Tag Archives: Bad Mamas

Book Review: Push by Sapphire

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Rating: A-/  There is occasionally something cathartic about reading books that are real downers, if they are well done. A truly bleak book does something that a funny or light book can’t, which is to put the shittiness of the reader’s life into perspective. If nothing else, Push by Sapphire, an excellent book that was also made into an excellent movie called Precious, will make you want to hug your mom and buy her flowers. Whatever issues you might have had with her at the moment, by the end of this book you’ll probably be buying her free passes to the spa so she can treat herself. Continue reading Book Review: Push by Sapphire

Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

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Rating: A/ From the title I thought this movie was about methamphetamine, since ‘glass’ is a synonym for crystal meth. It turned out to be about a young man’s mother with a pretty serious alcohol problem. In fact, Jean (Toni Collette) has hit the bottle so hard that she’s slowly killing herself, and her ever-faithful son John (Jack Reynor) both tirelessly cares for her and enables her. Continue reading Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

Movie Review: Beyond the Lights (2014)

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Rating: B-/ Fame offers a thrill more potent than any drug,  but like a drug, it can also consume your life completely. This is the dilemma faced by Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw,) a beautiful mixed-race pop star pushed beyond endurance by her domineering white mother (Minnie Driver,.) Noni is famous primarily for making trashy pop-rap music videos with her musical partner/ sort of boyfriend Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly,) where the unlikely duo sings about booty and twerking while Noni leaves very little of her scantily clad body to the imagination. Continue reading Movie Review: Beyond the Lights (2014)

Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane

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The world can be an unforgiving, ugly place, and Dennis Lehane does a good job depicting this while also portraying the mordant sense of humor law enforcement officers and police detectives sometimes have to adopt to deal with the darkness ‘out there’ as well as inside themselves. Still, there are some things being a hardened detective with a life time of seeing some hardcore shit under your belt can’t prepare you for- for Detective Patrick Mackenzie, the events of “Gone Baby Gone” are comprised of some such times.

I went into this book warily; I have minimal experience with mysteries of any kind, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to follow the twists and turns that made up the novel’s plot (true, to some extent; recalling many of the intricacies of the story leaves me drawing a big fat blank.) Also, it is the fourth in a series, so I’m kind of starting in the middle of a continuing storyline. However, while the former had me perpetually confused (it should be a piece of cake for seasoned mystery readers though,) the latter did not distract me from the book, which is fairly stand-alone even among it’s predecessors  and sequels.

The plot of “Gone Baby Gone” focuses on detective Patrick Mckenzie and his willful and beautiful partner/lover, Angela Gennaro, searching through Boston’s toughest neighborhoods for the abducted daughter of a neglectful addict mother. Not for the squeamish, it portrays the shadowy world of pimps, pedophiles, whores, and crooked cops in such a way that it will make you frown at humanity. Have we really evolved that much? Or we a not very funny joke God played on the hitherto unviolated earth?

I think Lehane particularly has a gift with character description, and providing character details so acute and well-observed that we can picture the creations he has offered up to us. The people making up this twisted urban world are frighteningly believable, with the possible exception of Leon and Roberta Trett, two over-the-top pedophiles; but even the sordidly kitschy moments admittedly have their place. In the search for little Amanda McCready, the two leads not only have to fret whether the’ll find her, but whether she’d be better off staying gone, possibly exposed to unspeakable horrors or maybe spared from a slow spiritual death at the hands of Helene, her selfish crack ho mother.

Sparing my visitors from major spoilers, I’ll just say that the ending really got me furious, in a good way (which is to say, the writing and plotting were not at fault.) After some seriously disturbing and shocking events existing within the plot, I was hoping I could be satisfied by an ending that seemed ‘right,’ just and appropriately comforting. But justice, as it turns out, is a double-edged sword. Would any other ending have seemed as contextually appropriate? Hell no. But I want my evildoers vanquished, my ending wrapped up, my protagonists making a final decision I don’t want to throttle them for.

I seriously wanted to kick Patrick in the nuts at the end of this book. He was a likable lead for the most part, but the final choice he makes is certainly not the one I would have picked. Then again who knows, if I was placed in a crazy situation like that? The compelling thing about the conclusion is it isn’t a simple showdown between good and evil. Both decisions have consequences, and both sets of consequences will hurt someone regardless of how carefully the final course of action is chosen. Am I fit to judge? No, probably not, but I still want to kick him in the nuts.

“Gone Baby Gone” is a quietly harrowing look of police officers working child abuse cases who often have to stand by powerlessly, even impotently, lacking the power to save damaged young people in the face of a broken system. Does society owe the Amanda McCreadys of the world to provide them with a safe place to live, to protect them from the monsters and molesters as well as the coked-up fuck-up living in their own home? Can we be expected to take on the responsibility of every such child? Are some of these kids beyond help? Toeing the line between popular fiction and literature, “Gone Baby Gone” offers a fresh, even occasionally funny voice in Patrick Mckenzie and a suspenseful plot.

Sightseers (2012)

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Two besotted crazies embark on a killer road trip and let loose their darkest desires in this pitch-black comedy with a never ending supply of bile and bite. Tina (Alice Lowe,) the slower of the two lovers (a little simple at best, borderline retarded at worst) is in her thirties but still lives with her domineering mother (Eileen Davies.) Mom is a wrinkled old vulture who is emotionally abusive towards her adult daughter and searches her room for condoms and signs of impropriety (she’s thirty, for God’s sakes!)

Tina goes against her mother’s wishes and goes on a road trip with her boyfriend Chris (Steve Oram) on a road trip in his caravan. The trip takes a violent turn when Chris accidently runs over a tourist (Tony Way,) but events become increasingly homicidal as Chris abates his insatiable appetite for murder. Sometimes one accidental death isn’t enough to appease your bloodlust.

Can we cease and desist on the comparisons to “Natural Born Killers” people? Totally different films done in totally different styles, with totally different intentions. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never look at potpourri the same way again. Unlike black comedies, like, say, “God Bless America,” the movie never tries to convince you that the victims ‘deserve it.’ The idiocy of the leads and the way they try to justify their actions to themselves and the viewer are a big part of the humor.

“Sightseers” wins laughs from it’s startlingly mundane yet disturbing portrayal of the main characters and their crazy, insane back-and-forth banter. Although the Schizophrenic editing in certain scenes wasn’t really my style, I loved the ending (although I predicted it right before it happened.)

Although Steve Oram is good in his role as a dim psychopath, Alice Lowe is terrific as the truly twisted and moronic Tina, who believes she is truly in love with Chris and finds she has a taste for his murderous lifestyle-a  lifestyle that, due to the anti-heroes’ ineptitude as serial killers, wont pay of in the end.

If you have a sick sense of humor and want to watch something that’s off the grid, “Sightseers” might be the movie for you. I found myself distracted during the first half, but then I started to really get into it during the second half, leading up to the ingenious (but inevitable) ending. “Sightseers” is the kind of movie that flies under the radar but is worth seeing by people whose taste is subversive enough to really enjoy it.

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The Voices (2014)

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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.

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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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