‘Come Play,’ Says the Leggy Monster on a Tablet

Leave a comment

Come Play (CREDIT: Jasper Savage/Amblin Partners/Focus Features)

Starring: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr.

Director: Jacob Chase

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Spooks and Terror

Release Date: October 30, 2020

Did The Babadook fully sate our appetites for creepy bedtime story characters breaking out into the real world to spook a little boy and his mom? Come Play sure hopes that there’s room for one more! But it’s going to be very hard for it to avoid being referred to as “The Babadook, but the dad’s alive.” There’s even a moment when Gillian Jacobs echoes Essie Davis almost exactly when she shouts, “Can you just be normal for one second?!” There are some elements about Come Play that are worth recommending, although while I was watching them, I wondered if I was enjoying them mainly because of residual positive feelings for The Babadook. That’s far from the worst thing in the world, though. It’s at least better than resenting it for its resemblance.

The vibe of the game in Come Play is disconnection. Sarah (Jacobs) and her husband Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) have been struggling to communicate with their non-verbal autistic son Oliver (Azhy Robertson) his whole life. Really, though, it’s Mom who’s bearing the brunt of the struggle. It comes down to the typical split of household labor. Marty is mostly fine with the way Oliver currently talks, which is by pushing word buttons on a cell phone that vocalizes for him, but Sarah is constantly frustrated, partly because she spends a lot more time at home. Into this angst-filled situation crawls Oliver, a long-limbed creature on a tablet who would like his tale told to the end so that he can become a real monster who can be friends with Oliver forever and ever.

As Larry makes his presence more and more known, he spreads to Oliver’s parents and friends as a sort of supernatural infection. He’s like the Entity in It Follows or the certainty of death in She Dies Tomorrow: once you’ve been exposed, you cannot deny his existence. Voices of reason try to insist that this is just a case of powerful empathy with Oliver, which almost seems to be playing out as a sort of shared delusion. Of course, we know it’s not that, because the terms of the genre that we as audience have agreed to assure us that Larry is as real as any monster can be. But the emotional tethers that Oliver is attached to and the terror transported along them are quite telling. Larry represents and draws upon loneliness. Anyone lacking connection or fighting so hard to maintain an emotional bond is vulnerable. He can sting your heart, and that’s what really makes him memorable.

Come Play is Recommended If You Like: Horror Movies That Remind You of Other, Better Horror Movies But Still Have Enough to Say on Their Own

Grade: 3 out of 5 Legs

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/19/20

Leave a comment

Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (CREDIT: Brian Roede/Netflix)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

You Should Have Left (On Demand) – Blumhouse horror starring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried.

Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month spectacular (June 19 on AMC and IFC) – Just in time for Juneteenth!
-2020 ESPYs (June 21 on ESPN)
Perry Mason Series Premiere (June 21 on HBO) – The classic defense attorney returns to TV in the form of Matthew Rhys.
Search Party Season 3 (June 25 on HBO Max)
The Twilight Zone Season 2 (June 25 on CBS All Access) – Guest stars include Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, and Billy Porter.

-Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (June 23 on Netflix) – Legalize “everything”? Including … ranch?

-Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways
-Neil Young, Homegrown

‘A.P. Bio’ Has a Striking Amount of ‘Community’ DNA



Over the past few months, the delightful high school-set sitcom A.P. Bio has become one of my favorite shows on the air, but then NBC went a little cuckoo and cancelled it. There’s been some effort on the part of the cast, crew, and fans to find the show a new home, but unless that happens, we will have to be satisfied with two short-but-sweet seasons.

One of the reasons I love A.P. Bio so much is because it shares a lot of DNA with my favorite show of all time, which would be Community, another former NBC sitcom that was constantly on the brink of cancellation (though unlike A.P. Bio, it kept beating the renewal odds). Their premises and central characters are strikingly similar. In Community, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) is a high-powered lawyer who gets disbarred and must enroll at a community college. Meanwhile, A.P. Bio stars Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin, a disgraced Harvard philosophy professor who is forced to take a lowly part-time teaching job at a high school in Toledo, Ohio.

As I watched and grew to love A.P. Bio, I kept noticing more and more Community similarities, to the point that I could detect analogues for all the major characters. So I’ve assembled below a side-by-side comparison of the Greendale Human Beings and their corresponding Whitlock Rams. Enjoy, and let me know if you need help reacting to riding that ram.

(Thank you to my fellow commenters at the AV Club and Disqus for helping me out with these comparisons!)

Jack (Glenn Howerton) = Jeff (Joel McHale)


The protagonists who try to act above it all but eventually embrace the crazy scholastic ecosystems they’ve become an integral part of.


This Is a Movie Review: Indie Rom-Coms Continue Chugging Along with Demetri Martin’s ‘Dean’

Leave a comment

This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Starring: Demetri Martin, Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs, Rory Scovel, Mary Steenburgen

Director: Demetri Martin

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Little Bit of Language, A Little Bit of Relations

Release Date: June 2, 2017 (Limited)

If you look at Demetri Martin – the moptopped, artistically inclined comedian whose Wikipedia page once listed Socrates as an influence – and think “romantic comedy lead,” then chances are that you and I would get along famously. And wouldn’t you know it, we now have the perfect topic to discuss: Dean, a minor-key charmer serving as Martin’s directorial debut.

Martin plays the title character, a Brooklyn illustrator living through with the fallout of his mother’s death and a breakup with his ex-fiancée (Christine Woods). Instead of dealing with all that, he flies out to Los Angeles to meet with an ad agency interested in using his drawings. Alas, the pitch and the hipster-bro vibe put him off. (SNL’s Beck Bennett is perfect as the exec who remains on his office treadmill the entire scene.) At this point, Dean really should head back home and sort out matters with his father (Kevin Kline), who is eager to sell their house. But he finds himself too entranced by La La Land to head home, because he meets this girl named Nicky, and she is played by Gillian Jacobs, a Pittsburgh native who often inhabits West Coast gals who inadvertently knock the lead characters out of their stupors and makes it look effortless (it’s not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing, it’s a chill vibe thing).

Spoiler alert: this budding romance does not exactly end happily. But that does not mean there is no satisfying resolution to be had. The reason the title is Dean as opposed to “Dean & Nicky” or “Millennial Love Story” is because it is about the individual. (Dad, also gets his own storyline, a suitably engaging romance with his realtor, played by Mary Steenburgen.) There are plenty of stories about looking for love and growing up, and this one is hardly groundbreaking. But they keep being told because new storytellers keep creeping towards their thirties and forties. What we as viewers humbly request of them along the way is that they find honesty and individuality in their voice. And in the guise of Dean, I am happy to hear from Demetri Martin has to say.

Dean is Recommended If You Like: Demetri Martin’s illustrations, (500) Days of SummerCeleste and Jesse Forever

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Pubic Clown Wigs