Double Feature: Natural Selection (2016) & Ouija (2014)

Welcome to the next double feature! This one is going to be a fairly odd pairing but also one that I can’t say that I am particularly sure how to write about. We have officially passed the halfway point in the Netflix A-Z and going into the N selection. This one was a fairly hard choice and it ended up being drama thriller Natural Selection. My main hook for it is because Katherine McNamara is part of it and I was going through a Shadowhunters phase when I added it to my list. For the O selection, it is horror film Ouija with Olivia Cooke. This one didn’t have great reviews but I figured I’d give it a chance anyways.

Let’s check it out!

Natural Selection (2016)

natural selection

Director (& Writer): Chad L. Scheifele

Cast: Mason Dye, Ryan Munzert, Anthony Michael Hall, Katherine McNamara, Amy Carlson, Tyler Elliott Burke

As the new kid, a shy high school senior finds himself tormented by all his peers except one, but his new friend has a dark, infectious outlook. – IMDB

Natural Selection is not an easy film to talk about. In fact, the story itself is done pretty well and the whole meaning and message behind it also is done pretty well. The only issue with it is that the cast itself, especially the cast playing the students are not quite as refined in their characters. Some might like it because it makes their acting more raw but for myself, the acting was the downside of the film. The other little part that was the downside was the romantic connection here which felt slightly disposable. It had a purpose to pretty much strain a developing “friendship” but that was all it was, which made it make the movie contrived.

However, the pros of this film can’t be ignored and that is the movie itself. It takes a fairly serious issue which potentially haunts unexpectedly schools and the safety of it. It all dials down to ignored youths and their repercussions. The film does a good job at putting together very similar characters, the new kid in town Tyler (Mason Dye) and a somewhat of an oddball Indrid (Ryan Munzert) who ends up being friends and they are pretty much parallels to each other in a lot of aspects from parents that don’t take care of them to being bullied or looked down upon in school. The differences in their characters here is what changes and makes these characters intriguing to learn about especially as the end result becomes more and more obvious.

There’s some execution issues and some acting issues here but Natural Selection is not a bad film, plus, its always nice to watch something to learn about the things that teenagers that don’t get noticed and the dangers that may lurk in them. However, I have recently seen films in the similar vein to this recently which have been done a lot better however, the strength of the film is in its message.

Ouija (2014)

ouija

Director (& co-writer): Stiles White

Cast: Olivia Cooke,  Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Shelley Hennig, Sierra Heuermann, Lin Shaye

A group of friends must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. – IMDB

Oh boy…Ouija is another one on my list that falls into the bad reviews but why not check it out pile. I personally like Olivia Cooke because she’s done some good roles like in Bates Motel and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl (review). Ouija is exactly what you would expect it to be. Its full of horror troupes and you can probably figure out whats going to happen next and when the jumpscares are going to show up. Everything here is pretty much playing it by the numbers a whole lot. Ouija (for those who do believe that it can channel spirits and shouldn’t be touched like Tarot Cards, etc) is creepy. Its not something you want to mess with but people still do. While I can’t say that Ouija is the bottom of the barrel, it also doesn’t offer a whole lot of wow moments either. The script tries really hard to give it a twist and yet, because its so deliberate (or at least feels that way), it ends up not quite landing that punch so well.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Ouija. Its fairly predictable and if you don’t buy into the idea of just being tempted to keep giving Ouija a go after bad things happen, then this movie falls apart at its seams. I fall into that category so this movie had some moments but because it was so easy to figure out, it loses its impact a lot. Not to mention, if you are a gamer, Until Dawn delivers the whole sitting around a table and something creepy lurks about a whole lot more effectively than this whole movie combined.

That’s it for this double feature!
Thoughts and comments?

Netflix A-Z: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (2015)

Next up on the Netflix A-Z is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl! I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about this one, especially when it was released about the same time as The Fault in Our Stars and a lot of people had mentioned that this one is better. Seeing as I’m not a huge fan of The Fault in Our Stars, as horrible as that sounds, this one should be great! Or at least I hope it will. I personally like the cast so I’m pretty excited to see this!

Let’s check it out!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

me and earl and the dying girl

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine Hughes

High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. – IMDB

 Some of the best and memorable moments happen when we step out of our comfort zone. In fact, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl shows exactly the bittersweet feeling of having something memorable happen in your life and learning from each other through friendship. There’s a genuine feeling here. I like movies a lot that have the main character narrate the story in a certain way. There is monologues in the background and its something like peeking into someone’s snippet of their journal entry that they wanted to share with you. Aside from that, the characters are all charming in their odd indie way. Whether its our main trio with Thomas Mann, Olivia Wilde and RJ Cyler or Nick Offerman and Connie Britton as Greg’s parents or Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom. They all added a little something to the story.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

One of the most charming parts of the story is the interaction and friendships shown here. The primary one being that of Greg (Thomas Mann) and Rachel (Olivia Wilde). Their friendship was “doomed” (the words of Greg) to begin with. Befriending a girl with cancer was emotional and crazy however, you can see that because they found joy and comfort in each other that their friendship, even at times with more silence than words grew. Actually, the timeline of the story didn’t seem like a long one but it felt like their friendship had a lot of depth and understanding and that is an irreplaceable connection that everyone can only relate to rarely and that is what makes this friendship so special. Plus, it made them both see a different side of school and themselves.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

One of the quiet friendships but rather creative ones are between Greg and Earl who has been friends forever or what Greg would prefer to call, colleagues, as they work together to make films with titles that put a twist to their original and they were brought together by foreign films that Greg’s father had shown them when they were kids, inspiring them to want to make movies. That creates the basis of them being asked to make a movie for Rachel while she is in treatment and in a way, strains their friendship as they struggle to make an actual good movie together. Their friendship leads into other colorful characters like Greg’s dad, a sociologist if I remember correctly, who adds a touch of fun with his foods from around the world, played by Nick Offerman. The other would be the odd student and teacher with Greg, Earl and Mr. McCarthy where they hide out in his office.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Its hard to pinpoint how to show what is so good about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. What makes a movie great sometimes is the subtlety of how they grow a friendship or relationship and build the story. This is just a snippet in the entire life of Greg and yet it carries a life changing force. While he doesn’t learn everything all the time and there are moments when there is insensitivity at times, the idea here is that there is an authenticity and believable factor here about a guy who meets a girl and grows their friendship. The dialogue is witty and charming and quirky. Despite its issues about Rachel and her suffering from cancer, there is a odd lightheartedness to the whole thing that never sits in the sad territory for too long and Greg learns a thing or two through this segment of his life that impacted his outlook.

Overall, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a subtle development and a genuine story at that making it believable and definitely one of those must-see coming of age stories. Its quirky and odd but just like the movie, my fondness for the movies grows more and more as I think back to it.