Film Review: Boot Camp (dir by Christian Duguay)


Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you come across a film that so totally and completely conforms to your own worldview that you’re forced to wonder if maybe you wrote the script and then somehow forgot about it.

That was certainly the case, for me, when I recently watched 2008’s Boot Camp, a teen melodrama with an anti-authoritarian subtext.  Check out the trailer:

In Boot Camp, Mila Kunis plays Sophie.  Sophie is rich and, in the eyes of her parents, out of control.  She talks back.  She sneaks out of the house.  She hangs out at all the wrong clubs and with all the wrong people.  You know the story.  We’ve all seen the talk shows.  Sophie’s parents are convinced that the only way that they can get Sophie under control is to exile her to what the film calls a “tough love boot camp.”

The boot camp is located on an island, just a few miles away from a luxurious resort.  From the minute Sophie arrives, she is told that escape is impossible and she can only leave after the facility’s founder, Dr. Arthur Hall (Peter Stomare), says that she can.  Some people have been at the camp for years, waiting for Dr. Hall to announce that they’re rehabilitated.

The rest of the film follows Sophie and several other inmates as they try to survive boot camp without surrendering their free will.  It’s not easy.  Though he is more than happy to take their money, Dr. Hall resents the parents and his program is mostly designed to brainwash the inmates into thinking of him as being their new father figure.  The camp is staffed with brutes, sadists, and rapists.  When one inmate drowns, the staff tries to cover up his death.  Eventually, like the inhabitants of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Sophie and the other inmates have no choice but to rise up in rebellion against their masters.

“Tough love boot camps” are a real thing.  They used to be hugely popular with daytime talk show audiences and I know that Dr. Phil still has a ranch to which he sends “out of control” teens.  (I put “out of control” in quotes because, often times, it seems that “out of control” is code for “thinking for yourself.”)  The idea is that rebellious teenagers are sent to the camp, where they get yelled at until they agree to stop being so rebellious.  Over the years, there’s been a lot of debate over whether boot camps actually work.  If I had been sent to a boot camp, I think I would have just lied about my feelings and put on a repentant good girl act just to get the yelling to stop.  I’d be perfectly humble and contrite for three months and then, as soon as I got out of the camp, I’d go back to sneaking out of the house, skipping school, shoplifting, doing drugs, and whatever else got me sent to the camp in the first place.  From what I’ve seen of the whole boot camp experience, it seems to be more about brainwashing than anything else.  What’s the point of having well-behaved children if they can’t think for themselves?

But, then again, boot camps have never really been about  helping the teenagers sent to them.  Instead, they’ve always been about making lousy parents feel better about themselves.  Parents who have spent the last 14 years totally fucking up their children get to pat themselves on the back because they sent their kids to boot camp.  Other adults, bitter over having lost their youth, get to say, “It’s time to teach those ungrateful children to respect authority.”  As for the people who run the boot camps, it’s less about the inmates and more about power and money.

That’s certainly the message of Boot Camp.  In fact, I was taken by surprise to discover just how much Boot Camp conformed to my own thinking on … well, on just about everything.  Make no mistake, Boot Camp is a flawed film.  There’s nothing subtle about Christian Duguay’s direction and, with the exception of Mila Kunis, none of the performances are as memorable as you might hope that they would be.  Peter Stomare is way too obvious in his villainy, giving a performance that belongs in the Overacting Hall Of Fame.  (You’ll find Stomare’s Dr. Hall in the villain wing, right next to Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE.)

But, even with all that in mind, it was impossible for me not to get excited when Sophie and her fellow out-of-control teens finally made their move against their tormentors.  The final third of Boot Camp turns into a celebration of disobedience and rebellion and it was impossible for me not to be thrilled by it.  Considering the increasingly Orwellian nature of American culture, we need more movies that celebrate revolution and individual freedom.  At a time when we’re being told that we “have to do this” or “have to do that,” Boot Camp says, “Nobody has to do anything, beyond what they choose.”

It’s an important message and one that people need to start heeding.

 

Here Are the Reliably Boring Razzie Nominations!


Yawn!  The Razzies are always so boring!  Here are this year’s predictable nominations.  Talk about them on twitter and impress your friends.

Worst Picture
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Pixels

Worst Director
Andy Fickman, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tom Six, Human Centipede 3
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actor
Johnny Depp, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler, The Cobbler and Pixels
Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actress
Katherine Heigl, Home Sweet Hell
Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mortdecai

Worst Supporting Actor
Chevy Chase, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Vacation
Josh Gad, Pixels and The Wedding Ringer
Kevin James, Pixels
Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Supporting Actress
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip and The Wedding Ringer
Rooney Mara, Pan
Michelle Monaghan, Pixels
Julianne Moore, Seventh Son
Amanda Seyfried, Love the Coopers and Pan

Worst Screenplay
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Kelly Marcel, Fifty Shades of Grey
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending
Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, Pixels

Worst Remake or Sequel
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Human Centipede 3
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Screen Combo
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four
Johnny Depp and his glued-on mustache, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James and either his Segway or glued-on mustache, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes, The Cobbler

Razzies Redeemer Award
Elizabeth Banks
M. Night Shyamalan
Will Smith
Sylvester Stallone

Film Review: Blood Ties (dir by Guillame Canet)


So, there’s this fucking movie called Blood Ties and it’s about a lot of fucking guys who live in fucking New York City in the fucking 70s and they’re all kind of a bunch of fuck-ups but they all know how to fucking use the word fuck as both an adjective and an adverb.  That’s the main impression that I took away from Blood Ties, a film that feels a lot like a mash-up of Place Beyond The Pines and every Martin Scorsese film ever made.

The year is 1974.  After serving several years on a murder conviction, 50 year-old Chris (Clive Owen) has been released from prison.  Chris’s transition back into society is a bumpy one.  For one thing, his ex-girlfriend (Marion Cotillard) is now a prostitute and refuses to let Chris see his children.  Though he gets a new girlfriend (Mila Kunis), he still finds himself struggling to hold down a job and he soon finds himself tempted to once again pursue a life of crime.

What might make that difficult for him is the fact that his younger brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), is now a cop with an old school porn star mustache.  Frank makes little secret of how much he resents his older brother and it isn’t long before the two of them are constantly fighting.  However, Frank has problems beyond Chris.  For one thing, he’s romantically pursuing Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), despite the fact that he earlier put her husband, Anthony (Matthias Schoenaerts), in prison.

In order to keep their dying father (James Caan) happy, Chris and Frank try to put aside their differences.  However, when Frank sees Chris fleeing from the scene of a robbery, it becomes harder and harder for him to ignore his brother’s activities.  Meanwhile, Chris has to decide whether or not to potentially sacrifice his freedom to keep his brother safe from a vengeful Anthony…

When Blood Ties was originally released at the beginning of the year, I considered seeing it but — for some reason — I ended up seeing The Legend of Hercules instead.  (Don’t you hate it when that happens!)  And I have to admit that I had forgotten about Blood Ties until I discovered that we were getting EPIX for free this holiday weekend.  Blood Ties is one of the films that’s currently showing on EPIX and, when I saw it was available, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to see A Most Violent Year but until that opens up down here in Dallas, why not watch another violent New York period piece?”

And so I watched Blood Ties and … well, bleh.  Actually, bleh may be too harsh of a judgment.  The film is full of fun period details and Billy Crudup gives a really good performance as Frank.  There are some well done action scenes and I appreciated the fact that, for the most part, the film did not try to make violence look glamorous or fun.  The film has a great soundtrack though, for the most part, most of the songs here can also be heard in a countless number of superior Scorsese films.

But, ultimately, Blood Ties is never as good as you want it to be.  The film’s plot is about as predictable as can be and, far too often, scenes that start out interesting quickly degenerate to various characters standing around and yelling at each other.  And while that may often be what happens in real life, it still doesn’t make it particularly interesting to watch.  And then you’ve got poor Clive Owen, a good actor who is seriously miscast here.  Casting Clive Owen as a streetwise New York gangster is a bit like casting Ray Liotta as a member of the Queen’s Guard.  It just doesn’t work.

For those of us hoping for a great New York City crime epic — well, we’re just going to have to keep hoping that A Most Violent Year turns out to be just as good as everyone says it is…

Blood_Ties_poster

 

Horror On TV: That 70s Show 2.5 “Halloween”


Okay, so technically, this really isn’t horror.  But who cares?  It deals with Halloween traditions and, even more importantly,  I loved That 70s Show.

This episode was originally broadcast on October 26th, 1999.

Trailer: Jupiter Ascending


jupiter1

The Wachowskis, Andy and Lana, have a new film set for release in early 2015. Jupiter Ascending was suppose to come out in 2014, but things happened and now it’s been pushed back for a February 2015 release.

Such a drastic delay in release usually means something major on the negative side of the ledger has occurred and the studio in charge of it’s release have little to no faith in the film. Has Warner Bros. Studios lost faith in the latest Wachowski offering? Is Jupiter Ascending the hot mess that it has been rumored about? Is the grandiose space opera the film is being made out to be making studio exec’s nervous?

So, many questions that most people who like to dwell on the in’s and out’s of filmmaking and the business of making them are probably asking themselves.

My only concern is that the Wachowskis have taken the extra time to make the film they set out to make. They’re one of the few filmmakers who seem to always get to do the sort of dream projects that more successful directors rarely get a chance to or even attempt to try. Whether it’s The Matrix, Speed Racer or Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis have danced to their own tune and for some reason Warner Bros. continue to give them big-budgets after big-budgets to get their next dream project made into reality.

Here’s to hoping Guardians of the Galaxy being such a huge success will help this upcoming space opera turn it’s February release (usually a place where films go to die) into a new addition to the resurgence of the space opera.

Trailer: Oz the Great and Powerful (Super Bowl Exclusive)


OzTheGreatandPowerful

Oz the Great and Powerful is the first film by Sam Raimi since he was removed as director of the Spider-Man franchise. While he tried to go back to his horror roots with the underappreciated Drag Me to Hell he’s back to doing big-budget event films.

The film looks to tell the story of the Great Wizard of Oz prior to Dorothy’s arrival in the original film. James Franco takes on the title role with Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz all taking on the roles of the three witches of Oz. The film’s plot looks to be a sort of hero’s journey as Oscar Diggs must discover his true self once he lands in the otherworldly realm of Oz.

Could this film be a return to fantasy form for Sam Raimi or will it be a film thats visually stunning but spiritually empty like Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland?

Only time will tell and while Raimi always delivers a visual treat and an entertaining film they sometimes don’t resonate with the general audience.

Oz the Great and Powerful is set for a March 8, 2013 release date.

6 Films That Are Not The Dark Knight Rises: The Girl From Naked Eye, Magic Mike, Rock of Ages, Ted, 21 Jump Street, and Underworld: Awakening


Right now, everyone seems to be heading out to see The Dark Knight Rises for the first, second, or hundredth time.  By my own personal count, the  various writers here at The Shattered Lens have seen the film a combined total of 12 times since it opened on Friday.  (Myself, I’ll be seeing it on Tuesday.)

But what if you don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises this week?  What if you just don’t want to deal with the big crowds?  Maybe you want to wait a few months so that you can see it for a dollar.  Or maybe,  you showed up at the theater and discovered that the showing was sold out or perhaps you’re just not into the whole Batman thing.  What then?  Well, believe it or not, there are other movies out there and below, you can find 6 reviews of films that came out this year but are not The Dark Knight Rises.  Some of them are worth seeing and some of them definitely are not.  But all six of them are alternatives for those of you who want to see a movie but, for whatever reason, don’t want to see The Dark Knight Rises.

(Even better, they’re six films that I saw earlier this year but, until now, still hadn’t gotten around to reviewing.)

1) The Girl From Naked Eye (dir by David Ren)

Jake (Jason Yee) is the driver for a sleazy escort service that’s headquartered out of a strip club called Naked Face.  Jake ends up falling in love with Sandy (Samantha Streets), an escort who writes poetry in her spare time.  (Yes, one of those…)  When Sandy is murdered, Jake goes on a violent search for her murderer.

The Girl From Naked Eye is a pretty uneven and rather predictable film but I actually enjoyed it.  It’s obvious that director David Ren is a fan of the same old film noirs that I love and, at its best, Girl From Naked Eye is a loving tribute to those films.  Streets is likable as the ill-fated Sandy and Gary Stretch brings some unexpected depth to his villainous role.  Perhaps best of all, Girl From Naked Eye is only 80 minutes long.  Sometimes, you just don’t need that extra 30 minutes to tell your story.

The Girl From Naked Eye is very much an independent film so it might be playing near you or it might not.

2) Magic Mike (dir. by Stephen Soderbergh)

After me and my BFF Evelyn saw Magic Mike, I hopped on twitter and I tweeted, “Memo to single guys.  Go hang out around the theater when Magic Mike gets out.  You will get laid!”  Yes, Magic Mike is that type of film…

“Magic” Mike (played by Channing Tatum) is the most popular attraction at Xquisite, a male strip club that’s run by Dallas (a wonderfully sleazy performance from Matthew McConaughey).  Mike ends up serving as a mentor for Adam (Alex Pettyfer) while pursuing Adam’s disapproving sister (Cody Horn) and saving up his money so that he can start his own business.  However, the life proves a lot more difficult for him to leave then he originally thought…

There’s actually a lot of plot in Magic Mike but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  The film knows that we’re all here to watch Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Joe Manganiello shake everything that they’ve got and the film does not disappoint.  Director Steven Soderbergh’s directs in such a way that the film’s dance numbers are both exciting and, at the same time, distancing.  By taking a rather documentary approach to otherwise salacious material, Soderbergh reminds us that, ultimately, Tatum is just doing a job and fulfilling the requirements of fantasy as opposed to reality.

When Christy Lemire of the Associates Press gave a less than positive review to The Dark Knight Rises, all of the fanboys on Rotten Tomatoes became obsessed with the fact that she had previously given a positive review to Magic Mike.  Many of them left comments complaining that the only reason Lemire enjoyed Magic Mike was because it featured naked men.  While all one has to do is read Lemire’s review to see that’s not the case, so what if it was?  Films have been objectifying women for over a century.  What’s wrong with a little fair play?

Magic Mike is still in theaters.

 3) Rock of Ages (dir. by Adam Shankman)

In this adaptation of the hit Broadway show, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) is an innocent girl from Oklahoma who dreams of finding super stardom in Los Angeles.  She gets a job working as a waitress at an incredibly filthy-looking club run by Alec Baldwin and she also gets a boyfriend (played by Diego Boneta) who is an aspiring musician himself.  Everything’s great except for the fact that the mayor’s puritanical wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) hates rock and roll and wants to close the club down.  Luckily, alcoholic rock star Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is willing to help out.  Did I mention that Russell Brand is in this film as well?  Because, he like totally is…

Rock of Ages gives you a chance to watch your favorite actors and actresses shake it to some of the least danceable music ever written and it’s just about as bad you might expect.  Between the vanilla performances of Hough and Boneta and the film’s rampant sexism (every female in the film is either a shrew or a whore and apparently, the only thing that can redeem them is allowing Tom Cruise to drunkenly cop a feel), Rock of Ages is a combination of the forgettable and stuff that you wish you could forget.  For a director who specializes in musicals, Shankman seems strangely lost here and the majority of the big numbers feel lifeless.  The one bright spot is Mary J. Blige who shows up in a minor role and quickly reminds everyone what singing is all about.

Rock of Ages opened with a lot of hype but that hype didn’t translate into box office success.  You can probably still catch it at the dollar theater but you might want your money back afterward.

4) Ted (directed by Seth MacFarlane)

Ted tells the story of a lonely 8 year-old boy who, one night, wishes that his beloved teddy bear Ted might come to life.  Well, Ted does come to life and ends up proving to the world that magic does exist.  Briefly, Ted and his owner are celebrities but soon, Ted’s fame fades and, 28 years later, Ted (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) and his owner (now played by Mark Wahlberg) are slackers who spend their time smoking weed, watching TV, and obsessing over pop culture. (At times, it almost felt as if the film was a documentary about life here at the TSL Bunker.)  However, Wahlberg’s girlfriend (Mila Kunis) feels that Ted is holding him back and eventually, Wahlberg is forced to make a choice between childhood friendship and adult love.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane’s.  I hate the Family Guy and I’ve never gotten through more than 2 minutes of The Cleveland Show.  However, I also have to admit that I enjoyed Ted for what it was.  It’s a massively uneven film that pretty much tells the same joke over and over again but that joke (i.e. a cute toy saying or doing something incredibly crude) turns out to be surprisingly resilient.  For their part, Wahlberg and Kunis are a likable couple and Kunis does a good job generating some much-needed sympathy for her thinly drawn character.  Add to that, Joel McHale is in this film and how can I not enjoy a film that features Joel McHale?

Ted is still playing at a theater near you.

5) 21 Jump Street (dir. by Phil Lord and Chris Miller)

Morton (Jonah Hill) and Greg (Channing Tatum) have been unlikely friends since high school.  Greg was a jock and bully while Morton was a guy who looked and acted a lot like Jonah Hill.  When Greg and Morton graduate high school, they both enter the police academy together and, upon getting out of the academy, they find themselves assigned to hazardous duty like patrolling the local park.  However, it turns out that there’s a new designer drug out there and Hill and Tatum are both sent back to high school.  Only now, they’re working under cover…

21 Jump Street was a real surprise when it came out earlier this year, a laugh-out-loud comedy that managed to both satirize and celebrate the conventions of the American cop film.  Hill and Tatum had a lot of chemistry together and there was something oddly touching about watching Hill return to high school and discover that he was now considered the cool guy while Tatum was now the outsider.  21 Jump Street has kinda gotten forgotten in all the hype surrounding The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises but ultimately, 21 Jump Street can stand with those two films as proof that occasionally a big-budget studio production can turn out to actually be a good film.

(Plus, James Franco’s look-alike brother, Dave Franco, is in it!)

21 Jump Street is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray but it’s also still playing at a few dollar theaters across the country.

6) Underworld: Awakening (dir by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is back and this time, she’s searching for Michael, who has gone missing.  The plot doesn’t make much sense and the film has one of the most disappointing endings ever but it does provide the viewers with everything that they’ve come to expect from an Underworld film (with the exception of Scott Speedman, who does not return to the role of Michael in this film).

Underworld: Awakening opened at the beginning of the year, got terrible reviews, and made a decent enough amount of money that there will probably be yet another installment in the series come 2014.  That said, Underworld: Awakening is probably the most vapid of all of the Underworld films (and that’s saying something) and, following the releases of both The Avengers and the Dark Knight Rises, it looks like even more of an empty exercise in CGI and action than it did when it was originally released.  That said, this film does star my girl crush, Kate Beckinsale, and, after watching her in this film, I spent a few hours looking for monsters to fight.  I will always recommend any film that features a women kicking ass and that’s about the only reason I have to recommend Underworld: Awakening.

Underworld: Awakening is currently available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.