Tag Archives: Zolee Griggs

Don’t Say Super


by Hope Madden

In a seedy underworld ripe for the comic book taking, a teen crime journalist named Hamster just wants a shot to tell the real stories of these streets. He stumbles across a homeless man who claims to be a hero from another dimension. The thing is, Hamster believes him.

Hokey, right? It is, but co-writer/director Adam Egypt Mortimer hits an interesting tone with Archenemy. He creates the space needed to develop some ideas before logic and cynicism close them down.

Mortimer combines animation with live action, sometimes bleeding whispery voiceover into the mix to heighten the sense that nothing is as it seems. Is Max Fist (that is a name!) really from a parallel dimension, or is he an alcoholic schizophrenic homeless guy living under the bridge?

Mortimer mainly works from young Hamster’s point of view, occasionally veering into Max’s. By limiting the logic of the tale to the perspective of either a naïve optimist or the likely victim of mental illness and addiction, the filmmaker ensures that you’re never truly able to differentiate reality from unreality.

It’s a tough tone to maintain, but Mortimer manages, thanks in large part to the commitment of his lead. As Max Fist (seriously, that name!), Joe Manganiello carries Archenemy on his shoulders. The performance is simultaneously lucid and muddled, with a physical edge that makes the character feel like a threat even at his most vulnerable.

Around him, characters are sometimes cartoonish (Glenn Howerton as The Manager or Paul Scheer as Kreig), but Manganiello keeps the film from dipping into camp with a turn that’s gritty and believable.

Skylan Brooks does a fine job of elevating the least realistic role—a character that benefits from endless contrivances. The writing around Hamster is easily the weakest part of the film, but Brooks does what he can to keep you engaged.

As Hamster’s sister Indigo, Zolee Griggs walks an interesting line as well, the good guy and bad guy in the same breath. It’s an understated performance that impresses. And Amy Seimetz—always a welcome sight—delivers a resigned villainy that perfectly suits the picture.

Archenemy has plenty of faults, but more than enough inspiration and grit to make you want to overlook them.  

Bite Club


by Hope Madden

There is something appealing to the glam trainwreck that is Bit, Brad Michael Elmore’s anti-Twilight.

An angsty adolescent fresh from high school graduation voice overs: “You know those teen vampire movies that feel like the horny soap opera fever dreams of an 8th grade diary? Here’s how mine began.”

Like it. It’s self-aware, a little deadpan funny, a little whatever. Go on.

Laurel (Nicole Maines), the recent grad, packs up her Oregon-plated car and takes off to spend the summer with her brother in LA. On her very first night in town, she’s hit on by  the super hot girl Izzy (Zolee Griggs), brought to an after hours full of incredibly cool people, and immediately she feels as if she’s found acceptance, found home.

Naturally, Izzy and her also-hot friends are lesbian vampires who see Laurel’s specialness and invite her to Bite Club.

First rule of Bite Club: No. Fucking. Boys.

Maines is a transgender actress, a fact that elevates Laurel’s angsty “oh, high school was kind of a horror show” schtick because it probably was. Maines does not show an enormous amount of range, unfortunately, and Elmore’s script offers her few opportunities to shine.

She’s entirely convincing with her eyes at half mast, enduring the well-meaning but clueless affection of her family. But Elmore penned very few realistic reasons for Laurel’s behavior and Maines is left struggling to convince us, simply repeating the phrase “I’m fine” ad nauseam.

Diana Hopper, on the other hand, cuts an impressive figure as Bit’s Tyler Durden. Hopper elevates Elmore’s sometimes weak dialog (there are times when it works) with wearied badassedness.

It is fun and sometimes really witty the way Bit mocks boys, though, even if Elmore’s core theme is, “Some of us are OK!” Indeed, Bit undercuts its feminist intent as often as it offers genuine insight.

But maybe its main thesis is that kids are stupid, because Laurel’s philosophy for the future of the human race is…well, it’s stupid.

Still, there’s low-rent garbage fun to be had with this. Everything about it could have been better, but like most guilty pleasures, it appeals in a sugar high kind of way.