Tag Archives: 2.0 Star Movies

Still (2014)

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A note to curious viewers looking for the next great revenge flick- make no mistake, “Taxi Driver” this is not. Also, movie goers expecting Aidan Gillen to go all “Dead Man’s Shoes” on a group of thugs will be sorely disappointed. Aidan Gillen is no Paddy Considine (it’s okay, Gillen- we love you anyway) and “Still” is a drab, painfully slow-moving exercise in banality.

Tom Carver (Gillen) plays Tom, a middle-aged photographer barely developed beyond his long-standing grief at the death of his teenaged son in a hit-and-run, his mean streak (displayed toward his ex-wife Rachel (Amanda Meeling,) and his substance abuse problem. When a gang of youths rather abruptly begins terrorizing him, engaging in behavior that predictably leads to the assault of his girlfriend (Elodie Yung,)

Tom is unsure of what to do about the attacks but his journalist friend Ed (Jonathan Slinger ) convinces him to take action, spewing Republican rhetoric (‘these are minors! They’ll get a couple of years tops in a cushy facility with a big-screen TV and an XBox! An XBox!’) while getting himself and Tom plastered. Tom finally decides to man up and get brutal revenge on his tormentors. But at what cost?

Too much exposition, too much talking (blah-blah-blah) and not enough substantial dialogue… oddly, one of the biggest problems about “Still” is the color scheme. Obviously a low-budget flick (that’s putting it nicely,) this film has a dull, flat palate and a few scenes are appear to be shot through a reddish color filter that is just distracting. Color filters can be effective and arresting, look at “Cold in July,” based on a novel by Joe R. Landsdale. Those colors grabbed you and didn’t let you go. The colors in “Still” are lifeless and sometimes seem simply arbitrary.

Aidan Gillen is okay (sporting an inflection weirdly reminiscent of his character in “Game of Thrones” and his trademark smirk) but Elodie Yung and Sonny Green (as the lead hood) leave a lot to be desired in the acting department. The real travesty of this movie, however is the ending. Let me set the scene (spoilers, obviously.)

***Spoilers***Spoilers***Spoilers

The teen criminals have gang-raped Tom’s girlfriend, put a flayed cat on his doorstep, and beaten a little boy Tom has befriended, almost killing him in the process. Tom abducts one of the boys and prepares to put him on a nightmarish (and potentially fatal) high, when the teen begs for mercy and drops a bombshell. Apparently, Tom’s son ran with the gang and died (surprise!) not in a hit-an-run, but in a game of chicken with his group.

To put the icing on the cake (drumroll, please,) Tom’s dearly departed son was involved in the murder of a woman when he was alive. Isn’t it convenient that the gang that randomly targeted Tom were also directly associated with his son. The boy’s ultimatum is this- if your son was a piece-of-shit thug like me, why can’t you have mercy and spare my miserable life? The problem is, Tom has already given the little schmuck the killer injection. And, thus, the poor lad (and animal abuser, rapist, and bully) dies in the sobbing Gillen’s arms. And the credits roll. No shit.

Seriously, fuck this movie. You wait the whole fucking film for Gillen to get an awesome and well-deserved revenge, and he ends up offering unconditional forgiveness to the kid through a plot contrivance for something that is irrelevant (so, my son was a shit. Does that make you any less of a shit?) Forget the rape, forget the assault of a young kid, forget everything. Just bask in the emotion of the moment. Fuck 😛

The thing is, I’m not a glutton for sadistic retribution. I’m pretty Liberal in a lot of ways. But I was expecting a revenge film with themes of grief and sadness. Not fucking grief porn, and pretty poorly executed grief porn at that. There was no reason Tom should have let a turd-squirt like that off the hook. Thus, the film is a massive let-down. So it’s not just the cheap quality, or the dodgy acting, or the total lack of likable characters. It’s everything. It’s all of the above.  Plus the shitstain of an ending. Pity.

***End of Spoilers***End of Spoilers***End of Spoilers

I love Aidan Gillen, including his low-budget roles (“Buddy Boy,” “Treacle Jr.”) But this movie is a fail. Maybe if I’d gone in with slightly different expectations it would have been a passable experience. Alas. This movie is not totally terrible, but it’s hardly worth bothering with. Pass, dear and few readers. Definitely pass.

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The Other (1972)

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Life on an 1930’s Connecticut gorgeous family farm is idyllic… or is it? Twin brothers Niles and Holland Perry (Chris and Martin Udvarnoky) share more secrets than most- but can those secrets kill? To find out, I highly suggest you read the book by Thomas Tryon, rather than bothering with this schlock-fest. To say that the film adaptation by Robert Mulligan in a misrepresentation seems like an understatement, because while the movie is technically a faithful adaptation in many ways, it can’t hold a candle to it’s book in terms of quality scares.

This movie is considered a classic by many, but my God is it cheesy. One of the reasons the film is unconvincing is the acting. The performance of Uta Hagen as the Perry boy’s Russian grandmother is laughably ham-fisted. Her ‘accent’ consists mostly of screwing up her face and crying “Babushka!” as she gesticulates wildly. Mrs. Rowe, as a lonely spinster lady (Portia Nelson)  who was very likable in the novel gives one of the worst acting performances I’ve seen in a critically-acclaimed film. The movie unwisely changes her cause of death from ‘ambiguous’ to include a ludicrous sequence of her dying from a heart attack while the film’s little psychopath wields a rat.

While the child actors gallivant around in pedobear-approved short shorts, the film reaches new levels of unintentional hilarity as the one kid acts as effeminate as fuck while his twin brother tries to be a bad-ass, and all the Gothic suspense Tryon strove for comes to naught. While the big reveal was chilling in the book, the twist simply doesn’t work here, neither does 99% of the acting. I actually found the literary equivalent  of the scene where the boy visits his paralyzed, veg mother to be disturbing, but now all I could do was laugh at at the mother (Diana Muldaur)’s overacting attempt at a glazed stare contrasted with the boy’s manic, exaggerated cheeriness.

“The Other” might of been a chilling viewing experience at one time, but calling it outdated is putting it mildly. There isn’t a scare to be had; there is, however, a whole lotta laughs. Get your money’s worth of hilarity as the kid plays the ‘game’ that was so haunting and memorable in the novel, sweating and screaming “I see it, Grandma, I see it!” like he’s going to jizz his pants.

View for your enjoyment as Uta Hagen tries to cover up her utter ineptitude at a Russian accent by adding ‘Babushka’ to the end of every sentence. “Ya, ya, Play de game, Bbbaaabbbusshhkkaa.” Combine this with the worst attempt at a foreign accent you ever heard, and you’re getting close. If unintentional humor is your forte, than by all means, see this film. But if some real scares are what you’re hoping for do yourself a favor and  read the book.

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Big Eyes (2014)

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It seemed like a match made in heaven. Outwardly charming and charismatic realtor Walter (Christoph Waltz) wedded the wide-eyed artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams,) making it possible for her to keep the sexist mid-20th century authorities from deeming her an unfit mother based on her unmarried status and taking her daughter away.

But Walter proved to be an untrustworthy , possessive pig, constantly berating and manipulating the terrified Margaret and taking credit for her work, a series of  slightly unnerving paintings of waifish children with enormous doe eyes. Caught between fear of her husband’s socioeconomic influence and her own happiness, Margaret stayed trapped for years in a loveless  marriage to a egomaniac monster of a husband.

The story of artist Margaret Keane and her fraught relationship with her conniving husband, Walter, seems like it could make a fascinating film, but what can one do with a script as shoddy as this? In “Big Eyes,” Amy Adams is as lovable as ever as the innocent Margaret, initially lulling the viewer into believing that the movie will be much, much better than it actually is.

Christoph Waltz, however, gives an unexpectedly atrocious turn as Walter, rendering all Amy Adams’ efforts to make a good movie out of a mediocre one obsolete. For people such as myself, who adored Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” his performance is a devastating betrayal.

We know he can do better, but with his fiendishly cartoonish portrayal of Adams’ abusive husband, we half expect him to spirit a stack of Acme products out of thin air and futilely attempt to blow Margaret and her frightened daughter to Kingdom come. His performance is what transforms a average movie into something much less.

“Big Eyes” is an improvement over “Alice in Wonderland,” filmmaker Tim Burton’s earlier film of recent years? Ha! “Alice in Wonderland” was solid, gaudy entertainment, harmless to take the kids to and relax your brain with. “Big Eyes” tries to take on serious subject matter, and fails miserably.

I was initially really excited to see it because it sounded a lot different from Burton’s other work, but how disappointed I was when it turned out to be a shallow biopic with one-dimensional characterizations and… yes, a mortifying performance by an actor I used to like and respect.

Meanwhile, a supporting characterization by Danny Huston as an interested reporter seems perfunctory and uninteresting, placed haphazardly in the film simply so he can supply some backstory in the form of a voiceover. As “Big Eyes” veers into shameless, albeit star-studded ridiculousness, all I can think of is what a missed opportunity this was. Hopefully Burton will take his next project more seriously and not deteriorate into kitsch like he did in this sloppy and misfortunate misfire.

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Baby Blues (2008)

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This movie made me want to take a hot shower. A soulless, brainless slasher pitting a group of prepubescent siblings against their homicidal, postpartum mother with the worst twist ending since “Orphan?” Who thought that was a good idea? Okay, I admit, a good movie could have been made with this subject matter. Why do you think I rented it? In hope of an edgy, subversive good time.

But that would require the film to maintain a somewhat serious attitude. Instead, the kid-mangling mama (Colleen Porch) at the center of this sick little horror film shoots off one liners like fucking Freddy Krueger while dispatching of  her clan. “Playtime is over,” she snarls while tracking her ten-year-old son Jimmy (Ridge Canipe, who admittedly does a great job with the material he’s given.)

And later, after slaughtering Jimmy’s younger brother like a pig, “When are you kids going to learn that this hurts me more than it hurts you?” A satire of family values, you say? But it just feels so cheap. Meanwhile, the kids run around the family farm covered in blood and pissing themselves in fear and the filmmaker’s ugly, nihilistic vision comes full circle.

Postpartum Psychosis is a real and terrifying condition, and offering it up to the masses as a cheap schlock-fest isn’t doing anyone anyone any favors, especially those affected by the disorder. The way the filmmaker blithely beats you with a blunt, ridiculously kitschy ending only makes the film more of a failure. I know, I know, any good real-life horror and thriller film is a exploitation of something. Don’t be so sensitive, you say?

There was just something so sleazy about the proceedings. If the director has at least tacked this slaughterfest with an honest, true ending, the worst transgressions might have been forgiven. But the ending is so bad- so irredeemably, utterly, inconceivably bad- I have to be honest with you. This one is a dud.

I’ll admit, there’s something luridly fascinating about watching a child take an adult role under extreme circumstances- Daddy (Joel Bryant)’s away on business, and Mum’s cracked under the burden of mental illness and is determined to kill her kids- what will the newly appointed “man of the house'” do? What is he capable of in order to protect his siblings? But that’s where the fun ends.

Visually “Baby Blues” isn’t bad for a low-budget film. The richly saturated, intense color can be jarring, but ultimately doesn’t distract from the story too much. The sound is questionable, but still audible. I many ways, it is technically well-made. The set-up of the terror is pretty standard. Everything fits together a little too easily- if something is mentioned early on, be assured that it will very obviously come into play later into the film.

There are scenes- the ending, the sequence where farmhand Lester (Gene Witham) does the unthinkable and turns his back on the killer to examine the injuries of a freshly killed dog, exclaiming, “Some kind of animal…” that the film reminds us that it is just that- a movie.

A cynical, small-minded movie that is determined to make a profit on viewers’ morbid curiosity. Don’t buy into the urge to watch a movie sporting an ‘extreme’ premise. After a questionable build-up, the payoff is worse, cheaper, lamer than you can readily imagine.

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