Reel Life mini-review: 'The Paperboy'
This is the movie that will forever be known as "the one where Nicole Kidman urinates all over Zac Efron."
"The Paperboy" wears its high sleaze factor proudly under the lurid direction of Lee "Precious" Daniels. The story, from Pete Dexter's best-seller, revolves around Florida reporter Ward James (Matthew McConaughey) and his British accented partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) investigating the case of alligator hunter Hillary Van Wetter (Chicago's own John Cusack in full drawlin' southern hick mode).
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He's been convicted of murdering the local sheriff without much evidence. Complications occur when Ward's naive paperboy brother Jack (Efron) falls hard for Van Wetter's low-class wife Charlotte (a drawling Kidman), whose bodily fluids come in handy to treat Jack's bad case of multiple jellyfish stings.
Daniels, who directed an earlier, more disturbing slice of lower-class life in "Precious," has delivered a grade-B exploitation opus in a grade-A package with the cast pulling out all the stops to stage a sleazy ode to upscale exploitation. It's almost disreputable enough to become a cult classic.
"The Paperboy" opens at the Century Center in Chicago. Rated R for language, violence and sexual situations. 104 minutes. ★ ★ ★
Reel Life mini-review: 'V/H/S'
"V/H/S" is a lumpy, disconnected "found footage" anthology horror movie reveling in the sexual objectification of women as a dominant theme. An anti-climactic, wraparound narrative presents five disparate short stories directed by different filmmakers working on varying levels of impact.
• The wraparound: A group of modern-day droogies runs around town assaulting a couple in a parking lot and vandalizing abandoned buildings until they get hired to break into a house and steal a mysterious VHS tape. But which one?
The thugs find a corpse in a chair in front of TV screens and stacks of VHS tapes. While others search the house, one thug pops in a videocassette. It kills more than just time.
• Story 1: Partygoer guys pick up two women from a bar and take them to a hotel room for some fun. Watch out for the spooky girl with Bette Davis eyes. The lengthy fuse pays off with a sublime final shot.
• Story 2: The weakest entry concerns a couple touring the west while being stalked by a mysterious girl who secretly videotapes them as they sleep in hotel rooms. Yawn.
• Story 3: The most intriguing segment suggests a murderous presence in the woods only comes into existence through a camera lens. (I can't explain this without ruining surprises.) A viscerally violent segment that would have warranted an X rating just a few years ago.
• Story 4: Shades of David Cronenberg's "The Brood" color this daring segment all told through SKYPE technology. A woman uses her computer to keep her away-at-work boyfriend informed of increasing paranormal activity in her apartment. Didn't see this coming.
• Story 5: Guys head out to a Halloween party and stumble into what appears to be a human sacrifice ritual in the attic. Their consciences compel them to save the screaming woman tied up to an altar. No good deed goes unpunished, you know?
The directors include Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and Radio Silence, all dealing with a range of unlikeable characters whom we care little about.
Local note: "V/H/S" is a production of the horror Website bloodydisgusting.com, created by three graduates of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire: Brad Miska, Tom Owen and Zak Zeman. "V/H/S," their third movie, reportedly made audience members ill at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Hey, it's not that bad.
"V/H/S" opens at the Century Center in Chicago. Rated R for drug use, language, violence and sexual situations. 115 minutes. It earns a composite rating of ★ ★ ½
Reel Life mini-review: 'Little Birds'
Former gang member Elgin James directs this artfully rendered coming-of-age drama as a sort of "Thelma and Louise" for teens, filtered through Terrence Malick's "Badlands" with a touch of "Stand By Me" for girls.
Two incredibly bored and unchallenged teen friends, Lily and Alison (Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker) finally escape the nothingness of their desolate hometown by stealing a truck and heading to L.A. (It takes about half the movie's running time before they make an escape.)
Lily and Alison fall in with a group of teen runaways. There, the more susceptible Lily falls for a skateboarder named Jesse (Kyle Gallner) and thinks true love has hit. Alison, the moral center of the pair, sees things more clearly than Lily does.
Reed Morano's widescreen compositions are amazing, painterly portraits of places instead of people, and the camera work almost instills "Little Birds" with a poetry that the rest of this drama strives for.
British actress Temple creates a dead-on American teenager, while director James (who served a year jail term on a gang-related conviction after premiering his film at Sundance) falls back on one of my least favorite clichés: the heavy-handed music montage laced with meaningful lyrics that lay out a scene's thematic essence.
"Little Birds" opens at the 600 North Michigan Avenue Theater, Chicago. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexual situations and violence. 94 minutes. ★ ★ ½
Reel Life mini-review: 'About Cherry'
How could a feature film make a story about a teenager entering the adult movie industry such a major snore? Stephen Elliott's "About Cherry" makes it easy.
It robs its main character, a troubled 18-year-old named Angelina, of any hard-hitting dramatic arcs. Then it turns her personal conflicts with an alcoholic mom (Chicago's Lili Taylor), confused gay pal (Dev Patel) and a judgmental wannabe-suitor (James Franco) into minor tiffs.
Then it lets a lesbian subplot involving a porn director (Heather Graham) and her tough lover (Diane Farr) overshadow the heroine's plight. Angelina is played by Ashley Hinshaw, an attractive blonde emanating salubrious girl-next-door appeal similar to late porn star Marilyn Chambers in her prime.
Still, the less-than-electrifying Hinshaw is no Chambers. She's not even a Graham, who could well be playing the older version of her porn actress Rollergirl from Paul Thomas Anderson's groundbreaking "Boogie Nights."
"About Cherry" opens at the Music Box Theatre, Chicago. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity and strong sexual situations. 102 minutes. ★ ½
The vilest villain ever?
Novelist/historian Raymond Benson and I count down the 15 most memorable villains of the silver screen until we come to the No. 1 antagonist ever to set foot on a piece of celluloid. It's part of Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave, Arlington Heights. We'll show clips from ... wait! That would be telling, wouldn't it? Go to ahml.info or call (847) 392-0100. Free admission! Tell your friends.
Chi film fest turns 48!
The 48th annual Chicago International Film Festival cranks up for action next Friday, Oct. 11, with about 150 films to be shown. Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are scheduled to be here in person, along with the great Viola Davis, Oscar-winning Helen Hunt and local Steppenwolf Theatre veteran Joan Allen.
Chicago's own director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") will be here to present his latest movie "Flight" as the festival's closing night big event. Go to chicagofilmfestival.com for tickets and info.
World premiere here!
"A Shallow Grave," from Algonquin filmmaker Matt Sommerfield, will have its premiere showing at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at the Classic Cinemas in Carpentersville. Admission costs $8.
The plot centers around a man (Sommerfield) who discovers his father may not be as dead as he thought. Toss in a pursuing hit man.
Sommerfield, a graduate of Crystal Lake South High School and Judson University in Elgin, is joined by Wheaton's Robb Davidson (director of photography), Roselle's J.E. Albright (story development) and McHenry County actors Ben Piershale, Rachel McGinley, Miria Naponelli Masey, Randy Peterkort, Marty McGinley and Naomi Rogers. Go to classiccinema.com for info.
It's a Greek fest to me
The second annual Film Hellenes Greek Film Fest Chicago runs through Monday, Oct. 8, with 24 films shown at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge and at three other Chicago theaters. Go to greekfilmfestchicago.org for tickets and info.
• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!