Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Much like Sarah Jane, this Scottish brunette is not just a
pretty face...
"You want me to volunteer, is that it? And if I don't?"
"You mean nothing'll happen to me?"

"Nothing. Ever."

1) And here we are at 'The Key To Time,' the 16th Season. And, as with most of the serials for this season, this is a story where moments of brilliance float in the middle of great seas of dullness. We're at the point where Williams seems to treat the show solely as a kid's show, coupled with his constant dancing about in an effort to keep Tom Baker engaged in the show--an action that will lead to one of the worst seasons of the classic series. Luckily, this is not that season.

2) The biggest new development is the introduction of the companion Romana, played by the stunning Scottish actress Mary Tamm. And even though Tamm proved to as an actress, she does manage to give Baker someone to work off of in a new way. Romana, because she is a Time Lady, is able to be confrontational with this Doctor about his shortcomings and lack of education, creating an interesting 'practical knowledge vs. learned knowledge' tension that isn't played off of enough.

3) The actual set-up for this season, written by Anthony Read and Graham Williams, features the Baker Doctor literally humbled in the presence of Cyril Lucking's White Guardian. It's really very well done, both as a change of pace and as a piece of exposition. We get to see Baker trying to exert himself in resisting the Guardian's wishes, but the very subtle threat (see the quote above) seems to put him back in line. Lucking plays the character well, and the scene is expertly done.
As Tom Baker's tenure went longer and longer, he began to
forget turning off the lights in the refrigerator...

4) ...and then we're plunged into the story itself and it's...well, it's not very good. There's a definite sense that writer Robert Holmes really wanted to write a pilot for a show about a pair of intergalactic con-men and forced it into a Who serial. That whiff of back-door pilot never leaves the series even when it's focusing on The Doctor and Romana.

5) That being said, the con-men are responsible for one truly brilliant moment. When Nigel Plaskett's Unstoff reveals to Timothy Bateson's shunned and broken Binro that yes, his theories about the stars are absolutely true is what this show should be about--a great little nugget of wonder in the middle of this sad, plodding little serial.

6) I know there may be people who love Paul Seed's rather, ummm, vigorous performance as the Graff Vinda K, but I'm not one of them. He's so over-the-top, and seems to be proclaiming every line as if he just ate a particularly bitter lime. Plus--he does that weird Holmes trick (we'll see it again in The Caves of The Androzoni) of addressing the camera directly for one of the cliffhangers!

7) Even though they really don't do much with the setting, I do appreciate how the visual designers chose to give the setting a very Russian feel. It's the sort of thing we don't see often in science fictional settings, and it does give the serial a somewhat unique feel.

8) This may be the first serial where The Doctor--who, not three seasons ago, actively refused to kill The Daleks, the greatest source of evil in the galaxy--actively kills someone. I'm not sure if the reason I find this so distasteful is that it's the beginning of a long slippery slope that will end with Peter Davison waving a gun about and Sylvester McCoy, ummm, blowing up Skaro. It's a sign of some very, very bad things to come.

9) ....and then there's the Shrivenzale. This is an example of a creature that maybe--maybe--if it was kept in the shadows might've been effective, but every time we see it straight on looks ridiculous. I particularly like the one shot at the top of episode two where we see the Shrivenzale scrabbling to gain purchase against the stone floor to eat some Romana butt....and we see the rubber claws literally bending back in on itself. Thankfully we see only a little bit of these dopey monsters, but since they're the only real monstrous thing in this story their crapitude sticks out.
"Hello, we're the backdoor pilot people...can you spare a serial
to let us tell the audience our premise?

10) I think when you come down to it, the thing that bugs me the most about this story is how dismissive Holmes is of large chunks of the story he's created. He's obvious way more interested in Garron and Unstoffe than in anything else that's going on that the parts that don't directly involve those two (like, let's say, stuff involving The Seeker and her psychic abilities) are written in a grey, plodding way. Maybe this is because of Williams' interference and forcing the Key To Time framework on it, but it's very, very minor Holmes....and in this case, minor Holmes is not good Holmes.

Overall...there are some good moments in this story, particularly involving the set up for The Key To Time. But ultimately, this is a weird and bland tale that reads like a backdoor pilot that justifiably wasn't picked up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

It's like the Mount Rushmore of 80's Action!
"What's the plan?"
"Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em

1) One of the things that really, really struck me almost immediately is how many of the characters who each had a little face time in the first movie, giving us a sense of their personality, don't get any in this entry. Hell, we have Jet Li literally disappearing after punching a guy's head until it explodes in the opening action sequence (and given how Jet Li was one of the most enjoyable things in the first film, well....)

2) Is it just me, or is Jean-Claude Van Damme really auditioning to be a Bond Villain in this movie? Hell, he's even named 'Villain' (although the name is pronounced differently)! Given the way he behaves and the scheme he's hatched, Van Damme seems weirdly out of place. He's not unwelcome because he is as operatic as our heroes get at time, but it's still a touch jarring.

"I am a villain...I am also named Villian."
3) It does seem like director Simon West is really pushing everyone else to the background so he can emphasize the Old Guard--Stallone's Barney, Bruce Willis' Church, Arnold Schwarzeneggar's Trench and, to a lesser extent, Chuck Norris' Booker--over the other established characters. Sure, it's fun seeing Trench and Church running around an airport in a smart car shooting people, but it also annoying not giving Hale Ceaser and the like their due.

4) ...except, oddly enough, for Dolph Lundgren's Gunnar. Not only does he seem to take central stage more often than not, there are moments that reflect Lundgren's own background as a chemist. I think I understand why he's given so much screen time, given he was relegated to just being a bad guy turncoat in the first one, but it's still odd...

5) ....and speaking of odd, the whole sequence with the team talking to the Bosnian women where they refuse to help and then just show up to help when Villain's men come calling is strange. There are these weird echoes of Rambo III, and I wonder if any of the abducted men are going to turn out to be gangsters in the future....

6) While, like in the first film, Stallone doesn't pull the trigger on sucking face with Designated Female Maggie (played by Nan Yu) seemed like he really, really wanted to, and the whole angle made me weirded out. We get this whole romantic arc without either character saying anything romantic, and all I could think about was the rather vast age difference between the two.
Nothing says 'hot date' like crouching behind a used car and
shooting at ruthless bad guys...

7) I didn't mind the Husker-du games of the first film, mainly because it knew that just having these major action stars of old in the film was enough. But this one...between the music stings (Trench's big re-entrance is heralded with the Terminator theme! Booker is heralded with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!), Booker telling a 'How Tough Is Chuck Norris?' joke, and the constant referencing of previous films from Die Hard! to Lone Wolf McQuaid, the Husker-du aspect becomes akin to the guy next to you elbowing you in the ribs constantly going, 'Get it? Get it? Huh?'

8) The thing I really liked about Liam (brother of Chris) Hemsworth's Billy The Kid is how he contrasts with the other Expendables. His military discipline shows through and his insistence on calling everyone in the group 'sir' makes for a different feel. Pity he doesn't stay around long.

9) It's kinda strangely cool to see the presence of a Soviet Spy City (misidentified as 'a soviet military base') in the film, although I sort of regret how it's used pretty much as window dressing for one action sequence. The Soviet Spy Cities is one of the most fascinating little aspects of the Cold War, and could have been used to greater effect.

10) Apparantly Stallone had a greater control over the script--and I think that might be the biggest problem, given Stallone's tendency to go for broad winks and jokey references. These references overwhelm the narrative at times, to the point where potential plot developments (like maybe militarizing the women in the Bosnian villiage to provide some sort of support) is left on the floor.

Overall...while there are some enjoyable moments, including some decent fight scenes, this sequel is a downturn from the original.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ten Statements About....PURPLE RAIN (1984)

"Batgir--no wait, it's just Prince...."
"You wouldn't pass the initiation."
"What initiation?"
"Well, for starters you have to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka."

1) Okay, let's put this on the table here....this is a thoroughly plotless little film, with a narrative that boils down to 'I don't wanna do other people's music until my abusive dad almost kills himself, and now I'm willing to do other people's music.' Somehow, this tiny little shred of story is enough to occupy almost two hours of running time!

2) ....and director Albert Magnoli is able to do this by just running through the movie like he's been set on fire. Magnoli utilizes a number of cinematic tricks to conceal how little there is in this film including montage, parallel scenes, audio/visual editing dissonance, and other things obviously influenced by music video language....and the result is a film that should by no means be able to keep up a fast narrative flow flowing extremely quickly.

3) You know what else Magnoli manages to do? He creates a veracity to the world he's created even though pretty much every single character is played by amateurs save for those playing The Kid's parents. It's obvious none of these people can act effectively, and that there are long stretches of the film that is clumsily improvised yet we don't care because Magnoli is able to keep us from dwelling on those acting.

4) One of the things that I love about this film is how it's both a snapshot of a specific era and yet, because the script by William Blinn and Magnoli avoids making any sort of topical-at-the-time reference, it really hasn't dated. If you're ever curious about what a Funk Club was like circa 1984, this is the film you need to see....and you can still enjoy the story without any shock of the film's age jarring you.

5) I resent the fact that we never got our Morris Day/Jerome feature film. These two just steal the film at gunpoint from Prince whenever they're onscreen, and they're the most comfortable of the non-actors in front of the camera. They deserved a much, much bigger movie career then they ended up having.
Appolonia Kotero is about to reveal the true reason
for her casting in this film....

6) Even though she is very easy to look at, Appolonia Kotero is the weakest link of this film. Apparently Apppolonia was added during production after Vanity backed out, and it's not surprising to me; she seems to drift through this film awkwardly and timidly and her line readings are almost uniformly winge-worthy. And on top of all this, her one musical number is easily the most boring of all.

7) And speaking of the musical score....let's be honest here. The songs are good but the smack of a 'greatest hits' package, being pretty disjointed. Hell, I always find it funny that when we get to the big moment when The Kid accepts that he can accept the input of The Revolution and not treat them as a back-up group, the song that represents that really only different due to the tempo (it doesn't help that some of the songs prior to the transformation were co-written by Wendy and Lisa). That being said, I do appreciate that Prince is generous enough to let some of his co-stars have some of the highlights, particularly the Time's two numbers.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise...these two are the true
stars of this film.
8) I wonder how the film would have changed if we got a little bit more of The Kid's parents. I do get the idea that we're seeing these characters only through The Kid's eyes, and usually it's at moments when they're at their worst. I do get that without seeing this harshness we wouldn't get such a strong sense of why The Kid is so protective of his music and is so afraid of becoming his father. But if we got more nuance to both characters, I wonder if we would get a more nuanced version of The Kid....if only by osmosis.

9) I know this is a silly statement, but I really wish they didn't include Morris and Jerome in amongst the people standing there grooving on 'Purple Rain.' It implies a face turn that is neither set up previously or earned by them. It's weird, because I know on some level that this rivalry they have is friendly, but Morris is such a wonderfully delicious villain that I wanted to see some form of comeuppance...even if it is just him getting upset over The Kid's renewed artistry.

10) I almost regret seeing more of Minneapolis than what amounts to one street corner, some railroad tracks and some suburban homes. I say this because what little we see of the outside looks pretty damn interesting--and the areas surrounding the city come off as extremely beautiful.

Overall...a strange little film that maybe shouldn't have worked but does on every level to create a snapshot of a time and place, filled with excellent music and infused with a great energy. And because it hasn't dated even with all the 80's fashion, this is recommended viewing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


"....maybe if I sit hunched up like this, I won't fall out of my
top so often...."
"But that'd just a myth, a story!"
"Myths often have a grain of truth in them, if you know where to look."

1) You will notice that large portions of this story look very different from previous serials. That's because, due to budget constraints, the bulk of the story was done using a model of a tunnel system chormakeyed in behind the actors. And while it is a unique look, it's not neccesarily a good look. The actors frequently look as if they're floating in space, and it's hard not to notice the sameness of all the rock behind them. Still, I give the production team credit for trying something new.

2) This is the penultimate Leela serial, and it's easy to see why Louise Jameson didn't want to come back the following season. Leela has pretty much become an infantilized child at this point, simpering and acting like a dolt and having tantrums left right and center. None of the insight and intelligence that Leela had under Hinchcliffe survives, leading us to wonder why The Doctor wants to hang with her in the first place. Plus the more modest version of the 'leather' tankini (obviously fashioned out of cloth) that covers up her butt but somehow cannot manage to sit comfortable under her bustline, resulting in many moments where we see Jameson struggling to adjust her outfit to prevent a pop-out moment.

3) Truth be told, there's a fundamental reason why I've been dragging my feet on writing up this 10 Statements is because....well, this serial is relentlessly boring. This is not like some of the later Williams serials (and trust us, we'll get to them down the line) where their awfulness bursts from the story like an overripe piece of fruit; this is a story that just sits there for long stretches and does nothing to distinguish itself one way or another. You're likely to forget it the moment the closing credits roll on the last segment.
It's not easy to float on a fabricated set....

4) Remember how I spent a lot of time talking about how Hinchcliffe frequently utilized horror motifs to liven up his tenure? Well, here we see Williams utilizing one of his favorite motifs--namely, utilizing mythology and classic literature and resetting them in a science fiction setting. There will be times where it works (wait until I sing the praises of The Androids of Tara), frequently, like here, it doesn't. This is because unlike Hinchcliffe, who found ways to obscure and change around his inspiration, Williams just marches out his inspiration aspects and asks us to marvel at how he's doing a riff on Jason and The Argonauts or Damocles or any one of a number of stories. Hell, he frequently has The Doctor pointing out the similies throughout this story.

5) You can see here that Williams has reoriented the series to become more child-oriented, which means that there's a broader sense of humor in effect. And that humor is pretty nonsensical, beginning with the opening scene with The Doctor painting....something. It's something that's still subtle at this point (it'll get reeeeaaaalllly broad once we pass the Key To Time season), but it's real jarring when placed next to Hinchliffe's more mature stories.

6) As much as I blanch at Leela's treatment and debrained status in this story, I do like the way she takes on a mentoring relationship she has with Idas, comforting and advising him much as The Doctor advises her. My favorite moment is a very, very sparse handful of positive moments arise from this mentoring, when Leela tells Idas 'The Doctor has saved many fathers,' when the young man frets over the fate of his father.
Yes, they're ribbed...for her pleasure.

7) Perhaps the oddest thing about this serial is how it carries on the borderline radical political stance that colored the previous serial, The Sun Makers. There's a moment in the third part where the story literally stops for a few minutes so that a random female Trog explains to The Doctor and Leela how they're pawns in a massive capitalist scheme where they're worked to exhuastion, the Seers orchestrating cave-ins that control the population so that the population won't exhaust their resources so that.... It's a dreadfully confusing moment that stops the painfully slow narrative flow of the story dead.

8) With all the pointless bullcrap that goes on in this story, I will say that the cliffhanger for the first part of this story is not only really novel, but plays on William's interest (an interest that is, shall we say, spottily displayed throughout his three year tenure) in hard science. The idea of the spaceship becoming a new planet due to gravity is pretty freaky, but it's very much in keeping with the physics of the situation. Were that the other two cliffhangers were as inventive.

9) Okay, the look of the Guards and the Seers (at least until they take their helmets off) are really intriguing....until you realize they have no reason to have that seven eyelets at each character's sightline. I get that, in keeping with the Jason and The Argonauts' theme of the serial, these costumes are supposed to signify that they're analogs to the Hydra, but still--what's the cultural reason for this change?

10) Even with all the mugging and dismissiveness The Doctor displays--even after he seems invested in the Minyans' quest given the part that race plays in Time Lord history--I do appreciate the way he sticks up for the Trogs and refuses to let them be ejected by arguing how they are the true race banks of the Minyans. It's indicative of these stray moments throughout the Williams stories where The Doctor isn't playing games and behaving like a goof, and is actually revealed as the Smart Crusader we know and love.

Overall...a boring, boring story that's sadly far more indicative of the Williams era that you would think. Hell, it may end up making you angry at how Williams seems to have squandered the set up he inherited from Hinchcliffe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE BIG WHITE (2005)

Yep...Holly Hunter bound with electrical tape.  It's a
laugh, wait, No It Isn't!
"Tastes like a rectal polyp."
"How would she know?"

1) This film is to Fargo and A Simple Plan what Killing Zoe and Romeo Is Bleeding is to Reservoir Dogs. Namely, it's a film where director Mark Mylod and writer Collin Frieson so wanted to be The Coen Brothers and/or Sam Raimi that they took a giant broad jump over the line that separates hommage from slavish imitation....and ended up with a horrid mess.

2) Of course, the film maybe could have been saved if the people involved were actually invested in giving actual performances. With one, maybe two exceptions, this cast--and it's a very strong cast--is more concerned with mugging and broadness and quirkiness rather than making us believe in them as actual characters. This results in us never connecting with the narrative and just staring at this endless freakshow.

3) You know how badly constructed Freison's script is? It's so bad that certain integral character points are totally obscured. I did not get that Holly Hunter's Margaret was suffering from what she claimed was Tourette's until it's mentioned forty-five minutes in. I didn't realize that the two aspiring hit men played by Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown were supposed to be gay until almost the end of the film. These aspects of the characters are supposed to be the source of major laughs, but those laugh lines fall flat because they're not made clear enough. This movie is so fragmented and sloppily written that it actively sabotages itself.

4) The only actor who seems really invested in making this movie work is Robin Williams' Paul. Williams actually endeavors to make this mess of Coen-isms, quirks and badly constructed narrative points. Willams does his best to give Paul's desperation and sadness a tangible quality, making the action he takes thoroughly understandable. It's a pity no one else takes Williams' approach to this material.

It's Alison Lohman rocking a ski hat and looking cute.
Your arguments are no longer valid.
5) Alison Lohman has a thankless, thankless role as Giovanni Ribisi's girlfriend. Her only job in this film is to look cute, whine about relationships and give her boyfriend a key plot development in a coincidental way. She is wasted in this movie, the biggest sore spot in an entire landscape of soreness.

That being said, I'd love to see in her just that lil' ski hat she wears for most of the film. And nothing else.

6) What happened to Giovanni Ribisi? I know he's a great actor. I've seen him give great performances. Why is he, as the insurance investigator Tim, doing this lame imitation of Matthew Broderick? I can never take him seriously, nor sympathize with him, because he's such an relentless pratt.
That masked man should have beat up the writer and not
Giovanni Ribisi
7) And then there's Holly Hunter....oh, GOD, Holly Hunter. If most everyone in the film can't be bothered to invest themselves in the film, Hunter's Margaret seems to have invested herself in another film entirely. It's almost as if she took her role as an excuse to follow up on any impulse she had, resulting in this flopping, ranting, ludicrous performance where she just behaves in ways I suspect were meant to be cute, but are just repellant.

8) You know, this film is so amazingly sloppy that we're led to believe the movie proper will explain the opening tableau of Hunter skipping down the road in pajamas in a snowstorm, the events of the third act lead you to believe that promise will be paid off on--and then you realize that that first scene was never intended to be a teaser at all.

9) Is there a reason for this film to be set in Alaska (played by Winnipeg) other than to fool us that it's an American production? Didn't think so.

10) I suppose I should think of something else positive to say about this mess....well, it does make some good use of music by The Eels, including making one of my favorite songs of theirs, 'Last Stop This Town' the movie's de facto theme song.

Overall...sometimes there's a really good reason why a film's theatrical release is cancelled and its DVD release is posponed. Sometines, it's just really, really bad, and no singular performance can save it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


"I have a bad feeling about this, is as if a different,
less competant person is controlling our adventures..."
"Gentlemen, I've got news for you. This lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead. Any worries?"

1) This is the first story of Graham Williams' tenure as the series' producer, and it'll prove to be a dark, dark time in the show's history. A lot of people give Williams a pass because his few highpoints are very, very high (The Key To Time), and because he got Douglas Adams to be script editor and to write a story or two. Since I think of Adams as a man with a very limited repertoire who showed more contempt for Who than affection, and The Key of Time hit and miss...well, I'm not all that impressed.

2) That being said--much like the last time we had a transition between producers, this story feels much more like a product of the previous administration. There's a definite Hinchcliffian Gothic feel to the story thanks to the atmospheric set designs and a clever script by Terence Dicks. In its way, this is the perfect melding between Hinchcliffe's very complex, very adult storytelling and Williams' much more simplistic, more child-oriented way of doing things.

3) The biggest indication of the sea change lies in Leela herself. It's a lot more subtle than it'll be in later serials, but there's a noticeable dumbing down of the character, as well as a general display of ignorance on her part. Louise Jameson does her best to deal with this schizophrenic revision, but it's obvious even when Dicks' script tries to create some continuity (the outburst where the Doctor defends her contention that there's been a drop in temperature is particular stands out) that she's not the person Philip Hinchcliffe intended her to be any more.
"So to're greedy, you're honorable, you're a
screamer, and you're that, Leela?"

4) While I appreciate that Dicks gives all of the supporting characters some time to define themselves, even inconsequential ones such as Ralph Watson's Ben and Annette Woollet's Adelaide, not all of them are worth it. Adelaide, in particular, is next to useless, being there mainly to sniff about Leela being a savage and screaming. A lot.

5) The weirdest thing about Leela is this story, incidentally, is how much I like her dressed in the slacks and cable-knit sweater she sports for the bulk of this story. The sweater takes away the rather silly leather tankini, which looks more bizarre in each new setting (but then, I'll learn to miss the original leather tankini when Williams introduces his new version later in the season), and seems to emphasize her viciousness. Heaven help me, here is the one time I find her sexy.

6) We should probably address the Rutan. Okay, I appreciate the (apparently spur-of-the-moment) choice to connect this monster to the Sontarans, the fact that it is...well, a giant dayglo green jellyfish with goofy shaky lines for eyes. The story does manage to conceal and obfuscate the appearance of the monster through shooting it through the foggy outsides of the lighthouse...but once it reveals itself to the Doctor on the steps in the fourth part, it's hard to take it seriously at all.

Evil Jello Molds are always a disappointment.
7) ...especially given how gleefully creepy Colin Douglas is when the Rutan sneaks around disguised at Ruben. Not saying a word, his only reaction a wicked grin, Douglas' performance during this sequence is wonderful to watch. It makes up for some of the cliched elements of the character in the earlier parts of the story.

8) That whole last segment of the fourth page seems a bit...gratuitous, innit? I understand the need to repel the Rutan invasion fleet, but the whole 'we're going to convert the lighthouse into a laser weapon using Lord Grubby-Hands' diamonds he happens to keep on hand' development stinks of last minute improvisation designed to take up a few minutes and give Louise Jameson an excuse to ditch those uncomfortable contact lenses.

9) Given where Williams' tenure goes over his next couple of seasons, I have to give the story credit for continuing the fatalism and darkness of the Hinchcliffe era. Outside of The Doctor and Leela, no one really survives. Okay, some of that lack of survival was welcome--I'm looking at you, Adelaide the Screamer--but even the characters who behave in a heroic matter get their asses electrocuted. And this fatalism also leads to a scene where The Doctor admonished Leela for exulting in her killing the Rutan which is brief, but effective.

10) The very end may seem rather innocuous, with the Doctor quoting the poem that partially inspired this story...but this is just the first appearance of a lazy trope Williams uses again and again where he acknowledges his source material at the end. And trust me, it gets tired quickly.

Overall...a fairly good transitionary story that has within the seeds to why I do not care much for Graham Williams' tenure as producer. And while it gets much worse as we delve deeper into this dark time of Classic Who, this tale can be tentatively recommended.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ten Statements About....JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME (2011)

Place your own beginning to a vaguely homoerotic joke here.
"What you just said sounded like Yoda took acid and stumbled into a business meeting."
"You can make all the fun of Yoda that you want. Yoda would be fucking killer in a business meeting."

1) On its surface, this is one of my least liked subgenres of dramedies--namely the 'Holy Fool' comedy, where some psychologically or culturally awkward individual enriches the lives of those around him with his simplistic views of life. But unlike so many of these 'Holy Fool' films, this one works because the film doesn't flinch from acknowledging that Jeff, the designated Holy Fool, is a bit of a screw-up whose life isn't all that wonderful. Even more importantly, it leaves the Holy Fool's situation only superficially improved and lets us decide if this is a temporary uptick or not.

2) One of the reasons this film is effective is because its three principles are cast against type--especially Jason Segal. The Duplass Brothers, who wrote and directed, seems to have recognized something I didn't realize about Segal...namely that there's a quality to his face that makes him look haunted and lost at times. The Duplasses takes full advantage of this, both when using Jeff as a catalyst for Ed Helms' Pat's storyline and when exploring whether this Holy Fool is all that effective as a life leader.

3) I don't know if the Duplasses intended this or not, but I continued to find myself obsessed with the way Judy Greer, who plays Pat's wife Lisa, looks so much like Susan Sarandon, who plays the mother of both Pat and Jeff. To me, it means that Pat's attraction to Lisa may have something to do--whether consciously or not--with his own issues with his family. It might also explain while Pat and Lisa don't have kids even after being married for this long....

Somehow, when I think of all my contemporaries who wish
to see Susan Sarandon wet, I don't think this is what they
4) Susan Sarandon may very well be in that category of women (like Selma Hayek) who just. doesn't. age. And because she's still got this timeless quality, it makes the whole subplot of her and her insecurities regarding a secret admirer weird. Quite frankly, she doesn't look all that much older than Segal and Helms (something driven home every time she interacts with Rae Dawn Chong, who does look her age), even though she's got to be in her late 50's by now; she definitely doesn't look 'ugly and droopy.'

5) While I understand how the whole sequence with the basketball game is designed to give us some insight into how Jeff's mind works, I wonder if it really was needed. It does seem to only take up time and while the fact that Jeff was an ace ball player was established in the credit sequence, the way it was established is so borderline subliminal (a photo of him playing for Harvard) that I can see people easily overlooking it.

6) I know I might be isolated in this opinion, but I don't find the destruction of Pat's Porsche all that funny. It's not because I don't find the destruction of silly status symbols funny; it's because the sequence of events is waaaay too spot on as a metaphor for the stripping away of Pat's high-class pretentions so he can emerge a better person in the final act. It's the sort of too-clever-for-its-own-good plot development this film manages to avoid for the rest of its running time.

7) I have to wonder if solidifying the place this film occurs in as Baton Rogue was wise. It really doesn't offer up anything specific to the story except that it's close to New Orleans--which is referenced in Saradon's plotline but not really paid off on. Given how the story is more about these three characters and the way their lives intersect, maybe not drawing attention to the city would have made more sense.
"Uhhhh, no...Paul's not here, man."

8) Anyone who doubts my contention in the past that Jason Segal deserves a bigger career should look at the scene in the fancy restaurant Pat coerces Jeff to go into to spy on Lisa. Segal manages to get so many emotions on his face--his awkwardness at being out in public, his embarrassment at being dressed as he is (and presumably stinking of pot) in this environment, his compassion for his brother--while also maintaining his mental and emotional disconnectiveness. It's an amazing performance from an actor who's underrated.

9) I get that coincidence is meant to be a major part of the film; the quote at the very beginning makes that very clear. But there are some coincidences--particular one that hinges on a character not noticing a co-worker friend's tattoo--that threaten to break the film's narrative flow. The Duplass Brothers never quite pull the suspension of disbelief wholely out of shape, you can hear it creaking at these moments.

10) The, the ending is jarring. It signals a violent tone shift in the narrative, switches between conventional and handheld, and just doesn't quite work out. Plus, from the moment Jeff starts running along the bridge, the entire direction of this plot point is thoroughly predictable. This might be the one thing that works the least for the film as a whole, even though it could have worked if blocked out better.

Overall...while it is flawed, violently so, there's enough here that lifts it up above the 'quirky indie comedy' that I can't stand so much. Plus it's got three good central performances. Recommended with reservations.