CULTURE

Chris R from Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" Is Running for Congress

Chris R may have lost to Johnny and Mark in The Room, but he can still win big in Texas.

While Tommy Wiseau's The Room, often considered the best bad movie of all time, might be technically terrible in almost every aspect, one actor's performance stood out from the rest as...almost maybe good?

In a scene so random that it feels baffling even within an already baffling movie, actor Dan Janjigian plays a drug dealer named Chris R who tries to shake down another bit character named Denny (or Danny?) for owed money. Chris R is only in that single scene, and Danny's drug addiction is never brought up again, but that doesn't stop Janjigian from making a meal out of his role. Janjigian's crazed intensity and the seriousness with which he seemed to approach a nothing role in a no-name movie was compelling enough that Zac Efron portrayed him in The Disaster Artist.

WORST acting ever [MUST WATCH!] The Room www.youtube.com

Now, over 15 years after The Room, Dan Janjigian has taken on a new role, perhaps his biggest one yet: running for Congress. As it turns out, Janjigian is a man of many talents. On top of his iconic role as Chris R, Janjigian was also a Microsoft employee and an Olympic bobsledder. More recently, however, Janjigian has spent over a decade working in healthcare and raising a family in Texas.

Danjan congress https://www.danjanforcongress.com/

According to Janjigian's official campaign website, his experience as a healthcare professional and his family's history escaping the Armenian Genocide solidified his political beliefs. Currently running as a Democrat to represent Texas's 31st congressional district against Republican incumbent John Carter, Janjigian's platform revolves around enacting public healthcare (while allowing private options for those who choose it), streamlining legal immigration, and promoting clean energy solutions to battle climate change.

Best of all, Janjigian is running a grassroots campaign "PAID FOR BY A WHOLE LOT OF TEXANS SUPPORTING DANJAN," meaning that he's not beholden to big money or corporate interests, and possibly even that Danny finally paid him back.

TV

Shaggy's Voice Sounds Wrong in the New "Scoob" Trailer

Not involving Matthew Lillard was a mistake.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Having grown up on Cartoon Network Scooby-Doo reruns, I have some pretty strong opinions about the classic Hanna-Barbera franchise–mainly in regards to Shaggy's voice.

Norville "Shaggy" Rogers is one of the most influential characters in all of Western animation. Why? Not only is Shaggy all-powerful, he's also perpetually high. This goes to show children that not every great mystery solver needs to be an ascot-wearing jock like Fred. You can also aim to be a scruffy dude who gorges on sandwiches and thinks he can talk to dogs, and that's cool, too.

Shaggy Warner Bros.

But in order to properly convey the chillness of Shaggy, an actor needs to perfect the fluctuation between slacker drawl and voice-cracking falsetto. There's a distinct art form to a perfect "Like, SCOOB!" and as far as I'm concerned, only two people have been up to the task: Casey Kasem and Matthew Lillard.

Kasem originated the character, voicing Shaggy from 1969 to 1997 and again from 2002 until his retirement in 2009. But while Kasem may have created the voice, Lillard took the character to the next level, fully embodying Shaggy's very essence in the first two live action Scooby-Doo movies. Lillard was so great in the role that he moved onto voicing Shaggy in the majority of subsequent Scooby-Doo spin-offs.

Watch this clip and try to tell me that Matthew Lillard isn't actually Shaggy. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Scooby Doo & Shaggy www.youtube.com

So when the new animated Scoob movie was announced back in the 2014 in an attempt to reboot the franchise for the big screen, everyone naturally assumed that Lillard would continue as the quintessential voice of Shaggy. But then this happened:

In what appears to be an effort to only cast big name stars, the role of Shaggy went to SNL alum Will Forte. And while Forte seems like a perfectly nice guy, the fact that Lillard wasn't even asked to audition for the role is an outright travesty. There's no way that Forte could possibly step into Lillard's sandwich-stained shoes...right?

Well, the first Scoob official trailer just dropped and...yeah, we were right to be upset. Forte's clearly doing his best here, but he sound like a Shaggy impersonator. He's missing the true Shaggy essence that Lillard was born with.

SCOOB! - Official Teaser Trailer www.youtube.com

The story looks cute, and as a Scooby-Doo fan I might catch it when it's streaming. But no Matthew Lillard means I, for one, will not be buying a ticket.

FILM

Ted Bundy Is the Ideal Boyfriend in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile"

Review of the Ted Bundy biopic "Extremely Wicked, Incredibly Evil and Vile" questions how emotional music cues and close-ups of Lily Collins and Zac Efron gazing into each other's eyes add to true crime canon.

America has a timeless obsession with Ted Bundy and his legacy of being too good-looking to be evil while committing crimes too deviant to believe.

As pop culture's favorite serial killer, he's the tired subject of countless documentaries, but this week director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost, Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger) added to his repertoire of profiling controversial figures with Netflix's Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It's Berlinger's follow-up to his true crime docuseries about the serial killer, Netflix's Confessions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, which was released earlier this year. In this newest dramatization, Zac Efron makes his much-awaited debut as the gregarious and manipulative Bundy, opposite Lily Collins as his long-time girlfriend, Liz. An emotionally intelligent and nuanced film, Extremely Wicked forgoes gruesome re-enactments of Bundy's crimes for a character study of Liz's love for the man whom she slowly recognizes as a monster.

Efron surprises with a mature and self-aware performance that highlights the psychological instability that lurked behind Bundy's Hollywood smile. But the film is heavily structured by Liz's memories of Bundy, from love at first sight in a Seattle bar in 1969 to viewing his televised murder trial (the first in history) ten years later. In fact, the film is based on Elizabeth Kendall's memoir about her conflicted relationship with the serial killer, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Published in 1981 (8 years prior to Bundy's execution in Florida State prison), the memoir has since gone out of print at the real Liz's request. (Kendall is a pseudonym meant to protect her privacy). Berlinger described working with her to Esquire: "She does not want the spotlight...She doesn't want to participate in the press. She wants to remain anonymous. She trusted us with her story. She agreed to do the movie, obviously, so it's not being done without her cooperation. I think she's very ambivalent because she doesn't want attention to herself today."

If your primary interest is in the true events depicted in the film, then its focus on Liz's perspective can feel crippling. Michael Werwie's screenplay is full of flashbacks to the burgeoning romance between Liz, a single mother working as a secretary, and the man she knows as Ted, a charming law student and attentive surrogate father to her young daughter, Molly. Emotional music cues and close-ups of Collins and Efron gazing into each other's eyes are new additions to the strange canon of Ted Bundy.

Extremely Wicked replicates the veil of memory with archival footage of breaking news reports on Bundy's crimes, the details of which have become painfully familiar. Bundy was sentenced to death for the 1978 murders of several Chi Omega sorority members, but he would later confess to over 30 cases of murder, rape, necrophilia, and dismemberment (though the number of victims is thought to be much higher). If such crimes can ever be tastefully transferred to the silver screen, then Extremely Wicked does so with meaningfully spare descriptions of the murders and only one graphic crime scene photo. Jim Parsons plays Florida Prosecutor Larry Simpson, who uses the details of the crimes to emphasize their depravity in his opening statement to the court. John Malkovich plays Judge Edward D. Cowart, who displayed a bizarre fondness for Bundy in response to the man's manic rants as his own lead defense counsel.

popdust extremely wicked ted bundy biopic Esquire

Amidst the film's excellent design and immersive world-building, the film's supporting characters are pillars of rationality that ground the entire film. Parsons' presence as a serious prosecutor who's taken off guard by the circus of Bundy's trial makes him a much-needed, relatable anchor. Haley Joel Osment plays Liz's concerned co-worker who supports her through the stress of Bundy's trial and later becomes her husband. As for Malkovich, he utters the titular phrase with dire finality. Malkovich delivers Judge Cowart's other outrageous remarks with deadpan conviction. Aside from "Take care of yourself, young man," the judge said to Bundy after conveying the guilty verdict. "I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It's a tragedy for this court to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I have experienced in this court." He continues, "You're a bright young man. You'd have made a good lawyer. I'd have loved to have you practice in front of me. But you went another way, partner."

At worst, the film focuses on Liz at the expense of creating a more three-dimensional cast. Parsons' and Osment's characters aren't given enough screen-time or attention to developing their fascinating, integral roles in Ted Bundy's trial and Liz's experience of it. Osment supplies a calming presence and a cathartic voice of reason, helping Liz to recover from her guilt-induced alcoholism. In fact, he ushers in what is effectively the climax of the film: Liz reveals that, despite her apparent devotion to Ted, she was the anonymous tipster who gave his name to the police. His resemblance to the police sketch published in the paper was too close for her to ignore.

popdust extremely wicked lily collins Lily Collins/Stylecaster

In that vein, if Extremely Wicked errs in its treatment of the topic, then it's through its light-handed depictions of Bundy's eeriness. The real man was not as relentlessly charming and infallibly reasonable as the version depicted by Efron, whose facade is only challenged in one lazy scene when a dog barks at him at the pound. In Elizabeth Kendall's memoir, she recounts Bundy habit of stealing and how he once threatened her, "If you tell anyone, I'll break your fucking neck." He even confessed to once trying to kill her in her sleep by filling their apartment with smoke and blocking the door. Ultimately, the real Liz was much more aware of Bundy's dark side than Collins' unassuming character suggests. When she spoke to Bundy in prison, he said, "There is something the matter with me … I just couldn't contain it. I fought it for a long, long time … it was just too strong."

Extremely Wicked takes for granted the disturbed psychopathy of Ted Bundy and instead fleshes out the details of his manipulations. Collins is all the more sympathetic because of Efron's convincing earnestness. The movie depicts the man she fell in love with, not America's favorite serial killer, from Ted urging Liz to look out the window to see the car that's been following him for days ("either I'm going crazy, or I'm being set up," he says) to downplaying his murder confessions as "bullshit" he's just feeding detectives to earn more time to prove his innocence. According to Berlinger, the film is meant to allow the viewer to "really experience the charm and smarts and cleverness of this guy so you could understand how somebody so charming and attractive and smart eluded capture for so long and eluded detection by those closest to him."

By the time Liz learns the truth, we understand the crushing weight it carries. Even if you're familiar with the twisted myth of Ted Bundy before watching the film, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile forces you to experience it.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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FILM

Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend of May 3rd

Honestly just don't see UglyDolls.

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This weekend we have an UglyDoll musical for some ungodly reason and spinning umbrella blades.

WIDE RELEASE:

Long Shot

Long Shot (2019 Movie) Official Trailer – Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron www.youtube.com

Charlize Theron is the US Secretary of State in the midst of a presidential campaign. Seth Rogan is a schlubby, unemployed journalist who she babysat when they were kids. A chance encounter leads to her impulsively hiring him as a speechwriter, kicking off a totally improbable romance amplified by the globetrotting lifestyle of her career. This is the first major rom-com to hit theaters in a long time. With a major emphasis on comedy and two solid lead actors, Long Shot seems like an especially fun watch, especially if you miss the era where every weekend brought a new rom-com to the big screen.

The Intruder

THE INTRUDER - Official Trailer (HD) www.youtube.com

In this weekend's dose of obligatory horror, a young couple moves into their dream home out in the country, only to discover that the previous owner (Dennis Quaid) keeps coming back. The premise is actually pretty scary, considering that this is a real thing that happens. When I was a kid, the last guy who owned our house just showed up in the backyard one day to look at the flowers outside. He looked a lot frailer than Dennis Quaid, but it was still creepy.

UglyDolls

UglyDolls Trailer #2 (2019) | Movieclips Trailers www.youtube.com

Remember those UglyDoll plushies from the 2000s? Well, they have their own movie now, and for some absolutely bonkers reason, it's a musical. Now you can watch Blake Shelton sing about body acceptance through the guise of a one-eyed green blob monster. Gabriel Iglesias is also billed, so you know the comedy is going to be terrible. I'm unreasonably confident that this movie is going to be an absolute dumpster fire. Just kidding. It's totally reasonable. Pitbull voices one of them too and he's never been attached to anything positive in his entire life.

LIMITED RELEASE:

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com

From the same director behind Netflix's Ted Bundy Tapes, this portrayal stars Zac Efron as the prolific serial killer. Told from the perspective of his long-term girlfriend, Liz Kendall (Lily Collins), Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile focuses more on Bundy's psychology and strategies of manipulation than his actual murders. There's always a glut of content out there for true crime enthusiasts, but it's not every day you see Zac Efron involved.

Shadow

Shadow Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Indie www.youtube.com

Yimou Zhang ( House of Flying Daggers) is one of the best martial arts film directors in history. His movies combine incredible action with stunning cinematography, resulting in pure visual spectacles. This time, he's employed spinning blade umbrellas––a whole platoon of them. I'm not one to judge people based on their opinions, but if that doesn't excite you then you're wrong and I don't like you on a personal level.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend of March 29

Go to the movies, don't be a Dumbo.

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This week we have more live-action Disney and also Matthew McConaughey's bare ass.

WIDE RELEASE:

Dumbo

Dumbo Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Tim Burton's take on Disney's 1941 animated classic, Dumbo, looks...fine. Tim Burton's visual flair is certainly apparent, but that hasn't been enough to make his last few movies particularly interesting. There's some serious talent in the cast (Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito), but it's worrying that the trailer focuses on two generic, wide-eyed youths spewing schlock lines like, "You can do it, Dumbo!" I'm sure it's fine. Everything is fine. The world isn't on fire. Enjoy your live-action Disney reboot.

LIMITED RELEASE:

The Beach Bum

THE BEACH BUM Trailer # 2 (NEW 2018) Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey Movie HD www.youtube.com

Matthew McConaughey plays Moondog, a prolific weed-smoker and sometimes poet who spends his days having sex and doing drugs in Florida. It's written and directed by Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers), so whether or not you enjoy The Beach Bum will probably come down to a few different factors. First, do you like Korine's distinct, hyper-colorful aesthetics and meandering plot lines usually full of unlikeable characters? Second, do you like Matthew McConaughey going all-out and showing his butt? And most importantly, are you very high?

A Vigilante

A VIGILANTE Official Trailer (2019) Olivia Wilde, Thriller Movie HD www.youtube.com

A Vigilante follows Olivia Wilde in the role of a former domestic abuse victim-turned-vigilante who kills domestic abusers. But rather than dwelling on the violence, like most similarly conceived movies do, A Vigilante seems to focus more on the pain and darkness of Olivia Wilde's character. Wilde's performance is supposedly a real standout here, so if you're looking for a gritty, potentially upsetting denouncement of abusers this weekend, check this one out.

Screwball

Screwball - Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Screwball is a documentary about baseball. If you think that sounds boring, I did too until I watched the trailer. Damn, that's an entertaining trailer. Director Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys) recounts Major League Baseball's most notorious doping scandal in 2013, wrapping in star players like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. Many of the illegal activities seem to be rehashed by child actors dressed as adults, which sounds incredibly stupid but looks funny. If you have even a modicum of interest in sports or true crime, be sure to put this on your list.

Diane

Diane - Official Trailer I HD I IFC Films www.youtube.com

Diane is an aging boomer who dedicates her time to helping others, thinking about her friends and trying to bond with her drug-addicted son (yes, that's Pete from The Office). But she's got some personal demons of her own to confront too, and she's not getting any younger. It's hard to tell exactly what the movie is about from the trailer, but it currently boasts a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you're looking for a serious drama this weekend, keep it in mind.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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Culture News

"Kill Me, Daddy": Venom vs. Ted Bundy vs. Joe from "You"

Who would you screw, marry, and kill? Twitter can't decide.

Context is everything.

In some photos of Ted Bundy, he seems like a prospective boyfriend many would say yes to on a dating app. In Netflix's latest docuseries, he's shown as a maniacal predator who sated his bloodlust by murdering, raping, and dismembering over 30 women. But he's still so cute! Or so say an alarming number of Twitter users.

Netflix took to Twitter this week to clarify that they didn't mean to create a wave of Ted Bundy fangirls when they released Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and begged them to please, for the love of god, stop. The streaming service posted to their official account, "I've seen a lot of talk about Ted Bundy's alleged hotness and would like to gently remind everyone that there are literally THOUSANDS of hot men on the service — almost all of whom are not convicted serial murderers."

Namely, after viewing the docuseries—and probably the tone deaf trailer for the Zac Efron drama based on Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile—an unseemly amount of Twitter users have no reservations about lowering already depleted expectations by mourning Bundy as "such a waste of a baby daddy." Many such "Bundy stans" sum up their appreciation of the executed serial killer with the phrase, "Kill me daddy."


While Twitter's outrage at the idea of stanning a serial killer may currently outpace the number of genuine posts, Bundy still has his strident defenders. Between the murderer's charisma and manipulative charm, both of which are unflinchingly demonstrated in The Ted Bundy Tapes, along with Zac Efron portraying him with Hollywood appeal, the lives Bundy ended become a non-issue since he was "hot af."

And because the distinction between fantasy and reality is meaningless, seeing Bundy on screen doesn't just romanticize the killer as a cliche "bad boy"; he's practically a super villain. A faction of Marvel's Venom fans feels offended at unfair comparisons between Bundy and their favorite fictional character—because obviously Venom is way cooler.

Even if Bundy isn't your favorite comic book villain, he's still a great prime time antagonist. One user blindly equated the killer with American Horror Story's token criminal character, Tate Langdon: "People act 'disgusted' with Ted bundy but say nothing when ppl stan characters like Tate Langdon lmao it's all the same basic ass white hoes who think tattoo chokers, black nail polish, and ouija boards are a personality type lmao."


One lost soul even posted this reply to Netflix's message: "I mean technically he's not convicted so..." Judging by Bundy's three life sentences and execution 30 years ago in Florida's electric chair, this commenter doesn't read titles of documentaries.

And yet, even with Netflix urging viewers to look to the "THOUSANDS of hot men on the service" other than Bundy, who's the second most popular heartthrob on their site? It's Penn Badgley's character Joe, the friendly neighborhood stalker from You. Like Netflix, Badgley recently expressed alarm at the number of people romanticizing an individual who's clearly criminally disturbed. He reposted the tweet, "The amount of people romanticizing [Joe] in You scares me," and commented, "Ditto."

Anyway, fuck, marry, kill: Venom, Joe, and Ted Bundy?


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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