Tag Archives: 10’s

Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

Infinitely-Polar-Bear-movie

Rating: B/ Filmmaker Maya Forbes’ heart tugging, affectionate autobiographical tale stars Mark Ruffalo as Cam, a perennial screw-up and the manic-depressive father of two little girls, Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) and Amelia ( Imogene Wolodarsky, the filmmaker’s own daughter.) When we first meet Cam, it is the winter of 1978, and he is in the midst of a manic episode, running around in the freezing cold in his skivvies and terrorizing his family, who then lock themselves in the car in fear. Later he is hospitalized and put on heavy medication that makes him shuffle, fat and complacent, around the halls of the mental hospital. Continue reading Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

Inside Out (2015)

insideout

In a weird way, the premise of “Inside Out” is kind of unnerving. Beings inside your mind that click on the control panel to trigger your emotions? Whatever happened to good old free will? It’s kind of a psychological dystopia for tweens (though in a universe where my emotions were living creatures who controlled most aspects of myself, they’d probably be doing a better job than I’m doing now- how’s that for unnerving?)

Take away the disturbing social and psychological implications of this deconstruction of free will (!), and you’ve got a typically delightful, touching Pixar film. The basic plot centers around Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias,) an eleven-year-old daughter of supportive, hockey-crazy parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) who is going through some tough life changes.

Her dad is having ever-present but obliquely mentioned financial problems, and her parents move her from her much-loved home in Minnesota to a small, shabby San Francisco pad. Luckily (?), the celebrity-voiced personifications of Riley’s feelings are there to help. Joy (Amy Poehler) runs the show, and under her watchful eye everything is mostly fun and pleasant, though  when Sadness (Phyllis Smith) interferes Riley’s mood transitions, predictably, from sunny to gloomy.

Anger (Lewis Black) fumes and rages while flames literally leap from his crimson head while Fear (Bill Hader) timidly and neurotically weighs the possible risk in any given situation. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is kind of the queen bee of the group, adding a dose of much-needed snark.

Riley’s feelings are kind of a dysfunctional little family held together by the same circumstances (i.e. they inhabit the same brain,) but Joy fails to recognize that melancholy can a valuable, even healthy part of the spectrum that makes up the self until she and Sadness are inadvertently cast into the outskirts of the mind and Riley suffers a kind of an emotional shut-down.

insideoutbingbong

Tender and funny, “Inside Out” didn’t hit me in the feels as much as “Up,” an earlier effort and a personal favorite of mine, but it is an enjoyably creative adventure through an eleven-year-old girl’s mind. If the visuals of the dreamscape that Riley’s emotions inhabit was half as fun to create as they were to watch, then they must not have felt much like work at all as much as a veritable artist’s playground.

Aesthetically, Pixar studios has done it again. “Inside Out” looks gorgeous, both within Riley’s mind and out on the streets, school, and hockey rink she inhabits. “Inside Out”‘s success both visually and in terms of storytelling and pathos prove that filmmaker Pete Docter’s mastery of the craft in “Up” was not a fluke. There’s a lot of psychological jokes that most kids (and maybe certain adults) won’t get but there’s a distinct lack of the thinly veiled sexual humor that Dreamworks flaunts like a Harvard degree.

“Inside Out” has a pensive, melancholic quality that captures the insecurity and fragile uncertainty of adolescence which might go right over little kids’ heads, but they’ll be sure to enjoy the bright visuals and buoyant humor. Parents are likely to empathize with Riley’s parents’ financial and familial struggles without their woes overwhelming the picture.

A few parts of the film seem to drag along a little longer than they should, such as the abstraction sequence, but overall “Inside Out”is an outstanding film the young at heart or those who remember being young, when setbacks felt like crushing failures that seemed like they couldn’t be assuaged or mended with time, and life was made up by the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This juxtaposition of jubilation and misery, through a child’s innocent eyes, is what makes “Inside Out” a truly singular experience.

Inside-Out

 

 

Zombeavers (2014)

ZombeaversPlakat

“Zombeavers” is an predictably cheesy and surprisingly entertaining gorefest, and emphatically, and maybe thankfully, the only film of it’s kind- a cheerfully over-the-top horror-comedy about raging homicidal zombie beavers. Yep. Let the beaver jokes commence. It seems to be in the same vein as low budget bloodbaths such as “Evil Dead 2” and “Dead Alive,” but this film is in a category of it’s own- it’s literally so bad it’s good, a hypnotic disaster that has to be seen to be believed.

The dialogue is atrocious,the characters are inane, the animatronic aquatic rodents from hell who can reason- and plan an oncoming attack- are shit, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Saying that this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously is an insult to movies that scrape the bottom of the barrel for cheap gags. But it achieves it’s purpose, to make the lowbrow viewer laugh. Oh, and I laughed. I don’t think the question even has to be raised whether I was laughing with it or at it, but I left the movie in a good mood, and there’s something to be said for that.

zombeavers_trailer_still_a_l

The ‘plot’- a group of three college girls go out on vacation to get one of the young women’s (Lexi Atkins)’ mind off a messy break-up. They are met at the cabin by their respective boyfriends (and the heartbroken girl’s ex) for a weekend of skinny-dipping, booze, and sex – maybe not in that order though. Sound familiar? But that’s where the fun (and the similariites to countless other horror movies) end.

You see, barrels of  bright green nuclear waste has been dumped on the dams of some easy-going beaver families, and the mother-fuckers have gone bad- they’re out for blood. They’re not just beavers, they’re Zombeavers and they will have their revenge. These kids don’t have a brain among them- it takes them half the movie to remember that beavers can chew through wood. All they care about it boobs, broads, and, in case of the lasses, dick. So it proves to be entertaining to watch them die by being gnawed to death by normally docile rodents.

The acting is exactly what you might expect for this kind of movie. The actor who plays the supposedly straight Buck (Peter Gilroy) acts gay as fuck throughout (although he does deserve brownie points for keeping a straight face while screaming “I feel like a power ranger!” mid coitus.) Meanwhile, the actress who plays his girlfriend (Cortney Palm) sporadically picks up and drops her Southern accent as frequently as a bad case of clap.

Of course, they’re not playing in a rendition of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” And in a movie like this, bad acting is pretty much part of the deal. And, well, I must admit (bad. bad philistine that I am) that the sight of those goofy animatronic beavers alone were enough to make me explode into gales of laughter. They’re so quaint, in a bloody, gross way. So it comes down to this. If you like bad movies, really bad movies, really really bad movies, you might enjoy this. If you are a lover of film as fine art and want to keep your pride, and more importantly, your sanity, stay far, far away. You know who you are, bad movie lovers. “Zombeavers” is a banquet of cheese, and depending on your taste, it could be a joy to partake.

zombeavers-netflix

The Captive (2014)

the-captive-poster

All in all, “The Captive” is a pretty lame movie. It incorporates a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story with an admittedly good performance from Ryan Reynolds (who’s obviously trying to shed his ‘pretty boy’ image, with some success, but that doesn’t make this movie good,) but ultimately proves to be an unthrilling film that fails to be realistic or compelling.

Most of the fault seems to be with Kevin Durand, who plays a mustachioed pedo freak which such cartoonish abandon that one can only sigh and weep for the direction this movie takes. Durand’s Mika (but I’ll call him pedostache, mm-kay?) kidnaps young Cass (played by Peyton Kennedy as a child and Alexia Fast as a teen) from under poor Reynolds’ nose and does unspeakable things to her.

Reynolds, her dad, is blamed by his grieving wife (Mirielle Enos) for leaving Cass in the car for just a minute as he went into the pie shop to get dessert for his the three of them. Luckily, police officers specializing in child abduction and sexual abuse Nicole  (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) are on the case.

It’s every parents worst nightmare, and great fodder for a thrilling, terrifying crime story, but something is missing. And it’s a shame that, with Reynolds performing so admirably, the central villains performance often lowers the film to ridiculousness.

Mika is an ever-so-slightly effeminate deviant with a pencil-thin pedostache, bleached buck teeth, a habit of crossing and uncrossing his legs constantly, and a penchant for opera, in other words, a live-action cartoon character who is impossible to take seriously in a film that is otherwise for all intents and purposes, earnest.

What the film doesn’t realize is that pedophiles look like regular people. They look like the kindly old man halfway down the block, the big bearish uncle who used to placate you with sweets and hug you a little too tightly. To portray an offender as a John Waters-esque creep is to do a disservice to reality. And Durand’s overly zesty performance doesn’t help.

Let me tell you about the ending. Obviously, **spoilers. Read at your own risk. Cass, who looks thirteen like Dame Maggie Smith looks twenty-five, is freed, and the baddie is smote. She returns to her regular life almost immediately, and the film closes on her ice-skating with a happy grin on her face. After years of Tina (Enos) psychologically abusing Matthew (Reynolds) and blaming him for their daughter’s’ disappearance, it seems like the duo will automatically get back together.

Aw, how Kodak. Bring out the camera, folks! Smile! Except all I can say is, really?!! Not only does the film completely fail to mention that Cass will be scarred for life and saying she will have trouble adjusting is a massive understatement, the revelation of Matthew and Tina hooking up at the end seems completely false. Their daughter is back, suddenly everything is swell! Never mind that the whole family has been completely through the ringer and will probably be deeply damaged for the rest of their lives. **end of spoilers

It would have been interesting to see Reynolds play the bad guy like he (sorta) did in “The Voices” (the “Voices” anti-hero wasn’t a pedo though, just a nice old fashioned serial killer.) To see Ryan Reynolds play a perv would be so totally different that I would kind of have to applaud it. As least “The Voices” felt like a unique experience. “The Captive” feels like a nighttime crime show that you half-watch while occupying yourself elsewhere. A really bad crime show. Ryan Reynolds, I don’t think this movie is the best way to further your career.  Although, I must admit, playing alongside Durand did make you look damn good.

captive

The Voices (2014)

thevoicesposterlarge

Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) is the kind of man no one would suspect of any wrong doing- well-groomed, mild-mannered, and charmingly naïve and uncomplicated, he gets along with all his co-workers at the bathtub factory at which he works, and lives a comfortable life with his cat and dog in the podunk town of Milton.

But Jerry has deep-seated problems- problems that stem from his Schizophrenic mother, his abusive stepfather, and his own out-of-control fantasies and delusions that manifest themselves in voices and often comforting, if woefully misleading, visions. Like many mentally ill people, Jerry finds that all the color is drained from his life when he takes the zombifying pills his psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver) prescribes.

But Jerry has a secret. It’s not that shocking that Jerry talks to his pets (Hell, doesn’t everybody?) But his animals have been particularly vocal lately. His cat, especially, has been known to push him to the edge. And Mr. Whiskers has an agenda- an agenda that turns downright murderous after Jerry accidently kills his indifferent love interest Fiona (Gemma Arterton) in a fit of panic.

Mr. Whiskers is insistent that Jerry kill again, but Jerry’s lovable mastiff, Bosco, tries to convince Jerry to live a morally righteous life. Jerry’s descent into madness is both wickedly funny, fairly disturbing, and oddly touching. “The Voices,” helmed by the graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi (‘Persopolis,”) is an offbeat morality tale about the pressures of being a ‘good boy’ Vs. giving in to your inner sociopath.

The script is convoluted, and downright ridiculous at times- the deer scene will make you laugh if you aren’t too busy cringing at the copious gore. But it’s all part of the blackly comic vision screenwriter Michael R. Perry has offered up on screen for us. “The Voices” is also visually striking; there’s a distinct contrast between the beauty, presented up in rich hues that makes up how Jerry sees the world and the dank, dark reality of Jerry’s bloodstained apartment.

Ryan Reynolds gives a commendable performance as Jerry, an upbeat man-child with a homicidal streak, and disturbingly, you’re forced to sympathize with his earnest if deranged worldview, and thus, to some extent, his crimes. Bosco and Mr. Whiskers are also voiced by Reynolds, which makes perfect sense, being that they are quite literally extensions of Jerry himself.

Considering the talent that is on display here, the totally WTF ending is regrettable to say the least. It’s like the writer went ‘what the hell’ after days of writer’s block, got high, and quickly scrawled down an ending with no real cohesion or connection to the rest of the story. Why not have a big song and dance sequence at the end of your horror film? Add Jesus? What the hell! We don’t see enough of that guy these days anyway.

For people who wanted an actual conclusion to Jerry’s story, that you know, made any kind of sense whatsoever, the ending will be a huge disappointment. Simply put- this is not a great movie. But it is the kind of movie I like to watch, off-the-chain and quirkily, even shallowly psychological, so I’m bound to cut it more slack than some people might.

For those viewers who set their expectations (reasonably) low and prepare for a stinker of an ending, for those movie lovers who like their comedies pitch-black and all kinds of twisted, The Voices” might turn out to be a strangely gratifying experience. Because like poor Jerry Hickfang, we all see the world the way we want to see it. But unlike Jerry, most of us are unwilling to kill for that vision.

THE VOICES

Horrible Bosses (2011)

“Horrible Bosses” has a premise somewhere along the lines of the 1999 Mike Judge comedy “Office Space” but “Horrible Bosses” is more brazen, more over-the-top, and in my opinion, funnier. Although “Office Space” had some valid things to say about the ennui of working in a corporate firm, “Horrible Bosses” throws reason to the wind to deliver a hilarious but completely unrealistic story of a couple of immature guys who want to kill their heinous bosses.

Nick (Jason Bateman,) Dale (Charlie Day,) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are a none-too-bright trio of friends who have one thing in common- their rude, crude, and downright evil bosses. Nick’s boss Dave Harkin (Academy Award Winner Kevin Spacey) is a manipulative, outrageously jealous psychopath, while Dale, a faithful partner to his fiance (Lindsay Sloane,) is sexually harassed by his whore boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston, playing against type, with side-splitting results.)

When Kurt’s kindly boss Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland) dies, Kurt is stuck with Jack’s wildly irresponsible, insensitive, coke-snorting son Bobby (an overweight, hairpiece-donning, practically unrecognizable Colin Farrell.) When the men’s jobs become hard to bear, the witless three hire a ‘murder consultant’ (Jamie Foxx) to help them finish the job.

Even though I don’t find Jason Bateman to be a particularly interesting actor, he does fine here and is boosted by a funny script. Overall, the comedic acting is very funny, although the humor might be too crude for some people’s taste. Having a man be sexually harassed by his hot female boss is a creative idea, and the indifference of his friends is relevant too- in society, males are supposed to be the horny ones who are receptive to any sexual signals, wanted or unwanted, coming their way.

Like if a man has sex with a fourteen-year-old girl, he’s a pedophile, and she’s a victim. If a woman has sex with a fourteen-year-old male, he’s a… very lucky boy? It doesn’t make sense, and the film illustrates hypocritical gender politics as Dale copes with his unusual dilemma.

I really think Horrible Bosses’ script is extraordinary, I was laughing throughout. I think “Tropic Thunder,” “Pineapple Express,” “Knocked Up” etc. are really overrated, and it’s nice to see an American comedy movie that’s the real deal, i.e. a really funny mainstream comedy. I also think that Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell are better than people give them credit for, and they were hysterical here as two of the three horrible bosses.

“Horrible Bosses” is consistently funny and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good, slightly dark comedy. The cast is great and the dialogue is very quotable. Overall, it is a wildly entertaining diversion and should be watched by comedy lovers everywhere.

The Hunt (2012)

Just as man has succumbed to the urge to kill, fight, and procreate since the beginning of time, also has man had the tendency to persecute others without clear or rational explanation. These attacks, popularly called ‘witch hunts,’ come under fire in the Academy-Award nominated Danish film “The Hunt,” which tells the story of how one little girl’s lie has devastating consequences. These consequences affect not only one man, but a whole community.

Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) a mild-mannered, reserved divorcee and father of a teenaged son (Lasse Fogelstrøm) works at the local Kindergarten. He is fighting to gain more time with his son, and enjoys the company of the kindergarten kids as well as his  Swedish girlfriend, Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport.) Lucas is well-liked by the community, but is best friend is Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen,) the often-drunk father of Klara (Annika Wedderkopp,) a troubled young girl who is beginning to show symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

When Lucas rejects Klara’s innocent-yet-inappropriate advances in forms of a gift and a kiss, Klara makes up a lie that has far-reaching consequences. Accused of indecent behavior towards the children of the Kindergarten, Lucas must deal with the loss of his career, his friends, and his safe niche in the community. Suddenly, he is distrusted by everyone, and people shun him and outwardly lash out at him. By the time Klara tries to take it back, it’s too late. Everything has changed.

Is this the face of evil?

I don’t really blame Klara for the way things turns out- I’m angry, yes, but I cannot hate or dismiss her. By the time the chips have fallen into place, she barely remembers what did or didn’t happen. Unlike the events in Craig Zobel’s “Compliance,” which were set off and carried past a certain point by pure idiocy (although “Compliance” is supposedly based on a real-life case,) the events in “The Hunt” are frighteningly plausible and even, for a while, understandable.

I loved the first scene. In a seemingly jolly outburst of mirth and indiscretion, a group of male friends go skinny-dipping in a cold lake. For a moment, all is well. Then a chill falls over the film as we are shown a shot of a chilly landscape. The amiable notes of “Moondance” by Van Morrison fade into pure silence. All is not well. Disaster is hovering over the hero’s head, and he will find himself doing and saying some things he never expected too.

Save the children!

Mads Mikkelsen is just terrific in the lead role. His portrayal of a desperate man going to desperate lengths to be heard is so dark and deep, you never doubt it for a second. All the actors are actually very good. Annika Wedderkopp, as five-year-old navigating conflicts way above her maturity level, is a young talent to
watch.

“The Hunt” is just electrifying to watch because of the daunting relevance of the situation. Akin to the Salem Witch Trials, after Klara has told her lie, many of the schoolchildren start reporting abuse. You can imagine yourself in a situation like that, because if a little girl came to you revealing things she shouldn’t know, who would you believe? The adult, despite your nagging suspicions? Or the child, despite your friendship with the man in question. We all hate pedophiles. But what happens when that hatred becomes irrational and turns us into something monstrous? Very interesting food for thought.