Every young hot leading lady needs to do a horror flick at some point in her career – it’s a Tinseltown requirement apparently – and The House at the End of the Street is Jennifer Lawrence’s. Of course it’s not exactly what it seems shying away from bloody vicious gimmicks and opting for a more psychological brand of horror.
Lawrence is an actress who doesn’t exactly jump for the easy grabs. Even the Hunger Games which was born out of a giant literary franchise isn’t your typical starlet fare. And for the typical young-actress-in-a-cheesy-horror-flick move House is a step above. But despite Lawrence’s solid performance and the film’s attempt to really dig at the complicated psyche of a young girl who falls in love with a (potential) psycho it still winds up being just another horror movie.
The film spends most of its time establishing the cutesy love story between Lawrence’s Alyssa and her boyfriend/enemy Ryan — and an exorbitant amount of time letting the pair make-out like the horny teenagers they’re supposed to be — and only a sliver of the plot actually allows Lawrence’s character to wrestle with her emotions. It’s there but it’s gone in a flash wasting the talents the film has in its corner.
Still for those looking for a schlocky horror film to gobble up on a Friday night House at the End of the Street will certainly do the trick.
[Photo Credit: Relativity Media]
Spanning from WWI to the 21st century Eric Roth’s screenplay (based loosely on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) tells the unique story of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He is born in New Orleans as a very old baby the equivalent of a man in his 80s who then ages backward into youth over the better part of a century. The film is told in flashback by a very old dying woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who recounts her tale to her daughter (Julia Ormond) from a hospital bed during Hurricane Katrina. Left on the doorstep of a retirement home one night by his father (Jason Flemyng) Benjamin is brought up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who runs the place. While there he meets a young girl Daisy who will become a key figure -- romantically and otherwise -- in his life. Ben does have some grand adventures: He goes to work on a boat sees sea battles during WWII finds love with an older married woman (Tilda Swinton) -- and gets progressively younger as the decades fly by. It all manages to be alternately haunting romantic funny epic emotional and incredibly moving and will likely to stay with you a lifetime. Brad Pitt manages to deliver a thoughtful and subtle performance through all the special effects makeup and CGI. He does so much just by using his eyes. Cate Blanchett is equally fine as she plays Daisy from a teenager to an old woman and matches Pitt in bringing an entire lifetime skillfully to light. Her aging makeup is completely natural and she’s very moving in the hospital scenes opposite Ormond. Henson is just marvelous as Queenie a warm and understanding soul. Swinton is elegant and memorable in her few crucial encounters with Ben and plays beautifully off Pitt. Jared Harris (TV’s The Riches) as the colorful Captain Mike who hires Ben on his tug boat and Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as Ben’s father are also effective in their brief screen time. Interestingly Benjamin Button has been gestating for decades in the Hollywood firmament but needed time for the proper technology to catch up to it. Director David Fincher (Zodiac Fight Club) with his early background at George Lucas’ ILM proves to be the perfect choice to marry a compelling story with spectacular visual effects achievement. He did not want to do the film unless the technology allowed one actor to play the role throughout the course of the film. Remarkably they were able to achieve this superimposing Brad Pitt’s face and eyes into all the incarnations of Ben Button. In one sequence Pitt looks just like he did in Thelma and Louise. It’s an amazing feat. He has seamlessly created a unique universe without ever bringing attention to it advancing the art of screen storytelling leaps and bounds ahead of everything else that has come before. Benjamin Button is a plaintive and provocative meditation of life death and what we do while we are here. It’s the stuff of dreams.
As the opening song belts out fast cars champagne and caviar are what professional basketball player Jamal Jeffries (played by Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) is all about. In fact Jeffries is so taken by his own success that he doesn't sign autographs but uses a stamp. His Dennis Rodman-style antics however reach a breaking point when he strips during a game in front of millions of fans and flings his jock strap into the seats. The stunt gets him thrown out of the league and before he can say "slam-dunk " Jeffries loses his house his cars and his girlfriend. Desperate to work again at the one thing he does best Jeffries comes up with the mother of all schemes: He shaves his legs dabs on mascara and tries out for the women's league--and it works. But as he builds friendships and gains the trust of the women on his team he feels torn between his obligation to his team the Banshees and his need to return to a normal life. If you've seen the 1982 comedy Tootsie you know exactly how this film plays out. Surprisingly Juwanna Mann is not crammed with bad slapstick humor but is an entertaining twist on an old classic with a delightfully sweet storyline.
Nunez (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) not only pulls off the Jamal/Juwanna character with ease but he pretty much steals the show here. His character comes off as endearing rather than obnoxious because he takes his role as a woman seriously and is never condescending about playing in the women's league. Nunez also delivers some great one-liners the best being when he is fighting off advances from the gold-toothed Puff Smokey Smoke. Vivica A. Fox (Two Can Play That Game) plays Michelle a fellow player whom Jeffries develops feelings for. Although it's hard to buy the sweet and almost delicate Fox in such an athletic role she pulls it off--but there is not all that much chemistry between her and Nunez. As Jeffries' crass sports agent Lorne Daniels Kevin Pollak (3000 Miles to Graceland) is seedy with just the right touch of humanity so his character is not completely despicable. The most cartoonish and unlikable character is Tommy Davidson's (Bamboozled) Puff Smokey Smoke. He has some funny lines but is too far-fetched to be believable.
Jesse Vaughan who directed a season of In Living Color makes his directorial debut with Juwanna Mann. Judging from the trailer I thought the film would be a low-brow comedy with a lot of overdone men-in-heels humor. I was instead pleasantly surprised by the film's storyline which--although it is a complete take on Tootsie--is short sweet and non-offensive. While some characters like Puff Smokey Smoke are a bit over the top Nunez's Jamal/Juwanna character is never clownish and well developed enough that you can't help but feel for his/her predicament. Some scenes appear to have a Klumps influence like the scene in which Jeffries is playing cards with his aunt and a gang of her senior friends but the overall effect is a moderately funny film peppered with some slightly funnier moments. Newcomer Bradley Allenstein had the sense to deliver a sweet comedy screenplay that was short enough and knew when to quit.
Hollywood.com is on the scene at the 55th Cannes Film Festival, seeing the films and sipping with the stars. Check in every day to get the latest!
Day 3: There is more than An American in Paris in France-- the Hollywood 'hood is here in droves, with the exception of Leonardo DiCaprio and his Gangs of New York, who aren't expected until Monday afternoon.
Just north of the Palais is The American Pavilion, which has been a Cannes-teen for temporary expatriates since 1989. It is a charmingly huge cabana just off the Croisette, offering shade as well as free, although occasionally shaky, Internet access.
The area on which tables are set up extends out above the sea, where American Italian chef Mario Batali serves up Mediterranean fare all day long. Everyone is welcome, including--or perhaps especially--actress Faye Dunaway. Wearing casual slacks and a purple t-shirt, she whirls about, peering over her eyeglasses and doing some serious networking (or maybe rehearsing for the role of a producer in her next project).
The baking sun had risen well past high noon when the crowds dashed to the American Pavilion to catch a glimpse of Christina Ricci, expected to pay a visit. Batali, a star in his own right thanks to his Food Network show Riviera Fantasy, had just seen her three weeks ago in his New York City restaurant Babbo, and was very excited to say hello again. "I am a strong believer in American cinema, especially their protagonists because they are so cool and talented, and it's great to see them in real life!" said the charming chef.
The crowd went berserk as the (currently) brunette Ricci sauntered in, slinging reporters a smile and peering back over her shoulder as if she was in on the best secret in the world. She had come to the fest for tonight's world premiere of her movie The Gathering. In this supernatural thriller, she plays Cassie, an American backpacker in rural England who has a horrible accident. When she encounters some sinister strangers during her recovery, she can't tell what's real and what's hallucination.
Ricci was dazzling in fire-red lipstick and '70's blue eye shadow, and looked to have done some serious dieting! In skintight jeans and a long-sleeved, black half-top, she will soon be giving Calista Flockhart a run for her money.
Director Michael Moore doesn't have that problem. In fact, he actually looks thinner on
camera! Today he ambled up the red carpet like a slow-moving bear to present his controversial tour-de-force documentary Bowling for Columbine. Raves for the film can be heard up and down the Croisette.
In just three days the energy and excitement has already built to an incredible high, with so many films, meetings, complaints about slow service, endlessly ringing cell phones, name-dropping and just too many parties every night. The noise is deafening. And fun. Everything happens at once. As the sun finally decided to call it a day, the sounds of popping corks echoed up and down the beach.
A lovely champagne and dessert reception was thrown at the Majestic Terrace overlooking the harbor by husband and wife team Ted Hartley and Dina Merrill to celebrate the grand winner of their film writing competition. Acting since the early fifties with legends like Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope, Dina is the daughter of stockbroker E.F. Hutton, and her mother's first husband is Glenn Close's grandfather. Ted was a regular on Peyton Place.
At the party, a glowing Melissa Joan Hart was hiding from the glare of the setting sun. "I'm just here enjoying myself," she said with a smile, before leaving with two friends. She was one of the presenters for Monaco's Laureus Humanitarian Awards, where she got to spend the day hanging out with Prince Albert and Michael Jordan.
As the reception wound down, the next shindig fired up as the band got ready. It's the hot-ticket after-party for Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone and John Cleese's new movie, Scorched. They play disgruntled bank employees who unknowingly all decide to rob their bank on the same day.
…another day has stolen away along the Croisette!