Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Stonehearst Asylum’ is an Example of Old Fashioned Storytelling

posted by jtotey
Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley) "treats" Dr. Newgate (Jim Sturgess) in "Stoneheart Asylum." (Millennium Entertainment)

Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley) “treats” Dr. Newgate (Jim Sturgess) in “Stoneheart Asylum.” (Millennium Entertainment)

With a title like Stonehearst Asylum and the spooky-looking poster promoting it, you might be inclined to think that this movie would be another horror film out just in time for Halloween, but you would be wrong. You won’t find any creepy dead girls climbing out of wells to steal your soul or people who can walk through metal bars. Mostly. Stonehearst is actually a thriller or adventure story with some uncomfortable undertones.

The movie is loosely based on the short story “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe, which is considered a dark comedy. While this version is not a comedy, it isn’t a horror film either, but is fitting for the season.

The story opens on Christmas Eve in 1899. Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) has just arrived at Stonehearst Mental Asylum to begin an apprenticeship with Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley). Edward is lead around the facility and meets different staff members and some of the patients including Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful woman who has an aversion to intimacy. We’re not talking about someone who becomes uncomfortable when someone invades her personal space. No, she becomes almost violent whenever someone touches her.

Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale) plays the piano to calm the other patients and herself.

Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale) plays the piano to calm the other patients and herself.

Edward learns that Dr. Lamb’s methods are not the same as traditional therapy and the older “medieval” practices by Dr. Salt (Michael Caine) had only been abandoned a short time earlier. Patients now are allowed to roam about the facility unmediated. Doctors and nurses care for the patients by allowing them to act out their odd actions as long as they don’t harm themselves or others. Already, you know that the good doctor is in trouble and Edward senses that not everything is on the up and up. However, even with Eliza telling Edward that he doesn’t “belong” there, he stubbornly stays and seeks to find the truth.

Stonehearst differs from the Poe story in many ways, but the basic theme and setting is the same and actually improves the plot. While some will disagree, this film is a good example of good story-telling. It’s not complicated. What appears to be black and white at first is actually a lot grayer in color. The story will make you wonder who the “good” guys are and who the “bad” are and are the methods used to cure the insane worse than the diagnosis? Which is worse – to be sane and miserable or insane and happy? The movie even features a twist in the end for good measure.

All of the actors are especially good in their roles, but this is Ben Kingsley’s movie. Much like his role in the Ironman 3 movie, he chews up every scene that he is in. The film does have a few “cheesy” moments of dialogue between Edward and Eliza, but that can be easily overlooked as it doesn’t ruin the story.

Stonehearst is an old-fashioned tale where you will wonder how the hero will save the day. It is rated PG-13 for disturbing and violent images, sexual content and language, but those are fairly minor and don’t interrupt the story. Some viewers will no doubt be disappointed with the picture expecting it to be a lot scarier than it is. Just run with it. You’ll enjoy it a lot more if you do.

YouTube Duo Pen New Comedy Book

posted by jtotey
Tripp and Tyler

Tyler Stanton and Tripp Crosby (Benbella Books)

You may not know Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton by name, but chances are you have  seen one or more of their many comedy videos posted on YouTube. Better known as Tripp & Tyler, the two have worked together and separately on various projects since 2006. Much of their work can be seen on YouTube where the comedy sketches and parodies have over 23 million views and the pair have over 65,000 subscribers. When they are not creating stull online, they are performing it around their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Today, an announcement was sent regarding their new book, Stuff You Should Know About Stuff.  “It’s here. The book we’ve spent over two years writing, editing, tweaking, massaging, illustrating and debating over is now LIVE! This whole time we’ve planned on November 4th as the release date, but it looks like Amazon had other plans.”

(Benbella Books)

(Benbella Books)

So, what is the book about? Well, it’s full of wisdom from the minds of the authors who venture to guess that future anthropologists will no doubt describe the book as “the Rosetta Stone of handling trivial life situations.”  Topics discussed in the book include:

  • Do you know how to properly conduct yourself in a public restroom?
    What about in the midst of a profoundly awkward silence?
    Have you perfected how to get out of helping your friend move?

If the ringing endorsements from such celebrities as Jeff Foxworthy isn’t enough for you, (“Probably one of the top ten books ever written. I can’t wait to read it.”), then you might want to take advantage of the free 30-page excerpt. If you are unfamiliar with Tripp & Tyler, then check out their YouTube page.

‘Marry Me’ Features Too Much Banter, Too Little Plot

posted by jtotey
Annie (Casey Wilson) and Jake (Ken Marino) star in "Marry Me." (NBC)

Annie (Casey Wilson) and Jake (Ken Marino) star in “Marry Me.” (NBC)

For a couple of years, the ABC and a few choice critics were trying to tell us that the sitcom, Happy Endings was worth watching. It wasn’t. While witty banter will make for a good scene every now and then, a sitcom can’t survive on witty banter alone and for the most part, that is all Happy Endings was. That and loose morals. Giving the audience more than just a hint of plot is so much more with it. With that said, Casey Wilson may have been the best thing from that show. Her timing and facial expressions are spot on. It is surely those qualities is why NBC decided to pick up her latest venture, Marry Me.

David Caspe, writer for Happy Endings is back at work here with director Seth Gordon, director of The Goldbergs. Marry Me actually has a lot of potential to work, but if the pilot episode is any indication for the future, it won’t. Here’s the deal, Annie (Wilson) and Jake (Ken Marino) have been dating for six years. You would think that the two would get married by this point, and so do they, sort of. The premiere begins with the couple just coming back from a two week paradise vacation and Annie was hoping that Jake would have popped the question on the trip. What she didn’t know before she goes off on her 15-minute tirade is that Jake was planning to do just that and then celebrate with friends and family who have been hiding around her apartment. This is fairly funny scene. So is the flashback on how the two met and the proposal redo that Annie springs on Jake at his office. But they are more than just a set up for more clever banter.

To the casual observer, Annie and Jake seem perfect for each other. But the show continues in this vein of frantic bantering without taking a breath except for the occasional bad jokes from other cast members. Like the friend who waited so long in the closet to come jump out and say “surprise” that she wet herself in the closet. I’m sorry, but “humor” like this isn’t funny. It’s just gross and distasteful.

The other problem with this show is that is doesn’t seem to know what show it is going to be. On one hand, it feels like an old-fashioned romantic comedy. Annie doesn’t want her and Jake to live together before they get married, but she doesn’t have a problem with him sleeping over at her place or taking two week long vacations with each other. As a person who still believes that men and women shouldn’t “shack up” but understand that not everyone feels that way, I don’t understand this logic. Wouldn’t a sitcom about a couple dating for six years while abstaining from sex be funnier? Of course then the title would be, “Marry Me…PLEASE!” Instead we get another pair of really likeable characters in a plot-light story. And a lot of banter.

Marry Me airs on Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

Believe Me: Comedy or Cringe-Inducing?

posted by jtotey

 

Alex Russell stars in the faith-based satire, "Believe Me." (Riot Studios)

Alex Russell stars in the faith-based satire, “Believe Me.” (Riot Studios)

A new kind of faith-based film came to movie screens a couple of years ago called Blue Like Jazz which was based on the book by the same name by Christian author Donald Miller. It featured college kids drinking, some swearing and references to sex and sort of came and went without much fanfare. Currently in theaters is another faith-based film which features college kids drinking, some swearing…and no references to sex, that I can remember. However, those are not the issues that will make Christians cringe while watching it. Believe Me is an ambitious satire about Christians and even though the religious ones in the story are not the villains, their behavior will challenge you to re-think your own.

The story is about Sam (Alex Russell) and his college friends who…surprise…can’t afford college. Sam is ready to graduate and move on to law school when he finds out that his scholarship ran out months earlier. While attending a church service to impress a girl, Sam is mesmerized by a group of short-term missionaries who feel called to serve in…Hawaii. Like sheep going to slaughter, Sam witnesses the congregation giving money left and right for the cause. In no time, Sam has convinced his buddies Baker (Max Adler), Tyler (Sinqua Walls), and Pierce (Miles Fisher – a Tom Cruise look-alike) that the answer to their financial dreams to create their “ministry outreach” where they reach out for other’s people’s money and then keep it for themselves. In no time, the two-week plan turns into two months as a Ken (Christopher McDonald), a leader of the Cross Country ministry team, takes the “God Squad” under his wings to help them raise money for starving children in Africa. They gladly accept, but realize in a hurry that they can’t pass themselves off as Christians without some study. They learn that Christians:

  • Have different body postures during worship
  • Are “okay” with swearing if they shorten the four-letter words to just one letter.
  • Will drink wine and attend bars as long as their drinks are non-alcoholic
  • Will buy the dumbest t-shirts if the shirts talk about God

This of course is funny, but it is also sad because it is true. The cringe moments continue when you see how gullible the church crowd can be. Sam learns early on that just telling a packed building full of Christians and telling them about the woes in Africa is enough to collect coins. When he changes his tune slightly to say that God will bless the people for their generous giving, that’s when they respond. They completely fall for the “what’s in it for me scheme.” Sam is no longer trying to preach the gospel; he is just selling a product.

Even people of Cross Country team are oblivious to their own behavior. Gabriel (Zachary Knighton), the worship leader, sings songs that only repeat the name of “Jesus” over and over again. He says, “I realized if the song is supposed to all about Him, than what are the other words there for?” Other members of the team become inspired about the “work” the God Squad is doing. The guys respond by telling others what they want to hear. Even the tour manager Callie (Johanna Braddy), who is skeptical of the guys at first, fall victim to their lies.

Believe Me is pretty good. The acting doesn’t leave the saccharine flavor you will find in some other faith-based films. NBC’s Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman has a brief role and the best scene in the whole film as a guidance counselor. Hip Hop artist Lecrae also has a cameo role as well. There are a few plot holes and scenes where characters seem to disappear and then re-appear with no real reason for their absence, but these are minor infractions.

The creators of Believe Me may disagree, but I think this film should be used as tool to preach to the choir rather than an outreach tool to reach the masses. Anything that can make us question our authenticity and become more real in the process is a good thing.

Previous Posts

‘Stonehearst Asylum’ is an Example of Old Fashioned Storytelling
With a title like Stonehearst Asylum and the spooky-looking poster promoting it, you might be inclined to think that

posted 3:50:59am Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

YouTube Duo Pen New Comedy Book
You may not know Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton by name, but chances are you have  seen one or more of their many comedy videos posted on YouTube. Better known as Tripp & Tyl

posted 5:34:51pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

‘Marry Me’ Features Too Much Banter, Too Little Plot
For a couple of years, the ABC and a few choice critics were trying to tell us that the sitcom, Happy Endings was worth watching. It wasn’t. While witty ban

posted 3:55:16pm Oct. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Believe Me: Comedy or Cringe-Inducing?
  A new kind of faith-based film came to movie screens a couple of years ago called Blue Like Jazz which was based on the book by the same name

posted 1:29:56am Oct. 11, 2014 | read full post »

'Alexander’s Bad Day' is Good for Everyone Else
Finally, this weekend you can find out for yourself why Steve Carrell is chasing a kangaroo and what that has to do with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Ve

posted 2:19:44pm Oct. 10, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.