The Other Woman (2014)

The Other WomanReleased: April 25, 2014. Directed by: Nick Cassavetes. Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton. Runtime: 109 min. 

The Other Woman is a story about strange friendships and adultery. It raises ideas that monogamy just never works out, and one character is legitimately surprised that Carly (Cameron Diaz), is sticking to one man. Nicki Minaj is occupying one of those secretary roles who are moral compasses for their boss even though this one has questionable morals. She doesn’t consider it cheating if the partner is a fat Canadian with no sexual charisma. Minaj’s character Lydia isn’t featured prominently (she’s present for three or four scenes) so we should count our blessings for that. Minaj’s comedic delivery needs work. I might be treating her unfairly because I hate her. I must admit that she’s a talented rapper, though. Anyway, the film follows Lydia’s employer Carly who is dating a great guy named Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is good at playing the falsely charming douchebag), or at least she thinks he’s a great guy. When she finds out he’s married to Kate (Leslie Mann), they become friends, even though Diaz says they better not braid each other’s hair and drink cosmos. Don’t they know tequila is a gateway drink to that sort-of bonding? They set out on a slow-moving plan to put Mark in his place, in traditional ways – sometimes to the sound of the Mission: Impossible theme.

nicki-the-other-woman

My response to the humour that REALLY missed

This is a chick flick through and through, one that firmly believes men suck. On paper this could be some decent entertainment, because I like movies like this once in awhile – and I think the director, Nick Cassavetes, is talented. But this is his worst film to date. He’s no stranger to the so-called chick flick – director of My Sister’s Keeper, which could be tagged as one – but he is a stranger to comedy. He directed it well enough to get a counted six laughs from me, but half of those are because I’m a sucker for poop jokes. It also relies on other gross-out “gags” which are more gross than funny at all. That’s most notably the fact that Kate’s huge dog (who, in a running gag, has huge balls) is shown taking a shit on Carly’s carpet. (This is not the poop joke that got a big laugh from me, I assure you.)

That’s just a little taste of the grossness. There’s different comedy styles for everyone – gross-out-jokes, tame raunchy jokes, slapstick humour and jokes that just aren’t funny. In the test screenings, one would think they would have checked which one the audiences reacted the most to – and leaned towards one style, or at least tried to make all of those styles funny. This might be funnier if it got an R-rating. It’s essentially an awful version of John Tucker Must Die, where the cheating monster is married instead of just a guy in high school – and the victims are mid-20s to middle age. If it were made to be an update just with older stars – wouldn’t it make more sense to make it with an R-rating? A better writer than first-timer Melissa Stack would help, too. Too often the humour misses, and the film is too often extremely boring and predictable. The film’s also bereft of any romance that feels natural, which I think is odd for Cassavetes, director of The Notebook.

Haha nope, he won't notice us...

Haha nope, he won’t notice us…

The “comedy” that gets tailored for Mann’s talents is unfunny crying (because her husband is cheating on her) a nonsensical bit of why her husband shouldn’t eat bacon, and a thing where she wants to go to brain camp to become smarter. She really needs it since she doesn’t know it’s called college. Mann does get one big laugh. A cast member that is enjoyable is Don Johnson, even if his presence feels random. Cameron Diaz is here because of her charming smile, but she doesn’t muster any big laughs. She’s sexy but the sex appeal is more-so Kate Upton’s boobs. Upton comes into the film a bit late, and that’s really when they start sabotaging Mark; which makes the pacing issues more obvious, as she doesn’t appear until at least an hour in.

This is a brutal attempt at comedy with characters that you just won’t care about. Mann’s character is a somehow more whiny version of her character in Knocked Up, but at least that film is funny. Diaz’s Carly is a bit too unlikable at times, even with that lovely smile, as she practices tough love. It’s sometimes nice to see the plain lawyer, who seems to dedicate all of her time to this operation, open up to these people, though. Upton’s Amber is cute, she says cute things like “Let’s kick him in the balls!” It just seems to me that she doesn’t have many brain cells in her pretty little head. She can join Kate at “brain camp.” And while they’re there, Cassavetes and writer Melissa Stack can go to comedy camp.

Score: 38/100

Advertisements

Mama (2013)

MamaMama

Release Date: January 18, 2013

Director: Andrés Muschietti

Stars: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier

Runtime: 100 min

Tagline: A mother’s love is forever

In this modern age, it is very difficult for horror films to be original. There is so little ground that has not already been stepped on. This is exactly one of the biggest problems of Mama, a film that has a great backstory, but it’s a story that reminds me of The Woman in Black and it copies scares from many other features.

One day, a father goes insane, kills his wife because she is going to leave him, and he takes his two young daughters with him and they hit the road, meaning to go far away. The father, Jeffrey, is zooming too fast, and the car skids off the road and down into the forest. They find a cabin, and just when the father is about to kill the elder daughter, a mysterious being comes and takes him away.

It is now five years later, and the girls have not been found. The uncle of the two young girls, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), hasn’t given up hope of finding them. With the support of his girlfriend, Annabel (portrayed by Jessica Chastian, who is sporting a short jet black wig and rocker tattoos), he has been paying investigators to look for them for those five years. When the investigators finally find them, they are in odd states. They crawl to get around, they’re dirty, and they claim to have been taken care of by something they called “Mama”. When Lucas and Annabel take in Victoria, 8, and Lily, 6, Mama isn’t very fond of her girls being taken away from her.

The back story established in Mama is a good one: a institutionalized woman steals back her baby in the late 1800’s, but she dies and her baby doesn’t. Soon, her ghost searches everywhere for the baby, only to find Victoria and Lily instead.

The only reason this feels reminiscent of The Woman in Black is the back story, the spirit in that film also wants to rest with their son, but in the meantime kills the townsfolk. It’s not extremely similar, but I still thought of it during. The film’s main scares are from better horror films, so there isn’t much content one hasn’t seen. There are also many convenient things that happen in the film: the uncle gets put into a coma rather early on in the film, leaving Annabel take care of the little eerie tykes so he doesn’t lose custody. Whilst the film does a few things wrong, it does a lot of things right.

We may have seen the scares before, but it doesn’t stop the film from being effective and spooky. Many of the scares also do linger on the mind after watching the feature, which is an effective thing that horror flicks aspire to possess. It’s an atmosphere that doesn’t give its audience many senses of security. Mama is often popping up every which way, and the feature can really get the heart racing. Mama starts off on a strong note, keeps going strong, and the third act is the weakest of them all because of a characters’ stupid decision not to tell anyone where they were going.

Until it loses its pacing balance during the final act, it’s a chilling experience each time the sun goes out. It is even quite scary during the day, because apparently spirits never sleep. The bond between the two sisters is generally strong throughout the feature, but there is room for improvement. Lily, the youngest, is still very dependent on Mama, while Victoria is getting closer to Annabel and Mama’s malevolent tendencies are becoming more visible. Lily seems as if she’s too afraid to be abandoned again, as is Victoria in a way. Mama doesn’t want to be abandoned either, rousing malevolent jealousy. Annabel is depicted as a character not open to having kids in the beginning because of her excitement to a failed pregnancy, but she does open up to the girls as the film goes along. This is much to Mama’s dismay, as she is suffering from a disease called JBS (Jealous Bitch Syndrome). You really don’t want to screw with this mother. All of this duelling of jealousy leads to the unbalanced third act, but it also leads up to a surprisingly emotionally stirring ending.

The performances in the feature aren’t top-tier, as this is still a horror movie. Each performer does express the usual fear and anxiety, topped on with more screaming. It was a great decision by the casting director to cast such a big star as Jessica Chastain. However, for Chastain, this is a career low-point for her. Even though this doesn’t say a lot because this is still a great feature. At least her character didn’t commit too many horror flick clichés. Chastain does prove she really can rock any look.

In a nutshell: Mama has a great backstory, but it doesn’t strive on originality. With great pacing until the final act, Mama makes for a thoroughly scary experience with hardly any room for a feeling of safety. And if there is, don’t fall for it. The concepts of abandonment and jealousy are cool to bring into horror flicks. Mama is a solid antagonist who won’t allow me to look at moths and butterflies the same again*.

*The moths and butterflies would show up whenever she is near.

Did you know? This isn’t extremely interesting, but; this was filmed in Hamilton, Ontario and a studio in Toronto, both a little more than a five-hour drive from where I live.

78/100