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Films I Neglected To Review: Sister Acts.
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Flowers," "Sisters" and the Blu-Ray of "Ant-Man"

"Flowers," which is Spain's official entry in the Foreign-Language Film category in the upcoming Oscar race, is a low-key melodrama in which the titular foliage proves to be the element connecting the lives of two groups of people in unexpected ways. Ane (Nagore Aranburu) is a woman whose otherwise dull and passionless life (recently topped by the onset of early menopause) is given an unexpected shot in the arm when she begins receiving anonymously-sent bouquets of flowers once a week--a development that is not welcomed by her boorish boor of a husband but which quietly excites her to no end. Meanwhile, Benat (Josean Bengoetxea) is a crane operator who is unhappily caught in a battle of wills between his wife (Itziar Ituno), who isn't keen on having children, and his domineering mother (Itziar Aizpuru), who doesn't much care for his wife, does want grandchildren and isn't shy about voicing her opinion on either subject. There is a sudden tragedy that, unbeknownst to any of them, winds up have repercussions for all of their lives and once again, flowers prove to be the common element that brings them together.

In essence, "Flowers" is the kind of tear-jerker that the Hollywood studio system cranked out like clockwork back in the day and that would be a TCM staple today. That is not necessarily a bad thing and indeed, one of the best things about the film is the way that co-directors Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga tell the story in a relaxed manner that doesn't try to juice up the otherwise old-fashioned proceedings with wild stylistic gambits. The performances, especially Aranburu's, are also good for the ways in which the actors elect to approach the potentially purple material without resorting soap opera-style histrionics. The problem, however, is that the film is so restrained and dignified throughout that it becomes a bit stultifying after a while and the theoretically startling plot developments are so predictable and predictably deployed that the latter half becomes an exercise in frustration in which audience members will find themselves well ahead of the characters on-screen at nearly every stage. "Flowers" isn't necessarily bad and there are those who might respond more favorably to its aggressively quiet approach but to these eyes, it is an initially pleasant offering that winds up wilting before its time.

For "Sisters," the first big-screen reunion of comedy goddesses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the two play--surprise!--a couple of seemingly mismatched sisters--Maura (Poehler) is a recently-divorced and overly earnest do-gooder who tries to fix the lives of everyone around her in order to avoid dealing with herself while Kate (Fey) is a recently evicted mess with no job and a college-age daughter (Madison Davenport) who despairs of always having to be the adult in their relationship. When their parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) unexpectedly sell their beloved family home to move into a condo and send them down to clean out their things before the new owners can take possession, the two respond to this development by deciding to throw one last blow out of a party of the kind they used to have back in high school and invite all their now-adult friends to send the place off with a bang. With a guest list including a bunch of former rowdies who seem to have forgotten how to party (including such familiar faces as Maya Rudolph, Bobby Moynihan, Samantha Bee, Rachel Dratch and Kate McKinnon), the employees of a Korean nail salon, a heavily tattooed drug dealer (John Cena) and a hunky neighbor (Ike Barinholtz) who catches Maura's eye, much to her confusion, it probably should not come as much of a surprise to anyone to learn that things quickly and bizarrely spiral out of control. (Okay, in the case of Maura's cherished ballerina music box, what happens to it probably came as a bit of a shock.)

Like most films that are based entirely around wild parties (or like most actual wild parties) and which have not been directed by Blake Edwards, "Sisters" gets a little wearying as things go on and at just under two hours, it is probably too long for its own good. That said, it still manages to be a reasonably good time because when it is funny, it is really funny and while it is rambunctious, it never devolves into the kind of mean-spirited anarchy or gross-out stupidity that probably would have occurred if the same premise had been placed in the hands of Adam Sandler and his usual band of idiots. For this, credit goes to screenwriter Paula Pell (a veteran of the late and lamented "30 Rock") and co-stars Fey and Poehler--the former has supplied a script that has a lot of broad humor but also makes time for some quieter moments as well and also gives the members of the vast supporting cast individual moments to shine (the MVPs among them are Emily Tarver as the world's most disinterested store clerk and Cena, who, between this and "Trainwreck," has fast become a reliable player in contemporary raunchy female-driven comedies) while the latter duo play wonderfully off of each while at the same time playing against type (Fey is very funny as the laid-back screwup and even funnier when circumstances force her to become the responsible one of the two).

"Sisters" may not be any sort of comedy classic and it doesn't come close to reaching the heights hits by the aforementioned "Trainwreck" but it contains more than enough laughs to justify its existence (hell, the moment when Maya Rudolph reveals the identity of the scent she is wearing is worth the admission price alone) and if you are the type of person for whom seeing "The Force Awakens" this weekend is not the most important part of your existence, it may prove to be right up your alley.

For various reasons, I never quite got around to reviewing "Ant-Man" when it hit theaters this summer--I missed the press screening and by the time I caught up with it, there were more pressing things to write about (hey, profound examinations of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." don't just write themselves) and it just slipped by. Now that it has hit home video (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $32.99), I suppose the time has come to say a few words about the film, in which amiable thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recruited by famed scientist Hank Pym (MIchael Douglas) to steal a suit with the ability to shrink its wearer to the size of an ant and give them incredible strength lest the technology fall into the wrong hands. On the one hand, it is lighter and funnier than most of the Marvel superhero blockbusters to date--at times, it plays more like a heist movie than anything else--and I liked the fact that, with one or two minor exceptions, director Peyton Reed has resisted the urge to make his film connect with all the other entries in the ever-expanding Marvel Universe.

On the other hand, it eventually succumbs to the requirements of the genre by offering up endless scenes of oddly becostumed dopes beating the tar out of each other (though a climactic fight staged amidst the now-Brobdingnagian scale of a child's train set is amusing) and the key dramatic question of the narrative--why Pym insists on bringing in outsider Scott to learn how to operate the suit when his own daughter (Evangeline Lilly) is fully capable of doing it herself--is resolved in such an unsatisfying manner that it brings the entire thing down with it. As the resulting film turned out to be one of the big hits of the summer, it is clear that most people did not exactly agree with my assessment and they should be pleased with this package, which includes deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, a gag reel and a commentary track with Reed and Rudd.

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originally posted: 12/18/15 16:02:27
last updated: 12/29/15 05:22:58
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