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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Peter DaCunha

XX (2017)

Women be shoppin’. Except not really.

A mother (Natalie Brown) has no clue what to do with herself, now that her son refuses to eat anything, no matter what’s put in front of him; another mother (Melanie Lynskey) tries to throw the biggest and best party for her daughter, only to realize that it probably won’t happen due to unforeseeable circumstances; a bunch of young whipper-snappers head out into the mountains, expecting to have some fun and catch up some history, only to discover something horrifying and dark; and lastly, another mother (Christine Kirk), seems to be hiding something from her troubled 18-year-old son, but he, nor anyone else really knows what.

In case you couldn’t tell, XX is an anthology piece, done by four women, with four different stories, focusing on, above all else, women. It’s a nice angle to take on the horror-genre and shows that it still has some growing to do, in terms of its versatility as well as its acceptance. However, it does also show that it has some growing to do in terms of its quality.

Scared

See, one of the main issues with XX, and as is the case with most anthology pieces in its same vein, is that it’s way too brief for its own good. At nearly an-hour-20, each story has at least 20 minutes each to tell its story, characters, and most of all, give us the chills. But there’s something with the horror genre that, in order for the scares to be smart, effective, and most of all, scary, there has to be some sort of build-up to it all, and at nearly 20 minutes each, none of these tales really have that.

In a way, each one of them feel like they’re fully realized and fleshed-out, but are missing a few reels, either at the beginning, at the end, or somewhere in between. A part of me wonders what the exact want and reason for making these stories actually was, considering that it doesn’t seem to be any reason other than, “Oh, well, they’re kind of scary, I guess. Oh, and they star women, written and directed by women.” Once again, nothing with this approach, as it is definitely something that the horror genre as a whole could and definitely should, work on, but perhaps XX isn’t the brightest, most shiny example of why.

If anything, it proves to be an interesting and mildly entertaining diversion from what we’re used to seeing with horror anthologies, but yeah, it’s been done better before.

And to talk about the four pieces of story here, it’s best to go on about each one of them. First off, “the Box”, written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, plays with a lot of visual cues, but ultimately, isn’t about much. It’s about this family, going through a rough time when one of the children won’t eat, and has all the makings of a weird, almost surreal dark comedy, but it doesn’t go that way – instead, it plays itself very serious and dark, and sort of just ends on that note. It’s the perfect piece to start out on, because it literally won’t be remembered by the end.

Petrified

St. Vincent’s tale, “the Birthday Party”, works a little bit more because it does take a slightly comedic-edge to its story, but once again, doesn’t feel like it’s really built upon anything. It’s just sort of weird, wacky, and features a random cameo from Joe Swanberg. If anything is to be taken away from this part, it’s that St. Vincent is a competent enough director to show us that she knows what she’s doing behind the camera, so who knows? Maybe it will be nice to see more of her there.

Anyway, then there’s “Don’t Fall”, by Roxanne Benjamin, that started off promising, but ultimately, doesn’t know what to do with itself. Everything happens way too quick, we get the very smallest, slightest bit of character-detail to work with, and yeah, none of it really matters. The gore and the scares work, but they’re done in about five minutes anyway, so does it really matter at all?

And lastly, there’s Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”, which may be the only one here that actually feels like a fully realized and written short movie about a mother, coping with whatever mystery is in her life. It helps here that Christina Kirk is a good actress and an inspired bit of casting for this dark role, but Kusama herself also shows some initiative, with enough mystery, development, and oddness to make it all work. The ending is stupid and doesn’t quite make sense, but hey, at least it is attempting at doing something.

Which, after all, is all I needed and/or could have ever wanted.

Consensus: Though not terrible, XX is more of a mixed-bag, showing why there should be more stories about women in horror, but also showing why they should be longer than 20 minutes each.

6 / 10

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Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Joblo

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Remember (2016)

Who ever feels bad for the Nazis? Nobody! That’s who!

Nearly 90 and slowly, but surely, losing his memory to dementia, Holocaust survivor Zev (Christopher Plummer), has clearly been through a lot. That’s why, so late in his life, when a fellow friend, as well as Holocaust survivor, Max (Martin Landau), asks him to do a favor for him, he’s absolutely fine with it, even though he may forget about it some odd minutes later. But regardless of that, what Max calls on his dear friend to do for him is to search far and wide for a Nazi that is, supposedly, responsible for the death of his family, as well as Zev’s. Max gives Zev the name and a note, which he carries with him everywhere (as well as a gun), leaving Zev to head out onto this trip all by his lonesome. While he may forget what he’s doing, or where he’s at, and just act a tad confused, Zev still does not forget what his mission to do is, even as it grows more and more difficult every time he meets a new person who may, or may not be, related to the person he’s looking for and trying to kill.

Don't make him pull it. Cause I think he will. I'm actually not sure.

Don’t make him pull it. Cause I think he will. I’m actually not sure.

Writer/director Atom Egoyan hasn’t made a good film in quite some time, but we still hold out hope for him. Most of that has to do with the fact that, no matter what project he takes on next, he still finds talented people to be in his films and give him their all. Why is this? I still don’t really know, especially since Egoyan himself hasn’t been relevant since the Sweet Hereafter. But regardless, here we are with Remember, a film starring not one, but two very old Oscar-winners, which already puts it above the fray of the rest of Egoyan’s movies. Perhaps this time around, he wants to play it more confined and smaller, rather than go all out on some sort of big, blockbuster route, where we’d get all sorts of big-named actors and such, showing up and making the movie more ambitious, right?

Well, yes and no.

Egoyan does do something somewhat smart with his direction here in that he doesn’t allow for the story to get too over-saturated. Because we’re literally just meeting up with Zev so late in his life, we have to draw up a lot of conclusions of who this character was before he started to get old, and just why he matters to us now. Egoyan never shows us anything through flashbacks, but instead, allows for us to make up our own mind and watch as he travels through this new adventure of his, sometimes struggling to find a meaning, or better yet, purpose in all of it, but mostly, just trying to survive another day on Earth where he can remember what he’s doing, or where he’s at.

And channeling a lot of this sadness is Christopher Plummer in what is, yes, a very good performance from someone we expect them from constantly. Even though, like I said, Zev is an entirely new character to us, Plummer gives him all sorts of shadings, that have him go beyond just being the old, confused man. Yes, it’s very easy to feel bad for him and want to just give him a hug, but at the same time, Plummer shows that there’s at least some ruthlessness to him that may make him somebody other than from what we expected. Of course, this all help to Plummer and just how good of an actor he is – to make someone like this so grounded, even when it seems like he’s totally losing his marbles.

I guess being a Nazi war criminal also means not having the number to a barber.

I guess being a Nazi war criminal also means not having the number to a barber.

But of course, the rest of the movie is a bit of a problem.

Egoyan tries to make something compelling and tense with this script, but mostly, it just feels like a half-baked idea. At nearly an hour-and-a-half, Remember already feels too short and makes it seem like Egoyan didn’t have the time, or courage to really discuss any of these issues that were brought up here. There’s one scene with Bruno Ganz and Plummer that discusses how those involved with Hitler and the Nazis, still believe it to be their right call of passion. This is an obviously a controversial statement, but the movie never seems all that interested in exploring it anymore, and to just move onto the next scene where Plummer will meet up with somebody else, take out his gun and ask a few questions.

And yes, because Remember is a thriller, it doesn’t always work. In a way, it feels a lot better as a dark, but contained drama, if anything. But once Egoyan tries to throw in the guns and violence, it doesn’t quite go anywhere. Instead, it feels like an actor getting restless and worried that his movie may not already be grabbing people’s attention, so he has to create something to make that happen. It doesn’t quite work and makes Remember feel like two completely movies; both of which, Plummer is very good in.

Then again, when is that man not good in something?

Consensus: Despite dealing with some very dark and serious issues, Remember is all too concerned with its blood and violence, rather than actually addressing anything, but always allowing for Christopher Plummer to work his usual magic and keep everything grounded.

6 / 10

"Damn, we're old, man."

“Damn, we’re old, man.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire