouldn’t have watched it alone, so it may be one that I’ll revisit later on.

Haunter (2013)

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Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer: Brian King
Production Companies: Wild Bunch, Copperheart Entertainment
Stars: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Nolden, Peter DaCunha
Genre: Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller

What It’s About: The ghost of a teenager who died years ago reaches out to the land of the living in order to save someone from suffering her same fate. (from IMDB)

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: Okay, so this movie starts out with this small family.  Two parents, two kids–one teenage daughter (Breslin) and the younger brother (DaCunha).  Lisa (Breslin) is apparently the only one aware that they’ve been repeating the same day over and over again.  Much like Groundhog Day.

There’s a mysterious fog surrounding the house, and everyone keeps repeating the same menial tasks.  Then suddenly things start to change each day.  A man (McHattie) starts showing up in Lisa’s dreams and then physically at the house.  Then start spiraling, and there are about a million different twists and whatnot.

Breslin does a pretty decent job in this.  I’m not really accustomed to seeing her in this sort of role, or this grown up either. Her and McHattie played really well off of each other.  Now, McHattie.  I love this actor.  Ever since I saw him in Pontypool, I’ve been a fan.  He plays a solid villain in this.

Now, the story line was interesting, but I found it a bit too complicated for my taste.  Too many different twists and turns for me.  And that’s with me sitting back and trying to enjoy the ride.  I found myself drifting away from my viewing quite a bit.

My Rating:  Meh.

You can give it a shot.  I may have to give it another one before I completely make up my mind on it.

Parkland (2013)

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Director: Peter Landesman
Writers: Peter Landesman, Vincent Bugliosi (book)
Production Companies: The American Film Company, Exclusive Media Group, Playtone
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, James Badge Dale, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Kat Steffens, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton
Genre: Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller

What It’s About: A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

How I Watched It: Alone in my room.  Evening.

Thoughts: I really enjoy the perspectives in this movie.  You don’t just have the media coverage–you have first hand accounts from lots of different angles, which is nice.  You have the events from the hospital’s perspective, from a parade on-looker who was filming, from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald’s family, and more.

Personally, I was a big fan of seeing the Oswald’s family’s perspective.  Seeing the pain and suffering that the “villain’s” family goes through is something that is so often overlooked.  James Badge Dale plays the part of Robert Oswald, Lee Harvey’s older brother.  What a great performance.  The most memorable to me, by far.  So torn because while, yes, his brother murdered the U.S. President, he also tarnished the lives of the rest of his family without any thought.  Such a fantastic conflicted performance. The scene with him and the reporters at his brother’s funeral is such a great scene.
On the other hand, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Oswald mother.  I feel like there could have been less of her crazy antics.

Great performances all around.  Especially Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden playing the young hospital resident on duty and the nurse who assisted him when JFK gets rushed into the ER.  Dripping with emotion.

Oh, and kudos to Kat Steffens who took over the role of Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath at the hospital.  She doesn’t say much at all, but she just overwhelms you. There’s a moment when she silently walks up to Marcia Gay Harden (the nurse) and holds out her dainty white-gloved hands–now just covered in blood–and opens her hand to reveal a piece of her husband’s skull and some apparent brain matter.  The nurse takes it, and she just goes into the corner and crouches down crying.  It’s just heartbreaking.

The moments in the hospital, and the moments dealing with the Oswald family had the most impact for me.  Some of the other moments dealing with the FBI, or dealing with the parade onlooker filming on his 8mm camera (played by Giamatti) left some to be desired. Wasn’t a big fan of Billy Bob Thornton’s part.  He played the head of the Secret Service in Dallas.  He had one moment where someone calls him out and says that he fucked up, and he flips out….but I feel that the moment could have been acted a bit better. There were some good moments, but all in all, I wanted to be taken back to the other situations.

My Rating:  Meh.

An American tragedy, with some overlooked perspectives.  Some really great dramatic moments, but other moments that I found myself taken out.  Perhaps there were too many different perspectives?  I dunno.  It was okay.  If you enjoy historical (fiction/non-fiction) films, you might enjoy it.  Maybe more than me.