Saturday, January 26, 2013

Or, Maybe Right Now?: "Maybe Tomorrow" (2012)

"Maybe Tomorrow" is one of those films that comes out of nowhere, packing an emotional punch and technical finesse that is sadly lacking in other smaller budgeted independent films.

Graham (Dominik Teifenthaler) is a hot young Manhattan DA who is being courted by sleazy Senator Clemens (an outstanding Christopher Shyer) to run on a ticket for the governorship of New York. Graham's fellow law school buddy, Evan (Paul Lange), caters to his friend's every need, becoming his servant more than his equal. Both men's lives are turned upside down by the return of another law school buddy, Russ (writer/director Michael Wolfe), who ends up being arrested and arraigned. Graham has just one "incident" in his past that might cause trouble to his campaign for lieutenant governor, and he orders Evan to get Russ released, and then invites Russ up to his very large Hamptons beach house to "talk".

It seems while in college, Graham, Evan, and Russ, while on spring break, took drugs and assaulted a prostitute. Russ' life took a quick downward spiral as he was kicked out of school and served time for the incident, while Graham and Evan moved on with their own somewhat flawed lives. Russ has a drug-addled girlfriend, Kiah (Carolina Ravassa), who also shows up at the beach house, where the trio of men begin to hammer away at their pasts, look inward at their lives, and try to figure out how to keep Russ happy, and quiet.

Wolfe has written himself a very juicy role, but there is not one bad performance in the entire film. Teifenthaler's Graham is both likable and a little despicable. Paul Lange is perfectly cast as the indecisive Evan, whose loyalty to his friend jeopardizes his marriage. Wolfe does not make Russ yet another movie drug addict, but turns him into a vulnerable and sympathetic character whose pain and bitterness toward his former best friends is understandable.

The film itself has a nice polished look to it, with Wolfe doing many interesting things with his limited budget. Todd Sandler's editing is first-rate, with many memorable cuts and fades (watch for the telephone call between Graham and Clemens, and the nicely-done back and forth between the three men and the respective women in their lives). The musical and song score are fantastic, and the cinematography, especially at the beach house, is luscious.

Wolfe's screenplay may be mistaken for a former stage play, he opens it up nicely, not hitting the beach house until a third of the way into the film. While a couple of scenes seem slightly forced (Graham and Evan's main argument, Graham's climactic speech), they are balanced by some really incredible dialogue and acting from the three men. The tension is uncomfortable, the viewer is as uneasy as Graham and Evan are around their unpredictable former friend.

I did appreciate Wolfe's direction. Under another's hand, this might have been merely a series of arguments between the cast members, but Wolfe lets the characters take their time. The lines are delivered naturally, no one seems to want to steal any scenes and chew the scenery. The scene where the three men reminisce about a date gone wrong, laughing and drinking, before things take an ugly turn, is a great thing to watch.

"Maybe Tomorrow" is currently making the film festival rounds, and should definitely be checked out. It is a tough little drama and well worth a peek. (* * * *) out of five stars.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Closet Case: "Boogeyman" (2005)

An odd thing happened to me as I watched the film "Boogeyman". From the opening few minutes, which scared me like no other film has in recent memory, to the ridiculously laughable finale, I could keep track of my love of this film regress to like, nothing, loathing, and finally desperate hatred.

Tim (Barry Watson, who does try, and yes, I am the only person on the planet who liked "Sorority Boys") is a quivering emotional wreck after watching his father get brutally attacked and taken by some unseen force. Tim was a child, but never forgot that he saw his father disappear into a bedroom closet, never to be seen again, and is now trying to live a normal life working at a magazine and dating rich girl Jessica (Tory Mussett). Tim also has a fear of closets, standing before them in a trance whenever he sees one...not sure if school lockers or storage units set him off, the three screenwriters responsible for this don't let on. Tim's mother (Lucy Lawless, in an obviously slashed role not even deserving of the word "cameo") dies and Tim decides to take ONE night to go through her things at the very house where his father vanished from. The house still has lots o' closets, and while Tim does reconnect with childhood friend Kate (Emily Deschanel, who is so much better in "Bones", where she plays an actual character), he must battle the titular monster with the help of a new character, a little girl named Frannie (Skye McCole Bartusiak) who you know is not what she seems from her very first appearance onscreen.

The first sequence in the film, where a young Tim (Aaron Murphy) imagines innocent items in his room coming alive, until finally something does attack his father, plays on everyone's fear of their own space when they were younger (monsters under the bed and in the closet), and genuinely had me frightened. I wondered what my fellow critics were talking about when they trashed this film, this was some scary stuff...until I kept watching the film. Every scene. EVERY scene has a scare in it. When Tim goes back to his childhood psychiatric hospital to visit his doctor, we get no exposition or plot development, just another scene of a scared child that, while creepy, has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Every time Tim approaches a freaking closet, director Kay kicks the visuals into overdrive, as the camera swoops and darts and your mind begins to wander...what exactly is the Boogeyman? The film never fully explains anything. What happens to the people the Boogeyman takes? Where does Tim's sudden ability to bend time and space come from? Are the Boogeyman's victims just waiting in another closet somewhere, watching the clock tick as Tim walks into one closet after another, looking for them?

Yes, the script is a mess. Someone took out all of the scenes that didn't have a sense of dread in them, and tried to cobble together a scary film from what was left. You never come to care about Tim or any of the other characters because of that decision. Aside from the film's beginning, there are many unsettling scenes (Frannie's house), but they are quickly forgotten as the film makers pile on jump scares to keep the viewer watching until the very lame finale. Sam Raimi is listed as a producer, I don't see him pushing this film in any of the Wizard of Oz prequel trailer ads. I watched this on DVD, and was so miffed with the film when it was over, I didn't care about deleted scenes or alternate endings, I just wanted it out of my player and on the bottom of the big stack of discs I still need to watch.

Not surprisingly, "Boogeyman" was successful enough (a PG13 rating brought in a few more ticket buyers) to generate a couple of straight to video sequels. When Kate asks "is it over?" toward the end of the film, I answered out loud "I hope so". (*) out of five stars.