Lifechanger [Fantasia 2018 Review]

If Richard Linklater’s Slacker was remade as a horror film, it might resemble Lifechanger. The movie, which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018, is ambitious and intriguing, with one heck of a twist in the final ten minutes. Writer/director Justin McConnell clearly has big ideas on his mind, which makes this something worth paying attention to.

Bill Oberst, Jr. provides the voice of Drew. We don’t really see him because he’s a “body thief.” Somehow he moves from person to person, killing them and taking over their bodies until they start to rot, at which time he finds a new host. Early scenes in the film show him inhabiting a body, spending a day or two in it, then moving to another (hence my Slacker reference). Aside from the trail of death and destruction left in his wake, there is an additional complication. Drew has fallen in love with Julia (Lora Burke, in a very good performance), so he continually works his way into her orbit with each new guise.

The heart of Lifechanger is that Drew wants to be near Julia, but he can’t if he dies, so he has to continue his murderous ways. That’s one heck of a hook! We follow him as he uses various metrics to determine whose body he should take over, and as he tries to figure out how to achieve the desired closeness with Julia in spite of his inability to remain static.

It takes a little while for the movie to get going. Understanding what’s happening and the “rules” of it takes some time. You also have to get to know Drew through his voiceover, since we don’t see the real him onscreen. That involves listening to what he says as he passes through several bodies and analyzes his predicament. Put the effort into doing those things and you’ll be rewarded. Lifechanger builds to a climax that pays off its premise in a thematically perfect way designed to make your jaw drop.

In terms of horror, there are absolutely some moments that will shock you. McConnell shows an aptitude for making things just as gruesome as they need to be to maintain effectiveness, without going overboard. The way violence is handled here makes Drew’s situation feel almost as tragic for him as for his victims. It becomes a warped, twisted version of the food chain.

Lifechanger combines an interior kind of horror with a very external kind of horror, which makes it a movie to have on your radar.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

For my reviews of current theatrical releases, go to the main page of The Aisle Seat.

 

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot [Fantasia 2018 Review]

From the title alone, you might expect The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot to be a massive slice of cinematic insanity. It’s true that there’s a really bonkers sequence in which star Sam Elliott fights the legendary Sasquatch. Beyond that, though, the movie — which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018 — is fairly restrained. That’s a good thing, because there’s far more depth here than the awesome and technically accurate attention-getting title suggests. Using the word “melancholy” to describe a film with such a moniker is odd, yet also perfectly apt. However you want to describe it, this is a special work that hits you in unexpected ways.

Elliott plays Calvin Barr, a man who has been carrying around a secret for decades: he assassinated Adolf Hitler. For a variety of reasons best unrevealed here, he never got credit for it, not that he cares. Despite eliminating one of history’s greatest villains, Calvin regrets having taken a life. The event also cost him his relationship with girlfriend Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald), who is seen in the flashbacks that permeate the film. Aidan Turner plays Calvin during those scenes.

It is not a welcome event when representatives from the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police show up at Calvin’s door asking for his help. The FBI agent (Ron Livingston) knows about Hitler and now wants him to track and kill Bigfoot, who is carrying a disease that could wipe out mankind. After some initial resistance, Calvin agrees to put himself into a situation where he’ll have to kill again.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot has two questions at its core. The first is, What if you did something truly remarkable but had ambivalent feelings about it? The second is, Would it be foolish to do something remarkable again, given those ambivalent feelings from before? Writer/director Robert Krzykowski explores how Calvin struggles to reconcile what he did with how it affected his life. Yes, he made the world better for everyone else. For himself, though? That’s another matter. He’s not sure if it was ultimately worth it. In some respects, the movie is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in the way it maps the emotional toll getting pulled back into violence takes on the lead character, although Calvin Barr’s outcome is certainly different than William Munny’s.

Sam Elliott gives yet another stellar performance here, expertly conveying the way Calvin’s ordeal and its subsequent repercussions have worn him down over the years. You can feel every drop of guilt, remorse, and sorrow. At the same time, the actor shows how his character gradually opens up to himself and finds some form of acceptance over the course of his adventure pursuing Bigfoot. It’s more great work from a performer who routinely delivers greatness.

The fact that The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is so hard to categorize is part of what makes it so special. Predicting where it will go from minute to minute is impossible. Krzykowski confidently weaves the story between past and present, reality and fantasy. A “big” moment will be followed by one that’s quieter and more introspective. He scatters little cross-references between timelines, and utilizes a clever metaphor for Calvin’s problem — one that involves his shoe. The cumulative result is that the movie takes what could have been a jokey premise and instead melds it into something mythic and meaningful.

One of the most pleasing qualities of genre films is their ability to tackle deep themes in a way that’s not as heavy-handed or obvious as they could be if tackled straight-on. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot is as good an example of that as you will find. This is a touching, affecting story about a man coming to terms with his life’s deeds. And it just happens to have him fighting Bigfoot.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information about Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

For my reviews of movies currently in theatrical release, please visit the main page of The Aisle Seat.

Cam [Fantasia 2018 Review]

Cam is like a really taut episode of The Twilight Zone set against the backdrop of sex work. From the opening scene, it grabs you and doesn’t let go for an hour-and-a-half. The movie, which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018, pulls you into the world of “cam girls” — women who host sexually-explicit online shows, and often get on slightly personal terms with their fans. Graphic, but never offensively so, it delves into the psyche of one such cam girl as her world starts to fall apart.  

Madeline Brewer gives a brave, ferocious performance as Alice. She has a loyal viewership in her guise as “Lola,” but is obsessed with breaking into her web host’s top 50. That entails using extreme tactics like implications of self-harm in addition to the usual sexual teases. Alice wants to tell her mother (Melora Walters) about her profession, yet figures it’s better to wait until she’s reached the appropriate level of success first.

Trouble strikes when Alice gets locked out of her account. Worse, someone else is broadcasting on it. Someone who looks and sounds exactly like her. How is this possible? Her effort to find out puts her in contact with two creepy regular viewers, and in pursuit of the #1 cam girl around. What she discovers is shocking.

The questions of how Alice’s account gets hacked and who does it are only answered very generally. That’s perfectly okay, because Cam isn’t so much about what happens as it is about Alice’s reaction it. Despite some horror overtones, this is ultimately a story of control. On her shows, Alice has it. She decides what she’s comfortable doing, how to present herself, and in what ways she wants to interact with her viewers. Using sex appeal as leverage, she calls all the shots. Once her account is hijacked and the other Lola takes over, she no longer has that control, which threatens to derail her dream of rising in the ranks. This realization leads to taking greater risks to get that control back.

Cam was written by Isa Mazzei, a former cam girl herself. That makes a huge difference, as the movie is filled with authentic details that add exponentially to the effect. Even if you’d never watch one of these broadcasts, the way Cam delves into the behind-the-scenes preparations, the relationship-building with viewers, the technical complications, and the rivalries between hosts is captivating. Director Daniel Goldhaber paces the film like a rocket, zipping back-and-forth between Alice’s real world and her online existence, showing how the two have become intertwined.

At the center of it all is Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale). She palpably captures Alice’s single-mindedness in wanting to be a top cam girl. Although tough and determined on the outside, Brewer also suggests an inner vulnerability, as though Alice doesn’t see much potential in herself other than that which her hotness provides, so she willingly capitalizes on it. This role deserves to make the actress a star.

Cam is destined to be compared to the work of David Lynch, particularly Mulholland Dr., with its nightmarish, surreal quality and duel identity plot. Truthfully, though, the movie is more accessible than Lynch’s (admittedly great) output. There’s also a freshness to the treatment of the subject matter that makes it unique.

All the way around, Cam is a bold, electrifying thriller.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

Mega Time Squad [Fantasia 2018 Review]

If you’re a fan of time-travel comedies, Mega Time Squad is going to blow your mind. The movie, which had its world premiere at Fantasia 2018, puts an ingenious and often hilariously funny spin on the whole concept of how time-travel is used in movies. If you think you can guess where this New Zealand import’s story is headed, you’re completely wrong.

Anton Tennet plays Johnny, a low-level drug dealer who performs errands and chores for a local kingpin, Shelton (Johnny Brugh). One day, he gets the bright idea to stage a heist of his own, making off with the money Shelton has ordered him to steal from a local Chinese-run antique store with ties to a triad. In the process, he also swipes a magical ancient bracelet — one that, when a button on it is pushed, allows him to travel a short way back in time. There’s just one hitch: it also creates another version of him. And according to legend, a demon appears if a time-traveler meets himself.

Needless to say, Johnny uses it. What follows is a madcap adventure in which five different iterations of Johnny are pursued by people trying to get the money back.

Early scenes in Mega Time Squad are highly comical, as Johnny repeatedly gets out of trouble by foolishly generating new copies of himself. One scene, set in a public restroom, is especially uproarious. Then there’s a unique twist in the second half. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that Johnny and his duplicates don’t necessarily trust each other. (That the character is self-aware about his own disreputable nature is one of the film’s shrewdest jokes.) Everything leads to a climax that finds Johnny and Shelton confronting each other. The way this resolves itself is deeply satisfying.

The special effects used in the movie are so seamless that I assumed director Tim van Dammen had somehow found quintuplet actors to play Johnny. You can’t see the seams anywhere. There’s a jaw-dropping sequence in which all the Johnnies confuse Shelton and his goons by wandering through a house simultaneously. Done in long, steady shots where he repeatedly passes himself, the scene is astonishing to watch. These are, however, just effects. There is only one Johnny, and Anton Tennet does a terrific job playing all the many versions of the hapless character. It is a testament to his abilities that we can keep them all straight.

One of the hardest things for any time-travel movie to achieve is to have everything be airtight, so that there are no “holes” in the plot and so that everything adds up 100%. I’m not entirely sure Mega Time Squad does that. Then again, it really doesn’t matter. The clever premise and appealingly offbeat sense of humor are more than sufficient to make this a comedy worth savoring.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana [Fantasia 2018 Review]

Mike Diana drew insanely offensive art. That was his whole point. He wanted to be appreciated not by the masses, but by people who were on his own demented wavelength. Odds are you’ve never heard of Diana. He is the first U.S. artist convicted of obscenity. Now he’s the subject of an important documentary from director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) called Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana. The film had its international premiere at Fantasia 2018.

After a brief, informative history of underground comics, the documentary zeroes in on its subject. Diana was a young Florida man who published a zine (a homemade magazine sent out to subscribers by mail) called Boiled Angels. It was filled with cartoons that spoke to his personal obsessions: sexuality, religion, and violence. The sexual assault of children and infants was a common theme in his work, although it was presented in an extremely exaggerated fashion.

Through a freak confluence of events, Diana’s drawings came to the attention of the police. A traffic stop turned up a copy of one issue, and the officer noticed some similarities between the illustrations and a series of brutal murders that had taken place in Gainesville, Florida. Authorities tracked him down and immediately began investigating to see if he might be the killer. He wasn’t. That said, his work was deemed obscene, leading to an arrest and trial, at the end of which he was convicted of obscenity. No one had been hurt, and the zine only went into the hands of 200 or 300 people, all of whom voluntarily subscribed to it.

Henenlotter interviews Diana about his ordeal, but also talks to his parents, the prosecutor who won the case, a woman who followed the story in the media and showed up in court to confront him, and multiple fellow artists. Each offers a unique perspective on the trial and its long-term ramifications.

Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana uses these interviews to get at its main point, which is that it’s absolutely absurd for anyone to have been convicted for drawing provocative pictures. It’s precisely the thing the First Amendment is supposed to protect, and yet somehow, in this particular instance, justice was not served. If anything, Diana used his artwork as a means of getting rid of his demons in a productive, non-violent way. The problem is not what he drew, it’s that people couldn’t deal with those drawings once they saw them.

Narrated by punk rocker Jello Biafra and featuring a healthy swath of its subject’s work, Boiled Angels makes a strong statement about the need for art to push boundaries, to confront us, and to occasionally assault our sensibilities. Diana is clearly a shy man, so he doesn’t necessarily go deep into his feelings, but Henenlotter makes sure to fill everything out, leading to a documentary that will offend and enlighten you simultaneously.

Mike McGranaghan

For more information on Fantasia 2018, please visit the official website.

Four Must-See Movies at Fantasia

The annual Fantasia International Film Festival is soon upon us. The event, which takes place from July 12 through August 2, brings together some of the most innovative, cutting-edge genre films from around the world. The 2018 fest has an amazing-looking roster of titles.

Here are four must-see movies playing at Fantasia this year, which are certain to get a lot of attention:

Arizona – Danny McBride stars in this dark comedy, set during the 2009 housing crisis, as a disturbed guy who takes out his frustrations on anyone who displeases him. McBride is, of course, best known for goofy comedy, but there’s always been an underlying angry edge in his work. Here, he appears to indulge in that edginess, which promises an unforgettable ride. The screenplay was written by Brooklyn Nine-Nine scribe Luke Del Tredici, so you just know the dialogue is going to crackle. This could be a picture that shows its star in a whole new light.

Tales from the Hood 2 – Rusty Cundieff’s Tales from the Hood is one of the most important horror movies of the 1990s. The anthology uses issues related to race in each of its segments, leading to a viewing experience that is both provocative and entertaining. Years later, Cundieff delivers a sequel starring the great Keith David as the new Mr. Simms. (He takes over for Clarence Williams III.) It will be exciting to see how the director weaves in contemporary issues of race, especially in light of recent events that have rocked America. Tales from the Hood 2 looks to be a much-needed cinematic barn-burner.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich – If you grew up in the era of VHS, you doubtlessly know the Puppet Master franchise. These low-budget productions are notable for their murderous puppet creations, twisted violence, and wicked sense of humor. The latest installment, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, is more than just another sequel, though. It was made by the people behind the acclaimed genre film Bone Tomahawk, so it’s obviously going to be a totally original take, especially since it revolves around a Nazi puppetmaker played by Udo Kier. Thomas Lennon and the always-awesome Barbara Crampton co-star.

Our House – Thomas Mann plays a young guy working on an invention that allows for wireless electricity, while also caring for his brother and sister following the tragic death of their parents. What he doesn’t initially realize is that his gizmo actually opens up a portal allowing contact from the Other Side. I’m including Our House on this must-see list for a simple reason: I’ve already seen it, and it’s terrific. (The movie has begun screening for critics in advance of its July 27 opening.) A full review will follow in the weeks ahead. For now, I’ll just say that it continues the trend — started by A Quiet Place and Hereditary — of 2018 horror films that are as concerned with character and emotion as they are with scares.

Of course, there are many other awesome films playing at Fantasia, and I’ll be covering some of them here. For more information on what’s screening, check out the official Fantastia 2018 website.

 

Gags [Cinepocalypse 2018 Review]

Remember that news story about a clown prowling the streets in Wisconsin and freaking out residents — the one that made national news and launched copycats all across the country? That was a marketing stunt for a short film, directed by Adam Krause. And a very effective one at that. Now there’s a feature version of the short, Gags, which had its world premiere at Cinepocalypse 2018. Anyone with coulrophobia (including a certain film critic whose work you might be familiar with) is certain to get a shiver or five.

The movie follows several characters, all of whom are fascinated by a clown named Gags who has been trolling Green Bay, carrying black balloons filled with deadly powder. There’s TV news reporter Heather Duprey (played by genre favorite Lauren Ashley Carter) who wants to get a big scoop; a right-wing podcaster, Charles Wright (Aaron Christensen), determined to scare the clown away during a live broadcast; a couple of cops trying to find and arrest him; and a group of teenagers attempting to mimic his actions. All of them convene on one fateful night. Not everyone makes it out alive.

Gags is a horror-comedy, so there’s a mixture of scares and laughs. Of course, last year’s It set the gold standard for clown-based horror, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some effective scenes here. Krause makes excellent use of locations, having the villain pop up in darkened alleys, at a carnival, and in a parking garage, among other places. The biggest chill occurs in the final ten minutes, in which Gags’ lair is revealed. Conception and design of the place are wonderfully eerie. What happens there might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Elsewhere, the film has fun taking some digs at story-hungry reporters and angry right-wing types. Sometimes the humor is overt, such as the way Heather carries out an ongoing rivalry with a reporter from another station. Other times, it’s more darkly satirical. One of the best scenes has Wright confronting Gags by whipping out his gun and engaging in macho, I’m only tough because I’m packing! posturing.

Gags could have used just a little more of its title character, who appears sparingly. The film is more about the reactions of everyone else to him than it is about his reign of terror. Nevertheless, there are some interesting insights into how people view bizarre, un-quantifiable threats — with fear, with aggression, as an amusement, etc. Carter and Christensen give very good performances that add significantly to the overall impact, and the story builds to a conclusion that is as ingenuous as it is creepy.

In the realm of clown-horror cinema, Gags is definitely a movie to pay attention to.

Clara’s Ghost [Cinepocalypse 2018 Review]

Writer/director Bridey Elliott comes from a very talented family. Her father is Chris Elliott, of Cabin Boy and Late Night with David Letterman fame. Her sister Abby is a former Saturday Night Live cast member with a lengthy resume of subsequent film and TV work. Bridey herself has appeared on hit shows like Silicon Valley and in movies such as Battle of the Sexes and Hello, My Name is Doris. Imagine these funny family members getting together to make a ghost story. That’s Clara’s Ghost, a comedic chiller that’s really quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It screened at Cinepocalypse 2018.

The family connections don’t stop. The film was shot in the Elliott home in Old Lyme, CT, and casts an additional family member — mom Paula Neidert Elliott — in the lead role. She plays Clara Reynolds, the only one in the Reynolds clan who’s not in show business. (Art is imitating life here.) Her husband Ted (Chris) is an actor whose career is in decline. Daughters Julie (Abby) and Riley (Bridey) are former child stars, now struggling to have successful careers as adults. Julie’s is going slightly better than Riley’s.

All of them convene at the family home, when something strange begins occurring. Clara starts seeing the ghost of a young woman, and is disturbed by the visions. Everyone else is busy drinking, cracking jokes, and getting high, thanks to visiting weed dealer pal Joe (Haley Joel Osment).

Clara’s Ghost is not the most narratively-conscious film – a choice made on purpose. The story plays out more like a series of individual moments allowing us to observe the dysfunctional family dynamics as Clara’s haunting occurs. There’s an emergency trip to the veterinarian, a search for a missing shoe, and a scene where Julie re-enacts a recent audition for her critical father.

Through all of these things, we realize that Clara is surrounded by narcissists. Ted, Julie, and Riley are caught up in their own careers, their own images, their own lives. None of them notice that she is troubled by something. The ghost is, ironically, the only one who truly sees Clara.

As you might expect given the comedic talent involved, Clara’s Ghost is often very funny. Julie and Riley engage in some hilariously vacuous conversations about everything from plastic surgery to pop music, while Ted seems to enjoy bickering with his family members because it gives him a chance to display his caustic wit. The heavy reliance on humor is used to make abrupt shifts into chiller territory more pronounced. Nowhere is this better utilized than a well-constructed scene in which Clara is approached by the ghost while the others dance like goofballs to the song “MacArthur Park” in another part of the house.

Again, the lack of a strong narrative might make Clara’s Ghost challenging for some viewers, and the film would have benefited from about ten minutes of tightening. That said, if you can get into its vibe, you’ll find a tonally-unique, surprisingly pointed examination of a woman struggling to stand out within her own family. All four of the Elliotts give strong performances, and because they’re related in real-life, the authentic chemistry gives the picture a major boost.

The Cop Baby [Cinepocalypse 2018 Review]

 

If The Cop Baby was an American film, it would be something we’d all probably mock, like Show Dogs or Nine Lives. Seeing how a high-concept comedy is executed in a foreign country adds a layer of amusement, though. That’s because, while the premise may seem like the kind of thing Hollywood routinely cranks out, the tone is culturally unique, and that’s fun to watch. This comedy — which is a cross between Lethal Weapon and The Boss Babyall filtered through a Russian sensibility — exemplifies that idea. The Cop Baby made its North American premiere at Cinepocalypse 2018.

A tough-as-nails police force major named Chromov (Sergey Garmash) has been trying to track down an international drug trafficker known as the Dragon. Just when it seems he’s about to nab the guy, his mission is botched by a meek environmental officer (Andrey Nazimov), leaving him shot and critically wounded. A vengeful fortune-teller has put a curse on Chromov, so his consciousness is transferred into the body of the officer’s newborn son. A year later, he decides to take up the case again, from the safety of a stroller. He enlists his “daddy” to help, but their styles are very different.

The comedy value of The Cop Baby comes from seeing a (not always convincing) CGI infant whack another child with a shovel, get behind the wheel during an automobile chase, and use a baby monitor to issue orders to his father, who’s inside a strip club. Perhaps the funniest scene finds Chromov fighting a capybara at a zoo over a piece of watermelon they’re both hungry for.

Some of the jokes poke fun at the idea of a toddler with an adult mentality, including a couple good ones about Chromov being humiliated over having to wear diapers. A scene where he expresses interest in watching his “parents” have sex, only to be rocked to sleep against his will, similarly elicits laughter. And, of course, the very sight of a baby giving an adult lessons in being badass is inherently humorous.

The Cop Baby‘s plot is nothing spectacular, and it hinges on a third-act twist that’s been done a million times in American police thrillers. That said, the movie has a delightfully bonkers quality to it. The script largely avoids obvious lowbrow jokes, and the actors play everything completely straight — whereas a domestic version would probably star someone like Adam Sandler and be filled with gags related to poop and breast feeding. The idea of a fearless police officer trapped inside the body of a one-year-old is taken seriously, then used to deliver a string of insane comedic moments.

Every so often, a picture comes along that’s so bizarre, you just have to see it for yourself. The Cop Baby is one of those pictures.

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man [Cinepocalypse 2018 Review]

You’ve heard the stories. He took engagement pictures with a couple whose photo shoot he stumbled across. He wandered past a kickball game in a park and invited himself to join in. He showed up at someone’s house party and washed all the dishes. These are just a few of the tales examined in the documentary The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man, which screened at Cinepocalypse 2018.

Director Tommy Avallone interviews some of the people who have had these unique encounters with the Ghostbusters star. We meet an Austin bartender who convinced Murray to serve drinks to patrons, a guy who sang karaoke with the actor, and a construction worker who was stunned to show up to a site one day and receive an impromptu poetry reading from Peter Venkman himself. Listening to these folks relate the incidents is fascinating because they clearly remain in awe of what happened and, as such, are more than happy to go into great, enthusiastic detail. In every case, they didn’t feel as though they met a celebrity, they had an experience with one. Cell phone footage of Murray in action is effectively used to compliment their recollections.

Several different journalists who have written about Murray also appear in the documentary, analyzing his penchant for impromptu stunts. Among the more intriguing suggestions is that he views life as his own personal improv sketch, giving him the chance to jump into the fray, ad lib, and see what happens. One interviewee even finds a thematic connection between several of the actor’s movies and his real-life actions.

Of course, he can get away with all this because he’s Bill Murray. No other celebrity could do it. There’s an inherently playful quality to his personality, and it makes all the difference. Behavior that could seem boorish or arrogant instead comes off as lovable. One of the most famous tales involves him stealing a french fry off someone’s plate in a restaurant. If a stranger did that to you, you’d probably be upset. But if Bill Murray did it…

Through the combination of personal anecdotes and informed speculation, Avallone’s film gets at a larger truth, which is that we can all learn something from Murray’s antics. Here’s a guy who lives in the moment. He participates in life. You won’t find him sitting in front of a computer screen, perusing Facebook. He’s out there, meeting people, doing things, and seemingly having the time of his life. We all need to embrace our inner Murray, Avallone seems to be saying.

The Bill Murray Stories is a cheerful, captivating movie that looks at celebrity through the eyes of a major star who marches to the beat of his own drummer — and might just pop up where you least expect him.