Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Bye Bye Man (Movie Review)

If You Thought the Title was Bad...

January is generally known as the worst month for new film releases and 2017 is continuing that trend. While major studios are pushing their films for award season, January can feel like  studio leftovers from last year and The Bye Bye Man feels like an endlessly dry and tasteless appetizer compared to other great horror film entrees with the same basic premise (It Follows, Sinister).

The story involves three friends moving into an old creepy house house together in Madison, Wisconsin (but it might as well have been anywhere) and uncover a small table with writings scribbled inside of the drawer saying "don't think it, don't say it" (the tagline for the movie) and "The Bye Bye Man" carved underneath it (seems like an odd place to put the name if you're not supposed to think or say it). Once one of the friends says Bye Bye Man and puts the thought into all of their heads, they are all doomed by the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious  hooded figure and his terribly CGI'd, dog-like companion and they must stop him from spreading to other people like a virus. 

Who is the Bye Bye Man? Why does he haunt people? How do his powers work? Why do they keep showing a train? What does his dog do? Are a few questions that popped into my head during the movie and let me assure you none of those are answered. The only mythology we get about Adios Man is a flashback from the 60's during the opening scenes, where a man guns down his neighbors (with no blood) before committing suicide repeatedly saying, "don't think it, don't say it". PSA: If those two lines don't do it for you, get ready for them to be repeated ad nauseum for the next 90 minutes. 

Speaking of suicide, the script is about as helpless as the characters, borrowing every genre cliche it can find and wasting what could have been a cool horror villain with some good actors along the way. The three friends (not the good actors I'm referring to) we are forced to follow throughout the movie are Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas)—who are dating—and Elliot's best friend John (Lucien Laviscount)—who looks like a poor man's Drake—are your run-of-the-mill college students who get no other character traits other than the guys played baseball together once. The acting is laughably bad just like the dialogue and the performances are all over the place. Sasha looks like she is on downers the whole movie (I guess the Bye Bye Man can give you a fever?), Elliot looks like he is on cocaine and John was sweating like he was on ecstasy. This movie could have all been the result of some college student's bad acid trip and I wouldn't be surprised at all. 

Other characters like the librarian (Cleo King) and Elliot's brother Virgil (Michael Trucco), showed up a couple of times just to provide exposition and move the story along. Carrie-Anne Moss is shoehorned in as the detective that notices something strange is happening and so is Faye Dunaway who looks lost and is also irrelevant to the story, but none of them affect the boring plot whatsoever. Most of the film is sloppy setup leaving the audience waiting for the unlikable characters to meet their demise, with some bad PG-13 jump scares thrown in, that were almost all revealed in the trailer already.

The character Bye Bye Man, played by veteran actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), sure looked menacing enough like Tony Todd's Candyman, but was given barely any screen time to show his makeup or abilities. He can mentally trick you into seeing and hearing things that aren't there, but that's about it, and his zombie dog barely does anything but stand by his side. The film was originally supposed to be rated R and reeks of the studio watering it down to sell more tickets, but the film desperately needed something and gore might have been a redeeming quality in an otherwise unredeemable film. 

Overall, The Bye Bye Man is a thoughtless and forgettable film that isn't scary enough for the average horror fan to be thrilled in the theater and not gory enough for the hardcore horror enthusiast looking for teenage mutilation. January has officially brought us the worst movie of 2017. 

My Rating:

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't Think Twice (Movie Review)

Don't Overlook Don't Think Twice

Don't Think Twice follows an improvisational troupe called The Commune in New York. The group is made up of Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher) and follows their struggle to make it on Weekend Live, which is basically the movie's version of Saturday Night Live. The film begins with three rules for improvisation or improv: first is say yes and just go with any suggestion, second is that it's not about you it's about the group and lastly don't think (which is where the movie gets its title from). The movie follows these rules not just in their comedy, but in their lives.

The brilliance of this movie comes with the comedically experienced cast who are much like the characters they are playing. With the exception of Key (Key & Peele), Jacobs (Community) and Birbiglia (who wrote and directed the film), the rest of the cast are faces I recognize in other work but haven't seen in mainstream movies and Birbiglia uses that to his advantage. 

For most comedies the problem I have is that the characters aren't believable but the script creates depth for each character–some more than others–but just like the second rule it's about the group as a whole. The comedy is the center of their lives and it is so interesting that no matter how serious a situation is they never fail to inject their comedy into it because it is so naturally free flowing. Laying in bed Jack and Samantha practice their impressions while kissing, and when someone walks in late they tease them by impersonating their voices and body language. It's harmless fun that is like practice for their shows. When it's finally showtime their shows open with a suggestion from the audience asking them "has anyone had a hard day?" and building off of it. It's fitting that that particular question is their prompt because they build off of their own struggles as well. 

What I liked is how it real it felt, like I was watching a documentary about how improv groups really work. The film follows them to their day jobs as they struggle to find an identity outside of their group. Jack and Samantha have a complicated relationship that interferes with their work and love life and threatens the balance of the two. Miles (Birbiglia) teaches an improv group and tells the same story to sleep with his much younger students that he was "inches" from being on Weekend Live. 

When one of the members gets an opportunity to actually be on Weekend Live, the group stops being a unit and act out of their own selfishness and pride instead of being happy for them. Instead of a congratulations from the group, they want him to hook them up with jobs at Weekend Live.

I was reminded of Funny People (2009) during this movie and how that film failed to maintain that hopeful struggle with realism, this one hits it right on the head and it's the movie's main strength. The movie has a fair amount of laughs although there's an equal amount of drama, which is reflective of that realism. My favorite moments were the characters just rehearsing their impressions or sketches by themselves because it really does feel like they are making it up on the spot.

If I had any complaints about the film it was that, other a couple of short scenes, you don't see enough of the life of success that the tension is based on and the third act doesn't wrap as tightly as it could have (even with a surprise cameo) but the ride up to the end was a funny and heartfelt time. This is clearly a small film and it needed to be with the subject matter being so small scale but it makes up for it with big characters and moments. Birbiglia accomplishes a rare feat in taking his comedyand making an engaging movie out of it. His character has a lot of insecurity and depth that probably resembles his own experiences more than the audience will ever know.

Don't Think Twice is the quirky and bittersweet movie that is rare in today's over-budgeted comedy landscape and one of the best comedies of 2016. 

My Rating: 

Why Him? (Movie Review)

Why Him? Doesn't Break New Ground But Serves Up Some Entertaining Laughs

If Why Him? feels familiar to movies like Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, that might be because John Hamburg—the writer and director of Why Him?— also wrote and directed those films and a few others I enjoy (I Love You, Man and Along Came Polly) and essentially recycles the same plot from himself. Here goes the template: girl meets guy who doesn't meet the father's standards, the two awkwardly clash in drawn out gags and eventually grow to accept each other. 

The girl is Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and Laird (James Franco) is her filterless millionaire video game designer boyfriend. Stephanie's parents Barb (Megan Mullally) and Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) get a predictably bad first impression by seeing his bare ass during a Skype chat in a room full of all of his co-workers. They attempt to set up Ned's failing paper business (shocker) and say how old school he is compared to Laird's rich paperless millennial lifestyle but like I said earlier, these details barely matter to the paper-thin plot (no pun intended) so I'll just talk about the parts that made me laugh. 

Once Ned and Barb visit Laird's zoo/mansion–which is Silicon Valley's answer to MTV Cribs– over Christmas all hell breaks loose. This is where the movie differs from other in-law movies because where Meet the Parents had Ben Stiller as a bumbling nurse desperate for approval, Franco is unleashed as a young and shirtless mogul that is so energetic and unapologetic that his appeal is that he just can't help himself.  Franco plays the same eccentric Franco-eque character he's been playing his whole career but in a much more dynamic way than say in The Interview. Now that I think of it, Laird is all of Franco's stoned and stupid characters rolled into one tattooed puppy-like bozo. 

Cranston fell right back into his comedy roots as the uptight dad playing off of Franco and the two have great comedic chemistry. Franco's overbearing presence and Cranston's disdain are where most of the laughs came from me. Laird continues to prove why he's not fit to marry Ned's daughter, he's 10 years older, she drops out of school because of him and asks for his blessing and then unsuccessfully tries most of the movie to build a bond with him. Stephanie rarely has a say or role in the movie but says Laird reminds her of her dad, although other than minor references to him being a lifelong fan of the rock band KISS the audience rarely sees it. 

What saved the movie for me other than Cranston and Franco is the supporting cast. Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) plays Gustav, his personal assistant/life coach/self-defense teacher and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) is the mom, Barb, who is loosening up to Laird's free-spirited ways and they both show their comedy background by stealing their scenes. The scenes where Gustav attacks Laird at random times were my favorite, including one where Laird uses a chicken as a weapon. The young son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) also has some great scenes with Laird, especially one where the son tries to fit in by using cuss words and the best he can come up with is "double-dicking". Much of the dirty humor could probably be attributed to Jonah Hill having a writing credit on the script. But for every great slapstick gag there's one that misses like one involving moose piss and testicles and a very long scene where the dad Ned is trying to figure out how to clean himself after going to the bathroom in Laird's "paperless" mansion.

What ultimately holds the movie back is it's lazy plot, gross out gags and overlong running time. By the end of the film it's taken every angle to make you laugh and goes into cartoonish territory. Also from the trailers it looked like there would be more competition between Franco and Cranston and a deleted scene with a drone but the trailers pretty much tell you everything you need to know. By the time it gets to the third act, the movie goes soft, the plot and the last minute cameo can't even save it. I won't spoil who it is, but even they look bored to be there. If you're going to see it, I recommend renting it with friends and having a few beers and you'll have some good laughs, but other than that it's a pretty forgettable R-rated comedy. 

Overall, I can't lie and say the film wasn't funny because I laughed quite a lot during the setup and middle, but it's the third act and overlong (111 minutes) running time that can't close out what the great cast has brought to the table. 

My Rating:

Ab-Soul - Womanogamy (NSFW Music Video)

My last post was about Big Sean's latest video for "Moves" and I must admit, regardless of if I like the song or not, Sean and Ab-Soul are two artists who always have visually engaging videos to look forward to. 

Ab-Soul has been on a hot streak with his videos recently and this is his fifth(!) from his latest sixteen-track album, Do What Thou Wilt

"Womanogamy" is one of those cases where it's one of my least favorite songs from the album but the video—directed by Yellow Nguyen—made me like it more. Maybe it's the twerking naked strippers or the lame dudes begging the bouncers to get into the strip club (Ab-Soul fucked my old bitch once) it's equally trippy and funny. Whatever you do, don't watch this one at work...unless your work involves tons of TNA, then in that case keep pimpin' pimpin'.

Big Sean - Moves (Music Video)

Big Sean's last album, Twenty88, was released early last year with Jhene Aiko and his last solo album, Dark Sky Paradise, was two years ago and neither really impressed me. I know Sean is talented but they were not memorable like his earlier mixtapes and the Finally Famous album proved he could be. Now Sean is back and proving himself with a slew of new singles and videos for his new album I Decided on February 3rd.

The lead single "Bounce Back" (produced by Metro Boomin) is an impressive track with an even better video that seems to be predicting his return to success this year. The latest single "Moves" (produced by Fuse from 808 Mafia) is now graced with a video similar in color scheme to "Bounce Back" but more free-flowing with the dancing and empty space.

Check out the video directed by Mark Carson below. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Skillz Ends the Year With His 2016 Rap Up

2016 was a year of much needed closure with so many deaths and the overall terribleness that was last year and you can always rely on Virginia rapper Skillz to provide that closure with his unique and funny perspective. 

Skillz annually wraps up the events of the year with a hip hop bow and calls it his "Rap Up", and he's been doing it since 2010. Not only does it remind us of how dope Skillz is, but it serves as a perfect time capsule for all of the best, worst and bizarre moments that shaped the culture the previous year. 

He covers everything from mumble rappers, the mannequin challenge and that annoying dog filter on snapchat (seriously leave that in 2016) over a hip hop beat and gifts it to the world. 

Catch the song below with some of my favorite lines: 

"I gotta admit, Fam, I get mad as shit
When I swipe my card and they say "No, You gotta use your chip."

"The snow storm had the East underground
They kept shooting black men but wouldn't shoot killer clowns"

"Get an iPhone with no headphone cord
Or get a Galaxy and go and meet the Lord."

"Pardon me, as I vent

Bro, we made a reality star the President
And that just makes me sick
Talking about, "We gotta give him a chance." Naw
I ain't got to give him shit."

"More pros, less rookies
And if America's ours, how we let it get grabbed by the pussy?"

Tory Lanez Starts 2017 Off With Two New Mixtapes: The New Toronto 2 & Chixtape 4

Wasting no time this year, Toronto artist Tory Lanez released two new mixtapes, The New Toronto 2 and Chixtape 4, both sequels to The New Toronto and Chixtape 3, which came out on Christmas day of last year. 

Between the two tapes they combine for 25 tracks and play like an A and B side with Chixtape showcasing his R&B prowess while The New Toronto has him rapping. AraabMUZIK, Play Picasso and C-Sick are behind the boards and the features include Rick Ross, A$AP Ferg, Jaquees and Nyce.

Stream both mixtapes below.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fabolous and Trey Songz Release Surprise Mixtape to Bring in 2017

A couple of days ago, mixtape site Datpiff announced a surprise mixtape from two major artists coming out on New Year's Eve on their Facebook page, with a caption that sounds like it was penned by DJ Khaled that said, "Hint: it's a collaboration and YES, we assure you it's MAJOR." 

It was later announced the two artists were frequent collaborators Trey Songz and Fabolous and it would be titled Trappy New Years. The mixtape is six tracks long and available for stream and download on Datpiff's website here.

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