Film Review: The Last Word (dir by Mark Pellington)


So, I watched The Last Word tonight.

It’s a film that premiered, earlier this year, at Sundance and then it got a very brief theatrical run.  It was directed by Mark Pellington, who is one of those odd directors who, for some reason, I always assume is more talented than he is.  Seriously, when I saw this was directed by Mark Pellington, I actually got excited.  I was like, “Mark Pellington!?  He’s great!”  Then I realized that I wasn’t really sure who Mark Pellington was.  I looked him up on Wikipedia and I realized that I was mistaking him for actor Mark Pellegrino.  Mark Pellegrino played Jacob on Lost and is an outspoken Libertarian.  Mark Pellington is some guy who started out in music videos and then eventually moved up to directing pedestrian films.

Anyway, the film stars Shirley MacClaine as this annoying old busybody who demands that Amanda Seyfried write her obituary because MacClaine wants to know what people are going to say about her after she’s dead.  When Seyfried discovers that everyone hates MacClaine, she writes a boring and very short obit.  “Everyone hates you,” she helpfully explains.  So, MacClaine sets out to do some great things so that her obituary will have a little more spark.  She’s going to set a fire of quirkiness, she is!  Of course, this leads to MacClaine adopting a little black orphan, getting a job as a DJ at the local radio station (she plays boring adult contemporary music, of course.  No EDM), and helping Seyfriend get a boyfriend.

To be honest, this film would probably be a lot more bearable if it was a prequel to Bernie, because then you would at least know that you could look forward to Jack Black showing up with a hunting rifle and putting everyone out of their misery.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.  Instead, this is another one of those movies where a cranky old tyrant teaches all of us young folks how to better appreciate life.

Y’see, Shirley MacClaine is playing an oldster so she has a sharp tongue and she’s always putting people in their place.  Because she had to struggle, we’re supposed to ignore the fact that she spends most of her time making everyone around her miserable.

Amanda Seyfried, on the other hand, is a millennial so she puts her feet on her boss’s desk and has no direction in her life.  Why, she just needs some annoying, elderly busybody to come into her life and make her listen to smooth jazz.  She might even get a hipster boyfriend out of the deal!  (Of course, her potential hipster boyfriend is a 2008-style hipster as opposed to a 2017-style hipster.)

Meanwhile, AnnJewel Lee Dixon (as the little girl that MacClaine adopts) is a plot device so she doesn’t do anything unless the script specifically needs her to humanize the other characters.  She gets to dance towards the end of the film.

Oh, and then there’s Anne Heche.  She plays MacClaine’s estranged daughter.  The reunion between her and MacClaine is so overwritten and overperformed that some viewers will probably be inspired to rip out their hair while watching it.

Hey, did I mention that there’s a scene where MacClaine does something quirky and all of the supporting characters break out into applause?  I think we’re supposed to clap to but I think most members of the audience will be too busy ripping out their hair by the handful.

Fortunately, I really love my hair so I resisted the temptation to start plucking strands out of my head while watching the film.  It wasn’t easy, though.  To be honest, the pain of plucking a strand of hair is nothing compared to the pain of watching the first fifteen minutes of this film and realizing that you already know every thing that’s going to happen.  By the time that the priest showed up and started to cry while talking about a time that MacClaine’s character had been rude to him, I imagine that viewers with less self-control were halfway bald.  But, as I said, I love my hair too much to take my frustration out on it.  Instead, I just kicked the coffee table a few times.  Now, my foot hurts.  Ow.

Seeing as how Shirley MacClaine is one of the last of the truly great actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age and she actually does give a pretty good performance (when the script allows her), it’s a shame that the rest of the movie is such a let down.  Then again, this film is full of talented people who are let down by an overwritten script and Mark Pellington’s painfully obvious direction.  This is one of those films that tries to hard to be profound that it forgets the importance of being entertaining.

As I watched this movie, I took a glance at Mark Pellington’s filmography.  Did you know that he directed The Mothman Prophecies?  The Last Word really could have used a visit from the Mothman.  Seriously, this film was crying out for a scene of MacClaine putting Mothman in his place.  The fact that Mothman did not appear leads me to wonder what exactly this film was hiding.

Seriously, why are the people behind The Last Word protecting the Mothman?

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #32: Sister Cities (dir by Sean Hanish)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Wednesday, December 7th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

Sister Cities originally aired on Lifetime on September 17th.  When it first aired, I was really expecting to like it just because it’s a movie about four sisters and I’m the youngest of four sisters.  Add to that, one of the sisters was named Dallas and Dallas is my city.  Seriously, I seemed destined to like Sister Cities.

But then I actually saw the film.  And I have to admit that, for the first hour or so, I felt a little bit guilty about not liking the film.  It may have been a painfully slow film but I figured that it deserved some credit for at least trying to take the time for the viewers to get to know the four sisters.  As well, I couldn’t deny that casting did a good job when it came to selecting the four lead actresses.  You looked at them and they all had enough features and mannerisms in common that you could actually believe that they were related.

In the film, the four sisters gather together after the suicide of their mother (played, in flashbacks, by both Amy Smart and Jacki Weaver).  The sisters all have their own distinct personalities and, for some reason, three of them are named after cities.

For instance, the youngest sister is named Baltimore (Troian Bellisario).  She’s a free-spirit who does what she wants.  Now, my boyfriend is from Baltimore.  I have friends who live in Baltimore.  I’ve visited Baltimore and I loved it.  But I would not name my daughter Baltimore because Baltimore is a great name for a city but it’s a terribly clunky one for a human being.  If I was going to pick a city to name my daughter after, I’d probably go with Savannah or maybe Charlotte.  Or, for that matter, maybe Ardglass.   But not Baltimore.

Then there’s Dallas (Michelle Trachtenberg), who is the super organized and neat sister.  She’s the one who gets taunted for always wearing matching underwear but seriously, what’s wrong with that?  At least Dallas gets a pretty name.

Austin (Jess Wexler) has a pretty name too.  We’re told that she’s a successful writer.  We never believe it for a second.  Austin lived with her mother and she’s the one who called the other sisters back home.  Austin is as close as the film comes to having a central character.

And then there’s Carolina (Stana Katic), who is the oldest.  She’s a lawyer and she’s angry because her mother named her after one of the Carolinas but never clarified which one.

To be honest, it’s a bit too much.  The sisters are all exaggerated types.  The mother is an exaggerated type.  They all have cutesy names.  The nonstop theatrical quirkiness of it all is very off-putting and it doesn’t help that the film’s first hour is painfully slow.  There’s a few attempts at dark humor but it’s never as insightful or affecting as it seems to think it is.

Then we get to the second hour and the film remains painfully slow but it also turns into a rather strident screed about assisted suicide.  Eventually, the whole film comes down to an extended flashback of a beatific-looking Jacki Weaver smiling as she calmly explains that Austin will have to help her commit suicide because she’s the only sister who is emotionally strong enough to handle it.  It was all so manipulative and heavy-handed that I ended up getting so annoyed that I took off my shoes and nearly threw them at the TV.

Sorry, Baltimore.

Sorry, Dallas.

Sorry, Austin.

Sorry, Carolina.

Back to School Part II #36: Dead Man On Campus (dir by Alan Cohn)


dead_man_on_campus_poster

Oh my God, it’s Zack Morris smoking pot and getting laid!

That, in a sentence, is the main appeal of the 1998 comedy Dead Man On Campus.  This is the film that features Mark-Paul Gosselaar playing a character who does everything that most Saved By The Bell fans have always assumed that Zack Morris was doing whenever he wasn’t on-screen, fooling Belding, tormenting Screech, and gazing at Kelly.

(By the way, if you’re interested in the further college adventures of Zack Morris, check out Primetime Preppie, where Derek Morris and I are reviewing every single episode of Saved By The Bell: The College Years!)

In Dead Man On Campus, Gosselaar plays Cooper Frederickson.  Cooper is a college student.  He spends most of his time partying and consistently fails his classes but since he’s going to a college that apparently doesn’t believe in academic suspension, it doesn’t matter.  Cooper’s father continues to pay for him to go to school.  To be honest, Cooper is kind of a jerk but he’s also really hot.  He wears glasses and there’s just something about a bad boy with bad eyesight.

(Seriously…)

Anyway, Cooper has two roommates.  Kyle (Jason Segel) is … well, he’s Jason Segel, giving another one of the somewhat odd performances that typified his film career before he co-starred with The Muppets and played David Foster Wallace.  His other roommate is Josh (Tom Everett Scott).  Josh starts out as a responsible and hard-working student but then he falls under Cooper’s bad influence.  He also gets a girlfriend (Poppy Montgomery) and ends up having so much fun that he blows off all of his classes.

Suddenly, Josh realizes that he’s about to lose his scholarship.  At the same time, Cooper’s father comes to visit and announces that he will no longer be paying for his son’s lifestyle.  If Cooper flunks out of school, he’s going to end up cleaning toilets for his father’s janitorial service.

Oh no!  Zack Morris cleaning a toilet!?  How the mighty have fallen!  I guess they’re screwed, right!?

Nope!  It turns out that there’s a clause in the university charter.  If a student’s roommate commits suicide during the school year, that student gets perfect grades for the semester!  (I was told the same thing during my first semester at the University of North Texas.)  Unfortunately, Kyle has recently moved out of the dorm and neither Cooper nor Josh are willing to die for the other.

So, they decide to get a new roommate.  After breaking into the school’s student files, they identify the three students who are most likely to commit suicide.  One is an aspiring singer who Cooper and Josh come to suspect might be faking his depression as a way to hit on girls.  (Okay, that’s kind of clever because I know that I’ve gone out with people who I thought were dark and profound, just to discover that they were actually rather boring and bourgeois.)  Another is a nerdy computer guy who has paranoid delusions about Bill Gates.

And then there’s Cliff.  Cliff is actually the first potential roommate that they investigate but he also makes the biggest impression.  In fact, he makes such a big impression that he ends up overshadowing everyone else in the film.  Cliff is played by Lochlyn Munro, who has subsequently become one of the patron saints of the Lifetime network.  (Seriously, it seems like Munro shows up on Lifetime on a daily basis.)  Ripping through the film like a cyclone, Munro is definitely the highlight of Dead Man On Campus.  It turns out that Cliff isn’t so much suicidal as he’s just absolutely insane and Munro goes so wonderfully over the top in the film that he briefly brings some much-needed life to this comedy about death.

Anyway, Dead Man On Campus is a pretty forgettable movie and it’s never as clever as it thinks that it is.  But it does feature Mark-Paul Gosselaar taking hits off a bong and that’ll definitely make it worth seeing for some viewers.

2013 In Review: The Best of SyFy


It’s been quite a year for the SyFy network, even if the network’s most widely-seen original film, Sharknado, was actually one of their weaker offerings.  As a proud member of the Snarkalecs and a Snarkies voter, I’ve certainly enjoyed watching, reviewing, and live tweeting all of the films that SyFy and the Asylum have had to offer us this year.

Below, you’ll find my personal nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of 2013.  (Winners are listed in bold.)

End of the World

Best Film

Battledogs

Blast Vegas

*End of the World

Flying Monkeys

Ghost Shark

Zombie Night

Best Actor

Neil Grayston in End of the World

*Greg Grunberg in End of the World

Anthony Michael Hall in Zombie Night

Frankie Muniz in Blast Vegas

Corin Nemec in Robocroc

Tom Everett Scott in Independence Daysaster

Best Actress

Maggie Castle in Blast Vegas

Lacey Chabert in Scarecrow

Kaitlyn Leeb in Grave Halloween

*Maika Monroe in Flying Monkeys

Ariana Richards in Battledogs

Mackenzie Rosman in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Bostwick in Blast Vegas

William B. Davis in Stonados

Brad Dourif in End of the World

Dennis Haysbert in Battledogs

John Heard in Sharknado

*Richard Moll in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actress

*Shirley Jones in Zombie Night

Nicole Munoz in Scarecrow

Jill Teed in Independence Daysaster

Jackie Tuttle in Flying Monkeys

Dee Wallace in Robocroc

Kate Vernon in Battledogs

Best Director

Griff Furst for Ghost Shark

Robert Grasmere for Flying Monkeys

John Gulager for Zombie Night

W.D. Hogan for Independence Daysaster

*Steven R. Monroe for End of the World

Jack Perez for Blast Vegas

Best Screenplay

Shane Van Dyke for Battledogs

Joe D’Ambrosia for Blast Vegas

*Jason C. Bourque and David Ray for End of The World

Silvero Gouris for Flying Monkeys

Paul A. Birkett for Ghost Shark

Rick Suvalle for Scarecrow

Flying Monkeys

Best Monster

*Skippy from Flying Monkeys

The Shark from Ghost Shark

Robocroc from Robocroc

The Scarecrow from Scarecrow

The Tasmanian Devils from Tasmanian Devils

The Zombies from Zombie Night

Battledogs

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with my picks for the 16 worst films of 2013!

It’s Been One Week Since #SyFyDaysaster


trending like a bitch

Today is the one-week anniversary of a historic social media event: the #SyFyDaysaster.

For the past year, I’ve been a proud member of a group of film lovers known as the Snarkalecs.  Every Saturday, we would meet up via twitter and we would watch whatever film happened to be playing on the SyFy network.  Every week, we would look forward to the chance to live tweet films with titles like Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo, Two-Headed Shark Attack, and Piranaconda.  Often times, we would be joined by actors like Gerald Webb and directors like Griff Furst.  One of my best memories remains the time that Greg Grunberg replied to one of my tweets while we were watching End of the World.

Incidentally, every time that the Snarkalecs would start to live tweet a movie on Saturday, that movie would soon start trending.  As a result, other twitter users would have an incentive to change the station over to SyFy and see what everyone was talking about.  By showing original movies on Saturday night, SyFy kept the Snarkalecs entertained and we, as a result, then helped SyFy get better ratings.

What could be more American than that?

However, a few months ago, the SyFy network announced that they would no longer be showing original movies on Saturday night.  Instead, the movies moved to Thursday and Saturday night became about showcasing a rather forgettable show called Sinbad.

Unfortunately, Thursday is not a convenient night for many of the Snarkalecs.  Some Snarkalecs have to be at work on Friday morning.  Other Snarkalecs have family obligations during the week.  As for me, Thursday doesn’t work because that’s when CBS airs the weekly eviction episode of Big Brother.

As a result, the Snarkalecs have found other things and other networks to watch on Saturday night and Sinbad hasn’t trended once.

Two Thursdays ago, the snarkalecs decided to make a point.  As a group, we DVRed the SyFy original film, Independence Daysaster, off of the SyFy network.  We then watched and live tweeted the film on Saturday night.

Within fifteen minutes, just as a result of a handful of Snarkalecs live tweeting the film, #SyfyDaysaster was the number one trending topic in the world.  And it stayed at number one for the next two hours.  And when the tweets started to show up from people wanting to know just why exactly #SyFyDaysaster was trending, we let them know that it was trending because it was a film that the SyFy Network could have been showing instead of broadcasting the latest episode of Sinbad.

As a result of our act of social media protest, for two hours, #SyFyDaysaster was an even more popular subject than Amanda Bynes calling Drake ugly.

As for Sinbad, it trended not once.

The fact of the matter is that people don’t love the SyFy Network because of shows like Sinbad.  Instead, we love the SyFy network because SyFy gives us a chance to watch movies like Super Shark and Tasmanian Devils.  By showing those movies, the SyFy network has given me a chance to meet and get to know people who I may not have ever met otherwise.  SyFy Saturday movie nights introduced me to the snarkalecs and, for that, I will always be thankful.

Let me put it like this — if you tell me you watch Sinbad, I’ll smile politely.  Ff you tell me that you love Jersey Shore Shark Attack, I’ll be your friend forever and I’ll probably end up making out with you depending on how much I’ve had to drink beforehand.

In short, I’m proud of us!  I only hope that the SyFy network noticed and that they’ll reconsider their decision to make Saturday night all about Sinbad.

As for Independence Daysaster, it was actually something of a lesser SyFy film.  A bunch of aliens invade Earth on the 4th of July.  The President (played by Tom Everett Scott) teams up with a bunch of hackers to defeat them.  It was all pretty predictable and, under any other circumstances, rather forgettable.  Still, I will never forget the #SyFyDaysaster and I look forward to engaging in future acts of civil disobedience until, hopefully, the movies return to where they belong, back on Saturday night.

Here’s just a few of the tweets from #SyFyDaysaster:

Ok #SnarkAlecs 1 hr 45 minutes until #syfydaysaster let’s tweet the heck out of it, trend it and end up in twitter jail! — @Holidill

It’s just another day in Canada. — @LisaMarieBowman

Canada should annex us. #SyFyDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

Oh damn, does that mean Biden’s President now? #SyFyDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

I find it amusing that the alien invasion happens in a place called Mooseridge. #Syfydaysaster — @Karmic9

is it true most #SyFy movies are watched 3 day later with at least 10 #SyFyDaysaster tweets?” — @KellyThul

So #SyFyDaysaster  is tending a movie #Snarkalecs  are watching on dvr , but Sinbad isn’t #SyFy  are you paying attention — @ScottMcDonald3

“Nick’s hurt pretty bad. Can we just leave him here and pretend we didn’t find him?” #SyFyDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

“You can’t fight here!  This is the War Room!” — @LisaMarieBowman

I thought they were led by a Mimeminister RT @LisaMarieBowman Were we really hoping to get any help from President of France? #SyFyDaysaster” — @KellyThul

#WhoTheHellIsSinbad? #SyFyDaysaster — @HelenMcGe

He’s the President of Sexyville — @LisaMarieBowman

Redheads have no use for Presidents. #SyFyDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

Red barns: replacing gas stations as new source of magic wifi #syfydaysaster — @DawnSnarks

Sound effects courtesy of airzooka #syfydaysaster” — @murderalotta

Gingers do to have souls! Haven’t you seen that YouTube video? #SyFyDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

“What is that?” It’s the moon, you moron. #syfydaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

Is that Ben Gardner’s alien invasion stock footage? #syfydaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

The real fans of @SyfyMovies got #syfydaysaster trending 3 days after #indenpendencedaysaster — @TonySolo

She put on her big glasses b/c she knew she was going to have to do smart stuff. #syfydaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

Nick is like a cockroach wearing an American flag. — @LisaMarieBowman

Stop insulting cockroaches — @KellyThul

The VP is thinking, OH shit, my evil plan has been foiled. All because of those meddling kids! #syfydaysaster — @PirateMel

@LisaMarieBowman: I have to admit that I have no idea what’s going on in #syfydaysaster.” You’re at least a step ahead of me.. — @DocZeke71

There has been a serious lack of trees and vines in #syfydaysaster. I’m not lichen it.” — @LisaMarieBowman

Hey @SyFy, even though I am tweeting your movie on the “wrong” night, I am open to you sending me that power source thing #SyFyDaysaster — @KellyThul

Been a long day, a lot of short tempers, we could all use a Snickers #syfydaysaster — @PinkyGuerro

My milkshake brings all the balls to the yard. #syfydaysaster — @GGFletcher

#syfydaysaster If she were a real scientist she would be in a halter top by now. — @MJCaan

You have to ask if the world is really worth saving. I’d like to at least meet the aliens before dismissing them. #SyFYDaysaster — @LisaMarieBowman

I’m comforted to know that 2 hackers from Mooseridge can fire a nuclear missile. #Syfydaysaster” — @Karmic9

Make love to the camera Mr. President! Seduce it! #syfydaysaster — @DawnSnarks

The President should resign & let the redheads run the country #SyFYDaysaster” — @LisaMarieBowman

I haven’t seen a ball take a licking like that since the Jodi Arias trial. #syfydaysaster — @MJCaan

The balls went from suck to blow! #syfydaysaster — @Crunch_Ops

Wow, the aliens are dropping faster than Paula Dean sponsors #SyFyDaysaster — @bgardnersboat

Congrats, #Snarkalecs! Y’all had a lot of balls tonight. Now I have to fly away. #SyFyDaysaster — @Killer_Skippy

Tonight, the #snarkalecs made this goatsucker proud! #SyFyDaysaster — @HappyChupacabra

Flame-haired one is all excited because she made something trend in some place called Dallas. Meh. #SyFyDaysaster — @Doc_Bowman