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Zero Charisma – DVD review 2.5/5 Stars

ZeroCharisma2.5 Stars

I think the title actually says it all.  Well, maybe not all, I started off enjoying this film but it all fell apart at the end, and the concluding scenes just baffled me as it seemed they just wanted to tack on a happy ending without any explanation or plausibility at all.  Zero Charisma is about Scott, a nerd.  But not a kind or funny nerd like on Big Bang Theory, he’s more of a jerk.  He and his friends have been playing a Dungeons and Dragons style game that Scott created for several years now, meeting at Scott’s house…well it’s not his house it’s his grandmother’s (Anne Gee Byrd) and he lives there with her.  On one game night one of the group is forced to drop out in order to try and save his marriage.  Forced to find another player for the game, Scott (Sam Eidson) meets Miles (Garrett Graham) who seems to be this Game Master’s only choice.  Unfortunately Miles is too good.  He may be a bit of a jerk too but he’s also smart, funny, charismatic, has a beautiful girlfriend (Katie Folger), an active sex life, and a geek culture website that is actually his paying job.  Scott is naturally jealous when the group begins to like Miles more and of course the two will have a confrontation.

I will say that Sam Eidson’s performance was excellent and all of the characters felt very realistic if not a little too stereotypical.  The rest of the cast didn’t really stand out to me in either a good or a bad way, so I guess that’s a slight positive.  My main problem with the film was the ending.  SPOILERS:  We’re given a thrown together “happy” ending where Scott has a job at a nursing home where he gets to visit his lovable grandmother, still gets to criticize his mother (Cyndi Williams) and he still gets to go off and play his games.  What the heck?  How did this all come about?  Scott and Miles are fighting, his buddy Wayne picks him up and drives him home to sad music, we fade to black and open up on the closing scenes.  Am I supposed to feel happy that this character who was basically a controlling ass all movie long magically sorted his life out?  Why not tell us how he did that?  The film was fairly tragic up until the end, but I found it moderately enjoyable and thought it worked well until this was forced onto me.  It was as though the writers could not figure out a way to actually redeem this character on screen so they just told us that he was redeemed.  Maybe not redeeming the character would have been a better ending since even they couldn’t figure out how to do it!  Where does it say we have to like the main character?  He was certainly no hero.  He admitted that he bullied and berated his friends so that they wouldn’t leave him.  He didn’t even really get along with his grandmother for most of the movie, but he was her best friend at the end?  I don’t know, the nerdy, geeky references were fun ideas but if you’re at all interested in RPGs, table top gaming, dice games, whatever, watch for yourselves and let me know if I’m off base here.

Bottom Line: I’m sorry, Zero Charisma had a great premise and a lot of promise, but the shoehorned ending really made me not care at all about this movie.


From the Head – DVD review 3.5/5

FromTheHead3.5 Stars

“New York City. Fall, 1995. Below the sidewalks of Times Square is a strip club where beautiful women work the pole for money at night. But beyond the Main Stage, and behind the Men’s Room door you’ll find Shoes, a bathroom attendant who offers a different kind of performance.”

George Griffith wrote, directed  and stars in From the Head, he plays Shoes, the bathroom attendant at a strip club.  Celebrating his third anniversary working there Shoes starts to feel that he’s wasting his life away.  He’s intelligent, educated, but is he missing his full potential?  I really enjoyed the creativity of this film, it was 99.9% dialogue driven, full of interesting characters and really minimalistically  shot.  It takes place in the bathroom of a strip club.  Sure there were a few shots of the bar and girls dancing to let you know it really was supposed to be a strip club, but virtually all of the movie takes place in the bathroom or just outside its door as Shoes goes to the cigarette machine and surveys his kingdom.

The film is almost like a series of twenty or so skits.  Each person who comes to the bathroom has a different story and Shoes works through them all.  He banters with his patrons, he tells jokes (for cash), he offers advice and solves problems; he protects his customers too.  When a married man wants to leave wearing a different cologne than he usually wears, he reminds him what his wife might suspect.  He checks the guys for hair and glitter stuck to their clothes before they leave.  He also looks out for the club and the girls.  Most of the customers/characters we meet are stereotypes of society, but Shoes is an interesting everyman character that is very easy to like.

From the Head was a small film that really shows what can be done with a bit of creativity.  Cleverly written and surprisingly well acted, I don’t think you’d be disappointed at all if you give this one a chance.

Review – Power of Few

Product Details2.5 Stars

I liked where it went, but it took far too long to get there.  The Power of Few combines spies, cops, holy relics, gangland justice, scooter deliveries, a homeless former newscaster and his dwarf friend over twenty minutes on one New Orleans afternoon, as the unconnected lives of five sets of characters are drawn together.  I am starting to tire of the whole “separate stories all linking up” gimmick.  It has almost been done too much by now, and whenever it is being played out, it is no longer a surprise.  I do not know what the first film to use this method was, but it was fresh once upon a time, and I did enjoy it.  I just personally seem to have grown tired of too many writers or directors using this approach to tell their story.  In the case of The Power of Few, I suppose it was really the only way to tell it, because we are shown one set of outcomes from the converging situations, and then a character, a young girl named Few (Tione Johnson), makes a decision which will alter the events that follow.

The film did have some good actors, and all delivered quite well. The scenes with Q’orianka Kilcher for example; I liked her and her character; but sadly I found that part of the story to be one of the slower parts. I also found Christopher Walken’s (Doke) scenes to be a bit long-winded as well. I loved Walken in the movie, and quite liked what his character did, but at times I thought the character’s scenes were only there (and were as long as they were) because Doke was being played by Christopher Walken. If someone else was playing him, I could easily have seen those scenes being heavily trimmed in editing. The movie could have been about four stories connecting, rather than five stories; but I would say having the opportunity to have Christopher Walken in your film is not something you want to waste.

Technically speaking, the film was superior, not that there were a lot of special effects shots or anything, but the director’s use of the cameras was very well done. The continuity was very good, given the fact that these five stories were all happening, and crossing paths, simultaneously. It was nice to see earlier scenes playing out in the background as we are shown the new scene, which captured the prior one from a different angle.

Overall I suppose I can recommend The Power of Few. If you watch it, you will likely enjoy it. There was nothing really “wrong” or bad about the film, it just repeated concepts I have seen a bit too much of lately.

Review – Funeral Kings and something better: Moone Boy!

Product Details2 Stars

Despite what the cover claims, I didn’t find Funeral Kings to be “Hilarious” or necessarily “Gritty” and certainly not “One of the best movies of the year”.  Snipits on the cover can be helpful; such as the cover to Frankenhooker where we’re told “If you only see one movie this year, it should be FRANKENHOOKER” (Bill Murray); but they should be taken merely as a suggestion and with a grain of salt.

Funeral Kings is the story of a group of young altar boys, who routinely cut class after leaving school to perform their duties at funerals.  Charlie and Andy are old friends and Dave is the new altar boy, replacing Bobby who has been sent to a juvenile correction facility. Before going away, Bobby dropped off a trunk at Andy’s house to hide until he comes back, of course “boys will be boys” and Andy, Charlie and the almost accepted Dave break into the trunk to find a stash of forbidden treasures: fireworks, porno magazines, chewing tobacco, and a gun.  These altar boys are “no altar boys” as the expression goes, as Charlie smokes, Andy drinks, and the pair shoplift frequently.  Charlie and another friend Felix break into a store to steal some bullets for their gun and while doing so they overhear a drug deal taking place in the basement of the store.  Luckily they escape without being seen, and they do come away with a supply of bullets.  These foul mouthed kids crash a party, smash a car with rocks, and are generally heading down the wrong path.  You can assume what happens when kids like this have a gun, because it doesn’t take a genius or a spoiler alert to know that there will be a shooting accident at the climax of this tale.

I didn’t hate Funeral Kings, but I certainly didn’t enjoy it.  The story was fairly predictable, sometimes heavy, but it did hold a few good laughs.  The title is a little misleading as well, the boys really only work one funeral at the beginning of the film, and that part of their characters is almost forgotten as the story goes on.  I was a little disappointed by the movie, but more disturbed really as I have a 12 year old son, so the fear of him falling in with the wrong crowd really does weigh on me.  I’m pretty sure he swears when he’s at school or with his friends, but hopefully not as much as the characters in Funeral Kings did.  As for shoplifting and guns, well let’s just say I didn’t sleep very well last night after watching this one.

It is of course possible that my disappointment came from expecting a movie about altar boys serving at funerals and their ensuing hijinks, which may have been brought on by a recent episode of Moone Boy that I watched, titled the “Godfellas”.  Moone Boy is the tale of young Martin Moone a 12 year old who relies on the help of his imaginary friend Sean Murphy (Chris O’Dowd) to deal with the quandaries of life in a wacky small-town Irish family in the 1980’s.  And it was hilarious.  I absolutely loved this show, which was written and produced by Chris O’Dowd who I’ve enjoyed since The IT Crowd (another hilarious English sitcom that you should really check out if you haven’t yet!).  Full of laughs, great characters, and a lot of heart, Moone Boy has only aired one season’s worth of episodes (6 x 25 minutes) but has already been renewed for a third season before a single episode of series two has even aired.  The Moone Boy episode I hoped Funeral Kings would be similar too concerned a bunch of altar boys who treated their job like a mafia gig, clichés and all.

My only regret is that I had to watch Moone Boy online, since it is not yet available here in North America.  I feel bad about this, because I want make sure the show continues.  So, if Chris O’Dowd ever reads this, two options: put the DVDs out in Canada so I can buy one and support a show I enjoy, or stop by my place and I feel I owe you like $20.  Email me Chris if you’re ever in the Toronto area, and everyone else out there reading this, remember piracy is wrong.

Review – Frankie Go Boom

Product Details3.5 Stars

Want a funny movie to pass the night?  Might I suggest Frankie Go Boom.  Starring Charlie Hunnam and Chris O’Dowd and featuring an all-star supporting cast, Frankie Go Boom made me laugh quite a bit.  Bruce (O’Dowd) has just gotten out of rehab and his family his having a graduation party for him, but his little brother Frankie (Hunnam) wants no part of it.  Bruce has always tormented him, and captured it on film.  One moment that Bruce filmed was at Frankie’s wedding when he found out that his fiancee was cheating on him, and when that video went viral on the internet a huge rift formed between the two brothers.  Now swearing to behave, Bruce is still set on becoming a director, but his promise may have hit a snag when he films Frankie’s encounter with a drunk girl on the way home from the rehab graduation.  Lassie (Lizzy Caplan) is upset that she just caught her fiancee cheating on her…with the pool boy.  Heading back to Frankie’s parents house the two attempt a romantic liaison…attempt being the operative word.  After hours of trying, Frankie and Lassie do manage to “do the deed” and at least Bruce didn’t film that, but the next morning Frankie finds out that it was filmed and that their sex tape was accidentally uploaded by Bruce’s editor (Whitney Cummings).  Bruce and Frankie frantically try to get the footage removed, but the “impotent guy sex tape” is gaining popularity.  The worst part is that Frankie truly has feelings for Lassie, and it turns out that she’s the daughter of Jack (Chris Noth), the violent drunk actor who Bruce met in rehab and has picked Bruce to direct his next work.

The movie had a lot of funny scenes, and each worked well primarily because of the casting.  I’ve long been a fan of Chris O’Dowd, loving him in The IT Crowd and Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel and he was as funny here as always.  The supporting cast really did make this movie though, Noth was an excellent crazy actor, Caplan was very likeable, and even Bruce and Frankie’s parents were excellently played by Sam Anderson and Nora Dunn.  Charlie Hunnam played an excellent beleaguered brother and meshed well with everyone, but some of the best scenes in the film were with Hunnam and Ron Perlman.  Perlman was Phil, Bruce’s old cellmate from when he was an addict and in prison before rehab.  Phil went away for stealing millions of dollars from a bank via the internet and would be the perfect person to help the brothers take the video offline.  Phil however is now Phyllis, having gone through a sex change operation to become the woman he thinks he….she is.  The Frankie and Phyllis scenes were hilarious, and Perlman was probably the most perfectly cast woman in years.  I have always had a lot of respect for Perlman as an actor, but seldom thought of him as a comedic player, that changed with Frankie Go Boom, because his range and comedic skills stole the show.

A definite indie film with a funny premise, good dialogue and that draws on a lot of “who you know” casting, but it is the casting that really makes the movie likeable, and oh yeah it has a pig that gets thrown into a pool, so it pretty much has everything.

Sleepwalk With Me

Product Details3 Stars 

The semi-autobiographical tale of stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia (his character’s named Matt Pandamiglio), Sleepwalk With Me tells the tale of his stagnant relationship with his girlfriend, the beginnings of his stand-up career, and his life threatening experiences with severe sleepwalking.  After his sister gets engaged to her boyfriend of two years, Matt begins to feel pressure from his girlfriend of eight years to get married.  Matt fancies himself a stand-up comedian, but really just works in a bar, and occasionally fills in for a few minutes, or introduces the comedians there.  Stress at home and at work seems to initiate Matt’s sleepwalking, but that same stress also kicks off his career as a stand-up comedian.  Hiding from responsibility, hiding from his relationship, he hits the road, at first fumbling, but soon finding success as his day to day life and worries become his act.

The comedy in the movie is very funny, and benefited from an excellent supporting cast.  Matt’s situations (aside from the sleepwalking) are very relatable, and Birbiglia is good as the lead.  His own progression from nervous comic to confident comic grows naturally with the evolution and destruction of his relationship.  Lauren Ambrose was excellent as Abby, his girlfriend (this is actually the second movie in the last few months I’ve seen her in where she has been a neglected girlfriend, as she played a similar role in Grassroots).  Carol Kane and James Rebhorn were both splendid additions to the cast as Matt’s parents.

I liked the film, but might have liked it more if it wasn’t so obviously autobigraphical.  The bonus features on the DVD were interesting, as they had the usual outtakes, and behind the scenes interviews, but also had a Q&A session after a screening hosted by Joss Whedon, who appears to be a friend of both star Mike Birbiglia and his producer Ira Glass.  I was curious about this, and it started out okay, until the interviewees started interviewing the interviewer.  On a piece for your own movie, I think it’s wrong to be asking the other guy about his Avengers film; and I also think it was poor of the interviewer to allow things to continue in that fashion.

All Superheroes Must Die

Product Details2 Stars

With a pretty cool premise, I thought this one would have been better.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that good.  Definitely an indie film, with some evident love from writer/director/actor Jason Trost for the “superhero” genre, but it just didn’t do all I hoped it would.

Four superheroes wake up in a deserted town with their powers removed by arch villain “Rickshaw” whom they had previously defeated (James Remar).  Rickshaw now forces them to play a “game” to compete for the lives of the innocent civilians he has taken hostage.

I watched this film Friday night, and now thinking back, I have several issues with it:

  • First, I suppose is math.  I believe Rickshaw said he had a hundred civilians wired to bombs to be saved by the heroes, but we only saw them try to save maybe twenty.  I know budgets are limited on these sorts of films and a hundred extras isn’t always feasible (though in this one it was, because the hostages always had white jumpsuits and sacks over their heads so they really only needed five that could be reused), but a simple dialogue fix would have solved this problem early on.
  • Backstory.  They tried to give us some through a series of flashbacks but they were too little and too late.  I had no reason to care about any of these heroes.  I wasn’t invested in them, because I didn’t know who they were.  It wasn’t even very clear that they had worked together before, or how (or even if) they had dealt with Rickshaw in the past.
  • Dialogue.  I love snappy dialogue.  It’s the sign of good writing, and as long as your story is well written, it stands a very good chance of still being a good movie even if you have a limited budget.  This one didn’t really have that.  The banter between the heroes was minimal, and the villain’s lines were horribly over the top with swearing seemingly tossed in at every chance to draw our attention away from the fact that he wasn’t really saying anything; but then again, no one else was either.

It wasn’t all bad however, a few of the ideas in the story were well presented, and the few twists that were incorporated worked well; even though I had pretty much ruined one for myself by musing while reading the DVD cover.  Actually “guessed” is a bit more accurate than “ruined” I suppose.  It’s not spelled out on the box, but my mind apparently went in the same direction as the writer’s did.  I did think it was quite a clever “indie film” idea to remove the heroes powers; now you don’t really need any expensive special effects, but they still dropped the ball by not developing or at least explaining the “super” part of these “superheroes” who must die.  As well, like a lot of indie films of this nature, they did spend a lot of time on the blood and guts, which likely was the majority of their effects budget.

To sum up, it was passable, but not really recommendable.  If you want to watch a good indie superhero flick I’d still say to check out Alter EgosAll Superheroes Must Die is good if you need to absorb every bit of superhero film available, but really the film seems to be a rehash of John Byrne and Chris Claremont’s Arcade character from Marvel’s X-Men, right down to the bowtie, and also just like in most comic book movies these days, they included a quick scene after the credits.

Oh yeah, this film apparently came out in 2011 under the title VS at the Toronto After Dark film festival, and a little personal nit-picky point: the art on the DVD cover has been reversed.  The character “Charge” (the one on the right of the box) is shown on the box to have his masked ripped on his right side, but in the movie, it’s removed on his left….sorry, now I just sound bitter.


Grassroots3 Stars

Oh, the power of the trailer.  I saw the trailer for Grassroots when I watched Alter Egos (about two months ago apparently) and thought it would be a pretty good watch.  After having the DVD sit on my shelf for about a month, I’ve finally gotten around to watching it.

Based on a true story Grassroots follows the story of Grant Cogswell (Joel David Moore), an eccentric, short-tempered, unemployed music critic who decides to run for city council in Seattle.  Passionate but tactless, Grant coaxes his recently fired journalist friend Phil (Jason Biggs), to be his political adviser. With Phil’s knowledge and Grant’s passion, along with a group of volunteers that most would call slackers, their unorthodox, grassroots campaign could almost succeed, and defeat the “evil” incumbent Richard McIver (Cedric the Entertainer) by promoting the extension of the Seattle monorail.

The story is a pretty good one, based on real events in Seattle of 2001, and is quite humourous.  The film focuses a little more on Phil as he is the one trying to keep Grant on track; monorail track if you will; also the real Phil wrote the book that the movie is based on.  Joel David Moore was okay, but I found his character a little too whiny, which made it hard to take the premise seriously.  I couldn’t really believe his Cogswell could possibly be elected to the city council seat.  Fortunately Jason Biggs’ Phil levelled it out, suspending my disbelief once again.  I’ve always liked Jason Biggs,  and he fit well into this role.  In fact Grassroots had a lot of really good performances; Cobie Smothers who played Agent Maria Hill in last summer’s Avengers was nice hidden gem (hidden because I didn’t know she was in this) as Clair, the Monorail girl.  Lauren Ambrose as Phil’s girlfriend Emily was great as well, giving the film a relatable, human side.  She also gave me a Doctor Who link, as she was Jilly Kitzinger in Torchwood: Miracle Day (sure, no Doc, but it still counts as a link to me).  Emily Bergl as Theresa Glendon, coffee shop hostess turned campaign headquarters manager, had quite a neat look to her and was another strong character and pleasant discovery who I certainly hope to see more of.  Cedric the Entertainer was also quite amazing; he wasn’t in the movie very much, but played an excellent “villain” for Grant to fight (politically), especially since McIver seemed to be a really nice, hard working guy.

My favourite thing about this movie I think was the evolution of the characters as their non-traditional campaign tactics actually begin to work, and they’re faced with the possibility that they may actually win.  What then?  Some of their antics and Grant’s speeches are very funny, add in the strong performances and you’ve got a pretty decent evening in front of you.

Speaking once again of the power of trailers, when I watched Butter the other night, I saw a preview for Silver Linings Playbook, a movie I had no interest in seeing based on the commercials.  I originally thought “this looks like some stupid dance movie”; well, after seeing the full trailer, I’m very intrigued by it, and think I would actually go see it. I suppose the moral of the story is to watch trailers, not just commercials, remember how important that was for The Watch?

Iron Sky

Iron Sky2.5 Stars

Iron Sky, one of those bad movies that you actually enjoy.  In 1945 a secret Nazi space program fled to the Dark Side of the Moon where they constructed a giant fortress and a massive armada of flying saucers. Their plan: travel back to Earth and re-colonize.  You had me at Moon Nazis.  Tongue in cheek funny, with fairly impressive special effects, Iron Sky benefited from intelligent writing despite the silly premise.  Part political satire, part B-movie sci-fi, you get a movie that; if you relax and suspend your expectations; you can really enjoy.  This is not going to be the next Close Encounters, the next Day the Earth Stood Still, it could be the next Independence Day though…

The film looked quite good, and I’m not just talking about Julia Dietze.  The majority of Iron Sky was CGI and green screen work, and the effects produced would hold up fairly well against those of big budget films.  The main cast of Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Götz Otto, Peta Sergeant and Stephanie Paul all seemed to work well together and looked to be having a good time with Iron Sky.  When you’re cast in a movie like this, I think you should embrace it and enjoy it, because movies are supposed to be entertaining.  I did enjoy it, and it was fun, but I honestly couldn’t give Iron Sky more than two and a half stars.  That being said, if you get the chance and you are looking for a few laughs and some fantastical escape time, pick Iron Sky up and give it a watch.


Product Details3 Stars

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, was an interesting, humourous find.  It’s a “sibling rivalry” movie; it’s a “buddy/brother” movie; it’s a “mid-life crisis” movie; and of course it was a pretty good movie.  It’s older brother Mark’s birthday and he travels back to his mother’s house with his family to celebrate, and all is well until his uninvited, estranged brother Jeremy shows up.  The brothers don’t get along and barely speak.  The source of their conflict seems to be the “Do-Deca-Pentathlon”, a series of 25 events they put together in 1990 to see who was the “best brother”.  The brothers were tied until the final event when their father pulled Mark out of the pool (in the middle of the breath holding competition) as he thought they were drowning.  The Do-Deca ended in a controversial tie.  Now, 22 years later, Jeremy starts the rivalry again.

The competition has a strange effect on both brothers.  The events include ping pong, pool, laser tag, long jump, arm wrestling, rock-paper-scissors, a swimming race, field goal kicking, home run derby, skee-ball and of course holding their breath under water.   Mark becomes obsessed, straining his marriage almost to the breaking point, while the formerly antagonistic Jeremy sees this and tries to calm things down.  Through this all, the brothers do reconnect as all brothers do over time, and each is better for it.

The acting was pretty good; and the story was engaging, but sadly the camera work really made this indie film look indie.  Several shots lost focus and the “zoom in” on a few looked jerkier than my last “budget” digital camera.  This surprised me a little as the film was written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass who had also done Jeff Who Lives at Home, Baghead and Cyrus, which I had seen and really enjoyed.

I wouldn’t say this is a “must see” film, but it still passed my evening enjoyably.

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