BARE BONES: GRANDMA and FREAKS OF NATURE

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GRANDMA (2015)

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.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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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.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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REVIEW: SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

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SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Spring Breakers is a hard movie to review since it’s also hard to really nail down what the whole point of it is. We get 4 girls, the virginal Christian good girl, Faith (Selena Gomez) and her three friends the restless and volatile Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashley Benson) and tag-along Cotty (Rachel Korine). The 4 are all bored with school and desperate to go to Florida for Spring Break but, don’t have the money. Brittany and Candy hatch a plan to rob a local restaurant to get the cash to go and while good girl Faith is horrified, she goes to Florida on the stolen money with them anyway. What follows is a quick decent into decadence and drugs which lands all 4 in jail. But, the girls are bailed out by a charismatic  gangster rapper and drug dealer named, Alien (James Franco) who continues their downward spiral into moral disintegration. I have no problem watching a story about characters getting pulled into a life of crime and moral decay but, there has to be some point by the time our story ends. Spring Breakers through all it’s candy-colored, neon cinematography and music video style editing doesn’t seem to make one. Was the film a warning against such a moral decline or the lure of such a decadent life of indulgence?… or was it glorifying and reveling in it? The film was never clear. Writer/ Director Harmony Korine (wrote Kids, directed Gummo) gives us an interesting start with 4 seemingly normal college girls bored with their existence and lured by the gold and glory of the ‘Gangsta’ lifestyle but, the tale doesn’t go anywhere. The film’s moral center, Faith, leaves and goes home when she gets frightened by Alien and his gang of thugs and thus leaves her friends without a voice of reason and therefor they keep willingly getting deeper into a life of crime robbing their fellow Spring Breakers with Alien and challenging a rival drug lord. Again this would be interesting if it made a point by the time the credits roll but, it doesn’t. There is no lesson learned or statement made. Our lovely ladies pay little or no price for their actions and seem little affected by those around them who do. It’s like drugs, robbery and murder are all just part of the Spring Break fun and that’s that. So if there was a point or moral to this music video style crime thriller, it is too well buried under all the shots of the neon bathed Miami streets and the endless scenes of our nubile stars drugging, rolling around in money and with each other, to see it. On a positive note the cast are all very good with Franco giving a really strong performance as the Scarface wannabe Alien and Hudgens and Benson conveying the frustration of bored youth and then the euphoria of their adrenaline charged release through their newfound ‘Gansta’ lifestyle. Gomez nails the good girl going along for the ride very well and does especially well at presenting her terror as things get too deep for her to tolerate. The week link is Korine’s Cotty who seems to take a back seat to a lot of the action till a close call sends her home too. Her character was almost not needed as she seems to disappear from time to time to let Hudgens, Benson and Franco take center stage. Being director Harmony Korine’s wife, her role seems to be exactly that, of giving the wife a role in the film that doesn’t require her to actually get involved in the debauchery. All in all, I found Spring Breakers interesting and the photography of it’s beautiful leading ladies quite alluring but, it would have been a much better movie had there been an actual point to all that transpires. Having seen and enjoyed Gummo I do find Harmony Korine’s work interesting and he is not a conventional filmmaker but, even a maverick has to have a purpose.

2 and 1/2 naughty neon nymphs!

spring breakers rating

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