THE LITTLE DEATH (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

LittleDeath poster

Directed by: Josh Lawson

Written by: Josh Lawson

Starring: Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kate Box, Patrick Brammall, Alan Dukes, Lisa McCune, Erin James & TJ Power

THE LITTLE DEATH is a movie determined to push tasteful boundaries from the get-go. The title (which literally means orgasm) and suggestive promotional material are the tip of the iceberg for this dark ensemble comedy. The film goes through five different couples exploring taboo sexual areas. These include various fetishes, role-playing, and uncomfortable situations. We all have our kinky turn-ons (whether you want to admit to that or not), but THE LITTLE DEATH is an anthology that thrives on bringing out a darker/funnier view to these turn-ons. The film isn’t really one big story but instead composed of intersecting plotlines that could have made for great College Humor skits by themselves. Instead, they wound up in this feature which is both a blessing and a slight curse. I’m going to give my brief (spoiler free) thoughts on each segment and then rank the film as an overall effort. So without further ado…

LittleDeath 1

PAUL & MAEVE: Paul and Maeve have been boyfriend and girlfriend for six years. Paul has a foot fetish and that by itself seems to be sole odd extent of their sex-life…until Maeve reveals that she’s always had a rape fantasy and wants Paul to make it a reality. Paul is more than a little out of his element and reluctantly tries to please his significant other. Out of all the stories in THE LITTLE DEATH, this is without a doubt the best one. It’s well written and manages to carefully walk that tightrope between shocking and sweet. There are actual character arcs as well as genuine laughs and a satisfying conclusion…which is more than I can say for the rest of the plot lines. A

LittleDeath 2

DAN & EVIE: A sexless marriage quickly becomes passionate again when the couple try roleplaying out for size. It reinvigorates their flame, but the husband seems to take the acting part a bit too seriously at the risk of ignoring his wife’s needs. This storyline started off strong and proceeded to lose steam with each passing second. There really doesn’t seem to be a character arc for either of these people and though there are some laughs, this segment gets downright depressing. There’s dark comedy and then there’s just being needlessly dark. B-

LittleDeath 3

RICHARD & ROWENA: If you thought that last storyline sounded dark, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Richard & Rowena are trying to have a baby. Their efforts seem fruitless until a tragedy occurs and Rowena finds that’s she’s turned on by Richard’s tears. This leads to her doing all sorts of cruel antics to get him to cry on a daily basis. Much like the last segment, this storyline doesn’t exactly have a great resolution. Unlike the last segment, it contains a lot more laughs…albeit for viewers with a really twisted sense of humor. It’s the darkest of dark comedy and the second best story of the bunch. B+

PHIL & MAUREEN: This segment sounds almost like a repeat of Richard & Rowena storyline, but with sleep being the turn-on and a middle-aged husband committing the questionable deeds. This segment sort of reminded me slightly of Dylan Baker’s character from HAPPINESS to a degree. The main character isn’t someone you should be rooting for. However, this storyline seemingly does the impossible and injects a sense of sadness about a marriage gone terribly wrong over the years. The conclusion isn’t necessarily uplifting, but the only possible way that this story could have ended given the content. B

LittleDeath 4

MONICA & SAM: LITTLE DEATH ends on its weakest note. Instead of wrapping around the other stories, Monica & Sam just sort of concludes the whole movie in a lackluster fashion. Monica is a woman who translates phone calls for the deaf. When Sam (a deaf man) has her call a sex hotline, things get awkward as she tries to translate the graphic language for both Sam and the sex line operator. This segment goes on for what seemed like 20 minutes. Though there are a couple of good laughs, it feels cheap and lazy. I also couldn’t help but feel that the overly sentimental climax was false as well. C

LittleDeath 5

Each of these storylines connects by being set on the same block, complete with one brilliant and hilariously distasteful (for a number of reasons) running joke that I won’t ruin in this review. THE LITTLE DEATH mixes severely dark humor with tender emotion (some rings true and some feels false). I really wish that all of the stories played out as well as the Paul & Maeve plot, because then we’d really have something truly special on our hands. As a whole, the film suffers from trying to do too many things at once to varying degrees of success. These problems don’t detract from the overall quality as much as you’d expect, but they take their toll. The good stories outweigh the bad ones, even if they each have individual faults. As far as sexually graphic movies released in 2015 go, I’d take THE LITTLE DEATH over FIFTY SHADES OF GREY any day of the week. Face it, you already know whether this movie is for you or not…even if you won’t publicly admit the answer.

Grade: B

THE CAMPAIGN (2012)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content, Language and brief Nudity

Campaign poster

Directed by: Jay Roach

Written by: Chris Henchy & Shawn Harwell

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox & Sarah Baker

THE CAMPAIGN is one of those little comedies that kind of came out of nowhere in Summer 2012. This looked to be awesome. It’s a comedic pairing between two very well-known actors, funny in drastically different ways, about a serious problem in this country. The TV spots, clips, and trailers indicated this would be a hilarious time at the movie theater. The film banked at the box office, but I never got around to seeing it until now. There’s a reason that THE CAMPAIGN isn’t widely celebrated as one of Ferrell or Galifianakis’s funniest film. That’s because this movie feels half-assed in many respects, though there are a decent amount of laughs (especially towards the end). Politics are rife for satire and the mud-slinging tactics that many candidates use in their rallies would make for great jokes, but THE CAMPAIGN seems to be focused on mere sexual humor and curse words. It’s as if the writers think that the R-rated combination of these two things are all this film needs and it drastically appears otherwise.

Campaign 1

Cam Brady is a congressman running for the fourth time unopposed. Manipulating and slickly playing words to his advantage, Cam is on the fast track to win yet another upcoming election. Running without an opponent is helping his odds too. Just as Cam is about to sign the paperwork giving him the fourth win in a row, a stout family man named Marty Huggins announces himself as competition for Cam. What evolves is a dirty rivalry in which both candidates stoop lower and get their hands dirty to make the other look bad, all while big businessmen pull strings behind the scenes.

Campaign 2

Ferrell, known for doing a wildly popular George W. Bush impression, is the most entertaining character here. He’s distancing himself from past ridiculous characters like Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy. Though he does freak out, cuss to high heavens, and go crazy in more than a few scenes, Ferrell is also showing off a remarkably more believable character than his past. In a sort of surprise, the relatively fresh faced Zach Galifinakis that winds up being more annoying than funny. Galifinakis has shown before that he has real comedic chops (e.g. THE HANGOVER and DUE DATE), but all he’s doing here is pulling a funny voice and playing a cartoon character. In the competition between them, things are practically spelled out way in advance for the viewer as to how things will play out. As a result, the climax isn’t surprising and felt phoned in. John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are all given some rather thankless roles on the side.

Campaign 3

The main issue with THE CAMPAIGN is the pacing takes a while to pick up in the beginning and then by the time it does get moving, a small amount of time left to go before the credits roll. The film is 85 minutes long and yet again, this shows that it was a little half-assed in a few departments. The mighty short running time only contains a few moments that had me cracking up and these funny bits showcased how bland and forgettable the rest of the film was. Will Ferrell stole the show with some absolutely ludicrous scenes and it might have wound up being an entirely better film if Zach Galifianakis’s character was completely absent. If this were an entire movie about Cam Brady screwing up in office, then it probably would have more laughs. The pairing of these two in an R-rated comedy about politics seems like gold on paper, but mostly falls flat.

Campaign 4

There’s a real message about how corrupt politics are. Like many other things in this film, it could have been executed better. However, there’s something to be said about a comedy that takes a real stance on that. The 85 minutes mostly consist of forced jokes and over-the-top swearing. The funniest scene is the baby punching, which has been showcased in all of the advertising. I also laughed pretty hard at a follow-up scene to that involving Ferrell at another rally (you’ll know it when you see it). THE CAMPAIGN is glossy and seems confident on the surface, but reveals itself to be a flaky and (tonally) dishonest mess…kind of like real-life politicians.

Grade: C+

FREE BIRDS (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for some Action/Peril and Rude Humor

FB poster

Directed by: Jimmy Hayward

Written by: Scott Mosier & Jimmy Hayward

Voices of: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler, Lesley Nicol, George Takei, Colm Meaney, Keith David & Jimmy Hayward

Plenty of Christmas and Halloween fare fill the theaters during the last quarter of each year. Where are all the Thanksgiving movies? FREE BIRDS might offer some consolation in the idea that more movies revolving around this American holiday might make for some really lame so-called entertainment. After all this is a holiday based around a historical feast that is celebrated by stuffing your face full of tasty food surrounded by relatives (most of whom you only see once a year for good reason). FREE BIRDS begins with a promising first act, but winds up being nothing more than a lame CG-animated kids movie by the time the uninspired ending has crawled to a close though.

MCDFRBI EC004

Reggie is smarter than your average turkey. As Thanksgiving approaches, he gets nervous and the other turkeys seem blissfully unaware of their impending doom. Luckily for Reggie, he’s the country’s official pardoned turkey for the year. This tradition had made him the mascot for the annual holiday and therefore, he has no real reason to worry about winding up on the menu. This changes when Jake, a musclebound turkey who’s not too bright, breaks Reggie out of the White House. The pair use a time machine to travel back to November 1621. Jake attempts to take turkeys off as a traditional delicacy by banding together with a tribe of fellow turkeys, all while Reggie falls for the turkey chief’s daughter. Complications arise in the mentally unhinged Myles Standish, who will stop at nothing to kill every bird in the area.

MCDFRBI EC002

FREE BIRDS excels in its first 30 minutes. The actual struggle to get to the time machine is genuinely funny. Quite a few creative jokes are thrown in and Frank (Woody Harrelson) is an enjoyable character. It’s very ironic that all the good will the film had built up for itself is lost as soon as the birds actually arrive back in their 1621 destination. The screenplay is credited to two different writers and it almost feels like they took turns on how they were telling the story. One of them took the reigns for the first 30 minutes and created what could have gone down as an underrated family film. They then made the mistake of handing it off to the another co-writer who didn’t seem to understand why the first third worked as well as it did. This is one possible theory or there’s the idea that a lot of the humor could be milked out of the getting to the premise rather than the actual time-travel adventure itself.

MCDFRBI EC008

The shtick of Reggie being the straight-man to Jake’s brawny idiot gets hammered into the ground beyond repair. The use of a love interest only makes things far more predictable. The wasted big-name voice cast (Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler) never feel like they’re putting any effort into their roles. In fact, the most entertaining character is S.T.E.V.E. (the time machine itself played by George Takei). The second most entertaining come in the chuckling HAZMAT-suit-wearing henchmen who only pop up in the first 30 minutes (hence the reason for many of the laughs in the first third).

MCDFRBI EC001

Last but not least, the animation itself ranges in quality. The birds look like well-rendered cartoon characters, but the humans look like choppy creations. This results in an end product that feels rushed, forced, and cheap in almost every way. The first 30 minutes earn it some grace points for providing a lot of laughs. Just when the film should have the most going for it, FREE BIRDS becomes a tired exercise in familiar tropes and less-than-stellar animation. This is a missed opportunity through and through. Be thankful that this movie will fast be forgotten.

Grade: D

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑