REVIEW: DOG EAT DOG

this movie has classic Cage swagger

From director Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver) comes a violent crime thriller that made me laugh more than I thought it would. The film occasionally touches on serious issues like police brutality and the failure of the justice system, but it’s mostly a bloody, pulpy, crime thriller and I had a good time. It’s always refreshing to watch something insane like this.

Nicholas Cage and Willem Defoe star as criminal buddies who met while they were in prison. Now that they’re free, they dive deeper into the drug-fuelled underbelly of the city, partnering up on a crime spree and sloppily killing whoever stands in their way. The chemistry of Cage/Defoe is fun to watch and the movie succeeds because of them. Defoe’s character Mad Dog is repulsive, but has all the best lines of dialogue and is oddly likeable at times.

Dog Eat Dog is grotesquely funny and weird. My favourite scene is a quick flashback to the guys high on coke in a hotel room, laughing and squirting each other with ketchup and mustard. It’s presented like a “those were the good times” kind of scene and it’s like the funniest thing ever. That’s what I liked so much about this film - it’s not afraid to be dumb and absurd and over the top.

It’s short at 90 minutes, but it could’ve been even more concise. I think it could have been 10 minutes shorter. The direction seems amateurish at times but it’s a low budget production so that’s forgivable. It’s a good script, and an entertaining ride. The last few scenes are dreamy and brutal, and left me wanting more.

7/10

THE BEST OF TERRY GILLIAM

 

It's true that Terry Gilliam's recent films have been mediocre compared to his stuff from the '80's and '90's but he's still one of the best living filmmakers, and these are his must-see movies:

 

BRAZIL

Still beautiful and relevant after all these years, Brazil is a dark comedic fantasy, set in the near future. With its incredible visuals and fantastic practical effects, this is Gilliam in his prime. It's part sci-fi satire, part love story, part fantasy adventure. A timeless work of art.

 

 

THE FISHER KING

Probably the most accessible movie in Gilliam's weird filmography, the Fisher King stars Jeff Bridges as a radio DJ who’s life gets tangled up with a homeless man (Robin Williams) and a quest for the Holy Grail. It’s a mythic comedy/drama with loveable characters and a great story. Williams is a delight to watch in this. I think it’s his best performance.

 

12 MONKEYS

I think it’s one of the best science-fiction films ever made. The twisty time-travelling plot messes with your head in a good way. This is a smart, gritty, mystery/thriller. Bruce Willis gives a solid performance as Cole, a man who travels back in time to locate the origins of a virus that has killed off most of Earth’s population. Astonishing, heart-stopping, and satisfying.

 

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

A really good adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s most hilarious novel. This might have been the first Gilliam movie I ever saw, and I was really thrown off by it’s opening sequence. It was unsettling and uncomfortable and I didn’t understand what the hell Johnny Depp was doing because I hadn’t been exposed to Hunter S. Thompson yet. Years later, after reading the book, I rewatched this movie again and again and had a blast every time. It’s about a journalist and his lawyer who go on a drug-fuelled trip through Las Vegas, covering a few stories before slipping into a psychedelic otherworld. “Buy the ticket, take the ride!”

 

Also worth checking out: 

Time Bandits, The Brothers Grimm, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

REVIEW: JULIETA

a film about deep regret and crippling guilt. Cool...

 

Almodóvar is a very cool director, but unfortunately his latest movie Julieta is underwhelming. Overall, it works as a drama, but it's barely alive. 

Adapted from three short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro, the movie is about a depressed woman named Julieta who begins confronting her past - piecing together the events that led to the loss of her ex-husband Xoan, and her estrangement from their daughter Antia. For the majority of the running time, we are watching a letter that Julieta is writing to her long-lost daughter who she hasn’t seen in twelve years. She begins by telling the story of how she and Xoan met on a train and the steamy love affair that followed, which is kind-of funny because it’s supposed to be a letter written to her daughter, so…why would she go into so much detail about the hot sex? 

The first hour is a slow burn, but it is affecting at times and the characters feel like real people. I love a good family drama and Julieta eventually got its hooks in me, but at the same time it felt incomplete and completely devoid of levity. It’s a bummer to watch. Not what I expected from an Almodóvar movie, but to be fair I’ve seen more of his comedies than his dramas. The story is alright and things really pick up in the third act, when Julieta discovers that her daughter has joined a religious cult. 

I thought the movie lacked intensity. It needed screaming, shouting and maybe even a little violence - or at least break a vase or something. I don’t know, I can appreciate a good boring movie where nothing much happens (for example, I really enjoy the work of Kelly Reichardt - a director who makes great movies with very thin plots) but Julieta bored me. Disappointing right up until the end. A lot of critics love it, so it’ll probably win the Oscar for best foreign language film, but I think it’s overrated. 

6/10

REVIEW: TOO LATE

A brain teaser that keeps you guessing until the end

Dennis Hauck’s debut feature Too Late stars John Hawkes as Samson, a private detective who receives a phone call from a distressed young woman named Dorothy. She asks him to meet her in the park, but by the time he gets there, she's gone.

The movie starts with a 20 minute single-take scene that follows Dorothy after she makes that call for help. We see everything that happens to her.

Each scene after that is another 20-minute story, shot entirely in one take. The film jumps around in time, forwards and backwards, and we watch see THE END before it’s over. I wasn’t confused by the puzzle because it’s an easy puzzle to put together. Even when I didn’t quite understand what’s going on, I enjoyed Too Late as a series of well-executed scenes. Like watching one cool short story after another. And the film takes its time to relax and breathe, which is a quality that I appreciate in any movie.

Instead of a convoluted plot that’s difficult to follow, the writer/director immediately puts the audience a few steps ahead. As the scenes progress, you wonder more about the characters and what they’re thinking and how they ended up where they are, rather than struggling to understand what’s happening in the ultimately unimportant plot. 

The classic Noir trope of not knowing what the fuck is going on is the exact reason why a lot of people can’t stand movies like Chinatown, or The Long Goodbye, or the more recent Inherent Vice, which I loved, but if you asked me to explain the plot to you I couldn’t do it. Too Late is a different kind of detective story that thrives and succeeds in breaking up the chronological order of events. The director tells the story out of sequence, and in a full-circle Pulp Fiction kind of way. The actors do a great job with their characters and everything feels real for the most part. The dialogue is sharp and laced with humour. Hauck’s style is occasionally reminiscent of Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson, which he’s been criticized for, but when you think about it, he’s just stealing from directors who have stolen from other directors. Who cares? The script feels fresh and original and it’s better than most of the crap that’s out there right now. 

It's not perfect, of course. Not everything clicks together perfectly. There are moments where I thought the movie fell flat and there were a few questionable choices made, but Too Late is Hauck’s first feature film and it's an impressive one. I’m excited to see what he does next. 

8/10

THE TWISTED, UNFORGIVING AUDIO-COMEDY NIGHTMARE THAT IS “PETE’S PARANORMAL CHRONICLES”

The last two years have been the most prolific for me as a writer. I finally learned to discipline myself to read and write as much as possible and since 2015 I’ve written two feature-length screenplays, a novel, and roughly 400 pages of audio comedy for a podcast called “Pete’s Paranormal Chronicles” 

 

I’ll continue to produce new episodes of PPC throughout 2017, but I’m backing away from the project for now, and I’m excited to start work on a new science fiction novel next month.

PPC was never supposed to go this far, but I’m enjoying the ride. It started as an idea for a short story - a drama/mystery about a guy who hosts a paranormal radio show, set in the nineties, and he gets a tip about a fabled videotape that supposedly has footage of some fabled creature. So Pete follows the lead and the story ends with a sort-of sobering realization that Pete is wasting his time with all this paranormal nonsense, and all the important things in life have passed him by due to his obsessions. Or something like that. The short story didn’t develop much beyond that and I’m glad it didn’t because it was this abandoned concept that sparked something much cooler…

Pete's Paranormal Chronicles became a comedic horror podcast, set in the 1990s, about an amateur paranormal investigator. Episodes are presented as recordings of a radio show that Pete produced at the time. It is by definition an audiodrama but it's 90% comedy. As an independent podcast recorded in my apartment, it breaks a lot of rules in terms of the way these things are usually produced and casted. It's raw with rough edges, closer to sketch comedy than literature. It’s very silly, stupid, and at times, inexplicably insane. 

Initially I was just going to produce this thing as a limited 8-episode series, and move on. I didn’t think PPC would find an audience so quickly, I was really just doing it to amuse myself and my friends. Since last February, we're up to 5000 monthly subscribers and it blows my mind that such a weird show is connecting on this level.

Here’s an interview I did on the Sheldon MacCloud show last April, where I talk a little more about the origins of the project:

 

It’s a very different show than it was last February and it's constantly evolving. The cast is expanding and the overall quality is improving (I’ve gotten much better at editing audio) but somehow I think we’ve managed to maintain a certain tone throughout the series that stays true to the spirit of the first batch of episodes. The #1 goal of this show is to make people laugh and smile, but we also try to take the listener to unexpected places. After all, the series started out as a comedic riff on Atlantic Canada’s maritime mysteries and since then it’s travelled around the universe and back. 

The next season will put the spotlight back on local ghost lore, while still dipping its toes in other horror genres like slasher films and creature features.

 

PODCAST LIST

Here are a few of my favourite podcasts. Click on the title to visit the site!

 

Welcome to Night Vale - (comedy-audio drama) A creepily funny fiction podcast in the style of community updates for a small desert town. Full of offbeat humour and bizarre moments. It’s very well-written, with great voice acting and top-notch production quality. Weird is good.

 

The Truth (audio drama) This one is my favourites because of its ability to tell captivating stories in a very short amount of time. I don’t listen to much audio drama because I often have a hard time “believing” it, especially with the more serious shows. Often times, for me, audio dramas sound too polished. Not natural. I tried listening to Alice Isn’t Dead and I had to turn it off because it sounded like a video game cutscene. To be fair, I produce an audio drama that has some of the worst acting ever, but PPC is intentionally bad so that’s okay with me. Anyway, The Truth doesn’t have any of these problems. Excellent production, good acting, a full cast, and stories I can really get into. 

 

LORE (folklore-horror) “A podcast about the frightening history behind common folklore." Writer/narrator Aaron Mahnke is very good at telling scary stories. So good in fact that Lore is currently on its way to television and the show will be run by X-Files alum Glen Morgan. Can’t wait!

 

The Night Time Podcast (true crime-paranormal-mystery-doc) Produced and hosted by Jordan Bonaparte, this ongoing series covers Canadian true crime and mysteries, complete with interviews and police reports. A very well-researched show that tells important stories.

 

Heavyweight (society-storytelling) A podcast about regret, unfinished business and unanswered questions. Jonathan Goldstein takes people journeying back in time to when their lives went wrong. It’s great storytelling. The first four episodes are incredible.

 

This American Life (society-culture) Amazing storytelling, organized by theme and offering a variety of different stories. Most of the stories are journalism, mixed with comedy. Still my favourite podcast. Never miss an episode.

 

Reply All  (technology) The stories in this podcast are about the internet and internet history - Everything from the invention of GIF to the very first live cam show. There’s also a great 4-part series called “On the Inside”. It’s a fascinating tale about a blogger named Paul Modrowski who’s in prison for a murder he claims he didn’t commit.

 

The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast (TV & Movies) I have a like/hate relationship with author Bret Easton Ellis. He can be obnoxious and he’s said things that have pissed me off. I’ve never read any of his books, but I still enjoy listening to his podcast. B.E.E. is good at getting people to dish dirt and tell the kinds of behind-the-scenes stories that fascinate me. The Quentin Tarantino episode is one of the most entertaining conversations about film I’ve ever heard. 

 

How Did This Get Made? (comedy) Three friends discuss terrible movies and really dive into why they’re so terrible. It's hilarious, especially the earlier episodes. A good way to navigate through this one is to start with movies you've already seen, and listen to them tear it to shreds. Co-starring is the hilariously lovable Jason Mantzoukas who you’ve probably seen recently in...literally everything. 

 

2 Dope Queens (comedy) Hosted by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams (of The Daily Show), 2 Dope Queens is, for me, it’s the best comedy podcast out there right now. Each episode is basically a stand-up special featuring mostly unknown comedians who always make me laugh. Williams and Robinson have great chemistry as hosts and they’re a delight to listen to.

Best Movies & TV Shows of 2016

     

    Here is my mishmash of all the good stuff that came out in 2016...so far

 

ARRIVAL (science fiction-drama) Probably the best science fiction movie to come out in the last ten years. This is a realistic story about scientists working together and figuring out how to talk to aliens. It's like watching the most amazing episode of Star Trek ever!

 

 

 

ATLANTA (comedy/drama) Who would have thought that Donald Glover’s new TV show would be this good? I enjoyed Atlanta more than most movies I’ve seen this year. It’s one of those rare shows where everything clicks together perfectly. 

 

 

 

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (comedy-adventure) A hilarious and heartwarming adventure into the wilds of New Zealand. Very fun.

 

 

 

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (science fiction-horror) This was just a blast to watch. Most suspenseful movie I’ve seen in a while. John Goodman is terrifyingly great in it.

 

 

 

 

SING STREET (comedy-drama-musical) A group of unbelievably talented high school kids form a rock band in 1980’s Dublin. This is a fun musical. The soundtrack spins on Duran Duran and The Cure. It’s awesome and it’s on Netflix right now.

 

 

 

INSECURE (comedy-drama) A new HBO show created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore. Partially based on Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, the show follows two female protagonists through their careers and relationships. Very funny. Solid writing and acting.

 

 

 

STRANGER THINGS (science fiction-horror) Very well-executed vintage horror show. Loved every minute.

 

 

 

 

 

THE NICE GUYS (action-comedy-crime-mystery) Shane Black’s new buddy cop movie really charmed me. It’s like a movie that would’ve come out in the ’90’s - character driven, with great dialogue and no CGI action. It reminded me of The Big Lebowski.

 

 

 

THE WITCH (horror) I’ve got to recommend this one because no movie has ever made me feel so strange. A must-watch for any fan of horror movies. This one is unique, isolating, and fierce. Parts of it feel similar to the most disturbing scenes in Kubrick’s Shining

 

 

 

MASTERMINDS (comedy) This absurd comedy from Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) stars Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Owen Wilson. I thought this movie was refreshingly funny. It made me laugh more than any other movie I saw this year. Very underrated.

 

 

 

BLACK MIRROR (science fiction-drama-horror) The third season of Black Mirror is on Netflix now and it’s fantastic. It’s an anthology so you can watch it without having seen the rest of the series. Each episode is it’s own story and “San Junipero” is one of the coolest stories I’ve seen this year on film or on television. 

 

 

SWISS ARMY MAN (comedy-drama-adventure) The "Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse" movie isn't great, but it works. Somehow it's enchanting and surprisingly funny. Loved the soundtrack.