Mediocre: Devil in the Flesh 2

Devil in the Flesh 2 (A.K.A. Teacher’s Pet) (2000)

Directed by Marcus Spiegel
Written by Richard Brandes
Produced by Betsy Mackey, Richard Brandes, Alicia Reilly Larson, Robert E. Baruc, Marc Forby
Starring Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Christiana Frank, Todd Robert Anderson, Bill Gratton, Sarah Lancaster, Rel Hunt, Todd McKee, Alex McArthur, Wendy Worthington

Synopsis

Within a week, a pretty mental patient and aspiring poet (O’Keefe) murders a sadistically perverted nurse (Worthington) and the psychiatrist (McArthur) with whom she was obsessed, escapes from her psychiatric hospital, assumes the identity of a rich, dead collegian (Lancaster) who she resembles, flouts and outfoxes her dorm’s dictatorial, prematurely frumpy housemother (Frank), befriends and beautifies her nerdy roommate (Brox), seduces a studly professor (Garcia) of creative writing, undermines his unlikable fiancée (Kendall), and excels in his class by penning passionate poetry. Can the local sheriff (Gratton) and his dimwitted deputy and son (Anderson) apprehend this overachiever?

Script

With his former co-producer Kurt Anderson and a quartet of screenwriters, producer/second assistant director/author Brandes is credited for the previous picture‘s story. He reputedly wrote this goofier, glossier subsequence alone as camp invested with improved, precipitate plotting and snappier dialogue.

Direction & cinematography

Only a few ostentatiously skillful close-ups (some of which are in deep focus) draw attention to Spiegel’s otherwise ordinary oversight and M. David Mullen’s toasty photography.

Histrionics

Brandes reserved all of his best insults, retorts, witticisms and felonies for strutting, orally contorting O’Keefe, who hits her marks a step over the top with hysterically hammy panache. While Rose McGowan played a high school senior as a blithe vicenarian slow to slay, O’Keefe’s bouncy, butcherly bedlamite seems like a freshman of high school, not college. Among others, remarkably handsome Garcia and gawky Brox (a poor girl’s Clea DuVall) are fair foils who embody their archetypes as palatably as their castmates. Alex McArthur’s cameo corresponds to his unwilling objet du désir in the first movie.

Score

For a quarter-century, Steve Gurevitch’s music has primarily supplied tonal emphasis, as here. Some of his programmed percussion occupies.

Highlights

O’Keefe nails all of her rejoinders as amusively as she seethes spitting demented invective. Moments after this lovely, lovelorn lunatic screams, “Where the hell is my Prince Charming?!,” Lancaster’s spoiled brat accidentally kills herself with priceless inelegance.

Flaws

Not two minutes prior to her untimely demise, Lancaster spies coitus between disgusting hicks. Evidently superhuman hearing empowers O’Keefe to surveil her unwitting inamorato.

Conclusion

Its sex, criminalities, and gallows humor outshines that of this melodrama’s predecessor, and it was destined, sanitized, and almost too good for telecast via Lifetime.

Execrable: Devil in the Flesh

Devil in the Flesh (1998)

Directed by Steve Cohen
Written by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Michael Michaud, Kelly Carlin, Robert McCall, Steve Cohen
Produced by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Marc Forby, Alicia Reilly Larson, Betsy Mackey, Robert E. Baruc, John Fremes
Starring Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley, Phil Morris, Robert Silver, J.C. Brandy, Sherrie Rose, Ryan Bittle, Julia Nickson, Krissy Carlson, Schultz, Wendy Robie, Philip Boyd, Milton James

Synopsis

Logophilic police detectives (Morris, Silver) conduct an inquirendo into a possible arson that killed her mother and teacher while a sultry student (McGowan) chafes at residency with her abusive, overbearing, fundamentalist grandmother (Shirley), and attendance at a new high school where her crush on a handsome teacher (McArthur) turns erotomaniacal. Corpses accrue.

Script

Their residual capitalization on the sleeper’s success of Poison Ivy and its sequels (themselves variations on Fatal Attraction‘s scenario) isn’t without wit, but Anderson and Brandes should’ve held their four screenwriters to one standard of black humor, and weeded this flick’s shooting script of some badly barbed lines.

Editing

Michael Thibault’s final cut would be unexceptionable but for excessive and successive dissolves, and some intolerably interpolated whoosh cuts, none of which evoke fond nostalgia for the ’90s.

Histrionics

Her bitchy chill was honed for years in compulsive trash like The Doom Generation and Lewis & Clark & George, and McGowan’s as fetchingly flirty here as in any of her other vehicles, if less interesting than certain co-stars. Morris and Silver play their cross-quizzing inspectors with pleasantly understated comic timing, and Faheyish McArthur emanates charisma as the object of her sensual seductress. Oddly, not too much of this this devil’s flesh is on display, despite McGowan’s penchant for onscreen nudity. Sherrie Rose is instead twice in the buff during sexy scenes with McArthur, and while her figure is easy on the eyes, the absence of McGowan’s gymnomania may have disappointed purchasers of this video.

Score

From their first of many collaborations, Michael Burns’s and Steve Gurevitch’s music tugs the ear, unlike the tones-by-numbers that they’ve since been turning out for scores of Lifetime’s features.

Highlights

Darling schnauzer Schultz charms as the pet of Shirley’s loathsome beldame. Whether this satisfies is largely incident to its audience’s sexual orientation; McGowan was so stunning in her prime that she’s sure to transfix anyone tending to the slightest interest in the fairer sex.

Flaws

Painfully lame quips during and after several homicides (two of which are frankly justifiable) aren’t meliorated by McGowan’s cutesy delivery.

Conclusion

For McGowan’s longsuffering, remaining fans — who might’ve noticed that she’s only half this crazy in reality — this is essential viewing. Addicts of Johnson/Shadowland’s sordid crime dramas may deplore this as extreme, but it’s likely a touch too tame for aficionados of erotic thrillers.

Execrable: Desecrated

Desecrated (2015)

Directed by Rob Garcia
Written by Cecil Chambers
Produced by Cecil Chambers, E. Dylan Costa, Chris Nassif, John Atterberry, John Boggs
Starring Gonzalo Menendez, Haylie Duff, Gib Gerard, Paul James, Heather Sossaman, Michael Ironside, Wilmer Calderon, Vera Rosada, Jack Rain, Kayla Shaughnessy, Mary LeGault

Synopsis

Six dumb collegianers (Duff, Gerard, James, Sossaman, Calderon, Rosada) cavort at an isolated summer house during spring break, and by trespassing on his home aggravate its domineering groundskeeper (Menendez), an insane ex-Marine who deviously dispatches them with a purpose and a plan.

Script

Little occurs in this story until its third act, and its ratio of discussion to action is proximately 10:1, which might be excusable if that predominant class wasn’t brainless banter and iterated confusion. Co-producer Chambers recycles devices established in classic thrillers sans a spark of suspense.

Direction

Fortunately, a good script wasn’t squandered on Garcia’s sloppy, amateurish direction.

Cinematography

Whether accomplished DP and FX specialist Bruce Logan contributed to this flick for charity or necessity is unknown to this reviewer, but his splendent (days for) nights are almost as artificially unattractive as scenes darkened by drab tinctures, for which he’s responsible as its DI colorist.

Editing

Neither am I aware if co-producer E. Dylan Costa, Robert A. Ferretti, or both were ripped on stimulants when they feverishly butchered Garcia’s footage, or if they did so to conceal even more of its shortcomings. Their ASL is 2 seconds.

Histrionics

Overlooking one fluffed line, the lesser Duff sister is a passable leading lady. Menendez treats his villainy with brio, as would reliable old Ironside were he accorded a meatier part. As one of those raunchy, obnoxious stoners who infest fraternities and later middle management, Calderon’s portentously pestilent. Everyone else verbally treads water until dead.

Score

Joe Faraci’s chintzy score is redolent of those heard in features broadcast from Lifetime’s limitless landfill.

Highlights

Some mild amusement’s to be had when Menendez upbraids and menaces these vexing vacationers. Scenery’s satisfyingly nibbled by Ironside in the role of Duff’s dad, who isn’t evil enough to provide sufficient grist for the grizzled Canadian’s mill.

Flaws

Even including its superfluous backstory, this half-hour of plot makes a mingy 70+ minutes. Thirty-one minutes after Menendez’s outdoorsman informs James’s pseudo-nerd that he hosts hikes and hunts, the latter discovers this from online advertisements and testimonials. Only Menendez and Ironside don’t play certifiable clots.

Conclusion

This offal insults one’s intelligence as much as studio-grade chum. If you can view it freely, mellow Ironside’s worth watching during his 10 minutes onscreen, shot to satisfy financiers unfamiliar with Duff.

Instead, watch Deliverance or Cabin Fever.

Execrable: Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!

Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! (2006)

Written and directed by Chad Ferrin
Produced by John Santos, Trent Haaga, Giuseppe Asaro, C.W. Ferrin
Starring Timothy Muskatell, Charlotte Marie, Ricardo Gray, Granny, David Z. Stamp, Jose I. Lopez, Marina Blumenthal, Amy Szychowski, Kele Ward, Trent Haaga, Ernesto Redarta

Synopsis

While working her nursing night shift, a sonsie single mother (Marie) intrusts her retarded, adolescent son (Gray) to the care of her boyfriend, a sordidly psychotic career criminal (Muskatell) who invites a bloated, crippled drug dealer (Stamp) and a pair of putrid prostitutes (Szychowski, Ward) to party at her residence. Neither they nor other lurking malfeasants (Lopez, Blumenthal, Redarta) are safe from a stealthy, resourceful murderer who’s observing Easter behind a leporine mask.

Script

With repulsive prolongations and domestic disputes, Troma alumnus Ferrin stretches 25 minutes of story to occupy 90 minutes of running time forming his trashy, inane, admittedly fun farcical horror, which piques a lot of laughs but no scares for anyone beyond their pubertal years. Its comic crudity is as stupidly amusing as one could hope for.

Direction

His claustrophobic close-ups, zooms, full-figure and drifting shots (no few of which shamelessly blazon busty Marie’s considerable cleavage) are all framed with calculated carelessness, but Ferrin has a knack for capturing his players’ most unflatteringly, goofily humorous angles.

Cinematography

Most of this flick’s interiors are lit like begrimed bedrooms from which camgirls stream, and the lurid hues clothing Giuseppe Asaro’s shiteo beseem its sleazy cheese.

Editing

Jahad Ferif hacked Ferrin’s footage together with occasional flair, though this reviewer can’t readily tell how many of his overzealous cuts are imputable to ineptitude or imitation of B-schlock.

Histrionics

In adherence to Ferrin’s style, everyone onscreen overplays their one-dimensional roles by yards over the top to some risible effect. As the fat, flagitious felon, Muskatell seems lucky to swagger and fume through the movie without suffering cardiac arrest. Only Granny, a plumply precious rabbit cast as the pet of Gray’s peevish peabrain, performs naturally.

Score

Synthesized noodlings and tacky, often funky prog rock courtesy of Goblinishly epigonic duo The Giallos Flame is crummily fun, like most else here.

Highlights

Marie’s buxom mother alternates between indulgence and violent discipline while voicing minced oaths; the piggish pervert portrayed by Stamp is gleefully aroused by a chance to prey on a mentally disabled teenager; every exchange and murder is in some way funny.

Flaws

True to his roots, Ferrin created a video that’s as embarrassingly edgy and intensely ugly as it is legitimately laughable. Every shot is shoddy, and all presagements patent. One predictable twist is explained with a fatuous flashback.

Conclusion

This is less like exploitation movies from the ’70s than how Xers and early Millennials would like to remember them. If you’ve an appetite for raunch and gore, and absolutely nothing better to do, it’s a tickling way to pass 1.5 of your overtly disposable hours.

Palatable: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Produced by Ronaldo Vasconcellos, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park, Karen Beever, Natascha Wharton
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Kevin Eldon, Stuart Wilson, Edward Woodward, Anne Reid, Adam Buxton, Billie Whitelaw, Rory McCann, Karl Johnson, Eric Mason, Kenneth Cranham, David Threlfall, Lucy Punch, Paul Freeman, Ron Cook, Peter Wight, Julia Deakin, Trevor Nichols, Elizabeth Elvin, Bill Bailey, Tim Barlow, Lorraine Hilton, Patricia Franklin, Ben McKay, Alice Lowe, David Bradley, Maria Charles, Robert Popper, Joe Cornish, Chris Waitt, Stephen Merchant
Wright’s comedies elicit overvaluation from the magnifying pathologies of approving British audiences, but they do meet a demand for nimble humor that Hollywood can no longer produce. Shaun of the Dead hardly met its hype, but this follow-up — an uproarious lampoon of overcooked actioners by the likes of Tony Scott, John Woo, Michael Bay, Guy Ritchie, et al. — merits its repute. From London, an accomplished, finical sergeant (Pegg) is transferred for his inconvenient superiority to a goofily idyllic village in Gloucestershire, where he’s partnered with the oafish son (Frost) of his constabulary’s chief (Broadbent). He chances instanter upon delinquency, deplorable dramatics, an overabundant arsenal, and a spate of murders that befall some of the locality’s notables — mistaken as mischances by his unskilled and complacent colleagues (Considine, Spall, Colman, Eldon, Johnson) — just beneath a provincial veneer nurtured by its hospitable businessmen (Dalton, Wilson, Woodward, Whitelaw, Mason, Cranham, Freeman, Wight, Deakin, Nichols, Elvin). Pegg’s again cast well to type as an authoritative straight man opposite clownish co-stars, funniest among whom are dopey Frost and lupine Dalton, who steals his every scene as a conspicuously sinister supermarketeer. That Welshman’s fellow old hands play up their quaint parts with as much esprit as the director’s usual collaborators; Whitelaw is meted a few droll scenes for her final appearance. Fans of Wright’s circle will also enjoy snappy cameos by Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy as the overachieving officer’s injudicious top brass. Most Anglophonic, contemporary cinematic comedies dole hors d’oeuvres for occasional laughs; here, Wright’s and Pegg’s buffet is crammed with frantically cut one-liners, sight gags, prefigurations and adversions intrinsic and extrinsic, many of which rely on the cunning casting of its older players. Featured clichés of the targeted genre include ostentatious rising pans and 360 shots, overzealous foley, digital blood, and dumb catchphrases. Whether they enjoy or abhor tasteless action pictures, this is recommended for whomever can stomach its multiple bloody homicides, especially Britons who need two hours of respite from metropolitan police farcically focused on trifling offenses, if only to divert public attention from their failures to curb violent crime.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Burn After Reading.

Execrable: Filth

Filth (2013)
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Irvine Welsh, Jon S. Baird
Produced by Mark Amin, Christian Angermayer, Jon S. Baird, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, James McAvoy, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Jessica Ask, Christopher Billows, Alexander Denk, Alex Francis, Benoit Roland, Berry van Zwieten, Sean Wheelan, Tyler Boehm, Rachel Dargavel, Jona Wirbeleit, Alexander O’Neal, Guy Avshalom, Tony Bolton, Jane Bruce, Charles E. Bush Jr., Mohammed Hans Dastmaltchi, Karin G. Dietrich, Ralph S. Dietrich, Stephan Giger, Stefan Haller, Marc Hansell, Jon Harris, Robin Houcken, Steven Istock, Zygi Kamasa, Pierre Lorinet, Benjamin Melkman, Nick Meyer, Matt Petzny, Yasin Qureshi, Marc Schaberg, Judy Tossell, Jean Pierre Valentini, Irvine Welsh, Paul Andrew Williams
Starring James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Shauna Macdonald, Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Shirley Henderson, Joy McAvoy, Jordan Young, Pollyanna McIntosh, Bobby Rainsbury
Akin to his American obverse Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh fares best when concocting humorous metaphysical mishaps and exploiting memorably crude conceits; when either delve too deeply into existential excogitation, their immanent immaturity issues as mundanely as the most formulaic romantic comedies. Trainspotting and The Acid House are audaciously appealing for their attention to Welsh’s fantastical degeneracy (notwithstanding the former’s maximal overestimation); the same can be said for only a few moments in this adaptation of his eponymous novel, which ebbs from goatish mischievousness into cloying moralization and introspective angst-by-numbers, affirming once again the propensity of Anglos to misrepresent masochism as moral play, and glamorize vice as a self-serving pretense of expiation. If he weren’t so preoccupied with pranks and gossip intended to undermine his constabulary’s other inspectors (Bell, Poots, McCardie, Elliott, Lewis) and invalidate their eligibility for a coveted promotion, a coked, boozing, madly misanthropic detective (McAvoy) might attend to the case of a Japanese tourist murdered by a thuggish gang (Compston, De Caestecker, McAvoy, Young). Instead, multiple addictions exacerbate his haunted, schizoid psyche until he desolates what’s left of his life and mars those of associates and acquaintances before committing suicide. The End!
Perhaps the best filmic evidence that GenX have become as obstinately ossified as Boomers is the junk constituting this pic’s rancid rubric, which was scarcely tolerable when Britain’s film industry was first infected with Tarantinism in the mid-’90s. Baird hoarily regurgitates by rote the obligatory, introductory strut in slow motion and abounding, artless exposition in pestiferously prolix narration and presentational shots. Just as wearying to watch and hear are edgy vitriol delivered by a supporting cast who overplay their one-dimensional roles like teenagers at drama camp, sluttishly overripe wives (Macdonald, Dickie, Henderson) among those, hallucinatory episodes where Broadbent and McAvoy retread unamusing references to A Clockwork Orange, Clint Mansell’s niminy-piminy music, and McAvoy’s fatuous breaches of the fourth wall. Filth was a domestic hit where a preponderance of ignorance and political correctness have lowered the popular threshold of transgression, so its moderate violence, harrassment, drinking, snorting, sexism, racism, homophobia, transvestism, erotic asphyxiation and disloyalty aroused Scottish critics and viewers to acclamation and animadversion unknown to other markets. Nothing sates the immoral appetites of a softened society as decadent froth with a syrupy center.

Instead, watch Bad Lieutenant or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Execrable: Clouds of Sils Maria

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Produced by Charles Gillibert, Karl Baumgartner, Thanassis Karathanos, Jean-Louis Porchet, Olivier Père, Gérard Ruey, Antoun Sehnaoui, Martin Hampel, Maja Wieser Benedetti, Sylvie Barthet
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Hanns Zischler, Johnny Flynn, Angela Winkler, Brady Corbet, Aljoscha Stadelmann, Ricardia Bramley

Lies and bombast:

“Any doubts about Kristen Stewart’s true acting potential are extinguished thanks to her surprisingly nuanced and mesmerizing performance in Clouds of Sils Maria.”

–Michael D. Reid, Times Colonist

“…this is a straight character piece, made dynamic by Binoche and Stewart’s powerhouse performances…”

–Chris Bumbray, JoBlo.com

“Stewart gives a striking performance in Clouds. Her character Val, a personal assistant and rock of Gibraltar to Juliette Binoche’s film and stage star Maria, is self-assured, crafty, honest, perceptive and even a little bit warm. It’s a 180 from the dead-behind-the-eyes Bella Swan, yet there’s the same flat delivery and crossed-arm presence. Here it radiates confidence, not Edward vs. Jacob indecision. Most of the film is just Stewart and Binoche in conversation, and Stewart more than holds her own.”

–Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair

“The relationship here is quite beautifully drawn, with Stewart again demonstrating what a terrific performer she can be away from the shadow of Twilight. She’s sharp and limber; she’s a match for Binoche.”

–Xan Brooks, The Guardian

“Binoche works in a more animated register, which makes Stewart’s habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone, function as effectively underplayed contrast.”

–Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Stewart became the first American female actor ever to win a César for her performance. It’s deserved. She’s a revelation, reminding us that her talent has been eclipsed by Twilight for far too long.”

–Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Toronto

“Ultimately, Stewart is the one who actually embodies what Binoche’s character most fears, countering the older actress’ more studied technique with the same spontaneous, agitated energy that makes her the most compellingly watchable American actress of her generation.”

–Peter Debruge, Variety

“Stewart is surprisingly self-assured as both a punching bag and launching pad for Binoche’s tour de force.”

–Diego Semerene, Slant

“Stewart is also at her best and convincingly conveys an important quality which so far has rather eluded her, a keen intelligence.”

–David Noh, Film Journal International

“…(Kristen Stewart, a deadpan revelation)…”

–David Ehrlich, Time Out

“This is the film that fulfills whatever promise Kristen Stewart has shown for more than a decade. […] As one-half of a dynamite acting duo in Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart finally merits all the attention thrown her way. […] Stewart’s strength here is being the kind of actress we always suspected she could be.”

–Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

“If the juxtaposition of “fascinating” and “Kristen Stewart” stopped you cold, this is the film that should, by rights, warm you up to her. […] Binoche, Stewart, and Moretz can disappear into their roles and at the same time stand outside them – a Buddhist ideal.”

–David Edelstein, Vulture

“Kristen Stewart is cool perfection as her assistant, giving as good as she gets despite the power imbalance in their relationship.”

–Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“A meditation on fame, acting, aging, and acceptance, Clouds is a multilayered rapture on the subject of woman, performing. Not only does the film demand repeat viewings, it rewards them.”

–Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Whether they were bribed by one or more of this movie’s numerous producers or distributors (one hopes that Les Films du Losange wouldn’t stoop to such iniquity) to disseminate fawning, fatuous falsehoods, or with venal idiocy convinced themselves that their blurbs above are at all accurate, the panegyrical deluge of these hacks ultimately amounts to nullity, much like Assayas’s overrated pap.

In her youth, an actress (Binoche) rose to prominence on stage, then screen in the role of a callously cavalier demoiselle seducing an established, married mother and inheritor of a troubled company, whose suicide eventuates when she’s unavoidably jilted. Decades later, a successful theatrical director (Eidinger) revives this play immediate to its author’s sudden demise, and invites the quondam ingenue — now frampold, flush with fame and fortune, and freshly divorced with her capable but trendily philistine adjunct (Stewart) in tow — to assume its tragic senior lead opposite a notoriously wayward Hollywood star (Moretz). Scene after scene of sophomoric, excruciatingly expository dialogue as amateurish as Stewart’s, Moretz’s and Flynn’s performances reflect just how incompetently Assayas scripted this mess and directed his cast. Binoche is palatable when she isn’t overburdened with leaden lines, yet heinously hammy in others. She affects a peevingly puerile swagger whenever her splenetic superstar’s tipsy, bobbing her noggin like Sam Waterston in an episode of Law & Order, perhaps to counterbalance the void with whom she’s paired. Again, every paid critic who lauded this movie is dishonest or deluded, because slouching, plankish, unbrushed, occasionally uptalking, stupidly tattooed Kristin Stewart cannot act, which is why she’s still monotonously reciting and volleying lines that she clearly struggles to recall. Nonetheless, she’s not so embarrassing as Moretz, whose clownish physiognomy consorts with her gushingly callow delivery, especially in confabulation with her boyfriend, a novelist gaumlessly enacted by Flynn with an inanimacy to rival or exceed Stewart’s. Eidinger represents his sensitive, dramaturgic visionary with a smooth virtuosity shared by Zischler as an aging actor whose personal and professional past is thornily entangled with Binoche’s, largely because they haven’t anything abashing to say. Assayas’s story and all who inhabit it are easily outshone by his and DP Yorick Le Saux’s majestic, wintery then vernal Alpine panoramas, and particularly therethrough the Maloja Snake, a magnificent climatic phenomenon of clouds creeping low and sinuate through the Maloja Pass.

Not too many years ago, Assayas was still parading talented leading ladies in unexceptional vehicles (Irma Vep, Clean, Boarding Gate). Wading into conceptual depths once occupied by heavyweights (Bergman, Mankiewicz, Truffault, Cassavetes) with adequate technique and thoughtful characterizations, his wretchedly corny, jejune verbiage reveal the limits of his intuition and intellect, and how poorly he interprets and contrives psychology. Insights only glint when Binoche’s histrion and Stewart’s subaltern grapple in labored, private rehearsals at and while hiking about its late dramatist’s chalet in pastoral municipality Sils Maria. One scene from a ridiculous space opera that they view in theater starring Moretz’s wild child drolly parodies mindless genre fare, but when Stewart subsequently agonizes to defend the movie’s thematic legitimacy to bibulous Binoche’s rident despite, they play off one other ticklingly, as they ought’ve throughout. Glutted with trashy scandals, ungainly and often reiterated oral histories for the benefit of a presumably obtuse and unmindful audience, hungover Stewart’s roadside disgorgement, and comparisons and contrasts of enduring erudite forms and an increasingly, rightly unpopular popular culture, this movie’s repeatedly distracted from its burden: how the interrelations of its characters mirror and affect facets of their professional roles, fictional and otherwise. Assayas treats of commonplace and promising themes fleetingly, or as inconclusively as so many of his fizzled discussions. Although it’s filmed well, this pic’s transitional pace is disrupted by its interstitial cuts, dissolves and fades, all as clumsily mistimed as its soundtrack’s bathetic application of beautifully dulcet, familiar movements by Pachelbel, Spohr and Handel.

All of the shills, favors and accolades paid can’t redeem this pabulum’s monetary losses (on a relatively small budget) and half-baked insipidity, however such artifices are manifest: its nomination for the Palme d’Or at Cannes; Stewart’s unduly awarded César (which only underscores its cultural irrelevance at this point); Chanel’s subvention in exchange for the conspicuity of their raiment, finery, maquillage and logo therein; prompt issuance of the Criterion Collection’s DVD and Blu-ray editions; simpleminded and superabundant reviews containing varieties of witlessly hyphenated terms prepended with “meta-.” All of this merely confirms that this cynically marketed product presented as filmic art has failed thoroughly as both.

Instead, watch All About Eve, Day for Night, Opening Night, or Sex is Comedy.

Mediocre: Sex Doll

Sex Doll (2016)
Written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde
Produced by Bruno Berthemy, Bertrand Faivre, Soledad Gatti-Pascual, Rachel Dargavel
Starring Hafsia Herzi, Ash Stymest, Karole Rocher, Lindsay Karamoh, Myriam Djeljeli, Paul Hamy, Ira Max, Jeremy Bennett, Simon Killick
Not by chance do the paths of an experienced Franco-Algerian call girl (Herzi) and an obscure oddball (Stymest) dedicated to rescuing cocottes from their profession cross often in London, before her madam (Rocher) sends her and a budding bawd (Max) to a manse for a weekend when they’re to entertain wealthy clients (Bennett, Killick). Verheyde’s direction is compositionally satisfactory, but her mushy meliorist’s misconception of human nature — if not prostitution — is as inaccurate (though more naif) as the wholly transactional perspective of the neoliberal. Worse, its influence on her dialogue redounds to mortifying moments of outright ostentation during a few critical conversations. Ick! A current fixture of flat, footling French flicks, lushly photogenic Herzi seems less sultrily seductive than snoozily sulky, but she’s as creditable as most of her co-stars, bar scrawny Stymest, an unbearably stiff ham whose asinine tattoos and face render his self-styled savior more halfwit than hero. If the characters of this tedious Anglo-French production were as compelling as Verheyde’s developmental aspirations, she might’ve overcome her deadly pomposity.

Instead, watch The Chosen Ones.

Execrable: A Reason to Believe

A Reason to Believe (1995)
Directed and written by Douglas Tirola
Produced by Ged Dickersin, Douglas Tirola, Christopher Trela
Starring Allison Smith, Danny Quinn, Jay Underwood, Kim Walker, Georgia Emelin, Keith Coogan, Christopher Birt, Lisa Lawrence, Obba Babatundé, Holly Marie Combs, Mark Metcalf, Robin Riker, Afton Smith, Joe Flanigan, David Overlund, Jimmy Kieffer, Mary Thomas, Michelle Stratton, Rachel Parker, Sally Kenyon, Andy Holcomb, Cary Spadafora
Generous hallmarks epitomizing shitty social dramas of American cinema in the ’90s are encompassed in this especially leaden waste of time: hideously drab raiment, furnishings and photography; a dire dearth of congenial characters; semi-coherent dialogue; maddening incommunication; a majority of (largely superfluous) scenes that tread water at a glacial pace; conflict between two unsavory factions morally distinguished only by the upright position of one assumed on repugnantly ideological grounds. Shortly after a university’s fraternity of sexist creeps clashes publicly with its equally distasteful feminist cadre, an imprudent student (Smith) in drunken, scantily togged attendance at a party held by the former is raped by a frat boy (Underwood). Initially, she hasn’t the backbone to confess this misfortune to her craven boyfriend (Quinn), nor has he to confront her assailant, even when he merely presupposes her infidelity. Humdrum hearsay and hassles drag tediously to the rapist’s expulsion from both his fraternity and college, and a presumed investigation by local police, after the ornery, opportunistic president of the school’s women’s students group (Emelin) obligates his victim to criminate him. As a feminist, Tirola was one of a few who pioneered America’s mainstream cinematic transition from feminism’s frequently illogical, yet often justifiable second wave to its psychotic third; as a filmmaker, he’s as lazily unimaginative and inexpert as any hack who’s exploited a controversial issue. Most of the picture consists of prosaic pans and fecklessly framed wide shots cut badly in alternation with close-ups, and well over half of the scenes in its half-hour of story stretched beyond 100 minutes are filler, such as classes wherein an overbearing professor (Babatundé) demands that his students parrot propagandistic platitudes in an unintended mockery of Socratic method. Performances are for the most part adequate, but Emelin noticeably struggles to remember her largely ludicrous lines, peppered with flagrantly false statistics and politicized prattle. Metcalf and Coogan are amusingly cast against and to types as the university’s dean and a stoner, the movie’s only likable people. In contrast, Emelin’s barracuda is somehow slightly more repellent than Underwood’s petulant rapist (essentially still Bug from Uncle Buck); that she expresses momentary glee upon apprisal of his felony for the advantage it affords in a neutral context suggests that Tirola’s just as sleazy as his deuteragonist. One of the film’s few praiseworthy points is its accurate depiction of casual rape, and it might’ve been partly redeemed had it explicitly cautioned young women about the dangers of unaccompanied carousal in certain venues, or advised them how to immediately report incidents of sexual assault to ease enquiries and arraignments, but Tirola shirks the social responsibility that his harridans demand from the opposite sex. Instead, this abominable agitprop promotes nothing save credulity to every allegation and the unattainable lunacy of social justice — always a disservice to anyone assaulted or wrongly accused.

Execrable: Liquid Sky

Liquid Sky (1982)
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Written by Slava Tsukerman, Nina V. Kerova, Anne Carlisle
Produced by Slava Tsukerman, Nina V. Kerova, Robert Field
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr, Bob Brady, Elaine C. Grove, Stanley Knapp, Jack Adalist, Lloyd Ziff, Roy MacArthur, Sara Carlisle
Squalid tommyrot ensues after a little flying saucer lights upon the roof of a tiny penthouse occupied by a fashion model (Carlisle) and a performance artist (Sheppard), and proceeds to terminate numerous sleazeballs therein by harvesting their endorphins during orgasms or narcotic highs. Tsukerman’s script, direction, production and editing are aggravatingly amateurish, but the Soviet expatriate’s slipshod execution slipped the attention of gaumless hipsters, junkies and critics whose patronage made this stupid, slapdash sci-fi the most successful independent feature of 1983. Lenna Rashkovsky-Kaleva’s, Marcel Fiévé’s and Chris Evans’s imaginative makeup, flashy costumes fashioned by Marina Levikova, Yuri Neyman’s and Oleg Chichilnitsky’s briefly intriguing special effects and a few amusing moments can’t at all compensate for how poorly this picture was shot, cut, scored and performed. Carlisle woodenly created dual male and female roles as though to stress her absence of charisma as either, but she isn’t a tenth as nettlesome as Sheppard, who plays her pretentiously pettish poet with the condescending comportment of a villainess from a children’s cartoon. Despite their heroin chic, Tsukerman’s one-dimensional characters — inspired by his superficial conception of NYC’s new wave — are as crudely unsophisticated as his style. His movie’s consequently edgy in the tiresome manner of huffy teenagers transported in their mom’s minivan to a performance by Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM or Type O Negative, circa 1996. Fatuous whenever it’s supposed to be clever, this is unique in the worst way, for the ingenuity of so many unappealingly bad ideas. Eschew it for the sake of precious time and forbearance.

Instead, watch I Come in Peace.