“It’s the little things that are important. It’s the little things that get you caught.”
I don’t believe writer/director John Lee Hancock expected this line to have a meta element to it, yet here we are. I’ll yank the low hanging fruit out of the tree and say he should have followed his own advice. The little things are important in a film, especially in a murder mystery. It’s the lack of a little thing here or there that keeps The Little Things from being the major experience it should have been.
All of the elements are there on the presser kit. Hancock is a solid film maker and Denzel Washington is arguably the greatest actor of his era. Pairing them with talented thespians such as Rami Malek and Jared Leto should have been a winning play. Instead we get bases loaded and a full count heading into the end of the game. Oh yeah… and you’re down by one run. How you accept the film’s end is what will determine whether that last swing was a strikeout or the home run.
It’s not for lack of trying. The film is appropriately dreary and creepy, drenched in that Fincher-esque green tint that gives the film that icky serial killer vibe we’ve all appreciated since the seminal Se7en (and yes, I spell it that way because it earned it). Denzel gets to look and act his age while being a tortured soul to boot. He employs a physicality I haven’t seen in him before. His trademark swagger is buried under a mountain of regret and sleepless nights. Still, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Rami Malek is so pensive and understated in his role that he’s either given one of the great performances of his career, or he had no clue what he wanted to do with his character. I honestly can’t tell you which it is. Jared Leto came to party like he always does, and we all know that the only thing that stops Leto is a script. Saying anything further will spoil what awaits you.
I don’t know if I can recommend The Little Things as a theater experience. I think this one would go down smoother through HBO Max. If you’re a subscriber you’ve already paid for it anyway. I say that because I can say, without spoiling any plot points, that this movie isn’t what you think it’s going to be. The film defies expectation but doesn’t replace what you’re anticipating with a better alternative. It didn’t work for me because the characters aren’t given the opportunity to earn what Hancock is asking of the audience by the end of the film. It feels like a curveball when the moment called for some heat straight down the middle.
It’s the little things that cost you the game.
The Little Things is showing in theaters where theaters are open, and is streaming on HBO Max.
Recommendation: Maybe a Matinee
About the AuthorAn aspiring screenwriter and all around good guy who has dedicated himself to the infinite pursuit of true objectivity - except when it comes to the cool stuff. A love of motorsports explains his positive Fast and Furious scores. He laments the fact that the strongest storytelling is currently told through streaming media and video games. He wants his cinema back! But being the flexible guy he is, has invited people back on his lawn.
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By The Formal Review — 1 year ago
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a drama film written and directed by Eliza Hittman. It stars Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, and Sharon Van Etten. It was originally released in theaters on March 13, 2020; however, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, it only made a little over $16,000 and as such was released on digital at the beginning of April.
The Story & Direction
The film is about Autumn (played by Flanigan), a teenage girl from a small town in rural Pennsylvania who finds out that she is pregnant. Not having the best parental figures, she hides her pregnancy from them. Her small town only leaves her with a few options but she decides there is only one way out of her situation. She and her cousin, Skylar (played by Ryder), scrape together what money they can and catch a bus to New York to get an abortion. The film’s pacing feels similar to a thriller at times because of what these two girls go through.
The film is very solemn and relatively simple, yet it is an authentic story of a lower-middle-class teen facing an unexpected pregnancy and doing her best to deal with it. There have been other films such as 2007’s Juno that have dealt with the same topic, however this film feels very current and also very nonjudgmental towards this young girl who must make a very difficult decision.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is not meant to be a blockbuster but rather a film about choice. This film also looks into the discomforts that many girls and women feel with come-ons, harassment, and inappropriate behavior that can happen regularly. Men are not looked at in a positive light in this film, but it is meaningful in its portrayal. While not all men are similar to those shown in this film, there are definitely a good amount that are and these are the ones the film is representing. The film demonstrates that there are possibilities for men and/or boys to be scumbags no matter their age or location. Hittman shows this in the local supermarket where old men try to invite the main characters to a party while also dealing with their boss’s harassment. There are less obvious demonstrations of this from Autumn’s stepfather who describes their loving dog as a “slut,” who is “easy” to please. Their efforts to get help from a man has to be exchanged for something else in return.
Heavy, emotional themes are abundant throughout, and show how often our ability to make decisions about our own health is so often not our decision to make. Hittman shows all of this through Autumn’s story, even with the lack of a film score. The film’s silence makes the film pass slowly, but this helps to build up the plot and keep the film engaging throughout the entire runtime.
Autumn and Skylar are working-class teenagers in a man’s world. Their resources and opportunities are dependent on the men in their lives, for better or for worse; though in this movie’s case, it’s more of the latter than the former. At the beginning of the film, Autumn stands on an auditorium stage performing at a high school talent show. She is clearly one of the better performers as she follows an Elvis impersonator. She gets on stage and plays on her acoustic guitar a cover version of “He’s Got the Power,” by the Exciters. The song is supposed to be about a man who has a woman fall in love with him and changes her life. By looking at Autumn, one would think she would play a more lively version of the song but her version is filled with pain. When she sings the lyrics, “He makes me do things I don’t want to do and “he’s got the power—the power of love over me,” any viewer will know that her interpretation of that line is not the same as the original song. This is the only time in the film that shows her outgoing side, and a real effort to be herself, only for someone in the audience to mutter “slut” at the end of her performance, and her stepfather being forced to compliment Autumn on her performance.
It’s plain to see that Autumn does not have many friends, and her parents do not seem to care for her much either. Her cousin is the only one there for her in a world that would be so much more lonely without each other. Flanigan portrays Autumn as a person who expresses very little emotion, but it helps to make her more intriguing. Very little is explained about who she is through dialogue. Flannigan makes Autumn’s eyes mesmerizing as there is a mystery that is not given to the audience in an obvious way. There is no indication of how she became pregnant or who the father might be. Viewers have to see her story play out, and, unfortunately, end up having to assume the worst when it comes to her love life. The film shows numerous sexual predators, from boys at her school to men on buses and trains.
Both Flanigan and Ryder both gave amazing performances, with Flanigan’s being the standout. Each moment she had on screen was done so well. Each scene that they have together shows them becoming closer and closer as cousins and as friends. Flanigan is able to take single words and make them have meaning. There is even a scene that has no words but it is just as powerful. This scene shows Autumn and Skyler clasping hands, and given what is happening around them, you can just feel their friendship. Flanigan also shows her acting ability in a scene involving the Manhattan clinic where she is required to answer questions with the titular answers. This questionnaire pushes Autumn to answer very uncomfortable questions that most likely she has never been asked before. Over the course of the film, Hittman has brought her audience to care for Autumn. She shows Autumn dealing with many encounters with sexual predators, while she is able to push her feelings down and ignore them; however, like most of us, Autumn has a limit. She hits her limit when she has to talk to a counselor and ends up breaking down. This scene will tear any viewer’s heart out.
One of the most interesting bits of the film is that Autumn is seemingly awake for the entire film. She does not sleep for multiple days until she is back on her bus headed home. She feels absolutely relieved after her journey and after everything she has endured. Even though she is aware that her struggles are not over, she learns to take her victories when she can.
This film deals with a very heavy topic that may upset some who disagree with its overall message. It also can be difficult to watch, not only for its themes but also because of the grim feeling of the film. However, if neither of those things are big issues for you, then there’s not much else to critique regarding the overall quality of the film.
This film is not about Autumn’s love-life or how she became pregnant, rather, it is about her choice in the matter and the difficulties she faces once she has made a choice. This film is one of the best films I’ve seen that demonstrates women’s rights without it feeling forced. Hittman puts these two young teenage girls in a very believable situation and shows how life does not give easy paths for everyone. It’s a simple story with a very powerful message that can be viewed by almost everyone. In the case of the stay-at-home advisories, this film is definitely a stream, but if normal situations were in place, it would definitely be a “Go See It” in theaters.
Recommendation: STREAM ITPost Views: 721
By André Hutchens — 1 year ago
At what point do you stop blaming others for the unreasonable expectations that you have placed on them? This is where I currently find myself with Happy Madison Productions—the production studio founded by Adam Sandler, and that brought you comedy classics like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. (I hope you can recognize my sarcasm)…
Happy Madison Productions (HMP) is an enigma in Hollywood. Its existence is a testament to the notion that there really is an audience for every movie (audience size being negligible). The ‘Paul Blart’ movies just felt like a low point for the production studio, for Kevin James, for myself for watching them, and just for the whole world in general—but these movies somehow continue to make money, and I somehow still feel interested any time they release a new comedy. I don’t consider myself masochistic in the least bit, but I’m not sure how else to explain this bizarre sense of hope I feel with new Happy Madison movies, knowing full well that I’m not going to enjoy them.
Adam Sandler invested in himself and in his career dreams, and it’s safe to say that his return on investment has paid off and continues to do so. Now, my intention is not to come off as a “hater.” I never want to disparage anyone from liking the type of movies they like. No one should feel guilty for liking any HMP movie. To prove that I’m serious, here is a (small) list of the HMP movies that I genuinely do enjoy: 50 First Dates, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups, and Murder Mystery.
The Wrong Missy is the latest comedy movie produced by HMP. The film stars David Spade and Lauren Lapkus, and is directed by Tyler Spindel. This is the second Netflix Original movie directed by Spindel while also starring Spade. They first teamed up for the 2018 movie, Father of the Year. The Wrong Missy tells the story of Tim Morris (David Spade), a man spurred by love lost and betrayal of past relationships. After a blind-date gone very bad with Melissa or ‘Missy’ (Lauren Lapkus), Tim has decided that if he is destined to find love, love will find him. While at the airport catching a flight for a business trip, Tim runs into another traveler, Melissa (Molly Sims) and accidentally swaps bags. This mixup causes both individuals to miss their flight, and end up together sharing a (non-alcoholic) drink at a bar. The pair hit it off instantly and Tim believes that love has found him once more. They exchange some kisses and their phone numbers fully expecting to see each other again.
But what could go wrong with having two phone numbers from two different Melissas stored in your phone? Apparently, A LOT. Not that anyone has actually every texted the wrong person on accident…I mean that never happens, am I right? So as Tim plans for his big company retreat in Hawaii, his friend Nate (Nick Swardson) convinces Tim to invite Melissa, but “The Wrong Missy” shows up at the airport and accompanies Tim on this work trip in paradise instead.
The story is full of familiar relationship tropes, and quirky circumstances that make for an easy watch. David Spade’s character is fairly sympathetic, and one you can’t help but root for. This movie had all the potential for an easy watching rom-com that would have had mass appeal, especially for a Netflix Original. But alas, this is a Happy Madison Production, and vulgarity, stupidity, and laziness all have to be at the core of their movies, and The Wrong Melissa is no exception. Lauren Lapkus has the chops to be a good comedic actress. She was pretty good in Between the Two Ferns: The Movie, and she has flashes of comedic talent in this movie, but the overuse of sexual obsession, and no regard for any type of social behavioral norms will just leave you rolling your eyes more than laughing.
Spade (like Adam Sandler) is a very specific kind of comedy actor, and most definitely has his fans. His character is straightforward, and plays like most every other character he’s played in other movies. It just really frustrates me that he continues to star in these kinds of movies, when I truly believe that he has the ability and the opportunity to break out of the mold. But if this is the mold that he enjoys, maybe these are the movies that he will always be destined for.
The Wrong Missy has its moments of charm and laughs, but ultimately is hindered by literally everything else this movie does to try to be edgy and irreverent. I know that this movie will appeal to life-long Spade fans, and fans of Happy Madison Productions. But for me, I’m left wondering why I still hold out hope for these movies.
Recommendation: SKIP ITPost Views: 1,214
By Josh Aquino — 1 year ago
Released in 2016, The Boy is actually a film that I enjoyed. It told the story of a young housekeeper, played by Lauren Cohen, who was tasked to take care of a large porcelain doll named Brahms. Throughout the film the viewer is strung along into thinking that the doll itself was haunted—with the grand reveal that Brahms was not a haunted doll: but rather a grown man living within the walls of the house (who was, quite frankly, psychotic). While it is no work of art, I thought it was a quirky one-off film with a unique narrative twist… Regardless of how pedestrian and mediocre the story was.
Fast forward to 2020 and we now have the sequel, Brahms: The Boy II. Unfortunately, instead of expanding on the unique twist the first movie told, this sequel has reversed course so poorly that it actually makes the first film look weaker. That’s right folks: this movie is so bad that it actually makes its predecessor look bad.
But where does Brahms: The Boy II go wrong? Let’s start with the story… The movie begins with a young family whose lives have been shattered by a horrific home invasion. While the father, Sean (Owain Yeoman) is out of town his wife, Liza (Katie Holmes) and son Jude (Christopher Convery) are left to fend for themselves as robbers break into their home nearly killing them both. The event is so traumatic that young Jude is rendered mute and Liza suffers from intense PTSD (which is just passed off as an excuse to give us jump scares). The family decides to retreat into the countryside of London to heal and overcome their trauma. They end up in the guest house outside of the mansion, which was the location and setting of the entire first movie (the guest house was not a location that appeared in the first movie at all). It is from here where Jude finds Brahms buried in the soil with its hand hilariously sticking out from the ground, and finds himself a friend within the lifeless doll. His family, desperate for him to leave his state of silence, encourages their friendship with the inanimate object until Liza finds disturbing clues that hint at something being awry; pictures of murder, torn up toys, and angry animals.
If that story sounds at all familiar to you, do not worry: Brahms: The Boy II is very much a run-of-the-mill sort of horror movie. Its biggest crime is that for such a strange concept and such a bizarre adversary it chooses to go down the most generic and obvious paths. Nothing in this film scared or disturbed me in the least bit. The movie seems to prefer to startle the audience with abrupt jump scares, the likes of which are unequivocally telegraphed. For a slim 86 minutes I felt incredibly bored. I found myself checking my watch frequently waiting for something to happen. The film is happy meandering about with Brahms playing small pranks on his poor victim not caring to move the plot forward at all—and boy, is it mind numbing.
My greatest frustration with this film is not the bad writing, the poor direction, or even the frequent jump scares. It’s that rather than building upon a unique story with a good twist, it totally throws the story right into the dumpster, and goes with a supernatural angle. It hamstrings the film into a total snooze fest, devoid of any suspense or cleverness. It’s so badly paced that even the scares feel out of place, and it is too shallow to offer anything insightful or disturbing to get under your skin. Brahms: The Boy II is plain and lifeless, much like the porcelain doll it is named after.
Recommendation: NO GOPost Views: 735