Tag Archives: Based On Book

Paddington (2014)

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I wish I had connected with “Paddington” more than I did. This CGI-animated family adventure has beautifully lifelike special effects, and the jokes commonly hit the mark, at least to some extent, but the film, plot and character-wise, leaves much to be desired. Of course, it’s an entertaining feature to pass the time, and kids and adults should be amused by this diversion, but it fails as a truly great family feature.

When Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Wishaw)’s home in the rainforest gets demolished and his Uncle Pastuzo (voice of Michael Gambon) unexpectedly dies, the bear’s Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) sends him as a stowaway on a boat bound for London, where she encourages him to get in touch with the intrepid explorer who befriended the bears an indeterminate amount of time before, Montgomery Clift (Tim Downie.)

The continued lifespan of Clift seems highly unlikely, but while waiting at the station Paddington is taken home by the eccentric rown family- loving mother Mary (Sally Hawkins,) uptight dad Henry (Hugh Bonneville,) and bored kids Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris.)

The irate Henry has trouble warming up to this big-hearted bear with a knack for trouble, and while the family unit gradually succumbs to Paddington’s cuteness, Cruella De Ville-esque baddie Millicent (Nicole Kidman) prowls the scene, set on stuffing Paddington and putting him on display in a museum!

“Paddington” is quite the potpourri of happenin’ British talent, including Julie Walters as a live-in relative of the Brown’s and Peter Capaldi as the kind of meddling neighbor everyone’s had at one point or another, who becomes stupidly enamored with Kidman’s venomous femme fatale. The CGI is amazing, and brings vim, vigor, and personality to the bears that the script falls a little short on.

Now for the weaknesses- I didn’t really care about any of the characters, not even Paddington, who despite being cute and fuzzy, and a brilliant visual creation, was not really all that compelling. The plot of very typical and the big showdown was mundane as they come. The kids were annoying and rude, particularly the girl.

On the other hand, she was obviously going through a scary time called puberty, so her dark moods and constant embarrassment at the antics of her family were realistic, they just weren’t very fun to watch. The boy wasn’t as bad but was very disrespectful to his father, stating at one point that “Dad’s always been boring and annoying.”

I didn’t perceive a development of genuine respect between the kids and their father. Dad gets treated like a trained monkey throughout, rewarded with hugs and conditional love when he does right, and being totally disregarded when he acts like a grouch. Should the monkey rise to the occasion and let the bear stay, give him a banana. The characters and relationships were rather stereotypical, although the actors did what they could with the clichéd material.

However, the jokes were often effective, and I laughed readily at various points of the movie. Paddington wrecking the bathroom,  Mr. Curry’s hopeless crush on the villainess, Henry Brown going into the information bank in very deep disguise… these scenes were amusing (if somewhat sitcomish and, in the cast of Capaldi’s infatuation, ripped directly from “Enchanted.”)

I felt conflicted while watching “Paddington” because while I was entertained overall by the motion picture, I kept thinking that the British actors featured had been in much better movies that won’t get nearly the attention that this did. Make no mistake, I think this is a good family movie that adults should get enjoyment out of. But it is not worthy of the rave reviews it has been getting. It just doesn’t have the innovation and genuineness of something like “Frozen” or “Up.” In other wards, a good kids movie, but not an outstanding film.

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Gypsy (1993)

The first part of this film, led by a manic Bette Midler, plays like “Toddlers & Tiaras” for the Great Depression era. Mama Rose (Midler) spends so much time immersing her daughters in showbiz and sick infantilism, insisting on making them wear little girl’s clothes well into puberty, that she forgets what is best for her girls altogether.

Though not as dark a musical as Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” or Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” “Gypsy” emanates a diseased kind of wistfulness, marked by broken dreams and shattered egos. Meanwhile Bette Midler plays Mama Rose as if it was her last performance on earth, but backed up by the stagy sets and old-timey attitude, her performance is actually a strength, not a deterrent.

Rose’s daughters, Louise and June (Cynthia Gibb and Jennifer Rae Beck), are as different as different can be, but remain close, their bonds strengthened by having survived their mother. Louise, gawky and shy, is innocent and soft spoken, while June, the “‘star” of mama’s show, is more political and assertive.

Mama Rose is both outrageously self-centered and ridiculously narcissistic, guided not so much by dreams as delusions. She ruins her daughters’ lives and later expects them to thank her for it. But it’s hard not to pity her as she struggles to find success in a world that doesn’t hand out fame easily.

Into this disastrous dynamic strolls Herbie (Peter Riegert), an agent who attempts to help Mama Rose on her way to success in exchange for her hand in marriage. But it seems that Mama can not be held down, and even Herbie may soon grow sick of her games.

There are some overtones in this film which could be considered an allegory for loss of innocence in the entertainment industry. The acting is good but not amazing, but the story and the music are the real reasons to watch this. The plot itself is based on a memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee (AKA Louise) who found fame at long last at the price of her innocence. Overall the movie is worth watching as a very good musical, with Bette Midler running the show as crazy Mama Rose. Recommended.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

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Ah, “Leaving Las Vegas.” I’ve seen it once and I don’t think I could bear to see it again. This movie features the absolute worst humanity has to offer and creates a skin-crawlingly lurid world of pathetic drunken sadsacks, emotionally scarred hookers, sadistic pimps, developmentally disabled rapists, all in the backdrop of a godforsaken world that just doesn’t care.

The thing is this is our world, the one we live in rather than a yuckily fascinating fantasyland, but it is this side of life that the more privileged don’t want to look at. Also, this is considered the movie where Nicolas Cage was good. How’s that for a shocking twist? Joking. Actually, Nicolas Cage has been halfway decent in a select few other movies. I liked him in “Joe,” and “Matchstick Men,” and he was okay in “Kick-Ass” I guess, though the Moretz kid ran circles around him and all the other actors.

“Leaving Las Vegas” is about pain, pure and simple. It’s about the pain that comes with being one of society’s forgotten ones, and the pain that accompanies orchestrating your own destruction. The protagonist, Ben Sanderson (Cage,) is drinking himself to death. Why? He just doesn’t give a shit. He’s been laid off from his job as a screenwriter, his wife has left him and taken his son with her.

He’s a perpetually drunk alcoholic, consumed by ennui and self-loathing, who believes he has nothing to live for. After his dismissal from his job, Ben moves to Las Vegas, burns all of his screenplays, and prepares to slowly die of alcohol poisoning. When he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue,) a beguiling prostitute abused by her pimp (Julian Sands,) Ben falls head over heels.

Not enough to change for her- no, Ben’s long past the point to chance for anybody. He is simply content to be in her company. People don’t generally hire these women for idle chit-chat, so Sera’s all too happy to accommodate her worn-out client, who soon morphs into a friend and later into a live-in boyfriend.

Sera pretends to be a hardened Dame, but like Ben, she’s vulnerable and desperate. But unlike Ben, she has some small degree of hope. She builds a strange family for Ben and her where she is the happy homemaker and the ultimate enabler. The resulting film is an interesting character piece, and I guess Nicolas Cage IS good, along with Shue.

And I didn’t find any of the ensuing horror show unnecessary, until the ending. Potential viewers, avert your eyes, because this is going to get a bit spoiler-y. *********************SPOILERS I was astounded by the climactic scene, where Shue gives Cages a pity-fuck while Cage is lying on his death bed, wheezing and hacking. I guess the tragedy that is supposed to be portrayed in this scene is that they were unable to express their love physically until this sad moment, with Cage in a truly pitiful state.

But all I could think was how lurid and gross, and yes, unnecessary the scene was. It was like watching your feeble cancer-ridden Grandpa receive a blow-job from a lithe hooker before your very eyes. If Nic Cage were your grandfather, that is. Meh. Give or take a few years. *********************END OF SPOILERS

The characters being unlikable was not a problem. Shue and Cage imbue their portrayals with more compassion than these sad people probably deserve. The film, as a whole, was well-made. Watch it to see Cage at his best, but be forewarned, it’s terribly sad.

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Paperhouse (1988)

When I was a little girl, my younger brother and I were convinced if we strapped enough household wires to each other and fell asleep in the same bed, we could meet each other in our dreams. Of course, my mom told us it was impossible, but that didn’t stop us from trying. Children with my wild imagination and faith in the impossible would love the concept of “Paperhouse.”

Of course, “Paperhouse” has a very adult angle that makes it, ultimately, best for grown-ups. 11-year-old Anna (Charlotte Burke,) who is at that age where kids mouth off to their elders and will pick a fight over absolutely anything, faints in school on her birthday and is discovered to have a raging fever.

Bizarrely, when Anna faints, she discovers that when she’s unconscious or asleep, she enters a world entirely unlike her own- to be precise, to a remote house she has drawn before her dizzy spells began. In the house she meets a boy, physically handicapped Marc (Elliot Speirs, who died at a tragically young age,) who bears startling similarities to a boy with muscular dystrophy who Anna’s doctor (Gemma Jones) is seeing, and who Anna has never met outside to dream world.

Anna’s unspoken issues with her well-meaning but hard-drinking father (Ben Cross) show up too when a fictional recreation of dad shows up at Anna and Marc’s secret hideaway, raging, evil, and wielding a hammer. Caught between wakefulness and forever sleep by her life-threatening fever, Anna must fight for her sanity and her life, as well as the life of her newfound friend.

Contrary to certain opinions, I found the acting in this to be quite effective, from most of the child players as well as the adults. The kids aren’t always the best, but what do you expect with newbies to the craft? Despite her brattiness, I didn’t find Anna to be an unlikable character- actually, I saw her as a bright and willful child struggling to cope with a childhood harder than most.

The psychological angle here is really fascinating- Anna’s mostly loving if distant father becomes a malformed monster in her dreams, while her mother (Glenne Headly) fails or refuses to see her husband’s alcoholism and the rift between him and their daughter. It resounded with me for entirely personal reasons, and I loved the entertaining yet insightful script.

The set pieces here are also magnificent, and this movie has one of the scariest and most memorable dream sequences I’ve ever seen, the kind of thing that haunts the nightmares of any children unfortunate enough to watch it. The score, however, is mediocre- mostly typical 80’s movie music.

“Paperhouse” is an entertaining and  underrated gem of the 80’s, and although it’s not full blood horror, it has enough unnerving moments to make it ‘light horror’ for people who don’t like really intense scary movies. Although it’s not available as yet on Netflix, it’s totally worth getting online if you have a DVD player that will play it. This is a great film about childhood dreams or fears around the lines of “Pan’s Labyrinth” or “Coraline,” and definitely worth checking out. 

Lassie Come Home (1943)

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Above all, “Lassie Come Home” is a heartwarming, frequently heartbreaking testament to the bond between a boy and his dog. Penniless lad Joe Carraclough (Roddy McDowall) is devastated when his desperately poor  Yorkshire parents (Donald Crisp and Elsa Lanchester) sell his beloved dog, Lassie, to a wealthy dog breeder (Nigel Bruce) in Scotland. In the breeder’s ownership, Lassie languishes in a cage and is misused by her new owner’s nasty servant Hynes (J. Pat O’Malley.)

Lassie repeatedly tries to escape, only to be dragged back and imprisoned by Hynes. One day she gets away for good and embarks on the 1,000-mile journey back to her family. Lassie suffers many hardships and meets several kind people on her trip, but never forgets where she belongs- in the arms of her boy Joe.

Chances are, this movie is going to cause some serious feels even for the most hardened filmgoer. For one thing, the child actor (who went on to play flim-flam artist ‘vampire slayer’ Peter Vincent in the original “Fright Night”) is almost too convincing. In the scene where he realizes Lassie won’t be meeting him in the schoolyard after class anymore, McDowell buckles in an explosion of snot and tears. It really puts the sentimental, gently grating child actors of today to shame.

For another, Lassie goes through a living Hell to get back to her master. There were moments where I seriously wondered if the humane society was present at the time of this movie, for example, where Lassie swims through a muddy, slimy body of water and collapses, disheveled, outside the home of a caring, elderly couple.

Unfortunately, there were some corny elements, like a dastardly duo of villains named ‘Snickers’ and ‘Buckles’ (Those are their street names, yo) who give the kind carny Rowlie (Edmund Gwenn) an incredibly fake beating. However, my sister (who had read the book adaptation) refused to watch the scene where the gruesome twosome dole out a fatal kick to the carnie’s dog, Toots.

If you’re willing to put your cynicism away (it helps if you are a dog lover,) “Lassie Come Home” makes an entertaining, if oddly melancholy, watch. It does a good job of seeing Joe’s parents side of things as well; though it probably won’t matter, kids will likely hate them for selling Lassie anyway. Older viewers will see that what they did what they did  out of desperation, not cruelty.

Classic film buffs might want to note that Elizabeth Taylor is featured as the breeder’s granddaughter, Priscilla. Frankly, it seems to me like the two sequels (“Son of Lassie,” “Courage of Lassie”) whose advertisements are featured on the DVD are probably not worth bothering with. For Chrissakes, “Courage of Lassie” doesn’t even have Lassie IN it. But I digress.

In summation, “Lassie Come Home” is a overlooked and effective family film, though probably not of the very young or very sensitive.

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Children of Men (2006)

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In these visions of the future, do things ever go even slightly well? Okay, okay, I’ll grant you “Star Trek,” with it’s intergalactic exploits and shows of compassion and friendship between James T. Kirk and the impeccably logical Vulcan Spock. “Star Wars” maybe, But for the most part, for every good thing that happens in a science fiction film, a hundred shitty things happen almost simultaneously.

Take the government for example. The government in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” is shady at best, completely, reprehensibly corrupt at worst. They even offer suicide kits for disillusioned citizens with which to off themselves in a pinch. “Ah, but at least there IS a government,” you say? Well in this society, even total anarchy seems preferable to this Hell on earth. Never has a post-apocalyptic future looked so bleak.

In “Children of Men”‘s world, women have become infertile, causing mankind to lose faith in our survival. Politically apathetic citizen Theo (Clive Owen) is begrudgingly hired by his ex-girlfriend Julian (Julianne Moore) to smuggle the teenaged Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey,) the first pregnant woman in eighteen years, out of the ransacked Britain to a program that supposedly can help her.

Julian is a member of an underground group known as the Fish, which rebels against the government, often through acts of urban terrorism. She and Theo have a big-time history, having had and lost a child together. As Theo and Kee make a desperate bid for survival, everyone wants what Kee’s got for their own twisted agenda- including some of the Fish, who think ownership of the child will help their political cause.

“Children of Men” seems hyper realistic despite it’s mostly unreal premise, which nonetheless bears resemblance to many aspects of societal discord, including the Fish as kind of a post-apocalyptic IRA. The actors give excellent performances, including virtual unknown Ashity as Kee and Michael Caine as an amiable pothead who’s long since retreated to live apart from society’s electric eye.

I like the fact that Kee is promiscuous and not at all attempt to capture the sanctity of a Virgin Mary-type character. The girl’s got a mouth on her, and, you know, I kind of like that. However, she and Theo form a (strictly platonic) bond as they evade the corruption of futuristic Britain. There’s also a Holocaust-type vibe to the story as Illegal immigrants are caged and brutalized for the sake of the country’s ‘purity.’

I was initially not sure if I would like this movie, since it was not on my immediate radar, but “Children of Men” proved to be timeless science fiction, up to par with “Blade Runner” (I personally think “2001” is about as riveting as watching paint dry, to use a film-critique stereotype, so you won’t get my support on exulting that one.) I actually found myself tearing up at one point, which I only do occasionally, because “Children of Men” has what many apocalyptic fests lack- a heart. This is one of the few science fiction movies I would even readily describe as ‘beautiful.’

Violent but strangely sad and tender, “Children of Men”knocks it out of the ballpark and is most not just another stuff-goes-wrong-in-the-future motion picture. People with short attention spans might be disappointed, but those who approach the experience of watching a movie as akin to reading a book will instinctively know what I know- that patience, and thoughtfulness, holds its own rewards.

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A Christmas Story (1983)

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“A Christmas Story” is, and always will be, a perennial holiday favorite at our house. It is a film low on plot, but high on belly laughs and great quotes. Don’t expect a lot of big drama or major events in the story, it’s very much a movie that encapsulates a time and place, that of 1940’s Indiana. It’s nostalgic without minimizing the woes that seem huge to us when we’re kids, of which nine-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) has many.

All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun he has seen advertised in his small Midwestern town. Seems simple and wholesome enough to us, right? In a world where ultra-violent video games and nifty new electronics are in high demand, a BB gun seems quaint, innocent even. But all Ralphie hears from the people in his life is “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Ralphie’s dad (Darren McGavin) is a traditional father and husband with a good heart, who nevertheless seems to be a little on the dim side. The gruff way he treats Ralphie’s ‘s mother (Melinda Dillon) wouldn’t fly by today’s standards, but it fits it’s old-fashioned time frame. Ralphie’s mom dotes on her boys and if she’s fed up with her worn role as mother and housewife she certainly doesn’t show it. She does. however, prove herself on multiple occasions to be smarter and altogether more competent than the ‘old man.’

Ralphie’s little brother Randy (Ian Petrella) is a bit on the whiny side and takes a lot of looking after. Ralphie does not always get along with his brother, and rarely rises to the occasion of really keeping tabs on him. The very episodic plot revolves around triple dog dares,  truculent Santa Clauses, and one very nasty bully by the name of Scut Farkus (Zack Ward,) who torments Ralphie and his group of friends regularly. Meanwhile, Ralphie aspires to drop the great hint that will lead to his parents’ purchase of the legendary BB gun.

Director Bob Clark doesn’t just know how to direct kids- he excels at it, drawing a excellent performance from every child actor in the cast. Both the classic stars who play Ralphie’s parents are brilliant, but Ralphie’s dad in particular reduces me to breathless giggles every time I watch the film. Jean Shepherd (the author of the autobiographical book this movie is based on, ‘In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash’) serves as the self-deprecating voice-over of the adult Ralphie.

I think I died inside a little when I found out about straight-to-DVD, woebegone ‘sequel’ to this film, “A Christmas Story 2.” I wonder now how such an atrocity came to exist, raping the classic original will also having it’s way with little pieces of our hearts at the same time. All this from watching the tragically misguided trailer.

My family watches “A Christmas Story” every year when the Yuletide season comes around, and the film never fails to be hysterical. Ralphie’s imagined ‘wishful thinking’ sequences are a highlight. I think I like this a little bit better than “It’s a Wonderful Life,” my other favorite Christmas movie (“Love Actually” is also a worthy choice.) I am happy to say that “A Christmas Story” stands as one of my all-time favorite movies of any genre and I hope to continue the tradition of seeing it every Christmas for years to come.

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Blade Runner (1982)

“Blade Runner” is how a science fiction film SHOULD be made, as a speculative thinker, not as a silly disposable piece of throwaway camp like “Star Wars” (yes, I dissed George Lucas’ Magnum Opus. I can see you fanboys writing that down.) I won’t place this on the pillar of perfect science fiction like “Firefly” (’cause I just won’t,) but the creativity of the whole enterprise shines through, past the dark sets and blackened hearts of the characters.

Early in the 21st Century (yep, folks, we should be seeing some crazy shit real soon,) Tyrell Industries has refined the android model to the brink of perfection. These beings, called ‘replicants,’  are man-made entities virtually identical to the human but used for all the dirty work- war, prostitution, dangerous jobs. They were implanted with memories that are not their own and manufactured to feel no empathy or identity as an individual.

But things have changed. Replicants have formed a consciousness of their own and have become too dangerous to keep. That’s where Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes in. Deckard, a ‘Blade Runner,’ is assigned to kill illegal Replicants. In turn, a group of Replicants attempt to force their their creator, Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel,) to increase their longevity (the androids have a maximum life span of three or four years.)

    It’s Deckard against Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer,) the maniacal, intelligent leader of the Replicants, and his three cohorts. And you know what? I kind of wanted Roy Batty to win. He’s a great, complex character, even though he goes to violent extremes to get what he wants (I felt for two of the victims, but less for the third.) Deckard is frankly kind of a bore. He’s typical stoic Ford, and the way he borderline-rapes beautiful female Replicant and love interest Rachael (Sean Young) is a little sickening.

I liked Batty a lot, but I was equally taken with J.F. Sebastion (William Sanderson,) and eccentric and somewhat childlike inventor suffering from Methuselah Syndrome, which leaves him prematurely aged.  He’s a little talked about character, but I find him just as interesting as Batty. J.F. picks up waifishly appealing Replicant Priss (Daryl Hannah) and takes her home with him, a decision that turns out to be the worst of his life.

There are a few corny scenes and lines (like “Wake up! Time to die!”, uttered by Leon (Brion James,)) but the movie is very original and iconic. I love the unique sci-fi vision originally created by Philip K. Dick (author of the book ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ that “Blade Runner” is based on) but brought to life by Ridley Scott. The movie’s world is damp, dreary, but strangely compelling. The final confrontation is sad and creepy and maybe even a little darkly humorous, all at once.

Rutger Hauer’s performance as the lead android is wonderful. He is creepy yet tragic, all he wants is more time. In a world where humans have really screwed their creations over, the creations want to feel the sunlight a little longer, to live to see the world through aged eyes. Why should their experiences mean any less? The final line by Hauer (…”Like tears in the rain”) perfectly summarizes this.

“Blade Runner” is a classic movie that is most definitely worth multiple rewatches. It’s important in that it deal with the moral quandaries of science and creation, the way ‘Frankenstein’ did. It features a stunner of a performance by Rutger Hauer (too bad he plays in so much crap now…) and a chilling orchestral score. Watch it. Watch it more than once, if you haven’t already, and think about the implications behind it and films of it’s ilk.

Hick (2011)


Contrary to the brutally negative reception for this film, I found “Hick” to be a solid film with a powerful theme and an engrossing main character. I actually thought it was better than the director’s earlier effort, “Lymelife” (2008.) Rory Culkin gave it his best shot, but the Suburban family dysfunction motif is so ‘done,’ and y’know, Emma Roberts plays the same damned character in every freaking movie she’s in.

The often-overlooked Culkin brother is in this too in a small part, but Chloe Grace Moretz runs the show as Luli, a sexually provocative yet heartbreakingly vulnerable 13-year-old and the product of drunk loser parents (Anson Mount and Juliette Lewis) living in small town, Nebraska. Disenchanted with her going-nowhere life, Luli hitches a ride from a limping young man (Eddie Redmayne,) a decision which turns out to be the most dire of her life.

Chloe Grace Moretz is a good little actress, although she still has a lot of room to improve, and seeing her flounce around in her underwear and act sexually precocious might bother a lot of people. But it’s important to remember that Moretz is not a little girl anymore, and is gradually working her way into more mature roles (maybe a little faster than we would like.)

Pubescent Moretz provokes controversy.

Luli is a dynamic character. Early on, as she points her revolver in the mirror and quotes lines from famous films, we see a girl who has been hurt to many times, and needs a lifeline of any kind to stay afloat. Later, when she asks her mother’s boyfriend if she’s pretty, our heart aches for her- we want to be there for this lonely, desperate girl, yet can only watch her fumble and fight with the challenges of an unusual adolescence through the screen.

Unfortunately, the other characters are singularly nasty and unlikable, almost unbearably at times. Most of them seem to exist primarily to abuse, let down, and exploit Luli, to the exclusion of anything else. Redmayne gives a good performance as Eddie, the boy who picks Luli up, but by the end it is impossible to feel any sympathy for him.

Just because we are traveling from one little hick town to another, does that mean the men can’t show a little chivalry towards a struggling teenage girl? It is disturbing, but also ludicrous, how each odd character Luli meets seems to be indescribably broken and mean spirited. That said, I never got bored during this movie, and was fascinated by Moretz’s little traveler.

I’ve liked Moretz since “Kick-Ass,” and she shows maturity and screen presence as the lead character. Watch this for her and Redmayne, if for no one else. While Redmayne is appropriately vile, the film finds an unlikely heroine in Luli, sometimes sour, sometimes sweet, but always compelling.

We Are the Best (2013)

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One does not need to be a punk aficionado to appreciate the warmth and heart behind “We Are the Best!,” a charming Swedish film directed by Lukas Moodyson, based on his wife Coco’s graphic novel. The characters and dialogue seem somehow very engaging and natural, and the three girl actors (playing a trio of adolescents who start a punk rock group) give  candid, believable performances.

Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are two girls in their very early teens who are overlooked by their respective families and get no support at school. Perhaps as a result, the kids fancy themselves punk rocker rebels whose day-to-day frustration is only matched by their attempts to ‘stick it to the man.’ They both sport unconventional hairstyles (a Mohawk and a boy’s haircut,) perhaps willfully trying to break away from typically feminine ‘little girl’ labels.

The two girls decide one day that they want to perform a punk song about hating gym, but neither of them have any musical talent. Klara decides to enlist shy and pious Hedvig (Liv Lemoyne) to teach them how to play an instrument, hoping to possibly influence Hedvig with their punk basasserie away from God in the process.

Whether they make an atheist out of Hedvig is highly doubtful, but they do help her to loosen up and enjoy herself a bit more, and she aids them in improving their musical skills. Trouble arises when Klara begins to put on make-up and fetches the attention of a punk teen and Bobo starts to feel unattractive and alienated. It’s typical teenaged angst, applied with the  gentle touch of an artist who knows what it’s like to be a kid with raging hormones and best friend troubles.

I found Klara to be somewhat irritating with her attempts to alienate Hedvig for having any kind of faith, but it does lead to an amusing and insightful discussion of religion and the challenge of believing in something you can neither see nor touch. Bobo was a cutie. I really liked her. My heart also went out to Hedvig and it was inspiring to see her start to enjoy herself a little more (although Hedvig’s tightly-wound mother was none too happy to see that Bobo and Klara had cut her straight-laced darling’s hair punk-style.)

I was genuinely worried for the girls when they go to meet some teenaged punk artists to mingle and flirt, and was relieved they came back in one piece. The parents, especially Bobo’s irresponsible, childish mom, were infinitely aggravating . Still, nothing was exaggerated or overwritten. It isn’t cruelty the girls have to contend with (from their parents, their classmates are another story) or even blatant uncaring as much as ignorance and distractedness.

*SPOILER* I also loved how the performance the girls gave at the end was a total failure and the opposing band and the ignoramus adults in charge of the whole thing barely gave them a chance to play but the trio couldn’t haven given less of a fuck. The climactic  scene is not like a lot of others of its kind in many ways- the girls aren’t appreciated or even particularly good, but they get a kick out of doing it so that’s what they do. *END OF SPOILER*

“We Are the Best!” is a delightful experience because it’s so human and accessible, and draws compelling performances from its three young actresses. Anyone whose ever felt like a misfit, especially girls who have been discomforted and bewildered by the Barbie-doll standards of femininity will empathize with “We  Are the Best!”‘s winsome trio.

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