Tag Archives: Kate Bosworth

Another Happy Day

19 Dec

Title: Another Happy Day
Year: 2011
Director: Sam Levinson
Writer: Sam Levinson
Starring: Ellen Barkin, Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, George Kennedy, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore
MPAA Rating: R, teen drug/alcohol abuse, pervasive language including sexual references, and brief graphic nudity
Runtime: 115 min
IMDb Rating: 4.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Metacritic: 45

 

Last night I saw Tyrannosaur, a really great film (I gave it an A-) but that was at times too unpleasant to endure, but the performances in it made it well worth it to do so. Another Happy Day is kind of similar, the film itself is certainly a few notches below Tyrannosaur, but it’s the same case in that the characters we are presented with here are at times too unlikable to endure for a couple of hours, but if I managed to do so and actually liked the film it’s all because of the performances, especially the one given by Ellen Barkin. This film revolves around a family reunion as Ms. Barkin’s character, Lynn, travels with her younger children to her parents estate in Annapolis where her estranged eldest son is getting married. So we get a lot of your typical situations that arise at a dysfunctional family gathering, except that there’s really not one character you can particularly get behind here. But, like I said, at least every actor brings their A-game to the festivities.

Or maybe there is a character you can get behind, and it’s just that I didn’t, all I know is that the characters prevented me from loving this film as much as I easily could have otherwise considering we had such a performance from Ellen Barkin, an actress that I really like and that has the most entertaining Twitter account in the world. The whole film feels overly melodramatic in order to attract our attention to the anguish of the characters here, but too much so, there are too many players here. And the fact that this film is just so loud and busy with them means that each character is just all over their own issues and far too busy to listen to those of anyone else.

The thing is that Another Happy Day is purely an actor’s kind of film, the characters, if badly constructed, are here to provide a lot of really neat material for actors to play with, and thankfully the cast of this one is really good, and the performances that they deliver are more than enough to anchor the film through whatever missteps it may take. This is the debut film from writer-director Sam Levinson, and yes, if the name sounds familiar it’s because he is indeed the son of Barry Levinson, the Oscar-winning director of Rain Man, but I think it’s great that Another Happy Day, imperfect as it may be, doesn’t have the younger Mr. Levinson relying on his dad. I mean, Ms. Barkin obviously had her big break on the senior Mr. Levinson’s Diner back in 1982, and his name obviously helped land some actors, but it’s not as though he’s listed as a producer or anything in this film, and Sam Levinson’s sensibilities are decidedly darker than his dad’s, his vision a provocative one that’s all his own to claim and develop.

And we must talk some more about Ellen Barkin. As the twice-married mother-of-four she kind of reminds us that once upon a time she used to be an incredible actress and it’s a pity she hasn’t been up to much lately; memorable roles of hers other than this one in the past few years I can only think of the one she gave in Oceans’ Thirteen, which wasn’t so much a memorable role as it was just a reminder that she could still do her thing and be seriously awesome. There’s something great about watching a late-career resurgence like this, seeing an actress like Ms. Barkin deliver such an intense performance, both hilarious and compassionate at the same time. At the hands of a lesser actress Lynn would be the character that gets our sympathy, but she makes giving it to her challenging by making her such a complex character. She’s the reason why you should check out Another Happy Day, a film that, if the rest of the parts were half as good as her, would have her squarely in the discussion for that Best Actress Oscar that will, hopefully, go to Meryl Streep two months from now (no, I haven’t seen The Iron Lady yet, it’s just that she’s Meryl Streep, she should get the Oscar every year).

Lynn’s estranged son that’s getting married is Dylan, she lost custody of him in the divorce years ago which means he was raised by his dad, played by Thomas Haden Church, with his new wife, played by Demi Moore, and she got their troubled daughter that cuts herself, who’s played by Kate Bosworth. Another vital part of this story, and the best performance other than Ms. Barkin’s, is Elliot, her teenager son who’s just out of his latest stint in rehab and has some very cutting commentaries to throw around at free will at his family. Elliot’s played by Ezra Miller, an actor with a lot of screen presence and a huge amount of talent and who’s of course in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin in what’s supposedly his huge breakout role. I’m dying to check that film out, because Mr. Miller’s performance here is awesome, if Ms. Barkin’s portrayal of the many issues that Lynn has make the film great, it’s Mr. Miller’s portrayal of the many things Elliot does that keeps it interesting.

Sam Levinson makes a debut that, while not all that great, shows he is a filmmaker that certainly has a great deal of promise, and even though he overstuffs this one with some situations and characters we could have done without, he still shows a keen eye on how he handles such an extensive cast and writes a very biting and clever screenplay that make his a very authentic voice to show in a debut film, and I’m certainly very curious to see what he’ll be up to next. Yes, in Another Happy Day less would have been more, but you can never fault a young director with being ambitious, especially not when he’s directing such an incredible performance from an actress like Ellen Barkin who really deserved a late-career bright spot like this one.

Grade: B

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Straw Dogs

15 Oct

Title: Straw Dogs
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie, based on the original screenplay by David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah, which was in turn based on the novel by Gordon Williams
Starring: 
James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, Dominic Purcell, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, James Woods, Walton Goggins
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language
Runtime: 
110 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
36%

Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was released forty years ago, and at the time it sparked some controversy, along with A Clockwork Orange which was also released that year, because of its relentless depiction of violence. But it’s still one of Mr. Peckinpah’s greatest film achievements and has one of those classic Dustin Hoffman performances. So considering how great that original film still is, I was actually fully ready to hate the idea of a very unnecessary remake directed by Rod Lurie and starring James Marsden in the role originated by Mr. Hoffman. But then I actually saw it and lo and behold, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the end result, this is a film that’s actually pretty damn competent I thought, though if you’re part of the group that hates the excessive violence of the original this one doesn’t downplay that one bit.

I was just very surprised to find myself actually liking this film a bit. It’s actually a nice little remake that while I still think we could have done without is certainly a good time at the movies. Not to mention that it’s a pretty close remake of the original, I mean it changes the location from Cornwall to Mississippi and instead of a mathematician we now have a screenwriter, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward recreation of the 1971 film, and when this one’s working on all cylinders it gets to the point in which it really starts getting to you and feeling like a really disturbing and well-made exercise in psychological and physical violence.

It’s just an interesting film at times, which is far more than I ever thought it would have been, because it’s actually kind of cool how it starts exploring the culture clash the goes on and how the lengths that a man will go for his home and family are many times unexpected even to the man himself. You see, we get Mr. Marsden’s character, David, a Hollywood screenwriter with an Ivy League education that’s this sort of refined person with super cultured tastes and behavior, and who moves with his wife, Amy, played by Kate Bosworth, to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi in order to find a quiet little place where he can work without much disturbance.

The culture clash that goes on between this refined man and the locals of the town he’s no living in is intensely staged by Mr. Lurie. You have David who’s the kind of guy that listens to classical music and that doesn’t know how to do a hands-on job to save his life and they are the ones that listen to deep country and you can assume haven’t really read that many books in their whole life. And you get the sense that the locals are disturbed by the presence of their new co-inhabitants, leering at the sexy wife and acting towards the couple in a way that varies between the totally ill-meaning and the sort of politeness that comes with an über-threatening tone, a kind of passive aggression that’s nearing it’s boiling point. So we then get this kind of battle between territorial rights that obviously starts escalating to very dangerous heights sooner rather than later and in it, much like in Mr. Peckinpah’s original film, Mr. Lurie tries to create a whole new definition of macho violence.

The outlook Mr. Lurie brings to this kind of ridiculous culture war between David and the pack of locals is actually quite awesome, and chief amongst those local enemies is Charlie, played by Alexander Skarsgård, he’s the guy that’s the big, muscular, handsome ex-jock who obviously dated Amy back in high school, and who just so happens has been hired to fix the barn where David and Amy are going to live. It’s obviously not a great situation, events start escalating at the barn that you just know won’t end up right. David tries to adapt to their ways, to be overly friendly in a kind of way that says to them that he’s trying too hard but that’s also tinged with some sort of condescension, and so they will mock him and take advantage of him to the point in which he just has no choice but to fight back.

There’s a lot to be said about how sex is portrayed here, you get Amy who’s obviously ogled at by the locals and who’s actually provoking them in a way that counts as some of the psychological violence of this film, and you see her being caught between her husband and the men she grew up with and how she’s pretty much asking for trouble to come her way. And then there’s a lot to be said about how this film is so much about the idea of manhood. And when those two things clash it gives way to a rape scene that’s really wonderfully crafted by Mr. Lurie, though in a way that isn’t as shocking as it was in the original in which it was given this sort of sense of eroticism that made the scene kind of disturbing.

And props really should be given to the director, even though he obviously takes a lot from the original, from exact scenes and shots and bits of dialogue, he never once tries to imitate the work of Mr. Peckinpah too much but instead adds a nice level of subtlety that’s all his own. And even though there are times during which this film doesn’t work, because the story and performances get a bit too messy, this is still a respectable and interesting interpretation of a film four decades old. And that’s really what any movie should aim to go, to get you thinking about something, it just so happens that in the case of Straw Dogs it gets you thinking about the superior film from which it spawned. But this is still a very good film about psychological warfare and I was honestly surprised that I liked it this much.

Grade: B

The Warrior’s Way

7 Dec

Title: The Warrior’s Way
Year:
2010
Director:
Sngmoo Lee
Writer:
Sngmoo Lee
Starring:
Jang Dong-gun, Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth, Danny Huston, Tony Cox, Ti Lung
MPAA Rating:
R, strong bloody violence
Runtime:
100 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
47%

The last new film I had seen before checking this one out had been The King’s Speech, a near-perfect movie that had Geoffrey Rush giving a performance that could certainly earn him the second Oscar of his career this coming February. Now Mr. Rush also stars here in The Warrior’s Way, and this is a prime example of just how different a performance can be quality-wise when the plot and character is so bad as it is here.

It’s obvious that The Warrior’s Way wasn’t trying to be The King’s Speech or anything like that, but still, Mr. Rush and his co-stars try to no avail to make something out of the stuff they’re given to work with here. This is a film that I just sincerely didn’t like, it tries to give a crazy loaded mix of western and eastern cinema stereotypes but it all comes off all sorts of wrong and the end result is nothing to admire.

It’s nothing to admire because there have been many films that have tried to mix genres and styles in one movie and have done a far better job at it. This year’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird, a western from South Korea which I rated B comes to mind, as does Red Hill, an Australian flick from this year which combined the western and thriller genres extremely well and I gave a B+ to. Those films worked because they knew how to execute these combination of influences, while The Warrior’s Way never finds its way, at times trying to be a funny action film, other times looking like a straight-up Asian martial arts flick, this one’s just plain messy.

Sngmoo Lee, the director and writer of this tiresome spectacle, tried to do something neat here, I give him points for that. This is all shot much like 300 was shot, creating everything on a green-screen and getting computers to generate much of the show. But this doesn’t have the style 300 had, and the Leonidas of this story is nowhere as cool a character. His name is Yang, who is the warrior of the title, and he is ordered to kill the last remaining survivor from the enemy clan he battled, which just happens to be a baby. However, he can’t bring himself to do that and so he flees with the baby to a western American town.

And that’s when we meet Mr. Rush’s character, who’s the town drunk and one of Yang’s new friends in the new town he came to to escape those who wanted to kill the baby and him. And this is one horrible role for Mr. Rush, his character is so cliché-laden that he provides one horrible performance with it. Same goes for Kate Bosworth, who plays Lynne, a local girl who learns some knife-throwing skill from Yang. Ms. Bosworth’s an actress I usually like, yet here she’s all sorts of wrong, her character is just awfully written and no one could have made something good out of Lynne.

The tale has fights against Americans with guns and Asians with ninja style moves with swords, and I usually like that because it ensues in some comic book style violence which is, at the very least, fun to watch. And even though the violence here is at times cool, most of the time it feels like stuff we’ve seen before way too many times and done better, slow-motion bullets, CGI-created backgrounds, this is old stuff for us, and even though it’s technically well done, this one adds not a single fresh element to the mix.

Not to mention the script is horrible. Mr. Lee wrote a screenplay full of clichés inspired by Sergio Leone’s western epics that mash seriously bad with his penchant for martial arts sequences and forcefully imposed comedic moments that never bring out any laughs. And as I said, the fact that the action sequences are well done on a technical scale is ultimately unimportant because even though they’re pretty nifty to us they don’t show anything new, and the fact that the story is so bad doesn’t get us engaged to them story-wise, so we just watch them for a few cool moments. The Warrior’s Way is ultimately a mindless spectacle that at times is fun, but for the most part is rather unbearable, especially if you like me saw it just after watching Mr. Rush do wonders in a role that actually is worthy of his talents.

Grade: C-

After.Life

12 Apr

Title: After.Life
Year: 2009
Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Writers: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, Jakub Korolczuk
Starring: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long
MPAA Rating: R, nudity, disturbing images, language and brief sexuality
Runtime: 95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%

I’m a big fan of Christina Ricci, I would have graded the movie lower had the Anna role gone to Kate Bosworth like it was originally supposed to. Anna, by the way, was killed in a car crash, but, as you would correctly assume from the film’s title, she’s not really dead, she comes back and tells her mortician Elliot, a role that was originally supposed to go to Alfred Molina but that is now played by Liam Neeson, that there’s been some sort of mistake that she’s not really dead, he tries to reason with her, but then again, she’s seeing her right there, arguing right back at him, she seems alive.

This is a bizarre film, I usually like bizarre films but something about After.Life seemed too odd to me to really embrace it, there’s a little boy who sees Anna from the window and tells her boyfriend that she’s alive, and that makes complete sense to him for some reason, he had been really struggling with her dying and he quickly accepts what this little boy tells him.

We never really know if she’s alive or not, she gets buried (alive?) and we still don’t know, if we’re Anna we think we are alive and we think we are being buried prematurely, Deacon is just as split up, yes, he saw her alive, but he thinks he has this sort of gift, he has been doing this for too long and he sometimes thinks he talks to the dead people he has to deal with.

This is an okay horror film, but it is one that never fuckin’ settles for an identity, it is as though director Wojtowicz-Vosloo, who makes her debut with this one, was only trying to make a cool art-house film and in the middle of that forgot her plot and the effectiveness of this thriller was completely lost.

Grade: C