Review: Addicted to Fresno

Addicted to Fresno tells the story of two co-dependent sisters Martha (Natasha Lyonne) and Shannon (Judy Greer). Natasha is a lesbian, who is the more stable and responsible of the two and feels she always has to protect her sister and subjugates her own happiness. She helps out this time by getting Shannon a job after she is once again out of a rehab program for her sexual addiction.

This is the kind of film that takes a bit too much time to start going where it is predestined to, the lack all but the occasional minor surprise is a detriment to the film as well. It doesn’t offer enough modulation, and dimension for the characters until it’s too late to be salvaged. It thankfully doesn’t progress in to be the full-on trainwreck that the first act promises but its second and third act improvements do not ultimately salvage it but just make it tolerable.

The film does offer some laughs, and eventually takes a long hard look at these characters, it shows they do love one another and can examine their own and each other’s lives that pulls it from the realm of asshole cinema that it seems like its going to dwell in a strive for early on.

The performances bother from the leads; Natasha Lyonne who I have not seen enough of since her great debut in Everyone Says I Love You, is charming and relatable; Judy Greer who has recently garnered attention for her prodigious talents being under-utilized in blockbusters while having more screen time here seems to be an equally thankless position.

The standouts here in terms of memorable performances and comedic moments are actually the supporting players. Like Aubrey Plaza, as Martha’s love interest; Clea DuVall, who I also do not see enough of; Fred Armisen and Alison Tolman deliver with the greatest frequency and highest success; last but not least Ron Livingston.

All the players no matter how well they did are not well served by the script that feels like it could’ve used some polishing off, and the edit which could’ve truncated the tale so it’d move a bit better, especially at the denouement.

There’s slapstick potential that’s squandered in this film and that’s regrettable. The film in its patchwork way may find a cult of fans through Netflix or cable airings but will go down as ultimately forgettable and lamentable in my book.

3/10

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Mini-Review: The Whisperer in the Darkness

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Whisperer in the Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness was a film I just had to see. After having seen The Call of Cthulhu, which was a short, silent version of a Lovecraft classic, I knew I’d want to see anything this company (known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) did.

In their newest film, and first feature, they tackle The Whisperer in Darkness and shifted from a silent film representation to a monster film of the 1930s approach. In both cases, the style of film that is emulated perfectly suits the work being interpreted.

I firmly believe this to be the case, regardless of your familiarity with either of these very distinct niches. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft this is a great introduction as it very faithfully, but also intriguingly in cinematic terms, renders the narrative. Any admirer of film, regardless of what era(s) they prefer, will recognize some of the conventions on display in this film, and as details of the narrative unfold it’ll become clear the choice is an inspired one.

Much of this is a roundabout way of saying that odds are you’ll like this if you go in with the knowledge of what the film is attempting, and you could be a fan of either or neither end of the narrative equation and walk away liking it. However, if you like both it’s rather heavenly, or should I say hellacious? Either way, it’s great stuff.

10/10

Announcement: Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon 2015

An October blogathon a-comin’. I will be discussing the films of the talented, versatile auteur Robert Rodriguez!

Once upon a screen...

Hispanic Heritage Month, whose roots go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15 and ends on October 15.  In celebration I am reprising the Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon to commemorate the imprint Hispanics have made on Hollywood.  I’m excited to continue with what I hope will be a yearly event that spotlights unfamiliar or all-too-often forgotten Hollywood players and movies.

Hollywood's Hispanic Heritage Blogathon 2

You may remember that Kay of Movie Star Makeover co-hosted this event with me last year.  I’m sad to say she is unable to fulfill hosting duties this year so I am going it alone and hope that she is at least able to participate.  It wouldn’t be the same without her.

Last year’s event proved both enriching and entertaining and I’m hoping to top that.  Here are a few topic guidelines…

Topics:

I welcome posts celebrating Hispanic Heritage in Hollywood that focus on actors, filmmakers or films that celebrate…

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61 Days of Halloween: Sinister 2 (2015)

The life of a horror sequel is not an easy one. Invariably, whether from the fandom that spawned the sequel or the critical masses, a continuation will be far more scrutinized it seems. Not to worry, Dear Reader, I am not opening up the Pandora’s Box that is editorializing on the agglomeration of reviews, or even fan reaction. I’m pointing out that while I was anticipating this film highly, I too went in ready to be overhyped and possibly disappointed, as the original was one of the tops of 2012, but I must say I walked away most certainly pleased.

One of the biggest successes it that it is indeed an expansion of the mythos, a further closer look rather than a straight-up regurgitation that many series seem to covet, and at times audiences seem to demand. A classic example would be how Carpenter originally had designs on the Halloween series always telling different tales on All Hallows’ Eve, yet he only managed to steer the films away from Michael Myers once.

Sinister 2, follows-up and picks up with Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone) from the first installment. He’s back but having found no satisfactory resolution in his own mind he continues to seek out properties where similar occurrences happened that can be linked to the demon Bughuul.

Sinister 2 (2015, Universal)

Almost immediately the film puts you in a new frame of mind, ready for anything, as it seems to be playing a temporal trick. By casting one of the boys (Robert Daniel Sloan) and making him look a lot like a young Ransone; and having few telltale signs of era you wonder for a bit if these sequences aren’t flashbacks to his past. This is quickly cleared up and cleverly played into. With this trick played, and explained away ,you’re prepared to tread a different path.

Another differentiating factor is the interweaving a naturally fearful situations: namely the custody dispute and domestic violence themes displayed by the contentious relationship that Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and Clint (Lea Coco) enact. Coco is chillingly convincing as a sociopathic, abusive, ex-husband. This just adds a layer to the terror, which is natural rather than supernatural.

Further layering this tale is the shift in perspective from that of a terrified father (Ethan Hawke) learning of this strange, dark past through these home movies; to the children targeted to be sacrificed to and to make offerings to Bughuul. What is brilliantly left behind the curtain in the original is revealed here, and examined with results that are nearly as terrifying, and just as captivating.

The children herein also play well on a classic horror trope: that of twins. This film differentiates itself first by making them fraternal, and secondly by having these two have entirely distinctive personalities. This is also intimated early on by one subtle fact: they do not share a room. Just having mom have separate bedtime visits in different rooms and talk to each about the other makes an immediate statement.

Sinister 2 (2015, Universal)

Having the children be more the focus means they have to a little more this time around than just look the part of scary ghost or unfortunate victim. Starting with the twins played by Robert Daniel and Dartanian Sloan they are expertly cast and play their types to a tee. When necessary they emote precisely namely Robert Daniel engendering sympathy and pity, exuding fear; Dartanian on the other hand inhabits the role of bully and can strike fear, and causes shock in the blink of an eye.

Those children who are apparitions are also allowed to have their moments namely Lucas Jade Zumann as Milo who delivers the most hypnotically serpentine performance by a young actor since Frank Dillane in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Delving further in to the plot there are great single-scene subplots like the Norwegian Hell-Call, which I wouldn’t mind seeing a whole spinoff film about, and also the clever excision of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character. Granted it was likely due to scheduling more than anything else, but it works and leaves the door open for a return if needed.

Sinister 2 (2015, Universal)

Coincidentally, I saw Sinister 2 with the same large group of friends as I saw the first one, and it similarly caused quite a bit of discussion afterwards. When more often than not the reaction after a horror film is tepid apathy, or worse disgust (I’ll never forget the reaction at my screening to The Devil Inside); this is least one can ask for but it goes further than that.

Much but not all of what made Sinister a success was its witty retort to the standard found footage approach. However, what the Sinister films have found it seems is a mythology that it’s exploring to its fullest based on the self-assigned parameters of each film. Sinister, like the Purge, leaves fans wanting more, but in Sinister’s case it’s not a backhanded compliment but rather the highest praise.