“OMG, you totally need to see…”

“OMG, you haven’t seen John Dies At the End?  You totally have to see it, like right now…”  It’s not often that I stumble upon a movie that I fall instantly in love with.  A flick that hits me in just the right spot, that combination of tone, music, screen presence, and engaging story that’s taken over the top and elevates a movie from “that was pretty cool” to well, “OMFG, I have to watch this again right now!”  When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was swimming in a virtual ocean of flicks that brought me to that place, a sort of cinematic climax if you will, and had me bugging all my friends to jump in and take a swim with me.  I’m not sure if it’s being at that age when you’re open to new experiences, less set in your ways and hungry for discovering what excites you about film, or if the late 80s and 90s was just a better time in terms of the production of great movies.  Either way, these days I just don’t get excited the way I used to, and the dry patches between discoveries can be really frustrating.  Sometimes you just have to get movie laid.

But let me back up a bit, back to that urge to become a movie pusher.  “OMG, you haven’t seen, you totally have to see it, like right now…”  It used to be tough not to literally force a friend to sit down, pry their eyes open ala A Clockwork Orange, and make them try and relive a cinematic experience that I loved so much.  I have vivid memories of the day I first caught Bottle Rocket.  I was working as a Drug/GM assistant manager at a local grocery store and part of the job was overseeing our small video rental counter on the weekends.  Every month we’d get these heavy long tubes full of movie posters for advertising new releases and our particular store never put them out so I always had first dibs on taking them.  I’d fallen in love with movies like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, Killing Zoe, True Romance and Desperado, so when I saw the poster for Bottle Rocket I was intrigued.  Could this be a cross between Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino?

I remember setting up the single copy our store had for rental, shrink wrapping the sleeve with the piece of Styrofoam inside to make sure it kept its shape, and then specifically not setting it out to rent.  That tape went straight home with me that night.  Whatever I had been expecting out of Wes Anderson’s first film, it wasn’t what was playing out on screen, reflected in my unblinking glassy eyeballs.  I was in love.  The film’s quirk, the attention to detail, the antithesis of the gun-wielding action that the poster has promised, it literally blew me away.  When the Stones’ 2000 Man starting playing over the ridiculous heist gone wrong at the end of the film I knew that as soon as the flick was over I was going to rewind it and play the film again.  I also knew I needed to get a yellow jumpsuit as soon as humanly possible.  The following evening I brought the movie upstairs to my friend’s barely furnished bachelor apartment (we were in the same building at the time), and I forced him and another of our friends to watch the flick with me while we sat in green, molded-plastic lawn furniture and ate pizza off of a card table in the darkness with Bottle Rocket illuminating the room.  They seemed to enjoy it, but I think I’d built it up way too much, and when I suggested we watch it a second time (my fourth in two days) they obviously declined.

I know that my enthusiasm for films and pushing them on friends has tended to have the opposite effect than I hoped.  I know I’ve pushed people away from movies they probably would have enjoyed because I was a little ferocious in pimping them.  What’s strange is that as the years have worn on, as my cinematic orgasms have become less and less frequent, I’ve found myself in that place where the hype of a new “instant classic” has put me off way more than encouraged me to sit down and screen a film.  Twitter, facebook, and instagram have become these bullhorns that have kept me from watching films that I’ll probably enjoy.  The sheer enthusiasm and outpouring of love typically kills the experience for me though, so I can now sympathize with what my friends used to put up with from me.  I’ve found that it takes me months and even years to finally catch some otherwise amazing movies because I feel the need to distance myself from the cacophony of “OMG.  You.  Need.  To.  See.  This!”  Which brings me back to a little film called John Dies At the End.  I’m having a hard time not busting out with the “OMFG…” rhetoric.  Like Drive and Let the Right One In before it, JDatE is a film I’ve been purposely ignoring for almost a year.

I finally sat down and watched it last night, and well, “OMG, you haven’t seen John Dies at the End?  You totally have to…”  Well, you get the idea.  I’m doing my best not to just become another voice in the chorus, but let me just say that if you’re a fan of Buckaroo Banzai, Naked Lunch, Big Trouble in Little China, or, um, House II, you’ll probably enjoy John Dies at the End.  Now, stick it on your Netflix queue and forget about it for a while.  Hopefully someday in the near-ish future you’ll be as blown away by it as I was.

  • William Bruce West

    Funny you should mention this, as I just put it in my queue the other day!

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Have you seen Buckaroo Banzai? They’re very similar in tone, and it’s not just because they both star Clancy Brown…

  • Paxton Holley

    I tried to read the book a few years ago before the movie was released. I stopped at page 75. Nonsensical, barely connected events strung together by lots of profanity. It’s not great.

    I’ve heard the movie is better.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      I’m curious about the books, but your experience reminds me a lot of what it was like reading American Psycho (vastly, VASTLY, better movie.)

      • http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/ The Goodwill Geek

        I completely disagree. I saw the movie first, THEN read the book, and now I don’t think I can bring myself to watch the movie ever again. The book is a little confusing at first but if you go far enough in things begin to coalesce into a really satisfying and intricate series of events that leave you a little spooked out and genuinely entertained by the end. I think having seen the movie beforehand really helped me navigate some of the weirder aspects of the book, sort of like training wheels… but the book is so much more than the film. And I don’t mean that in the “But they left Tom Bombadil out!!!” kind of way… I mean that in the “But they left out the whole point of the plot!!!” It’s like comparing Stephen King’s IT the book to IT the mini-series. Everything, I mean EVERYTHING that I liked about the film is 10 times more enjoyable in the book because all of the frame-work and supporting plot elements are there to make it all tie together.

        • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

          Huh. This is just intriguing me more about the book. I’m really curious to see where they diverge.

  • http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/ The Goodwill Geek

    My new “Force-this-on-people-like-it’s-a-new-drug-I’m-trying-to-sell-and-I-seriously-have-a-quota-or-this-guy-is-going-to-cut-off-my-unmentionables” movie is Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s brilliant. I watched it last night for the very first time with my wife and then watched it again today by myself because I was CRAVING it. I had to stop myself from starting it up again immediately after it stopped this afternoon because I just love the atmosphere and the cast, and the whole vibe of the film in general. It’s all original Shakespearean dialogue, but spoken effortlessly and fluidly by the cast so folks who don’t really “get” Shakespeare will absolutely be able to follow along. It is literally one of the worlds FIRST Romantic comedies and seeing how Whedon and company interpret and modernize the story is just spellbinding. They shot it at Whedon’s house in 12 days time, and the cast all showed up having memorized their lines because they tried very hard not to reduce rehearsal time and doing extra takes.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      You just pinpointed one of my weaknesses Derek, Shakespeare. I’m not saying I loathe his work, but I kind of do. I think it’s a part of me that just doesn’t respond to that style of storytelling. I was never one for plays, and it’s rare that I can get through reading his work. But, that being said, I have enjoyed most of what Whedon has brought to the small and large screen, so I suppose I should give it a chance…

      • http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/ The Goodwill Geek

        It’s funny but most people don’t realize how much Shakespeare they ingest on a daily basis. And all because the language has been translated and adapted into so many other stories and no one realizes it. The point of liking shakespeare isn’t really loving the language… but loving the stories that became the foundation for almost all our current storytelling. (And some people, like me, love the language… to a degree) I’ll admit, I was lost for about the first five minutes watching it… and I regretted the decision to rent and watch it… and then I just sort of relaxed into it and started watching the actors bring the story together. During my second viewing I didn’t even notice the language anymore. It all just made sense once I knew how the story played out. And I know that probably sounds awful… it’s an experience I can’t really make sound great. But it was. You really value the performances and how they make the language almost sound natural. And after awhile you just start going: “Oh yeah, that drunk girl is trash-talking that guy without realizing he’s RIGHT THERE” or ” Oh he wants to marry her, but that other guy wants to spoil their plans, so he’s going to plot against the whole thing” and you stop hearing the Shakespeare and just enjoy the story and the guy snorkeling in the pool with the martini glass and whatnot.

  • https://twitter.com/WallCrawlinHero Wesley Hampton

    I think we’ve discussed how we’re both big fans of Wes Anderson (I wore my Team Zissou beanie to work this morning) so I won’t go on about that, but holy crap I want to watch John Dies at the End. I’ve been aware of it for a long time. Like, since before it was a book. I used to be a big fan of Cracked (still a fan, just with less time to kill) and I read a lot about David Wong writing it and getting it published but I was blown away when I heard it was being turned into a movie and even more surprised when it king of found an audience. Alamo Drafthouse screened it some and people here really seemed to like it. Right now the book and its sequel are still on my Amazon wishlist and the movie is in my Instant Queue, so hopefully I’ll sit down and make some time soon.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      The first I heard of the flick was during research for our Beastmaster episode, now it seems like I’m perched to fall down the John Dies At the End rabbit hole! ;) Also, I require pictures of the Zissou beanie wearing…