Tag Archives: False Accusation

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Rating: B+/ There was a lot of excitement in our household for the upcoming release of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. We loved Taika Waititi’s previous effort, What We Do in the Shadows, which has become one of our top movies to rewatch and quote. Eagle Vs. Shark didn’t exactly do it for me, but it’s abundantly obvious that Waititi has loads of talent and a knack for dry, sometimes borderline dark humor and eccentric characters. So it should come as no surprise that Hunt for the Wilderpeople, based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, is no exception. Continue reading Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (2014)

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I have somewhat mixed feelings about tabloids. While I like magazines such as the Weekly World News with such truths in their headlines as ‘Bigfoot stole my baby!’ and ‘Al Qaeda Vampires Run Amok in Iraq,’ I loathe these kinds of brainless entertainments’ shameless exploitation of tragedies such as Robin Williams’ suicide and the Sandy Hook Massacre. And I can fully see how such media can run rampant and derail someone’s life. I honestly believe the media is a sizable part of what drives many actors on downward spirals. And then there’s Christopher Jefferies. What didn’t break him made him stronger, and this film tells his infuriating and enlightening story.

Christopher (Jason Watkins) is a man of whom I’m convinced of two things, based on this movie #1) that he was gay, and #2) that he was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, probably mild Asperger’s. Alternately blunt, socially inappropriate, and downright rude, Chris lived a somewhat hermetic existence and was the landlord of a couple of flats in the small English village of Failand. Watkins plays him in a thoroughly believable and compelling manner, every infinitesimal tic and twitch duly perfected. Christopher is a retired schoolteacher and anti-social lone wolf who finds himself in the middle of a police investigation when one of his tenants, Joanna Yeates (Carla Turner) is found murdered outside his place.

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Suddenly, everything about Christopher seems suspect- his ‘to catch a predator’ wardrobe, his odd inflection and apparent lack of empathy, even the fact that he is an older man living on his own, and such men must, by extension, be pervs. Of course, correcting the cops’ grammar during questioning doesn’t help Jefferies look like an innocent man, and with no further ado, the police make this assumption: odd old man + suspicious circumstances= killer. They hardly have anything on him that isn’t circumstantial, but suddenly the entire country is in an uproar over this man’s presumed guilt. The thing is, Jefferies didn’t do it, and his lawyer, Paul Okebu (Shaun Parkes) is determined to bring his innocence to light.

Honestly, this movie didn’t end nearly as tragically as I thought it would. I knew almost nothing going in, and I was tense throughout the film, expecting something terrible to happen not only to Yeates, but to Jefferies too (being unfamiliar with the case as I was.) However I was immediately sucked in by the lead character and performance. If the police understood Autism-like behavior more, they would see that this man was not a monster, just a harmless oddball. Watkins does an amazing job of playing someone who is ‘on the spectrum’ who just happens to be gay without reducing his character to a gay or aspie caricature. Some people might find this story slow, but if you like British dramas and the feeling of heightened realism they create, you’re sure to like this film.

Note- Frankly, I’m a little confused because this film is described on Imdb as a ‘mini-series,’ but the version I saw on Netflix Streaming was a movie just under two hours, and distributed by Universal. If I missed some footage of the original cut, I would definitely like to see the whole thing straight through. Any help on this would be much appreciated, and I hope you get a chance to see this film; it’s fascinating. For me, British cinema holds a kind of appeal that American movies just don’t, and I would love to discuss the themes of this obscure gem with anyone who wishes to partake.losthonourof

Joshua (2007)

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Holy crap. The kids aren’t all right. The kids aren’t all right at all. And nine-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) is such a malicious, evil little prick who commits atrocities with such a sense of glee (as gleeful as Joshua’s studiousness and seriousness will allow) that you will not feel anything but hate and loathing for the malignant little tyke by the end. But hey, this movie is pretty good, and for fans of evil-child movies, it’s that much better because “Joshua” maintains a relative sense of realism throughout.

Poor Brad (Sam Rockwell.) No sooner is little newborn Lily out of the hospital than Brad’s wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) starts to mentally deteriorate big-time (Post-partum depression’s a bitch) and child prodigy Joshua starts to act a little… well, homicidal. The family dog, Joshua’s pet hamster, and the class pets at Joshua’s elite private school (an institution that attracts snobs like a cadaver attracts flies) start to meet with fatal accidents, and Brad begins to suspect the worst when the family unite swiftly disintegrates. But could all the mayhem really be being orchestrated by Joshua?

Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite character actors, bringing likability to Joshua’s very flawed dad. Vera Farmiga is a top-notch actress too, but sympathy is in short supply for this shrieking, hysterical woman (I know the horrors of mental illness all too well, but Abby’s out to lunch.) a Netflix user described Kogan’s portrayal of Joshua, the homicidal maniac, as ‘stiff,’ but I actually thought he did a pretty damned good job switching his behavior between that of a wide-eyed schoolboy and a malicious nutcase. This is nothing. Wait until the cretin hits puberty, starts growing hair in strange places. Your problems are going to triple overnight.

As a self-proclaimed fan of every cinematic psychological curiosity under the sun, “Joshua” offered more that enough bizarre insights into human nature. I like how Joshua sets his parents against each other. I love the dynamic of the struggle of power between father and son. Brad’s main concerns are sexual frustration and keeping his family unit from falling to bits. Joshua’s motivations are a little more mysterious. Is destroying his parents his ultimate endgame? Or does he have an even more sinister agenda in mind?

This is the rare movie I wouldn’t mind a sequel to (however,considering the limited release and the child actor’s age progression, the chances are next to nil.) With all the Hollywood hits that get upteen million sequels, here’s sleeper hat feels like it might actually benefit from a sequel and has a nada chance of getting one. Does that seem right? No, not at all, but that’s how the movie industry works. Better get used to it, kid.

“Joshua” achieves it’s goal of being creepy and unnerving, and not just from the initial shock of a small child doing horrible things. There’s definitely a sense of unease at watching the terrible things that happen to the these poor people (except the nine-year-old, may his snotty ass burn in Hell.) It’s a set of disasters that can befall anyone, if a real life Joshua is thrown into the mess, devoid of supernatural or demonic factors. This kind of storytelling is potent and used to good effect here, without the usual crap clichés or plot devices.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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Garth Stein’s gently unique bestseller is a tearjerker featuring the most unlikely of protagonists- Enzo, a mongrel of uncertain lineage with a keen and brilliant mind that yearns to escape its canine body. Enzo’s owner, Denny Swift, is a race car driver who excels on the track but has pretty shitty luck in general. Enzo is devoted to Denny and his wife Eve’s little daughter, Zoe. So when Zoe’s happiness is put at stake by Eve’s slow death by cancer and a ensuing court battle brought on by Eve’s meddling parents, Enzo must do all in his limited power to mend Zoe and her father’s lives.

Enzo may be an unreliable narrator at times (consider his limited experience with people outside his family’s immediate circle,) but he’s twice as smart and observant as your average protagonist and he knows plenty about the follies and frailties that inhabit the human soul. In fact, Enzo is so fascinated by the inner workings of mankind that he hopes to reincarnated as a man. But before his increasingly imminent demise comes around, Enzo is determined to protect those he loves- especially when Denny is falsely accused of abusing a minor, which is used in the courtroom to keep him from his beloved daughter.

I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at this book. Sick, injured, and dead doggies hit a nerve for me, so watching Enzo deteriorate physically was a rough journey for me. Readers cautious about reading the book should know that the end result is bittersweet and ultimately uplifting rather than nihilistic and relentlessly gloomy. I don’t always agree with Enzo on his musings (such as his hope to become human, people aren’t such hot shit) but it is hard not to care for him when you consider his devotion to his family and his unique viewpoint.

The secondary characters aren’t developed nearly to the point of the canine protagonist, and some of the aspects seem a little childish or even ring false, but other whimsical components (such as the metaphor of the zebra) work more efficiently than they probably should. Things seemed to move a little fast (Eve was there and gone so fast I didn’t have time to blink) but the plot-lines worked reasonably well and summed up to a nice, quick read.

I am not at all a fan of NASCAR or automobile racing in general, but I didn’t find the prose concerning racing overbearing, and even, through Enzo’s eager eyes, could theorize a little on why people liked it The Art of Racing in the Rain
is a solid book which is a must-read for dog lovers and avid fiction readers alike.

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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
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“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.
                  

Broken (2012)

Apparently “Broken” is ‘inspired’ by Harper Lee’s much-loved classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but I find “Broken” to be a better story with more well-developed characters (yes, you have found the one person in the world who isn’t floored by “To Kill A Mockingbird”- don’t stare, please, it makes me nervous.) It’s certainly darker, as Lee’s redemptive tone is replaced with unrepentant bleakness. The racial issues have been traded in, but the themes of injustice and the destruction of innocence remain.

Spirited tween ‘Skunk’ (a powerful and expressive performance by newcomer Eloise Laurence) is stuck in that tricky transition between childhood and adulthood where matters of sexuality and maturity interest her, but are not quite within her grasp. Skunk’s father, Archie (This generation’s Atticus Finch,) (Tim Roth)  is an honorable man who loves his daughter with a fierce intensity but struggles to cope with her youthful antics.

When Skunk’s mentally challenged friend Rick (Robert Emms) is accused of rape and beaten by her redneck neighbor Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear,) Skunk is baffled just as much as Rick is- Rick has never laid a hand on Oswald’s tramp of a daughter, and treats the situation with confusion and astonishment. He is portrayed in a very fine performance by Emms (who I saw just days before as a gay superhero in “Kick-Ass 2”,) who resists the urge to overact and makes the character of Rick his own.

Tim Roth is one of my favorite actors, and he does a good job here, but the entire cast is equally worth mentioning. Eloise Laurence is adorable and charming, but also shows real acting chops as compassionate Skunk. Cillian Murphy (known for films like “Batman Begins” and “28 Days Later) plays Archie’s housekeeper’s love interest, who soon becomes the target of Oswald’s seething rage. He is flawed yet sympathetic, as are most of the characters.

I did think the myriad disasters piling up for Skunk and Rick’s families became a little bit melodramatic and hard to take. After a while it was like… really? Is there anything awful that’s NOT going to happen to these people? There also could have been more build-up in the beginning scenes, instead of revealing everything immediately.

I really liked the character of Skunk. I think the way she treats Rick says everything about her character. She acts totally like he’s a normal person and talks to him accordingly, and never thinks it’s weird that he’s a grown man and they’re friends. And her romance with local boy Dillon (George Sargeant) is appropriately chaste and really cute. She’s a sweet, strong, and hearty girl, with a keen mind and a big heart. I liked the character of Rick too. He’s a nice fellow, a little simple, and his fate saddens me.

“Broken” is a powerful film and I’m not ashamed to say I liked it better than “To Kill A Mockingbird.” So, it’s a classic. Sue me. I hope Eloise Laurence has a big career ahead of her, but she’s not the only rising star in this movie. Not many people can play the ‘mentally handicapped’ role without resorting to theatrics, and Rick is a profoundly sad and likable character. I recommend this film to drama lovers and people to like a sad, touching story.
Rating-
8.0/10