SIFF ’19: Zom-Com ’THE DEAD DON’T DIE’ Is Stiff Attempt at Satire

As if struck with rigor mortis, Jim Jarmusch’s take on zombies is a DOA satire of sorts, one that’s much too self-aware for its own good. Foregoing the traditional scares of an undead creeper, Jarmusch swings and misses trying to put the “dead” in deadpan comedy. Even his pairing of stars Adam Driver and Bill Murray remains something that sounds better on paper than actually works in this context, their synchronized low-energy, unfazed drift through the world of the undead unable to get much of a rise. Read More



It was 2003 when I first stumbled across the The Lonely Island. Their rib-tickling send-up of soapy MTV teen dramas ‘The Bu’ played top billing on Channel 101, an off-color, online shorts fest where hungry filmmakers featured their work gratis for weirdos like myself to ingest. Credit Frazzles the Squirrel (and his unfaltering demand for removing and reapplying one’s 3D glasses) for inviting those curious few to investigate these Lonely Island boys down a certifiable rabbit hole of YouTube oddities starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. Preeminently awkward shorts from the Lonely Island trio included such deadpan standouts as ‘Just 2 Guyz” (later adapted into ‘We Like Sports’ for their 2009 album Incredibad), ‘The Backseatsman’ and ‘Ka-Blamo!’. After a momentous run on SNL that saw the three breach viral numbers with just about every digital short they dropped, Sandberg, Taccone and Schaffer have reunited for their second feature film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and have demonstrated that though their production value may be more refined and expensive than ever and their cameo catalogue infinitely more vast, their comedic stylings have adamantly refused to mature, a tendency which proves to be both a gift and a curse for The Lonely Island and their creative offspring.     Read More


Out in Theaters: BRICK MANSIONS

A silver lining to Paul Walker‘s death: the world has been spared a Brick Mansion‘s sequel (2 Brick 2 Mansion?). This rat-faced nincompoop of an actioner begs for franchise play with hands outstretched like a Cambodian child with a nub for a leg, hawking tin whistles and salivating for a hot bowl of gruel. You pity it, look down on it, wish that someone out there in the world had the decency to clean it up, give it a good meal and place a little Grinch pat on its misshapen Cindy Lou Who head. If someone served up this movie to the Grinch, you better believe his heart would have shrunk three sizes. Had Brick Mansions been my sad, dilapidated child, I would have never let it leave the house dressed like such a drunken buffoon and whoever did was borderline abusive (to its unsuspecting audience most of all). Like the inhabitants of the eponymous Brick Mansions (a walled in ghetto distinct of Detroit), everyone involved in making this failing, flailing, faltering deuce of a movie must have been on mild to “Chase the dragons!” amounts of sweet black tar heroin.

Brick Mansions is a movie so discordantly dull, so mindlessly thickheaded, so enduringly tongue-tied that bounding from plot point to plot point is an exercise in parkour itself. From a French man, who is over and over again referred to as such, trying his (half-hearted) hardest at an American accent (WHY?!) to Wu Tang Clan’s finest actor, RZA, slicin’ and dicin’ up red pepper after red pepper (don’t ask), there’s just no amount of yarn to string together the many cacophonous plot elements. And RZA? Seriously?

From the performance to the character itself, RZA is everything wrong with the film. He enunciates through a mouthful of marbles, the well-manicured fine-point beard that is his face drooping like a guy hopped up on Vicodin and about seven bong rips deep. His “performance” is the equivalent of purple drank – it’s mind numbing and will fill you with regret. Watching him act is like being roofied. It’s supposed to hurt so good but leaves you clutching at your hind parts. How anyone keeps handing this guys roles is a mystery for the likes of the Twilight Zone.  

Co-star David Belle, as the incessantly dim but limber-legged Lino, is equally as interesting as a pet rock. For a man who all but invented parkour, Belle’s acting abilities couldn’t be more out of line with his impressive physical feats of physics-defying gymnastics. As he zips and flips off walls, crawlspaces, and rooftops, he’s like a firecracker in action. When he’s poised to spit out a line, he’s a man who trips over his shoelace at the report of a starting pistol. And even his “amazing” ventures of athletic prowess are edited down to footloose irrelevance.  

Parkour loses its “kour” – read: core, as in hardcore (*guitar solo*) – when it’s split up into millisecond by millisecond snippets. A sequence involving a guy who sprints off a building grabs a ladder, swings down that ladder and smashes through a window would look patently hardcore if captured in one fluid shot. Having said that, I would pay good money to see Alfonson Cuaron’s Brick Mansions. What we get instead is a sharp series of events shot from different angles, smashed together so haphazardly and so mindlessly that each piece of the puzzle looks rehearsed to death and wallpapered with safety nets. Anyone can edit a sequence together to achieve the unreal but few people can actually achieve the unreal. Camille Delamarre‘s hackneyed direction robs any and all thrills from what would be otherwise breathtaking entertainment of the simpleton variety, the likes of a daring YouTube video or a David Blane stunt.

Oh Jesus, we haven’t even gotten to the plot. Just imagine Fast and Furious snuck Dredd into a showing of Dances With Wolves. All the horrid cliches are there, waving their hands over their heads like fools, begging to be recognized and called on.

Roguish undercover cop playing fast and loose with government resources? Check. Misrepresented noble savage in the form of heroine-shooting ghetto dwellers? Check. Bringing only fists to a gun fight? Check. Oh, and unlikely duo. Double check!

We’re so many layers deep in the knock-off assembly line that Brick Mansions doesn’t mind stealing from ANOTHER FUCKING PAUL WALKER MOVIE – the original Fast and Furious, which in turn stole from Point Break which probably ripped off a caveman’s painting somewhere down the line. There’s so little to the plot developments that explaining it is just a waste of your time and mine. Just take my word when I say that after Brick Mansions, we’ve now witnessed one of the dumbest movies of the year.

See a flat-chested Russian brute fight two men leaping around like flying squirrels, a vaguely foreign woman chained to a ticking bomb that’s in turn hogtied to a USSR-era Russian nuke and car chases that sprout out of thin air … .because Paul Walker (*guitar solo*)!!! Also, acting on par with The Canyons.

Precariously balancing on Walker’s already not-so-gilded legacy, this is nothing short of an embarrassment for all involved. Brick is so recklessly conceived and shoddily written that by the end of it, it’s as if the writers entirely forgot what movie they were making in the first place. Plot resolutions are such an afterthought that pretty much everything wraps up with a shrug and a “Nah, JK!” In all its detestable glory, it’s a shining example of cocktail napkin scribbles gone horribly wrong, now complete with a happily ever after ending so flat and lifeless that you’ll be pining to watch a Rush Hour marathon in its stead.

It’s a ton of fun, if your idea of fun is wasting an hour and thirty minutes of your life. Brick tries out a few jokes here and there – mostly backflip-centered – but the real joke is on you for seeing the damn thing. This is a movie destined for the recycling bin, begging to be forgotten after it earns its keep, and crossing its fingers at Walker’s legacy equating to box office bucks. The sad reality is that the execs behind it are probably doing a smug little victory dance since this probably would have gone straight to Redbox if not for Walker’s early exit.


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