Film Review: Frances Ferguson (dir by Bob Byington)


Frances Ferguson takes place in a town in Nebraska.  As the film’s narrator (Nick Offerman) explains it, it’s a town where everyone knows everyone else.  It’s a town where your mechanic knows your bartender and no one can really keep anything a secret for too long.  For instance, it’s the type of town where there’s no way that a substitute teacher in her mid-20s is going to be able to get away with having an affair with a 16 year-old student.

The teacher in question is named Frances Ferguson (Kaley Wheeless).  Frances wanders through her days in an apathetic haze.  When she steps outside of her house, she sees her useless husband (Keith Poulson) masturbating in the car.  When she spends time with her mother (Jennifer Prediger), she is criticized for every little thing.  On the rare days when she gets called to teach, the students look down on her and Frances thinks about how little she knows about any of the subjects on which she’s giving instruction.  Frances goes through her day holding back her emotions.  She only screams on the inside and, when she does, only she and the viewing audience can hear.

Things start to look up when Frances teaches a biology class and notices a handsome but vacuous student named Jake (Jake French).  When she finds out that Jake has been given detention, Frances volunteers to supervise him.  When Frances flirts with him and the scene cuts way, the narrator asks us, “Was this a crime?”

(Yes, it was.)

Frances and Jake have a short-lived affair, though it doesn’t seem to be particularly passionate.  If anything, Jake seems to be even more blase about it than Frances.  Wearing her old cheerleader uniform, Frances meets Jake in a laundromat.  “I’d never date a cheerleader,” Jake tells her.  We, the viewers, notice that there are other people in the laundromat.  Does Frances want to get caught?

Get caught, she does.  “This is the last time we see Jake,” the narrators tells us as Jake fades away.  Frances, meanwhile, sits in court.  Her mother comes to the trial and tells her that her clothes make her look fat.  Frances is convicted and sent to prison.  Her mom brings her a chocolate cupcake for her birthday.  Frances announces that she’s allergic to chocolate before taking a big bite and then pretending to die.  “Get off that dirty floor!” her mother orders her.

You may getting the impression that Frances Ferguson is a strange film and I supposed it is.  It’s a comedy but it’s an extremely deadpan comedy, with most of the humor coming from Frances’s seeming apathy to ever single thing that happens to her.  It’s not that Frances doesn’t have feelings or emotions.  We hear her inner scream enough times to know that she’s not as apathetic as she seems.  It’s just that Frances is so consumed with small town ennui that she realizes it’s pointless to react one way or the other.  Life is what it is and it continues regardless of how annoying it may all be.  Whether she screams on the inside or on the outside, she’ll still have to wake up every morning in the same situation.  One day, Frances Ferguson was a teacher.  The next day, she was a prisoner.  And the day after that, she was on parole and a minor celebrity.  (“You’re that teacher!” is a phrase that she continually hears.)  What happens, happens.

Here’s the thing …. though it may not sound like it from my description of the plot, Frances Ferguson is an incredibly funny film.  A lot of that is due to Nick Offerman’s performance as the snarky narrator.  (The narrator has a tendency to wander off topic.)  A lot of that has to do with the performance of Kaley Wheeless, who perfectly communicates Frances’s suppressed irritation.  Over the course of the film, Frances has to deal with a lot of people who, if not for her one mistake, she would have otherwise never had to deal with.  Some of them get on her nerves and some of them — well, two of them — provide her with some comfort.  I loved David Krumholtz’s performance as a beleagured but optimistic group leader.  Martin Starr also gets a nice bit at the end, though it would be too much of spoiler to say anything else about his role.  I also enjoyed the performances of Jack Marshall and Yoko Lawing, as the two detectives who investigate the charges against Frances and who explain that, because of TV cop shows, they can no longer get away with playing good cop/bad cop.

Frances Ferguson is good film.  It’s also a short one, clocking in at just 74 minutes.  To be honest, it’s the perfect running time for the story that this film tells.  We follow Frances’s story for just as long as we need to.  Frances Ferguson is on Prime so check it out.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser and International Trailers


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Spider-Man: Homecoming was the Spider-Man that fans have been waiting for. It was able to balance the character of Peter Parker and his alter-ego of Spider-Man. Where the Sam Raimi version was able to make the former stand-out at the cost of the Spider-Man alter, the Marc Webb version swapped the two dynamics. Webb’s version had a great Spider-Man but had a Peter Parker whose moral compass was a bit skewed.

Jon Watt’s Spider-Man and Peter Parker were a nice balance. It helped that the character was now free (to a degree) to play in the huge cinematic sandbox that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Last we saw Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he was dusted just like half the living things in the universe following the Thanos Snap. The question that gets brought up whenever Spider-man: Far From Home, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, gets talked about is does this film take away from the emotional sucker punch that was Avengers: Infinity War and it’s upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame.

From this teaser trailer and it’s international version has shown, the question still remains as both teasers mention nothing about the Avengers and keeps the timeline of the film vague enough to make one wonder if this sequel happens before Avengers: Infinity War.

I guess fans will find out on July 5, 2019 when the film is released worldwide.

….and here’s the International Teaser trailer

Horror Trailer: Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead


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Yes, this was a sequel that we did not see coming. The original film was a good enough piece of zombie horror that brought back some nostalgic feelings of that very obscure zombie subgenre called Nazi zombies. Dead Snow helped put Tommy Wirkola, it’s director, on the map since it earned him the gig to direct the highly-unappreciated Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The kinetic, gory action from Dead Snow was highly evident in his first Hollywood offering.

Now, it looks like his time with the Nazi zombies (or are they zombie Nazis) wasn’t over as we now have the sequel that’s begun to play in the film festival circuit since the start of 2014. From the trailer shown it looks like Wirkola has turned the gory action past 10 and into 11 for this follow-up.

The comedy looks to be more in the forefront this time around as he introduces a trio of would-be America zombie hunters. What’s a European action horror-comedy be if it didn’t include bumbling, stereotypical Americans. I almost require that they be included in such films.

Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead still hasn’t been given a U.S. theatrical release. It may bypass the theaters in the U.S. altogether and just head straight for home video. Either way be on the look out for Nazi zombies in Tiger I tanks.

Back to School #69: Superbad (dir by Greg Mottola)


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One of the great things about the 2007 comedy Superbad is that it has a title that allows for snarky but overworked reviewers like me to come up with an easy review.

For instance, if I disliked Superbad, I could just say, “Superbad more than lives up to its name!”  However, since I happen to like Superbad, I can say that Superbad is supergood, supercool, and superfun!

See how easily that works?

Plotwise, Superbad tells a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a teen comedy.  Three guys try to get laid.  Seth (Jonah Hill) is the rotund and boisterous one, the one who has a crush on Jules (Emma Stone), who is your basic good girl with a wild side.  Evan (Michael Cera) is the sweet and sensitive one.  And then there’s Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the nerdy one with the thick glasses.  Fogell is the one who gets a hilariously bad fake ID, one that tells the world that his name is McLovin.

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After Jules invites Seth to a party, he and Evan enlist Fogell to use his fake ID to buy them alcohol.  However, as often happens in the type of films, things get complicated.  While Fogell is buying the beer, the convenience store is held up.  The police arrive and Evan and Seth panic and run off.  Meanwhile, Fogell is befriended by the two cops (played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), both of whom are incredibly impressed that their new friend has as wonderful a name as McLovin.

(“You’re name’s McLovin?  That’s badass!”

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And so, while McLovin bonds with his new cop friends, Seth and Evan continue to try to find beer and make their way to Jules’s party….

Superbad was produced by Judd Apatow and it features his usual combination of raunchy humor and sentimental bromance.  In fact, it’s such a male-centered film that I’m always a little bit surprised at how much I enjoy it.  However, Superbad is a seriously funny movie.  The script (which Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg reportedly starting on when they were 13 years old) is full of great lines and Michael Cera and Jonah Hill make for an adorable comedy team.  And then there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who takes the character of Fogell to his most logical extreme and then just keeps going.  McLovin’s adventures may not be the most realistic or subtle part of the movie but they are still a lot of fun to watch.

Speaking of McLovin and his adventures with the cops, I love the performances of both Seth Rogen and Bill Hader.  If you don’t laugh at the way Seth Rogen says, “Oh no!  It’s the cops!,” then you need to be worried about your sense of humor.

Superbad is supergood, supercool, superfun, supersweet, and just plain super.

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Trailer: This Is the End (Red Band)


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This Is the End looks to put a comedic touch on the end of the world genre as fictional versions of the cast as themselves try to survive all sort of disasters (from the trailer it looks like it may involve everything from volcanoes, lava, aliens and maybe raptors) while partying over at James Franco’s house.

I know for a fact that at least one person at this site will be seeing this because it has a certain Franco in it.

Looks like Emma Watson has definitely doing everything she can to prove to all Potter fans that she is now all grown up.

This Is the End is set for a June 12, 2013 release date.