Extremely convoluted and vaguely offensive, with more ideas per minute than anything else I’ve seen this year… which is to say that my high expectations set by Bodied have been met. Set in a high school where all the kids are obsessed with the 90’s. There’s a “gotta fled” reference.
After a false start, Riley is our loser main girl (Shanley Caswell seemed up-and-coming then followed this up with a David DeCoteau movie) who decides to hang herself in the school hallway and ends up fighting off an axe murderer in a princess crown cosplaying the horror sequel all the kids want to see, Cinderhella 2. She and Josh “Hunger Games” Hutcherson try to stay alive long enough to solve the mystery. There’s body swapping and time travel and alien abduction. Dumbfounded from Bodied downloads an illegal workprint of Cinderhella 3 seeking clues from the future. Shout out to Adrian Martin for listing this as one of the century’s greatest films.
Horror was the bait that we were dangling so we could flip all the genres around … One of the conceits of the movie was to put each of the characters in their own genre: one of them is in a sexcapade, one of them is in a horror movie, one of them is in Clueless. And then over the course of the movie they sort of start to peek over into each otherâ€™s genres. The only one who canâ€™t see outside of his genre is Sander, who is a version of those Columbine guys. He has no backstory.
We didn’t buy the essay part, but were mostly watching for the clips… and even that backfired when it kept focusing on horror, and Katy had to cover her eyes through scenes from Final Destination and Idle Hands.
I had low expectations because of Olivia Wilde’s tiresome Regal Cinema shorts, which I’ve started using as an opportunity to check twitter before the feature begins, to make sure we haven’t gone to war, or that someone in the movie I’m about to watch hasn’t been caught sexually harassing anyone. But this was good!
It’s not perfectly realistic (WAY too woke, per letterboxd), but is Better Off Dead realistic? Granted, Booksmart is no Better Off Dead – it’s just a version of the only high school movie plot that screenwriters can think of (loser has limited time to get a date with crush) but it’s girls this time, one of them is gay, and they end up with different people than they intended. It’s supposed to be extra-funny that the shitty villain from Colossal plays their principal, but I’m not sure why – Katy says he’s married to the director.
Writers include David Mamet’s PA, the creator of a TV show where Kyle MacLachlan plays “Dr. Frost,” the writer/director of The Spy Who Dumped Me, and the writer of the upcoming Tom & Jerry reboot, which I dearly hope will look like that Lion King remake.
Gerwig has assimilated the awkward realness of Noah Baumbach’s characters with the visual charm of Wes Anderson, and given Saoirse Ronan an even better showcase than Brooklyn. Saoirse Ronan dates nice guy Lucas Hedges (Manchester, Three Billboards) and hangs with best friend Julie, then gives them up for bad boy Kyle (Call Me By Your Name star TimothÃ©e Chalamet) and popular girl Jenna, realizing her mistake and rejoining her friend in time for the school prom before she leaves town for a college her parents can’t really afford. She feuds with her mom Laurie Metcalf (that bonkers episode of Horace and Pete), and they don’t quite make up in time, but quietly depressed dad Tracy Letts (schoolmaster of Indignation) sends his daughter a touching present of all the letters mom half-wrote her daughter and threw away. I have no problem believing that precocious Saoirse is a coming-of-age Gerwig stand-in. High school dramas aren’t usually my favorite things, but I can’t ignore something this smart and perfectly made, and Katys are raving that it’s an amazingly accurate portrayal of a mother/daughter relationship.
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Begin Again) is an awkward teen who likes a guy (“bad boy” Alex Calvert), is liked by a different guy (cartoonist Hayden Szeto), hates her brother (Blake Jenner of EWS!!) and has a best friend (Haley Lu Richardson, kidnappee in Split) who starts dating the brother. So far, so typical. But the sparkling dialogue and the work by Woody Harrelson as her patient, smartass teacher should ensure this movie’s place in Teen Film Eternity, to run on cable (or streaming or whatever) for generations.
David Ehrlich’s review got our butts into the theater:
Unfolding like a symphony of small humiliations, there isnâ€™t a moment in this movie that doesnâ€™t feel at least vaguely familiar, and there isnâ€™t a moment in this movie that doesnâ€™t feel completely true … the scenes with the highest potential for hokeyness are the ones that Craig and her cast most relish … When shit gets heavy between Nadine and her brother, both Steinfeld and Jenner tap into a sense of depth so real that it almost seems alien to the genre.
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve watched a Miike movie. I caught the Zebraman double-feature at the beginning of 2012, and he has made nine new ones since then. Here’s one of those, a high-school horror/slasher that’s fortunately better than One Missed Call. Acting, cinematography all quite good, but the top IMDB comment “brutal fun, but nothing more” seems accurate.
Mr. Hasumi (Hideaki Ito of The Princess Blade, Over Your Dead Body) is the hotshot new teacher, good looking, sensitive to his students’ problems. He gets involved in everyone’s business, seemingly as a benevolent authority-type. Student Keisuke leads a cellphone exam-cheating ring and teacher Radio Tsurii may be blocking cell signals to stop it. Mr. Kume is blowing his student Masahiko, and Mr. Shibahara is sexually blackmailing student Miya. Rina is being bullied at school, or perhaps her jittery dad is overreacting – we’re never sure. The dad dies in a fire after Hasumi gets involved, and Hasumi “rescues” Miya but then starts sleeping with her, using Mr. Kume’s apartment, which he’s blackmailing Kume to use, and maybe Hasumi’s not such a hero after all.
I didn’t think it seemed very much like a horror movie by this point, but then Hasumi kidnaps cheater Keisuke and tortures him to death with a soldering iron. Flashback to Hasumi’s time at Harvard, during which he and another grad student went on a small murder spree. Hasumi is more ambitious now, grabs a shotgun and massacres every kid at school during a halloween-party lock-in. He basically murders everyone in the entire movie, except a couple kids who fool him at the end, then as he’s feigning insanity while being locked up, we’re promised “TO BE CONTINUED” by the titles.
After suffering through a scratchy German record of “Mack the Knife” a few times, we’re finally rewarded with an American rock version during the massacre. Oh also Hasumi’s shotgun sometimes turns into a fleshy Naked Lunchy eyeball thing that speaks in the Harvard guy’s voice.
Radio Tsurii was Mitsuru Fukikoshi (star of Sion Sono’s Cold Fish), soldering victim Keisuke was Shota Sometani (star of Sion Sono’s Himizu), pederast Shibahara was Takayuki Yamada (star of Sion Sono’s Shinjuku Swan) and one of the girls was Fumi Nikaido (star of Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell). Why am I suddenly getting the urge to check out some Sion Sono movies?
Stephen Chbosky adapted a novel by Stephen Chbosky (based partly on the life of Stephen Chbosky) for director (and executive producer) Stephen Chbosky. Sounds like a recipe for a bland, safe movie made by someone too close to the material, but it turned out very well, and features the best cinematic use of David Bowie’s Heroes to date (plus a fair amount of Morrissey).
Charlie (Lightning Thief star Logan Lerman), a high school freshman in the early 90’s had only one friend, who just died, so Charlie spent the summer in an institution having dark thoughts. He’s a nerdy loner at school, only ever talking to English teacher Paul Rudd, but greatly improves when he starts hanging out with Patrick (Ezra Miller, title murderer in We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman, Ann from Arrested Development, also in Scott Pilgrim) and hottie Emma Watson (of those Harry Potter movies).
Much high-school drama ensues. Charlie joins the older kids’ Rocky Horror show and defends Patrick from homophobes, but doesn’t go after Emma because he is too shy. Belated plot thread when the other kids graduate and Charlie reveals to cast latecomer Joan Cusack that his dead aunt touched him inappropriately. We get a good feeling at the end, like Charlie (an aspiring writer) will be alright, possibly write a memoir-novel of these experiences, adapt it to a screenplay, maybe executive-produce and direct a film version full of Bowie and Morrissey songs.
A movie Katy says could not have been made in the last decade, which is possibly why I enjoyed it so much. You don’t often see a comedy about high school social strata that includes so much gleeful murder. Christian Slater (same year as Name of the Rose) is the dreamy psycho-killer who drifts into town with his dad, and Winona Ryder (between Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands) is a new recruit to the prom-queen-level social class shared by three girls named Heather. Ryder falls for Slater and semi-unwittingly helps him kill some people, but when he plots to blow up the school, staging it as a mass suicide, she fight back and Slater blows himself up instead.
Writer Daniel Waters went on to help ruin the 1990’s with Hudson Hawk and Demolition Man and director Lehmann (also responsible for Hudson Hawk) did his part with Airheads and My Giant, dragging it out into the 2000’s with 40 Days and 40 Nights and Because I Said So. Lately he’s worked on about ten different well-liked TV series. One Heather, the one who made a brain tumor joke, died in 2001 of a brain tumor, and another costarred in Mallrats. One of the murdered footballers appeared in Ghoulies III and the other in Night of the Demons. So, not a supporting cast that went on to fame and fortune. Good to see Otho from Beetlejuice as a preacher presiding over the wave of teen funerals.