Daily Archives: March 27, 2013

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Going in to an “evil kid” movie, you know it’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.  In Come Out and Play, a low-budget remake of a 1976 Spanish cult film, the evil kids eventually do come out and play — but the wait is a bit of a drag.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw play young Americans who are also in a holding pattern.  Beth, seven months pregnant, and husband Francis decide to enjoy some pre-baby free time by vacationing at a picturesque Mexican island.  When they arrive at Punta Hueca, there are children playing and fishing off the dock.  Upon further exploration of the village, Beth and Francis make an unsettling discovery:  There are, seemingly, only children on the island.  Where are all of the adults?

 

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(The director of this film is a strange character called “Makinov” who seems to have one or two bones to pick with the world.  In a YouTube video, Makinov shields his face beneath a hood, a la pick-your-favorite-serial-killer, and rants against modern society.  During the end credits of Play, Makinov dedicates his movie to “the martyrs of Stalingrad.”)

Think what you will of Makinov the politician, the man knows how to stage a creepy scene.  When children perch atop a fence lining a village street, silently watching as Beth and Francis pass by, they resemble nothing so much as the ominous crows in The Birds, at rest on a schoolyard jungle gym between attacks.  Makinov, like Hitchcock, takes something that’s everyday normal — children, birds — and turns it into an object of fear.  When you do something like that, you run the risk of generating unintentional laughter; to his credit, Makinov generates suspense.

 

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But this movie is not The Birds.  Despite an eerily effective soundtrack, arresting visuals, and a pair of surprising plot turns, Come Out and Play simply takes too long to get to the fun stuff.       Grade:  B-

 

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Director:  Makinov  Cast:  Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, Daniel Gimenez Cacho  Release:  2013

 

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                                                            Watch the Trailer  (click here)

 

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I’m not sure why everything isn’t filmed in New Zealand.  Sure, Southern California has nice beaches and nearby mountains and a big city, but … New Zealand — have you looked at pictures of New Zealand?

Sundance Channel is airing a seven-part miniseries from director Jane Campion called Top of the Lake, a crime drama filmed in New Zealand.  Elisabeth Moss plays a young police detective who, while home visiting her cancer-stricken mother, gets drawn into the case of a missing 12-year-old girl who also happens to be five-months pregnant.

 

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The plot is a bit familiar (at least through the first three episodes):  Robin Griffin (Moss) is basically Clarice Starling, a conscientious cop trying to conduct serious business while battling male-chauvinist colleagues and her own personal demons.  When you’re telling an oft-told tale like this one, it helps if your supporting characters add luster.  And boy, do the supporting characters add luster to Top of the Lake.

Peter Mullan is rough, gruff, tough and — surprisingly — quite funny as the apparent villain, a drug lord named Matt Mitcham, father of the missing girl and several adult sons with biblical names, if not leanings.  Holly Hunter is also in the cast as the spiritual guru of a tribe of middle-aged women living in “Paradise,” a makeshift commune that is, unluckily, located on land that Mitcham considers family territory.

 

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(I’d like to add that David Wenham, as Griffin’s sort-of boss and potential romantic interest, also lends wonderful support to the drama.  I’d like to say that, but I have to be honest:  With his mumbling delivery and heavy New Zealand accent, I couldn’t understand a word that Wenham said.)

Campion, sharing directing duties with Garth Davis, lets the actors and story proceed at a leisurely pace, but don’t equate “leisurely” with tedious; this mystery takes unexpected turns and has a chilly, pervasive sense of doom.  But the real star of the production is New Zealand — the spectacular mountains, hills, and lakes.  These stunning vistas put Hollywood, California, to shame.      Grade:  A-

 

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Directors:  Jane Campion, Garth Davis   Cast:  Elisabeth Moss, Peter Mullan, Thomas M. Wright, Holly Hunter, David Wenham, Jacqueline Joe, Gavin Rutherford, Jay Ryan, Genevieve Lemon, Robyn Malcolm   Release:  2013

 

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                                       Watch the Trailer and Clips (click here)

 

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