MIND, MEANING AND MAMMARIES
TOYS IN THE ATTIC
Old-school stop-motion animation infuses this twisted fable with a veneer of immediacy and authenticity that big budget CGI fueled studio products cannot match. Here’s the story: A teddy bear, a mechanical mouse, and a marionette join forces to save their kidnapped friend, Buttercup the doll, from the residents of the Land of Evil. This film from Czech animator Jiří Barta was originally titled IN THE ATIC: WHO HAS A BITHDAY TODAY? When it was shown on the film fest circuit starting in 2009.
This new Americanized release suggests a link to TOY STORY. However, I suggest that the phrase “toys in the attic” is intended to be synonymous with “insane.” Though there’s nice English voice work from Forest Whitaker, Joan Cusack and others, I hope the DVD will have the Czech option with subtitles. Know that this is an art film and not the family film the distributor implies in the ads. In some ways, it’s much more akin to William S. Burroughs or Kafka. There seems to be a very bold political message to his fellow countrymen embedded in Barta’s film: Resist the nostalgic temptation for a return to the old, simpler, days of totalitarianism. As Buttercup says, “We are all born anew.” In some parts of the world, this is a very dangerous, inflammatory film.
Huge buzz swirls around this mesmerizing look at the relationship between a self-proclaimed guru played with astonishing arrogance and intensity by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and a troubled acolyte inhabited by Joaquin Phoenix as a post WW II Navy vet at loose ends. A controversy already surrounds this title after the Venice Film Festival gave it a Silver Lion award instead of the top Golden Lion since the recently revised rules forbid one movie from getting two major awards. Clearly this drama is loosely based on the origins of Scientology. Hoffman’s portrayal of L. Ron Hubbard is as unsettling as it is fascinating. Phoenix, who not long ago claimed to be retired from acting while he was making the bizarro fake documentary with Casey Affleck is back in fine form. This is not a movie that touts the benefits of Scientology but rather the peculiar madness of how a religious movement begins and the intense personal delusions of those who crave power and those who crave a leader. It seems a certainty that Paul Thomas Anderson’s most mature work will be up for multiple Oscars, especially for Hoffman and Phoenix. Starts Friday locally at Cinemas Palme d’Or.
It breaks my heart to have to write a negative review, but this pretentious, beautifully filmed conceit about plagiarism, ambition and true love fails on every level. A limp, meaningless, script betrays the great cast — Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Zoë Saldana. Intense dialogue is no substitute for real emotion and action. One reviewer called this Bradley Cooper’s funniest film since the original HANGOVER. Too bad. So sad.
…AND, NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
If you remember the events at Lake Victoria (assuming you saw the 2010 prequel), this outing ups the gore and mammary size in a flesh-eating rampage of the pre-historic school of bloodthirsty piranhas that enter the Big Wet Water Park. Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer and the partially devoured Ving Rhames are back. David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey co-star. Why does this film even exist? It’s not only stupid (yes, literally stupid and not funny stupid), it’s sloppily made, not remotely titillating (despite promising to “double the Ds”) or witty. Neither is it scary. The only horror is that this film is so bad it’s actually bad. Trust me, please.