Happy Death Day

October 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
Directed by: Christopher Landon (“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”)
Written by: Scott Lobdell (“Man of the House”)

For a self-aware slasher movie that features the main character reliving the same day over and over again after being brutally murdered by a mask-wearing killer, “Happy Death Day” takes too goddamn long to point out just how similar the whole endeavor is to the modern classic “Groundhog Day,” saving it for the epilogue. If this were a “Scream” movie, the Jamie Kennedy archetype would have connected the dots on that shit in the second act.

In spite of that egregious pop culture reference oversight, “Happy Death Day” manages to become a clever-enough horror movie that could have been truly great given another shot of creativity and the freedom of an R-rating.

The film begins (many times) with Tree (Jessica Rothe) waking up on her birthday with a nasty hangover in an unknown guy’s dorm room. Turns out he’s a nice guy named Carter (Israel Broussard) and she went home with him last night. Being a super mean sorority bitch, Tree orders him to never tell anyone what happened, and she begins her walk of shame through campus and back to her sorority house, encountering a leering goth, an environmental protester, and a guy she ghosted. As she rolls in, her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) offers her a homemade cupcake for her birthday—which Tree ruthlessly chunks into the garbage. Later she meets with a professor she’s having an affair with, nearly getting caught by his wife, and ignores multiple phone calls from her dad. By the time she’s going out alone for a party, her path takes her down a dimly-lit alleyway, where she’s stabbed to death by a killer wearing a mask of a toothy baby.

And then, just like that, she wakes up in Carter’s dorm again, forced to repeat the same day until she’s able to find her killer, all the while becoming a somewhat better person.

“Happy Death Day” shines when the film decides to have fun and go for laughs, which happens often—but not quite enough. Rothe turns in a wickedly bitchy performance that, again, could have been a gleefully campy classic had the studio chosen to shoot for an R-rating, throwing in more gore and some variety to its kills, a la “Edge of Tomorrow.” And though the movie doesn’t wear out its welcome at 96 minutes, some elaboration wouldn’t hurt, as several premises introduced during the movie—Tree’s mother’s death, that every time she comes back to life she carries internal physical scars from the kills—are introduced with little to no payoff. “Happy Death Day” works way more than it doesn’t, but maybe one, like with Tree, more go ‘round could have sharpened things up.

The Bling Ring

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson
Directed by: Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”)
Written by: Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”)

In 2008 and 2009, a group of teenagers ransacked the homes of celebrities in Hollywood including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and Lindsay Lohan. Accessing some of these houses by simply walking through unlocked doors, this group of teenagers made out with a total of $3-million worth of money, jewelry, art, and other belongings. Director Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) tackles the story of these infamous teens with “The Bling Ring,” a fairly well representational albeit highly un-relatable narrative that is all shine and no spark.

The film is anchored largely by newcomers Katie Chang and Israel Broussard, who both do a decent job given their lack of experience. Their characters, along with the rest of the young crew, are underwritten and unlikeable, but are serviceable given the material provided. The rest of the cast give their best impressions of annoying California teenagers who have virtually nothing to do except offer up their thickest valley-girl accents. Even “Harry Potter” veteran Emma Watson can’t do much with what should be an interesting character to dissect psychologically. Instead, Coppola aims for uncomplicated themes like materialism and the celebrity culture and sidesteps anything with real meaning.

By far the biggest issue with “The Bling Ring” is that there is nothing to keep the film grounded, which makes any connection with the audience obsolete. What the film ends up boiling down to is pretty rich people stealing from pretty rich people. Even at a merciful 90 minutes, the film drags on due to the complete lack of fully-realized characters and a script that has more to say than, “OMG!”

Creating a film with no redeeming characters isn’t an inherently bad thing. However, an effort needs to be made to either make the characters multi-dimensional or create a story so interesting that you can’t peel your eyes away. Neither of these things is accomplished in “The Bling Ring.” It’s shallow and inapt on almost every level.