Tag Archive | Movie Trailer

Movie Review: Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade

Eight Grade Movie Poster
Photo By Gail

Let’s play a game: would you rather be poked incessantly with sharp objects, or be forced to relive the eighth grade? You might need a minute to think it over. No one wants to be tortured, but eighth grade is a special kind of hell. It only lasts for one year; but what a socially awkward, puberty-riddled, emotionally agonizing year it is. Eighth grade blows, but now you can vicariously cringe your way through the gauntlet that is the last week of middle school for an earnest, 13-year old wallflower in director / writer Bo Burnham’s fantastic debut feature, Eighth Grade. He went back to eight grade, so you don’t have to.

Best known for his hilarious Netflix stand-up comedy specials, Bo Burnham has admitted to this much: that he retired from doing stand-up due to incapacitating stage fright, and that he’s often been referred to as “the comedian for 13 year old girls.” So it’s not so mysterious that this 27-year old man could write a film that completely nails a coming-of-age scenario of an adolescent girl. Because of course he did. Eighth Grade’s sympathetic protagonist is Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher in a career-launching role), who suffers from a merciless case of acne and a crippling shyness that she attempts to combat with a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to social media-assisted survival. While she has no siblings, and doesn’t appear to have a close circle of friends, Kayla is absolutely dedicated to the “fans” of her YouTube channel, on which she posts frenetic self-help videos, giving advice on how to “just be yourself” and “put yourself out there.” Obviously, she is her own target audience.

There is no huge dramatic arc in Eighth Grade, but rather the film is peppered with many significant moments of the ‘real life drama’ that is puberty, as Kayla and her classmates struggle to define themselves as soon-to-be-high-schoolers when there is so much they feel totally clueless about. This theme of transition and initiation reminded me very much of another film that is set during the final day of school, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), which is one of the best movies about authentic teenage behavior ever put to film. If that sounds like high praise, it is.

Eighth Grade Kayla and Dad
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) and her Dad (Josh Hamilton) in a Scene from Eighth Grade

Kayla is being raised by her single dad, Mark (Josh Hamilton in a thoroughly charming performance) who loves her unconditionally enough to disregard her constantly rebuffing his every attempt at meaningful father-daughter conversation, giving her the space and encouragement she needs to figure stuff out on her own. Mark is hilarious as he tries to not ’embarrass’ Kayla merely by existing. It’s easy to imagine that he was once in her shoes: the geeky kid who grew up to be a pretty cool dad. It takes a while for Kayla to figure this out, letting their relationship unfold with great sweetness, and one excruciatingly comedic moment when he walks in on her practicing fellatio on a banana, a fruit he knows she absolutely hates.

Eighth Grade Kayla Pool

The scenes in which Fisher’s performance inarguably earns the label ‘brave’ are those that take place during a coed swim party hosted by the most popular girl in Kayla’s class, Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere) – a one-dimensional “mean girl” caricature who has no issue telling Kayla to her face that she’s only being invited because Kennedy’s mother insisted. I had to watch through my fingers as I recognized the horrifying self-consciousness of being seen by peers in a bathing suit. Kayla wastes no time plunging herself to the bottom of the swimming pool, where she can most easily disappear. When she panics and retreats into the house to play games on her phone, she is interrupted by Aiden (Luke Prael) the cute, popular boy she’s desperately crushing on, who has come to retrieve his own charging phone. Kayla becomes so flustered at being in unexpected close proximity to her dream beau, the most impressive thing she can manage to nervously stammer is, “Sometimes, I charge my phone, too.” Oh my god, I am Kayla.

Over the course of the film, Kayla cracks her shell a bit, building the confidence to take the mic at a Karaoke party, make friends with a cool high school student, tell off the mean girl, and go on a hilarious first date with an adoring nerd-boy classmate Gabe (Jake Ryan) who first flirted with her at the pool party by challenging her to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater. Clearly, they are perfect for each other. Through a brilliant combination of sensitive direction, spot on casting, and authentically awkward dialogue that resonates so deeply, you’ll swear you’re watching a documentary, Eighth Grade is ridiculously successful and a remarkable achievement, especially for a first-time director. The parts that make us the most uncomfortable are also the most hilarious, because we all lived through it. And life is funny.

Except for one tense scene in the back seat of a car — which you will see coming a mile away — Eight Grade never goes Welcome to the Dollhouse-level dark. This film has more in common thematically with sleeper hits like Little Miss Sunshine (2006), and Napoleon Dynamite (2004), in that the protagonist is encouraged to embrace and celebrate her inner geek. Kayla is already the “Coolest Girl in the World.” She just had to figure that out for herself.

Eighth Grade opens in Los Angeles and New York (where it’s playing at the Angelika Film Center on Houston and Mercer) on July 13th, 2018, with Nationwide distribution to follow.

Grade: A

Watch the Trailer Below!

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Must See Film: The Other F Word

The Other F Word Movie Poster

Three Words: Punk Rock Dads. Without going into any detail at all, just the idea that anyone would make a documentary film about Punk Rock Dads is so golden. I mean, seriously: taking the ultimate anti-authoritarian pop-culture figure and putting him in the position of being the iron-fisted authority in a child’s life is both wildly fascinating and unbelievably hilarious. So, convincing me to check out the new film, The Other F Word, (the “F” standing for Fatherhood) directed by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins was a total no-brainer. Because, Punk Rock Dads! The LA and Orange Country Punk Rock scene of the late 70s / early 80s was HUGE for me when I was a teenager and into my early 20s. Being aware that a number of the “kids” I grew up with in Southern California would be featured musicians in the film, I knew this would be an enjoyable viewing experience, but honestly, I had no idea what I was in for. As riveting as any scripted drama, unbelievably funny and deeply – often unexpectedly – emotionally gut wrenching, The Other F Word is one of the best movies of 2011 and is way up there on my top 10 list of best music documentaries I’ve seen. I just loved this movie so much and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Blaugrund Nevins interviewed about two dozen Punk Dads for the film, and she got a really good mix, but the ones that get the most screen time are Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg (whom I’d call the “star” of the film), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Fat Mike (NOFX), Lars Frederiksen (Rancid), Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Pro-Skating legend Tony Hawk, Drummer Josh Freese and Tony Brandenburg (The Adolescents). All of these guys are clearly just in love with being Dads and are entirely devoted to their children, who range in age from infants to grown teenagers. The guys come off as being really cool people in addition to being great Dads, and a lot of candid and funny moments got captured on film.

Lars Fredrickson and Son
Lars Fredriksen and his Son

I loved the part where Lars Fredriksen (who has a tattooed forehead and sports a cheetah print buzzcut) jokes in one scene that the quickest way to clear a playground of kids and their moms is to “have the punk rock dad show up with the camera crew.” There’s also a very “punk rock” scene in which Josh Freese and his son play catch with a dirty diaper, and any scene that Fat Mike is in steals the show! It is not surprising that many of the Dads reveal that they are determined to be “the dad [they] never had.”

Fat Mike and Daughter
Fat Mike and His Daughter

In addition to the many scenes of these guys interacting with their children and relating hilarious anecdotes about their personal experiences with parenthood, the film spends an entire section discussing what it’s like to be a working musician whose band’s financial success is the basis of how they put food on the table. With the possible exception of Flea, Josh Freese or Mark from Blink 182, who probably never have to work a day job again if they don’t want to, none of these guys are in millionaire Rock Star bands, but rather are working-class musicians who must tour up to 300 or more days per year to support their families. It’s surprising how many of the guys featured in the film admit that they never got into music to make money, but now, 20 years into it they’ve managed to earn a steady and viable income playing punk rock music. Like the story of the Golden Handcuffs, the downside to “realizing the dream” while making a living in a changing musical environment is that it requires them to be away from their kids for such a major part of the year that they miss out on first days of school, ball games and birthdays. Many wonder aloud in this film if it is worth it. One, ultimately, decides that it is not.

You may still be able to find The Other F Word showing at a theater near you (visit This Link for theater engagements), but if you’ve already missed out on seeing it on the big screen, the film will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 31st, and is well worth owning. Executive Produced by Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick, The Other F Word will appeal to music fans – and fans of these featured bands in particular – cool parents and anyone who loves a good documentary film.

The Worley Gig Gives The Other F Word Five Out of Five Stars!! Watch the Trailer Below!

Can’t Wait To See It: Tron: Legacy

Tron (1982) is one of my favorite sci-fi fantasy films, ever. The long-awaited sequel, Tron: Legacy – which from the looks of this trailer should be totally amazing – will be released in mid-December of this year. Can’t wait!