Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 1.6 “Night Route” (dir by Jean de Segonzac)

Tonight’s televised horror is another episode from the 2002 revival of The Twilight Zone!

In Night Route, Ione Skye nearly gets hit by a car and, afterward, finds herself haunted by visions of a mysterious bus.  Featuring atmospheric direction from Jean de Segonzac and a good performance from Ione Skye, this episode of the Twilight Zone makes a nice companion piece to tomorrow’s horror on the lens!


The Things You Find On Netflix: XOXO (dir by Christopher Louie)


I just watched XOXO, the latest Netflix original film and what can I say?  Well, I better figure out something to say because otherwise, this is going to be an extremely short review.

XOXO is the latest attempt to capture the American EDM scene on film and, if nothing else, it’s better than We Are Your Friends.  In the style of Richard Linklater, the film takes place over one night at the XOXO Music Festival (which should not be confused with the real-life annual festival that takes place in Portland) and follows the adventures of several different characters, all of whom are linked together by their love of a track called All I Ever Wanted.  In real-life, All I Ever Wanted is the work of Michael Brun.  In XOXO, it’s the work of a YouTube sensation named Ethan Shaw.

Krystal (Sara Hyland) comes to XOXO specifically so she can meet Jordan, a boy that she has previously only talked to online.  Despite having never met him face-to-face, Krystal is convinced that she is in love with Jordan and she wants to hear All I Ever Wanted with him by her side.  While her friends run off without her, Krystal wanders around the festival, trying to meet up with the continually elusive Jordan.

(Should I mention that Jordan was also the name of the online predator who attempted to molest Emma in the first episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation?  I guess I might as well…)

And then there’s Neil (Chris D’Elia).  Neil is old.  Neil is burned out, almost as if he spent two years co-starring in a sitcom with Whitney Cummings.  Despite having rented a party bus to take people to the festival, Neil claims that he hates the whole scene.  Neil, it turns out, is still stuck in the 90s.  Is it possible that, after making a lot of cynical comments and wandering around looking glum, Neil will eventually start to dance and get caught up in the redemptive spirit of PLUR?  (If you already know what PLUR stands for, you’ll probably enjoy XOXO more than someone who doesn’t.)

Shannie (Hayley Kiyoko) and Ray (Colin Woodell) are attending their final festival together.  Shannie will soon be moving away and she and Ray are going to have to try to do the dreaded long distance thing.  When they lose their tickets and then discover that the festival is sold out, they don’t riot like everyone else.  Instead, they duck into the sewers and try to sneak into the festival.  Of course, they get lost along the way but that gives them a chance to talk about their relationship.  Shannie and Ray didn’t get as much screentime as some of the characters but I liked them.  I related to their relationship and you know what?  I also would have found a way to sneak into the concert and hear All I Ever Wanted too.

DJ Avilo (Ryan Hansen), who is hopefully not meant to be a stand-in for the real DJ Avilo, is a superstar but he’s also a jerk.  He and his manager (LaMonica Garrett) are notorious for cheating up-and-coming young artists.  Fortunately, Avilo does get punched in the face at one point.  He deserves it.

And finally, there’s Ethan Shaw (Graham Phillips)!  Ethan has suddenly been given a chance to perform at XOXO but he only has 8 hours to get there and get prepared to perform!  Will Ethan make it and, once he arrives, will he be tricked by Avilo?  Ethan, of course, is an idealist whereas Avilo brags about how he just views everyone in the audience as being a dollar sign.  But, Avilo also says that he can make Ethan a star.  It doesn’t help that Ethan’s current manager, Tariq (Brett DelBuono) shows up late for the festival and is then kissed by a random girl who just happens to have a tap of LSD on her tongue.  While Tariq trips, Ethan struggles to maintain his integrity.

XOXO has been getting a lot of negative reviews but I actually kind of liked it.  It’s not a great film by any means but it does a good job of portraying an admittedly exaggerated version of American EDM culture.  (If you go to the film’s imdb page, you can find all the usual dismissive comments from Europeans bitching about American and western culture.  Any film that pisses off a snooty European can’t be all bad.)  The film’s totally predictable but the cast is pretty and the music’s great and really, isn’t that all that really matters?

As one character says, “I created this festival because I like to dance.  Dancing is important.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Back to School #45: Say Anything… (dir by Cameron Crowe)


For the past two and a half weeks, we’ve been taking a chronological look at some of the best, worst, most memorable, and most forgettable teens films ever made.  We started with two films from 1946 and now, 43 films later, we’ve reached the end of the 80s.  And what better way to close out the decade that is often considered to be the golden age of teen films than by taking a look at two films from 1989 that both paid homage to the films that came before them and also served to influence the many films that would come after.

When people talk about Say Anything…, they usually seem to talk about the fact that it was the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe (who, it must be said, launched the golden age of teen films by writing Fast Time At Ridgemont High) and that it features what may be John Cusack’s best performance.  Famously, Cusack apparently felt that — after performances in Class, Sixteen Candles, and Better Off Dead — he was through playing teenagers.  But then he read Crowe’s script and was so impressed by it that he agreed he would play a student one last time.

It may, however, have helped that the character Cusack plays, a likable and easy-going kickboxing enthusiast named Lloyd Dobler — is only briefly seen as a student.  He graduates from high school early on in the movie.  That majority of Say Anything… deals with the summer right after high school.*  Lloyd has an unlikely but heartbreakingly real romance with Diane Court (Ione Skye), the valedictorian.

Cusack is so charming as Lloyd (and, needless to say, he gets all of the best lines) that I think people tend to overlook the fact that Ione Skye is equally as good.  Diane is actually a far more challenging role than Lloyd.  Whereas Lloyd is distinguished by his confidence and his friendly manner, Diane is neurotic, shy, and unsure of herself.  She’s won a scholarship to study in England and is scheduled to leave at the end of the summer but she’s scared of flying.  Even worse, her father, Jim Court (John Mahoney), is being investigated by the IRS.  As the summer progresses, Diane is forced to deal with the fact that not only has her seemingly perfect father broken the law but, when he’s confronted with his crimes, he uses his daughter as his excuse.  Yes, Jim seems to be saying, I stole money but I only did it to give you the best life possible.

Everyone seems to remember Say Anything… as the film that has that scene where Lloyd serenades Diane by holding that radio over his head.  And yes, that’s a wonderfully romantic scene, even if it’s been parodied so many times that it’s probably no longer as effective as it was when the film was first released.  But for me, Say Anything… is truly about Diane growing up and realizing that her father is not the saint that she thought he was.  (Making this realization especially upsetting is the fact that, initially, Mahoney is so likable in the role.)  You’re happy that Lloyd is there for her and you truly do come to love him because he is the perfect boyfriend, but ultimately, Say Anything… is Diane’s story.

(That said, though, I have to admit that some of my favorite scenes are just Lloyd talking to his friends.  Lili Taylor gives a great performance and how can you not laugh at Jeremy Piven hanging out at the convenience store?)

Ultimately, of course, the film works because both Lloyd and Diane come across as real human beings.  They’re not just boyfriend and girlfriend.  Instead, they’re two very likable characters who have been lucky enough to find each other.  In the end, you love Lloyd not because he’s funny or quirky but because he loves Diane for who she is.

Of course, it also helps that Say Anything has the perfect ending.




* On a personal note, the summer after I graduated high school was the best summer of my life because I spent most of it in Italy!  Viva Iatalia!

Back to School #43: River’s Edge (dir by Tim Hunter)

In his film guide, Heavy Metal Movies, Mike McPadden describes the disturbing 1987 teen crime drama River’s Edge as being “666 Candles“.  It’s a perfect description because River’s Edge appears to not only be taking place in a different socio-economic setting than Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club but perhaps on a different planet as well.

River’s Edge opens with a close-up of a dead and naked teenage girl lying on the edge of a dirty, polluted river and it gets darker from there.  The dead girl was the girlfriend of the hulking John Tollet (Daniel Roebuck, playing a character who is miles away from his role in Cavegirl).  As John explains to his friends, he strangled her for no particular reason.  His friends, meanwhile, respond with detachment.  Their unofficial leader, the hyperactive Layne (Crispin Glover), insists that since nothing can be done about the dead girl, their number one concern now has to be to keep John from getting caught.  While Layne arranges for John to hide out with a one-legged drug dealer named Feck (Dennis Hopper), two of John’s friends, Matt and Clarissa (played by Keanu Reeves and Ione Skye), consider whether or not they should go to the police.  Oddly enough, John really doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Seriously, River’s Edge is one dark film.  If it were made today, River’s Edge would probably be directed by someone like Larry Clark and, in many ways, it feels like a distant cousin to Clark’s Bully.  The teenagers in River’s Edge live in a world with little-to-no adult supervision.  Matt’s mom is more concerned with whether or not Matt has been stealing her weed than with the fact that Matt might be covering up a murder.  The local high school teacher is a former hippie who won’t shut up about how much better his generation was compared to every other generation.  In fact, the only adult with any sort of moral code is Feck and he’s usually too busy dancing with a sex doll to really be of much help.  It’s a world where no one has been raised to value their own lives so why should they care about a dead girl laying out on the banks of the river?

The film features good performances from Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye, and Daniel Roebuck but really, the entire movie is stolen by Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper.  In the role of Layne, Glover is a manic wonder, speaking quickly and gesturing even when he isn’t making a point.  When Layne first shows up, he seems like he’s just overly loyal to his friend John but, as the film progresses, it becomes more apparent that he’s less concerned about protecting John and more interested in ordering other people to do it.  For Layne, protecting John is ultimately about maintaining power over Matt, Clarissa, and the rest of their friends.

As for Dennis Hopper — well, this is one of those films that you should show to anyone who says that Hopper wasn’t a great actor.  The role of a one-legged drug dealer who lives with a sex doll sound like exactly the type of role that would lead Hopper to going totally over-the-top.  Instead, Hopper gave a surprisingly subtle and intelligent performance and, as a result, he provided this film with the moral center that it very much needs.

Glover and Hopper