The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience dropped on Netflix and Spotify overnight, a surprise “visual poem” from the legendary comedy rap trio. Ostensibly their first full album since the Popstar soundtrack in 2016, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a love letter to baseball’s iconic home run duo (and eventually, steroid era pariahs) Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. And it’s fucking fantastic, arguably the group’s best collection of songs since 2010’s Turtleneck & Chain – which, combined with the special’s ridiculously deep bench of visual influences, delivers one of the finest pieces of comedy in 2019. Here’s a ranking of every song in the episode:
11. “Oakland Nights” (feat. Sia)
If there’s one part of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience that feels like a cut Saturday Night Live sketch, it’s “Oakland Nights,” a 2012-era rap/pop collaboration featuring Sterling K. Brown in a Sia wig. Also starring Hannah Simone and Jenny Slate as two uninterested women the Brothers are trying to seduce, “Oakland Nights” definitely nails the tone of late 80’s era hyper masculinity – but it is more amusing than hilarious, a handful of slight jokes and mixed musical influences.
Best line: “squats in the living room/can I get a witness/’cause the best aphrodisiac/is physical fitness”
10. “Focused AF”
“Focused AF” is not particularly funny, blending Bad Boy-era close-ups and neon backgrounds with the blandest beat of the album (and a necessary “Dick in My Hand” reference); but it’s worth it all for the final twist, when the big boy posturing and attitudes are peeled away for a brief moment, and both Bash Brothers express their ultimate motivation; trying to earn the love of their fathers. It’s a small moment of self-realization, but elevates an otherwise forgettable series of punch lines (though the shot of Jose running through a room of Kathy Ireland cutouts in a muscle suit is worth the price of entry alone).
Best line: “I’m Mark McGwire-y/buff, not wiry/Alex P. Keaton/is who I admire-y”
I fucking love how much of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience feels influenced by the early era of Def Jam; the influences of Rick Rubin and the Dust Brothers run heavy through the album, and breathe life into the shortest, slightest song of the collection. The album version of the song has a lot more to it, a touch of Late Registration Kanye West offering some awesome audio texture to the track.
“The House of Pancakes are my favorite place/I love the booth seating, and I love-a the taste/andros are part of a nutritious breakfast/neck so big it broke my necklace”
8. “I’m Joe Montana”
Given how The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience feels like the evolution of the Lonely Island’s early “I Love Sports” sketch, it’s only natural for the special to close on a laughably ridiculous, overwrought song about Joe Montana, Jorma Taccone’s one shining moment of the special. Capturing the low budget feel of their early work is a great way to close the half hour, but that understates the joy of “I’m Joe Montana”; Jorma’s ridiculous personification of rappin’ Joe is side busting material, especially when the bit leans into its own absurdity.
(note: this song isn’t on the album; in its place is “Feed the Beast,” which is a double disappointment: “Feed the Beast” is a fucking jam with some serious sonic texture, and “Joe Montana” deserves its place as a skit on the album)
Best line: “The 49ers/is my team of choice/I love chucking the pigskin/to Gerald Rice”
7. “Jose & Mark”
The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience opens on the morning sun peeking over the crest of the Oakland Coliseum, appropriately setting the tone for its ode to the gladiators of the diamond, before kicking in with an early-era DJ Khaled song contrasting the personalities of Jose and Mark. An underrated part of their star dynamic was just how different they were; Jose was the flashy man driving Laborghinis and gracing tabloid covers, while Mark was as down to earth and milquetoast as his baseball pants. “My Name is Jose” leans into the public-facing personas of its stars, undercutting their iconography with the underlying darkness of their steroid abuse.
Best line: “freaks hit up my Skytel/I’ll come mess up your Maybelline/my beeper beepin’ more than my/dialysis machine”
6. “IHOP Parking Lot” (feat. HAIM & Maya Rudolph)
With its celebrity cameos (HAIM, Stephanie Beatriz, and Maya Rudolph) and a sound completely dissonant with the rest of the album, it would be easy for “IHOP Parking Lot” to earn the same ‘cut SNL sketch’ feeling “Oakland Nights” radiates. But the strange funk sound and equally ludicrous costuming of its stars help illuminate a playful song that quietly reflects the rise and fall of the Bash Brothers; as the pressure to perform (ahem, to “shake that nasty butt”) intensifies, the Bash Brothers are slowly pulled away from each other, drowned in a sea of intimidation, forced to dance the steroid-enhanced dance until the general public consumes their friendship, identity – and eventually, rejects them.
Or maybe this is just a really dumb song with some really fun cameos; regardless of the metatextual awareness of the song, “IHOP Parking Lot” is an effective palette cleanser, neatly demarcating the glory era of the Bash Brothers past, and the struggles lying ahead of them.
Best line: “It’s not phrased weird at all/shake four halves of butt”
It’s no surprise The Lonely Island would try their hands at trap at some point during the special; the results are fun, if a bit uninspired. A bit of Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony and Post Malone does help spice up the affair, touches of harmony illuminating the Bash Brothers’ musical therapy session. Visually, this might be the weakest entry in the special – but the lyrical play is on point, breathing life into an inherently mellow track, that works best in contrast to the rest of the album’s anabolic-enhanced energy.
Best line: “Buy all my steroids in bulk (Costco)/wanna be big as the Hulk (Hogan)/stronger than Wolverine teeth (Logan)/answer to Where’s the Beef (slogan)”
4. “Focus on the Game”
An album about the era of the Bash Brothers is incomplete without the story of their back-to-back World Series trips; smartly, “Focus on the Game” prominently features the World Series the A’s lost in heartbreaking fashion in 1988, rather than their win the next year. 1988 was the year of the famous Kirk Gibson home run, a man with an injured leg breaking the hearts of A’s fans with one of the sport’s most legendary comeback moments.
In “Focus on the Game,” the story is not about the team’s ultimate failure – it’s about the moment before their fall from grace, two men at the apex of their athletic powers, distracted by complicated relationships with their parents, and a depression no standing ovation can abide. Short, devastating, and paranoid, “Focus on the Game” considers the costs, both physical and emotional, that took JC and Big Mac to the top of the world. It also hints at the future strife and backstabbing that would mark their post-career relationship, a dark omen of the road lying ahead of Oakland’s baseball heroes.
Best line: “just a scared little boy/in the body of a giant/a freakshow of science/but then my friend says/you’re the man JC”
3. “Let’s Bash”
“Let’s Bash” is the perfect coda to The Unauthorized Bash Brother Experience, an ode deifying the most memorable, imitated, iconic teammate celebration in baseball; the Monster Bash. Every iconic duo needs an anthem, and “Let’s Bash” masterfully fulfills its purpose – and finishes with a fucking monster of a verse from Andy, integrating the name of every major league team into an impressive stream of consciousness (there’s also a great Walt Weiss burn in the song, courtesy of a Jorma Taccone cameo).
Best line: “I’m more hopped up/than a Brewer that’s hyper/sit Indian-style/when I’m Yankee on my Tiger”
2. “Uniform On”
Like a mix between Dust Brothers-era Beastie Boys and an A$AP Rocky video, “Uniform On” is an early highlight of The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, an ode to the superficiality of stardom, set against arguably the hardest beat of the album. Equally boisterous and ferocious, “Uniform On” is classic late 80’s era New York rap, in all its brash, braggadocious glory.
Best line: “not a hamburger/but they call me Big Mac/got the one-ton jimmy/and the itty-bitty sac”
1. “Bikini Babe Workout”
The Unauthorized Bash Brothers experience, as a whole, is the Lonely Island version of The Tree of Life, a tale of Americana full of existential dread in its lyrics, observations that come to life with the reflective, surreal imagery stitching the special’s songs together. It may not be the best song in the show, but “Bikini Babe Workout” might be the most representative of its themes, musing on the fleeting nature of fame and athletic talent (the album version also confronts sexual harassment at the gym, for an added touch). Come for the hilarious conceit, stay for the transcendental turn, Enya influences, and the best visual moment of the entire special.
Best line: “with a good bikini grip/you never risk a blister/sweatpant slide/that’s a hazard to the lifter”
The Legend of the Game Boy, 30 Years Later
Forever Changing how we Play Games
Thirty years ago, Nintendo unleashed the Game Boy, forever changing how we play video games.
When the modest gray brick arrived in the late ‘80s, it was an instant sensation and the first internationally successful handheld gaming system. Nintendo sold out its entire first run in Japan in two weeks and in North America it sold a whopping one million units in just under two weeks. To say Nintendo’s miniature was a phenomenon is an understatement. The Game Boy kickstarted the popular handheld gaming trend and without it, portable gaming may have never become what it is today. It paved the way for the world of mobile gaming and hybrid devices like the DS, PS Vita, and the Nintendo Switch – and while the Game Boy doesn’t quite hold up to those modern consoles, it will always have a special place in the hearts of old school gamers.
Timing is Everything
The Game Boy wasn’t the first portable gaming device on the market nor was it Nintendo’s first attempt at portable gaming (the company had previously released the hit Game & Watch) but as with many iconic products, the Game Boy was released at the right time for the right price.
Nintendo patiently waited for hardware costs to drop so they could design a system cheap enough for families with tight budgets and when the Game Boy arrived in North America, it was packaged with what some would argue is the greatest launch game of all time.
By the time of the US launch, Nintendo had secured the handheld rights to Tetris, a unique puzzler designed by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov. Tetris was attracting a new audience of casual gamers due to its simple yet addictive gameplay and because of that, Tetris would become the centerpiece in Nintendo of America’s marketing plan.
Laying the Bricks for the Foundation of the Handheld Gaming
The Game Boy had a massive collection of 716 games including beloved classics such as Donkey Kong, Kid Dracula, Kirby’s Dreamland, Metroid II, Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins and Link’s Awakening, but Tetris will always be the game best associated with the Game Boy. Alexey Pajitnov’s famous puzzler took the world by storm, selling 35 million copies while helping Nintendo literally lay the bricks for the foundation of the handheld gaming industry. Nintendo has created some of the best partnerships in the history of the gaming industry but packaging Tetris with their greyscale portable system back in the day is one of the best decisions the company has ever made.
While Tetris helped make the Game Boy a household name, it wasn’t the top selling game on the system – that honour would go to Pokemon Red and Blue, a game inspired by Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood love of collecting insects, coupled with his desire to find new ways to bring people together. Pokemon Red and Blue launched an international craze with its unique blend of exploration, battling and even trading Pokemon thanks to the evolutionary Link Cable.
Long before online gaming, Nintendo would release the Link Cable, an accessory for the Game Boy which allowed players to link their systems together for head-to-head competition and cooperative play. Tetris was one of the key titles to take advantage of the Game Link cable for multiplayer fun but Pokemon was the series that relied on the accessory for years since the Link Cable allowed data transferring between two devices. Trading Pokémon was not only encouraged, but it was also necessary in order to assemble a complete collection of all the Pokémon in the games – and the Link Cable made trading Pokémon possible.
The Link Cable wasn’t the only accessory made for the Game boy; it was just the first of many. There was also the rudimentary low-resolution Game Boy Camera and Printer. The camera was used to take grainy, black-and-white digital images via the four-color palette of the system while the printer utilized heat-sensitive paper to save images before making a copy. Among the many other accessories was the Handy Boy, an all in one accessory that features two amplified external speakers to be positioned on each side of the screen, as well as the Game Boy Pocket Sonar, a peripheral used during fishing trips to locate fish up to 20 meters away. While most of these peripherals were considered cheap gimmicks and commercial failures, they did expand the gaming experience in fun and creative new ways and became the spiritual predecessors of features Nintendo would later include in future consoles such as the DS and the Wii. The Game Boy Camera and Printer are especially notable since the printer helped evolve low-cost digital photography while the camera predated Apple’s iPhone by well over a decade.
Power Isn’t Everything
The 8-bit handheld video game device was created by Gunpei Yokoi along with Nintendo Research & Development 1—the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series nearly a decade earlier. As far as the design is concerned, the GameBoy was made simple and devoid of any slick modeling. If rumors are to be believed, Yokoi is said to have been inspired by watching people fiddle with calculators and apart from having a light grey-colored shell with a slight texture, there isn’t much to write home about in terms of how it looks.
The biggest criticism with the original Gameboy however, is the screen, which features four levels of grey to augment the lack of back-lighting. While players could adjust the screen’s contrast, the display quality isn’t very impressive since it is extremely grainy and difficult to see in most lighting conditions. Needless to say, the original Gameboy doesn’t display any bright shiny colors; Instead, it features a 2.6-inch screen with a resolution of 160×144 and a 2-bit color palette and a custom 8-bit Sharp processor running at just 4.19MHz combined with 8KB of RAM and 8KB of video memory. Along with the rudimentary sound system and single speaker, the Game Boy’s specs just aren’t very impressive.
The Game Boy may not have been a technical powerhouse but Nintendo proved that power isn’t everything when they released the portable system. Like so many tech companies, Sega (Game Gear), NEC (TurboExpress), and Atari (Lynx) had fallen for the performance trap, opting for faster processors and color screens to compete with Nintendo’s basic black and white system. These other consoles, however, sold for twice as much as the Game Boy’s budget-friendly $89 – not to mention they ate through batteries in a short time. Nintendo recognized that in order for the Game Boy to be a commercial success, they would have to make sacrifices, and chose to compromise certain features in favor of a broader, more utilitarian appeal. Even with such limited hardware, game frame rates on the Game Boy at least ran at 59.7fps and while rival handheld consoles like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear boasted expensive hardware, the Game Boy required only four AA batteries for 30 hours of gameplay.
Only Nintendo would have had the confidence to release a handheld console so deliberately underpowered but truth be told, Nintendo could have priced the Game Boy much higher and it would have still been a success if only for the games and consumer’s familiarity with the Nintendo brand.
Keep it in Your Pants
For decades now, Nintendo has had a strange and complicated relationship with advertising their products, taking on many forms over the years, some successful and others not so successful. What I do find most interesting about the Game Boy is the system’s marketing. The company promoted its Game Boy line using a modification of the slogan used for the Nintendo Entertainment System, “Now you’re playing with power; PORTABLE POWER!,” Meanwhile, the television ads read, “They said it wasn’t humanly possible. But now you can have all the power and excitement of Nintendo right in the palm of your hands“. It’s funny how a system that wasn’t built with power in mind, had a marketing campaign that focussed heavily on power. Perhaps even more surprising is the customers it attracted. The target audience for the Game Boy was intended to be mostly boys which I guess made sense since according to Nintendo, only 14 percent of the customers who bought and played with the NES were female. Yet, for a marketing campaign aimed mostly at males, the Game Boy was notable for being an early success in crossing the gender divide with 46 percent of their players reported being female.
Yet apart from the clever slogans, costly TV ads, and gorgeous magazine spreads, the greatest contribution to the system’s marketing came with its name. When you think about it, the name is the most important marketing tool a brand and product can have. It needs to tell consumers something about the product and hopefully entice them to take notice. While some of the names of Nintendo’s video game consoles have become cultural icons, others such as the Wii U confused consumers rather than inform them. The Game Boy, however, is a great name for a video game console and decades later, the Game Boy might just be the best-named video game console to date, at least from a marketing point of view.
The original Game Boy line-up (including the Light and the Pocket) enjoyed a life span of more than 15 years and sold up more 118 million in sales worldwide before Nintendo began to phase it out in favor of the Game Boy Advance series which would go on to sell an additional 81 million units. During those 15 years, the Game Boy would see numerous successors and peripherals; survive a Gulf war bombing, and even travel to space thanks to Aleksandr A. Serebrov who took his Game Boy along on the Soyuz TM-17 space mission. The Game Boy revolutionized handheld gaming and if you were a young gamer growing up in the ‘80s and ’90s, the Game Boy was pretty much your best friend. It would travel with you wherever you went and the Game Boy would keep you company when nobody was around.
Kids these days may look at the original Game Boy as some ancient artifact from the past and not appreciate how it helped shape and influence the video game industry moving forward, but the Game Boy holds an important role in the video game industry and allowed Nintendo to continuously experiment and push the possibilities of gaming. In the 30 years since its release, only one other portable game system has ever outsold the Game Boy: Its own successor, the Nintendo DS, which once again proved that power isn’t everything.
- Ricky D
Quentin Tarantino Triumphs with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the best film he’s made since Jackie Brown and his most emotional ever.
Unlike other filmmakers I admire, I’ve approached each of Quentin Tarantino’s films since Kill Bill with trepidation. His last few movies have seemed to jettison the influences that animated Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and instead he turned into an uncritical defender of any obscure genre film. His talent for snappy and mellifluous dialogue calcified, and was replaced by an even great reliance on violence and shock value. But with his ninth feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino has revitalized the filmmaker of yore. It’s his best-written and most enjoyable film since Kill Bill (maybe even Jackie Brown), and his most unabashedly emotional movie ever.
The film opens in Los Angeles in early 1969. Hollywood is in a state of transition as the studio system begins to crumble. Roman Polanski and his new wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), are emissaries of the New Hollywood, while Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor who has descended from films to leading TV roles to villains of the week, is tied to the sinking ship of Old Hollywood. Accompanied by his stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick accepts almost any part that will keep him afloat in his Hollywood Hills home, even if they typecast him and shrink whatever future career he might have left. His drinking — eight whiskey sours a night — isn’t helping things.
Though he considers Cliff a friend, he treats him more as a handyman and chauffeur (especially after he loses his license thanks to too many DUIs). Yet the stunt specialist, a man of few words, doesn’t seem to mind much. Though he seems almost Zen at times, he has a reputation for making film shoots difficult, so his steady work with Rick is appreciated. The early sections of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood resemble the early moments of Pulp Fiction when it’s a hangout movie about two men drawn together through circumstance. DiCaprio and Pitt don’t have that many lines together, even though they’re often with each other through the film, yet Tarantino makes every bit of dialogue count. He largely eschews the long speeches he cut his teeth on in his first few films, which is for the best — as fun as they were to hear, it often seemed as if Tarantino was more interested in showing off than in crafting dialogue that suited the film he was making.
While Rick and Cliff are trying to rejuvenate their careers, the future seems almost limitless for Tate. She and Polanski have moved in next door to Rick, who hopes the Polish director might notice him and cast him in a Rosemary’s Baby follow-up. But Polanski is out of town or out of the picture most of the time, leaving a lonely Sharon to wander Hollywood. In one of the more touching scenes in the film (not something you’d normally say about a Tarantino picture), Sharon uses her newfound celebrity for the first time to skip the fifty-cent admission price at a movie theater to see herself perform opposite Dean Martin in The Wrecking Crew. Robbie plays Tate as a bit of a ditzy innocent, but the wonder and pride she displays as she watches herself on the big screen are contagious. It’s also doubly poignant because we’re not watching Margot Robbie digitally inserted in the film, as most contemporary directors would have done. Instead, we see the real Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered later that year by followers of Charles Manson. Her promising life and career were snuffed out in the worst way imaginable, but for a brief moment, it seemed the sky was the limit. Robbie’s part is considerably smaller than DiCaprio and Pitt’s, but she signals a time of optimism and artistic growth for the art form.
Robbie’s role is charming and light, but DiCaprio and Pitt both have enough screen time to give some of their best performances ever. Rick is a man full of insecurities who’s also drunk at least half the time, and DiCaprio allows himself to be more vulnerable than he’s been in a long time. He can’t seem to get out a single sentence without being consumed by stammering self-doubt. Cliff, meanwhile, is a man of few words who exudes power, yet distances himself from the world. A lesser writer than Tarantino would have included a scene where the stuntman blows up at his boss/friend for not respecting him enough, but there’s no such confrontation for Cliff. He understands that he wasn’t meant to be a leading man — just the guy who takes the punches, and he’s learned to handle them well enough after all these years.
Being a Tarantino film, there are dozens of major actors willing to take small cameos throughout Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and many of them make the best of their parts. Emile Hirsh, who was convicted of assault after strangling a Paramount Pictures executive to the point of unconsciousness in 2015, plays a naïve friend of Sharon’s who’s infatuated with her and hoping she’ll cling to him once she dumps Polanski in a few years. Al Pacino is the least hammy he’s been in years (decades?) as a producer looking to pull Rick away from villainous TV roles in favor of rejuvenating lead roles in Spaghetti Westerns. Deadwood fans will rejoice at the sight of Timothy Olyphant as real-life actor James Stacy, the lead on a Western series Rick is guesting on.
Though most of the film is a supremely pleasurable trip around Hollywood with the three leads, the sinister presence of the Manson family lurks around the corner. An early scene of a bunch of bare-footed hippie girls dumpster diving is presented as carefree and light-hearted, but it takes on darker undertones since we can guess that they’re tied up in the cult business. It would be a crime to reveal how the Mansons are integrated into the film or its ending, but Tarantino has found a way to wrap things up that avoids many of the obvious pitfalls.
Watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it’s clear that Tarantino isn’t just having a great time — he seems to genuinely love the world he has (re)created. More than any of his other films, he lets the camera wander to glimpse the iconic sights of Hollywood, both those that still exist in some fashion and those that have been recreated. He’s also a master of recreating the look of vintage film and television, which he does copiously, bringing to mind the multiple film stocks used in some of Oliver Stone’s works or Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. Tarantino is depicting a world and a time he was too late to experience, when many of the films that would shape his worldview were being made. In the movie’s centerpiece, when Sharon watches herself on the big screen, he seems to be living vicariously through her, experiencing his own part in this new world of cinema. He may have missed 1969 by a few decades, but it’s the next best thing.
Fantasia 2019: ‘Come to Daddy’ is a Plot-Twisting and Surprisingly Heartfelt Genre-Bender
Filmmaker Ant Timpson has been on the horror scene for years, producing some of my favourite genre films including the critically acclaimed Housebound, Turbo Kid and Deathgasm. He’s back in the festival circuit again, only this time with his directorial debut Come to Daddy— a wild genre mashup that had audiences running to the exits when it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Timpson’s first foray in the director’s chair is a film that refuses to be labeled. It begins as a simple family reunion between a father and son and ends in a violent bloodbath loaded with gruesome set pieces, pitch-black humor, and some surprisingly touching poignancy. And that is its biggest strength – Come to Daddy is full of unexpected twists seamlessly shifting between horror, awkward comedy, mystery, and drama all while constantly surprising viewers from one scene to the next. It really is a wild ride, opening by quoting Shakespeare and Beyoncé and ending with a bizarre shootout at a sleazy motel.
Elijah Wood stars as the finicky and arrogant Norval, whose thin mustache, bowl-shaped haircut and hipster aesthetic borrows heavily from the famous DJ and musician Skrillex. Norval is a self-proclaimed music guru with a limited-edition gold iPhone and a whole lot of male insecurities. After receiving a cryptic letter, Norval visits his estranged father (Stephen McHattie) at his beachfront property in the middle of nowhere. They haven’t seen each other since his dad abandoned him decades previously but when he arrives at the residence, his father not only seems uninterested in a reunion but doesn’t even remember sending him a letter. Regardless, his dad invites him in but as the two men spend time together, his dad becomes increasingly hostile. The more time that passes, the more tensions mount, to the point where, in the midst of an argument, his dad suddenly falls over dead. Left with a lot of unresolved daddy issues, Norval is left to piece things together and quickly learns that his dad has plenty of skeletons in his closet. To say more would ruin the many unpredictable twists and turns the plot takes, as one shocking reveal is made after the next, leaving Norval to battle with demons both real and felt.
Come to Daddy is a perfect inclusion in the midnight section of films.
Written by The Greasy Strangler scribe Toby Harvard, Come to Daddy isn’t quite as crude as Harvard’s previous film, but those with weak stomachs should take caution before sitting down to watch Come to Daddy since it doesn’t take long before the uncomfortable, albeit darkly funny exploration of a broken familial relationship explodes into violent mayhem akin to a ‘70s-style thriller packed with a ton of grime and gore. A large part of the suspense comes from the fact that it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next but Timpson and Harvard never lose sight of the central theme of the film. Ultimately, Come to Daddy is a movie about a young man desperately seeking his father’s love and approval, and would go to
great horrific lengths to obtain it. Yes, there are scenes that will make you cringe but Come to Daddy is also an emotionally resonant portrait of loneliness and about one man desperately trying to reconnect with the past.
While Ant Timpson is no stranger to making movies, for a first-time director, Come to Daddy is impeccably well-made. Shot in and around the gorgeous beachfront home, Daniel Katz’s moody cinematography beautifully captures the picturesque location while Karl Steven’s eerie score is perfectly accommodating to the movie’s constant wavering tones. I especially love the staging of each scene and the visceral old-school makeup effects by Tibor Farkas – not to mention a surprise bathroom brawl that breaks out midway. But what stood out most when watching Come to Daddy, is the uniformly strong cast. Elijah Wood and Steven McHattie are amazing in their portrayals both giving bravado performances as the awkward and timid son, recovering from alcohol dependency, and the not-so welcoming old man who despite his limited screentime will downright terrify audiences. Meanwhile, supporting actors Madeleine Sami and Martin Donovan all have crucial, memorable roles as well, while Michael Smiley’s unsavory flamboyant character straight-up steals the show.
Come to Daddy is a genre-bender and one of the finest genre films of 2019. It’s a grueling little noirish thriller with slasher-worthy gore and absurd humour that is sure to make audiences laugh. There’s no shortage of scenes that you’ll watch through your fingers but you’ll watch all the same to witness the many secrets, successful twists, and brilliant performances it offers. Come to Daddy is certainly a strikingly assured first feature and recommended viewing for genre fans everywhere. I can’t wait to see what Ant Timpson does next!
- Ricky D
Fantasia 2019: ‘The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil’ is a Devilishly Delightful Time
‘The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil’ meshes action, intrigue, suspense, and visceral violence to the highest order.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Few adages carry such eclectic morsels of truth like this one. For starters, it entails one understanding that they have enemies. Second, it implies that one can recognize and distinguish between their enemies — which can be dealt with physically, politically, and economically at a later date in time, and which must be handled swiftly and immediately? To that end, one may agree (if begrudgingly) to form an alliance with the threat that can wait in order to dispatch the more pressing danger. South Korean director Lee Won-tae applies the murky realities of said expression to the fullest in The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil.
The clock is turned back to 2005 during a piping hot summer in Cheonan. Jung Tae-suk (Kim Mu-yeol) is a police detective with an unenviable reputation amongst his peers for his attitude, amongst his superiors for insubordination, and in the eyes of criminal underworld leaders like Jan Dong-soo (Ma Dong-seok) — who are greatly annoyed by the law enforcement personality — for enforcing the law in his own brash, hyper-aggressive way. Neither Tae-suk or Dong-soo care very much for another other, but their rivalry is soon put on ice after a lone wolf assailant viciously attacks the gangster one night, leaving him to escape the encounter with a few very memorable scars. When detective Jung puts enough clues together to discern that Dong-soo’s attacker is the same individual that has been murdering people at random, a serial killer investigation is opened. Tae-sook and Dong-soo forge a tenuous alliance to combine resources, each one defying the other that they will catch the killer first.
Way back in 2003, Oldboy seemed to change the way global cinephiles viewed South Korean cinema. To this day, that film is quoted as being not only a masterfully bizarre and satisfying thriller, but as the movie that opened the rest of the world’s eyes to the extraordinary talent brewing in the Korean film industry. Since then, nary a year goes by without at least one movie from that country squeezing into somebody’s top ten list. Of course, not all Korean exports can be Oldboy. That would be odd. All the same, whatever their screenwriters, directors, producers, and actors are eating for breakfast before heading to the studio lot or shooting location, just please keep up the same diet for another hundred years.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is another entry on what is becoming a stunningly long list of Korean thrillers that mesh action, intrigue, charismatic and strange characters, suspense, and visceral violence of the highest order. Oh, and by the way, the audience will erupt in a chorus of laughter a dozen times. It’s fascinating to see a film like this unfold before one’s eyes. It isn’t as if filmmakers have never supplied moviegoers with adventures in which goodies and baddies must come together for a common cause, and it isn’t as if there is a shortage of cop films in which the protagonist is a hot-headed, loud-mouthed (and foul-mouthed) jerk; therein likes the magic of what director Lee Won-tae and his team have pulled off. It doesn’t matter that the terrain has been marched on time and time again — the movie is wildly entertaining to the very final frame.
What generally helps movies of this ilk is how the intricacies of the plot are dealt with in engaging and thrilling ways, especially when the major plot outline requires some setting up in the early goings. How is it there is a killer about? What is his or her modus operandi? Who is the lead gangster in town? Why is there a rivalry between him and this infuriatingly persistent detective? In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, all of this would be played in a very ‘by the numbers’ way, lacking narrative flow and momentum. In a word, boring. Lee Won-tae is too clever for that, however, and drops in characters that will come back in big ways later in the picture, whilst thrusting the viewer into the film’s works with gusto and without a safety helmet. Even though the general beats can be guessed, the movie nevertheless succeeds in keeping the audience on its toes because the world itself is so wild and moves along so quickly. By the time Tae-sook and Dong-soo have agreed to partake in a pseudo-friendly competition to see who nails the killer first, the movie already has the audience — hook, line, and sinker.
Helping matters in no small way are the leads. Kim Mu-yeol, in particular, has a very difficult task at hand; the aforementioned trope of the cop fueled by a devil-may-care attitude requires the actor to bring his or her best stuff to the shoot. What Kim has in abundance is charisma. His Tae-sook is indeed a vile individual, behaving very much like — if not worse than — the actual gangsters he is assigned to bring to justice. The highlight is the charm that the actor injects into the part; for every nasty slap or comment, there is undeniable, raw charisma that exudes from his personality. Put differently, he is the sort of detective one would loathe having to tail them, but who must be amazing to have on one’s team, if only for how ferociously dedicated he is towards the ultimate goal — to capture the villain. Although there isn’t a false note in the entire cast, Kim Mu-yeol is the clear standout. Loud? Yes, but oh so amusing.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil never loses steam, nor does it pull its punches. It is a splendid exercise in what South Korean cinema has been doing for so much of the better part of twenty years (at least, since the rest of the world took serious notice anyways). Be impressed by the gangster, sheepishly shake your head at the cop, and stay to see if they catch up with the devil.
Fantasia 2019: ‘The Deeper You Dig’ is Must-Watch DIY Horror
‘The Deeper You Dig’ is the kind of movie that Fantasia Fest was made for: those far off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out if one finds the chance to see it.
As cameras and editing software get cheaper, the bar for entry to becoming a filmmaker gets lower. And despite what snobby gatekeepers will tell you, that is very much a good thing. Art is made by artists, not the tools they use, and the most expensive gear and extensive crews do not a good movie make. The Deeper You Dig is proof of that, having been made for a scant eleven thousand dollars by a family of three who wrote, shot, edited, and starred in the film. While it’s a bit rough around the edges, there’s a dedication and craftsmanship that suffuses every frame, and in many ways those rough edges only add to its charm.
Single mother Ivy lives in a sleepy town with her daughter, Echo, separating the gullible from their money as a fraudulent psychic. But on one dark night, Echo is hit by a drunk driver — the shifty local, Kurt. Kurt hastily hides the body, but soon finds himself assailed by terrifying visions and plain old guilt. Ivy, meanwhile, continues to search for Echo by rekindling her dormant psychic gifts.
The Deeper You Dig is at its best when it is playing out like that old Sylvester the Cat cartoon where he thinks he finally got Tweety, and has nothing to do now but stew in guilt and sweat. Thanks to the impeccable atmosphere, the mostly-silent scenes of Kurt trying to put the accident behind him while he restores an old household instills a wonderfully palpable sense of dread even before the paranormal elements begin to reveal themselves. Of course, those elements do begin to crop up, and the film becomes a more somewhat more conventional ghost movie as it goes on. This isn’t bad per se, but those early scenes definitely leave the strongest impression.
The Deeper You Dig is a great example of how much can be accomplished with very simple tools. It’s quite beautifully shot, for one, with a very careful and confident eye for framing. The editing is also quite stunning at times, occasionally using a carefully chosen crossfade to stunning effect, and marches to a steady but deliberate rhythm the rest of the time. Again, the film is extremely good at using very simple tools to very great effect. Some of the more striking images even come as a direct result of the low-fi aesthetic. Scenes shot in the dead of night feel appropriately pitch black, where a bigger production would have used a lighting rig. Other times, shots are thrown into a high contrast by cameras with low dynamic range. This is the kind of film that reminds one that low-fi is an aesthetic, not a shortcoming.
It does have some rough spots, though. The soundtrack is an odd choice — a droning, amelodic affair that walks the line between music and noise. It often doesn’t quite gel, and some sequences would perhaps have worked better silently. There are also some brief dalliances into surrealism that are certainly ambitious, but can come across as stilted and awkward rather than engaging. The filmmakers will also sometimes try and pull off a visual that perhaps should have been implied rather than directly shown, like a decapitation scene that doesn’t really work despite their best efforts. It’s nothing if not ambitious, and that should be applauded on its own; even if the execution can feel a bit off, the enthusiasm and persistence of vision make up for it to a degree.
A good film demands passion from the people making it, and there’s no shortage of passion in The Deeper You Dig. That abundance of passion goes a long way, and the clear mastery of the tools at their disposal doesn’t hurt either. The Deeper You Dig is the kind of movie that Fantasia Fest was made for: those far off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out if one finds the chance to see it.
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