Martin Starr

Intruders (2015, Adam Schindler)

Should Intruders be good? It should be better, no question, but should it be good. It’s about an agoraphobic (who’s an agoraphobic solely as part of the film’s gimmick) who has to fend off intruders into her home. Beth Riesgraf plays the agoraphobic. She’s quite good in the first act, then she loses her own movie to one of the villains. Because it turns out Riesgraf isn’t a damsel in distress and is able to return the intruders’ ferocity.

I’m trying to give the spoilers a wide berth, but Riesgraf doesn’t whether their reveals well. Partially because it’s terribly written and terribly directed, partially because she just doesn’t. At the same time, writers T.J. Cimfel and David White–along with director Schindler–give Jack Kesy a whole bunch to do. He goes from being “vicious redneck #1” to Sherlock Holmes Jr., complete with qualifications to his attack on Riesgraf and her response. It’s exactly where Intruders shouldn’t go. It isn’t capable of asking big questions. It’s capable of offering working television actors a nice change of pace in a reasonably well-directed thriller. And I don’t think Intruders necessarily wants to ask big questions, but shutting Riesgraf out of her own movie to showcase Kesy’s acting? It defaults and becomes a pain to watch.

Vaguely amusing support from Martin Starr as a psychopathic thug (with what appears to be a glued on lumberjack beard). Rory Culkin’s good as Riesgraf’s flirtation, though he eventually just becomes the film’s damsel in distress (which it probably could have gone further with, but didn’t). Kesy’s fine. Riesgraf ranges from great to weak. But there’s nothing she could do after a certain point. The script breaks both Kesy and Riesgraf’s characters, his for the better, hers for the worse. Neither move helps the film at all. It’s just to drag out the narrative.

Schindler’s got some solid directorial moves on Intruders. He knows how to make a limited budget seem bigger, he does fine with the actors. Bad music by Frederik Wiedmann. Eric Leach’s photography is competent but lacks any personality.

Some of Intruders is pretty good, but when it goes bad, it doesn’t stop. Is that a saying? It is now, I want to be done with Intruders.



Directed by Adam Schindler; written by T.J. Cimfel and David White; director of photography, Eric Leach; edited by Brian Netto and Schindler; music by Frederik Wiedmann; production designer, James Wiley Fowler; produced by Lati Grobman, Erik Olsen, Jeff Rice and Steven Schneider; released by Momentum Pictures.

Starring Beth Riesgraf (Anna Rook), Martin Starr (Perry Cuttner), Jack Kesy (J.P. Henson), Joshua Mikel (Vance Henson) and Rory Culkin (Dan Cooper).

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014, Tommy Wirkola)

How do you follow up Nazi zombies? Nazi zombies fighting Russian zombies. Sort of. That aspect of Dead Snow 2 comes near the end, with director Wirkola first having to deal with the fallout from the first movie. But Russian zombies don’t really have the bite of Nazi zombies, so Wirkola just amps up everything in this film.

Vegar Hoel, sole survivor from the first movie, wakes up in the hospital to discover the doctor has given him a zombie arm. Snow 2 is never particularly original–even when it is original, it feels like Wirkola took some of his Army of Darkness fan-fic and changed Bruce Campbell to Hoel–but the excess succeeds more often than not.

The absurd factor carries over to the U.S. zombie hunters who show up–Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas–not to mention the idiot Norwegian police chief, Hallvard Holmen. Stig Frode Henriksen plays Hoel’s reluctant sidekick.

Wirkola, Hoel and Henriksen’s script is fairly light on character development. DeBoer’s an annoying Star Wars fangirl, Henriksen’s in the closet (which is nowhere near as successful as the filmmakers seem to think). Haas doesn’t have any characteristics and Starr’s a geek thrilled to discover zombies are real. But the film’s fast-paced enough it usually doesn’t matter. Except with Holmen, who only gets a couple good jokes and lots of lame ones.

Wirkola’s direction’s adequate. Nice photography from Matthew Weston.

Snow 2 gloriously goes too far as often as possible; sometimes it works.



Directed by Tommy Wirkola; written by Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel and Wirkola; director of photography, Matthew Weston; edited by Martin Stoltz; music by Christian Wibe; production designer, Liv Ask; produced by Kjetil Omberg and Terje Stroemstad; released by Well Go USA Entertainment.

Starring Vegar Hoel (Martin), Ørjan Gamst (Herzog), Martin Starr (Daniel), Jocelyn DeBoer (Monica), Ingrid Haas (Blake), Stig Frode Henriksen (Glenn Kenneth), Hallvard Holmen (Gunga), Kristoffer Joner (Sidekick Zombie), Amrita Acharia (Reidun) and Derek Mears (Stavarin).

Adventureland (2009, Greg Mottola)

I hate Adventureland. I mean, it’s a rather good film, but I’m going to have to say nice things about Ryan Reynolds now and so I hate it. Reynolds has a small but significant role in the film and he’s fantastic, bringing humanity to what should be a common character. I cringed at his name in the credits then proceeded to love his performance. So I hate Adventureland.

Greg Mottola’s film isn’t revolutionary. It’s a coming of age story. But there’s a lot of nice nuance to it. It’s a post-college coming of age story, set in 1987, but nothing like a movie from 1987. Then there’s the whole undercurrent of anti-semiticism, which gets a specific scene, but not a lot of notice–the film’s primary three characters are Jewish (I’m just guessing with Jesse Eisenberg’s character, as it wouldn’t make much sense if he wasn’t) and they have this awkward relationship with the Catholics they work with. Mottola doesn’t establish it, he just later refers to it–it’s part of the ground situation, something everyone knows about and the viewer has to get caught up on immediately. It’s beautiful. Or Eisenberg being the youngest guy drinking at the bar. It just goes on and on.

But what Adventureland is all about, what makes it singular, is Kristen Stewart. I’ve been a fan since Speak–though I’ve never gotten around to seeing any of her films–and Adventureland is something of a showcase for her talent. Mottola seems to realize Eisenberg’s problems can’t carry an entire film, so he juxtaposes it with Stewart and her situation. Her situation is slightly more singular than Eisenberg’s and, even if it weren’t, it’s clear Stewart would be amazing in more pat scenes. Fingers crossed Stewart doesn’t let the paychecks of Twilight-like malarky sway her from doing good films.

So what about Eisenberg, the film’s ostensible lead? He’s great too. He’s nothing compared to Stewart, but he’s great. He’s got a great way of delivering Mottola’s dialogue–there’s always this thoughtful pause. It’s impossible to imagine the film without this cast.

Martin Starr’s solid as Eisenberg’s sort-of friend, Matt Bush hilarious as the childhood friend Eisenberg has outgrown (another one of Adventureland and Mottola’s lovely moves). Bill Hader has what would be the most traditional comedy role and he’s funny. It works.

Mottola’s direction is excellent. His strengths as a filmmaker more than make up for the film running about five minutes too long, maybe seven.

But I still hate Adventureland for making me say nice things about Ryan Reynolds.



Written and directed by Greg Mottola; director of photography, Terry Stacey; edited by Anne McCabe; music by Yo La Tengo; production designer, Stephen Beatrice; produced by Ted Hope, Anne Carey and Sidney Kimmel; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg (James Brennan), Kristen Stewart (Em Lewin), Martin Starr (Joel Schiffman), Bill Hader (Bobby), Kristen Wiig (Paulette), Margarita Levieva (Lisa P.), Jack Gilpin (Mr. Brennan), Wendie Malick (Mrs. Brennan) and Ryan Reynolds (Mike Connell).

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