Tag: jennifer tilly

Cult of Chucky

Cult of Chucky (2017)
★ / ★★★★

Casting Alex Vincent again as the original Andy Barclay, the first owner of a Good Guy doll that contains the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, also known as Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), is the only inspired decision in this mess of a horror film. The story begins with great promise as we learn how Andy’s life has been irrevocably changed following the grim events surrounding his sixth birthday. Although he survived the ordeal, in some ways Chucky had claimed a part of him. It is a nosedive from there, however, as writer-director Don Mancini rehashes the same tired clichés that plague pictures set in a mental institution.

The spotless psychiatric hospital never comes across as a real place, let alone a foreboding one. As expected, the patients are composed of by-the-numbers crazies, stereotypes from top to bottom, from a man with multiple personalities (Adam Hurtig) to a mother who had murdered her baby (Elisabeth Rosen). As the decibel levels increase during therapy sessions led by Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault), our patience with the material decreases at an exponential rate because we realize early on that these scenes only serve to buy time until the killer doll begins to exercise his specialty. Not one of these new characters, including our paraplegic heroine Nica (Fiona Dourif), the survivor from the preceding “Curse of Chucky,” is worthy of our time and attention.

The violence and gore are supposed to be over-the-top, but they are not at all enjoyable. The problem is, they just happen as opposed to the filmmakers actively building tension until they could no longer be contained. Without suspense, or at the very least understanding the importance of suspense in horror pictures, violent occurrences come across as shallow, busy. It is akin to opening up a book and trying to read the text, but realizing that all of the words are jumbled up thereby forming nonsense. It is supposed to be a horror film with comedic elements, but there is no well-written or fully realized content to be explored here. The jokes are recycled from previous installments.

There is one intriguing angle that is never taken beyond an elementary idea. That is, the material introduces the possibility of having more than one Chucky. It is increasingly alarming how many Good Guy dolls end up in the asylum. Yet we are never provided details as to how that might work which is most disappointing because the supernatural elements are already laid out by the 1988 original. This film is so lazy, it doesn’t even bother to expand upon how the voodoo, mumbo jumbo works. Instead, it is busy parading around familiar faces, lines of dialogue, and situations from previous films.

Having seen the genuinely creepy “Child’s Play” when I was about five or six years old, Chucky gave me nightmares. I loved the character, but I feared him. That film became such a part of me that once a year, to this day, I expect and eventually have a dream about the murderous doll stalking me. And so it goes without saying that I want this series to be reinvigorated—the quality being at least on the level of the first two pictures. It is so disappointing that sequel after sequel is one wasted potential after another. Ade due damballa—give us a great modern Chucky movie, we beg of you. The crushing dissatisfaction is getting old.

The Secret Lives of Dorks

The Secret Lives of Dorks (2013)
★ / ★★★★

“The Secret Lives of Dorks,” written by Johnny Severin and Nicholas Brandt, is not a movie but a television show. Rather, it is a first draft of a pilot doomed to fail if it somehow had gotten a green light from a desperate network looking to appeal to whoever is too lazy to reach for the remote control and change the channel. This is not a movie for smart teenagers. This is not a movie for any teenager. In fact, I know they will likely despise it. The film neither accurately represents the realities of high school life nor does it know how it is really like to be an outsider. It is false from top to bottom.

Payton (Gaelan Connell), comic book nerd, has a crush on Carrie (Riley Voelkel), the head cheerleader. It is their senior year which means it is his last chance to overcome astronomical odds to get her to go out with him. Mortified every time her friends notice Payton around her, Carrie concocts a plan to get the loser away from her permanently: help Samantha (Vanessa Marano), unibrow girl, to snag a date with Payton and hopefully they will hit it off.

The combination of live-action and animation is uninspired. It fails to establish a rhythm between the modes and so the jokes are lost in the shuffle. The animation is supposed to look hand drawn, but nothing about it is eye-catching or special. Always accompanied by narration, one wonders why the filmmakers were convinced that having animated sequences is necessary to enhance the story. It is like walking into a house with garbage all over the floor and the owner expecting guests to appreciate the art on the walls.

The writers’ sense of humor is childish and downright idiotic at times. This is because they have a proclivity for setting up a scene with a possibility of something going wrong. It almost always ends up disastrous for the characters. Because such a formula is employed so many times, the material becomes predictable and boring.

Payton and Samantha’s date is an excellent example of the writers’ dreadful thought process. Clearly, the two characters have never been on a date. Instead of allowing the two of them to have a genuinely sweet time with occasional awkward moments—as many first dates tend to have—bathroom humor is abound. Do Severin and Brandt really believe that their target audience—teenagers—will find unrelenting fart and poop jokes to be funny? Maybe—maybe—if the characters were supposed to be in middle school, it might have worked. I felt as though we are supposed to relish the embarrassment that Payton and Samantha are going through.

Not once did I believe that Ms. Stewart, Payton’s biology teacher, would have had a difficult time getting the attention of Payton’s father (James Belushi), a widower. Ms. Stewart is played by Jennifer Tilly and she is miscast. It is not Tilly’s fault because she oozes sexual charisma without even trying. The casting directors are to blame because it was their job to hire a performer who could look pathetic or desperate. They went for the big name instead of what makes sense for the character being portrayed.

Perhaps the saddest and most frustrating miscalculation is the execution of the father-son relationship. There is a way to communicate that there is a disconnect between family members in interesting and even amusing ways. This film goes for the easiest and most typical route: the father being interested in football while the son would rather read comic books. I will not bother to go into details about how ordinary it is. Consider all the clichés you can think of about strained father-son relationships and they can be found here. The writers didn’t even try to come up with anything remotely original.

Directed by Salomé Breziner, “The Secret Lives of Dorks” is like a dead thing: a disgusting sight with a stench that lingers in the mind—and kills brain cells in the process.


Bound (1996)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Violet (Jennifer Tilly) and Corky (Gina Gershon) met in an elevator. They eyed each other despite the fact that Violet’s boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), who worked for the mob, was right there with them. Violet knocked on Corky’s door, offering her a cup of coffee. Their romance started off like a bad porno movie, Corky being a mechanic and all. Violet confessed to Corky she wanted to escape the mob life so both concocted a plan to steal two million dollars from the mob and pin it on Caesar. The film was a success because it relied on very strong writing and three superb performances. Gershon epitomized seduction. She had a perfect balance of the feminine and the masculine. Pantoliano was sublime as a raging bull–the masculine figure. Tilly, the feminine, was funny, sexy, and compelling in every frame. I’ve seen her in many independent features and I believe she’s more than capable of mainstream success because she’s such a wonderful actress. “Bound” wore its modern noir tone on its sleeve; it rivaled Ethan Coen and Joel Coen’s “Blood Simple.” in terms of nail-biting tension that never lets go until the final shot and Quentin Taratino’s “Pulp Fiction” in terms of complex characters with questionable morals and multilayered motivations. It was able to do a lot with a simple shot. For instance, I’ve never seen a gun sliding through white paint looked more elegant and beautiful. The lesbian eroticism may attract some but may repel others. Some could argue it had elements of sexploitation, which I don’t necessarily disagree with. But my counterargument is that the picture did not show anything offensive. It may offend certain individuals either due to homophobia or fear of sexuality in general, but I perceived the images through a feminist scope. For me, it was about two women who had complete control of their wills and bodies. I would even go as far to say that the sex and seduction scenes were necessary because the picture depended so much on the trust between Violet and Corky. Their attraction with one another was the reason we wanted them to get away with stealing without losing any finger, or worse, their lives. Written and directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, “Bound” was a ferocious and unpredictable neo-noir thriller. I loved how it prevented me from thinking ahead because I was so engaged with what was currently happening on screen. That is, how the characters could possibly extricate themselves from an increasingly hopeless and dangerous situation. I suppose two million dollars had to be earned but at what cost?

Saint Ralph

Saint Ralph (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Michael McGowan, “Saint Ralph” stars Adam Butcher, a boy who believes that if he can perform a miracle by winning the 1954 Boston Marathon, God will take his mother (Shauna MacDonald) out from her coma and everything will be okay again. What I loved about this movie was that it started off pretty funny. Ralph was not exactly the model student: he got into trouble by “accidentally” masturbating in the swimming pool (did I mention he attends a Catholic school?), his peers constantly made fun of him, made forgeries with his best friend (Michael Kanev), and lied about his dead grandparents. But as things started to get serious, the director slowly showed the audiences how Ralph forced himself to be more mature and eventually run the marathon. I liked that he had occassional slip-ups because it showed that he was still a fourteen-year-old and not someone who turned into a saint overnight. I usually don’t like movies that glorify religion because most of them are too preachy. However, although this film was set in a religious school and community, it was really more of an inspirational story about someone who desperately needed an outlet for his negative emotions and channel it into something good. I was touched by his relationship with Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott), the teacher who helped him to get better at running, and was infuriated with Father Fitzpatrick’s (Gordon Pinsent) attempt to put Ralph in an orphanage. I also thought that Jennifer Tilly as Nurse Alice was pretty good; she became more like a mother figure to Ralph and I thought it was a nice that she was playing a different sort of character compared to her other movies. I have to admit that the end of the picture made me tear up in so many ways because I wanted Butcher’s character to succeed so badly. There’s just something about characters in movies who work really hard because they want to achieve something that gets me every single time. I guess I can easily relate because I used to feel like I always had to prove myself to people that I’m good enough. (Which reached its climax in my high school years.) After the movie, I was just overwhelmed with many different emotions and I was really happy that I saw it.

Relax… It’s Just Sex

Relax… It’s Just Sex (1998)
★★★ / ★★★★

This movie, written and directed by P.J. Castellaneta, about people with all sorts of sexual orientations is far from perfect but I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I thought it was nice to see people just being people without having to be afraid of offending its audiences. The cast is led by Jennifer Tilly whose friends mostly consists of gays and lesbians. Tilly juggles three fronts: her need to constantly have sex because she wants to have a baby before her eggs “expire” (done in hilarious ways, I might add), trying to be supportive of lesbian friend (Cynda Williams) who recently broke up with her almost decade long lover (Serena Scott Thomas) because she fell for another man, and consoling her gay friend (Mitchell Anderson) because he’s depressed that he’s not (or been in) any stable relationship. Although there were very funny moments, especially in the first half, my favorite scene has got to be the dinner conversation on whether HIV really causes AIDS. That scene constantly evolved not just topic-wise but because it showed us the many personalities of each of the characters and how they dealt with the situation whenever they were confronted by others. It felt so real; I have many memories with friends who have varying opinions when we talk about certain issues and some of those times do get to the point where somebody has to yell, “Shut up!” before the discussion got out of hand. That scene made me feel like I was sitting at that dinner table so I thought it was very powerful. I think the title of this picture is very misleading because sex is not the central issue. It’s really more about relationships and how such relationships are defined by people who are directly involved with a particular issue and those who are in the periphery. The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was it’s all too gloomy second half. I was very impressed that it was a comedy and offered a plethora of insights but it became more typical with the serious dramatics in the second half. This is a small movie but the writing is very funny because it features a lot of colorful straight/gay/lesbian/bisexual people. For me, it wasn’t at all difficult to connect with it.