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Mace and Crown | May 22, 2018

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Monarch Movie Minute: 'Tickled,' 'Girl Asleep' and 'What We Do in the Shadows'

Tyler Passarge
Staff Writer

‘Tickled’ (2016) | R | 92 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

New Zealand journalist David Ferrier begins the film by characterizing himself as someone who is obsessed with the weird and bizarre side of human life. His hunt for colorful topics to write about leads Ferrier to a video of what can only be described as “Competitive Endurance Tickling.” In the video, two athletic young males can be seen holding down a third young male tickling him into submission.

Whether it was designed to be a sport or fetish video, Ferrier only becomes entangled by the oddity of it and seeks to know more. Wanting to investigate, Ferrier sends a message to Jane O’ Brien, the company behind the video, to ask a few questions. What Ferrier gets in response is a hateful, homophobic response that declines any involvement with the bisexual writer. The odd and negative response from Jane O’ Brien peaks Ferrier’s curiosity prompting him to investigate.

While the film opens with the silly and light-hearted image of three guys tickling each other, things begin to take a surprisingly dark turn. As Ferrier discovers more sordid things about Jane O’ Brien Media through interviews, the laughs abruptly stop. The unusual story and dark tonal shifts are what makes “Tickled” work as a documentary and a piece of investigative journalism.

What starts off as a documentary about tickling, slowly begins to turn into a character study of the person behind Jane O’ Brien Media. “Tickled” is a film that pulls its audience deeper into the web of controversy that surrounds the company of Jane O’ Brien. Once the sideswiping twist of the movie hits the viewer, “Tickled” becomes unforgettable.

It’s unique premise and finely executed structure makes “Tickled” one of the best and unforgettable movies of 2016.

This film is available on HBO GO.

‘Girl Asleep’ (2015) | NR | 77 min. 🎬🎬🎬

Courtesy Oscilloscope

Courtesy Oscilloscope

As her 15th birthday approaches, Greta (Bethany Whitmore) begins to feel the claustrophobic anxiety of growing up increasing. Neither the tensions between her family members or her troubling status at school help ease the feeling of entrapment. Greta wants nothing more than to run away and disappear into her fantasy land where she can feel young forever.

When her only friend Elliot (Harrison Feldman) suggests to Greta’s family that she should have a birthday party with everyone at school, Greta initially rejects the idea. Through a feeling of guilt, Greta reluctantly agrees to the party. As the night of the party progresses, Greta is faced with the inhabitants of her fantasy world who urge her not to grow up. Growing up, though, is something that she has to embrace.

In a review that’s featured in the advertising for the movie, “Girl Asleep” is labeled as a “Blend of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ and ‘Where the Wild Things are.’” Indeed there is a quirky and even dream-like aesthetic attached to “Girl Asleep” that exists in the referenced films. However, there is a lot happening here that makes this film standout.

The film features a coming of age story that fails to break new ground for the genre, but director Rosemary Myers offers a visually bold twist to the story. Much of Greta’s fantasy world begins to bleed over into reality as the story progresses. This bleeding over makes “Girl Asleep” something more dazzling and only compliments the mundane nature of its plot.

There are certainly better coming of age films out there, but “Girl Asleep” is visually pleasing and boasts a style that makes it worth a watch.

This film is available on Netflix.

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (2015) | R | 86 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬

Courtesy Paladin

Courtesy Paladin

Remember when vampires were the hip and the “in” thing of the early 2010’s? Pop culture was instantly flooded with the blood sucking creatures after the “Twilight” series took off. Due to their overabundance in Hollywood, it seemed like vampires were backed into a corner of parody where there wasn’t a lot to do with them anymore.

This is the obstacle that “What We Do in the Shadows” is forced to hurdle and manages to soar over. Framed as a mockumentary, the film follows four old vampires living under one roof. As the culturally out of place blood suckers try to survive modern-day New Zealand, they also have to deal with each other’s particularly difficult behaviors.

When they end up attacking and turning slacker Nick (Cori Gonzalez- Macuer) into a vampire, they reluctantly let him join their group. However, Nick’s understanding of 21st-century culture makes him more of a useful commodity to the vampires then they initially thought. Unfortunately, the erratic behavior of their freshly turned Nick leads the vampires into more than they bargained for.

Directed by and starring Taika Waititi (“Hunt for the Wilder People”) and Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”), this film is a remarkably fresh take on vampires. Although this is a comedy film, Waititi and Clement never openly make fun of vampires as 21st-century pop culture icons. Instead much of the comedy comes from well-written character moments.

The film makes great use of its cast who all bring their comedic timing and flawless execution to the forefront. The script isn’t without flaws, though, and much of the jokes can be categorized as misses. But with every landing joke, there is an energy to the humor that make “What We Do in the Shadows” a wonderful comedy.

This film is available on Amazon Prime.

Rating System:

🎬 — Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬 — Well, there goes 2 hours of my life!
🎬🎬🎬 — Add to my queue.
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — A must see.
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Mind blown!