Film Threat Review: Life with Fiona

Originally Posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

2007
Un-rated
85 minutes
1 Star

 

Writer/Director/”actor” Greg Lobb looks and sounds exactly like John Hodgman. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. While Daily Show correspondent, satirist, and P.C. anti-spokesperson Hodgman has an intellectual buffoonish charm, Greg Lobb makes me want to “lobb”. I can’t believe I spent 85 minutes with him and his inane film.

“Life with Fiona” tells the story of a man named Steve who is unlucky in love. This seems to have a lot to do with the fact that the guy is a total loser. Not a lovable loser, mind you. He’s more like that unnerving dork who works in your office with whom you hate to get stuck in the break room because no matter what crappy small talk he makes, he’s obviously just staring at your boobs. Luckily, Steve works in some sort of alternate-dimension office (they sell golf pencils or something. I don’t know) wherein every employee is exactly like him. There are no women apart from an infantile secretary named Jessica (no relation) who plays with dolls and is inexplicably lusted after by everyone else in the office. I suppose when there is only one female in your office, your lusting options are kind of limited.

Anywho, Steve doesn’t need to worry about being rejected by Jessica for long because there are plenty of other bat-shit fish in the sea. One day Steve runs into an enchantingly nutso lady at his BFF’s apartment. Her name is Fiona and she’s enchanting because she answers the door naked and she’s just had a three-way with Steve’s BFF and wife of BFF. This means she’s super slutty and therefore, Steve, coincidentally the protagonist of this film, totally has a chance with her.

What follows is scene after scene of boring old Steve and crazy as the day-is-long Fiona (but god, isn’t she HAWT?!) having some sort of weird-ass relationship. She’s needy and he’s uncomfortable with that (even though she is without question, the best he can do). Then he’s needy and she’s slutty. This is followed by scenes wherein I guess we’re supposed to think they’re a happy, cute couple. Next she becomes bitchy and breaks up with him. He reacts by becoming needy and whiny which miraculously results in them getting back together. After that she’s paranoid about him cheating on her with Wife of BFF. He assures her she’s the only woman for him and then he promptly goes out and cheats on her with Wife of BFF. I may have the order a little wrong but trust me, it doesn’t really matter. Why we’re supposed to like any of these characters or care what happens next is really beyond me. And don’t even get me started on the story structure. It’s like ‘Ol Lobbo couldn’t decide between the options in the holy triumvirate of irritating narration styles (voice-over, titles, or the one wherein the main character stands in a black limbo and breaks the 4th wall) so they decided to go with all three.

I suppose this movie is supposed to be funny and sometimes, if the writing is strong, you can make up for a lack of sympathetic (or even multi-dimensional) characters and still have a pretty good comedy. (Alex Cox’s “Straight to Hell” and “State and Main” come to mind). This did not happen with “Life with Fiona.” At all. Greg, don’t quit your day Lobb.

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Film Threat Review: Bookie

Originally Posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

2007
Un-rated
18 minutes
3 Stars

 

It’s not an easy feat for a low-budget short film to succeed in transporting you to another time and place. Most often, the end result smacks of community theatre because that’s probably also where they borrowed their costumes from. That’s why Tran Quoc Bao’s “Bookie” stands out from minute one. Along with the slick cinematography and impressive fight choreography, the sultry night club acts in “Bookie” suck you in and fool you into believing that it really is 1963 Seattle.

“Bookie” tells the story of a bookie named Bookie (Ken Quitugua) who works for a thuggish, womanizing club owner named Jackson. It’s the night of the big fight and the odds are, naturally, with the champ. Bookie takes a bet for the underdog from Rogers (JT Jackson), a fast-talking cat with the most interesting dialog. (Incidentally, JT Jackson played “Cola” in the Bacardi and Cola ads. It’s true that he gets the job done.) While Bookie waits for people to get their bets in, he shyly woos Billie (Angela Adto), the beautiful barmaid who takes abuse from Jackson. But when Bookie chooses to skim off the top to help Billie, he’s looking at more than just a pink slip as penalty.

While it is certainly an impressive short film, “Bookie” isn’t perfect. The acting is a little uneven and, unfortunately, most of that blame belongs to the male and female leads. Nonetheless, expert look and feel of the film makes up for some slightly cliché dialog.

The most powerful shots in the film, however, are of the club singers. The stunning close-ups on their faces tell more of a story in a few seconds than in the whole of “Bookie.” Another noteworthy performance is that of the masterful old-timey voice acting by Chad Jennings as the fight announcer.

On the whole, “Bookie” makes a fine calling card for Tran Quoc Bao and cinematographer Shaun Mayor. I hope it leads to bigger things for this creative team.

Film Threat Review: Last Stop for Paul

Originally Posted on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).

2007
Un-rated
83 minutes
2 Stars

 

“Last Stop for Paul” is yet another vanity indie film in which the writer, director and “star” is all one guy. One very uninteresting guy named Neil. I’ll start with saying something nice because I’m told if I don’t do that, I shouldn’t say anything at all. Technically, the film was fine. There was nothing annoying about the editing or the shots themselves. The concept was marginally original in that I’ve only seen it half a dozen times already. Grab a camera and set up scenes in each city to contribute to one big contrived documentary-style plot about two buddies taking the ashes of a third buddy on a trip around the world. The trouble is that the contrivances are so… contrived.

First, there are the Slanguage Lessons. Schlubby Guy #1 overhears a Jamaican man using the word “batty” and demands a definition for the benefit of himself and the audience. (It means ass). And then to prove he’s learning so much on his trip, he uses it in a sentence later! It doesn’t really make sense to call Schlubby Guy #2 a “batty face” after he gets ripped off by some Jamaican scam artists, but he does it anyway. In Slanguage Lesson # 2, the Schlubbs meet up with some Irish guys who go on and on about trying to find good “craic.” If you didn’t know that the word (pronounced “crack”) means “good times,” you might have found this misunderstanding hilarious (“Sorry dudes, we aren’t into drugs.”) but I doubt it.

Another irritating contrivance is all the “craaaaaazy shit” these guys get into. I do not believe that there is a bar in Santiago, Chile that is full of only women. Straight women. Who are just waiting for 4 white guys to come and show them a good time.

Contrivances aside, I just don’t care about these characters. I’ve met guys like this. They call themselves “travelers,” but they are deep as puddles and they are merely taking time off from their investment banker jobs to basically get drunk in different countries with other white people. Cultural differences sure are wacky and hey, doesn’t seeing all this old stuff really make you think? The whole thing is tied together with a voice over that actually contains lines like “I was lucky to be alive, but sad to say goodbye.” Seriously? No wonder we’re the most hated country in the world.

Tragedy at Starbuck's

Yes, I'm referring to the massive corporate layoffs, but more importantly, I'm concerned, horrified and devastated by the decision of re-instated CEO, Howard Schultz, to do away with the hot breakfast sandwiches.

Um…what?! No good reason is given for this. As far as I can tell, they are incredibly popular. They are also pretty much the only reason I GO to Starbuck's. Their drip coffee is crap and the rest of their pastry options are mediocre at best. I urge this Schultz fellow to reconsider. And I'm not alone.

For a look back on how the Starbucks breakfast sandwich has affected my life, I refer to you to three previous journal entries.


Goodbye…

The Starbuck's Breakfast Sandwich is dead. Long live the Starbuck's Breakfast Sandwich?