Mountain Men (2016): Canadian Bromance (Review)

Tyler Labine, Chase Crawford, Mountain Men

Written and directed by Cameron Labine, Mountain Men stars Tyler Labine and Chase Crawford as brothers who have grown apart since their dad went missing and  is presumed dead. The wedding of the their mother Marion (Christine Willes) brings the two men together. A trip to the family cabin to evict a squatter ends with them being stranded on top of the snow-covered mountain. 

Topher  (Labine) stayed behind and Cooper (Crawford) moved away and became successful. The distance between the two siblings is more than that of geography, they are miles apart in everything.  Once at the cabin the brother’s end up with the truck destroyed the cabin burnt to the ground and  no way of contacting anyone back in the town.

The two have unresolved issues and on their first night headed off the mountain, Coop eats too many pot cookies and walks off a cliff breaking his leg. Topher uses a survival guide, written by their father, to splint Coop’s leg and then he begins the long trek to get Cooper off the mountain.

As the brothers make their way down to civilization, they work on the many issues that stands between them.

The film looks brilliant, the lighting works to make the atmosphere look mind-numbingly cold. Labine is excellent as the pot dealing “professional DJ” whose much younger girlfriend is pregnant.  Crawford  is spot on as the stressed out younger brother whose life is unravelling.

Mountain Men was filmed in British Columbia and the stunning scenery helps to move the story along. The tale is slow moving, but not sluggish, and quite low-key. As a dramedy the film works toward a satisfactory conclusion that feels spot on.

There is no violence in this film, apart from a half-hearted wrestling/fist fight on a mound of snow, and while the language contains a number of “F-Bombs” these are not gratuitous in  nature and match the situations.

Topher and Cooper work to patch up differences and begin to bond after so many years of mutual disgruntlement with one another. The two men have an excellent chemistry and this helps to move the story on.

This is a film that, despite its low key approach, warms the heart and entertains brilliantly. It is described as a family film and with a lack of sex, violence or gore, could be classified as such but viewers with young children will find they get bored and the language is too grown up for the under 12s.

Mountain Men is streaming on Netflix and is a real 5 star film that can best be described as “On Golden Pond” for the younger set.   Heart warming, slow and peaceful, apart from at least two “life threatening” situations. The film is about growing up and accepting what the world is.

Watch this one and see why filmmaking is not all about superheroes or car chases, or shootouts. Sometimes the best films are just about people.  Head over now and turn this one on.

Go ahead and treat yourself to a pleasant viewing experience.

 

The X Files: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster (Review)

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With an abbreviated “special event” sort of season, The X Files has accelerated its time line, putting in a Bad Blood type of episode with Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster. While not as intricate as the Vince Gilligan scripted tale where both the FBI agents had wildly differing versions of the same event, “Were Monster” is just as clever and well put together.

Prior to discussing the storyline and all its random “Alice in Wonderland” type of oddities, a word about guest stars in this latest visit to Chris Carter’s verse. As in prior episodes a well-known face, or two, appears in this episode.

First and foremost, Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Monsters U) appears in the opening moments as a “stoner” sniffing gold spray paint from a bag as a “were creature” dashes past him, and his girlfriend.

Alex Diakun is another familiar face from the world of science fiction and horror, the Canadian actor has worked since 1971 in a variety of television and film projects, including Dead Zone and The X Files: I want to Believe and has worked on the series before, notably on episode’s written by “Were Monster” director Darin Morgan.

The X Files takes the legend of the werewolf and turns in on its head and changes the type of creature into a were-lizard. All during the episode, Fox Mulder is having a crisis of faith. Doubting his own mission in life along with his beliefs. As the one who “Wants to believe” Mulder suddenly turns into a male, and sarcastic, version of his more level headed partner.

This transition is not the only one that takes place throughout the episode. Many characters in the show, met by the agents, are in a phase of change, or are not what they appear. The transgender hooker, the animal control officer, the psychiatrist and, of course, Guy Mann (Rhys Darby).

Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster has its fair share of humor, a’la How the Ghosts Who Stole Christmas (voted one of the best episodes out of the first multi season run of The X Files). From Mulder’s telling Dana that the creature “shot blood ‘out’ its eyes” to the malfunctioning camera app, there are comic moments.

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“Shoots blood out its eyes…”

In fact the entire story deals not only with transitions and points of view, it brings up self-doubt and a mix of warped humor with more sophisticated views on life. (The entire exercise in monster hunting by Fox (as doubting Thomas) and Scully who plays Devil’s Advocate, has a twist on the  Pogo punchline: We have met the enemy (monster) and it is us [sic].)

As the two agents track down the “were monster” (which is another “monster of the week” plot scenario devoid of any long running storyline connection) a number of homages, or just plain X File references, appear. At one point Fox’s phone rings and it is The X Files theme that floats out from his cell.

The outfit that Guy Mann wears, when he is not the were-lizard, screams Carl Kolchak aka Darren McGavin (from The Night Stalker) who appeared in an episode of the original X Files in 1999 as Agent Arthur Dales in two episodes.

Sidenote: Darby kills it as Guy Mann, full stop. 

There are other less apparent gestures to things outside the verse. The green bottles are evocative of the Absinthe bottles back in the time of werewolf legends for example. Others are more of an insider nod and wink, like the headstone for former X Files producer Kim Manners at the cemetery.

Some of the scenes play out like some comic sketch, the doctor and Mulders conversation about the monster (and the show’s clearest Pogo reference) and the tale that Mann relates to Fox also feels like an oddball comedy expository gag.

Apart from the monster of the week plot, Mulder admits to feeling old, “middle-aged,” and out of it. On a sidenote, Gillian Anderson actually looks younger in this show than she did in all of Hannibal… His crisis of faith in his own mission statement makes the viewer uneasy and this never quite leaves even as the tale winds down.

The X Files: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster is not only a long and well done “Shaggy Dog” story, but is also a long punch line to the “man bites dog” gag (or in this instance “man bites lizard-man”).

Before the end of the episode, Fox has a long scene with Mann and the two indulge in a comedic double act to die for. The entire episode is full of Easter eggs for fans of the long running series check out the article over on Vulture where Keith Uhlich goes through a number, including the Daggoo reference, the other tombstone, and a number of fan favorite moments or plot devices.

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10,000 years…

The X Files Shaggy Lizard story ends with Mulder regaining his faith, and enthusiasm, for the hunt. Fox airs this return to Chis Carter land on Mondays. Tune in for some nostalgic enjoyment and to see where Mulder and Scully will head next.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010) Hillbilly Hilarity

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I really should learn to stop underestimating the choice of films on Netflix. Although it may take me awhile. I’ve only just learned to listen to my daughter when she recommends a film, despite the fact that we both vehemently differ on our opinions of Baz Luhrmann‘s Moulin Rouge. She recommended Tucker & Dale vs Evil and I immediately decided to watch it, but only after learning that the wonderful Alan Tudyk was in it.  I’m glad that I did, as it is full of hillbilly hilarity from start to finish.

I adore Tudyk’s acting ability and my only complaint about the film Serenity was his character’s fate. I won’t say anymore, but it almost spoiled the film for me!

Written and directed by Eli Craig, who actually co-wrote the film with Morgen Jurgenson, Tucker & Dale vs Evil stars the aforementioned Tudyk as Tucker and teddy bear cuddly Tyler Labine as Dale and it is a great re-imaging of the 1980s slasher films that featured lots of vapid young people being hacked and slashed by some inhumanly strong psycho killer.

Tucker and Dale are on their way to fix up Tucker’s “vacation home” and when they stop for food and other supplies they come in contact with a group of young university students who are on their way to the lake near Tucker’s property. When Tucker urges his large best friend Dale to approach one of the girls to talk to her, he fumbles his way into a misunderstanding and “freaks” the kids out.

While the two groups go their separate, yet close, ways, the youngsters wind themselves up about hillbilly inbred murderers and one of the group, tells the story of the Memorial Day Massacre that took place in “these very same woods” back before any of the students were born.

In a plot that works on the base level of mistaken intent and the youngsters paranoia, things go from bad to worse for both the students on holiday and Tucker and Dale. Through a series of events that leaves dead bodies all over Tucker’s property, the two country men cannot figure out why, “all these youngsters are killing themselves all over my property.”

While I watched this film primarily because my daughter recommended it and the presence of Alan Tudyk, I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone in the film did a brilliant job and I’m now a fan of Tyler Labine as well as Katrina Bowden who plays the student Allison who inadvertently causes all the death and mayhem.

The film makes fun of all those “inbred country yokels” who are deadly to strangers, and it does it extremely well. This is a real gold mine of fun and everyone works together to make this a very enjoyable film to watch. Sight gags and misunderstandings are in every scene and if you can’t see the humour in this film, perhaps you should stop watching films and take up knitting.

I give this film a full five out of five stars for Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and Katrina Bowden alone, I’d give it another star if I could for the hilarity of the script. In films the hillbilly has become a stereotypical slasher in a genre that has been done to death, this refreshingly funny film takes a humorous look at just how “deadly” stereotypes can be. Tucker & Dale vs Evil is available on Netflix in the UK.

By Michael Smith

Katrina Bowden in Oscar de la Renta.
Katrina Bowden in Oscar de la Renta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15 July, 2013