Ask Me Anything (2014): Dramedy that Hurts

Britt Robertson in Ask Me Anything
Written and directed by Allison Burnett (Untraceable, Underworld Awakening) Ask Me Anything is a bitter dramedy meant to be amusing and all about coming of age and an awareness of self that hurts; it is painful to watch and dreadfully depressing. Starring Brit Robertson (Tomorrowland, Under the Dome) the film has an excellent cast of performers both male and female.

Robert Patrick, Justin Long, Martin Sheen, Mary Hagan, Christian Slater and Kimberly Williams-Paisley all bring much to the table. Robertson plays Katie Kampenfelt who is taking a gap year between high school and university. During her break, she blogs about her life, using a fake name but telling the truth about what she is up to in her day to day life.

She writes about her affair with older community college instructor Justin Long and then becomes a nanny for Christian Slater whom she sleeps with and may be pregnant by. Patrick, her alcoholic father dies and it is revealed that the girl was molested when she was six by a next door neighbor. Later Katie finds out that the father she felt was so distant, kept every single card she ever sent him and died trying to retrieve one that had been thrown away.

The film feels like a sort of off beat comedy in the beginning with Robertson getting a job at the local bookstore only to discover that the owner is a serial sex offender. She is having an affair with a older man who has a girlfriend and he moves away to be “closer to the college.” In reality he moves in with his girlfriend and the two get engaged.

While Ask Me Anything starts out with a somewhat cheerful delivery and “clever” dialogue which is meant to show how intelligent and clever the lead character is. As the film progresses, Katie’s narration becomes less focussed and darker. One of the men in the movie states that the girl is promiscuous and brings up the possibility of her being molested as a child.

What looks at first to be a semi sweet film about a teenage girl learning about life in a dark chocolate-coated world suddenly plunges into the bitter tangy taste of aluminum. Her life is not amusing nor light hearted and the film becomes less about the blog and more about Katie learning right and wrong along with making bad decisions.

Despite the fact that Ask Me Anything is rather depressing and leaves one feeling quite down, Britt Robertson turns in a real crackerjack performance. The movie feels a little like a morality tale. With the actress’s character becoming pregnant and then contemplating abortion or moving in with convicted sex criminal Glenn Warburg (Sheen).

Just as Katie is attempting to deal with her issues, the film shifts gears. The initial thought of the movie being a light hearted look at the drama of being a teenage girl vanishes completely. Of course while watching the film, it becomes apparent that despite the delivery at the beginning, this movie was never meant to be light or amusing.

Ask Me Anything is drama with a capital D and it showcases Robertson’s acting chops brilliantly. Streaming on Showtime at the moment, the film is worth a look, but be warned, the viewer may want to avoid this film if they depress easily. The effectiveness of the film’s message is 100 percent and the mother’s final line at the end of the movie will move you to tears.

‘Tusk’ Kevin Smith With a Wonderful Wickedly Weird Film (Review/Trailer)

‘Tusk’ Kevin Smith With a Wonderful Wickedly Weird Film (Review/Trailer)

The genius known as Kevin Smith has created a wonderful, wickedly weird film called Tusk. While it is highly recommended that audiences should flock to see the quirky movie, not everyone will get it. Those that cannot connect with the genius and “out of the box” delivery by Smith’s cast and crew, will most likely hate it or fail to see all the things that this film does.

iSteve From Funny or Die

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Anyone who’s read my blog (or conversely, watched my YouTube channel) will know that I am about as obsessed with YouTube as your average young person. And yes before you point it out, I’m not that young. But having a daughter who has a fairly successful channel on the old “Tube” introduced me to another world of entertainment.

I won’t be climbing on my YouTube soapbox here, but it was through them that I discovered Funny or Die. A channel that hails from Los Angeles; Hollywood specifically, and they are brilliantly funny.

These guys are consistent, witty masters of the tongue in cheek delivery of some very humorous short films, videos, and skits. They use “real” actors (versus folks that just want to be actors) and they have great production values on all they produce.

iSteve is their latest effort and it is 78 minute film that is a “Bio” of the late Steve Jobs and his rise, fall and rise in the world of commercial computing. It is a combination satire/parody with a good bit of imaginative “reworking” of real events to give it a comedic edge.

Although, not everyone , it seems, can get the joke.

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But this particular nay-sayer  need not feel alone. There were more than a few people who just “didn’t get it.” The same type of people who would never watch Saturday Night Live (SNL)  or say a Chevy Chase film. In the case of humour and the sense of, not everyone is created equal or as I like to say, “Did it hurt when they removed your funny bone?”

Justin Long plays Steve Jobs, resplendent in fake hair colour and beard. He also sports a very trendy pair of rimless eye-glasses and a turtle neck top that completes his Steve costume.  He is, of course, excellent as the faux Steve Jobs. I mean after all this is Justin Long we’re talking about here. How could he be anything but perfect in any role?

Actor Jorge Garcia (Lost, all seasons) plays Jobs’ best friend Steve Wozniak, a long-suffering fellow computer nerd. Garcia makes this brilliantly touching and funny. All the actors do great jobs (get it!) in this film.  Like all projects these guys do, it looks professional (hell, it is professional) and streamlined. If you’ve not seen anything they’ve done before, check out their American Psycho with Huey Lewis and Weird Al:

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I’m going to give this YouTube masterpiece of humour a 5 out of 5 stars.

Why?

Well, for one thing, it’s got Justin Long in it and I’ve been a fan since DodgeBall. In addition, these guys (Funny or Die) are damned funny.

So watch iSteve, because you can and it’s free.

Justin Long as Steve Jobs.
Justin Long as Steve Jobs.

Drag Me to Hell (2009):Campy Dark Humoured Horror

Cover of "Drag Me to Hell (Unrated Direct...
Cover via Amazon

Drag Me to Hell is pretty damn good for a film that sat dormant for over ten years. Sam Raimi and brother Ivan wrote the screenplay after the last of the Evil Dead films had been made. The original title had been The Curse (Hmmm, wonder why Sam didn’t use that title?) and it was meant to be a modern morality tale.

Unfortunately Sam had to wade through three Spiderman films before he could start work on Drag Me to Hell. so it’s no real surprise that the screenplay is over a decade old. This is Sam Raimi going back to his Evil Dead roots. And though he doesn’t have Bruce Campbell to torture, he does have Alison Lohman who proves that you don’t have to be Bruce Campbell to imitate a Timex timepiece.

Lohman actually endured some things at the hands of director Raimi that would have most folks gagging. She doesn’t doesn’t even like the horror genre, but she’s a game girl who did all her own stunts. Pretty impressive.

The film opens with a 1969 visit to a spiritualist who is trying to drive an evil spirit or demon from a young Mexican boy. she loses the fight and the boy is dragged through her floor, screaming all the way to hell. The film then jumps ahead a whole lot of years to the present.

We meet mortgage clerk Christine Brown (Lohman) who is competing for the post of assistant  manager against her creepy colleague Stu Rubin (played with a kind of smarmy charm by Reggie Lee). In an effort to please her annoying boss Mr Jacks (David Paymer) she turns down Mrs Ganush’s  request for an extension on her mortgage which will stop the bank from taking her home. Mrs Ganush is played brilliantly by the much younger Lorna Raver

Mrs Ganush flings herself at Christine’s feet and clutching her skirt, begs for her to re-consider. Christine ‘freaks out’ at this dramatic behaviour and calls for security to remove the gypsy woman. Before she is dragged away by security, she spits at Christine and swears angrily at her.

A shaken Christine leaves for the day and as she gets into her car in the banks parking garage she is attacked by Mrs Ganush. This is one of the funniest scenes in the film as the two battle tooth and nail. At one point Christine ‘staples’ the other womans head. Just when Christine thinks she has won, Mrs Ganuh  snatches a button from her clothes and places a curse on it and Christine. The woman then vanishes.

Christine enlists the help of her fiancée Clay Dalton (Justin Long in perhaps the ‘straightest’ role he’s ever done.) and they go to a fortune teller Rham Jas ( Dileep Rao) who tells her, initially, that there is nothing he can do. He explains that she is being  haunted by an evil spirit. Christine goes home where she is attacked by the spirit and she goes back to Rham Jas pleading for a solution.

Jas explains the the spirit is the Lamia and it is very powerful. He tells her to sacrifice a small animal to appease the spirit. Christine heatedly states that she could never kill and innocent animal. The next day she is attacked by the spirit again.  After she is pummelled and thrown about her bedroom like a rag doll, she kills her pet kitten. (Again one of the funnier moments in the film.)

The rest of the film is Christine’s battle to defeat the now dead Mrs Ganush and the curse. Sam Raimi could just as easily titled the film “Things That Make You Cringe with Embarrassment.”

Most of Christine’s ‘tortures’ are in public and excruciatingly embarrassing. Each set piece is a form of social gaffe that is so outlandish that it reaches the realm of slapstick. The nose bleed at the bank, the humiliation at the meal with Clay’s parents, the entire episode at Mrs Ganush’s funeral.

And that for me was what made the film fun and entertaining. What makes these social faux pas work so well is Christine herself. She is the epitome of the small town farm girl who feels out of her depth in the big city. Her insecurity is what forces her to cruelly turn down the pleading woman at the start of the film and this is what gets her in trouble.

Like his cult classic Evil Dead series and its hapless hero Ash, Christine gets the metaphorical crap kicked out of her, repeatedly. But like some kind of demented Weeble, she refuses to stay down and fights all the way to the end of the film.

This film made me laugh a lot. It also made me jump and squirm at some of the more ’embarrassing’ punishments meted out to the heroine. In short this was Raimi doing what he does best, making horror films that make you do all the aforementioned things while watching.

If they ever give out awards for Court Jesters of Horror, it should go to Sam Raimi and Wes Craven. Two of the best Schlock-Meisters in the business.

I would rate this film as a ‘two-bagger’ because you’ll lose half of your popcorn from jumping and the other half by doubling over in laughter.