Rating: B+/ Not as crudely irreverent as the title might suggest, The Dirty Parts of the Bible is the surprisingly touching and sweet story of Tobias Henry, the nineteen-year-old sexually frustrated son of a born-again Baptist preacher. Struggling with his sexual urges and skeptical of his father’s teachings, Tobias is sent out on a journey to his uncle’s farm in Glen Rose, Michigan after his dad suffers a bizarre accident and is temporarily blinded. Tobias’ goal is to uncover a large sum of money that his dad hid in a well on his family property years ago.
Rating: B/ Puppy dog-eyed Shameik Moore plays geeky urban teen Malcolm, who lives in the Bottoms of Inglewood, California, where crime and desperation reign. With a setting like this, you’d expect Dope to be a depressing movie, but it’s not. It’s actually a very funny movie; not perfect by a long shot, but with some of the funniest, zaniest dialogue to come around in years. Malcolm is obsessed with 90’s Hip-Hop culture and plans to go to college, which makes him very uncool with the kids in his hood, who mostly end up joining gangs and dying young and never expect anything more of themselves. Continue reading Movie Review: Dope (2015)→
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)→
Rating: B/ Oh, Franklin. you should have worn the damned condom!
Okay, so maybe Eva Khachaturian wasn’t meant to be a mother. But is she responsible for making her son a monster? Society seems to think so. In the wake of a horrific attack orchestrated by Kevin, a sadistic fifteen-year-old psychopath, Eva (Tilda Swinton) is heckled on the street and sometimes outright attacked by people who lost their loved ones in the tragedy.
In a swirl of fever dream-like memories, past becomes present, and Eva remembers when her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) and kids Kevin and Celie (Ezra Miller and Ashley Gerasimovich) were still with her. Eva never seemed to really want Kevin, a vile, evil, perpetually incontinent child turned killer teen who mind-fucked his mother from a very early age, but the real question is whether Eva could stop the direction her son was going.
Franklin, a happy guy in denial of Kevin’s true nature, condemns Eva for not connecting with her little moppet, and Kevin simultaneously gaslights Eva and turns Eva and her well-meaning but dopey husband against each other. Kevin might seem like a child of Satan or some other supernatural incarnate, but really he’s like thousands of other children in the world who really don’t seem to have a conscience- and who better to blame than the boy’s own mother?
Anyone who has seen filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher knows she has a propensity for both beautiful cinematography and grueling bleakness. We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the best-selling novel by the same title by Lionel Shriver, is no exception. The film is intensely visual, with a kind of stream-of-consciousness style, especially around the beginning, and benefits from an outstanding performance by Tilda Swinton as the complex Eva.
Eva seems alternately like a bad mother and all-around ice queen and a woman trying to do best by her family, and one must wonder if her memory (and by extension, the whole movie’s narrative) is reliable as she paints a terrifying portrait of Kevin literally from babyhood to present day. The movie asks the question of whether we can always blame the parents of these children for the kids’ evil actions or if some youngsters are just bad eggs.
The answer to this question is often ambiguous here, but ultimately we decide that no, we can’t ultimately blame Eva for how ‘widdle Kevin’ turned out. It brings up the aged-old question of ‘nature vs. nurture’ in a new and interesting way, and packs a hell of a wallop in the process. This movie will make you think twice about going off the pill and make you wonder if having a little ball of joy of your own is overrated.
The part near the end of the movie at the school when Kevin’s plan goes full circle makes me think of a extra I saw on my parents’ DVD of the original Halloween. Donald Pleasence, who played Sam Loomis, told the director that he could play the sequence when Myers falls out the window after getting shot and somehow escapes into thin air one of two ways; ‘Oh my God, he’s gone’ or ‘I knew this would happen.’ Ultimately they decided on the latter because the former would be, well, too much.
That’s what I think of when I see Eva’s expression as she eyes the bicycle locks Kevin previously ordered in the mail on the doors of the school auditorium. Her expression is less a look of shocked horror as it is a look of resignation. I knew this would happen. On one hand, you wonder why Eva didn’t get her son major psychological help right off the bat, but on the other, could she really of prevented Kevin’s insanity if she had? After all, when you have a blissfully ignorant husband who refuses to believe your son has a problem, how are you going to get an evaluation carried out without his blessing?
All in all, We Need to Talk About Kevin is kind of like watching a train wreck, albeit a visually striking one with a handful of outstanding shots. It makes us women, whether we plan to be mothers or not, wonder how far maternal love goes and if you can be held culpable simply for not loving your child enough. Is it possible to love a monster? I think so. People do it all the time.
But for someone like Eva who obviously didn’t want to be a mother in the first place, her failure to love her son was ultimately ammunition for her evil child to use against her. Eva’s coldness is not an excuse for Kevin’s behavior anymore than Kevin being a difficult baby is an excuse for Eva to make very little effort with her offspring. One persons’ blame does not cancel the others’ out. But that’s not enough for other parent not to convince themselves that they could do better. Given the circumstances, could you?
Despite a rocky start, L.I.E. proves to be a powerful movie in the long run, with great performances from Brian Cox and a young Paul Dano. Dano plays a Howie Blitzer, a fifteen-year-old juvenile delinquent whose dad is an inattentive swindler, and whose friends are leading him down the wrong path quick. The school guidance counselor senses that Howie is different, but Howie thinks that it is too late to be saved, and spirals deeper and deeper into disaffected adolescent crime.
One day Howie and his friends break into the house of Big John Harrigan (Brian Cox,) Irish-American Vietnam veteran and pedophile and steal two valuable guns from him. Harrigan finds Howie and tricks him into thinking he’s a friend of Howie’s late mother’s, and he grooms and attempts to seduce the boy, using threat of legal action for the missing guns to his advantage. Thus begins a icky, and very odd turn of events where the kid realizes that a monster is his only lifeline.
L.I.E. was originally rated NC-17, and probably crosses the line with child actors as much as it can be crossed in an American movie. Even more disturbing than the pedophilic content and the sweaty, horny, hazed portrayal of out-of-control teen behavior, is the ambiguity concerning the relationship between an adult and a child. It is easy to portray a child molester as a teeth-gnashing sex fiend. It is hard to portray them as human. Don’t get me wrong, I think pedophiles are evil and will get their karma in the afterlife. But many of them were made that way, not born bad. They have human attributes and psychological reasons for doing what they do- to portray them as solely mustache-twirling villains is to deny the complexity of life.
The first ten minutes or so of this movie disappointed me- it seemed like they were trying way too hard to be shocking and edgy. It’s Harmony Korine syndrome- let’s show just how disgusting people can be! The scene where the boy is talking about screwing his sister didn’t ring true to me, nor did the scene with the boys being blown behind street signs. You have to get a little farther in to get to the good part. Brian Cox is chilling. He vacillates between being charming and repugnant. The fact that you begin to like him- just a little- shows the brilliance of the character dynamics.
L.I.E.‘s terrifying. It’s more terrifying than The Conjuring or the Human Centipede movies because it can happen, and is happening… outside our doors, in our neighborhoods, and maybe, just maybe, in our houses. Because Big John is only as scary as the society he inhabits, which neglects our children, raises a generation of ‘latchkey kid,’ and grows them up to be disaffected and attention-starved. It allows these things to happen. An abrupt ending makes you question what it all really meant. Not easy or kid-friendly, but relevant.
The cover of “Film Geek,” as you may notice, proclaims “This year’s Napoleon Dynamite!” Depending on your tolerance for the “quirky nerd” shtick, this may entice you or make you run the other way. Comparisons to “Napoleon Dynamite” aside, “Film Geek” is more human, lower budget, and with a melancholy edge. Unlike Napoleon, who had a small group of friends orbiting his planet of nerddom, This movie’s protagonist, Scotty Pelk (Melik Malikson), repels practically everyone he comes in contact with.
Scotty is a twenty-something young man with no life to speak of, who spends his time inadvertently harassing people at the video store where he works. If they aren’t driven off by his voice (which sounds like he’s been inhaling helium) or his generally aggravating demeanor, it’s probably the fact that he relentlessly badgers people with his knowledge of movies. He has so much trivia it might put half the “Film Threat” reviewers to shame.
Scotty appears to be clueless about his effect on others, although they often aren’t exactly subtle about their disdain for him. He could quite possibly be diagnosed with Asperger’s, but then viewers with Asperger’s and their friends may be angered. He is so intensely annoying, in fact, that his boss finally takes him aside and tells him that his “expertise might be better appreciated elsewhere.”
Unable to get any other film-related jobs, Scotty starts working at a car parts factory. It is around this time that he meets Nika, a free-spirited artist who is first seen by him reading a book on the films of David Cronenberg. Scotty decides that Nika is his chance for a romantic relationship, but she is, understandably, not so sure. As they go to events and she encourages him to “expand his horizons,” this odd semi-dating status is invaded by Nika’s obnoxious, egotistical, but less geeky ex-boyfriend.
Scotty is such a sad individual that he most likely will be either hated or pitied — in my case, pitied. Spurting movie jargon and attempting to relate to other people, he is a far cry from Napoleon, who spent most of his film acting purposefully gawky and being a self-satisfied object of laughter, less capable of normal human response. So, by saying that I sympathized with the loser, does this mean I recommend the film?
Not really. Despite their differences, “Film Geek” and “Napoleon Dynamite” have the same pitfall. They’re not funny. Sure, they’re quirky, but watching a oddball, nerdy person live his isolated life and act like an uber-dork is not the same, for me at least, as being entertained. In this case, you feel more uncomfortable then amused. Even though “Film Geek” slightly overcomes this by being almost thought-provoking in its presentation, I found myself becoming distracted and concentrating on the many movies in the background. “Is that Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” over there?”
You might like “Film Geek.” You might hate it. If you like the “nerd” genre and find the general tone of oddities such as “Napoleon Dynamite” to be amusing, go for it. This is not bad, like another more low-budget “Imagination,” just sort of pointless.
Okay. If you are planning to rent this film because you like Will Ferrell, or because you laughed (as I did) at his intellectual masterpiece Land of the Lost… stop and think for a minute, a practice this film ignored completely. Emotionally underdeveloped males are not funny.
Vindictive man-child squabbling is not funny. Middle aged men too lazy and pathetic to get off of their behinds and get jobs, only feed off of their long-suffering parents with the will and determination of parasites… not funny. Even if one of them is played by Will Ferrell, the humor is still pretty nonexistent.
Step Brothers, an uneasy blend of Paul Blart – Mall Cop and Chuck & Buck, is the kind of throwaway film people might awkwardly refer to as “cute” (as in “was it a good movie? it was… cute.”) The trouble is, it is far too resolute in it’s crudity to pass as such.
It mistakes winces for laughs and hammers its content ferociously into the viewer’s face, hoping that its gall will earn some kind of respect. It’s not even or satirical enough to pass as dark humor. As a feel-good raunchy comedy, it misses its mark completely, despite some ‘ah gee’ moments near the end where relationships are salvaged and the imbeciles are rewarded for their actions.
The premise runs like this – two older people Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) meet at a science convention, bond, and are in each other’s pants within the next five minutes. They put their clothes on, straighten up and get married. Nancy and Robert would like nothing more than to take Robert’s boat and embark on an indefinite vacation.
The trouble arises with their two sons, Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly), middle-aged slackers who live at home and don’t take well to the courtship.The two of them spend the film masturbating, eating junk food, being beaten by children, beating children, and flaunting foul language like a college degree. Their idiocy is almost redeemed by the introduction of Brennan’s successful brother, Derek, who is more deplorable than they are. But it’s tough competition.
One both rubs his testicles on a drum set and is forced to lick a mound of dog feces, all in the same film. If you are interested in seeing Will Ferrell’s balls, maybe you should rent and enjoy this movie. If not…. maybe not. They should probably be marked as Will Ferrell = Brennan and John C. Reilly = Dale, since there is no personal variation between them. They exist as characters to disgust and half-heartedly amuse.
Although Richard Jenkins, playing in my recent reviewed film Burn After Reading and receiving an Oscar nomination for The Visitor (bought but not seen) has participated in many of the Farrelly’s films, I had no idea he could sink this low. He’s the only character with a working brain in the film (as his wife smiles and says “I think they’re bonding,” he responds, “I don’t like this.”)
However, for this character to work, one would need a director with a apparently functional brain. At an afterwords at the credits, when Brennan and Dale face their grade school-sized bullies, one punches a child repeatedly, his head bobbing back and forth like a rag doll. That’s the whole trouble with Step Brothers – it has no understanding of what’s funny and what isn’t. Equipped with this bumbling ignorance, it shamelessly hits all the wrong notes
Buddy Boy, Mark Hanlon’s debut, is a haunting and potent film about dead end lives that provokes more questions than answers but remains bizarrely interesting throughout.
The film provides a look into the surrealistic existence of emotionally stunted, stuttering misfit Francis (Aidan Gillen), who lives with his trollish invalid stepmother (actual amputee Susan Tyrrell), in a squalid apartment.
Suffering from overwhelming guilt concerning his sexuality, his religion, and himself, he goes to confession monthly, admitting every impure thought and indiscretion. The contrast between faith and the id is revealed in the opening, which presents the viewer with a montage of religious imagery followed by Francis, uh… pleasuring himself to a pair of voluptuous breasts in a magazine.
Like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, this is the high point of his day, which soon descends into woeful monotony. He finds a new pasttime in spying on his attractive neighbor Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner, controversial Polish director Roman Polanski’s wife) through a hole in his apartment.
Then they meet. Gloria is strangely attracted to Francis, which would be unfeasible if she weren’t clearly lonely and desperate too. She tells him she is a vegan, a word he doesn’t understand, but he catches on. According to her, she doesn’t care what he eats, but then she buys him a “Meat Is Murder” t-shirt, which is a mixed message if I ever saw one. This further accentuates the character’s conflicting beliefs and desires.
Gloria is pretty and nice, too nice, and Francis begins believing irrational things about her pastimes, focusing on her eating habits. Meanwhile he becomes increasingly psychotic (?) and has a falling out with God. Is Francis going insane? Or is meat back on the menu? Buddy Boy is an enigma — although declared a religious allegory by IMDB users it at times seems to be making a statement against Christianity.
In fact Francis spends so much time obsessing about his masturbating, sinning ways that the viewer wishes the poor guy would just snap out of it. The movie is a triumph of atmosphere — the bleakness and decay of Francis and Sal’s apartment is palpable, while Gloria’s big-windowed, pleasingly green abode seems to spell change for the troubled young man.
The problem, it seems, is the vast contrast in acting styles between Aidan Gillen (Francis) and Susan Tyrrell (his stepmom, Sal). Gillen, from the GLBTQ show Queer as Folk (which I haven’t seen), plays his character sensitively and gently, as a fundamentally benevolent albeit strange outcast damaged by trauma and psychosis. Susan Tyrrell plays his abusive stepmom more like a SNL skit. Maybe her broad performance is the fault of the material.
When an actress’ character is scripted to beat a plumber over the head with her artificial leg (one of the stranger scenes in this story), maybe there isn’t much room for subtlety. Buddy Boy, nevertheless, is an intriguing first feature and a fascinating story.
It walks a fine line between being campy and profound, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like the humanization of Francis, a character who might be written off as a scummy voyeur, or worse, as white trash. It raises interesting questions, contains twists, and transports you, which is something films should accomplish, but rarely do.
“Wild Tigers I Have Known,” Cam Archer’s visually striking but somewhat self-indulgent debut, is an abstract and meandering portrayal of teen angst and burgeoning sexuality. Its youthful protagonist, Logan (Malcolm Stumpf), seems perpetually caught between a daydream and and the harsh, uncaring real world.
Sounds kind of like Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Except that movie actually had substance. Oh well. This movie at least looks pretty, and art-chic-happy film students might find more to love in the film than I did.
13-year-old Logan is lonesome soul, given to walks on the beach and recording himself going on a abstract tangents. He also is in the midst of discovering his sexuality (gay as a maypole) while harboring a crush on Rodeo Walker (Patrick White), the most popular boy in school.
Does Rodeo feel likewise? Maybe so (“girls make me want to go to sleep,” he tells his youthful admirer), but whatever the case, Rodeo isn’t telling. Seeking Rodeo’s affection, Logan creates a female persona named ‘Leah.’ ‘Leah’ calls Rodeo up promising a wild night, but Logan’s naivete is apparent.
I “get” Logan’s inability to connect to, or even maybe occupy the same universe as, his junior high classmates. I go to a school of hundreds of students, and 99% of the time I feel like I’m off on my own planet.
But although Logan is intriguing, the film collapses under its own pretension, with scenes that have no clear dramatic purpose and dialogues that are laughable in their bloated sense of self-importance. And isn’t Logan’s mother’s response to the fallen groceries a little… psychotic? Nobody who’s still on the sanity wagon would react that way.
“Wild Tigers…” sports beautiful cinematography and a couple of well-known actors (Fairuza Balk as the mom, Kim Dickens as the school counselor,) but in the end, it hardly matters. Seeming long at 88 minutes, “Tigers…” ultimately seems like a bit of a chore, never a good impression for a film to make. Logan entices us but the film keeps us at an arm’s length.
Is it nuts to expect more from a movie like “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)? With a premise and set-up like this, what can you expect, except for a few good scares and a whole lotta gore? But with an intriguing killer like Martin, I was actually hopeful, and disappointed by the never-ending, and I suppose inevitable, stream of torture that followed.
I guess I would have liked to have seen more Martin, less of the centipede. More scathing black humor, less of the gore? Crazy? Maybe. But my love of all things fuck-upedly psychological led me to wish for an entirely different movie.
I’ll be honest and straight-up and admit that I haven’t seen Tom Six’s controversial original (and at this point I don’t think I’ll bother.) But to those uninitiated few, I’ll describe the original premise to the best of my abilities. Sensitive readers, stop right here. It only goes downhill from here.
In the original “Human Centipede,” two pretty American tourists’ car breaks down while traveling in Germany (of course, the car), and they seek help at the home of an incredibly creepy German doctor, who proceeds to serve them a drugged drink and reveal his master plan (you’ve never seen that one before, right?)
The doctor intends to make a Siamese triplet out of the frightened girls and a third party. Okay, this is where it gets real messy. Using the magic of surgical precision, the the good doc will sew them together mouth to anus, therefore creating one entity. I guess you’re starting to understand the controversy behind these films, eh?
So. “The Human Centipede II.” Listen, now, because the premise is actually pretty creative. Martin, a short, creepy, obese security guard (Laurence R. Harvey) who lives with his abusive mother (Mommy issues- where have I heard that one before…? Okay I’ll stop now) is INSPIRED by the original “Human Centipede” and sets out to make one of his own, but suffers from poor health and limited resources.
Martin, whose father sexually abused him, and whose mother blames Martin for sending hubby to jail (I call it “Precious” syndrome. but it definitely happens), has led an agonizing life full of brutality and misery, and, as it so happens, has a sexual fetish for “The Human Centipede.” On top of that he has a psychiatrist (Bill Hutchins) who wants to have sex with him (ew.)
SO what can Martin do except to make the people around him suffer? And so he does, in a spectacularly brutal manner. And may I just say, Laurence R. Harvey is a FABULOUS actor. Not only does he cope with the fact that Martin doesn’t say a single word throughout the movie, he makes it an asset.
Harvey also makes you feel sorry for Martin, at moments, throughout the movie. And I think that’s where he really excels, making you feel sympathy for such a beastly character. Unfortunately, Laurence R. Harvey (and Martin) are stuck in a movie that doesn’t deserve them, and Vivian Bridsen (who plays Martin’s mother) is as incompetent as Harvey is adept.
The first half of this film is pretty good. It’s deliberately illogical at times (Martin hits his victims full-force with a crow bar and still manages to only knock them out), but the film has a devilish, nightmarish feel, and makes good use of black & white photography. The dialogue is often bizarre and implausible, but this only reinforces the fact that we are living in a nightmare.
After the first half, though, we are thrown into forty minutes of torture which is not only gross, it’s also boring. How do you make torture boring? For dragging it on forty minutes, that’s how. I know, I know, I’m watching “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence),” not “My Dinner With Andre.” Dialogue isn’t the film’s strong point. But is it too much to hope for a little… more of it?
If there’s one thing I got out of this movie, it was Laurence R. Harvey’s performance. I really, really hope this guy makes it. Otherwise, skip this weakly plotted torture fest. Next!
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