Connect with us

Movie Reviews

‘Lake George’ Review: Shea Whigham and Carrie Coon in a Conventional Neo-Noir With a Few Welcome Twists

Published

on

‘Lake George’ Review: Shea Whigham and Carrie Coon in a Conventional Neo-Noir With a Few Welcome Twists

A nifty little neo-noir carried by two likeable leads, Lake George follows a pair of down-and-out, middle-aged criminals who try to rip off a rich gangster and somehow get away with it.

Is that a familiar premise? Yes. Do stars Shea Whigham and Carrie Coon manage to make the material feel both fresh and engaging? Yes. Is there still a theatrical audience out there for this kind of modest, well-acted and slickly crafted B-level thriller? That remains to be seen.

Lake George

The Bottom Line

Both familiar and fresh.

Advertisement

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight Narrative)
Cast: Shea Whigham, Carrie Coon, Glenn Fleshler, Max Casella
Director, screenwriter: Jeffrey Reiner

1 hour 38 minutes

Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, veteran director Jeffrey Reiner’s latest feature offers up a few welcome twists on a typical noir scenario: Ex-con Don (Whigham) gets out of jail and tries to collect the money he’s owed by an L.A. thug, Armen (Glenn Fleshler), who lives in a massive McMansion up in the Hollywood Hills. But Don is no tough guy, and he winds up getting coerced into killing Armen’s former squeeze, Phyllis (Coon).

There’s nothing new about that set-up, which is hammered out in the first 10 minutes or so. The rest of Lake George is all about how that initial plot unravels, and keeps unraveling until the very end.

Advertisement

This is because Don is not your typical outlaw, but rather a meek, world-weary claims adjuster who served a long prison sentence for helping Armen pull off a slew of insurance frauds. Over-the-hill, with a bad arm and paralyzed by panic attacks, he’s not exactly the right candidate to carry out a murder. And so it’s no surprise that instead of shooting Phyllis point blank as he was supposed to, he’s duped into teaming up with her to steal from Armen and start a new life.

Reiner’s script recalls Double Indemnity, Out of the Past and other classics of the genre where a semi-good guy crosses paths with a femme fatale and lots of bad stuff ensues. But the director doesn’t follow that formula completely, focusing on a couple of grifters who are already past their prime and just looking for a little peace and quiet. This is especially the case with Don, a broken man estranged from his own family and left with nothing but a small cabin (located beside the film’s titular lake) where he hopes to settle down and be forgotten.

Whigham has had memorable second roles in everything from Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, so it’s nice to see him playing the lead for a change. He hardly utters a word throughout Lake George, yet he compellingly channels a man with nothing much left to live for, walking around stupefied and shell-shocked by all the wrong turns he’s taken in his life. Coon seems to be having tons of fun as a bleached-blonde seductress who initially takes Don for a major ride, until she begins to realize he perhaps deserves better.

Lake George rolls smoothly, if a bit slowly, along as a two-handed road movie marked by a few strong set-pieces — notably one that takes place inside Armen’s stash house and involves a hidden safe filled with gold bars, a gruesome killing and not one but several amputated fingers.

Reiner, whose credits include such TV shows as High Fidelity, Shameless and Fargo, doesn’t shy away from the gore, and like the Coen brothers he blends it with a brand of deadpan humor that underscores some of the violence. Another standout scene has Don and Phyllis trying to rob a second stash house, only to find themselves witnessing an excruciating sex scene that keeps getting interrupted by a yapping dog.

Advertisement

In the end, all of their shenanigans amount to the theft of something like $200,000, which shows how low the stakes here really are. But that’s also what makes Lake George quite endearing, despite its overall familiarity and 90s-ish vibe (think True Romance but with a pair of tired, old and fairly incompetent thieves). With little to gain and nothing to lose, the best Don and Phyllis may ultimately have is each other.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movie Reviews

Fresh Kills (2024) – Movie Review

Published

on

Fresh Kills (2024) – Movie Review

Fresh Kills, 2024.

Written and Directed by Jennifer Esposito.
Starring Emily Bader, Odessa A’zion, Jennifer Esposito, Domenick Lombardozzi, Annabella Sciorra, Nicholas Cirillo, Ava DeMary, Stelio Savante, Franco Maicas, David Iacono, Anastasia Veronica Lee, Taylor Madeline Hand, Maya Moravec, Nicole Ehinger, Luciana VanDette, Amanda Corday, Annie Pisapia, Camryn Adele Portagallo, Colleen Kelly, Beatrice Pelliccia, Charlie Reina, and Bettina Skye.

SYNOPSIS:

Follows the story of the loyal women of an organized crime family that dominated some of the boroughs of New York City in the late 20th century.

Advertisement

A film for anyone who wonders about the specifics of what goes on in the lives of the mothers, daughters, and granddaughters part of a mobster family household, writer/director/producer/star Jennifer Esposito’s Fresh Kills, for all its clunky pacing and overreaching ambition, is fresh and packs a cumulative punch about this inescapable lifestyle.

Spanning several points in time across the 1980s and 1990s while primarily fixated on tightknit sisters Rose and Connie, Fresh Kills homes in on how these girls, especially as they grow up, couldn’t be any more different from one another, especially when it comes to the privilege of wealth and the expectations of being born into a family dynamic where the women stay at home while the men are involved in the Staten Island Mafia.

Played by Anastasia Veronica Lee and Taylor Madeline Hand as young girls before turning things over to Emily Bader and Odessa A’zion upon growing up, the former, Rose, is the quiet one (you would be forgiven if you assumed she was mute during the first 15 minutes or so) whereas Connie is upbeat and playful. Connie is seen encouraging Rose to “fly” by spreading apart her hands while being boosted on top of her knees. It’s a silly game they play in front of their new home, still innocent of what their father, Joe Larusso (Domenick Lombardozzi), does for a living. Moments later, an unnerving dialogue exchange is overheard in the garage, somewhat clueing them int to different extents. Little do the girls know, it seems no women born into this type of toxic family dynamic truly get to fly, at least independently.

Then there is the matriarch Francine (Jennifer Esposito), aware and horrified by much of her husband’s actions. At one point, in hysterics, she exclaims that she needs to get away. Yet, much like Connie when she ages, she sticks up for this spoiled lifestyle, whether from fashion, a spacious home or simply being blessed with a healthy family. Once upon a time, she did dream of being something more, apparently approached to get into modeling, yet instead ended up around the arm of Joe. Naturally, Connie becomes her favorite since she is the one to embrace and carry on the more traditional roles, whereas Rose finds herself talked down to over having goals beyond marriage and motherhood.

There is the instinct to label Francine a bad mother for trying to enforce such a status quo, and even the screenplay from Jennifer Esposito never fully gets around fleshing out all of the multidimensional characters; she comes across as a complex figure. She is someone who gave up on her dreams and has not chosen to actively go against a daughter trying to make something of herself (Rose is interested in beauty just like her mother was) and escapes something that she knows has been dysfunctional, hostile, unhealthy, and traumatic for quite some time.

Advertisement

The performances from Emily Bader and Odessa A’zion are also rich, going beyond playing two characters gradually transitioning into opposites. Connie is played with such tornado-like ferocity, preaching family first and asserting that she has made the right choice in getting married and having a child, one suspects that she is trying to convince herself just as much as she is verbally tearing her sister down. Meanwhile, Rose gradually tries to come out of her shell and embark on a different path, but at every turn, she is devastatingly and tragically reminded of what she has been born into and might never escape. Naturally, Domenick Lombardozzi is wisely kept off to the side (this is not a mobster movie about the crimes themselves), but is also part of an emotional scene with Rose that ends on such a powerful note you can’t help but pity him. It’s a vicious, towering toxic masculinity takedown.

As mentioned, the pacing in Fresh Kills is sometimes off, with jumps forward in time frustratingly undercutting other developing character dynamics. One also wishes Jennifer Esposito felt more confident as a filmmaker, doing away with unnecessary needle-drops to heighten the importance of certain moments. However, she does find cohesive, full-throttle momentum for her passion project in its third act, which is riveting, heartbreaking, and empowering, retroactively shading in more depth to what comes before.  

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=embed/playlist

Advertisement

 

Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Movie review: 'Inside Out 2' updates emotional complexity, humor – UPI.com

Published

on

Movie review: 'Inside Out 2' updates emotional complexity, humor – UPI.com

1 of 5 | Joy (L) meets Anxiety in “Inside Out 2.” Photo courtesy of Disney/Pixar

LOS ANGELES, June 12 (UPI) — Inside Out imagined the human mind as a vast, expansive Pixar world run by five basic emotions. Inside Out 2, in theaters Friday, applies that world and those emotions to the next stage in life.

Riley (voice of Kensington Tallman), who was 11 in the first film, turns 13, and her emotions grow more complex as she approaches high school. Joy (Amy Poehler) still leads Riley’s brain with Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale) and Disgust (Liza Lapira).

As Joy catches up the audience on Riley, she explains Riley’s new interests and developing beliefs that form her sense of self. Just when that sounds way more organized than human personalities really are, puberty turns it all into chaos.

The sorts of issues Riley has at 13 are universal and relatable. Though she is attending an ice hockey camp, trying to impress high schoolers, the specific situation speaks to general tendencies to hide parts of ourselves to impress new people or overthink our interactions.

Advertisement

Those tendencies are represented by brand new personified emotions. Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) vie for control of Riley’s brain and cause her to act out.

Personified emotions have emotions and character arcs of their own. Joy is actually not happy when Anxiety succeeds at helping Riley anticipate negative outcomes.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that anxiety can overtake other emotions in teenage years, sometimes for the rest of life. But Joy has to learn that denying other valuable emotions also can make things worse.

Inside Out 2 has a sophisticated take on anxiety. While a healthy amount can protect Riley, making too many projections on possible outcomes can make her spiral.

Anxiety alone cannot produce confidence. That Anxiety learns that lesson at age 13 bodes well for Riley’s future.

Advertisement

The film uses the Inside Out milieu to address a new stage of life. The Toy Story films did that, too, as each sequel was really about what happens when children outgrow their toys, or their actual childhood.

Those are the themes but the story is that Riley trashes her sense of self to fit in, making Inside Out 2 a literal quest for Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust to rescue Riley’s sense of self from volatile new emotions.

Like the imaginary friend in the first film, the emotions encounter some other remnants of Riley’s childhood. Those artifacts make fun references to children’s shows and video games without overstaying their welcome or usefulness to the story.

The catacombs of Riley’s mind have changed since Joy last had to explore them and Riley’s imagination has been updated with new interests. The actual mechanism connecting Riley’s beliefs and sense of self looks like Avatar in the mind with bright lights and colors.

The physics of how the emotions traverse Riley’s mind work more at the behest of narrative convenience. They have fun encountering puns on sarcasm and brainstorms that manifest literally in her mind.

Advertisement

Puberty also introduces a crew of construction workers handling the chaotic rebuilding, who are blatantly blue versions of the Minions. That’s fair, though, because Minions were blatant rip-offs of Pixar’s green aliens from Toy Story.

Perhaps the most impressive animation is the hockey scenes. Pixar artists animate ice skating and puck-handling worthy of the Mighty Ducks.

Inside Out is the franchise that could most naturally run forever, as there are intimate possibilities to explore pivotal life moments from this interior perspective. Follow Riley to college, postgrad life, her wedding, having kids, growing old.

Spinoffs then could explore other characters’ emotions because every single person’s life is unique.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'The Watchers' – Catholic Review

Published

on

Movie Review: 'The Watchers' – Catholic Review

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Will moviegoers want to watch “The Watchers” (Warner Bros.)? That largely depends on their tolerance for twaddle.

Bloodletting is kept to a minimum in writer-director Ishana Night Shyamalan’s horror tale, her feature debut. But so too, alas, is viewer interest.

Some woods are just not suitable for a teddy bears’ picnic. And such proves to be the case with the vast, uncharted forest in Western Ireland into which we follow Shyamalan’s protagonist, Mina (Dakota Fanning).

An emotionally troubled American living in Galway, Mina is too preoccupied with being miserable to devote much attention to her work as a pet shop attendant. Still, when her boss asks her to transport a rare tropical bird to a zoo in Belfast that wants to purchase it, she agrees readily enough.

Despite an opening voiceover that has previously assured us that the remote region that will serve as the film’s primary setting appears on no map, Mina is relying on GPS when her car abruptly breaks down in its midst. Ah, well, perhaps continuity is overrated.

Advertisement

Mina quickly cottons on to the fact that it’s not going to be easy to get out of the area and that being stranded there has left her subject to the mysterious predators who populate it. As they flit about, mostly unseen but audibly slobbering in a most unhealthy manner, Mina becomes understandably unnerved.

So when a stranger suddenly appears and offers her shelter, Mina is swift to accept. Her rescuer turns out to be stately matron Madeline (Olwen Fouéré), the strong-willed leader of a small household made up of people in a similar plight to Mina’s. Its other members are artsy sensitive type Ciara (Georgina Campbell) and callow youth Daniel (Oliver Finnegan).

Settling in, Mina learns the rules of survival in her new environment, most of them laid down by Madeline. They include the necessity of entertaining the creatures of the title by allowing them to observe the details of the group’s daily life through a one-way mirror. It’s all as claustrophobic as it is bizarre, however, and Mina continues to long for escape.

As adapted from A.M. Shine’s novel, Shyamalan’s script hints at an allegory about “Big Brother”-style voyeurism. Yet any such commentary remains underdeveloped and ultimately gets bogged down in a swampy morass of mythology at once so offhand and over-elaborate that it would have given H.P. Lovecraft a headache.

With proceedings more menacing than graphic, though, “The Watchers” is at least appropriate for a wider audience than many chillers. As for sexuality, an early sequence in which Mina disguises herself with a wig and goes forth to troll for bedroom companionship in a bar is both discreetly depicted and treated as a symptom of her unsettled state of despondency.

Advertisement

The film contains brief harsh violence with little gore, an offscreen casual encounter, at least one profanity, several milder oaths and a couple of instances each of crude and crass language. The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Read More Movie & TV Reviews

Copyright © 2024 OSV News

Continue Reading

Trending