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"Cyrus"  and "Predators" | two film reviews by Gary Chew


GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Not until the drama kicks in does "Cyrus," a film categorized only as a comedy, reveal its depth. It comes about two-thirds into a film written and directed by the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, and executively produced by the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony.

I laughed a good deal during the first two-thirds, when the main characters, so well acted, reveal their neediness: all three have the added "benefit" of a passive/aggressive personality.

Cyrus is played by Jonah Hill, his mother is Molly, done by Marisa Tomei and John is played by John C. Reilly. John has never been able to adjust to his seven-year-old divorce from Jamie (Catherine Keener). Jamie and her new fiancée, Tim (Matt Walsh), drag John to a party so that he might have an opportunity to meet some ladies as John continues his reclusive way and, recently, has become upset about Jamie's and Tim's approaching nuptials.

John meets Molly at the party. Both are the wall flowers at the bash, so they hit it off famously and bed down the very night they meet. It looks like a new romance is blossoming for these two needy people.

Cyrus, remember him? It's the title of the movie...and the name of Molly's 22-year-old son. Molly, who's been divorced for years has a unique relationship with Cyrus. It's more than just close. No incest here, but much humor is made of that possibility. John C. Reilly's character raises his eyebrow several times contemplating that might be the case as he does a sleep-over (with Cyrus' knowledge) at Molly's house in her bed just across the hall from Cyrus' room. Cyrus' night terrors suddenly re-appear on this very night when John is alone with Molly. Mother must comfort her son---adult that he is.

Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly

Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and John C. Reilly

So, it is terror at night and in the daylight that ensues between John and Cyrus in strange, covert and chuckle-filled ways. The roles people can play are made plain. These two are determined to get the other dude to take a hike, but since all three participants are touchy-feely, seemingly non-aggressive, people who "want what's best," the film goes on for a little longer than I wanted it to making fun of pathetically needy people.

Maybe it's me, but a little fun poked at the foibles of this kind of human personality goes a long way. And with three people freighted with such a personality type, it struck me not unlike laughing at fish in barrel.

Camerawork done for "Cyrus" by (it looks to be) first-year film students imagines itself to be seen on MTV some day, and it probably will, if not on Comedy Central. Watch out for the swish-pans and shaky zooms at specials moments when a particular actor's face "needs" to fill the whole damned screen. Sometimes, the extreme close-ups of faces take one's mind off the dialogue.

I felt "Cyrus" to be a little claustrophobic which may derive from the cinematography and the cloying associations displayed among the members of this unusual triangle.

But wait. The pay off is quite satisfying. As I mentioned: when "Cyrus" isn't meant just to be humorous and slips into its dramatic moments that reveal some characters in the script have spines---particularly, John---did I feel the movie draw me in, then, my care for John, Molly and Cyrus was embellished.

By movie's end, I was comfortable with these flawed characters, and have known and loved real-life people just like them.

"Cyrus" official site; now playing.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


GARY CHEW/Sacramento

As the film opened, I thought I had gone into the wrong screening room, because the movie I was looking at had to be "The Man Who Fell From The Sky," and the dude plummeting through space surely was David Bowie.

Nope. Wrong. I was right. I had seated myself in the appropriate auditorium. It was Adrien Brody dropping like a rock through the clouds toward certain death to the jungle below---not the androgenous English rock and film star known so well in the 70s.

To say "Predators" is a downer isn't quite the way I'd put it, as the opening scene with Mr. Brody in freefall got my attention and kept it for about thirty to forty minutes before I began pinching myself to stay awake---and it was only about 11 o'clock in the morning in my time zone.

Another creepy, semi-sci-fi horror-action-kill flick always on-the-stalk with gooey liquid substances oozing from strange, decaying figures that have been strung up on limbs of dead branches and shit is most of what you get. Of course, there are, too, the ever-adapting kill machine robot-type monsters that Sigourney Weaver probably still has nightmares about.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga

Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well, Horatio.

They're the Predators, and, for whatever reason, they want to kill Adrien Brody (as Royce), Alice Braga (as Isabelle), Walton Goggins (as Stans), Topher Grace (as Edwin), Danny Trejo (as Cuchillo), Laurence Fishburne (as Noland) plus a few more characters for which space doesn't allow.

It's insinuated that the Predators are using an unknown planet and the massive jungle on it as a game preserve to stalk and kill human beings who, just prior to falling out of the sky into Predator Land, have been locked in some kind of mortal combat or event. It's magic. And man, would all this ever make a cool video game! I wonder if anyone's thought of that, yet.

Adrien Brody (see "Splice') and Laurence Fishburne (see "Mystic River") are fine actors. Alice Braga is good, too, especially in creepy movies like this one (see "Repo Men"). Mr. Goggins is always a treat doing a role that makes him a kind of psychotic criminal or cop who shows his smiley, white teeth a lot when grimacing (see "The Shield") or saying, "Look a'chyoo!" into Timothy Olyphant's face (see "Justified").

You might think that Topher Grace (see "That 70s Show") isn't right for this movie, but his sort of befuddled intellectual manner is nearly perfect as the one guy along for this involuntary vacation to Predator Land that's an authentic professional: a physician. He gets to use all the big words that have been written into the script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch. Most everyone else just says f*#k a lot. Rated "R." But no time for sex.

The other recalcitrant parachutists into this really horrific place are professionals of another sort. Each in his or her own way reeks of possibly being an enlistee in the world police of foot soldiers one might encounter in Erik Prince's Blackwater Corporation.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, director Robert Rodriguez

Gov. Schwarzenegger meets
Robert Rodriguez on the set

"Predator" is the work of the Hungarian-American director, Nimród Antal. Mr. Antal even out-creeped Alfred Hitchcock with his really weird motel movie from 2007 called "Vacancy" with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale. If you saw it, you'll remember, Frank Whaley playing the "Topher Grace" character.

One scene in "Predators" really got my hopes up for a big surprise when one of the badass monsters sidles up to Brody and slips off his helmet. Gawd, I thought, what an opportunity for a quick cameo with California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But I guess the budget wouldn't hold for that. It's Laurence Fishburne who comes out from under the head gear. He holds "center stage" for a good stretch as the dude who's been able to stay alive in the toxic and treacherous human game reserve for ten long seasons. In near soliloquy, Fishburne shows, again, those acting chops of his.

It just may be me, but at the end of "Predators" what I felt most of all was numb. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock never elicited that non-sensation aboard the Enterprise---Klingons in pursuit, or not.

"Predators" official site; opens Friday.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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