Remake, reboot, or whatever you want to call it, of the classic 1988 Child’s Play upgrades (or downgrades?) Chucky from a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer to a doll with a sabotaged A.I. As such, it actually isn’t a bad flick, as we find single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) wanting to get her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a new Buddi doll for his birthday. When a defective one is returned to the store she works at, she takes it home for him. The needy doll dubs itself Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) and soon starts to exhibit unusual behavior. This behavior soon escalates into cursing, violence and then murder, in protection of his pal Andy. When Andy tries to get rid of him, Chucky becomes a vengeful little Buddi, a friend till the end…which may come soon for Andy and anyone close to him.
Lars Klevberg directs well from a script by David Katzenberg and despite being unnecessary, as the two recent, old school Chucky movies were really good, it is an effective and entertaining horror. Making Chucky a doll with an Alexa-like A.I. is less spooky on one level, but creepy on another, as Chucky can control any item made by his home company, The Kaslan Corporation, such as lights, smart phones, televisions, cars and other toys. Mark Hamill is a solid successor to Brad Dourif and makes Chucky his own. The actor gives him a personality and is quite scary when Chucky starts to unravel due to a vengeful factory employee turning off his safety features. Gabriel Bateman is good as Andy and is likable. The added caveat of him being hearing impaired, doesn’t really affect the story much and just gives an excuse for him to be a bit of a loner. Plaza is fine as mom, Karen, though seems a bit too young to have a thirteen-year-old son. There is a throwaway line about her getting knocked-up at her sweet sixteen party to explain it, but not sure what the point in casting her was other than being the subject of hot mom lines. The flick has a lot of gore, when it gets going and things do move quickly during the 90-minute running time. It’s got some good suspense and has some fun with its carnage. While Don Mancini’s killer doll will always remain the classic horror icon, this retread is actually a bloody good time when given a chance and taken on its own merits.
Indie comedy-drama tells the tale of emotionally disturbed and Instagram obsessed Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza). Upon release from an institution for assaulting one of her Instagram “friends” at her wedding, Ingrid finds her mom has died and left her a large sum of money. The deranged young woman decides to use the money to move out to L.A. to get closer to another Instagram obsession, internet socialite Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). The two bond, but as Ingrid’s web of lies and obsessive behavior get the best of her, the situation predictably crumbles.
Boring and pretentious flick is directed by Matt Spicer from a predictable script by he and David Branson Smith. It’s supposed to be a satire on the shallowness of internet friendships and how they are taken far too seriously by some. The point is made, but the film is just so predictable and takes itself far too seriously when they could have had a lot more fun with the concept. It’s a tedious flick with a lead character who is creepy and unlikable and that would be fine if at least we liked and sympathized with Olsen’s Taylor. She, however is shallow and self-centered and just as unlikable, so we have no one, except maybe Ingrid’s Batman obsessed landlord (O’Shea Jackson Jr) to become emotionally invested in…and he’s just a supporting character. For this to have stronger emotional investment on our parts, we’d have to sympathize with someone, but we don’t and it leaves us distant and uncaring about whatever is unfolding…and even there, we know what’s coming long before it does. A dull movie with Plaza in another cookie cutter performance as a social misfit/oddball character.
Decided to focus this double feature on two charming and very entertaining indie comedy/dramas that might have flown a bit under the radar but, have familiar faces, good performances and are refreshingly un-Hollywood…
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012)
Safety Not Guaranteed is a really entertaining and offbeat romantic comedy from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly that tells the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) an intern at a high profile Seattle based magazine whose first assignment is to assist self-centered reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) in writing a piece on a man who placed a personal ad looking for a time travel companion. While Jeff uses the story as an excuse to look up an ex-girlfriend who lives in the area (Jenica Bergere), Darius befriends the placer of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and soon finds a bond with the eccentric and lonely man. Director Trevorrow crafts a sweet and quirky tale of two loners who find each other over some very strange circumstances. And while the film sometimes plays like a drama, there are some laugh out loud bits and there is always an offbeat humor running underneath. The cast do really well in bringing their eclectic characters to life with Plaza and Duplass doing a great job of showing the progression of two people learning to trust each other and then discovering much deeper feelings as they get to know each other. We get to watch a sweet relationship form between these two lost souls all the while being teased with the notion that maybe Kenneth may not be so crazy after all… or maybe he is. The other subplot between Jeff and Liz also shows a sweeter side of the cocky Jeff and possibly humbles him a bit as well and is nicely realized by actor Johnson. To elaborate anymore would be to spoil a really nice indie flick that has some pleasant surprises. Also stars Kristen Bell as woman with ties to Kenneth and Karan Soni as accompanying intern Arnau, who Jeff decides to motivate out of his shell. A quirky, original and entertaining indie.
3 and 1/2 hearts!
TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011)
One of my favorite things about this charming indie drama was that I really enjoyed was just how real the relationships in the film came across. Writer/director Sarah Polley creates a freshness and realness to this story of a happy young married couple Margo (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) whose happy life is challenged when Margo meets and falls for neighbor and artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby). Margo thought she had what she wanted but, the free spirited Luke makes her question whether she is really happy with Lou or just thinks she’s happy. As Lou becomes focused on writing a cookbook, Margo begins to explore what she really wants… or is it. And that’s the thing that I felt was so real about this charming little movie. Margo’s answers are never clear as in life they sometimes aren’t. Are we really happy or just convincing ourselves to settle for what we have? Is it human nature to always think there is something better for us out there and thus were never are truly content or satisfied? These are true life questions and questions we ask ourselves as we watch Margo pursue a course which could cost her everything. And, of course there is the age old question, of the grass always appearing greener. I really enjoyed how director Polley gave the film a very refreshing style and really made the characters seem like real people. They all have their little quirks and habits and they make decisions based on emotions and are sometimes selfish and not careful about hurting those around them… and they don’t always know what they really want. The performances are strong across the board with Michelle Williams giving another great characterization of the almost childlike Margo, who’s very likable despite her selfish pursuits. Seth Rogen surprises as Lou, a man who obviously loves Margo but, has his own goals and is a little too focused on such to notice his wife is troubled. Luke Kirby is good as the artist Daniel who, much like Margo, decides to selfishly pursue their attraction despite knowing she is married and he will likely undo that. Rounding out the main characters is a perfectly cast Sarah Silverman as Lou’s sarcastic alcoholic sister Geraldine. All in all, this is a refreshingly un-Hollywood indie that takes a look at real people with real emotions making real and sometimes selfish and stupid decisions. Something we are all guilty of and that’s why we can identify with these people and how love or, what we think is love, can be such a confusing factor in our lives. And, most of all, is there such a thing as true happiness or is it an illusion we create ourselves? A very interesting drama that does have a quirky sense of humor to go along with the more serious moments. Also loved director Polley’s visual style and how she made use of the film’s charming Canadian neighborhood locations.