Stream Police Ep. 17: Dead Man

It’s ’95 Fest here at Stream Police and Michael and John are counting down some of their favorite flicks of that iconic year. Who will make the cut? Casper? Batman Forever? Mortal Kombat, maybe? (It did have some impressive puppets). On top of that, the dynamic duo reviews, indie heartthrob Jim Jarmusch’s ’95 cult western, Dead Man with Johnny “Finding Neverland” Depp. Did they like it? You’ll have to listen to find out. Stupid f#@king podcast.

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Females are Strong as Hell!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I’m sure by now you’ve already binged your way through this and moved on to the next all-you-can eat TV buffet. Bloodline, maybe? That being said, we love to L-O-L here at Mildly Pleased so I think we have a responsibility to at least say something about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Not to mention there’s been talk of an upcoming Podcast with the prompt: “Top Ten Sitcoms Characters We’d Like to Hang Out With”. Who knows? Maybe someone from this breakout Netflix hit will be a part of that conversation. Or should I call it a “un-breakout” hit? I shouldn’t.

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It Happens

It Follows

“Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” Never did I think this concept could be used for pure evil. Now it has. It Follows is the breakout horror hit from writer/director David Robert Mitchell and like the best horror films it learns that all you need is a little to scare a lot. In this case, it’s a simple premise, so simple that it’s amazing that no one has ever done it. A sexually transmitted haunting that follows you until you pass it on. Only you and the previous carrier can see It. It can look like anyone, sometimes even people you know, and if you are killed by It it is then passed back to the previous carrier. The whole idea feels like an urban legend we were all told as kids to scare us away from sex, but in this movie its real and it’s coming.

The film “follows” Jay (Maika Monroe), an attractive teenage girl living in the suburbs with her group of friends who do nothing but lay about and watch old horror movies. “It” comes into play after Jay goes on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary) only to find herself chloroformed and tied to a chair after their act of passion. Hugh explains everything I listed above and lets her go. Leaving the curse as her ball and chain to carry, one with a short chain too.

What It Follows does best is take what we normally regard as “safe moments” and instill them with fear. What I mean is that in most horror movies you can usually tell when the scary parts are going to happen and when the not scary parts are going to happen. For most horror films “night = scary, while day = safe.” It Follows does not follow these same rules. For It Follows any time of day is scary and anyone around you can be scary. The feeling of dread when you see someone walking towards you in the distance, not sure if they’re coming for you, only to find out they are. It’s those surprising moments, heightened by musician Disasterpeace’s ‘80s inspired score, that make the film stand from the rest of the crowd.

I give It Follows props for its unique premise, but that doesn’t mean it is completely invulnerable to cliches. Probably the biggest one is character logic. Though I did like the cast and appreciated that they weren’t annoying, screaming douchebags saying “dude” every other line, they make a lot of bad decisions. “Hmm, I’m scared. Where should I hide?” How about a swing set at creepy park near the woods at night?” Or how about, “I’ve been driving for so long, where should I rest? How about the hood of my car in the woods?” You could at least sleep INSIDE the car.

Other minor complaints were that the film relied a little too heavily on its score. I would have loved to see more scenes of “It” simply trudging along in silence, it would have been nice to get that contrast. Also the jump scares. I understand that horror films, especially quiet horror films need jump scares, but at least make the scare mean something. A red ball hitting a window so that it can make a “thump” is lazy. If that’s the best scare you can come up with in that scenario you’re not thinking hard enough.

One more thing, I don’t know what this film is trying to say. Myself and my colleagues Mr. Lemme and Mr. Wessman talked about this after watching this movie. Is this saying something about teen pressure to have sex? STDS? Rape? Maybe it’s nothing, which is fine. Though I do feel like there’s some untapped potential here. I would have loved to see more hints toward a deeper meaning to give the film more substance. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the film, it’s merely a suggestion.

Overall, I’d say It Follows is definitely better than your typical modern horror film. It’s original, scary enough, certainly stylish, and was assembled by a solid cast and crew. Hopefully success can follow David Robert Mitchell with his next project instead of catching up to him and boning him to death. Otteni out.

T3 86: Top 10 Cover Songs

The story of the video game Rock Band, as well as its sequels, is the story of how the world’s greatest cover band eventually becomes the most popular group of all time. Here at Mildly Pleased, we’d like to believe that could happen someday. I mean, is that really such a far cry from what things are already like today? Don’t all the most popular artists play music that sounds exactly the same? What if it was literally the same? These are the musing of an old, bitter man. I am not that man. I found his notes and thought them worth printing here. You could say I “covered” them. Heh.

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Four And Three And Season Two

Broad City – Season 2

In its first season, Broad City was a show I liked, but never quite loved.  I felt a little guilty about this, since it seemed like everyone who managed to watch this fringe-y Comedy Central show was able to love it unconditionally, while I kept thinking, “It’s good, but is it that good?”  Maybe you could chalk this up to the fact that there have been a lot of “hang out shows” in the past few years, and Broad City never quite transcended it’s astonishingly low stakes by being anything other than just pretty funny.  However, I’ll also admit that there may have been a tad bit of personal jealousy in my inability to embrace Broad City‘s first season, as I can remember watching its first few episodes in the single room I was renting in L.A. as that town was swiftly crushing me, and I was just on the verge of packing things in and moving back home.  Meanwhile, here were Abbi and Ilana, these fellow twentysomethings starring in their own television show, and probably provoking some little part of me to begrudgingly think “I could make a show like this”.  But thankfully I’ve enjoyed season 2 of Broad City quite thoroughly, as time has quieted those earlier, mostly idiotic thoughts, while this show has just gotten more confident and more willing to embrace its own directionlessness in weird and delightful ways. Continue reading

What a Terrible World this Would Be

The Decemberists- What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

How could you ever grow weary of turn of the century tunes about press gangs and infanticide? Whether you’re picking out the perfect flannel to go with your civil war beard or sinking your teeth into a vegan artisan donut, The Decemberists have been there as the consummate hipster folk band of this era. I could imagine the old timey gimmick has gotten a little too old for some. Everyone in this band is pushing forty and yet still sound like pretentious Lit majors. Nonetheless, I still find the folksy approach as charming as a makeshift birdhouse. Which is impressive considering I’ve probably heard this album over twenty times (not always willingly).

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World just so happens to be one of the albums that has been on constant shuffle for two months now at the Barnes & Noble where I work. I know this album from front to back, with the exception of track 3 which doesn’t work on the store copy. On my first listen about twenty shifts ago, my reaction was that Decemberists album no. 7 was taking on more than it could chew. The first three tracks all build to epic rock crescendos with big brass sections and choruses of singing children. The album then takes an odd u-turn with the understated lead single “Make You Better” in the cleanup spot. It’s followed by an even slower, contemplative song, and then a softer than soft acoustic number. From here on out the album goes back and forth between styles, all somewhat similar but not enough to be cohesive.

I think back to The Decemeberists last album The King is Dead. That album was all folksy Americana and it worked. The one before that, The Hazards of Love, was all over the top rock opera stuff, and it worked. What this new album is isn’t as clear in sound or in lyrical content. There are emotional love songs, songs about the south, sea shanties, it’s all over the place. My suggestion? Stick to a path and follow it.

What I haven’t addressed is when when this album wants to work it does. “Make You Better” feels the most natural with its moody guitar and school boy delivery from Colin Meloy. Meanwhile, “The Wrong Year” is everything I could ever want in a Decemberists song; a relaxed tempo, sensitive lyrics, accordion, bada bing, bada boom. As for the rest, there’s some perfectly acceptable moments but as a whole this feels more like an iTunes playlist than an album. Like a drunk fan put together a mashup of different Decemberists songs from the past fifteen years. Don’t get me wrong, I like it fine, but I see so more potential here. I think The Decemberists still have great albums in them, this one just happens to be a good one.

But what do I know? If you haven’t already heard this, then by all means, put on some flannel, get a coffee, get an artisan vegan donut, dunk ‘n dip, and let it all soak it in.

Favorite Tracks: “Calvary Captain,” “Make You Better,” “The Wrong Year”

Shadowmen

What We Do In The Shadows

You’d think we’d be done making fun of vampires at this point.  Or at least, that’s what prompted the slight indifference I felt when I initially heard about the latest film from Flight Of The Conchords collaborators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.  But upon watching What We Do In The Shadows, it became apparent to me that that’s not really the case.  I mean there was that Seltzer/Friedberg Twilight parody that came out around the time of that franchise’s pinnacle of popularity, but I don’t need to tell you why that movie probably blows, assuming it exists, though I’m not sure since it seems like those movies immediately float into the ether of irrelevance after they’re released.  Then there was also Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive from last year, which played with a lot of the conventions you equate with these immortal bloodsuckers in interesting ways, but I wouldn’t have called it a comedy by any means.  Which fortunately left this Kiwi ensemble with a lot of well-known conventions to turn on its head, and in the process turn into blood-stained absurdist hilarity.

What We Do In The Shadows is told in a mockumentary style, though it never leans too heavy on this style, and thus gives the actors plenty of room to riff instead of being restricted by the format.  Also, I’m hesitant to make the comparison since I am so completely out of touch with whatever reality TV is nowadays, but the movie does have a bit of a reality TV vibe, since it centers on a bunch of dysfunctional dudes living under one roof, it’s just that all of them happen to be vampires.  Among these vampire dudes is Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) an 183 year-old former vampire Nazi, Vladislov (Jemaine Clement) an 862 year-old sexy shapeshifter, Viago (Taika Waititi) a 317 year-old dandy who’s still hung up on his long-lost love, and their fourth roommate Petyr, who essentially looks like Nosferatu, and thus every time he shows up it is both terrifying and ridiculous at the same time.

What We Do In The Shadows doesn’t rely a ton on plot, but I’d say it’s one of those movies (like most ones featuring Seth Rogen) that gets by on the strength of it just being really funny from scene-to-scene.  But even despite the fact that the movie doesn’t have a huge overarching plot tying it all together — though there is a fifth vampire that comes into the mix and threatens to blow their cover — I wouldn’t call it sloppily written.  The movie has a nice forward momentum to it, and a lot of the gags tend to build gradually upon a lot of the silly mythos that the movie (and 200 years of vampire fiction) have laid out for us.

Other than my Flight Of The Conchords fandom, I can’t say I had a ton of previous experience with the people in this movie.  Of course, in this regard What We Do In The Shadows serves as another testament to the blissful deadpan of Jemaine Clement, who lends himself to some great line-readings as well as the image of his face on a cat’s body, which has been haunting me for the past few days.  Taika Waititi on the other hand, to me was always just that director guy that sometimes collaborated with Jemaine and Brett Mackenzie (who’s unfortunately not present in this film), but Waititi gives a surprisingly adept performance that’s filled with a lot of awkwardness and even a little bit of heart.  Also, Flight Of The Conchords‘ Rhys Darby even gets in on the fun by playing the leader of a werewolf gang, and who’s declaration that “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves” will surely rank among the most memorable lines in any movie this year.