Life After Beth

A quirky premise isn’t enough to carry an entire film.

A boyfriend unsuccessfully copes with his girlfriend’s passing and resurrection during a zombie outbreak in Life After Beth (2014). Written and directed by Jeff Baena, this comedy-horror manages to be neither terrifying nor funny. Life After Beth has its moments, but its poorly thought out horror elements interrupt and undermine what could have otherwise been an interesting exploration of love, loss, and regret, and the importance of letting go.

Young Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan) is devastated when his girlfriend, Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza), dies from a snakebite. His parents, Noah (Paul Reiser) and Judy (Cheryl Hines), urge him to move on. Zach becomes suspicious to the point of paranoia when Beth’s parents, Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), abruptly stop speaking with him and cloister themselves in their home.

Things get complicated when Zach discovers Beth has returned from the dead. Her parents consider it a miracle, but Zach just can’t accept the new status quo. Beth’s strange behavior, as well as the appearance of other long-dead people from his past, has him asking questions. His testosterone-fueled brother, Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler), springs into action as the zombie apocalypse unfolds. Can Zach discover a cure for the zombie outbreak and save his lost love?

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The Little Hours – Medieval Misfire

An ensemble cast of talented comedians isn’t enough to save this poorly executed dark comedy lampooning scandalous behavior in the Catholic Church.

This isn’t the first time in history the Catholic Church has faced criticism for corruption and sexual impropriety, and The Little Hours (2017), written and directed by Jeff Baena, wants to remind us of that. Inspired by a fourteenth century Italian satire, this film’s poor quality and lackluster performances landed dead on arrival, missing an opportunity to successfully reboot a classic tale for contemporary audiences.

At an Italian convent run by Sister Maria (Molly Shannon), three young nuns, Alessandra (Alison Brie), Ginevra (Kate Micucci), and Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza), are bored with their daily monotony and harass the elderly gardener into quitting. Meanwhile, Lord Bruno (Nick Offerman) discovers a servant named Massetto (Dave Franco) is having an affair with his wife. Massetto flees for his life, and runs into Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), who got drunk and lost the convent’s embroidery on his way to the market.

Eager for a friend, Father Tommasso convinces Massetto to return to the convent and work as their new gardener, where he will pretend to be a deaf-mute to avoid being harassed by the sisters. Things get complicated when Alessandra, Ginevra, and Fernanda all scheme for Massetto’s affection. Is Fernanda’s strange behavior just repressed desire bubbling to the surface, or is something more sinister afoot?

The Little Hours is based on stories from The Decameron (c.1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian Renaissance humanist. As English writer Geoffrey Chaucer did for his own country in The Canterbury Tales (c.1400), Decameron satirized life in the Late Medieval Italian states through a series of short stories told by various narrators. The Little Hours takes elements from Day Three, particularly stories one and two.

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PCU: A Timely Send-up to the Modern College Campus

Twenty-eight-year-old Jeremy Piven plays an unconvincing college senior in this irreverent lampoon of political correctness run amok.

Written by Adam Leff and Zak Penn and directed by Hart Bochner, PCU (1994) is Animal House for the 1990s. Though in many ways a boilerplate college comedy, it’s unique in calling out and ridiculing PC culture on college campuses. In retrospect, its writers were downright prophetic.

Pre-frosh Tom Lawrence (Chris Young) is visiting Port Chester University for the weekend, where he meets misfits James ‘Droz’ Andrews (Jeremy Piven), Gutter (Jon Favreau), and Katy (Megan Ward), among others, at a former frat house called “The Pit”. These fun-loving students are out of place among the campus protest culture, nurtured and encouraged by college president Ms. Garcia-Thompson (Jessica Walter).

Ms. Garcia-Thompson allies with snobby Rand McPherson (David Spade), leader of a disbanded fraternity who wants their frat house back, to get “The Pit” crew kicked off campus. Can Droz save his love interest, Samantha (Sarah Trigger), from the clutches of man-hating Womynists, unite the student body, and raise enough money to save his friends from eviction before graduation?

Long before campus speech codes and safe spaces became commonplace, PCU satirized this growing trend in academia. Ms. Garcia-Thompson personifies the new college administrator, a buzzword-spewing enforcer obsessed with sensitivity awareness, diversity, and encouraging student grievances. In one scene, she suggests “Bisexual Asian Studies” should have its own building. “The question is, who goes? The Math Department or the hockey team?” she asks with a straight face.

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Was Sony Brave When it Made its 2016 Ghostbusters Reboot?

Director Jason Reitman found himself in some hot water recently (with who, I wonder?) when he said on a podcast his new Ghostbusters sequel will “hand the movie back to the fans.” I, for one, read this and thought, yes, thank you! As a huge fan of the original 1984 Ghostbusters, I’m excited to see the son of its original director continuing the franchise.

But after facing criticism for his comments (again, from who?), Reitman backtracked in the most cringe-inducing way by groveling on Twitter and making this ridiculous statement:

“Wo, that came out wrong! I have nothing but admiration for Paul and Leslie and Kate and Melissa and Kristen and the bravery with which they made Ghostbusters 2016. They expanded the universe and made an amazing movie!”

Jason Reitman, @JasonReitman, Feb 20, 2019

Um, what? Whether or not the 2016 Sony Ghostbusters film was amazing or not is a subjective opinion, but was it brave to make that film. Brave? How was it brave to take elements from an ’80s franchise and repackage them to make a quick buck? I don’t think Sony, Director Paul Feig, or its cast were anticipating the massive fan backlash. That happened after they already started making the movie.

When their gimmicky reboot came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.” And here, in this article on TheWeek’s website, the writer repeats this slander of the fans by saying Reitman “made it sound like the 2016 all-female reboot had taken the series away from devotees, or that the misogynistic trolls who were so violently opposed to it were the true fans.”

Yes, the only reason anyone could possibly have for thinking Ghostbusters 2016 was a piece of hot garbage was “misogyny”. Not because it was unfunny, gross, over-saturated, didn’t respect the previous two films, or maybe even that the viewer didn’t like its style of improvised comedy. The only reason you didn’t like their film is because you’re a terrible human being. How dare you.

I wonder why Jason Reitman felt the need to grovel and pay lip service to these charming defenders of the 2016 film. He wants to make a movie that will pay homage to the originals, that fans of the original films will love (hopefully). There’s nothing wrong with that, and he certainly has nothing to apologize for.

The ‘Burbs Turns 30

This quintessential Suburban Gothic tale lampooned middle class fears in the 1980s, but remains refreshingly relevant.

Yesterday, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, The ‘Burbs, turned 30. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, ultimately raking in over $36 million. Though panned by clueless critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise, The ‘Burbs has since become something of a cult classic.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche. It stars Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun as three friends who suspect an eccentric and reclusive family is up to no good in their neighborhood. Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman also play prominent roles.

The ‘Burbs was written by Dana Olsen and directed by Joe Dante. Olsen, who is usually known for sillier comedies like George of the Jungle (1997) and Inspector Gadget (1999), was inspired to write the script after hearing about gruesome crimes in his own hometown. Joe Dante directed Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2 (1990), and the TV series Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992), Witches of East End (2013-2014), and Salem (2015-2016). Eerie, Indiana was also about the strange and unusual underbelly of a quaint, unassuming town.

Welcome to Mayfield Place

Ray and Carol Peterson (Hanks and Fisher) live in a picturesque home on Mayfield Place, a cul-de-sac in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson), his son, Hans (Courtney Gains), and his brother, Reuben (Brother Theodore), quietly moved into the old Victorian home, which used to be owned by Mr. and Mrs. Knapp.

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Five Things You Didn’t Notice in The ‘Burbs

From obscure film references to subliminal messages, this ’80s dark comedy has it all.

The ‘Burbs, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, turns 30 today. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, though it was panned by critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid, and every time I watch it I discover something new. Have you spotted these subtle hints and references?

Breakfast at the Peterson’s

Ray and Carol Peterson (Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher) live in a quaint home on Mayfield Place in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. When Ray looks out the kitchen window to comment on the Klopek’s barren yard, you can see a box of Gremlins Cereal sitting on the counter. Joe Dante, director of The ‘Burbs, also directed Gremlins (1984).

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Cast of Ghostbusters Reboot Unironically Upset at New Ghostbusters Film

No, this isn’t an Onion headline.

As news broke that Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters (1984), is moving forward with a continuation of that film franchise, grumbling erupted from supporters of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. Jason Reitman, you see, plans to continue the story from where Ghostbusters 2 (1989) left off, you know, as fans of the original films have always wanted.

As a kid, I loved the original Ghostbusters, and in my mind, it came as close to a perfect comedy as you can get. When the 2016 gimmicky reboot, which was a gender-swap of the franchise starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and directed by Paul Feig, came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.”

It annoys me that I have to say this, but I don’t have a problem with female-led films or with sequels and reboots highlighting diverse stories and characters. I’m also a fan of the Rocky franchise, and I thought Creed (2015) was a solid film in its own right and a good addition to the franchise. It went a different direction while still holding true to all the things that made Rocky great.

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