Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Sexy Evil Genius

So today I want to talk about an actress who I’ve wanted to write about since I started the blog since I started back in 2010: Michelle Trachtenberg. At the risk of sounding creepy (haha, because having a nerd blog is totally not creepy, right?) I have nursed a crush on oh the actress since I was about ten years old, ever since she was supporting character on the old Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I have mentioned her many times before: she tops the list of the “Hottest Women in Hollywood List” I used to do and #2 was still way behind her. But unlike everyone else on that list Trachtenberg is the only one who wasn’t in a movie I was reviewing for this blog which means I went over four years without reviewing a single piece of work from my favorite actress.

The reason is pretty simple: she doesn’t star in a lot of films that I have any interest in seeing. It’s weird but most times one of her films comes up I usually have no interest in seeing it. It never has anything to do with her; ether it looks bad or one of the co-stars are on my list of actors to avoid, or it’s a TV film based on a book written by someone I hate. (Huh. That came out kind of specific). That brings us to Sexy Evil Genius.

I was aware of Sexy Evil Genius but had kind of put in on the back burner and didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. It wasn’t until my friend Mr. Kaze, who knows damn well about my twenty year crush, brought it up and told me he thought it was pretty good. Well I was going to try to watch and review Muppets Most Wanted this week but that fell through. Despite that I still wanted to get a review of something up today. Fine. Sexy Evil Genius it is.

Sexy Evil Genius is a 2013 independent film written by Scott Lew and directed by Shawn Piller. It has some pretty good nerd pedigree going, despite not being a particularly nerdy film at all. In addition to Trachtenberg the movie also stars Seth Green (who I’m such a big fan of I actually stopped watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day after he left the show…which ironically means I missed out when Michelle was on the show and had no idea she joined the cast until YEARS after it ended) as well as Katee Sackhoff, a major character on one of my favorite TV shows Battlestar Galactica Longmire and Harold Perrineau from Lost, which may or may not be all that nerdy of a show.

Anyway the point is that on paper this movie has a lot of ingredients for a really awesome film but let’s face it; I’ve been fooled before.

Full review after the jump.

They're laughing because no one's murdering them yet
Unhappy office monkey Zach (Green) sits in a bar waiting his ex-girlfriend from high school, Nikki (Sackhoff), who had contacted him out of the blue after having seen each other in ten years. To his surprise it’s not Nikki but rather a woman named Miranda (Trachtenberg) who shows up. It turns out she also used to date Nikki and had received a similar invitation. As they get to know one another, sharing increasingly disturbing stories about their shared acquaintance, yet another of Nikki’s ex arrives, jazz musician Marvin (Perrineau) who was also invited. None of them have any idea why Nikki lured them out but they are all deeply suspicious. After all Nikki is a brilliant, resourceful, manipulative liar who always gets what she wants.

This movie, aside from very brief flashback scenes, takes place entirely in a bar…and I love it! Not many films can pull off 90-minutes of storytelling in this format in what amounts to one setting. The Man from Earth is another film that handled this surprisingly well (though that film managed it without any flashbacks at all and is essentially just a dude talking for an hour and a half…and is great). The best way to make it work is with strong characters and Sexy Evil Genius does this pretty well. The five principle characters are all handled well and I found myself developing pretty strong emotional attachments to each of them (not necessarily all positive emotions but it works). They come off a bit like archetypes but as the movie goes on and we get to know them better they come off more three dimensional and dark which really help the intrigue. My opinions change the more we learn and that’s awesome. Miranda may be the least developed although I think it was just more subtle than the others. Anyway the acting helps as well as every actor cast in this movie did their job perfectly. Happily Trachtenberg does a good job as Miranda. I usually see her play quirky positive girls or sometimes quiet and/or angry teenagers but this is pretty different than what I’m used and she does a good job. Katee Sackhoff plays completely against type here as instead of the tomboy action hero she normally portrays in this movie she’s essentially the manic pixie dream girl trope grown up and gone very, very wrong. She’s a little over the top which can be a bit annoying but in the grand scheme of the movie it’s only distracting, not annoying. Sackhoff is in fact very good here while wearing several proverbial hats with an array of facial expressions. She’s basically the Joker.

Why so serious?
Also let's go ahead and cast Sackhoff as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, okay?

The plot is great. There initial mystery of why the characters had been gathered was an intriguing enough hit but like any good thriller the more we learn, the more we see how deep the rabbit hole goes, the better the film gets. There’s interesting themes about relationships and also the idea of letting your life slip away. I was really wrapped up in the unfolding scheme. Was Nikki planning on murdering them all? Was this an elaborate con? The most important thing about this movie is that whatever the questions were I was completely invested in finding out the answers. That’s something most movies don’t really do for me.

If there’s one thing I wasn’t crazy about here is the criminal underuse of Anthony Michael Hall. As a guy who really dug the old Dead Zone TV show I have a certain amount of respect for Hall so I was pretty excited to see him in this movie but unfortunately he only appears in the various flashbacks which, since they’re all very short, he doesn’t do much. I wish we’d gotten to see more of him but then if his character did show up more that might have affected the tone of the film and I’d prefer that not happen.

I loved this movie. My buddy told me I’d like but I had no idea how much I would. The flick has almost everything I’d want from a movie: good characters, an intriguing plot, a sense of humor, Michelle Trachtenberg, and a satisfying ending. Sexy Evil Genius is a really well done little film that hid under the radar in 2013, including my own, but for my money it was better than just about every film I saw. I’m going to be honest here; as I’ve said before 2013 wasn’t my favorite year for movies but if I had been smart and seen this one before my Top Ten Movie list back in January Sexy Evil genius would have been #1. Now I’m not simply saying this because I’m all about Trachtenberg but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the prettiest woman in Hollywood (that's technically opinion but it's also the right now) starring in your movie.

No joke here; let's just enjoy the beauty that is Michelle Tractenberg
I give Sexy Evil Genius 5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


-Great characters, great cast 

-An interesting plot and mystery 

-A good blend of a thriller with comedy 


-Nikki’s character is a little too over-the-top at times 

-Could have used a little more Anthony Michael Hall

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