Sunday
Jan202019

AN EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX // A FILM REVIEW OF "ADULT LIFE SKILLS"

BY MATEO MORENO

(note: The majority of this review was first published on Sat April 23rd 2016 when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival)

 

In 2016, I had the pleasure of seeing ADULT LIFE SKILLS at the Tribeca Film Festival. Since then, I eagerly awaited a US release, but to no avail. It was released in the UK that summer but never had a US distributor - until now. It will now get a limited theatrical release and then will be available to stream, with a Blu-Ray release set for March. Below you'll find my original review, which I still 100% stand behind.

 


Anna (Jodie Whittaker, fresh off of her first season as "The Doctor") is fast approaching 30. This is not a good thing. At least, not for Anna. She's stuck in a rut, unable to move forward at all. She lives in a shed outside her mother's house. What she does excel at is mastering the art of doing nothing. And making funny online videos, like a space expedition using only her thumbs with faces drawn on. Her mother and grandmother (Lorraine Ashbourne and Eileen Davies) don't quite know what to do with her but they both know that enough is enough. Truly young Anna needs an emotional push into some adultish-ness, to learn some ADULT LIFE SKILLS.

 

Based on her BAFTA-nominated short film Emotional Fusebox, Rachel Tunnard's sweet oddball film is by far the charmer of the fest. Anna has suffered some sort of loss, though at the beginning of the film we're not quite sure what it is. So she slogs on day to day making weird videos and refuses to actually grow up. Her life begins to get a bit of a jolt when a young boy from next door (Ozzy Myers) starts coming around after his own mother gets put in the hospital. Strangely drawn to her, he someone understands her and begins to look up to her. Anna's best mate Fiona, played by Rachael Deering, comes back into town to spend time with her, make her laugh, push her into happiness. But something continues to hold her back and it's something that her family, the little boy next door, her friend, nor her neighbor Brendan with a sweet crush on her (Brett Goldstein) can fix by themselves. They're going to need help. They're going to need Anna to come back.

 

 

ADULT LIFE SKILLS is a strange, odd, endearing, hilarious and heartfelt. It's the emotional fusebox that I needed on a Friday night and I hope you visit Anna's strange little shed yourself very soon. You'll be glad you did.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: A

DIRECTED BY Rachel Tunnard STARRING Jodie Whittaker, Lorraine Ashbourne, Brett Goldstein, Rachael Deering, Eileen Davies, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Ozzy Myers. Now playing in select cinemas and available on demand.
Sunday
Jan202019

BROKE, BROKE AND AWAY // A FILM REVIEW OF "GLASS"

BY MATEO MORENO

To say that M. Night Shyamalan’s career has had its ups and downs is really putting it mildly. Since exploding into the mainstream with The Sixth Sense in 1999 (which received almost universe love), M. Night has released one project after another, each one dividing audiences into a pure frenzy. Talk of “he’s lost it” and “he’s back to form” has been said throughout his entire career. But one thing that can be said is that he’s been consistently original. You may not like what comes out of his brain (cough, cough… The Happening… cough, cough), but it is purely his own vision being transported onto the screen. His follow up to The Sixth Sense was Unbreakable in 2000 and that film is still my favorite property of his. It told the story of David Dunn, an ordinary man who slowly finds himself to be “unbreakable.” It was a superhero story in a very non-superhero world. Samuel L. Jackson played his nemesis, Elijah Price, a man whose bones were so brittle that he was nicknamed “Mr. Glass.” Slow and powerful, and I’ve often thought of it ever since.

 

In 2016, M. Night “returned to form” once again with the unassuming Split, featuring James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who has 23 personalities inside of him and the most dangerous one is threatening to overtake them all. It was a fun, original, and very well told film. The surprise was that in the final moments of the film, we were reintroduced to David Dunn, and realized that the two films took place in the same universe. Now, the long-awaited follow-up to Unbreakable has arrived, now less of a sequel and more of the final piece of a trilogy. GLASS is the third part of the puzzle, bringing together David Dunn, Mr. Glass, and all of James McAvoy’s personalities. It also brings back Anya Taylor-Joy from Split and a grown-up Spencer Treat Clark from Unbreakable. M. Night’s three main characters are sent to an asylum and treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) a woman who specializes in the very specific delusion of grandeur where people believe they are actually superheroes

 

What follows is a lot of great build up and promise that fizzles so fast that it’s actually enraging. The mood and slow building dread of his earlier films fill the first half of GLASS expertly. Sarah Paulson is stoic and sharp, Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark are great supporting players, and James McAvoy is utterly brilliant (and he stays that way up until the end). However, for a movie named after Mr. Glass, Samuel L. Jackson’s presence is largely under utilized here, as he’s catatonic for most of the film and when he springs, rather wheels, into action, it’s pretty unremarkable. Most disappointing is the treatment M. Night gives David Dunn and the sleepwalk performance Bruce Willis performs it with. David Dunn is a fascinating character who’s reduces to getting thrown around and has the weakest of all storylines. The final act, which is teased to be a giant superhero showdown, is all smoke and mirrors and actually takes places somewhere else entirely, somewhere far less exciting. And the writer/director either doesn’t trust the audience to know the beats of a superhero story or doesn’t actually understand them himself, because suddenly near the end of the film, every character starts to explain out loud how this action is part of an origin story or this action is how the hero triumphs, etc, etc. GLASS had me engaged for the first half and completely nosedived into ridiculousness in the second. But I do admire the world, and the risks that M. Night took here. I just wish he knew how to land it.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: C+

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY M. Night Shyamalan STARRING James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark. Now playing in select cinemas.
Friday
Jan112019

THE ODD COUPLE OF THE UPPER EAST SIDE // A FILM REVIEW OF "THE UPSIDE"

BY MATEO MORENO

THE UPSIDE, the new remake of the 2011 French mega hit Les Intouchables, has been on the shelf since 2017. Not because of any content the movie had but because it was collateral damage in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It eventually found a January release date (never a great sign if you’re not an action film), and we can finally get to see Kevin Hart go toe to toe against Bryan Cranston in a dramedy that’s “sort of” based on a true story (at least the original was). This American remake hits basically the same beats as the original film, but changes up the story a bit.

The story itself is about an ex-convict named Dell Scott (played by Hart) who needs to find a job, or at least look like he’s trying to find one, so that he can bring the proof back to his parole officer. He shows up to the mansion of Phillip Lacasse (played by Bryan Cranston) who is a billionaire quadriplegic who needs a caretaker. Yvonee Pendelton (Nicole Kidman) is giving the interview and she’s not impressed. But Phillip sees something that he likes, something that’s different, and hired Dell. At first, Dell isn’t interested in the job, until he hears the salary and he jumps at the opportunity immediately. Now begins an odd couple dramedy where the young black ex con teaches the billionaire white man how to live with his heart, and the billionaire white man teaches the black ex con how to live with his head. Stop me if you’re starting to cringe.

 

Why Director Neil Burger decided to remake this film, and why Hart and Cranston (and even Kidman) decided to jump on board is a mystery. The film plays, much like the 2011 French film did, like a movie that was made in the 1980’s and feels way outdated in the gender and racial politics of today. But yet, it wasn’t. The film is new, but no idea is. Stereotypes abound the film and even though Hart and Cranston both give solid performances, the film is a flopping, offensive mess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so offensive that you’ll want to walk out of the theatre. But it's just offensive enough that you'll be upset that you're not seeing something that's more clever. Or actually funny. Unless you like catheter humor or enjoy how Dell can’t say the word “penis.” Monty Python watch out. This is comedy gold.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: D

BASED ON THE FILM "LES INTOUCHABLES" WRITTEN BY  Éric Toledano, Oliver Nakache SCREENPLAY BY Jon Hartmere DIRECTED BY Neil Berger STARRING Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman. Now playing in cinemas.