Written and directed by Paul Weitz, Grandma tells the story of cantankerous Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), an aging lesbian poet who has just ended a relationship with a younger woman (Judy Greer). On that same day she gets a visit from her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner)…obviously, Elle was married once…who needs over $600 for an abortion. The penniless Elle now begins a trek across L.A. to see friends, her ex-husband and ultimately, Sage’s mother, trying to raise the cash for her granddaughter’s procedure and unintentionally raising a little hell and learning something about herself, as well.
The performances in this flick are first rate, with Tomlin ruling the roost with her angry, volatile Elle and the film is well directed with some snappy dialog. It’s the story that fails to really involve the audience as it’s a just another ‘angry eccentric learning something about themselves’ flick. The film also tries way too hard to have all it’s liberal and indie film pieces in place with it’s story of an eccentric, lesbian poet helping her granddaughter get a *gasp* abortion story. It thinks it’s daring, but clear away the controversial topic and it’s just another journey of self-discovery movie about someone realizing they have let their inner pain sully their life. Elle is an interesting character, but one we’ve seen before, who comes to the same realizations that these types of grumpy characters usually do. Adding a pro-abortion element doesn’t make it any more new or daring. Also stars Sam Elliott and Marcia Gay Harden as Elle’s ex-husband and daughter respectively.
FREAKS OF NATURE (2015)
Dumb and dull horror/comedy takes place in the town of Dillford, renown for it’s rib sandwiches. Also, the community is made up of a mix of humans, vampires and zombies living in an uneasy harmony. When an alien spacecraft arrives, it creates a panic, which in-turn reignites old rivalries. As human, vampire and zombie are once again at each other’s throats, three high school kids, human Dag (Nicholas Braun), vampire Petra (Mackenzie Davis) and zombie Ned (Josh Fadem), are forced to work together to save all from the alien invasion.
This is a silly flick with a very convoluted concept and plot, that could have worked in more capable hands. It all boils down to the same “we can live together despite our differences” message we have seen so many times before and a bland use of it’s oddball story set-up. The film is goofy and gory and that would certainly be fine if it were also clever and funny. It’s just a bunch of ideas thrown in a blender with a half hour plot dragged out over 90 minutes. The action stops for long periods of character moping and once it’s over, you realize it went exactly where you expected it to from scene one. The SPFX are surprisingly good, as is the gore and at least the cast gets the tone of the weak material. As directed by Robbie Pickering and written by Oren Uziel, the film is basically a ho-hum mess, whereas somewhere inside it there might have been a fun midnight movie buried under all the mediocrity. Also stars Denis Leary, Joan Cusack, Patton Oswalt and the yummy Vanessa Hudgens as Dag’s hopeless pursuit turned vampire vixen.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)
We Are What We Are is Jim Mickle’s (Stake Land, Mulberry Street) remake of the 2010 Mexican horror of the same name by Jorge Michel Grau. And while I am not a fan of the original film… I found the premise intriguing but, the film boring and the characters very uninteresting… I am a fan of Jim Mickle so, I was curious to see what he did with Grau’s story. And having finally caught up with this film, I can honestly say I really like Mickle’s version much better. He has taken the basic story and made his own movie. And since this is the type of story that is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible going in, my plot description will be brief. The film takes place in a small rural town where not only a massive storm and flood hits but, the Parker family tragically loses their matriarch. The family is in an obvious emotional tailspin over her death but, things are about to get worse. For the Parkers are a family with a dark secret that has been hidden for generations but, this dark secret may soon be brought into the light as receding flood waters may bring things to the surface that the Parkers would like to have remained hidden.
Mickle once again scripts with writer/actor Nick Damici who also appears as Sheriff Meeks. Where I felt that Grau’s film concentrated more on the drama between thinly written family members, Mickle center’s his film on the more interesting part, which is the the dark secret that the Parkers are harboring and the slow burn as it appears it’s about to unravel. The family elements are addressed here and Mickle does give us more interesting characters but, the film concentrates more on the act of fate that begins to bring unwanted attention to the family and the gruesome possibility that their home is a house of horrors and one about to be discovered. Something this recently wounded family is not ready to deal with. This gives Mickle’s version a slow building tension the other film lacked and Mickle is very good at building that subtle tension and giving the film a pervading atmosphere that something is not quite right. He accents this with his distinct visual style which is refreshingly subtle when compared to a lot of today’s editing FX happy filmmakers. The film is not about big scares and gory horror… though there are moments when the film gets gruesome but, most of all it’s about keeping the viewer very unsettled until it’s time to outright disturb or shock us. So, overall the film is a slow burn but, one that keeps you interested and edgy until it’s time to crank things up. The only real flaw here is more from the fact that it is a remake so, some of the impact of what occurs is lost when it adheres to the original story. If you haven’t seen the original then this should not be an issue. For me it did lessen the effect of some of the scenes I was familiar with. But, Mickle does make up for a lot of it with a good cast and he gets good work out of his actors. We have Bill Sage who’s solid as the family father Frank who seems a little off even before we know what is going on. Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner are very effective as teen daughters Iris and Rose as they now must handle the ‘duties’ the death of their mother left in their charge. Michael Parks is very good, as always, as Doc Barrows, the man who starts to feel there is something very wrong going on in the Parker house and that something might be connected to the disappearance of his daughter. Rounding out the cast is veteran actress Kelly McGillis as neighbor Marge, Wyatt Russell as Deputy Anders and young Jack Gore as the youngest Parker, Rory.
While I may still prefer Mickle’s previous two films, this is still strong work from a director who I have felt since first watching Mulberry Street, was one worth keeping an eye on. He and collaborator Nick Damici continue to make interesting movies in their own style and it’s a very back to basics style in an era of CGI and computer editing software FX. And to me I find the old school approach very refreshing. A tense, disturbing chiller from a man who continues to impress on the independent horror scene and for once a remake that improves upon it’s source material.
3 solid bones!