" Things go well, I may be showin’ her my ‘Oh’ Face "
— [Drew], Office Space

MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

The Horse Whisperer

***1/21998, Robert Redford

I believe the book was called Speaker for the Dead. In it, the protagonist was trying to help a mother calm an unruly child whose father had died. After the usual shushing noises failed to help, the man simply held the squirming child on his lap. When the kid saw he saw he was trapped, he resorted to wetting his pants, then trying to squirm free. The man held the child tighter, letting the sour liquid soak his own clothes, continuing to reassure the child as though nothing had happened. Gradually the child’s squirming turned into hugging, holding tight to the man whose patience, unconditional love, and permanent presence had won out.

Decasia

****2002, Bill Morrison

Still wonderful, even on home video

I got hooked on Decasia the first time I saw it several years ago. When I found out that Icarus Films was putting it out on Blu-ray, I had to see it again.

The Flower of Evil

***1/22003

What’s and so thoroughly satisfying is its merciless, merry chronicle of a nuclear family’s meltdown

Old Man Claude Chabrol just keeps rolling along.... With 50 films to his credit, this veteran from the vanguard of the French New Wave has cast ashore a real treasure: La Fleur du Mal (2003). Whereas the title evokes an intoxicating whiff of 19th century French poetry and perversity, the toxic perfume of the film itself seeps out from its deceptively simple modern setting.

Angels & Demons

***2009, Ron Howard

Rises above standard popcorn fare and serves as grist for lots of post-movie chatter

Angels & Demons is the kind of dark lark The Da Vinci Code should’ve been.

X-Men 3

***2006, Brett Ratner

Fails to reach its lofty potential but it still serves as an entertaining diversion

X-Men: The Last Stand fails to reach its lofty potential but it still serves as an entertaining diversion.

Rocky Road to Dublin

****Peter Lennon

Documentary captures the real Ireland in 1966

The poor Irish, it seems like they can never get a break, which is perhaps what makes them so interesting to everyone else.

The Burnt Orange Heresy

***2020, Giuseppe Capotondi

The final 10 minutes get to the dizzy heights of manipulation and counter-manipulation.

The Burnt Orange Heresy fills the canvas with some interesting ideas, but the picture is muddled by uneven brushstrokes and a discordant color palette.

Skyfall

****2012, Sam Mendes

In Skyfall, James Bond learns that fun never goes out of style.

In Skyfall, James Bond learns that fun never goes out of style.

The Lighthouse

***1/22019, Robert Eggers

Think about how the filmmaking and presentation choices impact the material.

The Lighthouse is a fever dream of cinema that’s worth a look despite some narrative challenges.

Meet the Parents

***2000, Jay Roach

An extremely well-made comedy

In the wake of another summer of schlocky, raunchy comedies that saw Scary Movie hit box office pay dirt and Me, Myself and Irene stumble, Meet the Parents comes as a surprising, pleasant change of pace.

Director Jay Roach, who helmed both Austin Powers adventures, at times covers some of the same raunchy territory. But in a nice twist, Meet the Parents steers back toward more good-natured (if somewhat predictable) humor and through it all Roach shows he has a heart for his main characters.

Ben Stiller meets the future father-in-law

The movie takes its time setting up the characters and the situations. Greg Focker (Ben Stiller, There’s Something About Mary, Keeping the Faith) flies off to New York with his girlfriend, Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo, from TV’s Felicity and Sports Night) to visit her parents and, he hopes, get their blessing for marriage.

Of course, nothing will come easily when the father to impress is played by Robert De Niro. He seems at ease playing Jack Byrnes, a retired dealer in rare flowers, but his history of playing heavies in movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull also lends credibility to the father’s “double life”.

Further aggravating the situation, the two are polar opposites when it comes to pets. Jack is a cat person (with a “trained” cat, Mr. Jinx) and Greg is a dog person. Trying to reconcile the two proves to be no small feat. As Jack says, “Cats make you work for their affection, they don’t sell out like dogs.”

The setup is well done as the awkwardness and tension of that first parental meeting is played out. At first, things are so awkward and the humor so sluggish that the direction of the movie comes into question.

Just relax; everything falls apart nicely.

Greg is the quintessential Average Joe; he’s smart and has a good job (male nurse), he’s sensitive, and he’s not terribly coordinated, especially when it comes to playing sports or climbing rooftops.

There’s something about Ben Stiller that makes him immediately likeable. He creates extremely sympathetic characters, and you want to see him win. The movie uses this to tremendous effect as it piles on the insults, physical harm, and other embarrassments. Watching Stiller, the de facto poster boy for today’s emasculated society, go through the wringer is almost like therapy for the modern average male.

The family Greg wants to marry into is tight-knit and loving, only helping to make him feel all the more like an outsider. There’s also a bit of a class war to deal with as Greg faces the daunting challenge of impressing his girlfriend’s wealthy and talented social circles on their home turf, Oyster Bay, Long Island.

For example, Pam’s ex-fiancée, Kevin Rawley (Owen Wilson, Shanghai Noon, Armageddon), is the quintessential Golden Boy. He’s so perfect he’d make Martha Stewart blush with envy.

Kevin’s house is decorated with pictures of him and Pam together in their glory days: Swimming in the tropics, skiing, horseback riding, and even skydiving. He’s also a master craftsman, an artist at carving wood into beautiful objects, and he’s a wealthy, sensitive guy. In short, he’s every Ordinary Joe’s worst nightmare.

Taking a cue from Murphy’s Law, the story delights in seeing Greg suffer through everything that could possibly go wrong on a simple weekend trip. From water volleyball to a house afire, opportunities for slapstick are to be found at every turn.

But, after Greg paints himself into one outrageous corner after another (mostly because of his own good intentions), the movie finds its way back to matters of the heart. Too often romantic comedies turn sappy and pull on the heartstrings, but Meet the Parents manages to find a satisfying balance between heart and humor.

After a slow and (intentionally) awkward setup, the laughs start to flow more freely and the pace builds to a crescendo of hearty laughs. There are plenty of comedic set pieces along the way and most of the jokes work quite well, covering the gamut from milking cats on a Motown farm to what could be considered the last word on “potty humor”.

Thanks to smart casting and a desire to please as large an audience as possible, Meet the Parents hits enough laugh buttons to be considered a visit worth making.

Matthew Barney: No Restraint

***2007

An essential companion piece for anyone who feels like they didn’t get Drawing Restraint 9

By the time I had heard enough about artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney to be intrigued by his work, I had missed the chance to see it (Barney is notorious for not allowing his movies to be released on DVD.) So when Drawing Restraint 9 came to theaters, I jumped at the chance.

Chicago

****2002, Rob Marshall

Not a must-buy for owners of the original, but a better package than the previous release

Having debuted on DVD two years ago, Chicago blows in with a jazzed-up edition in time for holiday giving. The big question is: Why wasn’t this released two years ago, instead of the merely decent one-disc edition?