Tag Archives: reviews

‘Eighth Grade’ About as Bad as You Remember

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Comedian, and now writer/director Bo Burnham has released his first feature Eighth Grade, starring Elsie Fisher as awkward, in-between Kayla Day.

Kayla is trying like almost anyone her age to be cool and fit in in the fast paced, technology-laden world of teens today. We watch, many times, as Kayla creates videos for her YouTube channel: advice on things like being yourself and fitting in. These videos highlight the ways in which Kayla makes an effort to find these things in life and within herself.

Throughout, we are privy to awkward conversations with Dad (Josh Hamilton), the muted sharp glares to and from ‘popular’ girl Kennedy and a handful of awesomely socially tragic clashes with equally awkward and removed teen boys. Everyone in their own world amid a sea of extremely thick atmosphere that feels all too familiar, compressed and leaves you gasping.

A note here on the score: It comes far too often, too loud. The chosen songs sound hastily made and are in such jarring contrast with the film itself, it further warps whatever is left to be gleaned from on screen. There is no matching of emotion or intention, merely blaring beats better used elsewhere.

The direction style doesn’t favor glamour shots, opting instead for a well lived-in feel. The costumes and scenery are muted, everyday colorful: very grounded in reality, glittered with iPhones and punctuated by so many uhms and ahs.

Burnham clearly has an adept feel for the material, but this is also his downfall. The strangest bit comes during an active shooter drill (yes, of course) followed almost immediately by an earthquake preparedness drill. This evasion tactic practice leads to some reaching attempts at innocent flirting tinged with a hint of the salacious, terrifying trouble it could bring. On many occasions we are set up with something that pushes beyond the grainy film of the movie into interesting and gripping territory, only for it to be deflated moments after; this uneven rise and fall gives the movie a meandering feel that never quite reaches the apex of understanding it needs to drive home just what is important here.

To say this movie has merit is to say a lot, outside of style and deadly accurate tone, the structure crumbles in on itself and the message, if there is one, is lost. Moments of reflection and success are muddled through and perhaps that is the point, however, this makes for a trying and very painful watch that doesn’t seem to know which audience it wants to pull in.

Is this meant to be a burdened nostalgia cringefest for those that have grown through the struggles of young adulthood? Or is there a message amid the noise for the ones coming up in the now? This film is rated ‘R’, so the latter seems a stretch at best. Presenting the dredge of middle school without resolve is certainly bold, but this film stumbles more than it strides.

If the idea of a mostly accurate depiction of the slow ache of growing pains sounds intriguing, give this one a watch when it comes to DVD or the streaming service of your choice.

A24, highly regarded production company, and noted comedian Bo Burnham have taken us to school, and it isn’t pretty.

 

David Firth shows us the dangerous wonders of “Cream”

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Mixed-media artist David Firth (@DAVID_FIRTH) perhaps most well known for his bizarre, unsettling yet endearing “Salad Fingers” series is still at it and taking the strange to new, chilling heights. His latest released project, a short animated film entitled “Cream”.

The short is animated in a style that will be familiar to fans of Firth’s previous works, but it has taken on a starkly realistic quality, utilizing actual faces, natural textures and drab yet shocking color to truly drive home an atmosphere of strange normalcy. We are first introduced to a new miracle product, a cream, branded as Cream, that appears to be limitless in it’s uses. Cream cures acne, it can cure all ailments major and minor, it can regrow your lawn, it can even (when injected directly into the brain) increase your I.Q.

Our main character, Dr. Bellifer, has struck gold and watches as his invention soars in popularity and cosmic power. There is no stopping Cream. Cream becomes so much more than was originally intended, much to the chagrin of the good doctor. Go on and see for yourself what horrible wonders Cream can commit.

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David Firth is a master of his craft, distorting reality with enough finesse to disturb yet equally draw one into his underlying message. Though the meaning may seem as clear as the blemish on one’s face (there’s a Cream for that.), we are privy to a multi-layered commentary on consumption, medicine, advertising, the ever present menace that can be the media and even our own personal connection to the world outside. Whether intended or not, Firth has command of imagery and dialogue, that when married together generates the reflective surface we so often forget to peer into when making purchases, large and small decisions and most importantly what we put our trust and faith into. Who can we truly say has our best interest at heart?

There is much to be gleaned from this twelve minute meditation on the human condition and how each of us can be manipulated into any reaction given the right circumstance, only to be led back into the fold for another go around.

I can only hope we will see more from Mr. Firth in the very near future, as he continues to terrify, sicken and delight me in good measure.

You can watch ‘Cream’ and many of his other polarizing projects on David’s YouTube Channel here: http://bit.ly/2rVrnRQ

Scream: the tv series: Slick as Stabbing Teens In a Horror Show

by Anthony Wetmore (@TheMisterPipes, GhostConch)

MTV has made another stab at horror drama with a new take on
a horror classic. Scream: the tv series penned by Jill Blotvogel, starring Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow, The Killing), Willa Fitzgerald (Royal Pains), and Tracy Middendorf (Lost, Boardwalk Empire) promises to
deliver exasperated groans and genuine chills in the show’s first season. 

The
pilot episode delivers on stylized, updated nostalgia. Gone are the ringing phones
and playful inquisitions, this time the fear comes from all sides of media,
social or otherwise. “What’s your favorite scary movie?” becomes a revealing
video gone viral or a threatening text. The warmth of updated nostalgia is kindled
again in the character of Noah Foster (played by John Karna) a computer genius
with a wide swath of knowledge concerning the “rules” of horror-drama
television. 

Treats like this may draw older fans into an otherwise modern retelling of the Brandon James mythology at a deliciously slower pace, hopefully pulling it into darker depths than the usual suspect; consistent camp while simultaneously dragging in a younger fanbase. Peppered with enough twisting high school relationships, some blood, more than a few dashes of self-awareness and a smooth soundtrack, Scream: the tv series has put forth a promising first venture into terrorizing teen drama television.

(PHOTO SOURCE: MTV [www.mtv.com])