Back to School Part II #56: Everybody Wants Some!! (dir by Richard Linklater)


(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)

everybody_wants_some_poster

Well, here we are!  It’s taken nearly four weeks but we have reached the conclusion of Back to School Part II!  I started this series by taking a look at Teenage Devil Dolls.  Along the way, I’ve reviewed everything from Andy Warhol’s Vinyl, A Clockwork Orange, Animal House, and Can’t Hardly Wait to Hollywood High and Keith.  I’ve even found an excuse to review four different Degrassi films!  I’ve had a lot of fun but, with October approaching, I’m happy to be finishing up this series of reviews so that I can concentrate on the TSL’s annual horrorthon!

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!

Everbody Wants Some!! generated a small flurry of excitement when it was first released back in March.  Not only was it Linklater’s first narrative film since the critically acclaimed Boyhood but it was also advertised as being a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.  Like Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! was a period piece that would follow an ensemble of Texas teenagers over the course of one long weekend, the big difference being that Everybody Wants Some!! would take place in 1980 (as opposed to 1976) and it would deal with college freshmen (instead of high school juniors).  There were even a few articles that pointed out that several of the actors in Everybody Wants Some!! physically resembled some of the actors in Dazed and Confused.

(Seriously, Glen Powell looks like he could be Matthew McConaughey’s younger brother.)

The film was well-reviewed by critics, even though few of the reviews were as rapturous as the reviews that greeted previous Linklater films like Boyhood and Before Midnight.  As for the audience reaction … well, Everybody Wants Some!! was not exactly embraced by audiences.  I saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse and the theater was nearly deserted.  (Considering that the Alamo’s audience prides itself on embracing independent film, a near-empty theater for a showing of a Linklater film is not a good sign.)  The few people in the theater seemed to feel that the film went on for too long and that it needed a stronger plot.  That’s a complaint that I’ve heard a lot of people make against Everybody Wants Some!!

It’s not a complaint that I agree with.  Those who complained that Everybody Wants Some!! was essentially plotless obviously haven’t seen many Richard Linklater films.  Though Linklater has made his share of commercial films, his more personal work — like Everybody Wants Some!! — is often plotless.  That’s actually one the keys to Linklater’s aesthetic.  He’s more interested in recreating a specific time and place and observing how different characters react to their environment than he is in telling conventional stories.  A film like Everybody Wants Some!! is less about telling a story with a definite beginning and end and more about capturing a very specific experience.

And, on that level, the film definitely succeeds.  Watching Everybody Wants Some!!, you literally do feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine and you’ve been transported to the past.  Jake (Blake Jenner), a college freshman who is attending fictional Southeast Texas College on a scholarship, may be the main character but, ultimately, he’s not that important.  More important is seeing how people lived, interacted, and thought in 1980.  Everybody Wants Some!! is a time capsule film.

(Apparently, it’s a bit of an autobiographical film as well.  Cinema snobs like me tend to forget that, before he became a filmmaker, Linklater was a jock who, like Jake, attended college on a baseball scholarship.  As much as we may not want to admit it, not all artistic geniuses spent high school writing angsty poetry about eating disorders.  Some of them played sports.)

Everybody Wants Some!! follows Jake and his fellow baseball players over the course of the weekend before classes begin.  One night, they end up in a redneck bar.  Another night, they end up at a punk club.  They go to a drama department party.  They practice baseball.  They all drink.  Some of them smoke weed.  Some of them get laid.  And, at the end of the weekend, two of them sit down in their first class of the semester and promptly fall asleep.

One problem that I did have with Everybody Wants Some!! is that, as good as job as it does of creating a time and place, it didn’t necessarily convince me that it was a time in which I would want to live in.  As I stated earlier, Everybody Wants Some!! was promoted as being a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.  However, Dazed and Confused featured a greater variety of characters.  Practically everyone of note in Everybody Wants Some!! is a member of the school’s baseball team.  True, some of them are smarter than others.  Some of them smoke weed.  Some of them are ultra religious.  But, ultimately, they’re all jocks and they’re all frat boys.  How much you enjoy hanging out with these characters will depend on how much tolerance you have for jocks, frat boys, and their hyper-masculine rituals.  Whenever I’ve seen Dazed and Confused, I’ve thought to myself that if I had been alive and in high school in 1976, I would have wanted to be friends with at least a few of the characters.  On the other hand, if I had been alive and in college in 1980, I would have gone out of my way to avoid that baseball team.

(And, as a result, I probably would have missed a chance to meet Richard Linklater!  There’s a lesson to be learned there.)

Ultimately, though, Everybody Wants Some!! succeeds because, even if the characters aren’t particularly likable, the film itself does capture the feeling and the excitement of having your entire future ahead of you.  Admittedly, there’s a hint of melancholy running through the film.  One character is revealed to be a 30-something imposter who regularly uses a false identity to enroll in different colleges because he loves to play baseball but he knows that he’ll never succeed in the major leagues.  Throughout the film, there are hints that none of these baseball players are ever going to be as successful as they are during that one particular weekend.  But, ultimately, the film tells us that the future doesn’t matter.  What matters is that, for that one weekend, they had their entire future ahead of them and it seemed like anything was possible.

Everybody Wants Some!! may not be Linklater’s best but it definitely deserves to be seen!

(And that concludes Back to School!  Thank you everyone for reading!  Love you!)

 

50 Shades of Obsession: The Boy Next Door and Bound


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, I know.  It’s not Valentine’s Day yet.  But it will be soon.  50 Shades of Grey is opening tomorrow and I have a feeling that, come November, there will be hundreds of newborn babies being named Christian and Anastasia.  (And, in a few years, they’ll all have teenage babysitters named Bella…)

However, in case you can’t get into 50 Shades of Grey, here’s two other films that you could possibly watch on Valentine’s Day.  Much like 50 Shades, they both involve a woman having sex with a manipulative sociopath.  The Boy Next Door is still in theaters while Bound has just been released on video.

And they’re both reviewed below!
The-Boy-Next-Door-2015

The Boy Next Door, which was released towards the end of January, was the first film of 2015 that I was really excited about seeing.  That’s not because I thought that the film was going to be any good.  Instead, it was because I literally couldn’t watch any movie on Lifetime without seeing about a dozen commercials for The Boy Next Door.  The commercials promised a lot of cheap thrills and sordid melodrama.

Anyway, my BFF Evelyn and I saw The Boy Next Door on the weekend that it was first released and we had a great time watching it.  Though the film may start slow, it eventually becomes a minor triumph of so-bad-its-good filmmaking.  This is the type of film that you would normally expect to see going straight to cable but, somehow, it managed to get a theatrical release.  Making it all the more fun is the fact that it stars Jennifer Lopez, playing the type of role that you would normally expect to see Jennifer Love Hewitt or Elizabeth Berkley playing in a Lifetime movie.

Jennifer Lopez plays an AP English teacher who has recently separated from her adulterous husband (John Corbett).  When a teenage boy (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door and starts standing naked in front of his bedroom window, can you really be surprised that he and Lopez end up spending one night making torrid love?  Well, unfortunately, Guzman turns out to be a bit obsessive and, when the new school year begins, he suddenly shows up as one of Lopez’s students.  And you can probably guess what happens from there…

As directed by Rob Cohen, there’s really nothing surprising or interesting to be found in The Boy Next Door but we still had a lot of fun watching it, if just because it gave us an excuse to be snarky.  Ryan Guzman was undeniably hot and, wisely, Jennifer Lopez didn’t seem to be taking the film that seriously.  The great Kristin Chenoweth showed up as Lopez’s best friend and the film’s climax was appropriately over the top.

And, three weeks after seeing the film, Evelyn and I are still laughing about the scene where Guzman gives Lopez a gift, a copy of The Illiad.   Looking down at the book, J. Lo says, “Oh!  A first edition!”  Evelyn and I were just like, “Really?  So, that book’s from 760 B.C!?”  Seriously, did the character have a time machine?

Now, that would have made for an interesting movie!

Bound

If, for some reason, you can’t find a theater showing 50 Shades of Grey this weekend, I would suggest instead watching the Asylum’s mockbuster version, Bound.  

(Personally, I would have titled the film 50 Shades of Charisma but anyway…)

In Bound, Charisma Carpenter plays Michelle, a real estate broker who has an unsatisfying sex life and who finds herself regularly being bullied by her boss (Daniel Baldwin).  However, Michelle then meets Ryan (Bryce Draper), who is young, handsome, rich, and very much into domination  He even has a red room in his mansion where…

Oh wait, does this sound familiar?

Okay, so Bound pretty much tells the same story as 50 Shades of Grey but there are a few significant differences.  A big one is that, as played by Carpenter, Michelle is a much stronger character than Anastasia Steele.  For one thing, she’s not an innocent and naive girl being introduced to sex for the first time by a charming sociopath.  Instead, she’s significantly older than Ryan, which also brings an interesting dynamic to the film.  Michelle’s not a virgin, she doesn’t say things like “jeez” or “oh my,” and she’s capable of getting aroused without obsessing about what her inner goddess is doing as a result.  And, while her relationship with Ryan does head in a similar direction as Anastasia’s relationship with Christian Grey, Michelle never seems weak as a result.  Instead, she’s experimenting and there’s no way you can’t root for her as you watch the movie.

(Ryan, meanwhile, is ultimately portrayed as being the type of manipulative sociopath that Christian Grey would be in real life.)

Perhaps my favorite part of the film was Michelle’s relationship with her teenage daughter, Dara (Morgan Oberender).  The two actresses play off each other well and, from the minute they first interacted, I believed that they could be mother and daughter.  They’re relationship felt real and, as a result, you cared about both of them and found yourself hoping that things would work out for the best.  And, as a result, it made one of the film’s final plot twists feel very immediate and real.

Bound is the type of film that will be (and has been) dismissed by a lot of mainstream critics but it deserves more consideration than it’s been given.

The Birdemic of Action Movies: April Rain (dir by Luciano Saber)


Birdemic 2 April Rain

Warning: Occasionally, film art can be deceptive.

 

I realize that is a big claim to make.  Birdemic, after all, is known for not only being one of the worst but also for being one of the most inept films ever made.  It’s a film that regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made and, unlike the always entertaining The Room, Birdemic actually deserves the honor.

So, when you compare a movie to Birdemic, it’s kind of a big deal.

However, having now sat through April Rain on multiple occasions, I can say that April Rain totally deserves the comparison.

Imagine if your local community theater decided to put on a low-budget, theatrical adaptation of 24, with the director’s son playing Jack Bauer and a retired accountant playing the main villain and you might have some idea of what it’s like to watch April Rain.

The film opens with endless overhead shots of Los Angeles while stirring “epic” music plays in the background.  The movie uses these overhead shots in much the same way that Tommy Wiseau used the Golden Gate Bridge in The Room.  Whenever the scene needs to change, we get an aimless overhead shot of Los Angeles that rarely seems to have much to do with either the scene we just viewed or the one that we’re about to watch.  At first, it amused me to notice how many buildings had helicopter landing pads but then I realized that I was just looking at the same buildings over and over again.

After we spend a while looking down on Los Angeles, we are immediately thrown into the middle of the action as six men have a fierce gun battle outside of a warehouse.  And by gun battle, I mean that each man stands about four feet away from the other, shoots a gun, and somehow manages to miss just as often as they hit.  It’s during this scene that we learn two important things about April Rain:

1) Nobody in this film dies without flailing around for a few minutes before hand.

2) Anyone firing a gun will be shown in slow motion.

As for why everyone is shooting at each other, it all comes down to weapons.  The group in the warehouse has a few crates full of weapons.  The people attacking the warehouse want the weapons so that they can sell them to a terrorist cell.

The people attacking the warehouse, incidentally, a members of the Russian mob.  I figured this out because they had names like Nikolai and Dimitri and not because any of them actually had a Russian accent or, in any other way, came across as being Russian.

Which is not to say that they don’t have accents.  Their boss, Kotov (Adrian L. Tutor), definitely has an accent.  Actually, he has several and they change from scene-to-scene.  Sometimes, he sounds like he’s from Italy and then other times he sounds like he’s from Scotland…

Anyway, when we first meet Kotov, he’s running around in circles in his suburban front yard while his two youngest daughters chase after him.  He’s wearing a dark blue apron that reads, in bright red letters, “World’s Greatest Dad.”

The face of the Russian Mafia

The face of the Russian Mafia

His oldest daughter, Katrina (Brittany Beery), would probably disagree with that.  She’s got a crush on the newest member of the mob, Alex (Ryan Guzman).  When Kotov drags Katrina to church, she gets out of it by saying, “I’m getting my period, dad!” and doing a massive eye roll.  (Interestingly enough, I used to do the exact same thing to get out of going to Mass.  Never underestimate the importance of the eye roll.)  What makes this scene especially memorable are the extras sitting on the pew directly behind Kotov and his family.  When Katrina explains why she has to leave church, they gasp and look like they’re about to faint from the shock.  They do this despite the fact that Katrina and Kotov are whispering and that their voices would undoubtedly have been drowned out by the church organ that is played throughout the entire scene.  Perhaps, at one point, the filmmakers were planning on including a subplot that hinged on super hearing…

ANYWAY — and watching April Rain is one of those films that will inspire you to say “anyway” quite a lot — it turns out that Alex has a secret of his own.  He’s not really a Russian mobster!  No, he’s a member of an elite division of the — well, to be honest, I’m not sure which agency he works for.  However, I do know that it’s top secret because it’s housed in a huge warehouse and everyone spends a lot of time talking about how it’s all top secret.

Along with Alex, the team includes:

1) Sikes (Luke Goss), who is I guess is supposed to be in charge.  He’s a taciturn but fair man who is first seen disciplining his teenage son.  (“I can do what I want!” his son shouts, “In your face, old man!”)  Sikes spends a lot of time shouting things like, “I WANT HIM ALIVE!” just before then shooting a bad guy in the head.  (Incidentally, in April Rain, getting shot in the head means that a small splotch of red paint appears on your forehead.)

2) Rita (Mirana Frigon), who I liked because she’s a redheaded administrative assistant, just like me!  At one point, Rita gets a phone call from someone outside of the agency.  Sikes tells her that he needs her to be 100%.  Rita agrees.  The phone call is never mentioned again.

3) Kenny (Doug Savant), who doesn’t really have much of a personality.

4) Thomas (Vincent Spano), who is Kenny’s best friend and who, as a part of his job, is currently sleeping with Hellen (Anne Leighton) who works for Kotov.  At one point, Thomas’s wife (Hillary Tuck) shows up and points a gun at him and screams at him for cheating on her.  An exasperated Thomas yells back, “I work my ass off and you show up here and make me look like an ass in front of Kenny!”  And the scene goes on and on from there…

And finally,

5) Hillary Miller (Ming-Na Wen!) is apparently Sikes’s superior.  Thomas refers to her as being the Wicked Witch of West Los Angeles.  “She flies around on her broomstick with a strap-on and a jar of vaseline,” he informs Alex.  Ming-Na gets top billing but she’s actually only in a few minutes of the film and she spends most of that time yelling and glaring.  It’s almost as if she’s daring you to ask her how she ended up in a movie like April Rain.

Ming-Na in April Rain

Ming-Na dares you to ask her what she’s doing in April Rain.

ANYWAY — Kotov has been supplying terrorist leader Tariq (Deniz Akdeniz) with guns and Vespa motor scooters and you better believe that we eventually do get a chase scene where the bad guy is fleeing on a Vespa.  (And you also better believe that almost the entire chase scene is filmed in slow motion.)  

Before launching his terrorist scheme, Tariq becomes an American citizen.  The oath of citizenship is delivered by a judge who actually shows up on a Sunday to do so.  “It’s the least I can do, after all the work you’ve done on my house,” the judge helpfully explains.  Of course, as Tariq and the Judge enter the courthouse, the camera lingers on security guard who views both of them with clear suspicion.

Upon returning to his apartment, Tariq and his family celebrate his new citizenship.  Then, his two neighbors arrives to congratulate him.  These two neighbors — well, they simply have to be seen and heard to be believed.  “Share the wealth!” one of them proclaims, “then maybe everyone won’t want to kill us…”  Another one drinks a toast to “education and the redistribution of wealth,” which I guess is the film’s way of letting us know that the only thing needed for the Tariqs of the world to succeed is for them to live next door to stereotypical California liberals.

What’s especially interesting about this film is that, for all the time devoted to the Judge, the security guard, and those two neighbors, none of them are all that important to the plot.  In fact, after their initial scenes, neither the judge nor the security guard are ever seen again.  As for the two neighbors, they’re kicked out of the apartment after Tariq is visited by Yusef, a jihadi who is also a pizza deliveryman…

(Just about every film has a few red herrings but few take it to the extreme of April Rain, a movie in which just about everyone in the cast is a red herring.)

Everyone's either a red herring or a redhead or both.

Everyone’s either a red herring or a redhead or both.

Much like Birdemic, The Room, and Troll 2, April Rain is such a uniquely bad film that it becomes oddly fascinating.  You watch and, with each moment, you can not help but wonder how much worse the film can get.  And, with each passing moment, you discover that it can get a lot worse.

You want a cast that alternates between catatonic underplaying and histrionic overacting?  April Rain has got you covered.  (In defense of the cast, it’s not that any of them are bad actors as much as the script doesn’t leave them much choice.  For instance, I thought Brittany Beery did the best that anyone possibly could with her role.  The same can be said of Ryan Guzman and Luke Goss.  As for Ming-Na — well, I imagine she probably just wanted to get her scenes over with.)

You want action scenes that essentially look like a bunch of kids making finger guns and going, “Bang!  Bang!” at each other?  April Rain is the film to see.

Do you want random scenes that come out of nowhere, make you go, “What the Hell?,” and are then promptly forgotten about in the movie’s grand narrative scheme?  April Rain will not disappoint.

Do you want pages and pages of dialogue that add up to nothing more than empty verbosity?  Might I suggest watching April Rain?

Do you want to see a movie that’s so bad that it’s good?  Well, I’d suggest watching The Room and then Troll 2 and then Birdemic.  But once you’ve got those three out of the way, definitely give April Rain a try!

April Rain

Bang! Bang!