Tag Archives: full frontal

TIFF18: A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces is a technically competent (and occasionally impressive) film that lacks perspective and personality. In life generally and this festival particularly, we have been inundated with films about addictions and recovery. If you’re going to pile on, I expect you have a hot take, a fresh point of view. It’s not unreasonable to expect that A Million Little Pieces might have had one; several years ago (2003, in fact), James Frey released his memoir (of the same name) and it was a monster best-seller. But when questions of authenticity surfaced, Frey’s shooting star burned out quickly, thanks in large part to Oprah’s dragon-fire condemnation.

The film was relegated to back burner, then cold storage, then deep freeze as the controversy was allowed to cool. But now that people have all but forgotten his name, Sam Taylor-Johnson brings his story to the big screen but curiously leaves the scandal unthawed, with only a Mark Twain quote to excuse away his dishonesty.

AMillionLittlePieces_0HEROWhat’s left is a story without a single breath of uniqueness. Drugs are bad, behaviour off the rails, shipped to rehab against his will, detox makes you sick, “I don’t need to be here,” resistance, rule-breaking, temptation, uncovering trauma, cautious optimism. Insert new names and this could literally describe at least a dozen movies about addictions, and those are just the ones I can name and I can’t name shit. Although Sam Taylor-Johnson makes things pretty (save her own husband, with cracked teeth and a broken nose), this feels like a very familiar, very formulaic iteration.

Taylor-Johnson’s husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, co-writes the script with her (which seems not to be a strength) and stars as Frey. She has enormous faith in his abilities as an actor, and directs him well. He’s committed and intense, and would have been great in a great role, except they failed to write one, and this “Frey” character is bland and superficial. We hardly get to know him, and the few flashbacks are not informative or expository, they’re hardly more than images. That said, his costars, including Billy Bob Thornton, Giovanni Ribisi, Juliette Lewis, Charlie Hunnam, and Odessa Young, get even shorter shrift. Back stories? Ha. These people barely get front stories. They fill the obligatory sharing-circle chairs and that’s about it.

I think there might have been a little life to this story had they not shied away from the truth of it. But as is, it’s a million little pieces of ordinary that add up to 113 minutes of boring, minus the 40 seconds or so when Aaron rocks out with his cock out. With so many options at the cinema, this just doesn’t cut it. An easy miss.

Advertisements

TIFF18: Outlaw King

Well, if you can’t beat Braveheart, you can beat horses. I mean, literally ruthlessly kill horses. Hundreds of them at a go. My god it was rough watching.

Outlaw King follows a different character in the Braveheart cinematic universe – Robert the Bruce. He starts the movie out as a defeated nobleman, having just surrendered his land and castle (but never his heart) to England’s King Edward. Oh he is pitiable in his lovely green frock, belted low on the hips – a dress that accentuates his piercing blue eyes and his hand-crafted mullet. King Edward gives him a wife (Florence Pugh) as a reward, and they are married in a ceremony celebrating the love of naps and political alliance, but not necessary each other. But since you can only mollify a man with one wife at a time, soon enough he’s riding around the beautiful Scottish countryside, trying to unite the people (impossible) and rally an army (near impossible) to mount the campaign against their English oppressors anew.

As you can imagine, King Edward and his sadistic, bowl-cut sporting son the Prince of MV5BYzE1Njc4MmQtNjFhMS00MGQwLWJiMGYtZjQzYzljZDQ3ODkwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_Wales are quite enraged, so they’re only going to come at Robert (Chris Pine) harder – including declaring him an outlaw, and seizing his wife and daughter (which is poor gift-giving etiquette on their part). So Robert just gallops around raising hell and hopefully spirits until the two sides meet in an epic, EPIC, horse-murdering battle.

Outlaw King reunites Pine with his Hell Or High Water director, David Mackenzie. Unfortunately, lightning hasn’t struck twice. Theme and tone and conviction are all noticeably weaker, as if neither Mackenzie nor Pine is entirely convinced this Robert the Bruce fellow is really worthy of the mantle this film bestows upon him. They raise the stakes by painting him a devoted family man and thoughtful lover, a conceit I’d expect to see in a bodice-ripping romance, not a historical war movie. But it still doesn’t quite add up to a towering hero, perhaps in part due to lazy editing. The movie, at 137 minutes, is too long by quite a margin. There’s a lot of repetition that could easily be cut down without losing a damn thing.

But don’t worry, it’s not totally without merit. The men, including Aaron Taylor-Johnson (does anyone play deranged as well as him?) and Tony Curran love to roll around in the mud. The boys spend 97% of the movie caked in dirt and bathed in blood – it’s a real sausagefest that should sprout at least 10 new chest hairs for all who watch. And you’ll learn some handy Scottish customs such as: it’s not just kilts they don’t wear under with; and the old smacking people to wish them luck (“Let this blow be the last you receive unanswered”) – a real swindle if I’ve ever seen one; and weird swan oaths that are perhaps better left to history, or at least what passes for history on Netflix.

Outlaw King is often intense and often gory and often brutal. But just when it’s getting to be too much, Mackenzie cuts to a long, sweeping panorama of the countryside, giving me space to breathe. But then he zooms in tight on Pine so we see that Bruce is demented with grief – it’s right there in his eyes. Sure they might be sheep shaggers and horse killers, but they’re also just super chivalrous men who politely wait for each side to make their impassioned, inspirational pep talks before commencing slicing and dicing. It’s real beautiful stuff. I would hesitate to recommend it if it was being released in theatres, but since you’ve got Netflix anyway, why not wait for a day when you’re really mad at a horse, and live vicariously.

The Package ūüćÜ

Three buddies are going on a camping trip. Sean (Daniel Doheny) is back home for a brief visit during his semester abroad in Germany, so his two best friends, Jeremy (Eduardo Franco) and Donnie (Luke Spencer Roberts) are anxious to spend some quality time with him out in the woods, drinking whatever booze Jeremy’s fake National Guard ID can buy them. Just one small catch: Jeremy’s twin sister Becky (Geraldine Viswanathan – the breakout star from Blockers) has recently been dumped so now both she and her friend Sarah (Sadie Calvano) will be crashing their boys’ trip.

Simmer down though, because this is all besides the point. The point, as you might begin to glean from the title, is that after a 6-mile hike into the remotest part of the forest, Jeremy accidentally cuts his dick off. His friends save his life, find the penis, and get himgn-gift_guide_variable_c successfully airlifted to a hospital…but the next morning they discover they’ve sent the wrong cooler along with him, and his beef whistle is still on site. Knowing reattachment has only a very small window, they set out on an adventure to get “the package” to their cockless friend, and they’ll meet up with some very turbulent, often very gross times along the way. Though it’s insensitive of them to complain about it since poor Jeremy is sitting in the hospital with a hole in his crotch, mourning the loss of his beloved flesh flute.

Is this a good movie? No it is not. Sean made me watch it and I think his own yogurt gun should sleep with one eye open, for fear of retributive justice. I realize I am not a high school boy, but it turns out my tolerance for snausage humour is uncomfortably low. Limbo low. The limbo bar is so low that you couldn’t get your average-sized pecker under it, that’s for sure.

This movie is trying so hard to make me laugh and failing so miserably I kind of grow to resent it, nay, loathe it while watching. I was tempted to abandon the old trouser snake after the first 10 minutes, because I knew I’d already seen the best and the worst. But you must stay at least long enough to see the main event. Because if you’ve never seen a baloney pony flying through the air, you haven’t lived. So you could wait for your next family event, leave alcohol and knives lying around in abundance, and start up a game of truth or dare and see what happens, fingers crossed. OR, you could put your Netflix subscription to good use for once. The stakes are low, the purple-headed soldier in question isn’t related to you, and if it doesn’t work out, you can sleep snugly with the knowledge that this guy should never have had the ability to procreate anyway. Not that I’m promoting willy amputations as a service to humanity. I’m just saying, maybe sometimes it’s not the worst thing. There would certainly be fewer movies like this, at any rate.

Game Over, Man!

First of all, I don’t like punctuation in movie titles.

Second, it’s possible that I both consciously repressed having watched this film on Friday night and unconsciously blamed Sean for having made me watch it all weekend long. And I’ve only just made that connection in the cold, cold light of Monday morning.

Alex, Darren, and Joel are members of the self-styled “dude crew” – which is just 3 weird guys who are hotel maids. Which, since we’re on the topic, in what universe does it take 3 maids to clean one room? Well, the same universe that employs 3 white men instead of 1 brown woman I suppose. But anyway, with Daniel Stern running the hotel, I suppose this flimsy premise isn’t the most unbelievable thing that’s going to happen in the next hour and a half.

So anyway. Bae, some billionaire’s son, is visiting the hotel which means two things: a) the stoner maids are going to pitch him their video game idea because they sure aren’t busy cleaning any rooms or anything, and b) Bae’s own security team is going to hold him and a whole bunch of other hotel guests hostage for money and the love of explosions. Will Alex (Adam Devine), Darren (Anders Holm) and Joel (Blake MV5BNzQ5YmQxZDMtNjEyNi00MmVhLWFkMTQtMTk0MjQzNWQwOTc5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzcyNDk1NTk@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Anderson) step up and save the day? Haha, no. Not even close. Not even unintentionally. I mean, they’ll mistakenly believe in their own hero potential at times (I extrapolate this from the slow-motion hero walks they do down dingy hotel hallways) but they’re never sober enough, smart enough, or organized enough to get shit done. But don’t worry for a single second that there won’t be enough bone-headed antics to go around: there will be blood. And guts. And digits and limbs and pieces of face sprayed all over this damn hotel.

These are the same idiots who brought you Workaholics for 7 agonizing seasons, so if you think that’s funny, this movie will provide you more of the same. But if your tolerance for lowbrow bro humour is as nonexistent as mine, and you like your movies to make sense, and baffling b-list cameos don’t impress you ¬†much, and you’ve never been all that curious about human cheek prosciutto, then Game Over, Man! should be a hard pass for you as it should have been for me.

SXSW: Blockers

I have good news. Big news. Blockers comes out April 6 and it’s actually a super funny comedy. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard since Bridesmaids.

It’s about 3 young women at the end of their high school career. Graduation and college await them, but for now: prom. And more importantly, prom sex.

This movie marches right past social expectation and allows three smart, strong girls to MV5BMTcwMTcxODQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODU3MDk4MzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1667,1000_AL_assert themselves sexually. All the usual bullshit about female virginity is thrown into the gutter with other outdated notions like the earth is flat, and bloodletting as a cure-all. These ladies are real, raw, and raunchy when it comes to sex, which, sure, is refreshing, and that’s nice and all, but the truth is we wouldn’t give a damn about myth-busting if it wasn’t entertaining, and this movie captures that elusive comedy magic and makes its audience howl with laughter.

Now, the girls may be ready to shed their prom dresses and their hymens, but their parents are not quite as happy with this little sex pact. Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz play the parents on a mission to stop the sex from happening. On prom night they’re hoping to be cock blockers, and they’ll go to stunning and humiliating lengths to block those cocks, but maybe in their heart of hearts, it’s the growing up and saying goodbye they’re trying to block as well.

Of course the movie inevitably tackles our dear old friend the double standard, and actively wonders how we can ever hope to achieve equality for women when even their own parents don’t treat them that way. But this is no issues movie, it’s a goddamn comedy, and rated R, a strong R, because it’s rude, crude, and full of franks and beans.

Female sexuality, especially that of a teenage girl, is rarely if ever treated this way and it’ll make you stand up and cheer for how empowering it feels to watch this. Is this the female American Pie? Fuck no. It’s funnier and smarter and 1000% less juvenile. But this movie isn’t just about fierce females, it’s also about their feminist boyfriends/boy friends. Boys who are in to consent, who stop when asked, who take cues from their partners and respect them. And it manages to do this casually, no big deal, like this is just how it is BECAUSE IT’S DAMN WELL HOW IT SHOULD BE. And it never stops being funny. Disguised by vulgarity, this movie is actually showing us how to behave. Except for the butt-chugging. I’m pretty sure we should stay the hell away from that.

Torrey Pines

So here’s a movie for all you people who like to take some risks with your cartoon watching!

Torrey Pines is stop-motion animated, but there’s no clay in sight, it’s all paper cut outs, which I kind of loved. I mean, I’m a sucker for stop-motion any day of the week, but this one looks like something your or I could do, if only we had tonnes of time and talent and patience and a kick-ass story to tell. Clyde Petersen has all of those things, and this is (sort of) his story.

It’s about Clyde when Clyde was still a 12 year old girl dealing with gender identity and the struggle of finding his way. The film is filled with wild hallucinations and MV5BMjEzNjMwMTc0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk4NDg4MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1763,1000_AL_psychological projections, so even though the movie is without dialogue, we still feel what Clyde is feeling. When in the car with his mother, we don’t hear them argue, but when a speech bubble features a bear biting off the head of a rabbit, we get the gist. Clyde’s mother is schizophrenic, and what she sees as a fun-filled family road trip from San Diego up to New York, the rest of the world views more as kidnapping. It’s a trip that will change Clyde and his family forever.

My love for stop-motion exists because there’s just no better way to visually represent the love and attention that goes into making a film. Stop-motion will often show us how something works close up, and we see beauty in this new perspective. Torrey Pines doesn’t disappoint; I particularly loved seeing the jointed fingers at work. But it’s also not traditionally beautiful animation. It reminded me of being in high school – my friend Kelly one day said to me that my shoes were so ugly they were cool. Up until that exact moment I’d only seen the cool in them, and forever afterward couldn’t stop seeing the ugly (she was right). The look of Torrey Pines is also ugly-cool (although legitimately both), and perhaps there is no better aesthetic to explore a coming of age story in the 1990s.

I mentioned earlier that there’s no dialogue to this movie, and that definitely proved challenging for Sean. Maybe it’s not for everyone but I liked that this film was a rule-breaker. Music and score play a much larger role in the film because of the lack of speaking roles, and it really moves us along through the stages of the film. There’s a lot to see and think about in this movie, heavy stuff, but really relatable and authentic ¬†with a flavour all its own.

Showgirls

For years it seemed I ate my breakfast cereal in front of Saved by the Bell. Zack was cool, Kelly was sweet, and Jessie was the nerd: this much I knew. But when the show ended in 1993, long before I ever walked the halls of a high school myself, the young woman who’d played Jessie, Elizabeth Berkley, was anxious to rebrand herself.

5bntds.gifCue Showgirls, the movie where she somehow failed to earn accolades or respect by baring her beaver. In fact, the film positively dies every time she’s on screen. She’s horrible. Horrible. I was literally annoyed by her in less than 2 minutes flat (watch it and see if you can do better!).

Like any self-respecting person, I have avoided this movie for 20 fucking years. 20 years! Now here I am, watching it at work (probably a mistake) when I know better.¬†When the movie came out, it bombed. OF COURSE it bombed. The script (by Joe Eszterhas, writer of Flashdance) failed to inspire. Elizabeth Berkley couldn’t act her way out of a parking ticket. She mistakes acting with tits, ass, and temper tantrums. Seriously – even the ladies of Girl, Interrupted seemed less mentally unstable. Director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Robocop, Total Recall) is way out of his depth. He has the gall to defend this stinker – and to belatedly attempt to explain it as a satire (if you spot the satire, let me know). When Showgirls swept the Razzie Awards, Paul tumblr_my1ilt5ZOn1scmselo1_500Verhoeven turned up in personal to collect both Worst Director and Worst Picture. He was the first director to ever do so (Berkley opted not to collect hers).

The studio decided it had better embrace the badness, and tried to rebrand the thing as a “midnight cult flick” much like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It lacks the charm of Rocky Horror but it is unintentionally funny. It’s the movie of the month at Kingston’s The Screening Room and is playing this Sunday July 17th at 7pm. Show up in your best Nomi costume (just try not to get solicited on the way there). It’s also playing in Chicago at Music Box on August 10th and in London at Eagle London on July 20th.

See if you can make it through more of the movie than its co-star Kyle tumblr_n9rnuvoRDp1sohv25o1_500.gifMacLachlan can – he’s said to have walked out of the premiere but he denies it, insisting “I sat thee and suffered for the whole two hours.” Steven Spielberg also gave up on the movie halfway through, saying “Sometimes, I hate this town.” It does have a fan in Quentin Tarantino though – he calls it “the Mandingo of the ’90s.”

So what do you think? Pamela Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Denise Richards and Charlize Theron all auditioned for the part – think they dodged a bullet? Elizabeth Berkley’s career certainly¬† never recovered.¬†

¬†The film was set up for a sequel that strangely never materialized. “Bimbos: Nomi Does Hollywood” sounds like a real winner, doesn’t it?