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Films I Neglected To Review: Justice Comes In One Size
by Peter Sobczynski

For your entertainment pleasure, please enjoy short reviews of "Fun Size," "The Sessions" and "Silent Hill: Revelation."

On the surface, "Fun Size" may look like just another screechy kiddie extravaganza--after all, it is a production from the kid-friendly Nickelodeon network and it features one of their bigger stars, Victoria Justice, making her first big leap from television to the multiplexes--and even the plot (teen girl is forced to take her brother trick-or-treating instead of going to the big party thrown by the cutest boy in class and winds up having a wild night trying to track the kid down after he wanders off) sounds like matinee material at best. That said, families going in expecting the usual pre-teen hijinks may be surprised, and not necessarily in a good way, to discover that it is actually an older kid-skewing romp that fully lives up to its PG-13 rating. There is all the expected stuff in which heroine Wren tries to find her brother while realizing that her nerdy friend just might be a better romantic match for her than the hunk, much to the chagrin of her social-climbing best pal (Jane Levy, whose crimson locks and a killer pout will remind older viewers of the glory days of Molly Ringwald and makes her arguably the best thing on display here) but at the same time, there are weird subplots (such as Wren's mother--the always-terrifying Chelsea Handler--dating a much-younger guy and going to a Halloween party where she is the most mature person in attendance, if you know what I mean), grown-up jokes that will sail over the heads of most kids (including references to "Fifty Shades of Grey" and Aaron Burr, a rap song extolling the virtues of E.O. Wilson and the sight of a giant mechanical chicken violating a Volvo) and a weird running gag involving the little kid running off with a series of strangers as they go off on their own strange adventures. In other words, it is less "Hannah Montana" and more like "Adventures in Babysitting" with the casual racism replaced by a creepy pedoish vibe throughout. It definitely isn't for the wee ones and truth be told, there isn't much here for older viewers here either for the most part. That said, the sheer strangeness of the whole enterprise did keep me interested, if not exactly entertained, for the most part and while I wouldn't dream of going out on a limb to suggest that it might one day develop a cult following of some sort, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if that were to eventually happen.

Truth be told, I always assumed that at some point in my professional existence, I would find myself in the position of watching a film in which one of the stars of the former hit sitcom "Mad About You" would appear in the role of a sex surrogate--baring body and soul, in the words of critics and interviewers who can't quite themselves to flat-out say "Yep, they're naked!"--hired to relieve a 36-year-old man who has spent nearly his entire life in an iron lung of his virginity; I just naturally assumed that it would be Paul Reiser. Instead, it is Helen Hunt who gets to bare body and soul and whatnot in "The Sessions" as the therapist employed by a physically challenged writer (John Hawkes) to make a man out of him, as it were. With a premise like that, most moviegoers are likely to fall into one of two groups in regards to this film--half will simply skip the thing altogether on the basis that the premise alone sounds too depressing for words and half will priase it to the stars on the basis that only a monster would dare criticize anything as well-meaning or well-intentioned as this. Personally, I find myself somewhere in the middle because on the one hand, the story is pretty thin soup, a point that writer-director Ben Lewin tacitly admits to by stretching things out with a number of ancillary supporting characters and subplots, including ones involving Hunt's suddenly disapproving husband, Hawkes' relationships with a couple of other women before and after his treatment and the friendship that he develops with a local priest (William H. Macy), do little more than boost the film up to a conventional feature film length. On the other hand, Hawkes does turn in a fairly amazing performance in the central role and while he affected accent takes a bit of time to get used to, Hunt winds up delivering her best work in years as well. Their combined efforts make "The Sessions" watchable enough (if not literally watchable--the movie is remarkably grungy-looking in spots and not in a good way) but it never quite manages to transform itself into the emotional powerhouse that it clearly want to be.

Although I know that I gave "Silent Hill," the 2006 big-screen adaptation of the popular horror-themed video game, a reasonably good review when it came out, I don't remember a single thing about it other than the fact that it possessed a stunning visual style and one of the most inscrutable narratives that I have ever encountered in all my years of moviegoing--it almost felt as if each individual scene was put together without even the slightest consideration of how it fit together with what came immediately before and after it. Now comes the long-awaited (I can only assume that someone out there has been awaiting it) "Silent Hill: Revelation" and if nothing else, it pulls off the seemingly impossible task of making the original film seem as straightforward and lucid as a Neil Simon play by comparison--there are long stretches of time here in which there is no evident connection between the individual lines of dialogue, let alone the scenes. To even attempt to recount the plot or connect it with the events of the original would drive both you and I to the brink of madness Suffice it to say, a young girl (Adelaide Clemens, who looks enough like the younger Michelle Williams to suggest that they could appear in a sequel to "Looper") returns to the menacing ghost town of Silent Hill to rescue her father (Sean Bean) from weirdos who need her to help release or suppress an evil spirit that will destroy the world or something like that. In other words, more of the same but the main difference this time around is that writer-director Michael J. Bassett does not possess the same keen visual eye that Christophe Gans brought to the original. Outside of one reasonably creepy sequence involving some mannequins and a particularly strange spider-like creature, there is nothing especially memorable on display this time around and the addition of 3-D to the mix only serves to make an already dingy-looking enterprise look even murkier. To be fair, there may be some person out there who is familiar enough with the entire mythology of the video game and the other movie to be able to fully explain at length how every detail of "Silent Hill: Revelation" makes perfect sense and fits together to supply a complex and cogent narrative. That said, the notion of being stuck sitting next to such a person on a long bus ride is infinitely more terrifying than anything in the film itself.

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originally posted: 10/29/12 05:07:47
last updated: 10/29/12 11:18:12
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