Cinema Toast Crunch

Reviews and Illustrations by Casey Janney

Blackfish (2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

We’ve all been subjected to the magic of SeaWorld and similar sea creature theme parks around the world, the animals moving along peacefully with their trainers, who seem to be their greatest companion—a friend. We’re lead to believe it’s just an amazing world where a human and a killer whale can perform in harmony. No one considers even for a split second that these mammals are capable of killing viciously.

Blackfish is a disturbing, yet incredibly moving documentary that captures what exactly goes on behind the doors of these water works extravaganzas. We see how these animals are taken from their loved ones, how they go from swimming hundreds of miles a day in what seems to be an infinite ocean, to a dark box the size of your living room. We see the loneliness these unusually social creatures must endure, until that moment when they finally just snap.

The film opens with the real 911 phone call audio, when the body of one of Sea World’s most renowned trainers, Dawn Brancheau, was discovered floating lifeless in the water after being mutilated by the notorious Tilikum, one of the largest known killer whales in captivity—a spectacle in the eyes of millions. The film investigates how and why this attack occurred, along with countless others, including the deaths of three different trainers all by Tilikum. Blackfish presents a compilation of interviews with experts and former trainers who went in believing one thing and came out sadly disillusioned, with never before seen footage of the attacks that so often happen within the captive waters. You don’t have to be a member of PETA to realize there is something totally wrong here.

It’s heartbreaking to see the mistreatment of these animals, but terrifying at the same time. We are completely naïve to assume these 8,000 pound animals aren’t a threat to us considering the conditions of their captivity—that they’re going to just happily roll in circles, wave their fins, and call it a day at the office. These poor whales are full of life, just like us, but we just see them as silly little clowns. We’re going to look back on this 20 years from now, and wonder what we were thinking. They’re stir-crazy, they’re angry, and these self-aware creatures are about to bitch-slap someone. You can take the whale out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the whale, girlfriend.

Blackfish isn’t widely released, but if it comes around your area, I highly recommend this highly informative piece.

 5/5 stars

We’re the Millers Review (2013, Rawson Marshall Thurber)

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David Burke (Jason Sudeikis), a small-time pot dealer, loses his costly stash to a gang of teenage, crusty punks. In order to make up for his lost supply and save his own ass, David’s boss, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms) assigns him to move a “smidge” of weed across the border from Mexico. To do so, David creates a fake family, consisting of a veteran stripper, Rose O’Reilly (Jennifer Aniston), his baby-face neighbor, Kenny Rossmore (Will Poulter), and a runaway, Casey Mathis (Emma Roberts) as part of his brilliant plan to easily move this huge shipment of weed into the U.S without looking suspicious, posing as a family visiting Mexico on Holiday.

I decided to give We’re the Millers a shot based on its R-rating. I thought maybe it would surprise me with some witty, aged humor…No. The only reason this movie hooked an R-rating is simply because they say “fuck” constantly and we get to see one of Kenny’s nuts. It’s your typical, dry Hollywood summer comedy.

The jokes come so far apart; It’s just lazy. You’re sitting there waiting for it, thinking to yourself, “shouldn’t something even remotely funny have happened by now…? Oh, wait here it comes.” And then you’re given some totally predictable bullshit joke that we all smile, laugh, and roll our eyes at because we know we’re supposed to. You could tell they were really struggling in the writer’s room. I can just picture it. “How about little Kenny is bitten by…a tarantula…wait for it…on his BALLS! Golden. Write that down.” Then the blooper reel comes along, and I’ m always up for some good fuck-ups, but yet again, I found myself completely disappointed. They were totally set up. 

There are some serious flaws to the narrative as well.

A: The fact that they’re smuggling drugs across the border really plays secondhand to this wannabe-road trip movie. The amount of weed in that RV is unbelievable and there’s absolutely no way in hell it could possibly be ignored as much as it was in the story. The whole trip was like a game of Candyland for this fake, dysfunctional family. 

B: We get it, Jennifer Aniston. You’re a super hot old lady, but to think you can fool us into believing the likelihood of you being a stripper in any world—that’s just insulting.

 C: The ending is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. No spoilers here, because I’m too kind-hearted, but just know, it is really dumb. For real.

We’re the Millers is a recommended Red Box renter, worth no more than $2 or ($2.50 for bluray) 

2 out of 5 stars, and that’s just me being nice.

The Way Way Back (2013, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)

 

In this moving tale, brought to us by the writers of The Descendants (2011), 14 year-old loner, Duncan (Liam James) is forced to spend his summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), and her incredibly douchy boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), at his summer beach house on the New England Shore. With such an introverted personality, it’s difficult for Duncan to socialize with the elitist families that crowd the beaches, and when he can’t anymore stand the site of Trent’s self-righteous and self-centered manipulation, Duncan begins to spend his days across town at the Water Wizz, a very 1980s-esque Water Park. Here, he apprehensively befriends Owen, the charismatic manager of the water park who quickly helps Duncan open up and gain a bit of self-confidence. The Way Way Back is a heartfelt, coming of age tale that dissects the fine lines between childhood and adolescence, dependence and independence. Audiences are sure to leave the theater with their spirits lifted.

We’re presented with a very personal story, yet it still touches us with nostalgia, washing us in our memories of the most confusing time of our lives—adolescence. A time when you’re expected to act like a grown-up, even though no one treats you like one. Some people take longer than others to grow out of their shells and are cast into the cage with the dark horses. Duncan feels and acts for these people, and I think that’s why I enjoyed this film so much. I love when underdogs finally meet their moment of bravery. Like in Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) when Charlie (Logan Lerman) steps away from the wall and towards the dance floor. I just want to give someone, anyone a hug. He’s going to be okay, and I’m going to be okay, too. I would have liked to explore the characters outside of Duncan a little bit more, but this film is so true to the act of observation. We can only judge these people based on what we see—what Duncan sees, even though everyone in the film truly deserves a story of their own. 

This notion of finding each character so interesting is due to the film’s awesome cast. Allison Janney is outstanding, and it’s not just because she’s a Janney (wink). She plays Betty, the carefree, drunk housewife next door. Her banter is hilarious and really buffers those scenes that might get a little too stiff. Steve Carell also does an amazing job playing a giant asshole, which is very much against his general character. It was a bold move; it was the right move. Sam Rockwell has given me the creeps ever since The Green Mile (1999), even though he’s been in countless films since. Luckily, in the Way Way Back, he’s super charming and witty, rather than a psycho-child murderer, so that’s cool. 

The Way Way Back is the perfect balance between comedy and drama. It has great writing, great acting, and a relatable story. We can’t really ask for much more. I feel like this movie really isn’t getting the attention it deserves, so please get out there and see it, if you can. Support the underdog!

4/5 stars, yo!


The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)

Based on the 1971 true story, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Parron (Ron Livingston) move their five daughters into a rundown farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Strange occurrences begin to escalate, as angry spirits dwelling within the home terrorize the family. Desperate for help, Carolyn hires paranormal investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), to inspect the house. The Warrens find that an intensely dangerous demon that clings to the families who live on the land haunts their new home. There’s no escaping it, unless the Warrens can collect enough evidence and convince the Vatican an exorcism is necessary to stop this evil being before it is too late.

Brought to you by James Wan, the creator of Saw (2004), The Conjuring takes a hairpin turn away from the essence of that gruesome flick, which leaves you squirming in your seat, to a spooky thriller, which leaves you breathless, and down right bone-chilled. The Conjuring was given an R rating by the MPAA simply based on the level of terror. Don’t go into this expecting any tits, swearing, or sexual tones at all. It’s scary—plain and simple. Instead of mints, the ushers should be handing out a fresh pair of undies to each patron after the show. Like, I’m not kidding guys. It’s fuckin’ scary. I had to see it twice, because the first time I went, I had my eyes covered the entire time. It was money well spent. Just wait until you see this demon. You’re going to cry for your mother. Everyone in the theater was curled up in their seat, peaking through fingers (except that guy behind me playing Candy Crush the whole time, who has no soul).

The Conjuring pays major homage to the horror genre of the 1970’s with references to themes and methods from The Exorcist (1973) and Amityville Horror (1979). The art direction is awesome—incredibly well crafted, producing new scares with an old school flavor. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap sums it up perfectly. “[It] doesn’t try to reinvent the tropes of horror movies, whether it’s ghosts or demons or exorcisms, but Fred Astaire didn’t invent tap-dancing, either.” We can appreciate its vintage tones, without calling it a copycat. It uses minimal digital effects, amazing set design, and strong performances to create a seriously beautiful horror film.
 
I think this film intrigued me so much because it goes against my entire thesis, that horror movies are generally based around broken homes, single parents, sexual deviants—people who are being punished by a particular terror for breaking away from the customary conventions of society. Despite the gore, dread, fear, and all around harshness we’ve grown to know and love about horror movies, they are, in many cases, meant to reflect conservative values. Just watch any horror movie, and you’ll see this. Trust me. But in The Conjuring, we don’t have this motive. They are just your normal, traditional family being terrorized by something evil, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that’s something worth being scared about.

4/5 stars, ya’ll!

The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)

Based on the 1971 true story, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Parron (Ron Livingston) move their five daughters into a rundown farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Strange occurrences begin to escalate, as angry spirits dwelling within the home terrorize the family. Desperate for help, Carolyn hires paranormal investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), to inspect the house. The Warrens find that an intensely dangerous demon that clings to the families who live on the land haunts their new home. There’s no escaping it, unless the Warrens can collect enough evidence and convince the Vatican an exorcism is necessary to stop this evil being before it is too late.

Brought to you by James Wan, the creator of Saw (2004), The Conjuring takes a hairpin turn away from the essence of that gruesome flick, which leaves you squirming in your seat, to a spooky thriller, which leaves you breathless, and down right bone-chilled. The Conjuring was given an R rating by the MPAA simply based on the level of terror. Don’t go into this expecting any tits, swearing, or sexual tones at all. It’s scary—plain and simple. Instead of mints, the ushers should be handing out a fresh pair of undies to each patron after the show. Like, I’m not kidding guys. It’s fuckin’ scary. I had to see it twice, because the first time I went, I had my eyes covered the entire time. It was money well spent. Just wait until you see this demon. You’re going to cry for your mother. Everyone in the theater was curled up in their seat, peaking through fingers (except that guy behind me playing Candy Crush the whole time, who has no soul).

The Conjuring pays major homage to the horror genre of the 1970’s with references to themes and methods from The Exorcist (1973) and Amityville Horror (1979). The art direction is awesome—incredibly well crafted, producing new scares with an old school flavor. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap sums it up perfectly. “[It] doesn’t try to reinvent the tropes of horror movies, whether it’s ghosts or demons or exorcisms, but Fred Astaire didn’t invent tap-dancing, either.” We can appreciate its vintage tones, without calling it a copycat. It uses minimal digital effects, amazing set design, and strong performances to create a seriously beautiful horror film.

 

I think this film intrigued me so much because it goes against my entire thesis, that horror movies are generally based around broken homes, single parents, sexual deviants—people who are being punished by a particular terror for breaking away from the customary conventions of society. Despite the gore, dread, fear, and all around harshness we’ve grown to know and love about horror movies, they are, in many cases, meant to reflect conservative values. Just watch any horror movie, and you’ll see this. Trust me. But in The Conjuring, we don’t have this motive. They are just your normal, traditional family being terrorized by something evil, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that’s something worth being scared about.

4/5 stars, ya’ll!

The To Do List (2013, Maggie Carey)

Recent high school grad, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), valedictorian of her class, perfect attendance record, captain of every non-athletic teams, and all of that other bull shit that qualifies someone as your stereotypical nerd, realizes it’s time to spread her legs and cash in that V-Card before she heads off to college. Being the SUPER dweeb she is, Brandy compiles a “To Do List” of any and all sexual activities she would like to master over the summer of ‘93, including the final objective: Fuck Rusty Waters (Scott Porter)—A co-lifeguard at the local pool where Brandy lands a summer job. Throughout the film, Brandy documents her sexual encounters with various young men, while taking on the advice of her two best friends, Fiona (Alia Shawkat) and Wendy (Sarah Steele), and her raging bitch sister, Amber (Rachel Bilson).

It’s clear, that writer/director Maggie Carey put a lot of heart and passion into the movie, but perhaps targeted that passion in the wrong areas. The movie lands its small success with its little quips, random tangents, and its nostalgic 90s backdrop. But ultimately, despite its raunchy premise, plays it a little safe. Brandy’s “To Do List” fills up an entire wide-ruled page in her Trapper Keeper, but we maybe see her cross off a handful of these points. And because I have the maturity level of a thirteen year old boy, I was hoping for a wider peak into her sexual awakening. Just a few more things—maybe her first rim job, or Mississippi Hot Pocket [see urban dictionary]. Do over-the-pants hand jobs even count as sexual experimentation? Talk about amateur hour…

This movie isn’t some deep, dramatic piece about the trials and tribulations a girl goes through when losing her virginity. This is the 90’s. And sex isn’t a big deal anymore. Well, it is, but not really. Girls want to have sex, just as much as men do, and we’re finally seeing a somewhat female-style Superbad (2007) about a girl who just wants to get fucked before college, without having any kind of tone that conveys she’s a super emotional being, or where she is shone in a light that makes her look like a total slut. She’s just a curious girl, who doesn’t want to go off to college as a virgin. I also appreciate the fact that she and her two best friends aren’t incredibly attractive, but are still certainly gettin’ some. They’re just three average, teenage girls who don’t give a shit about feelings or commitment, and that’s kind of awesome. It was fun to see girls in this kind of role, where they aren’t being demeaned by men for their sexual behavior. They’ve got the upper-hand, they’re making all of the moves, and that’s okay. It’s rare to see this kind of material in such a light-hearted tone with absolutely no poignancy from a lady’s perspective.

The To Do List is your typical sex comedy that doesn’t quite hit its stride, but still crosses the finish line with its liberated ladies and its fun, nostalgic ambience that truly brings you back to that one summer of shame and youthful regrets.

2.5/5 stars from this gal!

- Casey Janney