I Kill Giants (2017)

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It makes sense that a young girl who madly misses her mother might retreat into a fully-immersive fantasy world to distance herself from that harsh reality. In the case of Barbara Thorsen, an oddball, bunny ears-sporting teenager who takes no guff from bullies or school officials alike, this queenly denial propels her into a quest to lure and destroy the malignant creatures that haunt her New Jersey town. Barbara spends many an hour researching giants and building elaborate traps, trying desperately to design a safe world, convinced that this is her ultimate, inescapable destiny. As the young slayer, 15-year-old Madison Wolfe is commendable in the giant-killing role and director Anders Walter, recognizing her abilities, allows this young talent to carry the film on her unfamiliar shoulders, supported by the more experienced Imogen Poots (as Barbara’s older sister Karen) and Zoe Saldana (as the school shrink). Sydney Wade—a girl from Leeds playing a girl from Leeds!—is also engaging as the shy but supportive British import Barbara awkwardly befriends, sort of. Based on the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants is mostly successful due to Wolfe’s committed performance in the lead and the director’s sensitive handling of the difficult themes—both give the film a surprisingly solid footing. The good-looking locales don’t really feel like ’Jersey, though (the film was photographed in Ireland, Flanders, and Belgium with a largely European crew so that probably explains it), but they do lend the film a certain romanticism likely missing had I Kill Giants been shot among the scrub pines of, say, Shamong.


(c) 2018 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com

A Little Something for Your Birthday (2017)

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These days, we should be embracing films written and directed by women and starring 60-year-old actresses prancing about beach volleyball courts in bikinis, not slagging them off. But it’s hard to do that when the film in question—A Little Something for Your Birthday—is just not very good. As a sexagenarian playing a 46-year-old (and then a 47-year-old, and then a 48-year-old; the film inches forward a year at a time on the occasion of struggling fashion designer Senna Berges’ birthday), Sharon Stone has lost little of what made her a movie star back in the day (Basic Instinct and Casino spring to mind). She’s still a commanding presence on screen; tough and sexy and extremely engaging. But in first-time director Susan Walters’ sudsy screenplay, Stone is subject to stock romantic entanglements—including Tony Goldwyn’s tone-deaf Boston lawyer who might just be Mr. Right even though he’s all wrong for Senna—dragged along by uninspired direction. For example, muzak renditions of “Happy Birthday” following each and every Next Birthday segment. Stone deserves better, but better is harder to come by when you’re sixty. “By the way. Just asking. What sort of image do you think you project when you wear a top that you can see through?” Senna’s mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, distinguished in her own faded glory, asks her daughter over breakfast. “Showing your nipples doesn’t make you look chic. It just makes you look like a tart.”


(c) 2018 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com