Best Worst Movie
Daddy Long Legs
The Living Wake
Upon learning that he’s dying from a disease and has only one day to live, K. Roth Binew (Mike O'Connell), a self-proclaimed artist and genius, decides to head back to his hometown to invite all of his friend and family to his wake which will take place while he’s still alive. He persuades his one-and-only friend and biographer, Mills Joaquin (Jesse Eisenberg) to take him on a ride around the town via a bicycle-powered rickshaw. Throughout the trip, Binew encounters a variety of people including Marla (Diane Kagan) who used to be his nanny, Reginald (Eddie Pepitone), his neighbor, a prostitute (Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine), a psychic (Rebecca Comerford) and other quirky characters. They’re each portrayed in a somewhat funny and bizarre way that makes it difficult to take them seriously. The same can be said for Binew, even as he faces his past as he meets his family members and confronts his enemies. Part of his mission besides to stage the living wake is to donate his self-published books to the library, but as the librarian (Ann Dowd) sternly informs him, it’ll take weeks for the books to be approved for donation. In an amusing scene, he reads a very original, unpredictable story from one of his books to two passersby who turn out to be members of the library committee that selects donated books. Neither of them even remotely likes the story because it begins as though it were meant for children and then veers toward darker, adult-themed material that they think is inappropriate. Interestingly, that book’s combination of light and dark subject matters represents a self-reference to the film itself because co-writers Peter Kline and Mike O'Connell have written a screenplay infused with comedy, satire, drama and tragedy in such a way that might seem uneven when described, but the way that it unfolds onscreen feels refreshingly offbeat and unpredictable for most of the 92-minute running time. It does take a while, though, to get used to O’Connell’s over-the-top performance as well as everyone else’s with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg’s much more subdued performance that adds some well-needed nuances. None of the details of Binew’s adventures will be spoiled here, but it’s worth mentioning that his emotional journey transpires gradually and helps to ground the film somewhat into reality. However, it’s enough to keep you truly and fully moved by the dramatic scenes because you’ll find yourself often at an emotional distance from Binew. The Living Wake is a refreshingly original, well-acted and delightfully bizarre amalgamation of comedy, satire, drama and tragedy that’s often amusing and unpredictable, but lacks a genuinely poignant emotional core.
Looking for Eric
Steve Evets stars as Eric Bishop, a twice-divorced father living with two troublesome stepsons, Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jesse (Stefan Gumbs). He has a lot of emotional baggage left over from his previous marriage to his first wife, Lily (Stephanie Bishop), whom he wants to get back together with in hopes of rekindling their romance from nearly 30 years ago. Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jess (Stefan Gumbs), his two teenage stepsons, live with him and lead a delinquent social life that threatens to put them, including Steve, in grave danger. The particular events that transpire regarding that danger won’t be spoiled here, though. In an amusing turn of events, his favorite soccer player, Eric Cantona, shows up Steve’s his home and mentors him about how to put his life back together, first and foremost, by boosting his self esteem, i.e. having him learn to say “No!” to others firmly. Screenwriter Paul Laverty does a great job of balancing the heavy dramatic elements of the film with just the right amount of comedy which serves as a form of much-needed levity. Rarely has a drama infused with magic realism been so funny and sad concurrently while keeping you oddly uplifted at times and even somewhat inspired by Cantona’s insightful, life-affirming and honest advice. It would’ve been helpful if there were subtitles, though, because the British accents are often quite thick, so you might find some of the dialogue to be indiscernible. Had the direction by Ken Loach not been so sensitively handled when it comes the pacing and transitions between scenes, the blend of genres and tones would have felt uneven and inorganic. Soccer fans will be delighted to know that soccer player Eric Cantona plays Eric Cantona and that watching him interact with Steve is quite compelling and even amusing on occasion. You’ll find yourself riveted during the film’s third act which, unlike many of ho-hum, pedestrian, lazy dramas nowadays, can actually be considered as truly unpredictable and surprising without insulting your intelligence. At a running time of just under 2 hours, Looking for Eric manages to be a tender, wise and uplifting tragicomedy that’s concurrently funny, gritty, heartfelt and, above all, honest.
During medieval times, King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) journeys back to England returning from battles in the Crusades. Skillful archer Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), a.k.a. Robin of the Hood, a.k.a. Robin Hood, along with his small team, Allan (Alan Doyle) and Will (Scott Grimes), joins King Richard and his army. When the king dies, Robin and his team now go on a mission to England to deliver the news of his death with the crown in his hand. His mission also involves keeping his promise to a dying knight by returning his sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow). The inscription on the sword becomes an integral part later on in the plot. Soon enough, Robin becomes romantically involved with Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), the widow of the fallen knight. Prince John (Oscar Isaac) becomes the new king and rules over his people with tyranny while his friend, Godfrey (Mark Strong), secretly conspires with the King of France in an attempt to weaken England during an impending battle with the French. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Brian Helgeland jumps around from one dramatic scene to another with no regard for developing any of its characters, especially the titular one. You’re supposed to have a lot of fun watching Robin Hood in his battles and trying to unite the public to demand more freedom and rights from their despotic king, but instead, you’ll find it difficult to cheer him on and rolling your eyes whenever he’s bonding with Marion. Helgeland spend too much time on convoluted exposition while forgetting to keep the viewer engaged throughout that process. Perhaps the sequel will be much more thrilling. On a positive note, though, director Ridley Scott’s masterful cinematography and editing makes for some rousing and spectacular action sequences that add much-needed oomph. Captivating performances by Cate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow and, briefly, by Eileen Atkins as Queen Eleanor, also help to ground the film ever so slightly. At a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, Robin Hood is overlong, convoluted, mostly bland and underwhelming despite solid performances, rousing action sequences and impressive production values. It suffers from excessive style over substance.
Based on a true story. Lane (Logan Miller) and Clint Winston (Noah Miller), identical twin brothers, have no choice but to return to their small hometown in Northern California after Clint loses his community college scholarship while Lane finds himself cut from his Minor League baseball team. Their dream and passion has always been to become baseball players that dream is squandered for the time being. In Colorado, they stay with their grumpy grandmother, Eleanor (Lee Meriwether), and find a job at the same quarry that their father, Charlie (Ed Harris), works at. Charlie suffers from a double whammy because he’s addicted to gambling and to alcohol, so it’s not surprising that he lives insides his truck. A dinner with one of his sons consists of canned food that he shares with him as they sit on a bench together. The drama at that point starts to become engrossing as co-writer/directors Logan and Noah Miller explore the relationships between not only the twins but also between them and their troubled father. Ed Harris grounds the film in a brave, convincingly moving performance that helps to provide pathos for the character of Charlie. It’s safe to say that Charlie is a bad father, but, fundamentally, he’s not a bad person. Will he be able to sober up and to successfully rekindle his bond between him and his sons? In a rather corny, contrived and poorly developed subplot, Clint romances a local schoolteacher, Rachel (Ishiah Benben), who’s not given much of a backstory. Robert Forster briefly shows up as the local sheriff who used to be the twins’ baseball coach while Brad Dourif absolutely nails his performance as the twins’ mentally challenged uncle, Clyde. Logan and Noah Miller also include an interesting, profound use of symbolism when Clyde shows the twins his caged birds, one of which has wandered off, but as Clyde says, he it’ll eventually find its way. That wandering bird represents Lane, Clint as well as Charlie, so at least, to complete that analogy, there’s some uplifting hope that they will find their way in life. As clichéd as it may sound, some people who wander off their path of true happiness in life and get lost end up rediscovering themselves and finding true happiness later on as they learn to overcome their struggles, first-and-foremost, by strengthening their familial bonds. At a running time of 1 hour and 51 minutes, Touching Home manages to be a heartfelt albeit slightly contrived drama that boasts a brave, emotionally resonant performance by Ed Harris as well as inspirational messages about the important virtues of courage, love, hope, passion and family.
Women Without Men
In Persian with subtitles. Based on the novel by Shahrnush Parsipur. In 1953 Iran, the Americans and British led a coup d’état against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, thereby leading to the dictatorial Shah’s rise to power. Before the coup, the lives of four Iranian women intersect. Fakhri (Arita Shahrzad), a middle-aged woman, lives with her husband, a general who’s about to become the Prime Minister of the Shah. She’s unhappily married to him and refuses to have sex with him, so, soon enough, she leaves him and retreats to a mystical orchard. 30-year-old Munis (Shabnam Tolouei) yearns to break free from her domineering brother who condescendingly tell her that she should get married instead of staying single all this time and that she doesn’t have the right for certain freedoms that men do. He even goes to the extent of imprisoning her indoors without access to a radio for any news from the outside world. Little does she know that her friend, Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni), wants to get married to her brother. Finally, Zarin (Orsi Toth), the fourth woman, a prostitute, escapes from a brothel where men had degraded her. Co-screenwriters Shitin Neshat and Shoja Azarie have woven a very lyrical, sensitively layered drama combined with a very imaginative sense of magical realism every now and then. You won’t find yourself moved to tears per se, but you’ll nonetheless feel engrossed as the tragic lives of these four women gradually unfold. The slow pace makes it easier to get gradually immersed into the story and to pay attention to all the nuances and intricate details while contemplating on the magical realism elements, which won’t be spoiled here. It’s also worth mentioning that the exquisite cinematography breathes life into the film and adds a level of richness. At a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes, Women Without Men manages to be quietly engrossing, lyrical and visually sumptuous without veering toward melodrama or pretension.