Tag Archives: Quirky

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Rating: B+/ There was a lot of excitement in our household for the upcoming release of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. We loved Taika Waititi’s previous effort, What We Do in the Shadows, which has become one of our top movies to rewatch and quote. Eagle Vs. Shark didn’t exactly do it for me, but it’s abundantly obvious that Waititi has loads of talent and a knack for dry, sometimes borderline dark humor and eccentric characters. So it should come as no surprise that Hunt for the Wilderpeople, based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, is no exception. Continue reading Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Eagle vs. Shark (2007)

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Was I the only one who hoped this movie’s sweetly awkward heroine would unceremoniously dump Jemaine Clement by the end credits? Jarrod, Clement’s character, was by far one of the most infuriating, self-absorbed, callous romantic leads I’ve had the (displeasure) of encountering. I know he was supposed to be socially retarded as all fuck or have severe Asperger’s or something (probably the latter) but seriously, he was a jerk.

The heroine in question is cute girl nerd Lily (Loren Horsley,) who fools around on her guitar crooning Kimya Dawson-esque melodies in the privacy of her room and is laid off from her menial job at the local burger joint shortly into the movie. She lives with her supportive movie fanatic brother Damien (Joel Tobeck) and seems to have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

The object of Lily’s awkward affections is Jarrod (yes, the jerk,) who works at the video game store and remains bafflingly self-obsessed throughout the movie. Lily pursues him, and the pursuit continues for a while, until finally they get together at a ‘dress as your favorite animal party’ (Jarrod as the eagle, and Lily as the shark, hence the title,) have singularly unerotic sex and start tentatively dating.

The problem is, Lily has an all-consuming desire to hold on to Jarrod, a real catch (or so she thinks,) and Jarrod’s barely able to put in an effort. He continually treats Lily like crap and has the two excuses handy that either (a he’s frustratingly complex or (b he’s got clinical depression and therefore it’s his right to be dick. This would be unconscionable if it weren’t abundantly clear that Jarrod was even more severely impaired at dealing with the real world than Lily.

Lily goes on a roadtrip with Jarrod to his hometown where he hopes to get revenge on a guy that bullied him in high school. They stop by Jarrod’s home and Lily meets his bizarre family, including Jarrod’s loser sister (Rachel House)  and brother-in-law (Craig Hall) who shamelessly peddle shit merchandise to anyone and everyone they encounter and his wheelchair-bound father Jarrod (Brian Sargent,) who idolizes Jarrod’s dead older brother but won’t give Jarrod the time of day.

“Eagle vs. Shark” is actor-director Taika Waititi (“Boy,” “What We Do In the Shadows”)’s weakest film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a completely tepid affair. The stop-motion animated sequences are whimsical and charming. And Loren Horsley is sweet as pie as Lily in a performance that makes you want hug her and knit her a warm sweater. Jemaine Clement is markedly less appealing as an offbeat weirdo who does nothing but take, take, take from Lily’s fragile confidence and self esteem but still manages to win her over for good in a finale that’s probably more depressing than it ought to be.

It’s not laugh-til-you-cry funny, but it’s chuckle-worthy and cute, though it seems an odd directorial choice to make the majority of the characters not only almost Autistic in their social ineptitude, but also act quite literally like they’re on the spectrum. It’s a movie where quirky people do quirky things at the exact right moment, but it’s hard to believe such a plethora of oddballs could even exist in the same story.

In other words, “Eagle Vs. Shark” is okay and worth watching once for its myriad moments of mild humor, but it doesn’t measure up to Waititi’s other features (“Boy,” which was quite charming and dramatically effective if formulaic, and “What We Do in the Shadows,” which was outstanding and one of the funniest horror-comedies of the 21st Century.)

To say it is better than the thematically similar “Napoleon Dynamite” is not saying much, but this sometimes overly quirky dramedy has it’s undeniably sweet moments.

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Box of Moonlight (1996)

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90’s independent films give a different kind of vibe from the small-budget movies of today. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the feeling of ‘newness,’ of being the first to do something (of course movies were being made outside of big budget studios before 1990, but there seemed to be a big boom in ordinary schmoes who weren’t big name filmmakers picking up a camera and making something). Indies then had less of a feeling of precalculation, less of a sense of ‘hey, we’re working with small actors and a low budget, but put in some well-worn tropes and we’ll have a guaranteed hit.’ Films back then were really out there. And, hey, there’s something I really like about that.

So, while past-trippin to the 90’s (which, admittedly, I don’t remember that well, I turned six in 2000) I rented Tom DiCillo’s very odd buddy comedy “Box of Moonlight,” starring a young (I mean, young young) Sam Rockwell and John Turturro, who pretty much looks the same to me, for better or for worse. Turturro plays Al Fountain, an uptight and lonely electrical engineer whose relationship with his wife (Annie Corley) is low on sizzle.

Al is having the king of all midlife crisis’, in which he actually has visions of things going backward- coffee pouring itself back into the pot, kids riding bikes backwards- in the way he desperately wishes he could. Nevertheless, Al doesn’t magically turn back the clocks and become younger (ain’t that a funny thing?) and can’t seem to get out of his slump. One day Al’s contract gets canceled and he tells his wife he’s still working the job, then bales to a rundown lake and vacation spot from his childhood.

On the way back home, he almost hits a strangers car on the road. This stranger turns out to be Kid (Sam Rockwell,) a gregarious, barely-functioning precursor to the sovereign citizen, living off the grid and running a oddment-selling business in a broken down backwoods trailer. Kid convinces Al to get him home, then finagles him (not by the powers of force, but by persuasion and a little coercion) to spend a few days with him at his decaying pad.

Kid’s home is a man-child recluse’s paradise. Every day Kid gets up whatever time he wants, has a breakfast of cookies dipped in milk, and goes skinny dipping in the lake. He has no responsibilities, no worries except for maybe food sources and the paranoid fear of the government tracking him down. Kid is socially hopeless, outgoing, flirty, and friendly, but his optimism is only matched by peoples’ contempt for him.

By most peoples’ standards, Kid would be delusional, or at least a borderline mental defective. By the movie’s standards, he is a manic free-spirit, living on the land. Despite vandalism, stealing garden gnomes,  and a potentially harmful prank on the police, he doesn’t really seem a danger to anybody. Al’s feeling of inertia begins to crack as Kid works his magic on him. Sisters Purlene and Floatie Dupre (Lisa Blount and Catherine Keener) work their own brand of magic on the men.

I like both main protagonists for different reasons. I like the Kid because he is funny and wears his heart on his sleeve. I like Al because I can relate to his loneliness and private pain. The brunt of an abusive father and an uncaring world have turned him cold, and the pain of his isolation is keenly felt in the scene where he overhears his co-workers mocking him. I love the little details in this movie, like the phone sex operators  dirty boys shoes and the NRA-centric country music playing on the jukebox  in the restaurant.

I did not like how casually Al’s infidelity was treated. His wife really seemed to be trying, which was overlooked in favor of Al’s fling with Floatie, who did not seem to be the brightest light on the menorah, if you catch my drift. I did like the friendship between Al and Kid, which seemed a little on the gay side at times, but they also puzzlingly eagerly sook out rendezvouses with women (?) Maybe somewhat homoerotic male bonding was their man-love limit.

“Box of Moonlight” is funny, sweet, unsentimental, and quirky without being full of self-conscious pop-culture quips. I’m not exactly sure what it was getting at but I certainly enjoyed the ride. It may not be of interest to most people, obscure as it is, but fans of independent films interested in going ‘off the grid’ (as Kid would say) should enjoy this excursion into eccentricity.

Note- I put the poster with the naked Turturro with a clock on my post because f’ing hate the DVD release cover. Dermot Mulroney was in the film for five fucking minutes of screentime total and his mug gets put on the front of the box, Where’s Rockwell’s face? He had ten times the screentime, and where is he? Oh, he’s the tiny little guy dancing on the bottom. Sorry. Pet peeve of mine:)

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Jesus Henry Christ (2012)

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Unfairly bashed by critics as self-consciously quirky and “hipster,” “Jesus Henry Christ” is a entertainingly quirky little film, featuring highly intelligent characters who must find their own way towards being happy.

Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) is an enigma, a brilliant youngster raised by his single mother Patricia (Toni Collette.) Henry has a keenly incisive mind and a photographic memory, but there is one thing he doesn’t know… who his dad, an anonymous sperm donor, is.

Enter dweeby professor Slavkin O’Hara (Michael Sheen), whose latest mistake is putting his 12-year-old daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein)’s face on his new book, Made Gay or Born That Way? Audrey, as it turns out, is gay, but she’s not ready to be outed just yet, and Slavkin’s bug-up provokes the merciless taunts of her peers.

Henry decides to locate his father, which leads to a series of sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, sometime revelatory occurrences, which in the long run brings Henry’s makeshift family together.

But first Henry must contend with his skeptical mother and furious half-sister, while Henry’s appearance dredges up old memories in Slavkin, who must come face-to-face with how fractured he and his daughter’s relationship has become.

This film is not a masterpiece. I didn’t like parts of it. For instance, the white character who thinks he’s black and refers to the other characters as “white Devils” was kind of silly. The scene where Henry is bullied for writing an atheistic paper in Catholic school was a little obvious (Will there ever be a movie where the kid is bullied for being Catholic? Probably not.)

The movie I’d compare “Jesus Henry Christ” to is “Amelie.” The dark/cutesy whimsy and off-beat narration tie the two films together, but Jason Spevack’s Henry is simply not as likable as Audrey Tautou’s Amelie Poulain.

I mean, Jason Spevack is fine, but the real discovery here is Samantha Weinstein as Audrey, Slavkin’s defiant adolescent daughter. It’s hard to make a character of a preteen who hates everything and everyone not seem like an entitled brat, but Samantha Weinstein makes you sympathize with Audrey.

There is also a scene where Henry and Audrey go on a carnival ride, and Audrey’s shrieks of fright become joyful screams, that I thought was beautifully done. “Jesus Henry Christ” is an unfairly bashed addition to the genre of offbeat indie movies.

Film Geek (2005)

The cover of “Film Geek,” as you may notice, proclaims “This year’s Napoleon Dynamite!” Depending on your tolerance for the “quirky nerd” shtick, this may entice you or make you run the other way. Comparisons to “Napoleon Dynamite” aside, “Film Geek” is more human, lower budget, and with a melancholy edge. Unlike Napoleon, who had a small group of friends orbiting his planet of nerddom, This movie’s protagonist, Scotty Pelk (Melik Malikson), repels practically everyone he comes in contact with.

Scotty is a twenty-something young man with no life to speak of, who spends his time inadvertently harassing people at the video store where he works. If they aren’t driven off by his voice (which sounds like he’s been inhaling helium) or his generally aggravating demeanor, it’s probably the fact that he relentlessly badgers people with his knowledge of movies. He has so much trivia it might put half the “Film Threat” reviewers to shame.

Scotty appears to be clueless about his effect on others, although they often aren’t exactly subtle about their disdain for him. He could quite possibly be diagnosed with Asperger’s, but then viewers with Asperger’s and their friends may be angered. He is so intensely annoying, in fact, that his boss finally takes him aside and tells him that his “expertise might be better appreciated elsewhere.”

Unable to get any other film-related jobs, Scotty starts working at a car parts factory. It is around this time that he meets Nika, a free-spirited artist who is first seen by him reading a book on the films of David Cronenberg. Scotty decides that Nika is his chance for a romantic relationship, but she is, understandably, not so sure. As they go to events and she encourages him to “expand his horizons,” this odd semi-dating status is invaded by Nika’s obnoxious, egotistical, but less geeky ex-boyfriend.

Scotty is such a sad individual that he most likely will be either hated or pitied — in my case, pitied. Spurting movie jargon and attempting to relate to other people, he is a far cry from Napoleon, who spent most of his film acting purposefully gawky and being a self-satisfied object of laughter, less capable of normal human response. So, by saying that I sympathized with the loser, does this mean I recommend the film?

Not really. Despite their differences, “Film Geek” and “Napoleon Dynamite” have the same pitfall. They’re not funny. Sure, they’re quirky, but watching a oddball, nerdy person live his isolated life and act like an uber-dork is not the same, for me at least, as being entertained. In this case, you feel more uncomfortable then amused. Even though “Film Geek” slightly overcomes this by being almost thought-provoking in its presentation, I found myself becoming distracted and concentrating on the many movies in the background. “Is that Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” over there?”

You might like “Film Geek.” You might hate it. If you like the “nerd” genre and find the general tone of oddities such as “Napoleon Dynamite” to be amusing, go for it. This is not bad, like another more low-budget “Imagination,” just sort of pointless.

Four Rooms (1995)

For reasons I cannot fully explain, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and laughed throughout. Blame it on my crazy sense of humor. Blame it on my love of gratuitous film violence and insanity. But mostly, blame it on Tim Roth. Roth’s manic, inspired portrayal of swishy, spasticated, neurotic bellhop “Ted” resulted in one of the most entertaining characters I’ve seen in a while.

Here’s the deal- “Four Rooms” is a pseudo-anthology film featuring four segments written and directed by four filmmakers. Each segment follows Ted (Roth) through one insane New Year spent at a hotel and punctuated by violence, weird sexuality, and mutilation. Three of the segments are directed by filmmakers I’m not really familiar with, and the fourth is done by Tarantino.

I liked all of the stories in the film, but in different ways. I didn’t really know what to make of the first one. A coven of witches staying at the hotel, played by prominent ’90s icons such as Madonna and Lili Taylor, discover they need sperm to complete their witchy potion to bring the goddess Diana to life. And who else for the job but twitchy hotel bellboy Roth?

The second story involves an insane husband and wife who want to Ted to participate in their kinky sex games. The third and the funniest, “The Misbehavers,” follows Ted as he is bribed into caring for Antonio Banderas’s two whiny children. The kids, who exemplify the reason I hate small children, soon push Ted over the edge with their demands. But how will Ted react when there’s a real emergency on hand?

I actually thought Tarantino’s short, “The Man From Hollywood,” was the weakest, because it seemed self-indulgent, suffering from uninterrupted periods of Tarantino reading his dialogue. In this one, Ted comes across a Hollywood bigwig (Tarantino) with a shocking proposition.

I watched this movie free of the knowledge that it had been critically panned, with an abysmal 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think you have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to appreciate this kind of movie. For me, it was very funny, because it wasn’t the usual wishy-washy cliche type of comedy.

I derived the majority of the humor from Tim Roth’s absurdly physical performance. It reminded me a little of Charlie Chaplin for the ’90s, which was, obviously, a less innocent time for cinema than the Tramp’s heyday. Overall, “Four Rooms” is an interesting and overlooked black comedy for those who like their comedy absurd and bizarre.