Editor’s Note: Reviews this week are by Ronan Doyle, Jaime Burchardt, and Daniel Tucker
It’s times like these I feel the need to emphasise that the movies we cover on this here column are rarely, if ever, by choice; faced with a landslide of films, it’s all we can do to dive into the depths and hope to find a treasure. If we have failed you, this week, it’s less us that’s to blame than the titles we’re given. At least that’s our excuse, anyway…
If you’ve ever listened to The Lonely Island’s timeless ballad “Motherlover” and wished there was a movie that explored such inspired artistic depths, then Adore is the movie of your dreams. Robin Wright and Naomi Watts star as Roz and Lil, two gorgeous tanned women who have been the closest of friends since childhood fall in love with each other’s tanned muscular sons. Filmed against the breathtaking paradise that is New South Wales, Australia, Adore is something ripped straight out of a soap opera. The weird thing is, given the talent involved behind and in front of the camera, it’s hard to tell if we’re supposed to take this material seriously or not. It’s beautifully filmed and watchable enough, not dull but never exhilarating, not flat but never reaching any dramatic depths. Like the characters in its story, it is something beautiful that spends a lot of time lying out in the sun and calling attention to how alluring it is.
Indeed she does, and just reading those two words and allowing an image to develop will save you a solid ninety minutes of your life. Director Jay Lee previously made Zombie Strippers, a title that’s emblematic of the kind of sensibility on show here as the tale of a guilt-ridden girl who’s accidentally pushed a friend to her near-death turns toward a pornographic show of death and decay that earns artistic merit only for the consummate work of the make-up department. Likened by some to American Mary, a comparison that above all indicated the aggravating paucity of female-led horrors, Alyce Kills is a film with none of the wit or wisdom of the Soska sisters’ sophomore outing; instead, it’s a hammily-penned pulp piece that spends so long pretending it’s got something to say that sleep is all-but guaranteed by the time it gets to the gory point. A point, that is, to which there is none. AVOID IT. ~RD
Brother Bear is definitely a Disney film that got lost in the animated shuffle in the early 2000s. Its own quality level may have helped with that. When Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) kills a helpless bear, the spirits of Mother Nature decide to teach him a lesson by transforming him into, what do ya know, a bear. He goes on a long quest to get himself to change back, and he’s accompanied by a cub named Koda, and together they form a bond that stands as their only chance to a better life. The story is solid enough for Disney’s palette, but the execution is anything but inspiring. Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker—this film being their only feature credit so far—can’t push the film’s potential to worthwhile heights. It’s not terrible, though. It’s a decent flick to watch if you’re that bored. SO-SO. ~JB
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is what tends to come to mind when looking at the poster for Cottage Country, a book-by-its-cover judging that does the movie a service it sure doesn’t deserve. As fleetingly funny as regular TV director Peter Wellington’s cabin-in-the-woods comedy might be, it never sustains itself through anything more than a few minutes at a time, nevermind with the kind of satirical wit that made the earlier film such a special success. To be fair the pair aren’t entirely comparable; Cottage Country’s only dealings with genre tropes are in perpetuating them, particularly in the over-the-top man-child antics of one character. But the blood doth flow, eventually, and a gleefully gory premise gives Wellington the limited momentum to at least make his film occasionally interesting. Alas, it’s just not funny enough to put that opportunity to use; despite a decent comedy cast, Cottage Country flails about foolishly before gladly coming to its end. AVOID IT. ~RD
Jesus Christ Superstar
It’s shocking how effective and moving a movie with the name Jesus Christ Superstar can be, especially when a name of that seems to promise goofiness and unbridled heresy. Hot off the success of his big screen adaption of Fiddler on the Roof, directed Norman Jewison brought yet another musical play to the big screen to great success. Jewison takes what could have easily been an anachronistic mess of a play and breathes new life into the tale of Christ. What could have easily been a weird anachronistic tale is instead a epic unlike anything you have ever seen. We’ve seen the Last Supper, the betrayal of Christ, and so many other stories before, but not like this. With music provided by the transcendent geniuses that are Andre Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, this is a movie whose great music is matched by surprising depth and a powerful emotional punch.
The result of Nobody’s Fool, if you take everything into account sans Paul Newman, is quite average. Put in Paul Newman? Oh boy. Newman plays Sully, an old man who’s nearing retirement, and he wants to get a little piece of something before he goes. He’s working for one employer, while secretly working for someone else, just trying to get what he’s owed. He’s surrounded by a group of people that don’t take him seriously, or maybe even take him for granted. That’s fine to Sully; that’s how he likes it. It’s not the most thrilling of premises, and for a strong supporting cast, they can’t evolve into anything beyond two dimensions. But Paul Newman very subtly gives an outstanding performance. Really, he makes it look effortless. His work here alone is worth your viewing time. RECOMMENDED. ~JB
What a lovely movie must be hiding within Nuit #1, Anne Émond’s impassioned and ephemeral feature debut following a one-night stand that slowly becomes something more. Hinged on the chemistry of its capable leads Catherine de Léan and Dimitri Storoge—who, brief glimpses at the start and end notwithstanding, front the film alone—yet hurt by the didactic directness of a pseudo-philosophical script, it’s an intriguing idea never entirely allowed the room to breathe under the auspices of Émond’s exhaustingly on-the-nose approach. Bedecked in billboards, the characters could scarcely seem more abruptly to advertise their brokenness; no doubt post-coital chatter can be a conduit to closeness, yet the convenience with which these pair open up to one another is at best appreciably earnest. It’s difficult to really believe either them or their burgeoning relationship, not least of all when Émond has them quibble and compromise for the fifteenth time in that first night. SO-SO. ~RD
A handful of E-list stars, a smaller handful of cash, and an even smaller still handful of ideas: the formula of The Asylum, the premiere schlock supplier production house, is by now well and truly set in stone. And you get what you pay for; the company’s “original” titles are every bit as inspired as their “mockbuster” brethren, which is to say they aren’t at all. Zombie Night is nothing new, and hardly even anything old either, cramming together two pretty-poorly-played neighbouring families as the zombie apocalypse unfolds about them. Solid bang-for-your-buck gore alleviates the aesthetic toll of Piranha 3DD helmer John Gulager’s staid, if serviceable, direction, while Keith Allen and Delondra Williams’ screenplay largely gets what it deserves off the tongues of a cast who’d clearly prefer to be anywhere else. Alan Ruck, to his credit, hams it up nicely; it’s fun to imagine him playing the father he once foreswore in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. AVOID IT. ~RD