Great Indie Films to Check Out on VOD

There’s usually a time of year when not that many movies are coming out in theaters that excite me. I lied, this is all-year long. I’ve seen The Avengers (really good) and currently waiting for Pitch Perfect 2 to come out (the Bellas are back!)

Many people voice their concern about the unoriginality of Hollywood. Sequels, big budget action flicks, and dystopian young adult conquer a lot of the movies heavily promoted and released in theaters.

Enter video on demand (VOD). A bunch of great films get released on iTunes, Amazon, and other VOD platforms. Films released on DVD don’t make up all of the VOD market. Independent films have gotten a big boost thanks to VOD.

Below are some recently released films worth checking out (Kristen Wiig in a swan boat?! Terminator in a zombie film? Heck yeah!):


maggie film review

Abigail Breslin stars as the title character who is affected by a virus that makes her into a zombie. Arnold Schwarzenegger is her dad, and is searching for her. Several reviews have commented on the great cinematography and acting in the film and called it one of Schwarzenegger’s best roles. Read more of the review here.  and the trailer here.


Ride movie review

Road-trip, coming-of-age, searching for passion movie! I’m not sure how I feel about it…These types of movies have been done over and over. It has reached the top 20 on iTunes movie downloads. Helen Hunt wrote and directed this film. Brenton Thwaites (The Giver) plays her college-bound son who goes to New York University, realizes he doesn’t like it, and moves to LA to pursue his passion for surfing. Helen Hunt finds out about this and goes after him, finding love (oh boy), renewed sense of purpose, and reconnecting with her son. Good coming to terms film situated in the middle of the mind-numbing big budget Hollywood movie season. Watch the trailer here.

Welcome to Me

welcome to me movie review


Kristen Wiig. Enough said. Okay, I’ll say more. The film is a touching that explores a subject not covered often in film, not talked about much, and not understand all that well: mental health. Wiig’s character has borderline personality disorder and is obsessed with Oprah. One day she wins the $86 million dollar jackpot and uses part of it to pay for her own talk show at a TV network. She doesn’t talk about current events or interview guests on the two hour show, she just talks about herself and her experiences…for two hours.

Kristen Wiig has been knocking it out of the part in exploring new territory outside of Saturday Night Live. She’s been doing a lot of indie dramas like Hateship Loveship, The Skeleton Twins, and now this film. And she excels in all three. You the bomb Kristen Wiig!

Watch the trailer here.

Jumble of Mumble

Drinking Buddies

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

The film, made for less than $1 million, stars well-known actors Olivia Wilde (Tron Legacy), Jake Johnson (Fox’s New Girl), Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air, Pitch Perfect), and Ron Livingston (Office Space). The improvisation is the thing most interesting about this film. Director Joe Swanberg only gave the actors outlines with plot points and what had to happen for each scene. Being a romantic dramedy detailing the status and complications of a relationship, the dialogue comes through very real and touching. The movie is set in a brewery and follows Wilde and Johnson’s character interactions along with their respective partners. A-

Related: Before Sunrise/Sunset, Like Crazy (Although it’s slightly more “light” in mood than these)

Tiny Furniture

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

Aura (Lena Dunham) returns to her parent’s home in Tribeca with no job and a film studies college degree.  She is stuck in the weird stage (that many college grads face) where she is post-grad but not yet in the real world. The film, shot for just $65,000 is not for everyone. The pacing is slow and nothing seems to be going on at first. Dunham shows the numbness that many (nervous, desperate, helpless) recent graduates feel but she doesn’t seem to give much more. Aura never does more than just shuffle around hopelessly. It’s a phase that many recent college graduates have but not of an extendedly long period. B-

Related: Perks of Being A Wallflower, Giant Mechanical Man

“We’re Going to See This Through to the Bitter End”

The World’s End is the third installment in the Cornetto Trilogy by writing duo Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Building upon the same formula of their previous successes (Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz) The World’s End adequately delivers laughs and embraces Wright and Pegg’s writing talents.

Image by Focus Features via imdb
Image by Focus Features via imdb

Instead of fighting zombies (Shaun of the Dead, 2004) or being a by-the-book cop (Hot Fuzz, 2007) Simon Pegg plays Gary King. Gary is a low life who peaked in high school who is hoping to re-ignite the good times he remembers having. At the start of the film, Gary tries to gather up his old high school buddies to revive an old tradition they did called “The Golden Mile.”

“The Golden Mile” involved going around and drinking a pint of beer at each of 12 pubs in the characters hometown of Newton Haven. Shortly after starting the quest, Gary gets into a fight with an odd acting teenager in a bar bathroom. Gary knocks the teen against the wall causing his head to fall off and exposing him as a robot.  The chaos starts to ensue shortly afterwards when Gary and his friends notice that the whole town of Newton Haven is infested with human-looking robots filled with blue ink.

Characterization is great in the film. Simon Pegg successfully play a drunk and druggie who is looking to have a good time with friends. Nick Frost (Pegg’s partner in crime in Shaun of the Dead) pulls off a solid performance as the reserved one of the group. Martin Freeman from the movie The Hobbit is also in the film.

The film project formed from an early screenplay that director/co-writer Edgar Wright wrote when he was 21. The original story involved a group of teenagers visiting several pubs. Wright reworked the script with Pegg to have a story that embodied the “bittersweet feeling of returning to your hometown and feeling like a stranger.”

Enjoyment will come from watching the film if the viewer liked the first two films in the Cornetto Trilogy. Crazy antics and surprisingly cool action scenes help keep the viewer watching. A sign of relieve can be given for the fact that the film does not employee the standard apocalypse movie format of people just running around and screaming.

Whether you have a love of sci-fi, action, or comedy, The World’s End employees all three while still giving new things to laugh at. The World’s End is a slapstick comedy that gives more to love from the creative minds of Pegg and Wright.

Review: Carpe Diem & Dead Poet’s Society

By the end of Dead Poet’s Society (1989), you won’t be able to get the motto “Carpe Diem” out of your head. Dead Poet’s Society is a drama film set in 1959 at a conservative school called Welton Academy. It tells the story of new teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) and his unconventional teaching methods. Keating inspires his class of students through teaching poetry.

Image by Touchstone Pictures via
Image by Touchstone Pictures via

The only storyline that is given depth is with the character of Neil (Robert Sean Leonard), who has ambitions to become an actor. His strict  father forbids him from doing so. He wants Neil to go to military school, then enroll at Harvard University for a career as a doctor. The pressure from his father and teachers at school drives Neil over the edge.

Robin Williams gives a fine performance as the boys over-the-top zany teacher. Williams brings a witty yet intelligent characterization to teacher. He articulates his words nicely and makes every word he’s saying meaningful. Williams was honored for his performance with an Academy Award-Best Actor nomination.

Being in a privileged, conservative and strict all boys school, the boys are sheltered from the many things of life. William’s character does unconventional methods of teaching in order to get the boys to start thinking for themselves and questioning the things in life.

Many people might be slightly disappointed by the film. The script does not fully develop any of the characters (including teacher John Keating). Scenes in the in the movie do not seem to fully fit together with each other. Many people might think the film does not explain the characters actions on their pursuit of “Carpe Diem” enough.

Despite any short comings one may experience, the film is sure to give one a new motto to keep in mind: Carpe Diem. Suck the marrow out of life and make your life extraordinary.

Although the ending to life has already been written, one can still compose the story.

Note: Apple recently made a commercial with the voice over of Robin Williams doing the “What will your verse be?” scene in Dead Poet’s Society.  The commercial is promotion for Apple’s iPad Air. Watch below.

“Wanted: Someone to Go Back in Time with Me”

WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.


Safety Not Guaranteed follows Jeff (Jake Johnson), a cocky writer at magazine who spots an ad in the classifieds that mentions time travel. Jeff wants to investigate the man behind the ad. With the help of two interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), they set out on a trip to Ocean View, Washington to find the man.

The team is able to track down the guy who placed the ad. He is a man named Kenneth(Mark Duplass) who is in his 30’s working at a supermarket. Kenneth is resistant when confronted with the hard hitting efforts made by Jeff. Darius, using her sarcasm and deadpan humor, is able to quickly form a bond with him. Kenneth will take Darius along with him in his time machine. Kenneth wants to travel back to 2001 to save a girlfriend who died.

Safety Not Guaranteed, produced for just $750,000, is a film that enhances the mumblecore films that have come before it. It has a characters that are putting their quirky natures to use. The dialogue is great. Mark and Jay Duplass, producers on the film, helped start the movement with films like The Puffy Chair and The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.

The film is based upon an actual newspaper article. The inspiration for the script came from a 1997 Backwoods Home Magazine classified ad written by an employee as a joke filler.

The film’s performances are great. Mark Duplass shows how versatile an actor he is. Known very well for his award-winning directing and writing, Duplass brings something special to the character of Kenneth. Kenneth is odd but there are reasons for it. Duplass nails the job of giving long bursts of lines and making them all count. Aubrey Plaza shines in her first starring role. Plaza demonstrates more beyond her already widely known deadpan skills that she does on NBC’s Park’s and Recreation. Plaza play the role of Darius, a sarcastic recent college grad, very well. Plaza and Duplass are the standout performers of the film.

The film is vague when it comes to whether time travelling actually takes place or not. Nonetheless, the writer, director and actors provide a solid film to remember.

Derek Connolly, screenwriter for the film, won both the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Image by FilmDistrict from


Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

You know that weird gut feeling you get sometimes? It’s a feeling you get whenever your tired of seeing the same type of movie over and over. It’s the feeling I had after seeing over the top comedies and big action movies one after the next. Going to see Gimme Shelter was the solution.

Plot: 16-year-old Agnes “Apple Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) is a troubled, aggresive girl who has lived in abusive environments her whole life. Apple’s mother June, played by Rosario Dawson, is a sleazy drug addict who doesn’t care much for Apple besides the extra welfare money she gets for being her parent. Apple, fed up with her living situation, sets out to find her long lost father. Upon meeting him, she finds out that he is a successful Wall Street Broker with a wife and two kids. After a dispute she leaves. Apple eventually ends up in a shelter for pregnant young women run by a spritiual women.

Main Point: Despite a line of capable actors, the film falls flat with dull dialogue and a script that does little more than go beyond standard cliches.


Slow mutterings start the movie. “I’m okay. I’m not scared. I can do this.” Apple says to herself in the mirror while chopping off her black hair strand by strand. It’s noticed from the get go that Apple is misguided, not having a clear head to make decisions. She is leaving the abusive house she lives in with her druggie mom. With an addressed letter to guide her, she lands at her long lost father’s house. Tom, her father (Brendon Fraser), greets her with a former look and a head of hair gel (typical).

Apple sticks out like a coffee stain on a t-shirt compared to Tom’s lifestyle. Tom lives with his wife and two kids in a wealthy, picket fence neighborhood. When the married couple find out Apple is pregnant, they schedule for her to get an abortion. Frustrated, she storms out and onto the streets again. Stealing a car and wrecking puts her in the hospital and under the guidance of a chaplain Father McCarthy (James Earl Jones).

Only halfway through runtime and the film is already unsettling. The dialogue feels weirdly unnatural. The acting and scripting does little to add originality to an environment that has been seen several times before. Apple is constantly in angst against the ones around her. Then suddenly shortly after arriving at the group home for pregnant teens, she changes. She likes the place she is at. There is stability and a sense of safety. The problem is that the viewer never sees this. The script does nothing to make it seem like  a new sense of being has been developed. The idea that Apple has developed close relationships and belonging with all the girls feels false. There wasn’t enough building. The whole film starts to feel like a gimmicky PBS TV special.

The start of the film was promising but interest quickly drops after Apple is taken into the care of the priest and group home. Despite the lacking script, Vanessa Hudgens, Brendon Fraser and Rosario Dawson give refreshing performances. This just isn’t the best work to see these actors in.  Hudgens shines farther with her acting chops in The Frozen Ground and Dawson with her performance in Kids. Rating: C

That Awkward Moment (film review)

“These are some weird tasting mints..”

“Yeah it’s cause their viagra.”


It’s easy to dismiss That Awkward Moment as another cliche, feel-goodie rom-com. It has the standard set of characters and scenarios to make it like others: main character is down on their luck, a talkative friend stands nearby and eventually the main character falls for another newly introduced character that is beautiful (but not conventionally so).

Suprisingly That Awkward Moment provides a fresh take on the romantic comedy film genre that many thought was dying. The dialogue holds viewer interest with its witty fiascos and funny liners. The film has a lot of “bromantic” nature to it yet it remains something that any viewer (male or female) could laugh at and relate to.

The film starts with Jason (Zac Efron) as he goes through a “break-up” with a girl he has been seeing for the past six weeks. She wants to break up yet he didn’t even know they were dating. He has a hard time deciding if he is “officially dating” any of the girls he sees. It doesn’t help that he has a talkative womanizer friend named Daniel (Miles Teller) who flows through girls with the help of a female friend luring them in to talk.

Things change when Jason and Daniel learn that Mikey’s wife has cheated on him. Jason and Daniel make a pack with him: stay single with him. Things prove tricky when Jason and Daniel both end up falling in love and have to start hiding it.

The film is hilarious and not like other generic love dove rom-coms. The dialogue points out common cliches of the bar dating scene. The film never seems to go stale as it tells the tale of a group of people trying to understand how to have a stable relationship with another person.B+

With the downward trend of romantic comedies and their less than stellar box office results, Director Tom Gormican took a good move in making the film (with a cast of well-known stars hot off successes) for only $8 million.

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

A warm and feel-good movie is what most people want when they hit the movie theater on Christmas day. That is what they will get. Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty lets the viewer relish in daydreams and sees how a man changes because of them. The film is a loose take on the 1939 short story of the same name by James Thurber.

Photo via
Photo via

Stiller, along with directing the movie, takes on the main role of Walter Mitty. Walter is a quiet and closed-off person working at Life magazine as a Negative Asset Manager. His life is pretty bland. He is an expert at balancing his checkbook but cannot muster up the courage to “wink” his crush and fellow co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) on eHarmony. He has a bad habit of zoning out at times. He drifts off into vivid daydreams filled with things he wish he could say and places he wish he could visit. His daydream self has a strong confidence that his real-life bland office worker self does not.

There is a disruption in Walter’s life. Life magazine is scheduling its last print edition and going to online. Walter is tasked with the important role of providing the negative #25 photo by famed photographer Sean O’Connell, to be used as the cover for the final print issue. The negative #25 cannot be found however. It seems to be lost. Walter does not have it in his hands.

Teetering on the edge of getting laid off, Walter travels to Greenland and Iceland to track down Sean O’Connell. He needs the photo. The expedition yields more than just work duties. Walter is diving into the unknown. He is being adventurous for the first time in his life. The empty travel journal that his father gave to him before passing away when Walter was 17 is finally getting used.

The film wavers a bit with its daydream to reality sequences. Many critics have pointed out to the fact that the film loses steam. It’s pointed out that logic and imagination is not properly balanced. This is a good observation but slightly missing the point. Stiller does make a distinction between reality and fantasy. He does weird things (like throwing away the Sean O’Connell gifted wallet) because he is functioning on auto mode. His life is just going with the flow and not really observing what exactly is going on in front of him.

Although The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been getting mixed reviews it is a solid film to see. There is no other movie that will give you a warm mushy feeling inside than this (maybe Christian Bale’s comb over in American Hustle will hold you over).  The film provides great visuals and a predictable but good ending.

One thing stuck in my head after viewing the film: You cannot decide what to do with your life by sitting and thinking hard, it happens through taking action. This is exactly what Walter Mitty does in the film. B-