Tag Archives: 1star

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

[1.5 stars]

The last film Yorgos Lanthimos directed and co-wrote with Efthymis Filippou was the oddly compelling and flawed The Lobster, which captivated a significant section of the film world and earned them an Oscar nod. Despite some early rumblings about Sacred Deer, it has nowhere near the sense of dark whimsy nor fascinating alchemy that The Lobster did. In fact, it is a bit of a boring mess that never pays off, though teases with many promises.

Much like The Lobster, the entire film is structured to get to the final moments, or final scene and coda in the case of Deer. It is a powerful couple of images, but they mean nothing because the previous two hours were spent laying out plots and ideas that went nowhere and had no support.

It probably didn’t help that Lanthimos prefers a presentational style of acting akin to pure Brecht; flat, stated rather than “acted,” allowing the ideas to be formed by the audience rather than manipulated or guided by the characters. It is a very intellectual approach to theatre and it is rarely as blank as Brecht probably wanted. However, if the ideas aren’t there to be formed, a lack of emotional connection simply distances and bores an audience.

[For a really good documentary and an interesting look at such a production done well, watch Theater of War that chronicles a production of Mother Courage starring Meryl Streep at the Papp.]

Given that Colin Farrell (Roman J. Israel, Esq) and Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled) lead this cast, a lack of connection is near criminal. Scraping against them and their family is the creepy Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), who creates a twisted combo of Crispin Glover and Paul Dano to drive the story as best he can. Sunny Suljic and Raffey Cassidy (Tomorrowland), as the children of Kidman and Farrell, struggle in this film to make an impression. Cassidy gets more opportunity, but neither ever make sense of it all and so their performances simply fade away.

And that, in the end is the real problem. The Lobster certainly left audiences with questions and debates around its ending. But there was context for that debate; there had been a story, however weird, that latched into base, human needs and desires. You couldn’t not talk about that film for days afterwards. Sacred Deer reaches for something similar but misses the grab leaving the rest of the story  just a series of forced vignettes and actions that have nothing driving them. It is a credit to Lanthimos that I kept thinking there was something coming, which is what kept me watching for two long hours. But, having never paid it off, I left the movie angry and frustrated rather than contemplative or in the mood to discuss it.

Even though I finished it, I can’t give it my normal 2 stars in rating for getting me to the end, because there was no end there. However, it is beautifully filmed and with competent actors that delivered a clear and consistent (if pointless) vision, so it isn’t a 1 star film either. Suffice to say: skip it. I’m sure Lanthimos and Filippou will deliver something down the road, but this movie is better shelved and ignored, except by film classes who wish to dissect it for craft.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Wiener-Dog

Seriously, WTF? I watched this entire film in the hope that it would eventually come together as something…anything. I was to be disappointed and annoyed.

Director/writer Todd Solondz had no sense of when to stop a joke (and I use that term loosely) nor much humanity. Because he is also the writer/director of the brilliant Welcome to the Dollhouse and equally brilliant, but horrific, Happiness, perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised with the darkness of it all. But in this case, I have no idea what he was hoping to get across, whereas his earlier work was challenging (to say the least), but ultimately with substance.

I think the intent was dark humor with the dog as the forced thread for the vignettes. However, the first half of the film is about the same dog going from owner to owner (a lot like a cruel A Dog’s Purpose). Then we get an amusing and jarring “intermission” followed by stand-alone tales that have similar dogs in them, but with almost no purpose. It is even somewhat weirdly self-referential regarding film. Add to this the flat delivery of the dialogue, clearly consistent and a choice, and I’m left bereft of a clue. Perhaps it was intended as a post-modernist take on Brecht? Still, it just didn’t work.

Honestly, this is a waste of your time and of any film or hard disc it was filmed to. I honestly don’t forgive Solondz for wasting my time on this one.

Wiener-Dog

Resident Evil (first to last)

Resident Evil, the original from 2002, is a surprisingly robust bit of entertainment. It is well paced, has good action, unexpected moments, a bit of humor, and a reasonable mystery. It also has a surprising cast. I’ve rewatched it many times always thinking I’ll just turn it off in a minute… only to be there when the final credits roll as a devastated Racoon City fills the screen. It is both a good ride and a commentary on hubris and the rise of corporate power. Despite being drawn from a video game, it took on its own life and became a success.

That success spawned 5 more movies whose total box office exceeds one billion dollars. That amount is even more shocking if you’ve followed the franchise down the drain as each successive movie got more ridiculous and less crafted (Apocalypse, Extinction, and Afterlife). By the 5th installment, Retribution, I’m not sure I could even tell you what the story is anymore, though there were attempts at nods back to the first of the movies to try and anchor it. Those attempts don’t work. Even the two interstitial animations (Degeneration, Damnation… and a third, Vendetta, due later this year) only serve to confuse things.

The Final Chapter (let us hope so) was much delayed due to timing conflicts for our heroine. In prep for seeing it, much like for Terminator: Genisys, I tucked in to rewatch the first and most recent of the series (not really wanting to invest time for the other 3 intervening films which were likely not necessary). For Terminator, this proved a necessity and a boon. For Resident Evil…

… remember a few days ago when I up-rated Snowden because it deserved to have a higher rating for its material and intent? Well, I’m down-rating Resident Evil: The Final Chapter for the same reason…

From the top, the movie attempts to rewrite its history and ignore implications. But as if that’s not enough, the filming is horrible, making fight scenes unwatchable, and the new plot is just utterly absurd, minus one nice small bit of thinking. I only watched the whole thing because we were in a theater and not at home, where it would have either been turned off or become the butt of a very nasty drinking game of “spot the stupidity.” Or, perhaps, “act out a better fight.” Resident Evil thrived on its fight scenes in the past, despite any other lacks in the script… but this last of the franchise can’t even stay that.

So, yes, skip this… with prejudice. The series never regained its footing after the second film, which still had some good qualities. Save your time and your money, and don’t reward shoddy work and insults to the fan base. Cause I promise you, you help this earn money through tickets or rentals or by any means and you empower other filmmakers to slap you around with impunity.

Total Eclipse

star2

DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby) has always been a hit and miss actor for me, especially in his younger days. A gem like Gilbert Grape would be followed shortly by a film like this. I give him credit for always trying to stretch his chops, but his directors often did him no service. His main issue, in this film, is that he lacks all credibility when it comes to seeming intelligent on screen. I never saw the “genius” only the prat. Come to think of it, lack of credibility was often his problem as a young actor (think Romeo & Juliet). But in this outing, even his counter-part, Thewlis (The Zero Theorem), came off as a fool rather than a man of talent and mental acuity.

Most of the blame for the failure has to be on director Holland (Europa Europa); first in her casting choices and second in her weak hand controlling them. I think she was hoping for a heightened sense of the world, of poets living poetry. The fact that the events and relationship is based on reported facts doesn’t make it more believable or palatable. What she created was an unappetizing and unappealing collection of characters who you just don’t care about. That this script is also from the same hand, Hampton, who gave us Les Liason dangereuses (which launched Rickman’s global career) on stage and which he converted to American film in Dangerous Liasons, saddens me. The previous work took on similar challenges in character but with superior results.

If you are a Rimbaud fanatic, perhaps that would be enough to keep you tuned in, to see his rise in letters. After 20 minutes of watching DiCaprio and Thewlis prance about like jackasses without providing a hint of talent to offset their rudeness, I turned this one off. I don’t recommend you ever turn it on, even for Leo’s brief nude scene, which is probably this flick’s biggest claim to lasting fame.

Behaving Badly

star2

This is going to be one of my very rare complete missteps in watching a movie. Between recommendations and reviews, I can usually avoid the worst of the worst for my particular tastes (wide as they may be). I can’t even tell you why this one ended up in my list, though I think it had something to do with Wolff (Stuck in Love, The Fault in Our Stars) being in the flick or a trailer somewhere.

In short, this is what happens when a bunch of young actors decide they need to change their general image. Imagine the Disney Clubhouse getting drunk and then writing a raunchy, Ferris Bueller-like script that they think is funny… at least to themselves. Even the solid list of adult actors, as few as I got to see, couldn’t make this work.

I think I made it 5 minutes into the film before bailing out, recognizing that the writing and directing couldn’t corral the bad ideas and make them dance in the least. You shouldn’t even waste that long.

The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue

star2

With apologies to the friend who suggested this film, this is going to be one of my rare single star ratings. I gave the film 15 minutes to convince me to stay, but it just couldn’t. It has something, but the sophomoric humor, while not as broad at Hell Baby, was just too much to sit through for me. You may find it more to your taste, but life is too short to spend 90 minutes on something that is doing nothing for you. Me, I moved on to another recommendation my friend passed me, Berberian Sound Studio, which had much more to offer.

Hell Baby

star2

After the last few nights of rather intense films, I was looking for something a bit lighter to help celebrate the new year.

Hell Baby spawns from the same brains as Reno 911… and they decided to write, direct, and have large parts in the mess they created. Short version: even the gag reel was boring.

So, instead, I turned this off and rewatched The Wolverine for entertainment (which has a beautiful video and sound transfer on blu-ray and great action, despite its logic flaws).

Happy New Year! And may Hell Baby not be an indication of the films to come this year!

Room 237

star2

Room 237 purports to be an examination of Kubrik’s The Shining. The Shining is both brilliant and infuriating, because of its drift from the source material. And hours have been wasted among friends discussing its relative value.

However, within moments of starting this documentary, it is clear this is a self-aggrandizing, pretentious piece of pointlessness. Avoid it. Run. It is worse than the saddest deconstructionist literature class you have ever had to sit through.

Don’t waste even the few minutes I did to see what it might have to say, let alone how much time it took me to write this response.

The FP

This is a rarity in that I can’t give this more than a single star, even though I did watch the whole movie. Yeah, it was that bad. I started it at two stars, but as my comments went on, and on, I realized just how much I was annoyed and disappointed that I had spent time watching it in the first place. When the best feature of a movie is that it is only 82 minutes long, you definitely have a problem. So, on with the bashing…

Satire is difficult, at best. When it is done well, it is brilliant. When it is done poorly, as this was, it fails miserably. What the writer and director team were trying to do was something with the feel of Attack the Block and ended up with something closer to Attack the Gas Station, but without any of the redeeming aspects of the latter. There is no center to this film. It is just one attempt to shock with vulgarity after another rather than building any characters or stakes that make us care. While the centerpiece of a battle of gangs on the Beat Beat dance machine is clever and funny, even those prime moments fall flat.

Part of the issue was the multiple personality of the ideas. There were too many references, starting with the inescapable nod to Snake Plissken from Escape from New York. But like a lot of this film, nothing is made of that either in reference or background. In truth, we never learn much about our main characters or the world they live in, other than everyone drinks, has lots of sex (not our hero of course), and talks like a bad rendition of Snoop Dog. They may have though they were creating A Clockwork Orange for South Central, but it was too forced and had no meat. There are even a number of scense that mirror The Karate Kid (original or reboot) and could be funny and even inspiring in the hands of another, but here they come across as thumbing their nose at the very movies they want to play with.

The references continue visually in set and costume to Mad Max  A Boy and his Dog, Solarbabies, and even The Warriors. There are just too many flavors and nothing to bring them together.

This film was conceived, or still born, by a pair of brothers that couldn’t even keep their own names out of the story. At best, this is a student film that shows some sense of camera work and editing, and none for story. As a general offering, it is waste of the petroleum products that were used to make the disc it arrived on.

Lip Service (Series 2)

After a very promising start with series 1, the emphasis of the show seems to have shifted to one of a banal soap opera of self-destructive characters. Unlike, say Skins (UK), there isn’t even enough intrigue or good dialog or surprises to support the less interesting format. I wanted to give it 2 episodes to grab me back, but honestly couldn’t get up the interest after the season opener to try. If you have more patience, you may find there is more there than I’m assuming. However, I’ve enough other shows and films to keep me busy to stay with a show when I can’t even find a hook to bring me back.