Thursday, April 15, 2021

Two Movies on DVD

This 2018 movie, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (the writer of Moonstruck and Doubt) and based on his 2014 Broadway play Outside Mullingar, features Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan as Rosemary and Anthony, a pair who have grown up on neighboring farms in the Irish midlands. She has loved him from childhood; he has never made any romantic offers, and conceals a secret that seems to condemn him to a life of lonely eccentricity. Anthony's father, Tony (played by Christopher Walken in a sad excuse for an Irish accent), worries about leaving the farm to his boy with no prospect of marriage in sight, so he toys with the idea of selling it to an American cousin named Adam (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) – who, in turn, toys with the heart of Rosemary until things come to a sweetly goofy, romantic climax.

While it doesn't have the sharpness of Moonstruck, it's a fun movie, deserving at very least of Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) "Bad News" Cleary witnesses Anthony practicing proposing marriage to Rosemary with a donkey, and hilariously concludes that Anthony has inherited the daftness that ran on his mother's side of the family (such as an uncle who thought he was a fish). (2) Rosemary catches Anthony talking to himself while floating down the creek in a fishing coracle. She calls out to him and in surprise, he falls into the stream. Later in the scene, he says something poetic to which she responds, in an aside, "When he says such things, God help me, I know I must have him." (3) The whole, extended scene (broken up by cuts to what Adam's up to) in which Rosemary finally forces Anthony to sit down and talk to her, leading them both to reveal everything and finally, after a crash in her car, to declare love for each other. I think of it as the comic-dramatic equivalent of the breakfast scene in Moonstruck where Olympia Dukakis finally tells Vincent Gardenia he must stop seeing his mistress. Both characters' eccentricities and emotional insecurities come right to the surface in a passionate, bizarre and laugh-out-loud funny sequence that's worth the whole trouble of seeing the movie, in my opinion.

There are, to be sure, a few things that took away from my enjoyment of the movie. Besides Walken's accent (his acting is otherwise all right), and the little boy's prayer to "Mother Nature" in the opening flashbacks to the hero couple's childhood (a pagan note that I thought sounded false against Anthony's churchgoing character), there's the fact that the scene of Swan Lake that makes Rosemary cry, when she goes to the ballet in New York, is actually so very generic and unexpressive; and then some little continuity details, like the fact that Anthony shows up at the gate of Rosemary's pasture to unload some sheep that he moved from a higher pasture but ends up driving away with the sheep still on board, etc.

Nevertheless, it's actually harder to stop listing "scenes that made it for me" than to put up with any of those details. I also liked one in which Anthony tells his secret to a girl he picked up at the pub, only to see her literally fall over laughing; some clever foreshadowing that nevertheless didn't lead me to guess what that secret was; Adam's "you have to let childhood dreams go before they ruin your life" speech; and the way Rosemary and her mother talk Tony out of selling the farm to Adam. Jon Tenney, late of TV's The Closer, makes a couple brief appearances as the emcee at a folk singing contest, and stage actor Barry McGovern is delightful as Cleary.

I actually paid more for this pre-watched DVD, picked up at a grocery store, than it would have cost me brand-new out of Walmart's cheapo bin, but I impulse-bought it anyway and I'm happy to say that it exceeded my low expectations. A dead giveaway that a movie is going to suck is that its labeling advertises the other titles its makers are associated with. Another sign may be that it gives top billing to an actor you've never heard of (Jack Reynor, perhaps best known for Grassland or maybe the horror flick Midsommar), while its actual lead actor (Myles Truitt) isn't even named on the movie poster. Surprisingly, both actors delivered strong performances and weren't at all upstaged by supporting performances by Dennis Quaid, Zoƫ Kravitz, James Franco and another big star whose surprise appearance I won't spoil for you (a secret that the opening credits also withhold).

Kin is the story of two brothers who have powerful forces chasing them, and one of them doesn't even know about it. The younger brother, an adopted child, has discovered a piece of alien weaponry that responds to his touch and his alone. The older, fresh out of prison, wastes no time falling back into his criminal ways, getting their dad (Quaid) shot in a robbery attempt that also results in a violent loan shark (Franco) declaring open season on them. Older bro Jimmy tells younger bro Eli that their dad is going to meet them in Tahoe, and misses several golden opportunities to break the bad news to him. But the bad guys Jimmy knows about aren't the only guns on their trail; there are also a couple of cleaners in scary costumes that conceal what they look like – are they even human? You wonder – and who have tons of advanced tech at their disposal. They're closing in fast, too. Also, an FBI agent gets involved, suspecting Jimmy of being involved in his dad's death and of kidnapping Eli.

All parties finally converge at a sheriff's office in Nevada, where death and destruction are dealt on a huge scale, much of it done by the weapon in Eli's well-meaning hands. Although there have been hints throughout the movie to make you wonder, the final revelation of how the word "kin" applies comes across as a bit too over-the-top, I felt. It's certainly a surprise ending, and a more satisfying outcome than anything that seemed possible for the two brothers up until the last couple minutes of the movie's run time.

It's a pretty dark, gritty, down-to-earth picture, for a sci-fi shoot-em-up. James Franco plays his nastiest villain role yet. Quaid manages in only a few minutes to come across as noble and principled while, at the same time, the rigidity of his principles puts him in the way of a bullet. You expect everything from disappointment to doom for the brothers almost until the end, and somehow you come out of the film thinking, "I wonder if there's going to be a sequel."

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The first time Eli fires the gun, while saving Jimmy from a beating in a strip bar. I enjoyed the whole scene, really, including Jimmy's line about getting drunk while his little brother gets caffeinated. (2) Franco asks a gas station attendant how to get into the bathroom. The guy says you can't, it's not open to the public. Franco proceeds to whip it out and take a pee on the floor in front of the cash register, pausing only to make the cashier turn around because he can't do it while someon'e watching. (3) The standoff at the sheriff's office, up to the point where time freezes(!).

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