‘The Visit,’ ‘La Jaula de Oro’ and other new movies, reviewed

12 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Visit’: Film review.

“The Perfect Guy” appears to be the perfect antidote for a laggardly U.S. box office, with Sony’s thriller heading for a $25 million opening weekend, according to early Friday estimates.

Sony/Screen Gems’ romantic thriller The Perfect Guy is exceeding expectations at the Friday box office, where it could gross $10 million from 2,200 theaters for a weekend debut in the $25 million range, enough to pass up M.After a string of recent failures that drew the scorn of critics and fans alike and belied the promise of earlier films like The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has found his footing again with a work that feels surprisingly fresh.The last scene of The Visit features a mother and daughter holding each other, crying, while the former tells the later that forgiveness is always there when you want it, and not to hold on to hate.(The Hollywood Reporter)A family get-together starts out strange and quickly enters nightmare territory in The Visit, a horror-thriller that turns soiled adult diapers into a motif. The story is simplicity itself: teens Becca and younger brother Tyler travel to the country home of grandparents they’ve never met due to a rift caused when Mom eloped years before with a man they disapproved of.

Early reviews have been mostly positive with a 65% “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Visit,” which has a modest $5 million price tag, bows in 3,068 theaters on Friday. Olivia DeJonge as Becca and Ed Oxenbould as Tyler get top billing and they well deserve it, delivering appealing performances that exhibit a high degree of believability.

In the wake of bloated recent outings After Earth and The Last Airbender, that hope takes on a particular fervency with this modestly scaled return to straight-up genre fare. I pretty much just finished watching the thing, and I’m not even sure I would be any less discombobulated if I ran it again with free-range access to pause, slow-mo and rewind.

That anticipation will drive theatrical business for the feature, as will the lure of sheer horror fun, at least until word-of-mouth stems the box-office tide. Noting how unpredictable the box office has been of late, Sony insiders are being more conservative regarding Perfect Guy, suggesting $8 million for Friday and in the low-$20 million range for the weekend. Shyamalan wrote, directed, produced and financed “The Visit” on his own, shooting in his native Pennsylvania and teaming with Blum after the latter saw an early cut. Rosenthal, stars Sanaa Lathan as a successful lobbyist who begins a torrid affair with a charming, dangerous stranger (Michael Ealy) as her former boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) resurfaces. Shyamalan also takes a few gentle pokes at himself and other filmmakers via Becca’s use of pretentious cinematic terms like “visual tension” and “ironic scoring.” Even Nana’s nocturnal activities, as observed by the youngsters despite a strict 9:30 bedtime, seem more amusing than scary at first, along with the older folks’ inclination to point fingers at the other’s odd behaviour.

Mom (Kathryn Hahn) is sending kids Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) off for a long-overdue visit with their grandparents, Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). From that point on, the energy, warmth and nuance of her performance is reduced to intermittent Skype sessions — a crucial element to the story but nonetheless a letdown for the viewer.

Sony insiders say they would be happy with an opening in the low teens, considering Perfect Guy cost less than most Screen Gems titles, or $12 million. Mom left home under rocky circumstances that involved the children’s father — he was a substitute teacher of hers, so fair ball — who has since also left home. Universal’s “Ouija” took in $911,000 in Thursday-night previews last October and wound up the weekend with $19.8 million on its way to a respectable $50 million domestic total.

The Happening, After Earth — this time out, Shyamalan’s script demonstrates a fine sense of economy, making every scene — and every clue buried within — vital to the outcome. Everyone involved has their fingers crossed for a little bit of reconciliation, which Becca hopes to capture in a documentary, thus giving The Visit it’s excuse to go found footage on this tale of familial bonding gone wrong. Christian drama “90 Minutes in Heaven,” starring Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth, is also launching this weekend through Samuel Goldwyn Films at more than 800 sites. The constant need for narration and occasional sit-down interviews gives Shyamalan plenty of opportunity to pound in his ideas about the ways in which family can both save and destroy us. But there’s more to it than generosity; the camera-wielding siblings, budding auteur Becca in particular, sense an opportunity to make a documentary that uncovers the generational rift between their grandparents and their mother, who left the farm as a teenager under circumstances she refuses to discuss.

The film, based on Don Piper’s 2004 biography about spending 90 minutes in heaven following a 1989 car crash, has been tracking to open with less than $5 million. “War Room,” which dethroned “Straight Outta Compton” to win the Labor Day weekend, is likely to finish third in the $6 million to $8 million range. As with all Shyamalan films, the themes are just a thinly veiled lines of crammed-in dialogue, the most egregious example here being Tyler recounting a story of a football failure that he mistakenly, hurtfully blames for driving his dad away, so shamefully silly even the characters themselves feel the need to comment on it. The grands prove no more forthcoming on the subject, but that’s the least of the kids’ worries as they’re confronted with Nana’s nocturnal rages, usually unclothed, and Pop Pop’s unsavory stockpile in the shed. It works well, nicely drawing all the threads together into a satisfying conclusion, rescuing the reputation of a filmmaker for whom the public’s patience was wearing thin.

If that counts as a sort of twisted strength, it also plays against Shyamalan when it starts to reveal how little control he’s really exercising over the movie: he violates his own terms whenever it suits him, usually by letting a creepy score sneak in whenever he needs to lend things an aura of dread. He’s certainly going for some humour and some horror here — and the shame of his fuzzy command is that he is still capable of some really unsettling images, here mostly involving Nana’s midnight wanderings, wails and naked wall-clawing — but there are plenty of times when the former sneaks in where he’s been building to the latter. Shyamalan occasionally manages to wrangle his tone in the early going, slipping in tingling scares — Nana demonically chasing the children during hide-and-seek, or Pop Pop’s angry confrontation with a stranger on the street — and then peeling them back with sly humour about the extent to which children are willing to believe old people are barely-together, batty fools. By the time the oldsters’ maligned purpose is revealed, though, both scares and laughs have essentially lost all meaning, reduced to jumpy surprises that exist to illicit reaction, any reaction at all.

New offerings at the specialty box office include Oren Moverman’s homeless drama, Time Out of Mind, starring Richard Gere, and Sleeping With Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. The most charitable reading might be that Shyamalan has finally found a sense of spontaneity, and is willing to let the audience take it as they may; the heavy-handedness of everything else — combined with the fact he has a history of screaming horror while showing mere absurdity — suggests that more likely he’s trying to have his horror-comedy both ways, but isn’t always sure if a character needs to step on a bear trap or a banana peel. The result is almost always mechanical rather than exciting or funny, despite the actors’ layered performances — the self-aware kids, Dunagan’s otherworldly weirdness and McRobbie’s unnerving deadpan.

I will say this, though: whatever his intent, he has at least succeeded in producing a film that, in its wild hodgepodge of absurd emotion, hammy jokes and jumping creeps, is unlike anything else you’re likely to see. Within what’s essentially a single setting, Shyamalan and Alberti keep things visually diverse but cohesive, while Naaman Marshall’s clean farmhouse interiors avoid the common trap of overdesign. A Jungian therapist might have a field day with the story’s plunge into the nigredo, the aspect of alchemy that involves putrefaction and decomposition (those diapers!).

The movie isn’t without an emotional core, though: It’s Hahn’s mostly absent character, and although she’s called upon to deliver the heavy-handed moral of the story, she manages to make every moment she’s onscreen ring true. In one of the few gags that connects in this missed opportunity of a film, Tyler utters the names of female singers rather than cursing when he’s upset or disappointed.

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