Tag Archives: Adultery

Book Review: Little Children by Tom Perrotta

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Rating: B/  Adultery, pedophilia, pornography addiction, and the all-around dark side of Suburbia all converge in this darkly funny, bleak book, which nonetheless kind of falls apart in a final act that is both inexplicable and unsatisfying. This is going to be a hard book to review, because I loved the movie, and as a result the differences between the two projects were kind of jarring for me. It’s pretty much the reverse of loving a book and not being able to reconcile with the changes made to the story when you are watch the movie. Anyway, Tom Perrotta’s novel is a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the movie, which was just plain depressing and had a conclusion that people found overly lurid and exploitative (but, funnily enough, which I found less baffling and more satisfying than the book ending.) Continue reading Book Review: Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

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Rating: B/ Considering that I had already seen the excellent film adaptation a few years before, this novel held few surprises for me, least of all the twist ending alluded to in it’s lyrical title. So it’s a good thing that Laura Kasischke focuses more in her writing on lyricism and less on plot. With the lovely, vivid writing, I still felt like I was getting something new out of the experience of reading the book even though I pretty much knew the story. The Life Before her Eyes is a good book, not a great one. The writing can be meandering and sentimental while at the same time being lush and gorgeous, starting off the bat with a Sophie’s Choice type situation and gradually touching on aging, sorrow, and regret in a bittersweet manner. Continue reading Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

Movie Review: Locke (2013)

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Rating: B/ Tom Hardy, in a car. Driving. For an hour and a half. Who knew such a movie would be watchable, let alone oddly compelling? Construction foreman Ivan Locke (Hardy) is in a bit of a bind. The woman he recently had an affair with (whose voice on Locke’s speaker phone is provided by Olivia Colman) is carrying his baby and has just gone into premature labor, triggering some complications with the birth. So Ivan, feeling responsible (and rightfully so) for the woman’s situation, drops his important construction job the next morning and the opportunity to watch a big football game with his two adolescent sons (voiced by Tom Holland and Bill Milner) to be with her for the event. Ivan’s lover’s needy and vulnerable, his wife (voiced by Ruth Wilson) wants to hang his philandering balls out to dry, and the job site’s a mess without him. Determined to do the right thing for once, Ivan juggles his responsibilities via phone calls as he makes his way to witness the birth of his illegitimate child. Continue reading Movie Review: Locke (2013)

Movie Review: I Smile Back (2015)

 

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Rating: B/ For the most part, the critics didn’t really seem to like this movie, and I can understand why; the protagonist is fairly unlikable, the subject matter is uncomfortable and sometimes downright unpleasant to watch,  and the film itself just kind of ends abruptly, with no definitive conclusion or explanation. I Smile Back is not a easy movie, but it is a true movie, a film for anyone who’s ever been told they have a good, blessed life, and to stop being depressed and pull themselves together for Christ’s sakes. Some people are miserable because they live under terrible circumstances, and for some people, the reason for their unhappiness is much more complicated. You can have everything in the world, and still find it hard to get up in the morning and face a day full of people who, to you, seem cruel-natured and callous. Continue reading Movie Review: I Smile Back (2015)

Movie Review: Little Children (2006)

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Rating: B+/ So, is the movie called Little Children because the sex offender played by Jackie Earle Haley has a thing for little children or because all the adult characters in the movie act like little children, self-obsessed and bickering? The jury’s still out on that. While the main plotline concerning extramarital affairs and upper-class ennui in an affluent suburban neighborhood is dark and distressing enough, I found the subplot following a child abuser and exhibitionist moving into his mothers’ house after being released from prison (the superior thread by far) absolutely harrowing. Did this movie really make me feel compassion for a guy who gets his kicks flashing his weenie at little kids? What does that say about the film’s aptitude for puzzling moral ambiguity? Moreover, what does it say about me? Continue reading Movie Review: Little Children (2006)

Film Discussion: Spider (2002)

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Rating: A-/ ***Warning- This is more of a comprehensive discussion of the film Spider than a actual review. Spoilers should be expected.*** First off, I adore Ralph Fiennes. I really just love the guy. I think he’s one of the best (if not actually the best) actors of today. I just rediscovered the greatness of Cronenberg’s psychoanalytic thriller Spider, I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about why I think Spider was one of Fiennes’ best performances and one of his most daring film endeavors. I’m also going to discuss what made Spider so great and look at the layers of meaning the psychology of this film provides. Let this be my last warning; this is going to be a spoiler laden post. If you haven’t seen this film yet and want to, avoid this review like the plague. Thank you.

When we first meet Spider (Ralph Fiennes) as he gets off a train, he seems very small and vulnerable, one of society’s undisputed outcasts. Nicotine-stained fingers, raggedy old coat, stubbly, bewildered face- he looks like he wishes he cold just sink into the ground and disappear. We can also see clear as day that not all is right with him psychologically, as he continually mutters incomprehensibly to himself (turn on your subtitles!) and doesn’t seem totally cognizant of his surroundings. He’s definitely out of his element, and rightfully so- Spider has just been released from an insane asylum that he was committed to since childhood, and is being placed in the care of Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave,) a crusty old woman who owns a halfway house for the mentally disturbed.

The house could use a spruce-up and Mrs. Wilkinson could use some work on her bedside manner. She treats the patients like naughty children who constantly need to be berated and told off. Spider begins reexamining events that placed him in the care of the state by becoming an ‘observer’ of his childhood, following his boy self around the familiar streets of his youth and sitting in on conversations between people that occurred at that time, and some that didn’t. This is where the brilliance of this movie lies, for as soon as we are introduced to his parents (Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne) we are immediately placed in the shoes of an unreliable narrator. While his mum is long-suffering, beautiful, and kind, his father Bill is a philandering alcoholic and all around jerk who Spider competes with for the affections of his mother.

In a series of events that young Spider couldn’t possibly have been present for, we find that Dad is screwing a local floozy named Yvonne (also played by Miranda Richardson) and that they kill Spider’s saintly mother when she catches them making it in the garden shed. These scenes, and the subsequent scenes where Yvonne takes Mrs. Cleg’s place as Spider’s new ‘mother,’ are ludicrously over-the-top and almost cartoonish in nature. Juxtaposed with the hyperrealistic scenes where Spider himself is present, these parts seem to make no sense unless you take them at face value- that Spider is making them up. That they came out of the mind of a naive, inexperienced, and mentally ill man who has spent most of his life in an institution.

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Yvonne (despite being played by the same actress who played the mother) is slutty, coarse, and rendered with make-up and costume design to be actually fairly unattractive. The infinitely well-meaning Mrs. Cleg is superior in every way to this common street whore; of this Spider is convinced. So he sets out to murder Yvonne by turning the gas stove on as she sleeps, only to find he has murdered his mother and ‘Yvonne’ as he knows her never existed. Yes, maybe he was jokingly flashed by a woman similar to his incarnation of Yvonne (in fact, ‘Flashing Yvonne’ is played a by a whole different actress than Richardson, Allison Egan) and his mind did the rest of the work. Building upon this event he created the ultimate harlot, the woman who would stand by as his dad killed his mom and insist he call her ‘mother.’

So what do I think? I think Spider’s oh-so-virtuous mother became alcoholic and bitter, creating ‘Yvonne’ in his mind and causing him to believe that his dad murdered his mom and replaced her with an uncaring, promiscuous duplicate. Spider obviously has the hots for his mom on some subconscious level, brushing her hair and watching her put on make-up adoringly and eyeing her as she tries on a slinky nightgown. She became boozy and hard due to her marital problems with her husband and his love of going to the Dog and Beggar and drinking. Someone had to be blamed, and the issue had to be put in more black-and-white terms so Spider could understand it.

There’s only one thing about this movie that confuses me, and that’s the scene where Spider’s in a restaurant looking at a picture of a green Yorkshire field. Suddenly he’s standing in a field identical to the one in the picture,  hanging out with a couple of old men who don’t particularly seem to have their mental faculties. I think that he met the men at the asylum (I believe one of these guys was the one wielding a piece of broken glass in the flashback.) He imagined them in a grassy field and used some of the dialogue he had heard from them in the scenario. I’m also very curious whether Spider realized what he had done to his mother (he does refrain from braining Mrs. Wilkinson, who he imagines as Yvonne, with a hammer) or whether the big reveal was just a tip-off to the audience and Spider is as lost as ever.

I don’t think it should be surprising to you that Ralph Fiennes is incredible in this movie. He shows a gift for portraying debilitating mental illness with a nuanced sleight of hand that is not generally present in these kinds of performances. So that’s it. I’ve explained why I think Spider is one of the more complex psychological thrillers I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve offered some explanation to the meaning of the events presented in this movie. Liked this discussion? Have any thoughts? Want me to write another like it? Stop by and tell me in the comments!

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Axed (2012)

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As much as I would like to root for the little man, stick it to the Hollywood studios, and support this small-budget indie horror film, I cannot. All I can say is this- good God this movie is horrible. The budget is tiny, which shouldn’t be a problem, but it so much so that it becomes a distraction. The acting is mediocre. The plot is rife with holes. It’s a disaster. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but this movie isn’t really worth watching on streaming for free, let alone paying a rental price.

Middle-aged, venomously mean-spirited businessman Kurt Wendell (Jonathan Hansler) is fired from his job, much to his chagrin. At home, he’s making his family’s lives a living Hell- his long-suffering wife (Andrea Gordon,) who may be getting a little nookie on the side, his weak-willed, latently homosexual son (Christopher Rithin,) and his pouty daughter (Nicola Posener.)

To Kurt, his son is a pussy and his daughter’s a slut, and he detests his kids and his wife in equal measure. But Kurt has a plan- he schemes to take his family to a summer home for one last vacation, kill them, and then himself. The drama unfolds at the isolated house, where Kurt takes it upon himself to end his family’s complaints- once and for all.

Jonathan Hansler plays Kurt with manic chutzpah, but Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” he is not. Gordon comes off best as a wife and mother trapped in a loveless marriage. Rithin and Posener are tragically mediocre as beleaguered kids who are too stupid for their own good.

There’s a lack of logic in the script that becomes increasingly obvious by the 1/3rd point. In one scene, the daughter, Megan, unsuccessfully tries to untie a man her father’s taken captive while Dad’s outside. Earlier, her dad took her cell phone and made it all too obvious he was not going to let her leave alive.

Later, she reveals to her mother that she has a second cellphone, which is later taken from her and smashed by her murderously irate dad. The question I have is, why didn’t she call the police while her father was distracted rather than spending 10+ minutes trying to uselessly untie the prisoners constraints with her ineffectual soft little girly hands?

In another scene, the mother gets her kids in the car and tries to drive away but the car doesn’t start. Okay, we’ll accept the oldest horror cliché in the book, but not this- Mom, in all her infinite wisdom, has not locked the door to the driver’s side, leaving it all too easy for Kurt to pull it open and drag her out. I guess she thought her car was going to zoom off like “Need For Speed” and leave her homicidal hubby in the dust.

Grainy photography, poor effects, gaps in logic- “Axed” has all the telling signs of a first feature. A victim’s black eye looks all too fake, while the blows inflicted on the said prisoner are woefully artificial. Last but not least, we have Kurt himself, who is too vile and reprehensible to be a remotely likable or even empathisable character.

What are we supposed to say about a movie that features as one of it’s final plot points a teenaged girl flashing her bra and panties at her murderous father to distract him from killing her (can we say anything?) I think her exact words were “Come and get it, Daddy.” With a script this sad, I bet the filmmaker wishes he could  miracle himself into a time machine and undo the whole thing. I certainly would!

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