Tag Archives: Giovanni Ribisi

Stars, Stripes & Appetites

The Bad Batch

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, Ana Lily Amirpour dazzled moviegoers with her sleek and imaginative vampire fable A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

The film tells of a solitary female figure and the surprising impact of unlikely companionship. Amirpour called the film a “vampire western.”

If you haven’t seen the film (and you should, immediately), but you like the premise, then Amirpour’s follow up The Bad Batch might also appeal to you. It mines a similar vein, although the context is a bit more merciless.

The film’s provocative opening of mostly voiceover under credits introduces the concept of the “bad batch” – unwanteds. Drugs, immigration, petty crime – it’s never clear what this batch has been up to, but we know where they’re going. They’re headed to a quarantined expanse of arid Texas desert no longer considered part of These United States.

Once the images on screen take form, Amirpour creates an atmosphere of dystopian terror that the balance of the film never quite reaches again.

Newest resident Arlen (Suki Waterhouse – very impressive), realizes just how Mad Max this can get moments after gates are locked behind her. In a breathless and brutal piece of cinema, we are introduced to one of two communities thriving in this wasteland.

The Bridge People are hyper-bulked up, ultra-tanned cannibals represented by Miami Man (Jason Momoa). (They may not have access to steroids, but they’re certainly getting a lot of protein.)

The second community of Comfort offers a colorful, almost habitable environment led by charismatic leader The Dream (Keanu Reeves).

With these two communities, Amirpour moves very clearly into metaphorical territory, ideas she underscores nicely with strategic use of the American flag.

One version of America sees the vain, self-centered “winners” literally feeding on the weak. The second may seem more accepting, but it pushes religion, drugs and other “comforts” to encourage passivity.

It’s a clever but unwieldy storyline, and Amirpour has trouble concluding her tale.

She has a great cast, though. Joining Woodhouse, Momoa and Reeves are flashes of Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna and a host of the freakish and intriguing.

Amirpour has such a facility with creating mood and environment, and though the approach here is different than with her debut, she once again loads the soundtrack and screen with inspired images, sounds and idiosyncrasies.

Her opening sets such a high bar – one she fails to reach again – and her finale feels too conventional for this character and this world. They’re fairly slight criticisms, but with a filmmaker of such amazing talent, they can’t help but be a let-down.


Love at the Stairmaster


by George Wolf

You get the feeling filmmaker Andrew Bujalski might have had a few sessions with a personal trainer, or maybe spent some time with a Crossfit WOD when inspiration hit for Results.

Who are these people, and why are they so eager to convince you they can change your life? What about them? How’d they get so perfect?

They’re not, of course, and Bujalski utilizes some charmingly offbeat characters and dark humor to remind us there’s more to being fit than just buns of steel.

Trevor (Guy Pearce) and Kat (Cobie Smulders) are trainers at an Austin, Texas gym, and have no troubles in the physique department. In fact, their hot bodies get together every now and then, but neither of them can pin down quite where the relationship stands.

Enter Danny (Kevin Corrigan), a mysterious, disheveled shlub who wanders into the gym one day and decides he needs to get in shape. Danny is recently divorced, and even more recently very rich, which leads him to offer people $200 to do random things, like set up his TV or bring him over a cat.

Danny wants private sessions at his home gym, and after a few with Kat, wouldn’t mind more than just a business relationship. That doesn’t sit well with Trevor, and elicits some surprising reactions that tangle them all in quite an unusual triangle.

Sure, a romantic comedy about people searching for something real is old hat, but writer/director Bujalski (Computer Chess) gives us interesting characters in unique situations to breathe some fun new life into the genre.

Bujalksi may be moving to more mainstream projects, but he’s not dumbing anything down. The humor still bites, and his eye for observational detail remains keen. He crafts subtle parallels between the quests for love and fitness, and draws fine performances from his cast to make them stick.

Pearce is customarily solid, it’s nice to see Corrigan getting bigger parts, and both Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Michael Hall chip in memorable cameos, but Smulders makes the biggest impression here. In giving Kat some unexpected depth, Smulders shows she’s ready to move beyond sitcoms and superhero support with a breakout performance.

Playful, smart, and unhurried, Results is among the most charming adult fare this summer.