Film Review: Animals (dir by Collin Schiffli)


Animals

Animals is a pretty depressing movie and I guess that’s appropriate since it’s a movie about two heroin addicts.  The script was written by David Dastmalchian, who also plays the role of Jude.  Reportedly, he based the script on his own experiences with drug addiction.  As a result, Animals is one of those movies that is full of believable details.  I’ve never used heroin and I don’t think I ever would.  However, even if there was a chance that I would touch heroin, Animals would probably change my mind.  It’s a seriously dark movie.

And don’t get me wrong — that’s a good thing.  If you’re going to make a movie about two people slowly killing themselves as a result of their drug addiction, the movie probably should be a bit on the dark side.  But, at the same time, that doesn’t necessarily make Animals a lot of fun to watch.

The film tells the story of Jude and his girlfriend, Bobbie (Kim Shaw).  They both come from upper middle class backgrounds, they’re both obviously well-educated (it’s suggested that Jude may have gone to medical school), and — even in the throes of drug addiction — they’re both still attractive enough that they can still blend in with “mainstream” society.  As we see, in a handful of flashbacks, they once owned a comfy apartment together.  Now, they live in a car that they park outside of the Chicago Zoo.  Jude and Bobbie spend most of their time trying to figure out how they’re going to make enough money to get their next fix.

And the best parts of the film are the parts that deal with Jude and Bobbie tricking unsuspecting people out of their money.  As tedious as Jude and Bobbie’s addiction-centered existence may sometimes be, it’s hard not to admire their determination.  Their schemes range from the simple to the complex.  They go to weddings and steal the gifts.  Pretending to be a high-priced online prostitute, Bobbie goes to men’s houses and, after grabbing their money, runs outside where Jude waits for her in a running car.  (Needless to say, none of the men are willing to risk the public shame of calling the police and admitting to how they met Bobbie in the first place.)  Probably their most impressive scheme involves tricking a mall security guard into splitting the reward money for finding a stolen laptop.  Jude and Bobbie are so good at cheating people that you do end up regretting that they couldn’t put their obviously intelligence to less self-destructive uses.

Eventually, of course, one of the two has an overdose and gets taken to the hospital.  For the first time, the two of them are separated and forced to realize just how destructive and co-dependent their relationship really is.  Will they stay apart and get clean or will true love (and heroin addiction) conquer all?

There’s a really harrowing scene in which Jude and Bobbie are harassed by some undercover cops who turns out to be just as brutal as the drug dealers that they claim to be fighting.  And both Shaw and Dastmalchian give good performances.  Even John Heard gets to play a character who isn’t a scheming and corrupt government official.  There’s a lot to admire about the film but, ultimately, it’s so dark and depressing that it’s difficult to recommend.  Unlike a film like Trainspotting, there’s not much going on underneath the grimy surface.  On the basis of their work here, I’ll watch anything else that Schiffli, Shaw, and Dastmalchian do but Animals is one of those films where one viewing is more than enough.

Film Review: Antboy: Revenge Of The Red Fury (2014, dir. Ask Hasselbalch)


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Well apparently, it doesn’t matter what I watch. It can be softcore porn. It can be a Disney Channel movie. It can be a family entertainment cash-in film. It can even be a Danish kids superhero movie. Regardless, it will always include invisibility in it. I don’t know why, but it appears to be true.

Moving onward, back in July one of my first reviews here was for a Danish superhero movie called Antboy. Took me a few months to get back to it, but I’m now reviewing the sequel. Yes, his piss is still acidic. Honestly, they could have renamed this movie Antboy: Young Love Is A Bitch. The film opens up with Antboy stopping a robbery. Then they go to the movies.

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For those of you who haven’t seen the first film. This is a superhero franchise that acknowledges the existence of other superheroes in comics and films. Also, look at the names of the two movies playing. Not since I watched The Amazing Wizard of Paws (2015) have I seen a director shameless plug one of his movies within another one of his movies. Only difference is that this movie is fun, whereas The Amazing Wizard of Paws is pretty bad.

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That’s Antboy/Pelle (Oscar Dietz) on the right and his girlfriend Ida (Amalie Kruse Jensen) on the left. I really only put that screenshot there to make sure you notice the obvious size difference between the two actors. There are at least two times when this movie bumps up against a barrier. In the case of their size difference, it’s that they obviously didn’t have the money to convincingly have Antboy carry her near the end of the film. But they work around that nicely.

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This is Antboy’s friend and sidekick Wilhelm (Samuel Ting Graf). Wilhelm has come up with a solution so that Antboy can stop destroying toilets every time he needs to pee. However, given that this isn’t child porn, they can’t actually show him use that thing. Honestly, they don’t answer how that works till the end of the movie. Until then, you wonder, does he pee into that little bit at the end of that capsule? The look on Antboy’s face when his friend shows it to him makes you think that.

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This is Maria (Astrid Juncher-Benzon). Antboy rescues her on an ice rink from some hockey guys who were harassing her. To say she has a crush on Antboy is a drastic understatement considering the remainder of this film. Just take a look.

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He doesn’t help things by saying he’s going to show up at a party as Antboy, but changes out of the costume, thus standing her up. To say she’s angry is also an understatement. Let’s introduce her dad.

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That red thing he’s wearing is supposed to make him invisible, but it doesn’t. Well, it doesn’t work yet. After abandoning it, Maria finds it in the trash can and it sort of springs to life. I don’t remember if there was a reason or if it just happened. Now she gets to work transforming it into a full fledged uniform.

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I’m sure that uniform isn’t supposed to remind us of Iron Man in slightest even though it’s power comes from a circular thing on it and it is all red.

That makes up the rest of this movie. Basically her trying to get even with Antboy, then going too far after her father ends up getting injured. At that point, she visits The Flea in prison and helps him. Not to break out, but to turn two twin boys into killing machines to go after Antboy.

If you don’t want the ending, then stop here, but it’s not much of a spoil anyways. You already know what that is, but here’s a screenshot to separate this from that.

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In the end, when Antboy is on his last legs with the terrible twosome, he is able to get a change of heart out of her. A part of me wishes she had come around earlier, but considering the setup, I don’t think I would have bought it if it hadn’t come down to a life or death situation. All that needs to be said is that Antboy not only has an ally, but there are now two superheroes in the Antboy universe dishing out justice. She is the Red Fury.

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I’m pretty sure that suit only gives her the power of invisibility, but you probably can’t convince this guy of that…

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because she kicks the crap out of him. I’m just going to assume the suit helps her or that Danish women are just not to be messed with. Probably both.

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Is it as good as the first? No, I don’t think so. But it’s still pretty fun, and I will definitely watch the third one, which is apparently set for 2016.

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“Superman : American Alien” #1 — Revisionism Or Revival?


Trash Film Guru

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Ever since the first solicits for the new seven-part mini-series Superman : American Alien started showing up several months ago, I’ve been unsure what to make of the whole enterprise — sure, the line-up of talent involved is impressive, particularly on the artistic side, but do we really need another re-telling of The Man Of Steel’s origin? And, furthermore,  is that what this book even is?

Apparently DC “suits” got in touch with screenwriter Max Landis (of Chronicle and American Ultra fame, among others) a couple of years back after being reasonably impressed by his short film The Death And Life Of Superman (which is more than a tad ironic given that one of the things Landis seems to relish doing in that movie is pointing out the various gaping plotholes contained within that legendary story arc of the same name) and offered him carte blanche to write the…

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Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 2 “Bait”


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So, I finally got a chance to watch Bait, the second episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, and you know what?  It will probably never happen because this isn’t exactly a traditional awards-bait show and, if the somber and ultraserious Walking Dead can’t get any Emmy love, I doubt that Ash vs. Evil Dead will ever do any better.  But, seriously, Mimi Rogers totally deserves an Emmy for her performance in Bait.

I’m not sure which category she would win for.  I guess Best Actress in a Comedy Series, though I think it’s a bit too simplistic to say that Ash vs. Evil Dead is just a comedy.  It’s true that Ash vs. Evil Dead is full of funny moments and Bruce Campbell can make me laugh just by narrowing his eyes but, at the same time, there’s some pretty dark stuff going on in this “comedy.”  And the Deadites are genuinely scary!  It’s not just the makeup and the voices.  There’s also the fact that they come to us in the form of the people that we love and, more often than not, they reveal the inner demons of our loved ones.

I mean, think about it.  What if you had to choose between becoming a zombie or becoming a Deadite?  I think I’d rather be a zombie.  After all, a zombie is just a walking body.  You may recognize the body but you know that the soul and the mind are no longer there.  If I became a zombie, you could shoot me in the head without worrying about hurting my feelings.  In fact, I wouldn’t even know that I was a zombie.  And, if someone I loved became a zombie, I’m pretty sure that I could put them down if I had to.  Because, again, a zombie is just a body without a personality.  I mean, zombies can’t even talk!

But Deadites — oh my God!  No way would I want to become one of those.  Deadites still have a personality.  You can’t shut them up.  Up until they start drooling and talking in that evil voice, Deadites can still act like human beings.  That false hint of lingering humanity would make it impossible for me to kill a Deadite.

I guess that’s why we’re lucky to have Ash Williams around.  Ash is infamous for not being particularly smart but, as the Evil Dead franchise continually reminds us, his stupidity is his greatest strength.  Ash doesn’t get caught up in the specifics.  He doesn’t worry about the why.  Instead, he just does what he has to do.  He’s a blue-collar hero, in his way.

As for the 2nd episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, it featured Ash and Pablo saving Kelly from her Deadite mom, played by Mimi Rogers.  It took Ash a while to convince Kelly that her mom was actually a Deadite.  In fact, Kelly didn’t really believe it until her mom stabbed her father in the eye with a fork.

What made this episode especially memorable was that Kelly’s mom was almost as scary when she was normal as when she was a Deadite.  The scene where Ash, Pablo, Kelly, and the parents had an awkward dinner together was full of cringe-worthy moments.  It was obvious that there were problems in the family even before mom killed dad.  Becoming a Deadite allowed Kelly’s mom the chance to express her true feelings towards everyone.

Fortunately, Ash was there with his trusty chainsaw.

And, happily, he’ll be back on Saturday as well!

Which is good because Ash Williams may be our only hope…

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James Bond Film Review: SPECTRE (dir by Sam Mendes)


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(SPOILERS)

Three years ago, Arleigh, Leonard, Chris Mead, and I reviewed every single James Bond films up to Skyfall.  Leonard often refers to this as being our Avengers moment and it remains one of my fondest memories of my time here at the Shattered Lens.  It really doesn’t matter who is playing the role or what the villain’s evil plan may be, or whether the individual film was made in the 60s or just last year, the Bond films are a lot of fun.  Some of them are better than others.  Sometimes, you get lucky and you get something like For Your Eyes Only and sometimes you have to settle for Die Another Day.  Ultimately, every Bond film is an event and, in many ways, they are critic proof.  As long we hear the iconic music, as long as Bond gets a few good quips, as long as the villain chuckles while explaining his evil plan, as long as there’s an exciting chase and a big explosion, and as long as there’s a lot of gorgeous clothes to look at and at least one tastefully lit sex scene, most viewers will be happy.

If it’s not broken…

Most viewers will probably be happy with SPECTRE, the latest Bond film.  I saw the film yesterday and, even if it won’t ever make my list of top ten Bond films, I enjoyed it.  Daniel Craig is back as Bond, Christoph Waltz fulfills his destiny by becoming the 9th actor to play the iconic villain Blofeld, Dave Bautista is a properly intimidating henchman, and Lea Seydoux is the strongest Bond girl since Eva Green.  One thing that I especially appreciated about the film is that, in the roles of M, Miss Moneypenny, and Q, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw are actually given an opportunity to get involved in the film’s action and all three of them are a lot of fun to watch.  The film has an absolutely brilliant opening, featuring Bond assassinating a man in Mexico City and destroying a city block in the process.  There’s an exciting chase scene, there’s a few moments of genuine wit, and there’s even one of those patented Bond train journeys, where sex and violence are mixed with intoxicating results.  And yes, the clothes are to die for…

To Die For

To Die For

It’s good and undeniably enjoyable in so many ways and yet somehow, SPECTRE still left me feeling slightly disappointed.  Some of that is because SPECTRE exists in the shadow of Skyfall.  After Skyfall (which I feel should have been one of the films nominated for best picture of 2012), expectation were sky high for SPECTRE.  Those expectations were so high that there was no way that SPECTRE could have hoped to meet them.  (You could argue that Quantum of Solace faced the same problem when it had to follow Casino Royale.)  SPECTRE is no Skyfall but, then again, few films are.

Speaking of high expectations, I think we were all expecting Christoph Waltz to be one of the best Bond villains.  After all, Waltz is a legitimately great actor and he specializes in the type of cheerful arrogance that has epitomized some of Bond’s greatest antagonists.  (One can easily imagine Waltz playing Auric Goldfinger.)  Add to that, Waltz is playing Blofeld, the ultimate Bond bad guy.  As it is, Waltz gives a good performance but SPECTRE‘s Blofeld just isn’t that interesting.  He has a lot more in common with the generic baddie from Quantum of Solace than with Goldfinger or the fascinated Raoul Silva of Skyfall.

As well, it wasn’t just enough for Blofeld to be the leader of a secret organization bent on world domination.  It wasn’t enough that Blofeld was secretly responsible for everything that happened in Casino Royale, Quantum, and Skyfall (which, as much as some critics have complained about this particular plot twist, is actually a clever reference to Blofeld’s shadowy presence in all of Sean Connery’s Bond films).  For some reason, the film’s writers decided it would be a good idea to make him Bond’s jealous stepbrother.  Blofeld’s past relationship to Bond feels incredibly superfluous.  I like to think that I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief (especially when it comes to a Bond film) but I have to admit that I found myself rolling my eyes while Blofeld talked about how jealous he was when Bond came to live with his family.

We all know it's you, Christoph...

We all know it’s you, Christoph…

(As well, Blofeld’s jealousy was a bit too reminiscent of Raoul Silva’s jealousy of Bond.  It worked in Skyfall because we weren’t expecting a Bond villain to have a vulnerable side and Javier Bardem’s perversely charismatic performance caught the viewers off guard.  In SPECTRE, it just feels like something that should have been eliminated during a rewrite.)

Daniel Craig, of course, is the sixth actor to officially play the role of James Bond.  It’s always interesting to see how each actor interprets the role.  The most successful Bond films are always built around the actor’s individual interpretation.  For instance, it would be difficult to imagine Roger Moore in any of Sean Connery’s Bond films and, at the same time, it would be hard to imagine Sean Connery in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Sean Connery was the Ruthless Bond.  George Lazenby was the Insecure Bond.  Roger Moore was the Bemused Bond.  Timothy Dalton was the Boring Bond.  Pierce Brosnan was the Suave Bond.  Depending on which one of his films you see, Daniel Craig is either the Professional Bond or the Whiny Bond.  SPECTRE continues the pattern that we’ve seen in the previous Craig films of presenting a James Bond who is struggling to balance his humanity with his job.  When it works, like in Skyfall, it’s riveting.  When it doesn’t work, like in Quantum of Solace, it runs the risk of getting rather tedious.  SPECTRE finds Craig in between those two extremes.  It’s an uneven performance.  Craig and Seydoux have great chemistry and the scenes where Craig interacts with Fiennes, Harris, and Whishaw are fun to watch.  But there are other scenes where Daniel Craig just comes across like he’s bored with the whole thing.  Craig’s Bond has spent four films trying to figure out how he feels about his job.  If Craig returns for a fifth film (and, as of right now, that seems to be a big if), he will hopefully have finally gotten over it.

(That said, SPECTRE was definitely written for Craig’s bond.  At the end of the film — SPOILER, obviously — Bond has the choice between executing a man in cold blood or allowing the authorities to arrest him.  Craig allows the man to be arrested.  Connery would have put a bullet in his head and then smirked about it.)

He totally would...

He totally would…

And if it seems that I’m being critical of SPECTRE — well, I am.  It’s one of the more uneven films in the Bond franchise, one that especially suffers when compared to some of the other spy films (Kingsman, MI: Rogue Nation) released this year.  But, at the same time, SPECTRE does deliver the basics of what we expect from a Bond film.  It’s entertaining and it has its fun moments.  It’s no Skyfall but at least it’s better than Quantum of Solace.

Incidentally, I want to be Lea Seydoux when I grow up...

Incidentally, I want to be Lea Seydoux when I grow up…

Other Bond Reviews on TSL:

  1. Casino Royale (TV version)
  2. Dr. No
  3. From Russia With Love
  4. Goldfinger
  5. Thunderball
  6. You Only Live Twice
  7. Casino Royale (excessive version)
  8. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  9. Diamonds Are Forever
  10. Lisa’s Review of Live and Let Die
  11. Arleigh’s Review of Live and Let Die
  12. The Man With The Golden Gun
  13. The Spy Who Loved Me
  14. Moonraker
  15. For Your Eyes Only
  16. Octopussy
  17. Never Say Never Again
  18. A View To A Kill
  19. The Living Daylights
  20. Licence to Kill
  21. Goldeneye
  22. Tomorrow Never Dies
  23. The World Is Not Enough
  24. Die Another Day
  25. Casino Royale (Craig version)
  26. Quantum of Solace
  27. Skyfall