Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Kind of a Funny Story

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is just that, kind of funny. It’s also kind of odd. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. The subject matter is so depressing, but at no time did I feel depressed. That’s a good thing, because I was in the mood for kind of a funny movie.

Craig is a clinically depressed teenager. There doesn’t seem to be anything depressing about his life other than stress and the resulting stress-vomit. Craig, instead of jumping off a bridge, stops at the emergency room and is admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Craig is played by Keir Gilchrist, a young actor with a resume spanning dozens of TV shows. He’s pretty good, though Craig is kind of a vacant character. He reminds me of a dead-pan Jay Baruschel. The comedy kind of happens around Craig and it’s really his reactions that bring the laughs. The story is Craig-centric, however it’s the other patients of Argenon Hospital that make the movie so good.

Craig first meets Bobby, the wise sage of Argenon Hospital. Bobby is played expertly by Zach Galifianakis. This film proves that Zach is an actor, and not just a crazy person. Interestingly enough, Bobby is a crazy person, but Zach plays him pretty tame. Still, Zach manages to be hilarious. The gorgeous Emma Roberts plays Noelle, a relatively new patient that Craig instantly connects with. She has scars of her own. She’s brilliant here and I expect to see her shine in more indie movies.

There are other patients as well, and a few of them are pretty important to the story. However, they are tragically under-developed. Craig’s roommate Muqtada plays kind of an important role and we never really learn about him. He seems tacked on. Jeremy Davies, plays Smitty, a hipster dude who works for the hospital, but I have no idea what his job is. I like the actor so I wish we’d see more of him.

I’m no expert but it seems like the writers have taken some liberties with hospital rules. Craig is underage but because the youth wing is under renovation he is forced to stay with adults. Something tells me that wouldn’t happen in real life. Correct me if I’m wrong. He is also allowed to have a female visitor in his room not chaperoned. This seems unrealistic to me.

There are some great imaginary scenes, based around Craig’s artwork, that are pretty to look at and add some color to the dull hospital scenery. This reminded me a little of 500 Days of Summer. The music class scene, where Craig is forced to play lead vocals is nothing short of amazing and if for nothing else, makes this movie worth watching.

Despite a few issues, this is a charming movie. The characters needed some more development. Not everything about this movie seemed realistic, so the drama wasn't all that convincing. It's not perfect, but it's kind of funny, just like the patients of Argenon Hospital.

3.5 other people with issues…

Monday, May 16, 2011


The most inspiring, touching, and relevant art in the world isn't created by artists. Mark Hogancamp has created an entire world in his backyard and because he took pictures, he's considered an artist. He didn't set out to create art in the way someone sits down at a canvas and asks, what should I paint today? Mark simply wanted to escape the pains of the real world. Marwencol is his story.

A decade ago, Mark was savagely beaten by five men outside a bar. He was left brain damaged and lost most of his memories. Unable to afford any kind of therapy, Mark begins constructing a model of a fictional World War II era town; Marwencol. He populates the town with G.I. Joes and Barbies. At first, the construction of this town and its inhabitants enable Mark to practice his fine motor skills. Eventually, Mark gives personalities to each doll, based on people he knows in his personal life. There is even a Mark doll, the alpha male of Marwencol. Through this doll, Mark is able to live his life.

Mark, in real life is divorced, but he doesn't remember why. He only knows that he loves women. In Marwencol the women, an assortment of different Barbie dolls, love him back. There are several times when the Mark doll runs into serious trouble. He is often tortured at the hands of Nazi toys. These conflicts represent the barrage of demons Mark has locked inside his subconscious. It is often the women toys, including a witch with magical powers, that come to his rescue. This means more than I'm willing to give away.

As the line between Mark's Marwencol and his real life starts to disappear, the pictures he has taken are discovered. He is asked to show them in a gallery. Mark must choose whether or not to venture out of his world. It is amazing to see how this climax in Mark's life translates to the storyline taking place in Mark's backyard.

Marwencol is a fascinating look at a real man living in an artificial world. The story is sad at times, but Mark has small victories every day; a true testament to art therapy. The interviews with Mark and his neighbors paint a picture just as detailed as the buildings and characters Mark has built. Jeff Malmberg, the filmaker, presents Mark in such a matter of fact way you can't help but love him. He treats the town of Marwencol as if it were just another one of the shooting locations. Thanks to Malmberg we enter Marwencol just as Mark does on a daily basis.

Everything is brought together at the end in a beautiful metaphysical kind of way. Charlie Kaufman would have a run for his money had this been a fictional story. The fact that it's all real makes Marwencol even more special.

This film gets 4 stickers from me. Really big stickers... (All images are property of Mark Hogancamp.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Terrifying Family Films - Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What a perfect day to share one of my favorite childhood movies; a film that also scared the shamrocks out of me. Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a classic Disney film, known for its innovative special effects. I don’t quite remember what the movie is all about; just that an old man catches the king of leprechauns. I also vaguely remember Sean Connery singing. I think my mom rewound the tape to watch this scene a few times.

Nice right? That song will be in your head all day. What I remember most, though, is the wailing banshee and the Grim Reaper’s death wagon. What kind of F-ed up Disney movie has a Grim Reaper? Just looking for media gave me the creeps.

I couldn’t find an actual clip of the death wagon flying in, or its headless driver, but here’s some of the freakiest Darby O’Gill scenes set to some pleasant celtic music. The banshee looks like a dementor on acid.

Way to give me nightmares Disney. No wonder I feel the need to drink beer on St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm Still Here

Wascally wascals Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck have played a joke on America. Only the joke isn’t funny and short of some publicity on Letterman and Access Hollywood, did anyone really care?

I’m Still Here is a mockumentary filmed by Affleck and Phoenix. According to the film, Phoenix decides to retire from acting and break into the rap game. On the road to rap stardom he completely falls apart; his breakdown accompanied by drugs and prostitutes. Surprise! It’s fake. Hilarious, right? Not really. The concept is clever; I’ll give them that. The resulting film is just hard to watch. It’s slow-moving, hard to follow, and at times, really gross. This movie reminded me a lot of Pauly Shore is Dead. Interesting concept, but in the end, nobody wants to watch.

Some critics believed the hype; this was the real Phoenix having a breakdown. Even one critic, whom I hold in high regard, seemed to believe it. In his review he says the film is pointless; watching Phoenix spiral out of control is pathetic. I agree that it is pointless, but that’s how you know it’s fake. Who would make a movie showing their buddy falling apart and doing drugs? It would be pointless and cruel. Also, wouldn’t there be legal ramifications if Phoenix really took that many drugs on screen? Phoenix does an insane amount of drugs on screen. What celebrity would really do that unless they were on Dr. Drew? Affleck is married to Joaquin’s sister, Summer. What decent human being would film their brother-in-law in such conditions, knowing that the family would see? What would be the point? This film only makes sense as a hoax; it only works as a celebrity spoof. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

There are moments where it seemed as though 12 year old boys got hold of the camera. It bounces around the room, in and out of focus, while the little boys giggle. You can’t even tell what the actors are saying half the time. And let me tell you, there are just way too many poop, vomit, and full frontal shots for my taste.

The one outstanding scene, which required some terrific acting on Phoenix’s part, is when he appears on Letterman to promote his new rap gig. Unfortunately, everyone already saw this part. I would have really liked to see the green room footage, or maybe something backstage with Letterman. They could have staged a fight or something; just something additional to what everyone saw already.

It takes a lot of talent to play yourself, and it takes a lot of guts to portray yourself in a negative way. So I admire Phoenix for that. I admire both Phoenix and Affleck for trying something different. The concept is a pretty good one, but I think it takes a dark turn. I would have enjoyed a movie about Phoenix becoming a rapper. That has comedy written all over it. Film the crowd reacting to the outfits and hilariously bad raps; leave the nudity and drugs out of it. The secret to a good lie is to not overdo it.

2 weird beards

Monday, March 7, 2011


Don’t let the big orange Nickelodeon logo fool you. Rango is a cartoon about little animals but it's not a cartoon for kids; at least not little ones. Cartoons seem to be getting very serious lately. Toy Story 3 definitely had its share of adult themes. Rango does too, but even more so. It’s also violent, dark, scary, and really noisy. I saw more than a few kids covering their ears. Not to mention, some of the cuddly little animals drink and smoke and curse. I loved it, but I’m not little. That reminds me, I need to get back to the gym.

Rango is somebody’s pet chameleon. He’s a privileged, self-proclaimed thespian, but he longs for something more. After a fateful accident, Rango finds himself in an old west town with some rather disgusting, but intricately rendered animals. Rango must prove himself to the town and answer life’s biggest question, “Who am I?”

The story is a pretty good one. It’s well-written and funny, but it’s also full of pretty standard old west archetypes. This movie is a clear descendent of Blazing Saddles and The Andy Griffith show. Rango, and more than a few of his quirks, is homage to Barney Fife. Another interesting comparison I couldn’t help but draw was to the movie Chinatown. Rango’s new home, aptly named Dirt, is suffering through a drought. Rango must figure out who or what is to blame.

What’s most amazing about this movie is the character design. The creatures of Dirt look like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They are so ugly, but you know, in a cute way. They are pretty gross sometimes but so detailed they’re almost beautiful. Although, the guy with the arrow in his eye was pretty gnarly. These are exactly the kind of rodents you’d assume you may find in a town called Dirt.

As much as I loved this movie I just can’t recommend it for families. The reactions from some of the little kids I saw were pretty telling. There are plenty of hilarious sight gags and slapstick jokes that got the little ones laughing. But there are lots of adult jokes and some inappropriate behavior. One has to take into account though that Dirt is an authentic old west town. Characters drink and smoke cigars. Characters point guns and characters get shot. There are a couple scenes that I believe would be absolutely traumatic for a kid. One of the main villains is a giant rattlesnake. I thought the snake from The Jungle Book was freaky, but this guy puts him to shame. He’s a pretty scary dude, and his “rattle” is actually a revolver-like cannon. Another scary scene, one I absolutely loved for its creativity, was when a posse of bat-riding rodents chase Rango and his gang. I mean… what’s more terrifying than bats? Well, rodents riding bats and shooting guns.

The great references and metaphors would also be lost on kids. There are so many cool themes and nods to spaghetti westerns to appreciate. And because Johnny Depp is the star, there’s even a hidden Hunter S. Thompson caricature. Look for it. Unless your kids know who Hunter S. Thompson is, this movie isn’t really for them.

4.5 filthy animals

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Terrible Movie Night!

I had to pass this on. This brilliant website was created just about a week ago and I can't believe I didn't think of it first. Here's how it works: Terrible Movie Night schedules a showing of a classically bad movie. You go on to Netflix instant stream and start the movie when scheduled. Then you log on to the website and basically tear it apart with other viewers. What a perfect way to showcase your genius wit with people you don't know!

I'm going to try it out tonight with the film, Transatlantic Tunnel. However, I'm most excited about the double feature this Saturday - two Troma flicks: The Toxic Avenger and Redneck Zombies. I'm not a huge fan of Toxie, but I used to watch Redneck Zombies constantly. Only problem was, no one would watch with me. Now, thanks to Terrible Movie Night, I will have virtual friends to bash it with!!

Check out the website for more details and showings:
Terrible Movie Night

Thanks to Thrillist Chicago for spreading the word, and to my sister for reading Thrillist Chicago.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises

Does the new Batman title remind anyone else of Hemingway?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weird Stuff Women Like...

This blog post is not to offend women. I'm just saying I don't understand you. You enjoy the following clips and they make me want to puke coat hangers.

The first clip is the opening scene of My Best Friend's Wedding. None of these women are in the movie. I don't get it. Why does it go on for so long? Seriously, who are these women? Actually the one in the pink dress is Bree Turner, who us dudes remember as the hot pet store girl from Deuce Bigelow. Regardless, this scene is weird.

This clip is probably the worst scene from any movie, ever. I might have liked The Holiday if it weren't for this. I mean, Jack Black is in it. He's never not funny. And why this song? Couldn't they have picked a song that I didn't sometimes listen to?

Oh look, it's Cameron Diaz singing again.

Now, I actually enjoy Moulin Rouge. It's a beautiful movie, with a cool concept and a great soundtrack. The only problem I have is this scary-as-hell scene where everyone appears to be on drugs. The dancing is sped up and weird mustache guy is obnoxious. I just want to punch that weird mustache guy.

Finally, we have this little gem from what must be the dumbest movie I've ever seen part of, The Sweetest Thing. Apparently it's the female answer to American Pie. It's really gross and really unfunny and again, it stars Cameron Diaz.

More to come. I simply can't tolerate any more right now!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Something's happening!

The news has been filled with accounts of strange nature phenomenons lately. Birds dying, fish dying, bees disappearing. Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! But don't worry, I know what it is.

Relax, it's just some viral marketing for The Happening 2.


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