Monday, January 23, 2006

Halfway through...a new batch


Written and Directed
By Laurie Collye

Motherhood is instinctual. Sherry(Maggie Gyllenhaal) has just gotten out of jail on parole and has a fight on her hands. Her brother Bobby(Brand Henke) and sister-in-law Lynn(Bridget Baker) have been taking care of her daughter Alexis(Ryan Simkins) and Lynn doesn't want to give her up. So what we have is a mostly depressing tale of possible salvation.

The odds are somewhat against her. Sherry plainly uses sex to her advantage, screwing the twelve step program leader(Rio Hackford) for fun and the employment councilor in order to get the job she wants. But that doesn't work with her relations, and it's there, in the suburbs, that the real war takes place.

Until the sort of uplifting ending, Sherry goes from one minor disaster after the other, from hostile housemates in the halfway house, to her sister-in-law, who poisons Alexis' relationship with her mom, and a none too sympathetic parole officer(Giancarlo Esposito). This doesn't actually make her stronger, in fact it goes exactly the other way, and had it not been for the somewhat uplifting ending, this would have been a total disaster.

So what to make of this? Well, the performances are better than average, and Gyllenhaal makes the title character more sympathetic than might be expected given the script. The romance angle with another 12-step guy named Dean(Danny Trejo) doesn't really help all that much, but the relationship between mother and child is the most that most affects the audience. However, while this isn't that bad a film, it's not much more than a movie of the week. As such, wait 'till it comes out on cable.


Written and Directed
By Bob Goldthwait

Amy(Melinda Page Hamilton) and John(Bryce Johnson) are a happy young couple in love. She's got a job teaching school and he's�well�a newspaper delivery boy. She has a secret that she shouldn't tell anybody, but we know from the first couple of seconds of the film. It really doesn't matter what it is, lets just say that this is rather disgusting.

So what is expected to be one of those raunchy teen comedies goes forward when Amy takes John to meet her silly family, which are her conservative parents (Geoffrey Pierson and Bonita Friedericy) and her totally degenerate cartoon of a brother(Brian Posehn)

The secret is revealed and everything does to hell in a hand-basket. Now while this may be a really good idea for a TV sketch, where all the characters are one-dimensional cartoons, it doesn't work in a feature where you have the live action cartoons interacting with what appears to be real people with feelings and the like.

While John appears at the beginning to be a perfectly nice guy, he turns out to be one of the less likeable characters, his reaction is what would be expected, but this sort of thing gets really old after a few minutes. So Amy has to grow, and she does in a romance with a married colleague(Colby French), which is actually kind of sweet.

But being neither fish or fowl, the thing just doesn't work. However it's a good try, and maybe Goldthwaite will get it right the next time.


Written and Directed
By Brian Jun

There is no greater love than that for which a parent is willing to sacrifice his liberty for child. This is what Carl Lee(John Heard) does for his son PJ (Thomas Guiry) when the latter runs a woman over with his car.

It goes without saying that the Lee family is highly dysfunctional.
Carl was an abusive husband who left his wife Marianne(Laurie Metcalf), PJ and his older brother Ben(Clayne Crawford) years before. The outcome is that Ben is cheating on his wife Maria(Jamie Anne Brown) with the local floozy barmaid (Heather McComb) and PJ just can't seem to hold a job or a girlfriend, although he's beginning to develop a romance with one Amy Barnes(America Ferrera), who works in a resturaunt where PJ washes dishes and scrubs the floor.

To make matters worse, PJ's stepfather (James McDaniel) doesn't like him very much. In fact nobody seems to like each other very much at all.

From prison, Carl contacts his estranged brother Vic(Raymond J Barry), who selflessly helps out when PJ gets kicked out of the house when the mortgage comes do. White trash soap opera if there ever was one. We don't really like the characters all that much, and that's the problem. Not caring what happens to an ensemble means that seeing the whole thing through is less likely.

Not worth the price of a full ticket, although it may be worth a look on cable someday.


Written and Directed
by Bent Hamer

Hank Chinaski (Matt Dillon) fancies himself a writer. That he may be, but for the most part he's a bum. Going from low-paying job to low-paying job, while he and his girlfriend Jan (Lili Taylor) screw and drink. This cannot last, and they part. Then our hero takes up with Laura (Marisa Tomei), who's being kept by Pierre (Didier Flamand), who runs a home for wayward floozies.

Welcome to the world of Charles Bukowski, the greatest slacker of the 20th century.

Exactly, why should we care about this loser? Because Hamer has used the exquisite prose of Bukowski to the maximum advantage, making Hank and his useless friends somewhat interesting. Also, we have bravura performances by Dillon and Taylor, which are Oscar quality, but probably won't get much kudos because the characters and the story are quite pathetic, and I don't mean that in a good way.

Watching this film is sort of like watching a train wreck, it's horrible, but you can't take your eyes off of it. Which means that it's probably worth the bucks for a bargain matinee. This is one of the best bad movies of the entire year.

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