*** (out of ****)
From the second we see the font of the title during the title screen of Adam Wingard’s The Guest, out on Blu-Ray today, we know he’s ready to fuck around a little bit. I don’t know about fonts, so I can’t really tell you specifically what it is, but it doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen since you were busy renting horror movies for a dollar at your local video store. And that’s exactly the point, as if Wingard is giving audience members the slightest amount of help before they start screaming about how cheesy this movie is. Cheese sucks, while purposeful cheese is fun, and the director wants as wide of an audience as he possibly can. That way, by the time we get to the introduction of the main character, which is delivered with a camera style and musical cue that would make a Telenovela blush, we’re fully on board for where the movie will take us.
And oh, the places we go when we let talented genre-lovers drive us around their head (see this year’s Blue Ruin for further proof). The Guest stars Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as “David”, a soldier who has just returned from war. He shows up at the doorstep of the Petersons, a family who just lost their son Caleb, who David was friends with while in Afghanistan. Or so he says. The Petersons aren’t just your average family, but your average B-movie family, with an alcoholic dad, an emotional mom, a nerdy son, and a punk rock daughter, each with a reason to let David almost instantly into their lives. And he settles in as soon as he can, immediately establishing himself as a part of the family.
Despite David seeming to be a normal guy, the movie almost plays like a blended mix of the first two Terminator movies. The more we learn about David, the more we learn that David is an unstoppable killing machine. But the movie allows David to bounce back and forth between feeling like the first Arnold, a villain designed to kill, and the second Arnold, a protagonist who is designed to kill, but still somehow garners our sympathy. David is more manipulative than Arnold ever was, but the two still become vital parts of the Peterson and Connor families, respectively, both almost enjoying the way that the families need them. The added bonus of David being a human, and an ex-soldier, makes your feelings even more mixed. I know he’s a cold-blooded killer, but served our country, and he is the way he is because of that, and look how dreamy he looks! This guy could kick the shit out of that handkerchief throwing buttnugget from Downton Abbey.
About halfway through the movie, The Guest throws all of its chips into the pot again, upping the crazy level even more. This is yet another easy time to bail on the movie, with the cheesiness finally getting out of its control. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you, but I highly advise you to hang on and see where it takes you. By the time it gets to the end, risking stupidity about six more times since the mid-point, the movie has achieved the ultimate goal: the ability to do any stupid thing it wants, and the restraint to not.
ARCHER: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
Now that the controversial fifth season of Archer is in the books, and the story has been completed, it’s easier to kick back and say “Hey, that was a pretty cool thing they did.” It’s not the funniest season of Archer, and not everything they tried worked, but if you bailed because the show simply refused to get back to normal, here’s an opportunity to start the season over, knowing that it doesn’t ever get back to normal, and enjoy it for what it is instead of what it isn’t anymore.
We’re still a couple of months away from 2014 being officially anointed as “The year Boyhood and probably some other movies came out,” so before that happens make sure you’re not the last of your social circle to get in on this. It isn’t very often when we’re told we’re witnessing film history, and reply with something other than “Fuck you.” I’ll save you having to read anymore about this god damn movie, not just because you’re tired of it, but because I have to save something for the PopFilter Top Ten Movies of 2014 podcast. That’s right, mother fuckers. I just spoiled some of my list. I’m sure you’re all shocked.
GET ON UP
I know that the nation is still recovering from the glut of musician biopics that tore through the early 2000’s. So much so, in fact, that the palette-cleanser that was Walk Hard continues to be under seen and under appreciated. But I think it has been long enough at this point that we can appreciate one every once in awhile. If Get on Up is the only one we get for the next five years or so, then I’m totally OK with it being the lone representative. It’s not perfect, and it’s not perfect ways that are typical of musical biopics: overlong, and unfocused in parts. But Get on Up does so many things right, from the performance of biopic superstar Chadwick Boseman (up next, the Black Panther biopic), to an non-chronological form of storytelling that lets it get away with biopic cliches because they are presented in a variety of interesting ways. It may not be necessary for catching up with the 2014 top ten lists, but throw it on your queue for a happy surprise in March or so.
GIRLS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
The third season of Girls saw the show settle down a little bit, and really be about what it’s been about all along, the dissolution of a group of friends. Series highlight The Beach House, which pops up about halfway through this season, is as close to perfect as the show gets, and proves to the haters that the show hasn’t actually lost a step, it just sometimes takes a little while to figure out where its next step is going to be. It may not be on the top of everyone’s Best of the Year lists like it used to be (although some of that may have to do with its January premiere dates), but the third season of Girls proved that it’s still one of the best shows on television.