Quick Reviews: 'Bad Education', 'Color Out Of Space' | Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Nicolas Cage
As you do as a film fan in 2020, you make your way to any platform that offers a new release to watch since options are becoming more and more limited. Bad Education happened to make its way to HBO from Toronto International Film Festival and you kind of get why that is the case. These types of mid-budget dramas are an increasingly more usual sight on the streaming sites but the acting talent present does make you wish to have seen it in a theatre. Led by a ferocious leading showcase from the talented Hugh Jackman and a perceptive script from Mike Makowsky, the film keeps you enthralled despite the lower level of drama that we’re used to in the crime genre.
The whole runtime is filled with captivating demonstrations by the cast as no space is left untravelled in close quarters. Jackman especially gets several chances to shine as Frank Tassone like the tender moments with Kyle (Rafael Casal), teaching scenes with a student’s mom and when challenging the young student, Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan). You could pick out many names from the cast, including Allison Janney (as Frank's accomplice Pam), but Viswanathan and Ray Romano (Bob) might as well get a shout out for their efforts. Viswanathan’s Rachel is eventually the person who is leading the audience along for the ride and even when apparently fictionalised for the plot, it still works.
Makowsky’s script doesn’t reveal its cards until about halfway into the movie which keeps the perspective changes interesting during the first half. With every location it shows a little bit about Tassone’s personality but the script doesn’t just scream it at you, instead you as a viewer are trusted to figure it out. Director Cory Finley and editor Louise Ford clearly picked up on this in the editing room as the conversations and blocking have a natural rhythm in them. Bad Education comes out as a very enjoyable drama but you do feel at the end that it didn’t fulfil the potential of the corruption and selfishness to make things a bit more nail-biting.
Smileys: Hugh Jackman, screenplay, Geraldine Viswanathan, editing
Two fools for school.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE
I really need to be more careful about describing movies in the future since I thought 2018’s ‘Mandy’ was a weird Nicolas Cage-starring experience. With that said, Color Out Of Space from director and writer Richard Stanley was an extremely disorienting trip which was still in my mind when going to bed later. Didn’t really know what to make of it as you do with a film from time to time. It’s an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, which mixes his horror tricks with sci-fi tricks pretty seamlessly in a decent enough fashion until the very last moments.
The film makes a wise decision in that it builds up tension for quite a while. When dealing with something otherworldly, there aren’t any pre-existing rules so us, the viewers, don’t really know the characters’ relationships or the power of the impending doom. We’re mostly locked in at the farm where the Gardner family members (Cage as the dad, Joely Richardson as the mom, Madeleine Arthur as the daughter and Brendan Meyer as the son) reside. Arthur along with Elliot Knight, who plays the hydrologist Ward who’s investigating all the weirdness, get a lot to do here and they also have good chemistry in the small moments where their characters are together.
Some of the film’s weaknesses could be perhaps due to budgetary reasons and due to the fact that the adapted material is a short form one. Budget might affect the overall cinematography as the picture itself isn’t always the most dazzling one: there’s flatness in the contrast and shadows especially inside the house and some of the framing is a bit off at times when you kind of want to see a person in full but you only get them from chest up. Whereas the slow build-up to the utter alien madness is well done, the last third seems to drag on and on. Stanley clearly wanted to show every second of the SFX makeup, character outcome and colour explosions so that there’s even an ending monologue. Sometimes you just need to stop painting.
Smileys: Atmosphere, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight
Frowneys: Ending, cinematography
At least it commits to being absolutely mad, the worst thing would be to play it safe.