Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

FEAST (2014)
Disney's short won the Oscar this year, and it's the only Oscar-nominated short I've managed to see so far. It's nice; a sweet little short about a cute dog that loves food. There's not much to it. I think it's got a lot of the same flaws as Paperman did a couple of years back: the animation is excellent, but the experimental animation comes with the cost of just being openly manipulative of your emotions. In internet parlance: the feels. Oh, the feels. Right in the feels. So many feels. This movie, just like Paperman and just like The Blue Umbrella, is just that: a big budget viral video made to hit people in their feels. I'm going *** because I dug the animation and it's legitimately cute, but it's nothing more than that.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne settle into married life to raise a baby, and then a fraternity led by Zac Efron moves in next door. The tension, of course, is that Rogen and Byrne are worried that being responsible parents makes them old and uncool, and a war erupts over the noise that escalates further and further. It's entirely predictable, but it's nice that all of the characters (even Byrne, which itself is very refreshing) feel like actual human beings. It also knows how much of its improvs to cut out, which is one of the major problems with modern comedy. However, that only makes another modern comedy problem much more apparent, which is the lack of any meaningful resolution. It takes an old comic premise (two neighbors in an escalating war) and tries to turn it on its head by making everyone involved understandable, but that just makes some of the cartoonish bits stand out in the wrong way. Then it just sort of tapers off at the end and everyone relaxes and settles in and no one really learns anything, but that's okay because the business of having a family and babies is really more important than anything else in life, so I guess that's the triumph? I dunno. It's just weird to me how comedies today--and for the last 15 or so years--have this weird thing where they pretend they're anarchic but just settle down into their conservative streak and don't really have endings so much as they just taper off and stop. That's not the same thing as a resolution. So, some genuinely funny bits, Rose Byrne is especially likable, Dave Franco is very cute, and I'll never have the urge to watch it again. **1/2

Truly skeezy Lifetime movie about a college girl who starts banging Peter Strauss in order to get money for school and her family's medical bills. I expected the usual Lifetime "let's exploit this thing for 105 minutes before condemning it morally and pretending we were concerned the whole time" arc, and I got that, but this added an over-the-top murder plot to the whole thing at the eleventh hour. Pales in comparison to watching Peter Strauss try and get a college girl to choke him in bed. **

This year's Rob Lowe true crime movie is about the murder of hotel heir Ben Novack, Jr. It's actually one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen on Lifetime, as it goes for this darkly comic tone and for the most part achieves it. To pull it off, it holds itself to higher storytelling standards and is a really good-looking movie. It's like Lifetime accidentally got hold of a real movie, which happens once or maybe twice a year. It's also the most violent movie I've seen on Lifetime since Big Driver, and the sexiest one since that Jodi Arias movie. Paz Vega plays Lowe's wife and eventual killer Narcy (this is not giving anything away), whom he meets when she's a stripper and pulls into his Catwoman fantasies. (He has the second largest collection of Batman memorabilia in the world, even if the movie does give him the wrong period Catwoman statue to show off to Vega.) Paz Vega is incredibly sexy, and this movie really uses it in a viewer discretion advised sort of way, and she ups the ante by giving a surprisingly likable, very dark but very funny performance. She's kind of the perfect actress for this. She's, well, beautiful and twisted. ***


Roger Owen Green said...

I liked Paperman (more than you) and Feast, but you are correct that they are highly manipulative. AND I naturally root v. Disney in this category because they're running against much more poorly financed competition.

SamuraiFrog said...

I figure they tend to win in this category because people just vote for the Disney one because, well, it's Disney. I'm saying that, though, without having seen the other nominees.

Roger Owen Green said...

You might find this of interest: Oscars 2015: The Best Animated Short nominees. I actually saw A Single Life on CBS News, which, unfortunately, is not here.