Tag: bryce johnson

Something, Anything

Something, Anything (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★

Peggy (Ashley Shelton) and Mark (Bryce Johnson), recently married, seemed set to having a lifetime of contentment together until Peggy miscarried. Although it is no one’s fault, Peggy remains angry with her husband because the night she lost their baby, Mark insisted that she came along to a bar for a work meeting even though she had not been feeling well. A few months pass and although they remain married, Peggy has moved out and is beginning to consider leaving her job as a realtor.

“Something, Anything” is a thoughtful, engaging drama that is equally about expressed emotions, words, and glances as well as its unexpressed counterparts. It demands the viewer to pay attention to the circumstances surrounding the woman who is in dire need of change and consideration about what she might get out of the experience regardless of it working out. At its core, it is a humanistic film. It is one of those rare movies that asks us to evaluate whether we really are content with where we are in life currently.

There is no good guy or bad guy or an expected conflict where the girl must choose the man she wants to be with in the end. There are two men in the movie—one is Mark and the other is Tim (Linds Edwards), the brother of Peggy’s friend from high school who sends her a letter of condolence after her miscarriage. Word has it that Tim has joined a monastery. The two men’s priorities in life are vastly different but both are good-natured. Peggy considers each man as a reflection of where her own life might be heading.

There are segments in the picture where no words are used. We are asked to be observant of the kind of activities Peggy chooses to partake in, what books she chooses to check out from the library, the objects she puts away, how she puts them away, her posture as she engages in solitary activity. Here, grief is almost always expressed in silence. There is no wise counseling session. There are no supportive friends. In fact, her friends are shallow, their so-called advice more telling of who they really are underneath rather than one that is supposed to help out a friend who needs genuine love and support.

The material touches upon the idea of many of us blindly following along what the society expects of us to do once we reach a certain age. For example, pay close attention to the scenes where money is directly or indirectly talked about. In a way, it is brave because the film is willing to hold up a mirror, to ask us to take a good look, and to evaluate. Are you the kind of person who live for the money or are you the kind of person who regards money as only money and uses it to really live? The picture makes a noble case that in modern society, too many of us fall within the former group—which is most unhealthy.

Divided into four seasons, the story, although straightforward, is bigger than a span of ninety minutes. Some movies last for about twice that running time yet still struggle to communicate a quarter of what is tackled here. This makes “Something, Anything,” written and directed by Paul Harrill, quite an accomplishment. It is a small film surely but its ideas reach deep into the souls of those willing to look within.

Willow Creek

Willow Creek (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

A firm believer that Bigfoot actually exists, Jim (Bryce Johnson) invites his girlfriend, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), to go on a camping trip with him to Shasta-Trinity National Forest and find the area where Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin supposedly captured Bigfoot on film in 1967. Along the way, they interview residents of Willow Creek, the Bigfoot capital, and a few give caution that the couple ought to stay away from the woods. After all, bears, mountains lions, rattlesnakes, and other creatures roam free there.

If “Willow Creek” had been released right before Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’ highly influential “The Blair Witch Project,” people would likely to have believed that it was indeed a real found footage film. Supernatural elements are kept at a bare minimum. Some might argue there is no supernatural element at all. The picture may not have very many scares but once it reaches the climax, its sharp claws do not let go of our attention.

I am referring to the exemplary tent scene where the take appears to go uninterrupted for about half an hour. It is so simple but extremely effective: Two people woken up in the middle of the night, clearly out of their depths, by strange noises in the woods. First they hear knocking sounds from afar. Kelly, a Bigfoot non-believer, claims it is only a prank.

But then the knocking sounds get closer. They hear rustling near the tent. Kelly starts to get anxious. She sits in the dark, her eyes wondering if she had been wrong to doubt this whole time. Jim’s eyes, too, wonder if he had made the wrong decision to invite his girlfriend. If things did not go well in the next few hours, the body count would be two.

The scene inside the tent reminded me of Chris Kentis’ highly underrated horror film “Open Water.” Like that gem, the focus is on two people stuck in a very scary place. They know that a threat is out there but nothing else. How many are hunting them? When will they strike? Will they make it through the night?

With such a short running time, writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait is aware that he must be efficient in telling his story. And he is. There is a defined rising action in a form of comedy. That is, the quirky interviews with the townsfolk who make a living selling various Bigfoot merchandises. I also enjoyed the silly debates between Jim and Kelly in the car. They sound like a real couple on a getaway.

Subtract the final thirty to thirty-five minutes, Goldthwait has created a good travelogue. As I watched the pair eat a Bigfoot sandwich, it occurred to me that I would like to visit Willow Creek, California some time. I would, however, stay far away from the forest. I am not camping person anyway.

The Blue Tooth Virgin

The Blue Tooth Virgin (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★

Sam (Austin Peck), a screenplay writer, invites his friend David (Bryce Johnson), a magazine editor, to meet up because he has great news: his most recent work, titled “The Blue Tooth Virgin” about a girl who has the ability to morph into another body, is finished. Sam is very interested to know what a non-screenwriter thinks about his screenplay, so he hands David a copy. Despite Sam’s circle of friends telling him that the draft is nothing short of brilliant, David thinks that it is a complete mess and chooses to tell Sam the truth.

Written and directed by Russell Brown, “The Blue Tooth Virgin” tackles an issue that we can all relate to and it is able to offer several messages about what it means to be a friend versus a critic, an impartial versus a personal criticism, and the struggle between genuinely feeling happy for a friend and wrestling against the pangs of jealousy.

The picture’s acting requires a little bit of getting used to. When Sam and David meet at the cafe, they are supposed to be friends, considering that one is comfortable enough to ask for what the other really thinks about his work, but the way certain lines are delivered feels forced at times. Somewhere around the middle, there is a sudden shift. Peck and Johnson are more natural and it is more comfortable to watch.

A handful of scenes are effortlessly funny. For instance, when Sam asks David about, specifically, what he likes or dislikes about the script while playing golf, David keeps using the word “unique” and misses the hole every time he swings the club. Just as quickly, the laughs are overshadowed by a more somber tone. As Sam realizes that his friend does not like his script at all, hurt and embarrassment are drawn all over his face and body language. There is a level of honesty. All of us have given criticisms, constructive as well as malicious. Once we put our opinion out there and the person receiving feedback does not like what we have to say, the situation becomes awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s friendship and it’s not always easy.

I enjoyed watching the way the protagonists complement each other. There is a progression in the way small things–like Sam and David coming from different financial situations, age, and relationship status–affect their definition of passion whether it be about work or what interests them on their spare time. My favorite scene is when David meets with Dr. Christopher (Roma Maffia), a psychologist, because he wants to know the source of his writer’s block. It is unlike mainstream therapy sessions often featured in the movies. Painful truths are spoken about the way people think and behave and yet there is a fitting message underneath it.

I wished there were more scenes shared between them because they do not hold back, unlike what Sam and David have. “The Blue Tooth Virgin” asks if a friendship is still worth saving when it has turned rotten from the inside. If so, at what point do we owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to just call it quits?