Monday, April 19, 2010
Spreading the Drones
This weekend, I had the immense pleasure of flying to Florida to attend the Florida Film Festival, and see Amber Benson and Adam Busch's new movie, Drones.
Prepare yourselves. This will be the first time I attempt to do a review with absolutely no spoilers. This is an exercise in self control that I don't have.
I will also put my thoughts on meeting Amber Benson, and one of the stars of the movie, Samm Levine, at the bottom of this entry, so that those who are so inclined may skip the personal junk. There are also pictures from the Q&A, and Amber and Samm with another cast member, towards the bottom.
The story circles around one main character, Brian, who is played by Jonathon M. Woodward. Jonathon played a character in BTVS, Angel, and Firefly, so most Whedonites have a certain affection for him. He played a one shot vampire, unsympathetic bad guy, and flawed hero in those roles, but he was never actually given a chance to shine in a comedic role.
After viewing the trailer on the Drones website, my first impression was how much he reminds me of Bill Murray. My friend Joey concurred, and at the Q&A session after the film, Amber Benson mentioned Bill Murray, as well. He's got the same delivery and comic pitch, and you can't help smiling while he's on screen.
Brian works for Omnilink. If you've worked in an office environment before, you've worked for Omnilink. It doesn't matter what you do in your cubicle. Everything is the same, in every environment. We've all been Drones, mindlessly following the hive and doing the work required of us.
Then Brian's hive gets shaken up a bit. By aliens. No, really. Enter Amy, played by Angela Bettis, and Clark, played by Samm Levine. Clark is Brian's sidekick, more or less. They have their own verbal short hand, and their scenes together are easy, and probably the funniest interactions in the entire film. Samm Levine has a slightly fast-paced delivery with his humor, and it makes for really wonderful acting. He tends to steal whatever scenes he is in.
Like Samm Levine, Angela Bettis has been in more movies that I actually know than I first realized while watching her on screen. She is a real treat in this movie. Her features are so striking, and her eyes so wide-eyed, that you can't help studying her face while she's on screen. I also adore the hair and costume styling done on her. She looks like she could have been working in an office environment from the 1950's.
Then there's the secondary cast. James Urbaniak, who plays Pete the Boss, is a true gem. I've never had a boss like him in an office environment, and I feel like I'm missing out deeply. What TPS reports were for Office Space, Power Point Presentations are for Drones. Once the rhythm starts going with them, just the word "Power Point Presentation" will have you cracking up.
Tangi Miller and Marc Evan Jackson play a seriously mismatched couple, Ian and Miryam. Following their office romance/drama is so seemingly random and hilarious, but it's a nice juxtaposition to Brian and Amy's version. Tangi Miller is a very real treat here. I was not a Felicity fan, so my knowledge of her acting is limited. But what I have seen I've liked, and after this I will be paying more attention to her.
I can't even talk about Dave Allen. His character, Cooperman, just has to be seen to be believed. And Paul F. Tompkins, who I am familiar with from VH1's "Best Week Ever", gets possibly the best cameo in the movie. I can't reveal it for fear of spoiling some truly hilarious lead-up.
The background cast of Drones is possibly my favorite part. Because the conversations happening throughout this movie are very seriously out there. They occur in office hallways, copy rooms, break rooms. And none of the other workers pay any attention. During one of the most crucial scenes of the movie, you see a Drone staring blankly while eating cake. That little piece may have been my favorite bit.
The writing in this movie is fantastic. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (has there ever been two people more destined to work together, with names like that?) have a smart, funny script, and between the writing and the set design, there were so many little bits and pieces to catch you. There's a joke about capital letters vs lowercase in instant messaging that is such a shout-out to the nerd in all of us.
The soundtrack is phenomenal. The movie starts with a song by Dan Bern called "Strongly Worded Memo". This is as funny as it sounds, and it has gotten stuck in my head once a day, every day, since viewing. In the official movie trailer, you hear the instrumental of Common Rotation's 92 Mikes. Common Rotation is Adam Busch's band, and they are amazing. I've traveled to Georgia twice to hear them live, and will continue to try to get out to see them. The song is one of my favorites by them. They seem to have recorded a new version for the movie, but if you're interested in hearing it, you can find several version of it here, at the Union Maid website. Feel free to snoop through the site, the band is really amazing.
I cannot wait for this movie to come out on DVD. If I could afford to go to another film festival (and it is coming to Dallas soon), I would. So enjoyable.
Stop reading now if you don't care about the personal stuff.
After the movie was over, and the audience applauded loudly, Amber Benson and Samm Levine came out for a Q&A session. My friend Joey, who attended the film with me, got video of the entire thing, but I don't believe he's made it available online.
She had two copies of the demo soundtrack from the movie. I wanted a copy very. very. badly. If only for "Strongly Worded Memo". The contest was a "raise your hand first" deal, and the first question, my hand shot up, and someone else got called. I was heartbroken. But wait! They got it wrong! My hand started making grabby gestures, and I got chosen. And I won! Picture me wiggling happily in my seat.
After the Q&A was over, they started to walk off the stage, and I didn't know if I would get the chance to get an autograph before they left, so I motioned (not wildly and spaztically, or so I tell myself), and when Amber looked, I asked if I could get the CD autographed. She smiled and said yes, and I tripped over myself climbing the stage to a side area where she, Samm, their publicist, and one or two other people were. Joey came around as well, and we were the only two fans around. It was surreal.
Amber and Samm signed the CD, and I said how thrilled I was to have won a copy. I said 92 Mikes was one of my favorite songs, and Amber said, "It's great, isn't it?"
I have a thing about Amber and Adam's relationship. I pretty much think it's the most amazing and sweet thing in the world. So this made me very happy.
The publicist, who was very very sweet, was trying to pull them away for interviews, but I managed to ask if Amber could sign my copies of her books, Death's Daughter and Cat's Claw. When she asked my name, I screwed up and said my real name. Not that there's anything wrong with her signing it to that, but in Buffy fandom, I'm Bunny. It's just who I am, and it would be wrong to have her books signed to anything else.
And then the most magical thing happened.
"Oh, YOU'RE Bunny? You're my Twitter friend!"
I'm not quite certain how I did not pass out at this.
I told her that her hair, which I loved when she posted the pictures to her twitter, was even more gorgeous in person, and hugged her. Probably a little presumptuous of me, but I just had to get a hug. And then she got pulled away.
Outside the theater, Joey and I got a picture with her, and then she disappeared.
All of the fan accounts of Amber Benson being so sweet and kind are wrong. She is so much nicer than that. Any other celebrity I meet after this point is going to have a lot to live up to.