I’m trying to fill in some holes in my movie knowledge. I haven’t seen a lot of Woody Allen. I saw and really liked Midnight in Paris and of course Annie Hall, but beyond those two, I had to tap out.
I kind of hate that fact that Director’s Cuts are a thing now. Part of why I think people aren’t going to see movies in the theater as much as they used to is because you have to wait for the DVD or the Bluray to get the director’s intended vision. That clearly wasn’t the case with Purple Rose. It’s a movie that’s definitely Woody Allen’s vision…as bleak as it ultimately proves to be in this case.
I really liked Purple Rose of Cairo. It’s inventive. It’s funny. It’s well acted. It looks nice. I was not prepared for the ending. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it. If you know anything about me, then you would know that, of course, I loved it. I think in the five movies I’ve already wrote about already, you can kind of see a pattern. I don’t like easy endings. I like a challenge. I like finishing a movie and feeling like I have something to contemplate.
I think I was just shocked because I really didn’t see this ending coming. Really Jeff Daniels? You named your theatre after one of the bleakest two hours in cinema? That would be like if Liam Neeson went back to Ireland and opened the Schindler’s Playhouse. Only Schindler’s List has a happier ending (I have not seen Schindler’s List, but I’m assuming Oscar Schindler managed to save some people because they don’t make movies about losers.)
Tomorrow…a movie about a loser!
It’s going to be hard to say something about James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy that hasn’t already been said.
This is why I liked it. This is the first movie since Return of the Jedi that made me feel like I felt when I left the theater after seeing the original Star Wars trilogy. I felt like I was just transported to a fully realized, brand new universe. It felt real. It felt lived in. It felt like there was an endless possibility for stories to be told.
I’ve already gone through every special feature on the Bluray and confirmed what I already suspected. James Gunn really knows this universe. He’s made me crazy hopeful for the next chapters in the Lucasverse too. If the new Star Wars movies are as good as this, then we should strap in for an exciting future.
Holy shit, I just realized, I should still be writing these when the next Star Wars hits theaters!
I wish there were movie Guardians figures the same scale as Star Wars figures so I could stick them in my cantina or Jabba’s palace.
I kinda want to write a space opera too. Really get to know the universe and create something great. I already have the opening shot in mind. The down side of creating something so expansive and having it not turn into anything is looking like a crazy person when someone finds it later!
Tomorrow, someone else is crazy about movies too!
If it’s in a word or in a look you can’t get rid of the Babadook.
Babadook may be one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s certainly one of the best scary movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s ending is polarizing. It’s ambiguous and kind of open to interpretation, much like Birdman’s ending. With both endings, I found optimism. How you interpret the endings may say more about you than they say about the films.
Babadook is not what you think it is. But maybe it is. I’m being purposely ambiguous because I don’t know the answer and because I want you to be curious enough to see this film.
The strength of Babadook is not showing. There’s one computer generated shot that made me scrunch of my face and shrug a little. It’s kind of like the last shot in the original Paranormal Activity where it was definitely added after the movie got bigger distribution just to try to get a little bit of “wow”. Neither movie needed it and honestly I think both would have been much better without. Jaws continues to scare me because you never see anything more of the shark than the fin up until the final act of the film. I recently rewatched Stephen King’s It. The first shot of Pennywise the clown is just his shadow from behind laundry on a clothesline. That scared me way more than Tim Curry…but then again I don’t have a clown phobia.
It’s the things we can’t see, the things in the shadows, the things that exist in our mind that are the most terrifying. There’s an old adage about movies. They say, “Don’t say. Show.” WIth scary movies, I think it’s better not to show.
Tomorrow, it’s a dance off!
Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved.
Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.
Tied for first place, along with Guardians of the Galaxy, for my favorite movie of 2014 is Calvary. I’m going to go ahead and call this a perfect film.
Brendon Gleeson plays Father James and the movie opens with him in the church confessional being told that the man on the other side is going to kill him in a week’s time. The movie isn’t a whodunit because even on second viewing once I’ve already known who’s done it…or more accurately, going to do it, I found it’s impossible to tell. Everyone in the small town has an equal amount of both reverence and contempt for James.
Like the Father James character, this movie doesn’t judge. At it’s core, it’s a movie about the Catholic Church, but it doesn’t defend or damn it in anyway. It’s the story of a man with unbreakable faith. I wish I had that.
Even though it only takes rudimentary knowledge of the bible to guess how this is going to end based on the title, that opening St. Augustine quote about the two thieves makes you hopeful that maybe Father James will be saved.
The first time I saw this was in the theater with 20th Century Fox employees. They found a lot more humor in it than I did. I had to dry my tears before exiting. Watching it a second time at home, I did find the humor that I missed the first time. It’s as dark as humor can get. I was just as moved the second time around as I was the first. It’s a heavy movie, but a heavy movie I can’t recommend enough. Like I said, a perfect film.
If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of tomorrow’s review.
Do you like movies about Gladiators?
In honor of me being on an airplane today, I revisit the movie Airplane. I remembered there being a ton of jokes in this, but I don’t know that I realized just how rapid fire they came. Every minute of Airplane has at least a couple gags…I was kind of surprised how dirty a lot of them are. This is a movie I’ve seen many times since I was a kid. It’s kind of filthy! My parents didn’t want me and my brother in the room during National Lampoon’s Vacation during the scene where the Grizwold’s meet up with the cousins because of the dirty talk. That’s nothing compared to a good majority of Airplane!
I think the fact that there are so many jokes is why the movie holds up today and is still a really funny movie even if you don’t get all the references. It holds up simply because of the sheer volume of jokes. Also, the jokes land because every actor is playing it straight, with the exception of Stephen “Leon’s getting larger” Stucker, who plays it broad…and that being out of character from the rest of the movie make his moments hit hard. Today’s spoof movies are filled with Stuckering…which is term I’d like to coin, meaning playing a character over the top. Did you see Liam Neeson on Life’s Too Short? He plays a ridiculously silly scene completely straight and it’s a modern day masterpiece.
Before this, Leslie Nielsen was primarily known for serious roles. He’s great here playing it straight. I look at him mugging on the Naked Gun posters and just cringe. Lloyd Bridges kind of fell into this trap later too. Fortunately Peter Graves and Robert Stack never got campy. I’m not looking them up. For all I know they died shortly after. Unless they’re still alive. In the words of Scott Aukerman “R.I.Possible?”
Final note, I still get excited every time I see Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks in something that I grew up with. I remembered him in Beverly Hills Cop, but I practically jumped off the couch when he showed up in this as one of the air traffic controllers.
Tomorrow we walk through the valley of death.
In 2014 I made a huge leap of faith from my long time home in Michigan to the great unknown in California. It was and continues to be scary.
This is a place that’s much more open to helping you when you’re a visitor than it is when you’re a resident. When I would visit, I got on the best shows in town because I knew a handful of people and could say, “Hey, I’m going to be in LA the second week in June, can you put me on?” Now that I’m here, there’s no urgency. I’m just another mouse trying to get a piece of the cheese. As far as comedy goes, honestly, I’ve done more here as a visitor than I have as a resident.
That was a horrible surprise. Here’s a nice one. Acting is another story completely and I’ve been lucky enough to get cast in a few things. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
I sold a script for an episode of a web series for Funny or Die. I moved here to write. I thought I was ahead of the curve because I already had a couple scripts written and knew a few people who were involved in television shows one way or another. The harsh reality is that I am no different than a good chunk of the people out here trying to get jobs as writers or sell scripts too. It’s been a rude awakening. Many dies I was to give up. I want to cry. I feel overwhelmed. I feel in over my head.
That brings me to my New Year’s resolution. Louis CK generates a ton of material and opportunities for himself. I resolve to approach every day of 2015 with a “What Would Louie Do?” mentality.
What would Louie do? He’d create. A lot. All the time. He’d be open to opportunities. He’d work hard. He’d be focused. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve been lazy. I’ve been lazy here and I’ve been lazy in Michigan where, quite frankly, in some aspects I had more opportunity. I’m going to write. I’m going to create. I’m going to take risks.
To keep myself in the habit of writing, I’m going to resume something I tried to do way back in the days of Myspace. 365 Days of Movie Reviews. Starting tomorrow and every day in 2015, I’m going to write something about a movie. It might not be much some days, but it will going to be something. If I miss a day, call me on it. Because if I’m slacking there, I’m probably slacking elsewhere too.
Happy New Year.
I’m back home January 2nd through 17th. Apparently I missed the snow so much that I wanted to endure it again!
Here’s a run down of the shows I’ll be doing when I’m back.
January 2nd and 3rd, I’ll be at Laffs Inc Comedy Club in Toledo. I’m headlining so you’ll be able to get a whole bunch of me there. I’m not sure who’s opening, but I’m guessing it will be somebody good. I’m excited to check out this new club. I’ve heard the the crowds are small, but the club is great!
January 7th and 8th, I’m at Go! Comedy Improv Theatre in Ferndale. The 7th, I’m doing their Standprov show. It’s basically improvised stand up. I don’t know a whole lot about it other than it’s an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. On the 8th, I’m doing a double header show there. First, I’ll be doing an hour long regular comedy show with my friends Steve Lind and Bob Phillips. Afterwards, you’re invited to stick around to check out a trial run of a game show idea I have based on the game Cards Against Humanity. I’ll be joined onstage by some super funny friends like Jeff Dwoskin, PJ Jacokes, Kent Tucker and Heather Kozlakowski. And what’s even cooler is that you have a chance to go home with a fabulous prize!
January 10th, Steve Lind and Bob Phillips joins me again at the Pix Theatre in Lapeer for our The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Show. It’s a chance to me to play again with two of my favorite people in the world. It’s going to be a great 90 minute comedy show in a really awesome theatre.
January 15th-17th, I’m at the relocated Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase opening for the very funny Roy Wood Jr. I worked with Roy out here and he’s amazing.
So I hope to see everybody when I’m back.
For free entertainment, I managed to get myself on the list to get free movie screening passes. Recently, this has gotten me into a couple of super advance screenings of movies that aren’t due out for months and months. Contractually, I’m not allowed to say anything about the movies, but there wasn’t anything in the confidentiality agreement about talking about the screening process. So let’s cover those in the broadest terms.
After the movies everyone in the audience gets questionnaires. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Every opinion is the same. My opinion doesn’t matter any more or less than the guy in the American flag shirt with the cut off sleeves…and yeah, that guy really exists. My opinion doesn’t matter any more or less than woman who kept misplacing her child because she was doing something else. My opinion also doesn’t matter any more or less than that child, who also gets a questionnaire! Technically, my opinion matters less than all the aforementioned people because I’m too old.
Before the movies, staff members will go through the line asking everyone how old they are. I was told by one to never tell anyone again that I’m 42. When it comes to screenings, I’m 34. I’m flattered that they think I can pass for 34. Yeah, I could. I’m a rough looking 34, but a great looking 42! I can’t even get screening passes using my information. I have to get them using my girlfriend’s information because she’s in that prime demographic of females 18-34. For real, I’ve tried to get passes inputting my information only to be told that the screening was full. I tried again using her information and…voila…enjoy your movie!
The questionnaires cover the obvious. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How about those actors?
I saw a big comedy movie scheduled for 2015. There was a sequence where a Slayer song was used, unbelievably and appropriately well. Whoever did the music for that absolutely nailed it! It was a song where the mood fit the scene, as did the lyrics. I may have been the only person to note that afterwards. Looking around the screening room (yeah, this one was so early that it wasn’t even in a theater, it was a tiny screening room at the studio), I saw people cringing at what I was guessing their dislike of Slayer. Maybe they even made a note of that on their form. That’s disappointing. If more people note that they didn’t like that moment than the people who note that they thought it was a subtly cool choice, that moment may be gone and you’ll never get to see it.
Sometimes I’m wrong. I think my second biggest strength as a human is being able to freely admit when I’m wrong. My first biggest strength is my ability to pat myself on the back! I saw a supernatural horror movie the other night where one of the character dies by a hair dryer falling into the bathtub and electrocuting her. The first note I made on the “what didn’t you like?” section of the survey, “hair dryers falling into bathtubs can’t kill you.” Really?! That’s where I chose to draw the line in suspending my disbelief? I was fine with all the supernatural stuff happening, but apparently I couldn’t get past a technical flaw. For the record, circuit breakers would prevent you from being electrocuted if an appliance fell in your bathtub or swimming pool. While I believe that to be true, I’m not willing to test it out. I’ll save that for my doppelganger Adam Savage and the Mythbusters crew.
When you go into a movie knowing you’re going to be asked to make note of the things you didn’t like, you’re going to be looking for things not to like. Some movies aren’t meant to be inspected under a microscope. We’re not talking Paul Thomas Anderson movies here, because I’m guessing he never has to put his work under the scrutiny of test audiences.
The question that bothers me the most is the one about what you thought about each main actor. Sometimes actors get bad roles or bad direction. Maybe they’re cast in the wrong role. One of my favorite actresses was in one of the movies I saw, but her character was one note and she was extremely under used. So when asked what I thought of her in the movie, what could I do? Do I say she wasn’t good, even though I know she’s actually pretty great at her craft? Or do I say she’s great, even though she wasn’t in this movie? This particular actress is primarily known for television. What if poor screening results from this keep her from getting more movie roles even though she’s normally really good?
While I appreciate the free movies, I don’t think the opinion of test audiences should really matter. I get the importance of having someone tell you to maybe take another pass at things. Whenever I post something new here, punk rock poet/actor Jimmy Doom is always quick to let me know when there are spelling or grammatical mistakes. When I write a new script, I always send it to comedian/writer Nick Anthony because he not only understands that craft on a level I don’t yet, but he also doesn’t pull any punches. It’s important to have people who are honest with you…if their opinions matter. I think we can all agree that maybe George Lucas should have asked Steven Spielberg what he thought of anything he’s done since Return of the Jedi. Maybe he did, but Spielberg wasn’t honest. Jimmy and Nick are both great writers. Their opinions matter because they understand the craft and they’re honest. The opinions of random people in a test audience shouldn’t matter, but they do.
But seriously, thank you for the free tickets!
Inspired by an article on Hip in Detroit about how to be a good music fan, I decided to write about what it takes to be a good comedy audience.
1. Research the comedian you’re going to see. There are a crazy number of a varieties of comedy. It’s like ice cream. Baskin Robbins sells 31 flavors because not everybody likes chocolate or vanilla. Some people love Superman…and if you’re one of those people, you’re wrong! Comedy is the same way. Maybe you like the nimble wordplay of a Myq Kaplan or the introspection of a Marc Maron or maybe you just like an angry hippy to smash a watermelon on stage. Those are just three examples of the many, many kinds of comedy out there. All are valid. Comedy clubs generally only serve one kind of ice cream each week. I love Moose Tracks. I’d hate to go to a comedy club expecting Moose Tracks and find out that week they were only serving Raspberry Sherbet. I hate Rasperries! So research your entertainment options. Most comedy clubs have a website where they list the performers. And most performers have clips of their act available online. I wouldn’t walk into a movie house and just plan on seeing “movie”. No, I’d know exactly what movie I wanted to see because I researched the product first. I should have stuck with the ice cream analogy. I’m hungry. Read the rest of this entry
In the past week I’ve watched both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The World’s End. Both are movies that got me thinking a lot about nostalgia.
Wallflower takes place during the 1991-1992 school year. It was two years after I graduated, but the world was very familiar. I had groups of friends I bounced between back then. I had my closest friends in John and Bill who never overlapped. John was my metal head buddy and together we played video games and went to concerts. We’d drive around late at night and talk about girls. Bill and I went to the community center and shot pool or we’d go to the movies. I also had my own personal Wallflowers.
Sometimes I get discouraged about losing weight. Since it happens gradually and I see myself in the mirror every single day, I don’t tend to notice the change. So for shits and giggles…well…and motivation…I look at old pictures of myself.
I’m down over a 100 pounds from my heaviest. When I lost weight the last time (I’ve bounced back and forth quite a lot over the last few years. I’ll probably die like Luther Vandross or James Coco if I do that again) I’d reward myself with buying smaller Read the rest of this entry
Thank you again to everyone who came out to the Comedy Castle this past weekend for my CD release party….and thank you especially to those of you who supported this new album in advance through my Kickstarter!
Now is the chance for everyone else to get their hands on my third album “nowadays.“. I’m really proud of this one. While it’s the dirtiest thing I’ve ever put out there, it’s also the most personal. The CD opens with a little skit that kind of harkens back to the old Read the rest of this entry
I have a couple non-comedy things coming up that I’m really looking forward to. My friend Jared Stroup has written a great screenplay that he’s gearing up to produce. There’s a really fun…and sizable role in it that he asked me to play. I’m super flattered and honored! I’m beginning to feel my limitations as an actor. I think sometimes people have a natural talent for things and sometimes they don’t.
My first love is music. I really wanted to be a musician. Growing up all of my friends were musicians. I was in a handful of bands to the dismay of my bandmates who had to carry my load. I think playing with good musicians helped me get better, but I just didn’t have what it takes to be good. I’m noodling around with a bass now and am probably as good as I was twenty years ago when I practiced a lot!
I’m hoping I’ll find some secret talent when it comes to acting. I just watched a clip of a thing I shot over the past year and was pretty disappointed. I think I did a passable job in Deadpan, but those were words that I helped write…and a character that was based pretty close to myself. Jared’s movie is going to be the thing that makes me decide if I want to keep trying this…or maybe check out an acting class. He and I have talked about my worries. I have a lot of confidence in him as a director though. Read the rest of this entry
When I was 16 or 17 years old I bought an Almighty Lumberjacks of Death cassette probably from Rock of Ages or Flipside Records. I never saw ALD live, but I certainly knew who they were. ALD were Detroit punk rock gods! That album “Always Out of Control, but Never Out of Beer” struck a chord with me. The songs ranged from fun anthems like the eponymous Almighty Lumberjacks of Death to the socially thought provoking Motor City Trick or Treat. Jimmy Doom was my guy. He was a local icon, but he was also dealing with the same girl problems I was facing because why else would he write Devil Girl?
I loved that album.
Fast forward years later and I meet Jimmy Doom. My memory of this could be way off. I was working at one of the many many comedy clubs called Wise Guys. I think every third or fourth state may have a comedy club called Wise Guys. Doug Stanhope was coming to town and we wanted to do something different to book his opener. I had the idea of having a contest. To find Detroit’s most extreme comedian, we’d have Detroit’s most extreme entertainers judge it. I brought in locals who wrestled in the WWE, Detroit Derby Girls, and musicians including Jimmy Doom. Even though I was probably maybe a little bit of a creepy fanboy, we hit it off.
If you’re 35 or older and grew up around Detroit you probably remember the Detroit Zoo talking animal commercial from the early 80s. I don’t think a week goes by that something doesn’t jog my memory about this ad. Well…I made a parody of it. It may actually be the first thing I’ve posted on Youtube that doesn’t contain anything objectionable!