Sept 2, 2011. Families. Movies Reviewed: Blue Collar Boys, Colombiana, Our Idiot Brother, and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark PLUS TIFF and Toronto Indie Film Fest

Posted in Action, Cultural Mining, Drama, Family, Fighting, Horror, Movies, Uncategorized, US, violence by CulturalMining.com on September 9, 2011

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, and movies that taste good, and what the difference is.

Well it’s the end of the summer, but there are still lots of new movies out there to see before TIFF ushers in the new seasons films. But with vacation ending, kids going back to school, families seem to go to the forefront. So here are some late summer movies about family troubles: one’s about a family business in trouble, one’s about a girl who vows to avenge a death in her family, one’s about a three sisters who don’t know what to do about their brother, and one’s about a disfunctional family that lives in sort of a haunted house.

Blue Collar Boys

Dir: Mark Nistico

Red (Gabe Fazio) and Nazo (Kevin Interdonato) work as contractors in central New Jersey, building and finishing new suburban homes. Red’s dad has run his business for years with no real problems. They build, paint, finish. At work, they have to suck it up with their employers, the homeowners. And their anger builds up inside. So when they’re not yelling at each other, they’re labeling everyone else they see as “Spics”, “Wops”, “Faggots” or “bagel-cutting Jews”. When they’re finished putting up drywall, Red, Nazo and their buddies like to go to local bars to pick fights. Actually, Nazo goes to fight — Red goes to make peace and stop Nazo from getting carried away and ending up in jail. Everything seems normal, right? Like Sopranos, but without organized crime…

But things start to fall apart when Dad’s business is unraveling. The developers that hired them refuse to pay them, their credit dries up, and then they can’t pay off any of the suppliers they owe money to, so they can’t finish their work. And a sketchy local politician and their longtime outside business partner seem to be planning something that’s no good.

Blue Collar Boys is a good, low budget, realistic movie about angry builders in Jersey who are mad as hell and aren’t gonna take it any more. Definitely realistic.

I just wish there could be a few more happy or funny or interesting scenes, just a moment of relief from every character in the movie ending up venting their frustrations by fighting, shouting, and punching holes in the plaster using other people’s heads…

UPDATE: Blue Collar Boys is having its U.S. premiere at a Jersey-appropriate location:  the Hoboken International Film Fest on June 2, 2012. Check it out!

Colombiana

Dir: Olivier Megaton

Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) is an Afro-latina schoolgirl in Colombia whose parents are murdered by local mobsters. Her father gives her a lily necklace to remember her family and the meaning of her name. She escapes the bad guys in a great chase scene, jumping off balconies and down allies in her shantytown, until she ends up in America, and movces in with her thuggish uncle. He asks her what she wants to be when she grows up. “I want to be a killer!” So he trains her in the arts of the assassins.

Fifteen years later, she’s grown up to be the ultimate killing machine, able to break into any building, and kill anyone. And she always leaves the sign of a lily on all her victims. She has an artist boyfriend but keeps all her life a secret – but when he snaps a photo of her sleeping, the police get a hold of her image.

Will she gets to the head gangsters before the FBI finds her? It’s a simultaneous chase and escape story, an action thriller. Great chase scenes, fights, break-ins, shoot-outs and explosions. Zoe Saldana – she was the blue woman in Avatar – is the lithe cat burglar-assassin, and plays it well. The serious dialogue, though, usually falls flat, and a few scenes, like the tearful fight with her uncle in a library, almost ruined the whole movie.

This is an international movie, written by French director Luc Besson, shot mainly in Mexico, and with a European feel. The plot’s simple and predictable, but I liked it – a good B movie.

Our Idiot Brother

Dir: Jesse Peretz

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a happy hippy farmer’s market guy with a dog named Willie Nelson. He is unusually sympathetic to others’ problems and absolutely trusts whatever they say. There’s not a suspicious bone in his body. But when he’s released from prison after selling pot to a uniformed cop (who said he needed it to calm down), his girlfriend dumps him, kicks him off the commune, and takes his dog.

So he’s taken in by his kindly mother and then passed around among his three nice, but self-centred, sisters, who take turns taking care of him. But when he naively tells them the unvarnished truth, he just messes everything up, by revealing uncomfortable hidden secrets in their marriages, jobs and relationships. He’s really only good with small kids and dogs, who are just as trusting as he is.

This is a cute, gentle comedy which gets its laughs mainly from characters and social situations rather than potty humour, dick jokes and fat gags. It pokes fun at the hidden cruelty and passive-aggressiveness in a middle-class educated liberal family.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Dir: Troy Nixey

Sally (Bailee Madison) , an introspective and surly little girl with an Anne Frank haircut, has been palmed off by her navel-gazing California Mom to her ambitious Rhode Island Dad (Guy Pearce), an architect with a new, young girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). Dad wants them all to move into an abandoned Victorian mansion and live like a family so he can renovate the place, get the house picture into Architecture Digest, and then sell it off for big bucks. But the place seems to be haunted – Sally is sure she hears voices calling to her from somewhere in the basement. She goes down the steps, unscrews the metal cover on an air vent, and…?

Sally is convinced there are creatures out to get her whenever she turns off the light at night. They take away teeth and leave old coins under her pillow. And now they want Sally. She draws pictures of small, scary beings that attack with sharp tools in the dark. Dad, is more concerned about his career, and doesn’t want his daughter to mess things up. He calls a grey-bearded psychiatrist who says she’s crazy and ups her medication, so she’ll stop hearing voices. But step-mom Kim sympathizes with her – and gives her a Polaroid flash camera to protect herself, just in case these creatures really are there.

Are they real and should they get out of that house now? Or is it all just Sally’s overactive imagination? This is a scary movie about a child’s worst fears, set against a nostalgic garden and a spooky Victorian home. It was based on a script co-written by Guillermo Del Toro, so there are some echoes of the look and story of his Spanish-language movies, like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage, Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone. But this one isn’t quite as good, with the scary bad guys not as nuanced as in most of his movies.

Colombiana, Our Idiot Brother, and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark are all playing now; check your local listings. Blue Collar Boys will have its world premier on September 14th, as part of the Toronto Indie Film Fest. Go to www.film-fest.ca . TIFF opens next Thursday, September 8, and runs for the following ten days: Tickets are still available — for more information, go to www.tiff.net .

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site, Cultural Mining . com.

2 Responses

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  1. mnistico said, on December 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for the review Daniel. I appreciate you taking the time to view Blue Collar Boys

  2. Maria Collis said, on May 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Hi, Daniel,
    Blue Collar Boys is having its U.S. Premiere at the Hoboken International Film Fest on June 2, 2012. Here’s a link to the festival info: http://www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com/
    Warm regards,
    Maria
    Leomark Studios (Sales Rep for BCB)


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