Animal Kingdom


 

Animal Kingdom

Grandma's forgotten to take her meds again.

(2010) Crime Drama (Sony Classics) Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, Mirrah Foulkes, Ben Mendelsohn, Laura Wheelwright, Clayton Jacobson, Anthony Hayes, Dan Wyllie, Jacqueline Brennan, Anna Lise Phillips. Directed by David Michod

 

You can choose your friends but not your family. Usually that’s not a bad thing but for certain families, it is a nightmare indeed. Growing up in a family of sociopaths is bound to affect you, even if you’ve been shielded from the worst of them.

Joshua “J” Cody’s (Frecheville) mom is a heroin addict. Make that was – she checks out of this world while watching TV. J calls the authorities and while paramedics work on her, watches “Deal or No Deal” impassively. The boy has issues.

He is sent to live with his grandmother which might seem to be a good idea but really is throwing J from the frying pan into the fire. Janine (but everyone calls her Smurf) Cody (Weaver) might seem motherly and affectionate on the outside (she is always asking her sons for a kiss, kisses which go on just long enough to be uncomfortable) but her boys – Darren (Ford), Craig (Stapleton) and Andrew (Mendelsohn) – the latter known to one and all as Pope – are, respectively, a dim-witted thug, a coke-addicted unpredictably violent thug and a remorseless psychopath. How’d you like to attend that family reunion?

J gets sucked into the family business of armed robberies, drug dealing and other petty crimes and he gets to know Pope’s right hand man Baz Brown (Edgerton) who yearns to leave the life. However when a transgression against the family leads to tragedy, Pope is forced into hiding and Craig and Smurf assume control of the family business. Meanwhile, Police Sgt. Nathan Leckie (Pearce) is hot on the trail of the family and is concerned for J’s well-being. He also sees J as a potential informant, the key to ending the Cody family’s reign of terror once and for all.

It’s hard to believe that this is Michod’s first feature as a director. It’s so self-assured and well-executed that you’d think someone like Coppola or Scorsese had something to do with it. It doesn’t hurt that he has a bangin’ script to work with, as well as a group of actors who are quite talented although other than Pearce and Edgerton not terribly well-known in the States.

Weaver was justly nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the 2011 Academy Awards and while she didn’t win, she gives a performance here that she will undoubtedly be remembered for the remainder of her career. She is at turns sweet and cuddly, cold and manipulative and creepy and psychotic. She’s the type of person who in one moment can be kissing her grandson and the next ordering his execution. It’s a bravura performance and worth renting/streaming the movie for all by itself.

Mendelsohn is nearly as impressive. He is absolutely without remorse or any real human feeling other than rage. He takes because he can; he wounds because he can and he kills because he can. He understands that he is the de facto godfather of Melbourne’s most notorious crime family and will do whatever it takes to keep it that way. He is not motivated so much by love of family as he is love of being feared.

Frecheville has perhaps the most difficult and most thankful role of all. If this were Goodfellas he’d be Henry Hill; he’s the audience surrogate but at the same time, he is a wounded puppy. He’s got definite issues but at the same time he’s a typical teenager, prone to acting rashly and not always logically. It is tough for a character like this to remain sympathetic but Frecheville manages to make J remain so throughout the film, even when he’s doing boneheaded things.

There are times when it gets a bit too realistic for my tastes; I was genuinely creeped out by some of the actions of the Cody family from grandma on down, and there were times I was taken out of the experience because of it. Still, for the most part this is one of those movies you can’t turn away from once you sit down to watch and it will stay with you for a long while after you get up to go.

WHY RENT THIS: Stark, brutal and authentic. Career-defining performances from Weaver, Mendelsohn and Frecheville. Taut and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Goes overboard on the creepy at times.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence, as well as some drug use (as well as drug culture depictions) and a buttload of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie owns the record for most Australian Film Institute nominations for a single film with 18.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a Q&A with director Michod and actress Weaver from the Los Angeles Film Festival.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $6.8M on an unreported production budget; it seems likely that the movie was profitable.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

TOMORROW: Midnight Meat Train

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New Releases for the Week of September 17, 2010


Something smells bad on this elevator and I think it's coming from YOU!

DEVIL

(Universal) Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Jacob Vargas, Bokeem Woodbine. Directed by the Dowdle Brothers

Five strangers get on an elevator in a Philadelphia high-rise. Midway through their trip up, the elevator gets stuck. Not an unusual situation, granted, nor one that’s generally more than inconvenient. However, one of the people aren’t who they say they are, and what’s going on in the elevator is nothing natural at all. This is the first in a series of Night Chronicles, movies produced and conceptualized by M. Night Shyamalan but not directed by him.

See the trailer, promo and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language including sexual references)

Alpha and Omega

(Lionsgate) Starring the voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panattiere, Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover. Two Canadian wolves – one an Alpha, one not so high up in the pack – are tranquilized and delivered to Idaho to repopulate the wolf population. That is so not happening, so the two make their way back to Canada and find they have to work as a team in order to make it back in one piece – and they make a pretty darn good team.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for rude humor and some mild action)

Animal Kingdom

 (Sony Classics) Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver. After a young man’s parents die, he goes to live with his grandmother, who turns out to be the doyenne of a Melbourne crime family. Not only is she the nastiest piece of work since Ma Barker, she and her three cold-blooded sons are also deep in a war with the Melbourne police, some of whom are more unscrupulous than the crime family itself.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Drama

Rating: R (for violence, drug content and pervasive language)

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinski

(Sony Classics) Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen, Elena Morozova, Natacha Lindinger. In the Paris of the Jazz Age, an unorthodox fashion designer and a controversial Russian composer meet and begin a torrid affair that will mark the most fertile creative period for both parties. This covers a different period in the life than that of the earlier biopic Coco Before Chanel.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: R (for some strong sexuality and nudity)

Easy A

(Screen Gems) Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Patricia Clarkson. A high school girl who has no reputation whatsoever pretends to have sex to help out a gay friend, which changes her reputation – and the way she’s viewed by her peers – overnight. Unfortunately, there are unintended consequences as other guys who are getting picked on are lining up to have their reputations enhanced by having the world think they’ve slept with her. It’s “The Scarlet Letter” for the Nickelodeon generation!

See the trailer, interviews, promos, a featurette and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Teen Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material)

The Town

(Warner Brothers) Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner. When an attractive bank manager is taken hostage for a brief time by a group of bank robbers, she thinks her ordeal is over. However, she didn’t count on one of the robbers falling for her and pursuing a relationship. Not that she knows it’s him – she was blindfolded at the time. Oh, and an FBI agent who looks a lot like a Mad Man is on his tail and she might be the key who can connect the dots, which might make the bad guys nervous enough to bump her off. Did I mention Affleck also directed this movie? What was I thinking?!

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Drama

Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use)