Movie Review: “To Write Love on Her Arms”

“To Write Love on Her Arms.” It’s a cause, vividly illustrated by its name, a turn of phrase so poetic that it’s no wonder a big segment of the music industry embraced it as a cause celebre a few years back.
It’s also a biography, and that’s how it makes its way to the screen. “To Write Love on Her Arms” is about Renee Yohe, a troubled teen who troubled psyche, substance abuse and self-injury inspired an online support system for those like her — especially those so troubled they repeatedly cut themselves.
And if you think all Kat Dennings is good for is lame sitcom one-liners, you are in for a shock.
Dennings plays Yohe, a music-obsessed Florida teen when her troubles began, with a coy confidence that contradicts all her instincts to swing-for-the-cute.
Pale and dark, hiding behind her hoodie and her headphones, Renee at least has a support system (ably played by Juliana Harkavy and Mark Saul). But a support system’s only supportive when they’re around, and Renee abandoned them for cocaine, ecstasy, the works.
A struggling music producer/band manager, David McKenna (Rupert Friend of “Young Victoria”) runs into Renee at a twelve step meeting she refuses to attend. And when he and her friends cannot get her into rehab, he takes them all in for the five days needed to sober her up enough to qualify. Chad Michael Murray plays
Jamie Tworkowski, a friend of McKenna’s who saw Renee’s story as inspiring, who coined the title phrase and turned it and her into a movement.
Dennings makes Renee charismatic enough for people to care, a barely repentent “coozer,” lover of cocaine and booze.
“I made that up. D’you LIKE it?”
Friend is more subtle, making McKenna a guarded savior, somebody with his own demons. Murray, of TV’s “One Tree Hill” and “Chosen,” gives Tworkowski a heart-on-his-sleeve quality. On seeing Renee’s slashed up arm for the first time — “My God, who DOES that?”

The film’s refusal to judge Yohe and others’ demons extends, somewhat, to some of the villains of this world. Corbin Bleu makes a disarmingly charming addict, and J. LaRose an absolutely chilling dealer who expects to be paid, by any means necessary. “High School Musical” veteran Bleu turns a surreally depressing Daytona Beach drug den into a celebration when he sings the most pointed version of J.J. Cale’s addictive anthem “Cocaine.”
Director Nathan Frankowski, best remembered for the should-be-forgotten creationist documentary “Expelled,” renders this more true than factual story as a romantic fantasy, with Renee’s favorite musicians bursting into her flashbacks, her dreams and (in the case of singer Rachael Yamagata), her recovery. Fanciful animation colors Renee’s childhood and illustrates her demons, and concert and club scenes beautifully put her into the world she escapes to — the music of Paper Route, Flint Eastwood and others.
The story’s arc is a trifle too familiar to sustain a two hour movie, even one as beautifully shot (by Stephen Campbell) and cut (by Gordon Grinberg) as this one. And the finale of this jinxed production — it was filmed years ago, re-edited, set for release only to tumble into Sony’s online hacking disaster last Christmas — sermonizes in a way more suited to direct-to-video evangelizing than a feature film.
But Renee Yohe’s story is rendered in tones, colors and images almost as lovely as the lyrical words that started it all.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content involving addiction and disturbing behavior throughout, and for brief language

Cast: Kat Dennings, Rupert Friend, Chad Michael Murray
Credits: Directed by Nathan Frankowski, script by Kate King Lynch. A Sony release.

Running time: 1:58

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John “Deliverance/Excalibur/Hope and Glory” Boorman has made his last film

boormanJohn Boorman, one of the giants of British cinema, just turned 82. The director of “Deliverance,” “Excalibur” and “The General” has an announcement tucked into the finale of “Queen and Country,” just now opening in the United States.
“You may have noticed that the last shot of the film was a camera that stops,” he says. “That was my way of indicating that this is my last film.”
So even though “Eastwood is, what, three years older than me? And (Portuguese director) Manoel de Oliveira is, oh, 106,” it’s time.
But not before he finished “Country,” his long-planned sequel to the Oscar-nominated 1987 autobiographical dramedy “Hope and Glory.” That film recreated his experiences growing up in World War II Britain. “Queen and Country” catches up with his character (named William Rohan) as he serves in the early 1950s British Army, training on the home front, hoping not to be sent to Korea.
“My experience of the Army was that if you extract combat, if it’s an army just training for combat, you really emphasize the absurdity of it. ..The object of training in the Army is to brainwash the soldier… to crush any individualism, any independent thinking. Make your soldiers into automatons.”
And looking back on that, Boorman found it funny. So “Queen and Country” has service comedy hinjinx, as a pal named Percy steals an officer’s cherished Boer War era clock from the company mess. In real life– and “everything in this story really happened — there are consequences to that.
“The Percy character was court-martialed. And I took him in handcuffs to the military prison. I still have the receipt I was given. ‘Received from Sgt. Boorman, the live body of Private Bradshaw.'”
Boorman laughs. “Absurd.”
“Hope and Glory” was full of nostalgia in a child’s view of the “adventure” of war — school closed, when it is accidentally bombed, children shipped to the country where cantakerous Grandfather presides, teaches and amuses. Boorman was determined to do the sequel because it captures another turning point in British history.

“The older soldiers, the ones who’d been in ‘The War,’ and were training us, they still clung to the idea of Imperial Britain and the British Empire. The biggest empire ever had vanished within a handful of years. We, the younger generation, embraced the change and England became a very different place. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the art scene were transformed by about 1960. All the class rigidity that went along with ‘empire,’ we younger people were glad to see that go.”
As the film suggests, Boorman was film crazy (“American movies seemed so glamorous to those of us growing up in a pretty bleak post-war Britain.”). He grew up near Shepperton Studios, got a job as a film editor for the BBC and worked his way toward directing movies. His career path mirrored that of the great editor-turned director David Lean (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “A Passage to India”), who became a friend and mentor. Lean died at 83, in 1991.
“I was with him just before he died, and he was trying to make ‘Nostromo’ and cancer felled him,” Boorman recalls. “He told me ‘I do hope I get well enough to make this film, because I feel I’m just beginning to get the hang of it.’
“That’s how I feel, that I’m just ‘getting the hang of it.’ But it’s time. It’s time.”

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Classy Dame Judi Dench won’t retire, we won’t let her

denchDame Judi Dench takes an awkward pause, Her interviewer’s name is familiar, even if the actor he shares it with never played one of Dench’s versions of James Bond.
“Well, I don’t know whether to have a nice little chat…or give you an ASSIGNMENT…Double-O-seven!”
The Oscar winning queen of the British stage and screen cackles, and Dame Judi does not laugh alone. She laughs easily and often; at her luck, her career, at the fact that she never chooses a film role solely based “on the exotic location” the story is set in.
“You know, like Michael Caine!”
Dench is back on screen with “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” happy for the reunion this sequel to the surprise hit of 2011/12. It’s not like she met her castmates on the Indian sets of that comedy about British old age pensioners moving into a “home” in a land where old age is revered and one’s pension stretches a lot further than in the U.K. These players have tread the British boards together for decades.
“I was at The National with Bill Nighy, and I was with Ronnie Pickup in ‘Amy’s View,’ Celia (Imrie) and I did ‘Cranford,’ Penelope (Wilton) and I have worked together. And Mags and I have worked together since, oh, ’58.”
“Mags.” She calls Dame Maggie Smith “Mags.” That must be a one-Dame-to-another privilege.
Dench, who turned 80 in December, welcomed the chance to return to India and go back to work for her favorite director — John Madden (“Mrs. Brown”,”Shakespeare in Love”). Because Dench, like her character Evelyn, isn’t interested in retiring. In the sequel, Evelyn’s sharp eye for Indian fabrics could mean a new career, one that could stand in the way of her slow-moving romance with Douglas (Nighy).
“I heard a lady, a doctor, on the BBC the other day, saying ‘I cannot WAIT to retire!’ She was something like 58. And I thought, ‘What IS she going to retire to do?’ I am very very ANTI-retirement. What DO you with your time? What do you do with somebody elderly in your family? What do you do if you ARE that elderly person? You don’t want to be a burden to your children. Best to get on with something, so my sympathies are very much with what Evelyn does and feels up to gets on with life and faces something new, taking on something she’s not conversant with…She looks forward, which we all have to remember to keep doing.”
Evelyn is a bit softer than the typical Dench character. She’s famous for her “queens and other frosty matriarchs,” as the London Times once put it — fierce characters, Elizabeth I in “Shakespeare in Love,” M in the Bond movies. But she hates the thought of being pigeon-holed.
“I WISH someone would ask me to play a weak and feeble woman who just goes to pieces at the smallest little thing,” she laughs. “You don’t have a focus if you don’t challenge yourself, try something new with every opportunity you’re given.”
But Evelyn in “Exotic Marigold” was some of the easiest acting she’s ever done, and that has nothing to do with the comforts of working with actors and a director she’s known forever.
“My character had to be BEWITCHED by the place, Jaipur, and that required little acting on my part. That happened to me very quickly. The color, the sounds, the smells, everything about it is so exotic. Especially to an English person. And then there’s the depressing gap between the rich and the very, very poor. The inequality there is unbelievably shocking, and yet the people are so warm and friendly.”
“Second Best Exotic” is earning reviews that are more indulgent than enthusiastic, with Variety’s Peter Debruge echoing many when he wrote that “whatever spark exists off-camera (for the veteran cast) can’t help but reveal itself during those irreverent, potentially insensitive moments that made the original so much fun.”
Dench’s quick laugh and easy-going charm seem more connected to her Quaker background than the driving ambition one must possess to manage an acting career of some sixty years duration. She keeps working even as she suffers from age-related macular degeneration, making it impossible for her to read scripts (she has them read to her). As often as she works and as “ridiculously competitive” as those roles for women her age are, she must be on the phone with her agent in between films. Idea for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch — Dame Judi, on the phone, haranguing that agent for the next job.
“Oh heavens no,” she laughs. She lives in the country in a village “well away from the bustle and business of London.” She keeps lots of pets, hangs out with chums and starts each day “with a little checklist, everything I want to do that day. And if I don’t finish it, I just carry it over to the next. It’s a way to keep looking forward.”
One thing that she eagerly awaits to check off on her list is her next project, a Tim Burton film.
“I don’t think it’s been ANNOUNCED yet,” she says, guardedly, with a hint of conspiracy about her. “You do remember, Double-O Seven, that I know how to keep a secret?”


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Box Office: “Focus” opens #1, but weak for Will Smith — “Kingsman” closes in on $100 million

box“Focus” earned mixed reviews, and truth be told, Will Smith’s kind of yesterday’s news. So this caper comedy/romance wasn’t going to be that much-needed blockbuster comeback for him. It’s opening in first place this weekend, but will be lucky to clear $20 million. Word of mouth Saturday will be key.

“The Lazarus Effect” is a sturdy enough bring-back-the-dead thriller, poor reviews, but I thought its cast and director made it work. It’s opening at over $10 million.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” will be close to $150 million by Sunday night, “American Sniper” will be over $330.

“McFarland” and “The DUFF” aren’t holding much audience on their second weekend. Enough. Costner’s film is set to clear $20, “DUFF” just shy of it.

Among the Oscar winners re-issued to get people out to see what they missed, “Still Alice” is the one to crack the top ten.

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Leonard Nimoy — 1931-2015

nimoypop culture icon passed away today. Leonard Nimoy was, by my estimation, the Dalai Lama of world pop culture, recognizable, revered, respected.

And all because of a TV character. A character he played on a low-rated show that became the very definition of “cult favorite.” The cult grew and grew, and it endured and endures. Largely because of Leonard Nimoy’s inscrutable take on that Vulcan cipher, Mr. Spock.

Here’s a thorough overview of his life and credits. No, Spock wasn’t the first time this Boston Jew wore pointy ears. He turned up in a sci-fi serial dressed like that more than a decade before.

And the only performance that leaps to mind post-“Star Trek” is a winning turn as Golda Meir in the Ingrid Bergman mini-series, “A Woman Called Golda” in the ’70s.

He had a directing career that began with “Night Gallery,” peaked with “Trek” III and IV, and included “Three Men and a Baby.” The only person I ever heard bad mouth him was a screenwriter of one of the failed comedies that followed that (“Funny About Love”), though I haven’t read the many “Trek” memoirs. Surely some colleague there resented him and his success and careful stewardship of the character, who popped up on many series and and movies set in that future-verse.

It was as a director that I got to spend what I regard as my best day covering film and entertainment. He was location scouting a moment he wanted to make about the original “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker. When they retired from being a circus sideshow act, they settled in rural N.C. “Duet for Life” I think the script was called, and Nimoy and the local film commissioner and I road around White Plains (near Mount Airy, N.C.).

Nimoy charmed the descendents at the Bunkers, visited the house they lived in, where relatives held onto the bed they slept in (even after marriage), checked out a few other period-perfect locations.

He was pretty much done with “Star Trek” then, and was patient but insistent that there was nothing else to do with the character. Nimoy never got to make his “Duet” movie (Gary Oldman is planning on directing a film about them, now). And he came back to “Trek,” again and again, with increasing frailty but hearty good and gentle spirits. He made the first J.J. Abrams “Trek” work.

And now he’s gone. A good life, a long life, and a prosperous one.


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Movie Review:” Queen and Country” has barely enough “Hope and Glory” to get by

qucounty“Queen and Country” begins with a reprise of one of the most famous scenes in British cinema. It’s that magical moment from John Boorman’s “Hope and Glory” when a schoolboy, living in London during The Blitz, turns a corner and is stunned by a scene of delirious chaos.
The Germans have bombed his school, and children are screaming — in delight — throwing their papers and books in the air, every child’s fantasy brought to life.
There’s nothing that jolly, jaunty or joyous in writer-director Boorman’s long-gestating sequel to that semi-autobiographical 1987 film. “Queen” is set in the early 1950s, just as Elizabeth was taking the throne, with Boorman’s hero just old enough to be conscripted into the Korean War era British Army. And while Boorman’s picture has the hallmarks of many a post-war “service comedy,” about training, feuding with superior officers and dating hijinx, the elder statesman of British cinema has conjured up a more melancholy and measured sequel weighted with adulthood and freighted with some of Boorman’s own doubts and regrets.
William “Bill” Rohan, played by Callum Turner of “The Borgias,” is still living in the enchanted mid-Thames River house “The Spinx,” where he and his mother and siblings decamped after a German bomb destroyed their house nine years before. The avid movie buff is a shy 18 year-old, unsure around girls, hoping the Army missed sending him a notice.
They haven’t, and his years-long aquatic idyll is over. On his first in boot camp, Bill meets and befriends Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), a conscript who is even more of a malcontent. Boorman serves up some standard issue service comedy gags — inept marching, a twitchy, martinet sergeant (David Thewlis), a long-suffering major (Richard E. Grant) and a role model Redmond.
Redmond (Pat Shortt of “Calvary”) is a “skiver,” a professional slouch, malingerer, “goldbrick” in U.S. Army slang. He has mastered the art of getting out of Army work and hard duties. He’s dodged being shipped to Korea, and he is the one who can help the new lads fend off discipline, duty and combat.
Bill falls for “the unattainable” girl, who lets him call her “Ophelia” (Tamsin Egerton), a posh, socially-connected college student. She is, as she always is in such “comedies,” the one he confesses his deepest feelings to — his hatred of Sgt. Bradley, who is forever dragging Percy and Bill and Redmond in front of the Major for minor “insolent” infractions, his disenchantment with Army life.
“Is there nothing good you can take from it?” she wonders. That’s when he talks about the cameraderie that is something like love shared by men who train to go to war together.
Boorman brings back one surviving member of the 1987 film’s cast, David Hayman (as Bill’s dad). Sinéad Cusack replaces Sarah Miles as Bill’s mom, Vanessa Kirby takes over for Sammi Davis as Bill’s war bride sister, Dawn, who married a Canadian, had children but never lost her wild streak.
And the esteemed John Standing (“V for Vendetta”) has the unenviable task of taking over for the late Ian Bannen, whose gruff, grumpy sparkle as Grandfather George is sorely missed.
“Queen and Country” stands on its own, for what it’s worth. But the filmmaker’s mixed emotions about the Britain that was lost in the war and buried in the less focused, less disciplined 1950s robs “Queen and Country” of the lightness and the life that energized the sentimental original film. Bill’s “discovery” of how movies are made and resolve to get into the profession are dead moments that could have been giddy.
The scenery is still stunning, but there’s little of the brio of a filmmaker who went on to make “Deliverance,” “Excalibur” and the glorious “Hope and Glory” in it.

MPAA Rating: unrated, with nudity, sexual situations, profanity

Cast: Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, Pat , David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant, Vanessa Kirby, Tamsin Egerton
Credits: Written and directed by John Boorman. A BBC Films release.
Running time: 1:55

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Movie Review: “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” is far from light on its feet

The dust rises in puffy clouds over every scene in the limply-named “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.” To call this comedy old fashioned, old school or just old and creaky doesn’t do this fusty farce justice. Even the cobwebs have cobwebs.
Cheyenne Jackson steps out of the shadows of supporting roles (he was a regular, for a while, on “30 Rock”) as Michael, a crude, cranky at-home dance instructor working Ground Zero of Florida’s retirement mecca — St. Petersburg and environs.
His off-color cracks don’t fly with his new customer, Mrs. Harrison (the great Gena Rowlands, of “The Notebook”).
“Just gotta get used to my sense of humor,” he explains.
“DO I?”
They don’t get along, and don’t set off much in the way of sparks, either. Michael’s gay, bitter about his work situation and touchy about Mrs. Harrison’s Southern Baptist bonafides. But he needs the job.
“We got off on the wrong foot.”
“I have a feeling you spend all DAY on that foot!”
And on it goes, this snappy repartee that’s some screenwriters’ idea of what the hip AARP set would find “with it” and “happening.” A few smart observations about ageing sneak into the bland banter.
“People start to disappear when they get older,” as in “nobody notices you.” Seniors of a certain age are living day to day, “people trying to make an interesting day for ourselves.” Michael is a compulsive, impulsive liar, and Mrs. Harrison won’t tolerate that. But she has secrets of her own.
Rowlands works at something like half-speed, here, something highlighted by a few on-the-phone arguments with that firecracker Rita Moreno as an irritable elderly neighbor.
Jackson tries too hard in almost every scene. Michael’s tin-eared cracks — about jitterbugging turning Mrs. Harrison into “a loose G.I. groupie” — “You’ll be waking up in the barracks tomorrow!” — feel sitcom trite and a little desperate.
Few studios bother to finance films for an older audience, and the films themselves too often make the mistakes “Six Dance Lessons” does. Your audience and your stars may move a lot slower. That doesn’t mean your movie should.

MPAA rating: Unrated, with profanity, innuendo

Cast: Gena Rowlands, Cheyenne Jackson, Rita Moreno, Jackie Weaver, Julian Sands, Anthony Zerbe

Credits: Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, screenplay by Richard Alfieri. A Dada release.

Running time: 1:47

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Movie Review: “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn”

refnAs accounts of movie-flops-in-the-making go, “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” is a pretty tame affair. The stakes are low. Nobody died or divorced, nobody’s career ended.
The director of “Drive” only loses his temper when he has to admit, upon finishing it, that he’s wasted years of his life making “Only God Forgives.” But his documentary filmmaker wife’s camera captures hints that he knows the film is a bad idea much earlier, maybe in pre-production.
Lacking the deadly splendor of on-set accidents, casting bungles and money-devouring madness that documentary makers captured while “Apocalypse Now” (“Hearts of Darkness “) and “Fitzcarraldo” (“Burden of Dreams”) were unfolding, “My Life” plays as more intimate. And dull.
“Only God Forgives,” named by readers of the Village Voice as “the worst film of 2013,” polarized critics and scared off audiences. But Refn simply frets on camera about “not repeating myself.”
He turns to fabled filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, most famous for a movie he was not allowed to make (“Dune”), for advice.
“Why are you working for ‘success?'” Jodorowsky wants to know. “You need to have the pleasure to do it!”
Movies are cumbersome, expensive ocean liners that you cannot stop on a dime, even if you know they’re half-baked. So they’re off to Bangkok– family in tow — to shoot this thriller about a drug smuggler, played by Ryan Gosling when Luke Evans had to drop out (not depicted), who is coerced into finding and punishing his brother’s killer by their Lady Macbeth Mom (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Gosling is always a good sport, standing up for his “Drive” director with just a knowing smirk, in or out of gory makeup.  He dotes on their children, and only once allows himself to be sarcastic at some misguided compliment.
“What’s THAT supposed to mean?”
“Make it dirty, unique, interesting, never seen before,” Refn, the son of Danish filmmakers tells his fight choreographer. “And VIOLENT.”
We see a little of that violence, with Scott Thomas asking her director, “So you’ll kill me and disembowel me tomorrow?” They do.
We see Refn rethink a complicated motorcycle shootout on the fly, and we watch him hold his temper as his wife keeps filming him as he tries to unwind or figure out a way out of this fix.
Liv Corfixen, a pretty blond captured in several scenes, asking questions off camera in others, follows her husband all the way to Cannes, long past the point Refn shouts “I think it’s a BAD film” at her.” She even shows him reading the nastiest reviews.
“Why do they have to be so mean?”
“In a way,” she answers, off camera, “you asked for it.”
Perhaps he did. But that’s not really compelling enough to warrant a documentary.


MPAA Rating: unrated, some profanity

Cast: Nicolas Winding Refn, Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas
Credits: Directed by Liv Corfixen. A Radius/TWC release.

Running time: 1:01

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Movie Review: “Everly”

everly-movie“Everly” is the sort of gonzo guns and Ginsu knives thriller Tarantino made back before he discovered the joys of bloat.
It’s the sort of movie where the titular heroine (Salma Hayek) takes bullets and stabbings and keeps coming back for more.
It’s one of those films in which an apartment building is isolated by corrupt cops, and legions of bad guys are sent in to kill this lone, short sexy Mexican woman — kind of a Robert Rodriguez version of “The
It has the sort of bad guy who hisses lots and lots of threats as his minions are slaughtered by this lady, trapped with guns, dead bodies and a sack of cash in the apartment where the bad guy kept her as his
“Frankly, death by my sword is an honor you don’t deserve.” Yeah, he and most of his hired killers are Japanese Yakuza, mobsters with lots of tattoos. And sure, we expect him to eat those words for lunch.
Then there are the neighbors, kept women one and all, women with killer skills which they’re obliged to try out since the woman called Everly has a high price on her head and they’ll like to kill and collect.
Christmas is coming, the movie reminds us. They all have bills to pay.
My favorite moment was the arrival of a dapper, white-haired Japanese gentleman (Togo Igawa) who only knows two words in English. He is “The Sadist,” he says with a bow as his gang of bandits get the drop on Everly. And this, he gestures to a hulking nutjob locked in a cage he’s brought with him, is “The Masochist.”
That’s for the torture sequence in this Joe Lynch (script by TV vet Yale Hannon) gore-fest. Yes, “Everly” is a good picture for the fake blood industry as our heroine spills gallons of it — but very little of her own, despite the holes in her torso.
An instantly forgotten genre picture — the dapper “specialist” character has been in so many Japanese crime movies that the convention was mocked on “The Simpsons” years ago — “Everly” has just enough novel touches to entice aficionados, but not enough to transcend the carnage and cliches. But Hayek, back in the sort of B movie that launched her career, gives good value and will make you cackle in surprise, if you’re the sort who can giggle at the old ultra-violence as it is served up in heaping helpings here.

2stars1MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, torture, nudity, sexual images and language

Cast: Salma Hayek, Togo Igawa, Laura Cepeda,Gabriella Wright
Credits: Directed by Joe Lynch, script by Yale Hannon. A Radius/Dimension/TWC release.

Running time: 1:32

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Movie Review: “The Lazarus Effect”

LZARus“The Lazarus Effect” is what happens when hip, smart actors commit themselves to a horror movie, body and soul.
Mark Duplass (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), a mainstay of indie cinema’s microbudget “mumblecore” movement, and recent convert Olivia Wilde
(“Drinking Buddies”) ably play a scientist couple whose work has led to a serum that brings the dead back to life
And with director David “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” Gelb in charge, you can be sure this isn’t some brain-munching zombie apocalypse.
“Lazurus” is a lean and unfussy horror tale built on sharply-drawn characters and spare, uncluttered dialogue.
What the scientists and their team (Donald Glover, Evan Peters, and as their new intern-videographer, Sarah Bolger) are trying to do is
“give doctors time,” create a bigger window for coma patients and those whose hearts have stopped to be resuscitated before brain damage
sets in.
In extreme, blurred close-ups, Gelb captures early experiments in which a twitch of life is seen in this pig or that dog. Then, Rocky, an
intense and well-trained canine actor, rises from the operating table. Success! Let’s take him home!
“Are you sure you want to keep this in your house? This thing could go Cujo on you in a hurry!”
They ignore that. Not bothering with the rules is kind of the M.O. for Frank (Duplass).
Next thing they know, Big Pharma has swooped in on their university lab and seized everything. But if they can replicate their
discovery in a late night session, maybe they’ll get the credit after all.
When you’re rushed, you’re careless. And when you’re careless around high voltage, you’re asking for an electrocution.
“I thought I lost you,” Frank whispers to his love.
“Yeah, you did.”
“But I DIDN’T.”
Zoe is dead, then revived. And that’s when things turn deadly and a long night turns into a nightmare.
You don’t have to be a mere mortal male to find the gorgeous and intense Wilde scary, and she amps up the terror. Gelb zeroes in on her stare, and keeps his
camera close, reinventing visual tropes as old as the first ghost story, as familiar as Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, his experiments and his
dilemma. Should man play God?
An 82 minute movie shouldn’t have space in it to touch on the afterlife, faith (Zoe is a Catholic near-believer) and guilt. But “The
Lazarus Effect” does.
There’s no point in overselling a conventional, rarely surprising horror picture, a picture that manages one good, cheap jolt and a
solid hour of dread. But “Lazarus” reminds us that a genre overwhelmed by junk fare doesn’t need to be that way. It’s not
effects, gore or novelty that matter. It’s all in the execution, and electrocution.

2half-star6MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror

and some sexual references

Cast: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover, Ray Wise
Credits: Directed by , written byLuke Dawson, Jeremy Slater. A Relativity release.

Running time: 1:22

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