The House Review

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Comedies like The House make me yearn for R-rated comedies to succeed in being funny. That is because The House has some entertainment value in there yet not enough of the material translates into laughter, at least not for a feature length film. The House has the acting talent, but the talent is not enough to rise the movie above the repetitive gags.

The story is that (Will Ferrell) and (Amy Poehler) and (Jason Matzukis) are running an illegal gaming operation in order to cover each other’s debts and expenses. This means raising half a million dollars in 4 weeks. Ferrell and Poehler want to get their daughter into college, Matzukis was to avoid foreclosure.

Tell me if you have heard of any of these stock characters before:

1. The cop who is so idiotic that he is not believable in any way.
2. The corrupt leader of the local council who hooks up with his co-worker behind closed doors.
3. The optimistic stoner who is both dumb and happy-go-lucky (every Jason Mantzoukas character ever)
4. The parents who will become overly rebellious when the chips are down.

Those are all the main characters in the movie and the gags are an assembly line of water down gags that are associated with those stock characters.

To be fair to Ferrell, Poehler and especially Mantzoukas, they try to make it work. This was the main reason I could watch this movie to the end quite easily. I have seen comedies in which actors were apathetic and lazy knowing their material was not funny.The three actors have chemistry, but they lack a funny script that translates well on the big screen.

Laughs exist in The House, but they are few and far between. The first 20 minutes beginning does not work at all and I was expecting a trainwreck. Fortunately, things do pick up from there with the best bits starting to come in when the trio start to make some money and it became mildly entertaining for awhile. But The House does not achieve the belly laughs it intended to do.

Sadly, The House does not have enough laughs or entertainment value for 90 minutes. Enough for a TV show maybe. The actors stopped it from being a disappointment, but this movie will easily be forgotten ⭐⭐1/2

Arrival- A Thematic Pool

Written by Nelson Cumming

Arrival had a lot of promise. So much so that I paid a lot extra to see it on a wider screen, thinking I would get overwhelmed by the grandiose mis en scene. That didn’t happen. Despite this, Arrival is a very interesting and highly original film.

Oddly, the movie it reminded me of was The Tree of Life by Terrance Malick although it is not anything like it. To use a book title from Douglas Adams, The Tree of Life concerns itself with “Life, The Universe and Everything” whereas Arrival explores the inner-workings of communication, language and pre-determinism. The latter of which I didn’t get until much later after I saw it.

Unpacking the Plot- A headache that was worth it

Adam’s using her linguistic powers to understand the alien language. Initially this was my favorite part of the film.

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t get the subplot of the movie at all until I did a bit of research. After looking it up I thought “Damn, Arrival was going for the gold” The main plot and subplot are completely non-linear (like The Tree of Life) and I was wondering why the subplot even existed for a while. I’ll outline both the plot and subplot before explaining further.

So the main plot involves Amy Adams who plays a professional linguist sent by the US military to communicate with these aliens that have bordered earth. A lot of the film involves Adams and Jeremy Renner (who plays a theoretical physicist) decoding the language and understanding why the aliens have come to earth.

As Adam’s learns of the aliens language, Adams has visions of her daughter which serves as the subplot of the film. When the twist comes, I was wondering why she was having visions of her child in the first place. The movie raised more questions than it answered for me. It didn’t seem to add up.

That is a broadly specific as I can be without ruining it. You need to know the subplot to fully understand the meaning of the film.

The Tree of Life analogy

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The subplot felt a little spinny to me. It messes with time and space. Only after I saw it did I understand it.

I saw Arrival as more of an atmospheric film about how the intricacies of communication changes meaning and how you need to get both linguistics and the meaning behind language to reach understanding. The best moments for me were when Adams were decoding the alien language, trying to understand their purpose of existence.

Only until after I saw it I realize I was only scratching the surface. It’s like the Tree of Life in that both the plot and subplot are non-linear and one of the plots have to do with the world around us and the other side of the story revolves around a family and with Arrival, the two didn’t stories did not connect well enough for me to understand.

That was until I realised why Adam’s character has all these visions. Once I knew that all of Arrival’s ideas just seemed to connect and fall into place. It really is a thinking movie and I might like it more if I saw it again. It explores the philosophical concept of pre-determinism vs. fate. Unlike most films, Adams choose with her final word in the film when she is asked a very abrupt (almost comical) question.

However, I can only judge based on what I saw initially and I liked it for the cinematography, Amy Adams performance and how the lead characters slowly develop an understanding with the aliens. If I see it again, now knowing the movie fully, I would like it even more. That I am certain of. However, I must rate it based on what I was feeling at the time and while I liked it overall there were a lot of moments I was scratching my head on how she has the conceived of her visions in the first place ***1/2