Sunday, March 29, 2015

While We're Young

         The newest film from writer/director Noah Baumbauch is a smart, biting comedy about the state of our culture today. It's a generational clash of Millennials and Generation X with a few Babyboomers thrown in for good measure.

          Ben Stiller (who defined a generation with "Reality Bites") and Naomi Watts are a married childless couple in their 40's who befriend a young "hipster" couple played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver.  The new relationship invigorates the older couple and confuses friends of their own age including Mr. Stiller's best friend played by Adam Horovitz. Charles Grodin plays Ms. Watts father, a famous documentarian.

          The film is similar in style and structure to the best of Woody Allen's "Smart " comedies. A lot of the humor is observational and there are many stinging one-liners. Mr. Stiller is perfectly cast (he can do this type of character in his sleep) and here has good chemistry with Ms. Watts. Mr. Driver's character is not far off the mark from "Adam", the character he plays on "Girls". While I'm a fan of his work, I'm still waiting to see the full extent of his range. Mr. Grodin still has the wonderful dry sense of humor he's always been famous for.  Of all the leading characters, only Ms. Seyfried seems underwritten with little to do.

           As a Babyboomer, I found myself feeling old watching "Young" as it is a true reflection of our times. It's enjoyable enough but in a strange way, also a bit scary.

Monday, March 23, 2015


             Belfast Ireland, 1971. British troops have been brought in to keep the peace during this violent time in Ireland's history between the Catholic and Protestant  Irish. This is the story of Gary Hook, a British soldier played by Jack O'Connell,  separated from his unit during a riot and trying to survive one long night in hostile surroundings.

              Mr. O'Donnell recently starred in "Unbroken" and here once again, he is a solider behind enemy lines battered, bruised and trying to stay alive. As an actor, Mr. O'Connell is a glutton for punishment but to his credit, he leaves it all out on the screen in a raw, visceral performance.

               Director Yann DeMange ratchets up the tension in every scene. The film plays like a horror movie except the danger is not some supernatural threat but rather working class people engaged in a  political, religious, and violent conflict. Not knowing who to trust, danger lurks around every corner for Hook and death can occur at anytime, often quickly without warning. His disorientation and fear is absorbed by the viewer, heightened by an intense score and terrific camera work.

               The film doesn't take sides or try to make a political statement. Even if you know nothing about the Irish "Troubles" of the period, this intense thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

It Follows

   What starts out as a conventional teen horror film soon swerves into new territory with the help of an unusual evil, atmospheric music, and a cast that sells the concept.

    Jay, a 19 year old girl has  sex with the wrong boy. She contracts, not a STD but rather an unstoppable creature bent on killing her. The creature can assume any human form and only be seen by the intended victim or earlier targets that have survived by passing the curse along through sexual contact. It sounds like an outrageous concept but the young cast acts with conviction and really sells the idea.

      The film has an eerie quality throughout heightened by a terrific horror score, the best since the original "Halloween".  Writer/director David Robert Mitchell  does an outstanding job with his actors, including Maika Monroe and Keir Gilchrist. 

      The creature, as seen in various human forms, simply walks slowly advancing on it's target. It enters a scene in unassuming ways making it all the more terrifying as it draws closer, it's intent very clear.

        Mr. Mitchell is not interested in blood and gore, of which there is very little, but rather scaring his audience in unconventional ways. Leaving the theater unnerved, I would say he succeeds.