BLOGS

I Want My VOD: Somebody Up There Likes Me

Nick Offerman gets quirky in the decade-spanning indie comedy Somebody Up There Likes Me, new on VOD this month. Also, Girls fans can get their Ray fix with two new movies from Alex Karpovsky.

Somebody Up There Likes Me
It's become an ironclad rule that indie comedies are required to have a quirky premise, so here's the conceit behind writer/director Bob Byington's quirkerrific low-budget laffer: over the course of 75 minutes, we bear witness to the entire adult life -- broken into five year increments -- of disaffected waiter Max (Keith Poulson), who stays the same age even as time marches on and the people around him grow older. And what a sad little life it is; after his first marriage ends in adultery and divorce, Max hooks up with his breadstick-munching co-worker Lyla (Jess Weixler). Five years after that, they're married and have a gawky, socially-awkward kid. Five years after that, Max's wandering eye lands on the hot babysitter (Stephanie Hunt) leading to another break-up. Five years after that, he's living with the sitter in resentful silence. Five years after that, his now 15-year-old son has had a fling with the sitter, resulting in a grandson. Five years after that... well, you get the idea. The only constants in Max's ever-changing life are his sort-of buddy Sal (Nick Offerman, sporting Ron Swanson's gruff voice behind a greater amount of facial hair) and a sense of humor so deadpan, it barely has a pulse. I'll be honest, I came away from my first viewing of Somebody entirely unimpressed. But after giving the movie a second chance (that slender runtime helped make the idea of a repeat viewing less foreboding), I found myself liking it quite a bit more. Once you adjust to the specific rhythms of Byington's comedy, you'll spot a number of sharp, amusing recurring gags that help make up for the largely unappealing characters (though their hatefulness is by design) and slightly smug "ain't I clever" tone. On the other hand, if you've got an intrinsic dislike of quirk, best not to give this particular comedy one viewing, let alone two... even if you're the world's biggest Ron Swanson fan.
(Somebody Up There Likes Me is available via Tribeca Film On Demand and other VOD services)


Family Weekend
Hard as it may be to believe, there's an entire generation of young viewers who have never seen the Ted Demme-directed cult Christmas comedy, The Ref, in which Denis Leary's burglar held bickering husband and wife Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis hostage in their own home. That's probably why director Benjamin Epps and screenwriter Matt K. Turner felt they could rip the premise off for their own dysfunctional family comedy, Family Weekend, in which neglected 16-year-old jump rope champion Emily (Olesya Rulin) binds her hateful parents (Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Modine) up with rope in a desperate attempt to make them pay attention to their three children... and each other. Lots of screaming and yelling ensues, followed by everyone learning a few life lessons. It's about as aggressively unfunny as it sounds, completely missing the darkly comic tone that made The Ref such a breath of fresh air. At least in that earlier film, all of the performances were on an even keel tonally. Here, Chenoweth goes shrill and cartoonish (which has sadly become her default setting), while Modine mugs his way through every scene and the three young actors seem to think they're auditioning for a Disney Channel sitcom. The good news is that The Ref can be rented for a mere $2 from Amazon Instant Video, so you can watch the real thing and skip this poor imitation.
(Family Weekend is available via several VOD services and will be released theatrically on March 29)


Red Flag
Rubberneck
If you only know Alex Karpovsky as Ray from Girls, here's a chance to get acquainted with his side career as an indie film multi-hyphenate like his boss at HBO, Lena Dunham. Karpovsky wrote, directed and starred in these two micro-budgeted features, which were shot well before Girls became a pop culture phenom. In the rambling road comedy Red Flag, Karpovsky plays a filmmaker named... Alex Karpovsky, who goes on a Q&A tour to support his newest movie, Woodpecker (which was actually Karpovksy's sophomore effort as a director), after enduring a bad break-up with a longtime girlfriend. During his travels, Alex is joined by his John Belushi-like buddy Henry (Onur Tukel) and indie movie groupie River (Jennifer Prediger) who he unwisely had a fling with and now can't get rid of. Shot over just a handful of weeks with little prep time, Red Flag has the look and feel of a film that was made up as the actors went along, but it's an amusing little roman à clef that traffics in the same observational (and often cringe-inducing) humor that defines Girls. Filmed prior to Red Flag, Rubberneck is entirely different viewing experience, one that's rigorously constructed on a formal level with a tightly wound story. Inspired by Steven Soderbergh's moody thriller Bubble, the film casts Karpovsky as socially-awkward lab technician Paul, who develops a creepy fixation on his attractive co-worker Danielle (Jaime Ray Newman, currently on the ABC serial Red Widow) that ends... well, let's just say unhappily. Filled with lots of long, still shots that lend the movie an atmosphere of creepy foreboding, Rubberneck is by far the more accomplished of Karpovksy's two films and demonstrates that there's much more to him than Ray.

(Red Flag & Rubberneck are available via Tribeca Film On Demand and other VOD services)



6 Souls
Originally shot four years ago, this Julianne Moore-starring supernatural thriller is finally getting a belated American release after making the rounds overseas. Really, they needn't have bothered. Moore plays a spiritually-challenged psychiatrist who specializes in multiple personality cases and takes special pleasure in debunking wild theories that prize faith over reason. But she has her own faith in the scientific method shaken by her latest case involving a patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who seems to be sharing his body with the souls of murder victims. The more she investigates his peculiar case, the more she comes to suspect that some higher power -- potentially of the demonic variety -- might be at work. But the bigger question that the movie never answers is why the hell we should care. Illogically plotted and ineptly made, 6 Souls is a laughably awful movie that one can only hope both Moore and Meyers were well-compensated for. Lord knows the only thing this movie had us believing in is the value of the almighty dollar in making up for being part of terrible films.
(6 Souls is available via iTunes and other VOD services.)

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