Swiss Army Man

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At face value, Swiss Army Man is about a magical, flatulent corpse. That said, what I’m about to tell you may come as a surprise, or it may not; this is my favorite movie of the year so far. No, not just because fart jokes are hilarious. They are. That’s not my opinion. It is a hard fact.

Swiss Army Man stars Paul Dano as Hank and Daniel Radcliffe as Manny the Corpse. Dano made a lasting impression on me with films like Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood. His range is impressive and he possesses a beautifully natural talent for his art.

Radcliffe is slightly less familiar to me. I know that seems insane, but I only saw two of those delightful Harry Potter movies. Personally, I’m better acquainted with The Woman in Black and one particularly side-splitting episode of Extras.

Given their previous bodies of work, both men exceeded expectations that were already pretty high in Swiss Army Man.

Using a flimsy noose to spell the end of his once beautiful life, Hank (Dano) spots Manny (Radcliffe) lying on the beach near the surf. Upon unfortunately closer inspection, Hank discovers that the body is quite windy indeed. So he does what any of us would do; he frees himself from the island by riding the cadaver across the ocean like a jet ski.

Finding land, Hank decides that he can’t leave his new friend behind. Whether it’s just to say “thanks” or for his own sanity in the interest of not being alone, Hank straps the business suit sporting stiff to his back and starts his journey to civilization.

When it would seem that all hope is lost, something unexpected happens; Manny starts to speak. Hank’s conviction that his life still may be waiting for him back home is restored by this miracle and the two venture on together.

It’s no Revenant, but the duo certainly encounter their fair share of road blocks and hurdles along the way. Hank teaches Manny about all of the things he’s lost or forgotten since his demise, and Manny shows Hank that life can be quite enjoyable even when it seems that the light at the end of the tunnel has gone dim.

Swiss Army Man is an ardent and captivating illustration of the formidable but often worthwhile experience of human relationships. It is an in depth look at why we do — or do not — put ourselves out there; a touching glance at the leap of faith that it takes to be vulnerable.

If that’s not enough for you, the audience also gets a tasteful glimpse of Radcliffe’s bum. Harry Potter? More like Hairy Bottom.

This movie is most of what you’d expect, but then it gives us so much more. It’s disarmingly witty and sharp. It’s bizarre, sincere, thought-provoking, and it’s got one quality that so many other films lack; watchability.

Wrapped up in a score that matches the film in peculiarity and buoyancy, Swiss Army Man takes the audience by the hand and doesn’t let go. Incidentally, composers Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of the Manchester Orchestra did something extraordinary with this score, but you should see it for yourself.

Before the film, Writers and Co-Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert came in to do a brief introduction. This is their first feature film, and they were just as lovely as their movie. They walked in, both bespectacled and wearing caps, and spoke mainly about how excited they were for the picture without giving anything away. They even had us all stand up and do an exercise called “Shake it Out”. The idea was that we’d shake out whatever may be weighing on our minds and only be in the moment. I think it worked.

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Sorry for the terrible quality.

This is a once in a lifetime movie. We’ve never seen anything like it and we probably never will again. I was blown away and I know you will be too. It’s a real toot. I mean hoot! A fartwarming tale. Heartwarming! It’s a gas! I’m leaving.

… farting corpse.

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The Neon Demon

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When Drive came out back in 2011, it was my first exposure to Director Nicolas Winding Refn. I was immediately taken with the film. I just loved everything about it. The cinematography was stunning, the cast was outstanding, and that score by Cliff Martinez. Martinez is the John Williams to Refn’s Spielberg. All of the pieces fit together so well. It was my favorite picture that year and I’m still harboring a considerable amount of outrage at the number of accolades it didn’t receive.

Two years later, Only God Forgives came out. Another Refn directed, super-saturated, neon-lit Ryan Gosling film. Only this time around, not even Gosling’s chiseled good looks and patented stony gaze could save it. I’ve walked out of two movies in my life; Silent Hill and Only God Forgives. I left Silent Hill because my friends and I were hammered and we wanted to go swimming in the lake instead. I fled from Only God Forgives because I could hear my brain cells screaming as they died fighting off an aneurysm.

In his review of Only God Forgives — to which he generously awarded 1 star — Roger Ebert said: “If there is one small tidbit of innovation and originality in the film, it is Cliff Martinez’s ambient, mesmerizing, gorgeous score. One of the year’s best, it belongs in a much more accomplished work. At one point during the film, a character says to the crowd: “Whatever happens, keep your eyes shut.” When it comes to “Only God Forgives,” that’s good advice for us all.”

The Neon Demon — or as I like to call it, SMH: The Movie — is about a girl named Jesse (Elle Fanning) who has just moved to California from small town USA to chase her modeling aspirations. Just 16-years-old, she’s got the seasoned professionals in the industry shaking in their YSL pumps. She signs quickly with an agency and befriends a makeup artist by the name of Ruby (Jena Malone).

I’d tell you more about the plot if there was more to tell. The remaining hour and 30 minutes consist of Elle Fanning making the same face over and over and over and over and over again — sorry for the superfluous “over” usage, but I really want to drive the point home — and one of the most disturbing scenes in cinematic history. And I’ve see all three Human Centipede movies.

The film is a series of bizarre sequences involving triangles, light, and the complete lack of an epilepsy warning where one is needed. It’s all set to Cliff Martinez’s score, which — as usual — is hauntingly beautiful.

Mercifully, the film does reach an eventual conclusion. Refn and Fanning made an appearance to do a Q&A after the screening. According to Refn, it’s an exploration of the importance our society places on being beautiful. He also said that every man wishes to live as a 16-year-old girl and if you say you don’t, you’re lying.

Poor Elle Fanning — recent High School graduate! — came in wearing a black tank top and these really cool jeans that looked like a mermaid tail. I can’t imagine what her life consists of on this publicity tour for the movie with Refn. Perhaps a menagerie of awkward silences, off-putting comments, and probably out-of-nowhere tears for the 16-year-old girls of the world. To be a fly on the wall.

I usually tell you to go see movies even if I don’t care for them, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I told you to pay today’s movie theater prices to see this film. Wait ’til it comes to Netflix, and then watch something else.

MbooNMsk“Anton Yelchin is a superstar. That kid’s going places. He is wildly and effortlessly talented.”

I shared my sentiments about Anton Yelchin in my review of Green Room just a couple of months ago. He was quite simply charmed and it came across both on screen and off.

He passed early this morning in what appears to be a car accident. Details are still unclear.

His co-stars — past and present — are flooding various social media outlets with words of adoration, sorrow, and disbelief.

Anton Yelchin — an only child — is survived by his parents. I wish for a moment of solace in their grief knowing how well-loved, esteemed, and gifted their son was in his time here.

Anton Yelchin was 27 years old. May he rest peacefully.

The Lobster

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I have a sneaking suspicion that my grandma wrote this movie for me. I say that because the last time I was at the dinner table with her, she said, “I always thought that I would live long enough to see you get married and have a couple of children. Oh well.”

The Lobster is a bleak, nihilistic assessment of life without a partner. David (Colin Ferrell) is recently single. He travels with his brother, Bob, to a hotel wherein the residents are given 45 days to find a match, or they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. Incidentally, this isn’t Bob’s first time at the hotel. He stayed there once before, but because he was unsuccessful in finding a partner to accompany him on the journey to our eventual conclusion, he’s a dog.

David’s ambivalence at the beginning does an about-face shortly into his stay as the panic of failing sets in. His choice to be a lobster — if he should botch it — would appear to be a solid choice, but as we learn, you must choose an animal that a) won’t be killed and eaten by a bigger animal and b) can find a suitable mate. For example, a camel and a hippopotamus would be an absurd pairing even in the most liberal of circumstances.

The goal here is to find someone with whom you have an undeniable bond. Say, both of you have a limp. Or perhaps you’re both short sighted. Those qualities are the guidelines by which one might find a ride or die.

As dreadful as the process is portrayed in this movie, it certainly speaks to the real life task of finding a mate. You may find someone and live in the city and enjoy a blissful existence forever and ever. Or, you may wind up losing your love and having to start over in a pool of others who’ve essentially been forced to start over as well. Outside of those two scenarios, the third is attractive at first, but then frightening; you may wind up a loner. In that case, you’re accountable to no one. You can dance whenever you like, have a chat, and even masturbate behind whatever tree you choose. But there is little to no chance for romance.

This movie is one of the strangest I’ve seen in awhile. I always thought that In Bruges would be the darkest Colin Ferrell movie I’d ever see. I was sorely mistaken. The Lobster is much darker and the humor is so dry that if you blink, you might miss it.

The Lobster was so far outside of what I was expecting it to be. It does have parts that are funny — like all of the critical endorsements say — but they are enveloped by other bits that are absolutely horrid. The best way I can describe it, is this: you’re at a funeral and the eulogist cracks a joke that you want to laugh at, but the gravity of the situation keeps the sound in your belly, only allowing an arid chuckle to escape.

All of that said, I think it’s worth seeing. It’s like nothing I can think of that I’ve seen before and that’s something special. Even if it made me want to go jump into the river just a little bit. Also, if you’re wondering what animal I would pick, I’m sure that if you think about it for a moment, you can easily figure it out.

 

Sci-Fi, Schmi-Fi

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While I can assure you that I’m eating my way out of this Jurassic Park mess I’m in one begrudging bite at a time — after the first movie, it all goes downhill — I am also enjoying some of the other treasures Netflix is offering up this month.

Keep an eye out for reviews of The Resurrection of Jake the Snake — which might as well be Sci-Fi — and Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere. Because we could all use some happy trees right about now.

I also have a date this Friday with the inmates of Litchfield because Orange is the New Black Season 4 has — almost — finally dropped! I’ll use that as a buffer for how really not good the Jurassic sequels are.

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Anyway, you can find the poll for July’s genre HERE. The list of releases hasn’t come out yet, so at this point it’s a total gamble. Also, July is Jaws month. I don’t know if you knew that or not. So I’ve added a category simply called Shark. I’m not trying to tell you what to vote for, but…

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The Conjuring 2

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I never got around to seeing The Ring on the big screen. It was only years later that my roommates at the time thought it would be a good idea for me to see it. I’m pretty sure they hated me, because the movie genuinely terrified me. I think they knew it would, too. For years after I watched it the first time, I became obsessed. I wouldn’t sleep with a television in my bedroom. I also wouldn’t sleep in a room that a) didn’t have more than one exit or b) had a desktop computer because I didn’t want Samara to pull a fast one on me and come outta there.

One day, I pulled a random Samara profile off of MySpace and sent a message explaining how afraid of her I was. So much so that my dad offered to let me sleep with a gun in my bedroom. I thought about it, but figured I might end up shooting the dog, so we decided against it. The person on the other side of that MySpace account eventually got back to me and said — and I’ll never forget it– “Nah, we’re cool.”

Today, The Ring is one of my favorite movies. Go figure.

Why am I telling you this absurd story? Because not since The Ring have I experienced abject horror during a movie like I did during The Conjuring 2. It was in the theater, all around me, and all I could think was, “Welp, that shit’s gonna be hiding in my closet when I get home. Doesn’t even need a TV to crawl out of.”

In 1977, Paranormal Investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) are asked by the church to come back from a leave of absence of sorts. Across the pond in a London Borough called Enfield, the Hodgson Family are contending with what appears to be an evil entity in their home. Only one of four children, Janet (Madison Wolfe) is experiencing and strange goings-on. Her older sister Margaret (Lauren Esposito) with whom she shares a bedroom is a bit like the dad from Paranormal Activity. Like, the bed moves by itself and Margaret puts Janet back into that same bed, shushing her gently. It was just the wind.

She handled it far more gracefully than I would’ve. I would have gotten everybody on the front lawn and burned that sucker down. It’s raining because that’s all it ever does in Enfield? We’re gonna get a little wet! Better than a little dead, I say!

Mother of four and left to get by on scraps by her husband, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) is kinda sorta keeping the plates spinning where house work and looking after the children are concerned. It can’t be that hard because all these kids ever do is go to bed. Everyone knows that it stands true in most horror movies that the scariest stuff happens after dark. When Janet begins sleep walking, she often ventures outside of the safety of her bedroom.

This movie looooves to stand at the top of the stairs in the dark and look down. I kept expecting to see naked Nana from The Visit go scurrying across. Unlike The Visit, though, this is not funny. This is I-should’ve-taken-some-Xanax-before-this frightening. Or, like, “Hm, I’m never going to be the same after this.”

Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren: Evil Spirit Ass Kickers. They’ve been promised that they only need to stay for a few days and observe. During their residency with the Hodgson gang, some weird shit goes down, but nothing that makes Lorraine’s ears perk up. So they take the opportunity to boost morale in the household. If you see this movie for only one reason, let that reason be Patrick Wilson’s Elvis impression. You’re welcome.

I don’t want to lead you down the wrong path here. The movie, in and of itself, scared me so thoroughly that I was sweating… but that doesn’t mean that it’s good. It serves its purpose, yes. Madison Wolfe was phenomenal. Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Patrick Wilson… they’re all lovely; each one giving a truly solid performance. However, they could only work with what they were given. Which was apparently a garbage script.

That said, James Wan, if you’re reading this, I still love you and I can’t wait to see Lights Out!

There’s also a lot of cheese is this one. I love cheese. So much so that I would marry it. Just not in this context. I wish I could elaborate on this, but I want everyone to get to see it for themselves. Me telling you wouldn’t do it justice anyway.

What I can tell you is that I may be looking up that creepy nun from the trailers on MySpace to see if we are also cool. That is the first movie “monster” to make me second guess going down the hall to the bathroom at night since Samara. Anytime the nun was on screen for any reason, my kneecaps were very nearly glued to my eyelids. I screamed. Out loud. In a movie theater. Twice.

It should also be said that Joseph Bishara’s score was super hit or miss.  He got the dark and spooky tone correct and all of those little jumps that make the viewer feel like there are spiders everywhere, but in certain important parts — like the end of the movie — it feels like we’re wrapping up an episode of 7th Heaven. Given the events leading up to that point, it makes zero sense. I’m just talking about the music. No spoilers here. I wouldn’t do that to you.

At the end of the day, I say go see it. You want the terror sweats? Fine. Just make sure there’s nothing long and black hanging in your closet. I nearly beat the shit out of my winter coat the other morning when I got up for work. It was time to put that away for the Summer anyhow.

New to Netflix in June: Sci-Fi

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Alright, I’ve gone over what Netflix is serving up movie-wise for June and, while I appreciate the thought, turns out — not a lotta Sci-Fi jams. If you think you’re disappointed, you can’t imagine how I feel.

With that disappointment, though, there is also triumph. Maybe you’ve heard about the biggest movie gracing the little red movie box… Jurassic Park ring any bells? Oh yeah. Under the IMDb classification of Sci-Fi, I get to revisit this little gem and hopefully wipe out most of my memories from Jurassic World.

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Not only do we get Jurassic Park, but I’m going to write a dinosaur extravaganza of sorts, because Jurassic Park III and The Lost World: Jurassic Park are also going on. Thank you, Netflix!

I’ll also be watching The Giver which mercifully stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep about a young man learning the pain and beauty of life from an old dude, from what I gather.

And that’s it! I was hoping for way more Sharktopus vs Mothra type shit, but we take what we get.

You may also be getting reviews of The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, UFOs: The Best Evidence Ever (Caught On Tape), and Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere because how could I not?