Quick Movie Review: Cry Baby Lane (2000)

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Nickelodeon’s Cry Baby Lane has somewhat of a mystique surrounding it. On October 28, 2000, Nick aired the made-for-TV movie. But after that, it was never aired again. Apparently the film got banned. Years later, talks of it swirled around the undercurrents of the internet, and finally, in 2011, the movie was shown on Nickelodeon’s TeenNick network.

Why was it banned you ask? Well for starters, the film starts out with Frank Langella’s character, Mr. Bennett the undertaker, telling the tale of a farmer and his wife who gave birth to conjoined twins many years ago. Ashamed of his children, the farmer kept the them locked up in a room in his house. He soon realized that one twin was good, while the other was evil. Eventually one of them got sick and died, which was also fatal to the other twin since they shared the same vital organs. After they died, the farmer sawed the two boys in half, burying the good twin in the town cemetery, while burying the evil twin at the end of a generic dirt road in the backwoods. The road is now called Cry Baby Lane due to the sounds you hear in the middle of the night of the dead boy crying for his twin brother.

Yeah, this film was banned. In the year 2000. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been like if it were released nowadays when parents are far more aware of what their kids watch? It’s a very creepy movie, and doesn’t even saturate itself with jump-scares. All of the creepiness comes from the inherent properties of the story and the visuals themselves. But I think we may not be giving kids the credit they deserve. I think they can handle it.

The eerie tale of the twin boys is being told to brothers, Andrew and Carl. Andrew is played by Jase Blankfort, and he does a great job. His deliveries are so spot-on and organic that you never sense he’s acting. He’s fun to watch. The free-flowing dialogue helps his true instincts come out and he really gets a chance to show his chops.

I would’ve loved if this could have been longer. At 70 minutes, it’s an unusually short film, so the pacing is all out-of-sorts. Maybe that’s why it feels just like a really long TV episode.

Although never formally advertised as such, Cry Baby Lane is a feature-length version of the Nickelodeon show Are You Afraid of the Dark? With most references to the show coming from motifs in the musical score, the film does actually follow a similar tone–albeit much darker.

The loose direction by Peter Lauer crosses back and forth between refreshingly unorthodox and frustratingly informal. It’s a weird movie with a lot of seemingly unrelated bits added in, making the film feel disjointed at times. There are scenes and characters that do nothing but waste time, even with the little amount it has in the first place.

But on the other hand he doesn’t let simple details go unnoticed merely because this is a kids’ movie. He has characters in the film who are possessed, but doesn’t just cliche his way through it. He uses these instances as opportunities for humor and irony. At one point, a possessed mailman goes around smashing mailboxes with a baseball bat. Many of the seemingly-innocuous idiosyncrasies or nuances are given attention–for better or for worse.

There’s a sort of unique humor to the film. Most of it is subtle–another very “Nickelodeon” thing about it. In fact, many of the events happen primarily due to the fact that Mr. Bennett is the world’s worst undertaker–a joke exemplified a few times.

Needless to say, you don’t have to worry about this movie talking down to its audience. The subject matter alone proves that it has every bit of faith that kids can handle just about anything. I’d say Cry Baby Lane might possibly be a little too mature and scary for some kids to be watching, but rooted in its reckless storyline are ideals and philosophies of past children’s TV networking. Things that are no longer practiced in children’s television really at all. Things that used to let kids know you trusted them and didn’t think they were stupid. This might be the most important takeaway of all.

Twizard Rating: 86

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Quick Movie Review: H-E Double Hockey Sticks (1999)

h e double hockey sticks

Shockingly enough, H-E Double Hockey Sticks still aired on the Disney Channel back in the early 2000s. I guess it makes sense if you consider the source material. But a film that partially takes place in hell? Very odd choice.

But I guess it’s less surprising when you realize how badly it wants to be a kids’ movie. Most of the references and puns will definitely go over children’s heads, yet it’s constantly talking down to them anyway–sticking itself in an awkward position of being a film for neither adults nor kids. You could say it’s their way of trying to appeal to both. But for adults to enjoy it more, it can’t compromise its dialogue.

Will Friedle plays Griffelkin, the devil’s apprentice. He’s sent to Earth to sway professional hockey player, Dave Heinrich (Matthew Lawrence), to sign over his soul in exchange for his team winning the Stanley Cup.

The plot is mostly stretched thin–even for its short runtime–but it picks up once its main objective is reached nearing the 3rd act. But then the film ends abruptly without the entire theme ever becoming fully realized for the audience.

The first two acts coast along on Friedle’s talents and improvisations, relying on him too much to carry the film. It allows him almost too much freedom, preventing the movie from taking itself seriously enough. It’s almost too goofy for its dark premise. But then again, if that’s the case, it should be funnier.

Friedle is at his best when playing off of Lawrence’s straight-man–much like their dynamic on Boy Meets World. Fans of the TV show will undoubtedly enjoy seeing the actors together again–especially if they’ve never seen this film before. Because watching it a 2nd time may be a chore no matter how much you like them.

The film is far from perfect. Though the acting is passable, the script is marginal at best. It’s not too porous, but the holes that do exist are distracting.

Plot holes don’t always make or break film. Many times they go unnoticed in a truly entertaining one. The worst kinds of holes are the ones that are so distracting that they prevent you from enjoying the rest of the story.

Griffelkin has this device called a flip fork (pun on flip phone), which is a magical tool that can make anything do what he wants it to do. He has supernatural powers that assist him in obtaining his goal. Yet, he spends about 15 minutes towards the beginning trying to find Dave and getting into the same room as him. Are we just supposed to accept this frustrating inconsistency? It is a kids movie after all–but then again, not really, because it takes place in hell and has jokes about flipping people off.

The ending isn’t quite as dark, but the lessons learned don’t really come to light, and we’re stuck remembering this as a film about a guy selling his soul to the devil–not about a devil’s apprentice finally seeing the light.

It’s an odd movie. At its best, it’s original–considering the context. Although it’s still entertaining enough to watch, and may evoke enough nostalgia that it doesn’t matter.

Twizard Rating: 62

Quick Movie Review: On Your Marc (2017)

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If you’re like me and grew up with ’90s Nickelodeon, you have an intrinsic affinity for Marc Summers. He was like the face of the network back in the day, hosting perennial mainstays, like Double Dare, and the more forgotten about What Would You Do? A zeitgeist, if you will. You could say he was my childhood.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the world premiere of his documentary, On Your Marc. He was there in person–someone who I’ve always wanted to meet, yet always felt like I have. And that’s where this documentary seems to get it.

I’m not sure how to critique the film as someone who doesn’t know who the man is, because I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But as someone who grew up watching him on my TV set, I can tell this documentary seems to understand what else we’d like to know about someone who’s already an open book.

It isn’t a documentary in the strict biographical sense. Sure, it covers mostly everything in his life–dripping information here and there about meeting his wife, how he was inspired to be in the entertainment industry, his performance as a father when his kids were little, etc.–but focuses mostly on his later career, post-Nickelodeon. It’s not linear, yet you don’t feel robbed of his backstory.

Marc’s dreams in show business are rooted in theater, ever since attending a performance of Fiddler On the Roof as a child. So with this stage show, he’s one step closer to Broadway–a destination that’s never left his sight. As someone with seemingly unattainable goals for my own career in this industry, it tugs at my heart strings. It’s crazy to think that the person you look up to also feels like he hasn’t quite “made it” yet.

The main topics discussed are Summers’ lifelong struggle with OCD, reaching his ultimate career goal, and his recent bout with cancer. The film uses him prepping for his one-man theater show to underlie his story–interspersing it when necessary without focusing on it too much.

But the film isn’t always so serious. In fact, it’s quite funny. It mostly finds the comedy in all of this otherwise deep subject matter, with most of the humor coming from Marc’s natural wit–as he, himself narrates a big chunk of it. After all, Summers was a stand up comedian early on in his career. The documentary actually takes his lead, fitting right into his style.

It’s funny because you never felt before like you didn’t already know the man. He’s naturally such an open and real guy, you feel like you’ve always known him. You almost forget he’s a celebrity. But with this, his vulnerabilities come through even more–making him more real, if even possible.

And it’s all so beautifully candid that you barely even feel like it’s covering much ground. But sure enough, you walk out of the theater with a much more rounded out view of a person you’ve always loved anyway. When you leave, you feel like you may know almost as much as the filmmakers at this point. It’s truly an accomplishment.

The film is written and directed by Mathew Klickstein–a perfect choice. Years ago merely a passionate fan of ’90s Nickelodeon, he’s now the acclaimed author of Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age–since then, becoming good friends with Summers because of it. A genius? Perhaps. I just wish I thought of it first.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Wild Things (1998)

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If you take this film for what it is, it’s really entertaining. The plot twists not only surprise you, but move the story in different and unexpected directions each time.

Wild Things is towards the top of the guilty pleasures list for many movie fans. It can often be found right next to Showgirls and Grease. It’s not good because it’s good, it’s good because it’s not. Yet this one has something that those other two don’t–a pretty good story.

The premise starts out with Matt Dillon playing Sam Lombardo, a high school guidance counselor who is framed for rape by Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), the daughter of the richest family in town.

Right off the bat, the main theme seems to be how even the accusation of rape can haunt you for your whole life. It makes you think that this is where it’s going. Pretty interesting concept. We’re invested. But then it departs from that and proceeds to get absolutely insane.

Spoiler alert: There are a good amount of plot twists in this film. I won’t tell you what they are. But my review references their existence on several occasions.

The name of the game in this film is how many crazy plot twists can they fit into a 2 hour film. I’m not complaining. It’s a lot of fun. You usually don’t see them coming. Even when you think you’re starting to catch on, they throw you another curveball.

The constant twists create an unconventional narrative–placing beats in parts of the film you don’t expect them to be. The exposition is pretty roundabout, rather than being handed to us on a silver platter–even before all the craziness happens.

It’s really not as convoluted as it seems. If you stop to think about it, you can easily piece everything together. As opposed to some films that make themselves confusing so that you can’t see the plot holes. And Wild Things actually seems to avoid most of these anyway.

There’s another girl involved–Suzie (Neve Campbell), who comes out and says that Mr. Lombardo raped her as well. There’s also an obsessive cop, played by Kevin Bacon, and Mr. Lombardo’s attorney, who’s surprisingly played by Bill Murray.

The dialogue is pretty silly at moments, and the acting is marginal. But both Murray and Campbell stand out as far superior to the rest. At times, it’s like they’re reading from a completely different script altogether.

You can almost always tell when characters are lying–almost like the director does it intentionally. And due to the twisting and turning nature of the plot, it’s hard to establish any depth for the characters. The motives are usually suspect at best.

The film’s biggest downfall is perhaps the very thing that makes it enjoyable. We love the who-can-you-trust type of thrill, but at the same time it fails to give us a character we can actually like.

As much as we love that initial plot twist, part of us is sad to realize that everything before it is a lie. But then we realize that this whole film is all about who you can or can’t trust. That nobody is who they appear to be. The basis of liking this film depends on how well you can handle that fact.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: Blade Runner — The Final Cut (1982)

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I don’t deny Blade Runner’s influence on modern sci-fi. It brought the cyberpunk sub-genre to the film medium–creating the palette for what we still see in movies today. The visuals are superb and highly advanced for its time–even technically brilliant. It gets all its points from its aesthetics.

I’m just denying the fact that this movie is entertaining. I’m not trying to criticize Ridley Scott’s overall vision. It’s just not for me.

The world it’s set in is one we’ve seen many times in film since. Dystopian films are interesting. Especially futuristic ones. They’re a fun what-if scenario, as well as a comforting reality check of how bad this world could be. We also like seeing what creatives have in mind for our future, like flying cars, robots, etc. The futuristic films from the 1980s tend to be in a genre of their own. They showcase fun future elements while still being stuck with the ’80s mindset.

Blade Runner’s setting is fun, but at no point is this film fun to watch.

It’s set in Los Angeles in 2019. Our main character, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), is an ex-police officer–or blade runner–forced out of retirement in order to track down and kill bioengineered beings known as “replicants”. Replicants look and act exactly like humans, and were sent to an off-world colony to become slaves. But a small group of them have violently come back to Earth in attempts to extend their programmed 4-year lifespan.

At first you merely think the film is having a rough time setting up its already-convoluted premise, but we soon find out that the whole story is really much ado about nothing. The underlying themes are important, but the film doesn’t need all of its allotted time to get there. Maybe if the characters or events were interesting, we’d feel differently, but it seems the concept has taken precedent over the audience actually caring.

Along the way, Deckard befriends a more peaceful replicant, causing him to question his motives. But this isn’t all that obvious, as no one in this film seems to communicate properly or act rationally.

Blade Runner is unconventional. It isn’t Terminator or Mad Max. It doesn’t carry you at all. It’s not even plot driven. There aren’t any twists or dramatic turns, and we’re hardly invested in our characters. It has a point to make and that’s the only point.

It’s making a statement on how the humans and the robots may very well be indistinguishable in the sense that even the humans lack human qualities–perhaps even more so–yet the two species hate each other. But when your point is how humans lack humanity, then what’s going to make us care about our characters? In order for the point to be driven home, we have to be somewhat invested.

We get absolutely no backstory on Deckard, and no reason to really be interested in him. Where did he come from? Is he a robot too? We have no real reason to think otherwise. Even Ford can’t save this one.

Blade Runner is dated and sluggish. Many of the scenes feel unnecessary or just drag on far too long.

There’s no way this film’s pacing would fly nowadays without people branding the movie as pretentious or self-aggrandized. Critics apparently didn’t approve back then, but somehow its influence has made it a classic.

So for those of you who value ambiguity in movies you watch, you’ll likely enjoy Blade Runner. But entertaining, it isn’t.

I will say, however, that the last 5 minutes is somewhat thought-provoking and probably the deepest part of the film. It’s too bad the rest of it is an anti-climactic bore. A 2 hour build-up is hardly time well spent.

The two characters who meet during the climactic scene haven’t spoken or interacted for the entire duration of the movie, so when dramatics ensue, we feel robbed of what potentially could have been instead. We grasp at the emotions we should be feeling, but are consciously aware that it could have been much more if the plot was just rearranged a little bit. The payoff would have happened how it was supposed to have happened.

As an aside, the film’s score by Vangelis is one of the best I’ve heard. Also, Daryl Hannah’s performance is a standout as the twisted replicant, Pris Stratton. She’s so creepy and probably the most memorable part of the movie.

Twizard Rating: 72

Quick Movie Review: Battle of the Sexes (2017)

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You would think that an event of this magnitude would’ve gotten the theatrical treatment earlier. Well, that’s probably because the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, itself, wasn’t all that major. Sure, at the time it was a big spectacle, but some 40-odd years later, it’s news to most of us stepping into the theater for the first time.

But the Riggs v King match isn’t really the story the filmmakers want to tell you. In fact, it turns out to be sort of a McGuffin. There wasn’t even really a rivalry between Riggs and King. Most would say she was even aware that his “chauvinistic pig” persona was all an act for publicity. Her true beef was with Jack Kramer, the Executive Director of the ATP. And even that gets undermined because of a story that tries to say too much.

The movie starts off being about the struggle for women’s equal pay in the sport of Tennis, and ends up being more about King’s love life. This is all important to understanding who she is as a person, but only furthers the audience from the true importance of what actually happens historically. Barely anything else is said about King and the Original 9–who, in real life, end up establishing the Women’s Tennis Association. It just gets lost in the shuffle of everything else.

The film shows the other side of the scenario, letting us into the personal life of Riggs as well. To the point where we truly feel bad for him. He’s a gambling-addict who has issues in his relationship with his wife and kids. He has money, but he knows he has little else. We empathize with him. Then they flip the script halfway through–when the Battle of the Sexes match actually enters into the story–and make him somewhat of a villain. Like they weren’t sure exactly how they wanted you to feel about him. Or like they realized they were invoking a little too much pity.

The biggest issue is that this film isn’t quite sure what direction it wants to go. It tries covering too much ground at once–almost like a documentary is supposed to do. But this isn’t a documentary. It’s a scripted film, which has limited perspective and takes longer to say less.

The taboo love story between King and another woman overshadows the “rivalry” between King and Riggs–which is what we came for.

Pushing too many agendas almost does itself a disservice. It details much of King’s unfaithfulness to her husband–often times glorifying it. The more we see of King outside of fighting for women’s rights, the more we realize she’s not all that likable.

While watching the match between her and Riggs, part of me wants him to win. Not because he’s a man, but because I don’t care much for King as a person. Riggs has struggles in his life and he’s easy to root for. However, in the end, I know there’s something bigger at stake. Much bigger than preference over who’s a more likable person.

Those who are actually on the opposition of King winning have a case that even someone half paying attention would wonder why it isn’t addressed. King, at the prime of her career, is playing Riggs, who has been formally retired for over 12 years. Is it all that impressive? Wouldn’t it have shut up the opposition even more if she played, say, the current number 1 male player of the time? It’s an easy case to make, and it’s an odd choice for the filmmakers not to acknowledge this argument. At the very least out of curiosity of how it would’ve been responded to.

Many times when too much ground is covered in a film, things get a little sloppy. The audience tends to notice when small details go uncovered or if things seem out of place. The intent may have been to bombard the audience with an abundance of subplots so that they, in fact, don’t notice the little things.

On the upside, both Stone and Carell do a fine job in each of their respective roles. Stone is almost unrecognizable as King, transforming herself perfectly for the character. And Carell conquers the tumultuous, crazy nature of Riggs, making us both like him and annoyed by him. It’s still not quite enough to prevent this film from reaching its full potential.

Twizard Rating: 70

Quick Movie Review: American Made (2017)

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Tom Cruise often gets stigmatized as a guy who plays the same role a bunch of different times. This may be true in most cases. Some outliers, though, would be his character in the films Collateral, Far and Away, and a few others. And now, moviegoers can throw in American Made.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who gets recruited by the CIA to take secretive aerial photos of Central America amidst the Cold War in the late 1970s. He quickly finds himself running drugs to and from the States for the Medellin Cartel and Pablo Escobar.

In his most enjoyable performance in years, Cruise brings a different-than-normal charisma to his role. Usually, he plays a character that can’t be beat. You know he’s always going to be okay in the end. You know that if trouble comes, he’ll get out of it scot free. This is also something that can distance audiences from his characters, often coming off as unrelatable. But in American Made, he’s vulnerable, he’s likable, and he’s actually pretty funny.

There’s a very realistic dose of levity throughout the movie. Not like Wolf of Wall Street, where you feel like the humor is grossly over-exaggerated. Here, it’s as though Seal was an advisor during the script writing.

The special effects are very appropriate to the time being depicted. They feel practical. There are no real big explosions or chase scenes–something else out of the norm for a Tom Cruise film.

While being a statement on politics of the 1980s, American Made is also a lot of fun. It’s commentary is mostly ironic. While you’re laughing at the true events, you’re also realizing that they’re simply that.

The momentum builds the crazier it gets. The events start off slow, and the filmmakers refrain from creating any false suspense early on. Then it gets out of control and you feel it.

The only issue with this film is the lack of conscience of the characters involved. Cruise plays a likable guy. “He’s good people,” I’m pretty sure another character says at one point. Yet, he seems to have no qualms about helping out the supremely violent drug cartel in Colombia. However, he doesn’t seem to be in it for the money, because he’s constantly complaining about having more than he needs. He never really spends any of it. And he also never really makes it seem like he’s doing it because he’s too scared to leave, either. At one point, he expresses concern that he’s transporting weapons, but soon forgets about it, inexplicably. I suppose maybe we are to assume that he’s scared, but he never once seems like it. Whatever it is, it’s not nearly transparent enough for those of us invested.

But the film is really fun. It’s about as political a popcorn film can get without making you think too hard. Its narrative doesn’t skip any beats. And preserving the fluid tone is perhaps why we don’t get too much introspection on the lead character’s behalf–or anyone’s behalf for that matter. It gets its point across without it.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: Rocky IV (1985)

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When a movie is 90 minutes long, you assume that it either has not much to cover or it’s perfectly precise with every detail. This is Rocky, so you can nix the latter.

The story for the 4th installment is stretched way too thin, which is probably why there are so many montages–even for a Rocky film. At one point there’s a 2 minute long flashback montage to the tune of some generic ’80s song. It’s supposed to be Rocky reminiscing on his life and career, but some of the things don’t even make sense why he would be reminiscing about them, given the context. It’s really just a bunch of unconnected and randomly selected scenes splunched together recapping the series thus far–much like a TV show does towards the end of its run as an homage to its fans. It’s weird and out of place.

Although, the first training montage is perhaps the best we’ve gotten in this series so far.

Before I go on, my summary is going to reveal a spoiler. Since it occurs within the first 30 minutes of the film and propels the entire story, I think it’s important to mention.

Soviet fighter, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), comes to America to take on American talent. His people claim he’s the next big thing and that he can take down any US boxer without much of a fight. His punch registers more than double the PSI of an average heavyweight fighter. Apollo Creed takes this taunting personally and feels it’s his duty to defend America’s honor by fighting Drago.

Creed hasn’t fought in 5 years and comes out of retirement way too quickly. He gets carried away, rushing into the match without really training much beforehand. So when Drago punches Apollo during the match, it lands so hard that it kills him.

A death that should have been emotional ends up feeling comical. Creed definitely doesn’t get the proper treatment.

So Rocky, now furious, decides to take matters in his own hands and avenge Creed’s death–which is apparently a more important issue to him than surviving to be with his wife and son. He goes to Russia to train so he can beat the apparently unbeatable Drago. It’s a suicide mission.

Besides the dialogue being cheesy and having one too many sappy speeches, the script makes some questionable choices. For instance, one of Drago’s few lines not only is unnecessary, but it ruins the moment of Apollo’s death. In regards to Creed getting knocked out, the Soviet says, “If he dies, he dies.” It’s absurd! I mean, Drago has barely said a word, why not keep it that way? If anything, it would have been better if we got a bit later on where Rocky tries to get an apology from Drago and he refuses. Then, maybe, would it have justified Rocky’s vendetta. Otherwise, his rage just feels forced and contrived.

Rocky IV is uneventful and unnecessary. It’s like Stallone just ran out of creativity. He just loves this formula that he’s discovered so much that he uses it once again here. But this time, it feels much more empty. You can’t help but feel like Creed’s death is only there to justify the existence of another movie. Because it’s the only important thing that happens in this installment.

The rare bright spot in this film is the break-out performance of Lundgren. He remains stoic as long as necessary, truly making the audience believe that he’s actually an evil Soviet fighter. But his villainy will be mostly in vain.

Paulie is also very important in this story. While he was sort of obnoxious in the previous couple of movies, his presence helps ground the story amidst the craziness of the 1980s. His salt-of-the-earth nature constantly reminds us of Rocky’s humble roots–and of this film series’ humble roots. This nuance was undoubtedly inadvertent, however important.

But it’s not even close to enough to save this film. Where Rocky III is ’80s in its over-the-top silliness, bordering on fun, Rocky IV is ’80s in its attempt to solve the Regan-era Cold War politics–which it doesn’t.

At least the 3rd film redeems itself in the 2nd half. This one spirals into near-nothingness. It’s hardly any fun. It’s a movie that has contrived an event to kill off a character so that the other character can avenge the death of his friend, which didn’t even need to happen in the first place.

As much as I wasn’t crazy about Rocky III, I could watch it again. It’s entertaining. But with this one, I sat anxious waiting for it to end.

Twizard Rating: 53

Quick Movie Review: mother! (2017)

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Before stepping foot into a theater to watch mother!–if you actually decide to–you must know that this film is entirely an allegory. It’s not meant to be real. It’s meant to be told from the perspective of Mother Nature. I tell you this because if you don’t know this ahead of time, most of you will not understand what’s happening and the film will alienate you before you’re able to read into it.

And there is a lot to read into. This isn’t a film to just decide to throw on. It’s a piece of work. It’s exhausting. Something that you must dedicate some time afterward reflecting upon. Otherwise the 2 hours you spend watching it will be in vain. Or you could just not watch it. Which is what I would suggest.

I don’t mind a metaphorical film. Life of Pi is one of my favorites. But with mother! there is no humanity to tether down the film. You can relate to the protagonist’s plight and suffering, maybe, but not to the protagonist herself. The characters are human in appearance, but hardly act as a human actually would. It’s void of all emotion, dragging on for way too long as you sit there, tired, waiting to find out what the point of it all is.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother, who’s married to Javier Bardem’s character, who’s a struggling author. They live alone in a house in the country while Bardem is amidst a creative drought. Things are disrupted when an older married couple intrude on their lives and move in. Before this couple shows up, Lawrence and Bardem’s life together is supposed to be peaceful, but director, Darren Aronofsky, doesn’t really depict it this way. In fact, there is tension and suspense even before the couple shows up.

From there, a series of wild and nauseating events occur that I can’t even fully explain. It basically goes through the story of mankind from Adam and Eve to the apocalypse. It’s 2 hours, but feels like 3. It’s pretentious and honestly, not a film that should be widely distributed. There are art houses for a reason.

Aronofsky is creating an exploitation as someone must actually believe. If he didn’t, he would have no film. Why would he try to satirize followers of a being he doesn’t believe in.

The film isn’t an attack on Christians as much as it is an attack on those who claim to be Christian without knowing why. If it were an attack on Christians, it wouldn’t make much sense because then the film fails to show us what happens to those Christians who do obey and love their Creator. In his vision, there are no good people whatsoever. It depicts followers as mindless, yet doesn’t show what their reward is once they die. It doesn’t show the counterargument.

The metaphor, here, is taken too literally that, at times, we end up laughing at the ridiculousness or becoming frustrated with Lawrence’s willingness to put up with all this for as long as she does.

With all of it so carefully crafted, Aronofsky makes one mistake. Mother Nature isn’t in the Bible. In fact, it seems that he’s made Mother Nature and Mary, the Blessed Mother, as one in the same. Which wouldn’t make much sense because Mary is depicted as patient and kind, constantly vouching for humans’ actions, while his Mother Nature is wrathful and protective of Earth rather than the people living on it.

With films like Life of Pi, the main character is an actual human. We go through the entire film thinking that these events could have actually happened, only to find out at the end that perhaps it was all a metaphor.

mother! is different. The events in this film are so bizarre that we know they’re impossible. Not in a sci-fi kind of way, because a good sci-fi makes you feel like the events could actually happen. The metaphor in mother! is taken way too literally that nothing feels realistic. We sit there waiting for a human reason for why everything is happening, but we slowly get less of one. Metaphors only work when you can relate on a human level. This has the opposite of that.

The film is interesting enough until the second half, when Aronofsky decides to plummet the viewer into his own opinion of religion and Christians, themselves. Bardem’s character writes a piece of work (the Gospels), which is terribly misunderstood by his fans, causing them to go crazy and turn his house into a living hell.

The problem is, Aronofsky is criticizing people for acting upon a misunderstanding, yet he gives us something that is so abstract that it almost begs for us to misunderstand it.

He gives us a, many would say, sacrilegious piece of work all while criticizing those who exploit God. So is he condemning people? Or is he trying to leave it open to interpretation, himself exploiting the Creator?

The worst part is, if a filmmaker wanted to prove these points, he could have done so without making it so head-scratching and convoluted. Maybe then, the audience could actually understand his point. Because this film, unlike the Bible, isn’t significant enough for people to spend their lives trying to figure it out.

Twizard Rating: 42

Quick Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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“Spy films are only as good as their villains.” This is pretty accurate. And the Kingsman series knows this. The first film had Samuel L. Jackson in one of his most unique roles ever. This one gets arguably even better with Julianne Moore as the twisted Poppy Adams.

Poppy heads the world’s largest drug cartel and operates from a remote location in the middle of the Cambodian jungle. It doesn’t look quite like a jungle though. She’s created her own little utopian village carved out of her own obsession with the 1950s. It’s awesome. The set, alone, would make this film memorable.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to. The Kingsman sequel is filled with fun action–albeit cheesy–and the same craftily written dark levity that’s become very unique to this series. Like a twisted Tarantino film where you don’t actually witness all the violence. It lets you see some of the sadistic scenarios, then letting your imagination figure out the rest. But the humor is never too off-the-wall to where the oft-sappy tone seems out of place.

Kingsman 2 is very close to the first one in how good it is, but I think this one holds a slight edge. It’s less disjointed in its story–though the occasional sloppiness is still present. The film is so finely tuned, but there is a sort of lack of attention to detail that’s still evident–with both the script and the director. Although it’s usually innocuous, certain things are lazily missed. Or just dubious. Like, saying American Graffiti takes place in the 1950s, instead of the ’60s. Or forcing John Denver’s “Country Roads” into the movie by referencing it in relation to Kentucky–not West Virginia. Luckily these things don’t ruin the movie in the slightest. Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but these are really easy things to prevent.

Kingsman has a slightly different feel for a spy movie. It’s a lot more comic-booky in style. Perhaps due to it’s very specific sets and character attributes.

The film is really silly but also very, very cool. But it’s obviously a fan of the unrealistic. It works well for the action sequences, but not as much in the human situations. At one point, the two main characters are off-puttingly cheery following the death of their best friends and close colleagues. It’s an odd tonal shift.

Much like the first film, depth doesn’t come from the characters themselves. And anytime it does, it feels contrived. Here, it comes from the issues on drugs and drug use in the world. Poppy has laced all of her products with a virus that slowly kills whoever has used it. She has an antidote, but will only give it out if the country agrees to legalize the drugs. The President of the US sees this as an opportunity to get rid of the degenerates who use drugs. It’s obviously messed up, but it’s still interesting–and luckily improbable–food for thought. Whether the intention is to be deep or use it merely as a humorous choice for a conflict, it makes you think.

It’s also interesting to note that this is the 2nd Channing Tatum movie of the last few months to not only have John Denver’s “Country Roads” play a major part of the story, but to have his character living in Kentucky. Weird.

Twizard Rating: 92