Tag: edgar ramirez

Yes Day

Yes Day (2021)
★★ / ★★★★

Notice that if you were to remove Jennifer Garner from this film, it would not be worth seeing. Her joyous performance is so infectious, so full of lightness, giddiness, and vitality, you cannot help to smile even though the picture’s roughest patches. Watch her closely during the busiest moments: despite a handful of people on screen, quirky or crazy things happening left and right, and even when the editing is choppy on top of a blaring soundtrack, her creative choices allow her to rise above it all. Her extensive experience shines through.

This can be observed so clearly when the Torres family, in the middle of their Yes Day, visits a Korean ice cream shop. Garner’s character, Allison, is dressed head to toe like a futuristic pop star on acid. (The youngest of the Torres clan gave her a “makeover” that morning.) Lesser performers would have relied on the character’s appearance to make us laugh. But not Garner.

Because she is so into her character as a mother who wish to prove to her three children (Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla), believing she is too strict and uptight, that she still has it in her to be in the moment with reckless abandon, Garner channels the younger version of her character who we met during the picture’s terrific opening montage. When she goes down on that enormous ice cream, look at the way she tilts her head. Those eyes sparkle. There is a snap in every movement. She need not say a word to tell us she’s youthful. She brings forth active but subtle comedy as opposed to something that is obvious or passive. Her performance reminded me of Kathleen Turner in Francis Ford Coppola’s time travel film “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

This may sound like effusive praises given that the work is supposed to be a breezy, harmless family film. But I say it isn’t. The best family films, after all, are those that offer something truly special, characteristics beyond just another poop or fart joke, yet another idiot character falling down the stairs or off a ladder while putting on—or taking off—Christmas lights. While I don’t think that Miguel Arteta’s “Yes Day” is special by any means, it is important that we acknowledge good work. In this case, Garner is the jewel that keeps this otherwise ordinary family flick shining.

Yes Day is a day when parents are not allowed to refuse what their children want to do—with a few exceptions such as criminal activities or asking for something in the future (like getting a pet). It is a silly premise, to be sure, but at the same time so much can be done with it. And because there are possibilities, the comedy can be malleable. Strong comedies are never one-note.

For a good while, the movie is riotously entertaining. Credit to the screenplay by Justin Malen, who adapted the project from a children’s book by Amy Korouse Rosenthal (author) and Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator), for having the insight to give the audience a roadmap, in the form of a list, of what the Torres kids wish to do that special day. Because we possess the knowledge that the kids have five events planned for Mom and Dad (Édgar Ramírez), we are given a rough idea about the level of insanity for each succeeding event. (The fifth item on the list is surrounded by stars. You just know something serious will go down.)

It is without question that the film is at its best when it goes all in with its comedy. It doesn’t matter how silly, or dumb, or mainstream a scenario comes across. It is a wish-fulfillment story in the first place. But when it injects superficial drama, like the eldest daughter craving independence from her mother, the pacing is derailed to the point where it becomes unrecoverable. The fun tone turns rather dour and for no realistic reason. This film should have been cotton candy from beginning to end. And I am convinced that a seasoned filmmaker like Arteta knows it, too. But compromises had to be made for the sake of marketability.

Deliver Us from Evil

Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Directed by Scott Derrickson, “Deliver Us from Evil” begins on a solid footing, appropriately building an increasing sense of dread before giving the audience a full picture of what it is ultimately going to be about. About halfway through, however, it loses its way and it is eventually reduced to yet another horror movie about demonic possessions and we foresee an exorcism about to be performed from a mile away. It becomes less of an engaging experience and more a waiting game where special and visual effects finally take center stage.

Detective Sarchie (Eric Bana) takes a trip to the Bronx Zoo because there is a report of a woman who threw her baby into a ravine. They find her, apparently deranged, and she is arrested. Sarchie recognizes the woman reciting the lyrics to The Doors’ “Break on Through.” The cops figure she is on drugs and it might be better to question her at a later time. The next day, a priest named Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) asks Sarchie if, upon her arrest, the suspect was “unusually strong” the night before.

Intrigue is established in the first half. At the New York Police Department, cops have been complaining of calls from citizens who claim to hear strange noises in their home and see things moving on their own like their houses are possessed. The atmosphere likens that of David Fincher’s “Se7en” in that it is always raining, dark, and there is a sense of foreboding. It is easy to believe that although the story takes place in the real world, it is on the verge of a critical shift, like Pandor’s box is about to be opened.

But then the screenplay by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman is occasionally watered down by Sarchie’s problems at home. His wife (Olivia Munn) is beginning to feel as though he is spending too much time at work and when he is at home, his mind is somewhere else. I found this to be unbearably boring, formulaic, and forced. None of the dialogue between Bana and Munn work to progress the story in the forward direction and neither do we feel that their characters are into each other.

Scenes between Sarchie and his partner, Butler (Joel McHale), while driving around NYC, are better because we can actually glimpse into the dynamic of their relationship. The latter, however, is only occasionally found in the latter half as the priest’s role in the story gains more significance.

In bad horror movies with limited budget, lights turning on and off, hearing strange noises, and the booming of the score when something supposedly exciting happens rarely ever work. Here, the same approach is employed only this picture has more funds. And guess what? It still does not work. What good is using special and visual effects when there is no elegance or ingenuity in the script designed to escalate the tension in a consistent or surprising ways?

“Deliver Us from Evil” is a good movie for a while but it degenerates into a mindless mess where the effort is put into ticking every box in the horror genre instead of exploring new frontiers through a mixing of the crime and horror genres. As the final hour unfolds, I sat in my chair increasingly frustrated but was comforted by the fact that at least it is not another tired found footage horror-thriller.