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Movie Review: 50/50, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, My Afternoons with Margueritte, and Shut Up Little Man!

Before his diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in slice-of-life indie 50/50.
Before his diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in slice-of-life indie 50/50.
Movie

50/50 *

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A slice-of-life indie-looking movie about a peevish, aimless young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) facing cancer. Except it’s mostly not really about the young man’s struggle with cancer; it’s about his difficulties with girls (Mom included). Once you have that down, it’s easier to see why most of the film seems to involve the hero’s best friend (Seth Rogen) talking about getting laid. Oh, and there’s a girl (Anna Kendrick) — a beginning therapist with a poor sense of personal boundaries.

Find showtimes



A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, overstuffed with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick as the world’s worst beginning therapist, and Anjelica Huston. Rogen looms especially large as a best friend so sex-minded that he keeps his bunghole shaved but leaves his face stubbly throughout.

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the young man in question is sour and immature. (Are we supposed to cheer when he chews out his wandering but repentant girlfriend? When he finally figures out how to use his cancer to get laid?) And the great journey he makes when confronted with the possibility of his own death is toward...becoming slightly less sour and immature. You know: treat mom like a person, remember that those around you are doing their best. Baby steps!

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the cancer doesn’t really get to let loose. Before diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. He shaves his head. He throws up (once). He smokes pot. He feels tired. 50/50 is billed as a comedy, but it mostly avoids looking for (admittedly dark) humor in the physical devastation wrought by both disease and treatment.

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the life in question is so slight that it’s hard to see the slice. Our hero has quirks ­— neatness, nail-biting — instead of a recognizable personality. There’s a dog and a house. Ordinary troubles with work and money don’t really come into play — such mundanities would get in the way of the film’s real interest: the love life of the (young, handsome) cancerous man.

All that said, the film is not without heart, and the gray Seattle skies lend a somber background to the hijinks. Gordon-Levitt knows how to put across youthful bewilderment. And I sincerely enjoyed the late-stage cancer duo of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. Guess that makes me old.

Movie

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure **

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The film takes its title from a series of audio recordings that became an underground phenomenon in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The recordings take <em>their</em> title from one of the more frequent bits of invective hurled between the men being recorded: a pair of aging, miserable, and supremely quarrelsome drunks living together in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. The film spends a lot of time on the marketing and morality of the recordings, and rightly so, but it never manages to be as compelling as the voices on those tapes.

Find showtimes

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. ‘s audio vérité experiment



In 1987, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. were two recent Midwest college grads making a go of life in San Francisco, living in a cheap, garishly pink Lower Haight apartment complex and making audio recordings of their neighbors’ arguments. If that last bit sounds odd, a word of explanation: the neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, were tremendous drunks, and even more tremendous quarrelers. The recordings began as a kind of defense mechanism, but soon morphed into something more — something approaching theater. Eventually, after a stint as an underground phenomenon, they became just that.

It’s not an easy watch. You begin, like Eddie and Mitchell, by being queasily fascinated with these two drunken, broken souls locked in vitriolic verbal (and physical) combat. Why do they stay living together? How does the homosexual stand the homophobe, and vice versa? But, after awhile, the locus of queasiness shifts to the two guys making and distributing the recordings. Yeah, they talk about street art, found sound, and audio vérité. Yeah, they stumbled into their positions as cultural curators of this most intimate domestic portrait. And, yeah, you can see eerily personal nightmares like this all over YouTube today. But they also make a business out of their art, and money has a way of making things ugly and tedious. To his credit, filmmaker Matthew Bate does not shy away from the machinations surrounding filthy lucre, and a fair chunk of the movie is devoted to questions of rights and cash. Then again, maybe it’s all he can do, given that those machinations never amounted to much.

The story of Shut Up Little Man! raises lots of good questions about the wellsprings and morality of art, and in so doing, it tempts the critic to play the commentator. Your mileage may vary, but it left me with one overwhelming conclusion: the casual and profitable display of the broken for the sake of entertainment, enjoyed here by the underground cognoscenti of yesterday, today serves as the foundation for the most expository of reality television made for the howling masses. Sure, it’s fascinating. But does that make it good?

Movie

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil **

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If this horror spoof is not quite <em>Shaun of the Dead, </em>it’s because <em>Friday the 13th </em>is not quite <em>Night of the Living Dead </em>— you have to consider the source material. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk star as a pair of genuinely good good ol’ boys who accidentally run afoul of some college kids with colorful imaginations. Misunderstandings pile up, as do bodies. Horror classics get referenced to good effect. Good, bloody fun may well be had.

Find showtimes

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a charming, gory spoof of hillbilly horror films.



Maybe Alan Tudyk does not covet the blood-spattered crown that Bruce Campbell laid down following Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. But after this charming, gory spoof of hillbilly horror films (when will these college students learn to stay out of the woods?), I’d say it’s his for the taking. It’s all there: the movie-star looks thrown off-kilter by one facial feature (Campbell’s too-heroic chin, Tudyk’s puppy-dog eyes), admirable composure in the midst of insanity, and most importantly, the ability to play it straight without playing it serious. (Unlike, say, George Clooney, saddled with Tarantino cool in From Dusk Til Dawn.)

Amazingly, Tudyk isn’t even the star of the show. That honor rests on the beefy shoulders of Tyler Labine as Dale, his bearded, bashful best buddy. The comedic high point of Tucker and Dale comes early, during one of the film’s many references to various horror classics. But hilarity, homage, and lighthearted carnage aren’t the point of the story. That comes later, when Dale tells pretty, kindhearted psych major Allie, “I should have known that if a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody would end up dead.” No one ever said that chasing your romantic dream would be easy or that nobody would get impaled on a stake in the process. Tucker and Dale isn’t subtle — too many gags, too much plot — but it’s sweet.

Special bonus points for casting Jesse Moss as a hillbilly-hating preppie: the look of Tom Cruise circa Risky Business combined with the scary intensity of Tom Cruise circa Oprah’s couch. Even more points for not making the black guy die first.

Movie

My Afternoons with Margueritte *

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Gérard Depardieu puts his unwieldy bulk and asymmetrical face to excellent use as a village simpleton who befriends an elderly intellectual woman after the two discover a mutual interest in pigeons. Their subsequent shared adventure into the world of words is a pleasure to look at and an even greater pleasure to listen to, but there’s a falsity at the heart of things. <em>Margeuritte</em> is ultimately about mother-love (or rather, the lack thereof), a tough subject that demands unsentimentality. But who wants to be unsentimental about Mom?

Find showtimes



Is it weird that I’m praising Tucker and Dale’s portrayal of a fat guy with low self-esteem over that of French acting giant Gérard Depardieu in a film that made me sob from its unbearable loveliness more than once? Probably. But there it is. Because for all the absurdity in Tucker and Dale, there is a fundamental honesty about people. Margueritte, on the other hand, is a sweet fantasy of redemption, the sort that imagines we can emerge from a lifetime of childhood abuse unscathed, still full of innocent kindness.

Depardieu puts his unwieldy bulk and asymmetrical face to excellent use as village simpleton Germain — the sort of guy who lives in a trailer behind his mother’s house, grows a garden, and does odd jobs around town. He can barely read, but like Dale, he remembers what he hears. Unlike Dale, when he talks, he reveals the soul of a poet. When sweet old lady Margueritte reads to him after a chance meeting on a park bench, he declares that a particular sentence grabs him by the ears like a rabbit. When he describes his own difficulties with reading, he says that the words scatter like nuts and bolts thrown into a drawer. Margueritte herself is likened to a glass animal in a shop window.

I could go on ­— I’d even like to go on. Listening to Germain reel off these gems is a genuine pleasure, as is observing life in his village. And there’s a wonderful point to all of the big guy’s interactions with Margueritte and her books: a struggle to find peace with the mother who never showed him love, who cut him down at every turn, who lives even now in a fantasy of life before motherhood.

But that brings us to the dishonesty. Margueritte tells Germain, “If you don’t get enough love as a child, everything’s left to be discovered.” Translation: if there were never any apron strings, then you’re free as a bird. In the story, Germain eventually learns the truth of this, but I’m not buying. Damage done in childhood forges chains stronger than any apron strings could ever hope to be. The film suggests that Germain’s simplicity shielded him from the worst of things, but his gift for expression betrays him. If anything, a poet’s soul would feel the blows more keenly.

Reviewed in listings: Killer Elite, Happy Happy, Machine Gun Preacher.

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Before his diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in slice-of-life indie 50/50.
Before his diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in slice-of-life indie 50/50.
Movie

50/50 *

thumbnail

A slice-of-life indie-looking movie about a peevish, aimless young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) facing cancer. Except it’s mostly not really about the young man’s struggle with cancer; it’s about his difficulties with girls (Mom included). Once you have that down, it’s easier to see why most of the film seems to involve the hero’s best friend (Seth Rogen) talking about getting laid. Oh, and there’s a girl (Anna Kendrick) — a beginning therapist with a poor sense of personal boundaries.

Find showtimes



A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, overstuffed with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick as the world’s worst beginning therapist, and Anjelica Huston. Rogen looms especially large as a best friend so sex-minded that he keeps his bunghole shaved but leaves his face stubbly throughout.

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the young man in question is sour and immature. (Are we supposed to cheer when he chews out his wandering but repentant girlfriend? When he finally figures out how to use his cancer to get laid?) And the great journey he makes when confronted with the possibility of his own death is toward...becoming slightly less sour and immature. You know: treat mom like a person, remember that those around you are doing their best. Baby steps!

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the cancer doesn’t really get to let loose. Before diagnosis, Adam jogs. After diagnosis, he sits on the couch. He shaves his head. He throws up (once). He smokes pot. He feels tired. 50/50 is billed as a comedy, but it mostly avoids looking for (admittedly dark) humor in the physical devastation wrought by both disease and treatment.

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, but the life in question is so slight that it’s hard to see the slice. Our hero has quirks ­— neatness, nail-biting — instead of a recognizable personality. There’s a dog and a house. Ordinary troubles with work and money don’t really come into play — such mundanities would get in the way of the film’s real interest: the love life of the (young, handsome) cancerous man.

All that said, the film is not without heart, and the gray Seattle skies lend a somber background to the hijinks. Gordon-Levitt knows how to put across youthful bewilderment. And I sincerely enjoyed the late-stage cancer duo of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. Guess that makes me old.

Movie

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure **

thumbnail

The film takes its title from a series of audio recordings that became an underground phenomenon in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The recordings take <em>their</em> title from one of the more frequent bits of invective hurled between the men being recorded: a pair of aging, miserable, and supremely quarrelsome drunks living together in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. The film spends a lot of time on the marketing and morality of the recordings, and rightly so, but it never manages to be as compelling as the voices on those tapes.

Find showtimes

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. ‘s audio vérité experiment



In 1987, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. were two recent Midwest college grads making a go of life in San Francisco, living in a cheap, garishly pink Lower Haight apartment complex and making audio recordings of their neighbors’ arguments. If that last bit sounds odd, a word of explanation: the neighbors, Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman, were tremendous drunks, and even more tremendous quarrelers. The recordings began as a kind of defense mechanism, but soon morphed into something more — something approaching theater. Eventually, after a stint as an underground phenomenon, they became just that.

It’s not an easy watch. You begin, like Eddie and Mitchell, by being queasily fascinated with these two drunken, broken souls locked in vitriolic verbal (and physical) combat. Why do they stay living together? How does the homosexual stand the homophobe, and vice versa? But, after awhile, the locus of queasiness shifts to the two guys making and distributing the recordings. Yeah, they talk about street art, found sound, and audio vérité. Yeah, they stumbled into their positions as cultural curators of this most intimate domestic portrait. And, yeah, you can see eerily personal nightmares like this all over YouTube today. But they also make a business out of their art, and money has a way of making things ugly and tedious. To his credit, filmmaker Matthew Bate does not shy away from the machinations surrounding filthy lucre, and a fair chunk of the movie is devoted to questions of rights and cash. Then again, maybe it’s all he can do, given that those machinations never amounted to much.

The story of Shut Up Little Man! raises lots of good questions about the wellsprings and morality of art, and in so doing, it tempts the critic to play the commentator. Your mileage may vary, but it left me with one overwhelming conclusion: the casual and profitable display of the broken for the sake of entertainment, enjoyed here by the underground cognoscenti of yesterday, today serves as the foundation for the most expository of reality television made for the howling masses. Sure, it’s fascinating. But does that make it good?

Movie

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil **

thumbnail

If this horror spoof is not quite <em>Shaun of the Dead, </em>it’s because <em>Friday the 13th </em>is not quite <em>Night of the Living Dead </em>— you have to consider the source material. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk star as a pair of genuinely good good ol’ boys who accidentally run afoul of some college kids with colorful imaginations. Misunderstandings pile up, as do bodies. Horror classics get referenced to good effect. Good, bloody fun may well be had.

Find showtimes

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a charming, gory spoof of hillbilly horror films.



Maybe Alan Tudyk does not covet the blood-spattered crown that Bruce Campbell laid down following Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. But after this charming, gory spoof of hillbilly horror films (when will these college students learn to stay out of the woods?), I’d say it’s his for the taking. It’s all there: the movie-star looks thrown off-kilter by one facial feature (Campbell’s too-heroic chin, Tudyk’s puppy-dog eyes), admirable composure in the midst of insanity, and most importantly, the ability to play it straight without playing it serious. (Unlike, say, George Clooney, saddled with Tarantino cool in From Dusk Til Dawn.)

Amazingly, Tudyk isn’t even the star of the show. That honor rests on the beefy shoulders of Tyler Labine as Dale, his bearded, bashful best buddy. The comedic high point of Tucker and Dale comes early, during one of the film’s many references to various horror classics. But hilarity, homage, and lighthearted carnage aren’t the point of the story. That comes later, when Dale tells pretty, kindhearted psych major Allie, “I should have known that if a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody would end up dead.” No one ever said that chasing your romantic dream would be easy or that nobody would get impaled on a stake in the process. Tucker and Dale isn’t subtle — too many gags, too much plot — but it’s sweet.

Special bonus points for casting Jesse Moss as a hillbilly-hating preppie: the look of Tom Cruise circa Risky Business combined with the scary intensity of Tom Cruise circa Oprah’s couch. Even more points for not making the black guy die first.

Movie

My Afternoons with Margueritte *

thumbnail

Gérard Depardieu puts his unwieldy bulk and asymmetrical face to excellent use as a village simpleton who befriends an elderly intellectual woman after the two discover a mutual interest in pigeons. Their subsequent shared adventure into the world of words is a pleasure to look at and an even greater pleasure to listen to, but there’s a falsity at the heart of things. <em>Margeuritte</em> is ultimately about mother-love (or rather, the lack thereof), a tough subject that demands unsentimentality. But who wants to be unsentimental about Mom?

Find showtimes



Is it weird that I’m praising Tucker and Dale’s portrayal of a fat guy with low self-esteem over that of French acting giant Gérard Depardieu in a film that made me sob from its unbearable loveliness more than once? Probably. But there it is. Because for all the absurdity in Tucker and Dale, there is a fundamental honesty about people. Margueritte, on the other hand, is a sweet fantasy of redemption, the sort that imagines we can emerge from a lifetime of childhood abuse unscathed, still full of innocent kindness.

Depardieu puts his unwieldy bulk and asymmetrical face to excellent use as village simpleton Germain — the sort of guy who lives in a trailer behind his mother’s house, grows a garden, and does odd jobs around town. He can barely read, but like Dale, he remembers what he hears. Unlike Dale, when he talks, he reveals the soul of a poet. When sweet old lady Margueritte reads to him after a chance meeting on a park bench, he declares that a particular sentence grabs him by the ears like a rabbit. When he describes his own difficulties with reading, he says that the words scatter like nuts and bolts thrown into a drawer. Margueritte herself is likened to a glass animal in a shop window.

I could go on ­— I’d even like to go on. Listening to Germain reel off these gems is a genuine pleasure, as is observing life in his village. And there’s a wonderful point to all of the big guy’s interactions with Margueritte and her books: a struggle to find peace with the mother who never showed him love, who cut him down at every turn, who lives even now in a fantasy of life before motherhood.

But that brings us to the dishonesty. Margueritte tells Germain, “If you don’t get enough love as a child, everything’s left to be discovered.” Translation: if there were never any apron strings, then you’re free as a bird. In the story, Germain eventually learns the truth of this, but I’m not buying. Damage done in childhood forges chains stronger than any apron strings could ever hope to be. The film suggests that Germain’s simplicity shielded him from the worst of things, but his gift for expression betrays him. If anything, a poet’s soul would feel the blows more keenly.

Reviewed in listings: Killer Elite, Happy Happy, Machine Gun Preacher.

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