Ann Ruark

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The Motel Life Review


Very Good

There's a lovely simplicity to this quietly unnerving story about two brothers who have never had a break in life. And while it is relentlessly grim, it's also elegantly well-made, held together by another revelatory performance from Emile Hirsch as a talented guy whose path has been dictated to him by forces outside his control.

The title refers to the way two brothers have lived since their mother died: in a sleazy motel just off the strip in Reno. Frank (Hirsch) has had to be the responsible one, moving from job to job to support his chaotic, disabled older brother Jerry Lee (Stephen Dorff). And now that Jerry Lee has been involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, Frank is trying to find a way to get out of town. He turns to his old car-dealer mentor (Kris Kristofferson) for advice and considers getting in touch with his ex Annie (Dakota Fanning), even though their relationship ended very badly. But first he hits the casinos to raise some cash with his pals (Joshua Leonard and Noah Harpster).

Sibling filmmakers Alan and Gabe Polsky give the movie a darkly introspective tone, taking us into Frank's thoughts through evocative flashbacks to the brothers' struggles as teens (played by Andrew Lee and Garrett Backstrom). And as Frank tells Jerry Lee stories to help him cope with life, these tales fill the screen in gorgeous sketch-style animation that matches Jerry Lee's artistic skills. All of this gives the film a quietly moving tone that finds spiky humour and emotional resonance when we least expect it.

Continue reading: The Motel Life Review

The Beaver Review


Very Good
While there are too many carefully constructed moments in this film, it's a remarkably effective mixture of dark drama and absurd comedy. This is surprising because the premise is more than a little ridiculous.

After a nervous breakdown, Walter (Gibson) is struggling to get back into his role as CEO of a toy company, husband to Meredith (Foster) and father to two boys, smart 17-year-old Porter (Yelchin) and curious young Henry (Stewart).

When Walter finds a beaver puppet, he has an epiphany, letting the beaver say what he's afraid to say. While this helps reinvigorate his business and adds a lively twist to his family life, it's not exactly a permanent solution.

Continue reading: The Beaver Review

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Ann Ruark Movies

The Motel Life Movie Review

The Motel Life Movie Review

There's a lovely simplicity to this quietly unnerving story about two brothers who have never...

The Beaver Movie Review

The Beaver Movie Review

While there are too many carefully constructed moments in this film, it's a remarkably effective...

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