College Humor Video – Wanderlust

Here’s a new video briefly featuring me and good friend Tim McGovern with some special help behind the scenes from NU alum David Lassiter. Also, you might recognize all those guys from the State. If you’re smart.

New Short Film – Thunk in Public

I play Billy the hot-pocket addled techno-geek in the new short film “Thunk in Public” by Ryan Maples. I had a really good time working with this particular cast and crew. The entire movie was shot on the new Nokia N8 cell phone as part of a festival sponsored by Nokia. I hope you enjoy.

Holiday Trailer Round-Up

There’s a lot of laughably awesome films on the horizon, so let’s check them out as a family, won’t you?


Aside from the creepy pseudo-prosthetic CG keeping young Jeff Bridges in motion, everything in this trailer is mind-numbingly boner-inducing. It might be an after-effect of the robotic backwards walkin’ love slaves, or the fact that Olivia Wilde is constantly eying our main character like a slab of man meat, but there’s something markedly sexified about the new Tron. ‘Sexy’ isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe the old Tron– maybe ‘awesome’ or ‘virginal to the point of embarrassment’- but this film’s imagineers clearly want geeks, gamers and lonely losers alike to flock in droves with the hopes of catching a stiffy from the mass quantities of silicon and silicone inherent in this picture. Sign me up, assuming this film hasn’t lost its sense of humor during the two decades of anonymity. Bridges may be mumbling for a paycheck, but he’s still more watchable than most stars even when bored to tears and wrapped in vestments from Space Mutiny. I’m at a loss for words when it comes to clearly sexist yet sexy pictures like these. You might as well treat the whole ordeal like a Katy Perry music video. Just turn the sound down and space out to the visuals as if you were a 7th grader discovering his erection to a Blink 182 album cover. (Also being really, really stoned couldn’t hurt.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This is literally the most expensive looking movie trailer I’ve ever seen. The quality of the effects alone are enough to draw my interest. They really help me overlook the whole Jesus-Lion parable bullshit wreaking havoc on the narrative. Minotaurs and talking rats are always a plus, not to mention the overt sexual tension with an amorphous spirit goddess. I guess the past two movies were popular (I thought the first one was shit and didn’t see the second- I always liked that hokey BBC miniseries better) because the filmmakers clearly have enough dough now to throw wads of it at the screen with reckless abandon, like Kanye West hucking gold doubloons at his television to change channels. Let’s hope this movie has a decent enough story to justify the insanity of its budget (whatever imaginary number that may be) and that the filmmakers haven’t gone the Gore Verbinski or Raimi route and let the studio fund their movie under the auspices of dumbing it down to the point of statutory boredom. Then again, with all the Christian godliness at play maybe this movie could use a few trainwrecks. Spider-Man 3 dance sequences, anyone?

Red Riding Hood

Is this one of those parody trailers preceding Tropic Thunder? Did American McGee crap this out while doodling rape fantasies on the back of a napkin at Comic-Con? I can understand why Catherine Hardwicke would want to exploit her Twilight fanbase for another quick buck, but even she has to understand how shamelessly moronic this is. At least her visual style is improving, evolving from the too dour blandness of the Twilight saga to this oversaturated self-important nonsense. I could only stomach the first thirty minutes of her Twilight movie, but I have a feeling the warm colors and cinematography will make this picture slightly more watchable, even if the acting and story can’t. Little Red Riding Hood is all grown up, but she still has the emotional maturity of a third grader (that way teenage girls can relate). I just hope that when they cut Red and Grandma out of the Wolf’s belly it’s presented as an even-handed metaphor for the Planned Parenthood generation.

The Green Hornet

Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen’s frequently delayed foray into superhero action-comedy is finally about to hit theaters (maybe, probably, sometime soon, we promise), and it looks like there’s a decent chance that it might actually be watchable. While I’m still skeptical as ever that Gondry’s unique softness of style will translate well into American blow-em-up cinema, Rogen’s likability and charm may mask the obvious filmmaking flaws and allow audiences to overlook the fact that the guy playing Kato can’t fucking speak English. As usual, the marketing campaign seems myopically focused on Seth Rogen’s rich party-boy anti-hero (*cough* Tony Stark *cough*) and his pseudo-gay relationship with his live-in Asian man servant/bodyguard. Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz struggle to breathe from the cutting room floor, their exclusion serving only to benefit Christoph’s Oscar-winning credibility and Cameron’s lack thereof. I enjoyed Inglorious Basterds and What Happens in Vegas about equally, so I suppose I can survive this movie too. Ugly, bare-bones set design and 90s action-comedy gags might be the real nail in the coffin here, because aside from that guy who doesn’t speak English (who- Gondry or Kato?) there’s enough charm and personality here to make something fun happen. And if it’s bad, it’ll be easy to forget, because let’s face it- what superhero is more forgettable than The Green Hornet?

Green Lantern

This movie trailer is a crash course in killing credibility. Ryan Reynolds has so much smugness and goodwill built up in his jawline that it’s almost impressive how quickly the filmmakers are willing to date-rape their audience. I’ll admit that the effects look better on the big screen than the computer screen, but even given that caveat the big purple fucking face at 1:00 is an absolute career killer for all humans involved. Not only is the Tinky-Winky spaceman a disappointingly awful reveal, it’s also an indication of the absolutely dorky tone the filmmakers are taking to an otherwise interesting character. The Green Lantern is an everyman called to duty by a higher power. Sounds biblical, right? Kind of ruins that momentum when your godlike deity figure turns out to be the bastard love-child of Frankenstein and the California Raisins. If it had been Jar Jar Fucking Binks I would have been more excited, honest to God. Oh, and speaking of Episode One, here’s the rest of the goddamn trailer. Blake Lively vomits dialog at the epicenter of the movie’s shittiness, radiating shit tremors around her at a twenty mile radius. If this movie were a literal black hole, crushing credibility down to an unknowable quantum singularity, it would still be an understatement to say that she sucks. She sure is pretty though! And I’m sure that’s exactly what the film executives thought when they greenlit this monstrosity and released the nuke that killed us all. I don’t know if this movie is going to be any good, but I can guarantee that some kid is going to shove one of those Green Lantern action figures right up his ass. And that’ll still be the best thing to happen to this character all year.

Cowboys and Aliens

At first I thought this was a live-action adaptation of Red Dead Redemption, fulfilling my geekiest of fantasies by saturating its cast with eye candy (again Olivia Wilde) and elderly show-stoppers (Harrison Ford). Then I realized it was some shit with aliens. Whatever. Wild Wild West was a huge smash hit and Iron Man 2 was a stunningly cerebral triumph, so why shouldn’t this be perfect? I don’t know. I give up. I’m going drinking. (Also, the modern James Bond franchise is dead, so this is as close as we might get to Daniel Craig kicking real ass on the big screen for a while. Let’s just hope this goes the route of Men in Black instead of the route that its asinine title might suggest.)

DVD Review: Mystery Team

Mystery Team is the result of a lot of hard work and monetary investment from a little group called Derrick Comedy.  Featuring familiar faces like The Office‘s Ellie Kemper (a.k.a. the internet’s Blowjob Girl) and the endearingly morose Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation) this movie is the product of a bunch of good friends getting together and collaborating on an exceedingly fun and goofily eccentric concept.  Based off their favorite junior detective mystery novels growing up, Mystery Team asks the question, what if Encyclopedia Brown never really grew up? Take one part Hardy Boys, one part Scooby Doo and mix it with the stark reality of gritty street crime, and you’ll have the basic tenets of Mystery Team.

The real star here is Community‘s Donald Glover.  Though the titular Mystery Team consists of three equally dorky members, Glover’s performance as Jason is the only one that struck me as memorable.  The other two characters each have a gimmick; Duncan is an all-grown-up boy genius (a comedy trope utilized to better success in popular animated masterpiece The Venture Bros.) and Charlie is “the strongest kid in town,” although he isn’t very strong.  It’s a fairly conventional comedic device to set up a statement and then ironically deny it to produce laughs, but when two of your three main characters begin to blend into the wallpaper, it raises some concerns.  It’s not just that their schtick is noticeably less funny than Glover’s, whose delightfully hammy over-acting as a “master of disguise” is a perfect blend of nerdy and charming- it’s also the fact that his teammates’ acting chops aren’t up to par.  Glover acts circles around his compatriots, making it less of a Mystery Team and more of a solo detective story with two relatively annoying sidekicks.  The sidekicks occasionally get a good bit or two, but it really depends on how much you enjoy bloody noses and pee-drinking jokes (and if I know my audience, that’s plenty!).

Ellie Kemper is remarkably underused considering her talent, and Aubrey Plaza is lovably awkward as usual.  The truth is that Glover’s charm is so charismatic, all of the movie’s low-budget flaws melt away.  There’s a great cameo by SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan as a likeable yet semi-creepy store clerk, but beyond that, this is Glover’s show.  The plot unravels in typical children’s mystery format, i.e. the characters can reason out the mystery based on internal clues, but there is no chance for the audience to figure it out at home.  Which is fine, seeing as this movie is primarily gunning for laughs, but again, if your movie is about a Team, you might want to include more interesting team dynamics from the beginning.  Since the other two members are so inept, the movie basically wanders from set piece to set piece waiting for Glover to do something insane to liven it up a little.  The end result is a surprisingly funny comedy that is definitely worth a rental.  As the stakes escalate, our former boy detectives find themselves fearing for their lives, pitted against real-world criminals in a battle of wits.  Fans of the now-defunct Party Down will excuse the metaphor, but Mystery Team is like a crock-pot.  It’s a slow burn, and by the end you’ll have fallen in love without even realizing it.


Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

With its $116 million dollar opening and two weekends of box office domination, Alice in Wonderland is already Tim Burton’s most successful cinematic debut and easily stands to be one of his most profitable films of all time.  But is it one of his best?  That question almost seems unnecessary in age of cinema obsessed with 3d goggles and mind-boggling effects.  The standard by which the success of a motion picture can be determined has been rewritten by Avatar, just as The Matrix rewrote it a decade prior.  It seems that Hollywood and audiences across America are reveling in the benefits of an extra dimension of filmmaking, resulting in higher ticket prices and higher ticket sales correspondingly.  But are we paying for an added dimension of storytelling, or just a few extra moments of flash and pizzazz?

Alice in Wonderland intimately represents the tightrope walk between innovation and redundancy so omnipresent in Hollywood.  It starts innocently enough, with a bit of flashback storytelling establishing the all-too-familiar tropes of stuffy British aristocracy and that maddeningly young woman cavalier enough to upset them all.  This is all well done and as charming as the thousands of other dips into Brit-Lit that have borrowed the cliché, but it’s the careful preparation and calculated delivery of the exchanges between characters, the set design and costuming that make Alice’s pre-Wonderland experiences so likable.  It’s almost a shame that Burton spends so little time here, as his uncharacteristically direct approach to satire and duality is a welcome treat in this instance, as opposed to his Big Fish, which almost reeked of bland banality.  Could it be that in his later years, Burton has discovered an insight into the human condition that makes his treatment of the inhumane less interesting?  It could be, because as soon as Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole, all sense of satire and merriment is lost on the story, and we are instead “treated” to a dark and half-formed bastardization of Wonderland that shares more in common with Coraline‘s twisted alternate dimension or a bad trope of light-world/dark-world video game storytelling than it does the deeply satiric and mesmerizing writing of Lewis Carroll.

The thing that made the books special was Carroll’s ability to interweave then-modern social and political satire into a comical and otherworldly experience.  Children could amuse themselves with the rich and beautiful storytelling, while adults could marvel at the inside jokes and chuckle at the digs that make the novels memorable.  The whole nature of Wonderland acting as an alternate universe to the real world speaks to a basic duality, and the “fun-for-children, clever-for-adults” nature of the original Wonderland stories served to underscore that.  Burton’s vision of the stories presents a half-baked Wonderland swimming on the outskirts of a painfully more interesting real world, where the almost absurdly convoluted rules of Wonderland undercut the fun to be had by both Alice and the audience, to the point where the almost Pirates of the Carribean-y vibe of Alice’s real world seems a welcome alternative.

Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who meaninglessly strives to construct an action movie out of a British political farce.  Certainly there is something to be said about Alice coming into womanhood through her larger-than-life adventures in Wonderland, but never has that notion been trivialized so severely as when Alice is forced to don a suit of armor and decapitate a literal Jabberwocky.  The Jabberwocky, a mythic and terrible creature from one of Carroll’s best moments of poetry, is nothing more than a Lord of the Rings-ian analogy in this picture, serving no purpose other than to give the heroine something to slaughter in the third act so we can all go home thinking we saw a big movie.  It’s almost too difficult to fault individual moments of the story for being unnecessary since all of Wonderland is a series of meaningless contrivances designed to comically poke fun at a real world analog.  Rather than giving the audience any time to wonder about anything, Alice is shuffled off into another series of vaguely grotesque events that feature a handful of memorable fairytale characters being imprisoned, attacked or CGI’d beyond recognition.  As much fun as it is to see them live on camera, it would have been more fun if any of the sights in Wonderland had contained a snippet of significance that Alice could carry back with her to the real world.  The Alice of this universe enters Wonderland with as much preposterous rebellion as she leaves it with, leaving her little room as a character to change or grow.  How does killing a mythical beast correlate to Alice’s ability to plot trade routes in the Far East for her father’s company?  This movie would like to make the claim that it does directly, and that any dream one has can give them the courage to learn nothing from it and continue behaving exactly as you did before you ever fell asleep.

I do not mean to imply that there is nothing to be admired about Burton’s Wonderland.  There is plenty to be visually compelled by, and the three-dimensional glasses actively behave as your colleague on this maddening adventure, vying harder than the screenwriter ever could to make this experience less dreadful.  Certainly, there is nothing to be enjoyed about Alice in Wonderland without the aid of the 3d glasses, and the thought of wearing regular reading glasses during the proceedings would devolve the experience into a worse-than-Chronicles-of-Narnia level torture-fest.  There are beautiful moments, though they are few and far between, and unless the thought of seeing a dormouse pluck an eyeball out of a bandersnatch’s head is delightful to you, you’ll have a very difficult time justifying why the physical landscape of Wonderland seems so burned-out and sparsely populated, a visual bastard son of even Planet of the Apes‘ set design.  It is a sad state of affairs when I long for Alice to wander the terrifying forests of Sleepy Hollow, for at least there she could be surrounded by atmospheric tension as opposed to the un-artful approximation of Dali-esque fantasy in Wonderland.

Johnny Depp’s performance is confusing, but clearly more a fault of the screenwriting than his own design.  As a performer he is charming and effortless in movement and expression, but the parameters of his Mad Hatter are hard to follow and beyond the feeling of, “Oh, isn’t that whimsical,” there isn’t much depth to consider.  The real steal-the-show moments come from Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, whose petulant humanity shines through in spite of the gaudy computer-generated madness applied to her forehead.  Crispin Glover performs adequately as a character who vaguely resembles a human being, and unfortunately for Anne Hathaway, she does the same.  As for Alice, it is hard to get a read on the performance of an actor shamelessly wandering from situation to situation and only occasionally coerced into action.  She does a good job of looking a combination of stern and forgetful, which is fair, because Alice suffers from a needlessly crushing bout of amnesia for nine-tenths of this movie, only to remember that she is Alice at the last minute, has done this all before, and it was just as boring and meaningless the first time. Yes, you do get to see Alice drinking to shrink and eating to grow, but you also have characters commenting on the fact that she’s done it all before, even though she doesn’t know it.  Then you get to hear Alice complaining that she doesn’t remember doing it before.  Then they say they are confused because she should remember.  Then she remembers.  And it changes nothing.  Not one bit.  She says, “Oh, now I remember,” we see a brief montage of scenes from a much more interesting movie featuring a much more age appropriate Alice, and we cut back to the grown-up Alice, she slays the monster, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I hope I haven’t spoiled too much of the story for you, as Linda Woolverton has strived tirelessly to provide that service for you herself, robbing all subtlety and grace from Wonderland, all inquisitive nature from Alice, and almost all humor from this picture.  There are a few laughs, and a few majestic moments of CGI perfection that will make you say, “Wow! That extra seventeen dollars I paid at the door really did come through!” but did it really?  Afterwards your pocket is still empty and you’ll have a decidedly shallow feeling of dissatisfaction, as if the Milk Duds and Junior Whoppers you consumed during the movie weren’t as satisfying as a balanced meal, complete with character and heart.  The problem with Woolverton’s Wonderland is that it lacks any parallel to the real world, and provides no insight into its own proceedings or the correlating lives of real people.  Things that were pointless for the sake of fun in the original are pointless for the sake of inclusion in this picture, and nothing about the original stories are explored in further detail.  Instead Burton’s Alice provides a shallow mixtape of Wonderland memories, for some reason double-packaged with amnesia.

But it’s damned pretty to look at sometimes.  And it’s all thanks to the 3d.  Three-dimensional motion pictures are the latest in a string of tricks used by Hollywood to convince people to overlook the flaws of an already broken picture. The only difference between this trick and Hollywood’s regular schemes is that with Alice, the tricks are actually working.  It’s kind of fun to get caught up in the stupid madness while it’s happening thanks to your magic goggles, and I can even see people buying this film on Blu-Ray or DVD only to be disappointed that the small screen experience can never live up to the cookie-cutter big screen comparison.  But by then it’ll already be too late.  Most big pictures in the next two years are already slated for 3d release.  What does that mean for you as a filmgoer?  Possibly nothing.  Maybe a bunch of bad movies will be made glaringly less bad thanks to the visual leg-up program provided by 3d.  But for me, I’ll be wallowing in my own liminal state between spectacle and meaning, praying that filmmakers don’t lose all sense of storytelling in the jump to approximate weird computer-generated lizard things spiraling pointlessly toward the audience.

Grade:  C