Tag Archives: Brian Taylor

CAPSULE: MOM AND DAD (2017)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur

PLOT: Parents all across the world suddenly snap and start trying to kill their kids, leading to an all-out generational battle royale. Still from Mom and Dad (2107)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Mom and Dad is actually a challenging movie to comprehend on first grasp. There is nothing in the execution of this film that says “weird,” but the premise alone is audaciously novel, and the tone is consistently off-rhythm. Maybe a list of “the 1000 strangest movies” would be a better fit for this movie.

COMMENTS: Mom and Dad‘s tagline reads, “They brought you into this world. They can take you out.” That line actually comes from an old Bill Cosby joke during his stand-up days, and is reused in the pilot episode for The Cosby Show. Cringing yet? Get used to it! Add to that the facts that the writer-director of this movie also did Crank, and that Nicholas Cage, in my book, is still serving time for what he did to The Wicker Man, and you can well appreciate how I entered this movie: with my expectations roughly south of cold coffee. The artsy opening credits sequence gave me a sprinkle of optimism; the contrast of soul-rock with James Bond-ish split frame montages set me up for a happy sick humor party. What would have done with this idea?

Back to reality. The movie focuses on suburban beehive hell and the nuclear family of Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair) and their two kids Carly (Anne Winters) and Josh (Zackary Arthur). Scene 1: bratty little brother interrupts big sister’s phone call to her boyfriend, so she chases him downstairs yelling she’s going to kill him and chucking a framed family portrait after him. Foreshadowing. While the family breakfasts, reports of parental filicide (that means killing your own kids) play on the news. The family argues over Carly’s date conflicting with grandparents expected for dinner, reading like a campy parody of American sitcoms. Their servant, Sun-Yi (Sharon Gee), seems used to it. Throughout their day, the family, even the adults talking to each other, bicker in casual passive-aggressive ways, not a joyful scene to be had. In school, Carly’s teacher is a mean jerk.

The whole world of Mom and Dad is a bleak landscape of sneering nastiness regardless of who’s talking to whom, which builds up to all the parents showing up early to pick up their kids from school—and it’s not to take them out for ice cream! It turns into a spontaneous riot, with the too-few cops failing to keep order as parents leap fences and gates and start stone cold assassinating their kids using any means at hand. Kids run, parents chase, bedlam, uh, badlams. Talking heads on the news spread the same story, and of course no one knows why this is happening. A lengthy delivery room sequence with Kendall’s sister picking today of all days to give birth terminates in a post-natal abortion as mom strangles the newborn. Elsewhere in the hospital, new parents press their faces against the glass of the maternity ward, locked out.

All this blurs by, less like a movie and more like an anthology of connected scenes. It’s exactly like a million zombie apocalypse survival scenarios, only the zombies are all repoductively fertile adults. Notably, no parent is homicidal towards anyone else but their own offspring, unless somebody gets between them. The kids of our central nuclear family return home to find their housekeeper Sun-Yi mopping up the blood from her own filicide. The kids have to fend for themselves, and marshal defenses such as taking their parents’ gun; which gives us a satirical recitation of home firearm statistics after a parent gets shot.

Speaking as one who favors the darkest side of humor… I’m a little let down, because there’s not much dark humor here, except in the general concept. Cage does his Cagiest, and his trademark freakouts carry every scene he’s in—singing the “Hokey Pokey” while demolishing his pool table with a sledgehammer after a minor marital dispute, that sort of thing—but he’s not even in the bulk of the movie. The thing about Nicholas Cage is, his act is starting to get old. After your 100th Daffy Duck cartoon, seeing him act like a loon isn’t a surprise anymore. Outside the Cage, the rest of the movie seems like a particularly bleak number. I would hope repeat viewings could help the flavor to come through, like a Captain Beefheart album, but that’s doubtful, giving the limp ending.

Mom and Dad does have many strong points in its favor. It is intelligently handled, has an original and daring premise, and explores that concept in depth. There’s just enough Nicholas Cage to flavor it without overpowering it. The rest of the cast is competent; Selma Blair gets several good scenes. But… it seems to not know what it wants to be. It nibbles on some themes, like punk nihilism, anti-consumerism, and social parody of the generation gap, without committing to any of them. It could have been a lot worse, so perhaps its biggest achievement is making this edgy premise work. It aspires to mild interest, achieves that capably, then quits while it’s ahead.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The phrase ‘I swear I could kill that kid’ is no longer an exaggerated statement of infuriation, as some mysterious phenomenon creates a gloriously weird amalgam of ParentsThe Purge, and Dawn of the Dead in Brian Taylor’s jet-black horror-comedy.”–Blake Crane, Film Pulse (contemporaneous)

READER RECOMMENDATION: CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE [CRANK 2] (2009)

Reader Recommendation by Adam Brodie

DIRECTED BY: ,

FEATURING: Jason Statham, Amy Smart

PLOT: Chev Chelios (Statham) is an arsehole, and triads stole his heart. Now he must fight to get it back.

Still from Crank: High Voltage (2009)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The soul of oddity rests in commitment. “Weirdness” is a property of technique and the subversion of technique, Continue reading READER RECOMMENDATION: CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE [CRANK 2] (2009)

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012)

Who would have thought that Ed Wood  1)With sincere apologies to the late Ed. You were never this dull and, at least, everything you did was stamped with your quirky personality and offered some fun by way of camp value. was:

1. Alive and Well?

2.Working for Marvel Comics?

3. Making a 3-D movie with a mega-budget?

Only Ed himself could have produced such trailer trash cinema out of the pages of a comic book character; he seems to be doing just that in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).

Forget the period nostalgia of Captain America (2011) or Robert Downey’s inimitable personality underneath the armor of Iron Man (2008); the future of superhero movies may well just degenerate into the guttural hodgepodge found in this un-stylish, witless follow up to 2007’s Ghost Rider.

It is little wonder that the indie movie scene, more often than not, offers nothing more than the most execrable rubbish that would make anyone either throw up or roll onto the floor laughing. Because it is Hollywood’s taste, class, and professional entertainment standards that offer them their role model.

The directing/writing team of  Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have a resume straight from the Jerry Springer school of film (or, more aptly, music videos with bad music). Crank (2006), Gamer (2009), and Jonah Hex (2010) should have been warning enough. But, it does to go to show that with the right background and connections, together with the right deal, the most talentless, juvenile hacks can shmooze and ink their way into the latest Hollywood fads.

Still from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)The Ghost Rider character, for those who care, is a sort of the Exorcist meets Evel Knieval. He’s a bottom-of-the-barrel superhero from Marvel Comics. The superhero tag is somewhat questionable—from what I recall of the 70’s comic, he was merely a leather clad flaming skull who rode a chopper from hell and hung out with Spiderman and the X-Men. Apart from his appearance, he fit right in with the rest of the tight-wearing crowd and battled super-villains. That’s not exactly fodder for a unique character, but a matter-of-fact demon as superhero, Continue reading GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012)

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1. With sincere apologies to the late Ed. You were never this dull and, at least, everything you did was stamped with your quirky personality and offered some fun by way of camp value.