Slightly Used (December 2/09)
Filmmaker Blake Van de Graaf's first effort since 2005's Sidekick, Slightly Used details the chaos that ensues within a used car lot after a competition is announced to determine which salesman will star in an upcoming commercial. Van de Graaf - working from a script cowritten with Neil Green, Jason Saunders, Marco Scarpetta, and Collin Wianko - has infused Slightly Used with a pervasively over-the-top sensibility that'll undoubtedly prove polarizing among audiences, as it's clear virtually from the get-go that the film's success depends entirely on whether or not the viewer is attuned to its very specific sense of humor. The movie's flaws are subsequently (and inevitably) heightened for those unable to find any comedic value in the characters' broadly-conceived antics; that being said, the distinct lack of laughs never quite becomes as problematic as one might've feared, with the far-from-hilarious vibe generally tempered by the likeable characters and affable atmosphere. The end result is a watchable yet woefully inconsistent piece of work that's ultimately just a little too aimless for its own good, although - admittedly - it's certainly not difficult to envision the film garnering a cult following in the years to come.
Humpday (December 17/09)
Written and directed by Lynn Shelton, Humpday details the problems that ensue after two straight men (Mark Duplass' Ben and Joshua Leonard's Andrew) agree to have sex as part of an underground pornography competition. Shelton has infused Humpday with a pervasively low-rent visual sensibility that contributes heavily to the film's unexpectedly authentic atmosphere, and it's interesting to note that the premise - which would've felt right at home within a raunchy teen comedy - is generally employed as a springboard for a chatty look at friendship and relationships. There's subsequently little doubt that the movie benefits substantially from Duplass and Leonard's ingratiating, downright engrossing work, as the chemistry between the actors goes a long way towards compensating for Shelton's less-than-cinematic modus operandi - yet it's just as clear that Humpday suffers from a decidedly uneven vibe that ultimately wreaks havoc on the film's overall success (ie there reaches a point at which the viewer is simply all talked out). The inclusion of several undeniably hilarious interludes - ie Ben awkwardly attempts to tell his wife about the project - generally proves effective at compensating for the far-from-polished atmosphere, however, and one finally can't help but label the movie a compelling and thoroughly original modern comedy.