"Roger Dodger" Jesse Eisenberg's Film Debut!


2/22/2011

I saw this movie back in 2002 at the Austin Film Festival.  It featured the first two films from the up and coming actor Jesse Eisenberg, who as we all know is up for Best Actor for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” at this years Academy Awards. Eisenberg had a supporting role is his other film “The Emperor’s Club” that starred Kevin Kline.

Watching this film I was struck with a bit of déjà vu.  Eisenberg’s character of Nick is a fast talking, awkward computer geek.  Go figure.  Then when you start to look at all his other roles, it seems he has contracted “Michael Cera Syndrome”.  He has seems to play the exact same character in every film he is in.  So I guess its no surprise that he was nominated for his work in “The Social Network” since he has been slowly perfecting the role for almost ten years.  On the other hand Campbell Scott gives a remarkable performance as Roger, an even faster talking, New York City copy writer for an advertising firm.  He is nicknamed Roger Dodger for his ability to talk is way out of anything.  He is a single womanizer almost on the level of Charlie Sheen.  One day he is visited at work by his nephew Nick.  At Nicks request he gets a crash course on picking up women he won’t soon forget.

This film also stars a trio of talented actresses.  Isabella Rossellini plays Roger’s boss whom she’s having an affair with. Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley play the women they meet at a night club.  Coming off the infamous “Showgirls” disaster, Berkley was actually in attendance and took questions about her role in this film.  The audience was quite respectful. 

While Roger uses every trick up is sleeve to manipulate women and boost his ego.  Nick is so truthful and pure hearted he always seems to be a wet blanket on Rogers plans to get them some action.  This also makes Roger come off as more of a creepy sleaze ball than usual.  The opening scene features a very interesting discussion on the ever declining need that women have for men.  It’s a theme that plays out quite well during the film.  While the last part of the movie goes to some pretty dark places and things start to get all too real.  Can Roger change his ways?  Will men serve greater purpose in the future?  This movie was directed by Dylan Kidd and won Best Feature at the very first Tribeca Film Festival.  It was also the first movie to be shot in New York City after the September 11th attacks.  The DVD is loaded with some pretty sweet special features so pick it up!


The 80s Horror Hit "The Dark Night of the Scarecrow"

2/8/2011

Ever since this made for television movie aired as a CBS Saturday Night Movie in the fall of 1981 it has enjoy a cult following. Watching it now a number of scenes bring to mind other more recent films, whether it’s just a coincidence or homage, there is just something about it that makes it a joy to watch.

Bubba played by Larry Drake, who you might remember as Durant from the “Darkman” movies, is a sweet natured mentally challenged man in a small farming community. Mary Lee, a nine year old girl, is Bubba’s best friend and playmate. Although Bubba is a big man in his thirties he has the same mental capacity as Mary Lee, making them a perfect pair. One day Mary Lee is hurt and thought to be dead, with Bubba being the immediate culprit. As news spreads among the towns people Otis, the postman, form a mob to take down this supposed child killer. Bubba runs home to his momma’s house and she hides him as the mob comes to her door. They eventually find Bubba hiding as a scarecrow and they enact swift justice with their shotguns. Shortly after they find out that Mary Lee is alright and Bubba had recued her from a vicious dog attack.

Otis, played by veteran actor Charles Durning, is the ring leader of this mob. When taken to court they are all found not guilty in the killing as the defense claimed it was self defense. The group had planted a pitch fork in Bubba’s hands. Otis is never seen without his postal employee uniform and acts more like an Army lieutenant. When Mary Lee is told what happened to Bubba, she still believes he is alive and wants to go looking for him.

When the guys who killed Bubba start showing up dead, Otis starts to freak out. He thinks that Bubba’s mother is behind it. One guy is killed by his wood chipper which brings to mind the movie “Fargo”. Another guy is trapped is silo and buried in grain. The deaths are effectively terrifying and gruesome without really ever showing anything. Otis comes face to face with Mary Lee on a few occasions and gives off a very creepy pedophile vibe in each one. Otis finds out that she has been talking to Bubba and he freaks out a little more. A lot of stand by horror clichés are used like the screaming tea kettle, the car that won’t start in a panic, the stereo typical small town. This is all taken with a grain of salt, because of the relationship between Bubba and Mary Lee is so sweet and sincere. Her innocent love for him brings him back to exact his revenge. The plot is quite similar to a lot other revenge from the grave movies, but it does it very well. A newly restored DVD was released in 2010 and includes a very insightful commentary by the director and producer. This is definitely a great movie to watch on a Saturday Night. (assuming your like me and have no social life to speak of).

"Let Me In" The American Remake of "Let the Right One In"

2/5/2011

This is the American remake of the Swedish film “Let the Right One In” which I reviewed about a year ago. "Let the Right One In" Review The original film also made my list of the top movies of the last decade. There was great debate as to whether a remake would tarnish the nearly flawless original, because today’s movies are all about remakes and sequels, with the most original content coming from overseas. Both movies are based on the book “Let Me In” from Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist.

The giant task of remaking this film fell on the shoulders of Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield” fame. Having seen so many horrible and lifeless horror remakes in the past few years, I had obvious doubts about this one. Although the cast was absolutely top notch I still had some strong reservations. I did see it in theatres last September and a few more times on the just released DVD. I can honestly say without hesitation that this is a quality and well thought out remake. Major props go out to the fantastic acting jobs from the whole cast. Chloe Moretz from “Kick-Ass” plays Abby the mysterious new girl. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who was previously in “The Road” with Viggo Mortenson, plays the tormented Owen. Richard Jenkins is brilliant as Abby’s “Father”. Finally Elias Koteas, plays the police officer investigating a string of brutal murders in the Los Alamos, New Mexico community.

Like the original this story takes place in the early 1980’s. The main characters of Oskar and Eli are now Owen and Abbey. The story and themes of the original still hold true in this one. Owen is twelve years old and is unmercifully teased and bullied at school. He is extremely lonely and dreams of one day getting his revenge. His parents are getting a divorce and he is often ignored. When Abbey moves in next door, Owen is immediately curious. They meet on a number of occasions in the apartment complexes jungle gym and develop rather sweet friendship. The book and the movies have always been about the relationship between these two. Even though they are so young, they are both extremely lonely and yearn for companionship. It also happens that Abbey is a vampire and needs blood to live. It’s a very strong coming of age drama with a few creative twists.

Owen is never turned off to the fact that Abbey is so different and the claims that “she is not a girl”. He accepts her for who or what she is. With Abby’s help and Owens new found self confidence he is able to take back his life and stand up to the bullies in his life. The DVD and Blu Ray releases include a commentary track from Matt Reeves and a few other special features. This is a no doubt buy it, especially if you’re a fan of the book or the original film.