Poster

Finally, we need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Just in time for Mother’s Day! Go hug your mom before you watch this movie.

It’s been a few years since I first watched this movie, and I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple more times. I love the content and the story, but this movie adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book (of the same name) is a frustrating experience. Much like Kevin and his problems, I have avoided talking about it because it’s nearly impossible to talk about my issues without spoiling the movie.

I hope you watch We Need to Talk About Kevin. This movie is streaming on Netflix and you should give it a chance for Tilda Swinton alone. The acting is captivating and as close to perfect as possible. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tilda Swinton (Eva) and John C. Reilly (Franklin) are terrific. The shocker is that Ezra Miller is outstanding as the titular Kevin. This is the only thing I have enjoyed Ezra Miller in—though I now remember him in a small recurring role on the TV show Californication. Even Jasper Newell and Rock Duer perform admirably as the younger versions of Kevin. The casting is so impressive because Jasper and Rock both resemble Ezra Miller so well. Ashley Gerasimovich is also solid when she’s on the screen as the younger sister (Celia). These actors deserved to be in a better movie.

Same Face 1

That’s not to say We Need to Talk About Kevin is a bad movie.

It is not bad, per se. But I consider it a massive disappointment and missed opportunity.

Personally, I still found parts of this movie to appreciate despite its downfalls. I just have no idea who this was made for and why anyone without a critic’s mindset would like this movie. According to the ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the audience actually appears to enjoy this movie as much as the critics enjoy their own farts. My qualms are not with the acting or source material.

I believe We Need to Talk About Kevin fails as a whole because the story is not told coherently—due to director Lynne Ramsay who co-wrote the screenplay with Rory Stewart Kinnear.

But why does this method of storytelling fail?

Same Face 2

Spoilers galore.

We know exactly what happens within the first 5 minutes.

I understand how the narrative of the book was told reflexively from Eva’s point of view looking back on her life, family, what Kevin did, and how she is trying to cope with the fallout. That way of storytelling does not work with the medium of film. Why? Because it removes all of the suspense and tension.

Same Face 3

Instead of being the thriller that it is incorrectly billed as, this movie immediately turns into a melancholy drama. For 2 hours, you are forced to watch Tilda Swinton shift from postpartum depression after Kevin’s birth to zoned-out, zonked, and just going through the motions in the present day. The flashbacks with Keivn are inarguably the best parts of this movie. From the start, the movie teases a massacre at the high school with police cars and parents outside screaming.

It is a complete disservice because it removes all of the emotional impact—taking what should have been a very powerful punch and spreading it incredibly thin across the entire runtime.

Telling the story in a straightforward manner would have kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what the hell Kevin was going to do rather than already being aware of the end result. On top of knowing Kevin committed a school massacre, you also know he killed his sister and dad. Apparently, that is supposed to be a big reveal in the book because the story is told through Eva’s letters written to her (presumed) estranged husband. But when you don’t see John C. Reilly or their kid in the present-day scenes in the movie, you absolutely know they are dead along with everyone else. When the movie finally catches up and shows the flashback to the day of the massacre, it didn’t make me feel any certain way. I was just glad they finally arrived at the destination.

Same Face 4

In a sense, showing you countless scenes of Tilda Swinton’s character gripping with guilt challenges the audience to be bored with the emotional gravity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was among the bored. And I’m someone who actually liked this movie. But it felt like beating a dead horse.

The way this story unfolds is counterintuitive to the point they’re trying to make.

The question at the heart of this movie: who is at fault? Who can we blame?

Water

No one, really. A lot of factors are involved—no one handled anything properly and both parents probably made it worse—but I don’t feel like anyone is truly responsible. Not even Kevin himself. It’s a battle of nature and nurture rather than nature vs. nurture. Maybe I’m completely wrong (it certainly is possible), but that is not the sense that I got from watching this movie.

Because of her overwhelming guilt, Eva takes responsibility for the massacre in this movie. Tilda’s character even agrees to pay damages to the victims, which forced her to sell the house and her business—financially ruining her already ruined life. Director Lynne Ramsay alludes to the blood on her hands with several heavy-handed scenes of Eva trying to remove red paint that was thrown on her house and car. She has blood on her hands and is washing her red hands clean.

Through the flashbacks, you see Eva physically and emotionally abuse Kevin from a young age. She hits him, breaks his arm, and openly doesn’t love him. Without a doubt, Kevin is a twat, but he never deserved any of that. It is no surprise to see the way he turned out with his visible rage and disgust for his mother. The movie also glazes over any of the father’s culpability by ignoring the obvious issues and warning flags. John C. Reilly’s character is the one who encouraged Kevin using his bow and arrow—giving him the best equipment, which Kevin turned into a murder weapon.

To a degree, it feels like genetics and his awful abusive mother at fault.

Shrill Shrew

I can’t help but blame Lynne Ramsay for that. I can’t imagine that was her intention, but it was the result. I love Tilda Swinton and she was superb with her shell-shocked look, but her character came across a shrill shrew. After a while, it becomes too hard to sympathize with Eva.

On the other hand, I was extremely engaged and invested in every scene with Ezra Miller. I kept wanting more He was a charismatic, mysterious sociopath. One scene where Kevin is talking about people on TV watching TV (because people like him are on the TV) is extraordinarily effect and evoked memories of Mickey Knox’s TV interview with Robert Downey Jr. in Natural Born Killers. I consider that quite a compliment to Ezra Miller to compare him to that iconic Woody Harrelson performance.

I wanted to bathe in that fucked-up brain.

Context

You get so few opportunities to see things from Kevin’s perspective. I didn’t need that to be the entire movie, but this depiction does not give you any satisfying introspection. With such a great character, I wanted more nuance. In the movie, Kevin is simply evil and his mother is being crippled with guilt trying to come to terms with things because she feels directly responsible.

As a result, Kevin is more of a one-dimensional villain.

I feel like the positive reception is a sign We Need to Talk About Kevin found its audience. However, I cannot recommend this movie to the general public. It’s not for a wide audience. This movie is only for an art-type crowd that can appreciate a slow, largely dull way of storytelling.

Happy

Based on the acting and the actual story, this is deserving of 5 stars. But the way We Need to Talk About Kevin was told is not deserving of 5 stars. It was an act of self-mutilation. I enjoyed certain aspects, but I cannot say I loved it as a whole. Half of the time, this completed missed the mark. Maybe it could be salvaged with a wildly different edit to give it an entirely new emotional feeling.

I’m sorry for burdening you with that novel reviewing a movie based on a novel.

I just needed to talk to someone about Kevin. Even if that someone was myself.

Point

2.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

Goodbye World is the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse and its local impact.

Our entire technological infrastructure has fallen apart because of a virus that sent a message to literally everyone—by targeting that person’s contacts and sending the message to their contacts (and so on) in a never-ending cycle. Not only has that caused communication to collapse, but it has snowballed to a complete failure of the energy grid. Suddenly, we are technologically untethered.

What was the message everyone was sending and receiving? Goodbye World.

Within the first 15 minutes, our group of friends is introduced and you start getting bits and pieces of the collapse. However, these people are largely aloof to the impending doom. Except for a few characters caught in major cities, most of them are making their way to a dinner party to their friend’s house in the secluded hills of Northern California. Essentially, the house is a compound with an ample garden and supplies. It is very convenient, but it makes sense in the context of the story.

Principles

The core four characters that are meeting up for this dinner party are two couples: Nick (played by Ben McKenzie) and Becky (played by Caroline Dhavernas) as well as James (played by Adrian Grenier) and Lily (played by Kerry Bishe). Nick started a company with James and Lily, but James froze Nick out of the company—because Nick wanted to sell the private data of their users—then James sold the company. It’s a nice, tight way to get these characters to this compound for a reason.

The other friends in this movie are Benji (played by Mark Webber), Laura (played by Gaby Hoffmann), and Lev (played by Kid Cudi). Benji is a radical activist recently out of jail who travels giving lectures, but still lives in the guest house out back. Becky is a disgraced political aide after getting caught on camera fucking the Senator she worked for and loved. Lev is a hacker who is about to commit suicide during the opening of the movie, but he stops when he hears about the cyber attack on the news.

Kid Cudi

Don’t let the cast fool you. There’s not a lot of notable names, but they play their parts extremely well. I hate most movies like this because the characters feel like a collection of actors rather than a group of friends. That dynamic is so hard to capture because every person within the group has a different relationship with each friend. When do you ever have a group of friends where everyone likes everyone? Have you met most people? This movie gives you the sense of history amongst these friends, and their interactions bring those stories to life. It is a credit to these actors and the writing.

Goodbye World earns the honor of most believable movie group of friends I’ve ever witnessed.

Friends

To be clear, this is more of a human drama than a movie documenting the collapse of society.

Shrinking the scale is a wise move because you can only show so much in a low-budget movie. You may not see America crumbling, but you get glimpses through the impact it has on people. When society falls, it is people who you have to watch out for at every turn. People will start to turn on you in order to save themselves. Friends become enemies. It is a fight over human nature.

I never felt like Goodbye World bordered on the ridiculous.

For the most part, these friends are kept safe by virtue of location. The house is not remotely close to civilization so they are cut off and secluded from most of the chaos. These places exist, I used to live approximately a half hour from any gas station or store. When things get too cozy and comfortable, a threat is introduced in the form of a sketchy duo of National Guard soldiers.

National Guard

I don’t know why there is so much hate and vitriol for Goodbye World.

If no one else will stand up, I’ll be the one to champion this movie. Goodbye World is built on an interesting concept, and the amazing acting breathes life into the story and makes it personal. I didn’t like everyone and that’s the intention. There are different characters that each person will connect with or despise, but there is plenty to enjoy in terms of both comedy and drama.

As much as Adrian Grenier gets deservedly shit on, Goodbye World is the absolute apex of his acting ability. Although he does sport an annoying top knot for most of the movie, Grenier makes James a believable blend of asshole and well-intentioned husband trying to care for his family. Even Ben McKenzie displays some dimension as Nick rather than his typical flat character type. And fucking Kid Cudi. I love Kid Cudi and Lev is a beautiful bright spot. Goodbye World is almost perfect.

I’ve said it several times before, but re-watchability is an important factor in my enjoyment of a movie. I believe Goodbye World is good enough to earn your repeated viewing. At this point, I think I have watched it at least 5 times. Savor Goodbye World while it is still streaming on Netflix. With a runtime right under an hour and a half, it’s an ideal length. Director Denis Henry Hennelly managed to make something unique with this movie, which he co-wrote with Sarah Adina Smith.

You don’t often get a comedy that packs an emotional punch.

When it ended, I did not want to say goodbye.

Satisfaction

4 out of 5 stars

Poster

I have zero connection to Disney movies.

Even as a child, I was already too grown-up for their fake worldview.

I am a better person for it. Disney is a disease that infects children with unrealistic expectations. Director Jon Favreau does an admirable job subverting the classic expectations of Disney movies as much as possible. But the cheese is overwhelmingly ham-handed and inescapable.

Of course, this is still a children’s movie—first and foremost. Like most kids movies, they sell audiences on the bullshit line that it’s for children but can also be enjoyed by adults. While Favreau performed substantially better than most would in his position, that balancing act is very visible.

Neel Sethi

Before we get into spoiler territory, let’s talk about what works. Above all, The Jungle Book is a success because Disney nailed their casting of Mowgli. Neel Sethi was phenomenal and picture-perfect for the role. Few child actors could pull of the physicality needed for Mowgli to move throughout the jungle in a realistic fashion while also believably interacting with CGI animals. Apparently, The Jim Henson Creature Shop was wisely brought in to fabricate puppets to serve as reference points for Neel Sethi. However, this movie probably doesn’t work remotely as well with any other child actor.

You have to love Mowgli because this is his journey and you are with him every step.

Baloo and Mowgli

Bill Murray is always a welcome presence, and he does a superb job bringing Baloo (the bear) to life. The character depiction perfectly matches Bill Murray’s voice and delivery. The third casting choice that Disney had to perfect was Shere Khan (the tiger) because he’s the villain that you must fear and despise. Idris Elba reveled in this opportunity and he chews ample scenery. As a result, Shere Khan is the correct mix of menace and power. I could do without every other casting decision.

I understand why they would want to cast Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (the panther)—especially considering the backstory of the book in the context of India. I mean, he’s fucking Gandhi. But it felt like a decision obligated more out of politics/commercial incentives instead of a character-based decision. Personally, it feels like Ben Kingsley mailed it in—either that or he’s not a good voice actor. Emotionally, Bagheera feels flat. While he may have intended for it to come across as regal, Ben Kingsley’s delivery feels like he’s bored and divorced from what is happening on the screen.

Bagheera

For a completely computer-generated movie (except for Neel Sethi), The Jungle Book breaks new ground and deserves praise for being a technological achievement. As usual, the 3D is completely unnecessary and I think it would drastically detract from the visuals. While there is a certain disconnect between the voice actors and CGI animals moving their mouths, I was able to forgive and forget that these were actors in a sound booth. You just have to go with it because you can only do so much to replicate how voices echo through the space and density of a computer-generated jungle.

Although it may look silly 5-10 years later, this is an important step in CGI development.

Now that I’ve praised this enough, let’s get down to talking some shit about a children’s movie.

Spoilers galore.

A surprising amount of death occurs in The Jungle Book.

However, no real violence is shown when a death happens, but the character completely disappears from the story without so much as a lingering shot. This occurs multiple times. Maybe I’m guilty of overanalyzing, but I believe you negate the impact of the death you’re showing by just breezing right past it. Mufasa’s death in The Lion King makes a monumental impression because they show the act and direct aftermath—Simba seeing the body of his dead father and mourning him.

Whereas in The Jungle Book, it’s impossible to tell whether or not some characters actually died—specifically Kaa and King Louie. Both of these characters feel shoehorned into the movie. I have no idea what their previous roles were in the animated movie or book, but the screen time for Kaa and King Louie appears to primarily serve as clumsy exposition to further plot points.

Kaa

Kaa is a massive python s-s-seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She is in one scene where she basically tells Mowgli the story of the red flower (Shere Khan killing Mowgli’s father and getting burnt badly in the process) and then tries to devour Mowgli. Somehow, Baloo silently climbs up an extremely high tree and I guess he viciously kills Kaa to save Mowgli. Remember, Baloo is a lazy, obese bear—but evidently he can climb really high steathily undetected. Kaa never reappears in the story, but you also never see Baloo kill Kaa. It’s just a roar, heavy implication, and quick cut.

King Louie appears in a similar yet even more bungled sequence. King Louie is voiced by Christopher Walken, which is so weird that it works. While King Louie is an orangutan in every other incarnation, Jon Favreau turned the character into a Gigantopithecus. Essentially, he is King Kong as an orangutan with all of the quirky personality traits of Christopher Walken. King Louie wants to learn the secret to controlling the red flower from Mowgli so he can use it for his own sinister devices.

King Louie

Bagheera and Baloo track Mowgli down after he’s kidnapped by the monkeys and taken to King Louie. With their help, Mowgli escapes, but they all have to outrun and outwit King Louie. This leads to King Louie destroying his kingdom so he can try to grab Mowgli. As a result of his greed, the whole kingdom literally crumbles down on top of King Louie. These scenes make it seem like Kaa and King Louie only exist to talk about the red flower (fire), threaten to kill Mowgli, and then die.

It seems very odd as an adult, and I would imagine children must also be confused.

And apparently, all life is precious in the jungle except monkeys. Countless monkeys presumably get slaughtered—or else we’re supposed to pretend they’re made of rubber and have no bones so they can get clawed and trampled without any repercussions. Why did the monkeys get fucked over? As far as I can recall, the monkeys are also the only animals that aren’t given human voices.

That is some fucked-up shit to do to our closest DNA relatives, Fatreau.

Finally, Mowgli learns from King Louie (before he is crumbled to death) that Shere Khan killed Akela. That was also another glossed-over death because Khan attacks Akela and throws him off a cliff. It is incredibly quick, but at least that is a death that has an impact. While the wolves let Shere Khan reign supreme over their domain, Mowgli is immediately out for blood when he hears the news.

Shere Khan

Mowgli runs to the man village to steal fire and sprints through the jungle with a lit torch.

In his haste, embers from his torch fly off and ignite the jungle. This all leads to a very stilted final stand after Mowgli miraculously runs back home in a matter of minutes (the same ground that it took him days to flee). Inevitably, Mowgli kills Shere Khan with fire—using the blaze he created by burning the jungle. But it’s all cool because elephants are natural firefighters. Problem solved!

So the lesson here is don’t play with fire…unless you have an elephant around.

I don’t know why they intentionally made the hero (Mowgli) destroy part of the jungle—even if it was by mistake. Apparently, that fire didn’t kill any other animals or destroy their habitats. Remember, elephants are magical and can fix any situation by knocking down some trees.

Despite all its faults, The Jungle Book is a good movie.

But everyone should relax on the instant classic bullshit.

Red Flower

3.5 out of 5 stars

Blobfish Cruz

Blobfish | Ted Cruz

MC Powers Rose

MC Gainey | Powers Boothe | Charlie Rose

Aidan Orser

Aidan Gillen | Leland Orser

Jon Ornstein

Jon Gries | Michael Ornstein