Today's DVDs: The Bad Seed and Other Scary Girls
The Bad Seed stars Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack and Eileen Heckart; Mervyn LeRoy directs.
The Setup: A psychological thriller, the 1956 classic The Bad Seed is the story a little girl, Rhoda (Patty McCormack), who seems to be perfect but as her mother (Nancy Kelly) finds out, she's actually the perfect little murder machine. As the bodies pile up around her, so does a growing suspicion by neighbors and friends, especially by the mother of a dead boy (Eileen Heckart)
The Execution: McCormack is a sheer delight as the chilling, conniving Rhoda. When a schoolmate wins a medal, Rhoda kills him and pockets the prize. Rhoda's still a preteen in pigtails, so her murdering skill set is limited and she makes the mistake of being seen with the boy just before his death. Naturally, accusations start flying.
Rhoda's mother, Christine, has a few secrets of her own. She's the daughter of a serial killer and is afraid she's passed on her bad genes to Rhoda. Christine starts adding up the evidence and eventually asks Rhoda about the boy's death. Rhoda calmly admits she killed the little boy for his medal.
In a desperate attempt to stop her serial-killer child, Christine gives Rhoda some "vitamins" (actually an overdose of sleeping medication) and tries to off herself as well. (The story doesn't end there, but if we tell you any more, we'll ruin the surprise.)
The film took home four Academy Award nominations (Best Actress for Kelly, Best Supporting Actress for both McCormack and Eileen Heckart, and Best Cinematography).Lucky
stars Colin Hanks, Ari Graynor and Ann-Margret; Gil Cates Jr. directs.
The Setup: Ben (Colin Hanks) wins the lottery and a fabulous new girlfriend, Lucy (Ari Graynor), all at the same time. Of course, Lucy is only after his money, but she gets a bit more than she bargained for -- Ben is a serial killer in the making.
The Execution: Director Gil Cates Jr.'s black comedy is quirky and off-beat. The premise is off-kilter, but Hanks's and Graynor's performances are right on the mark. As the office geek/serial killer, Hanks is appropriately bland and blank, making his homicidal responses all the more unexpected and interesting. While you might think it's Ben's girlfriend Lucy that qualifies as the scary girl, earning the film a spot on this list, it's actually Ann-Margret as Ben's wacko, overly protective mother who is scary. She's all soft smiles and kisses, eagerly supporting her son in everything he does, and completely blind to the fact that Ben went off the rails awhile ago.
stars Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston; Seth Gordon directs.
The Setup: Three office workers (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) have three horrible bosses (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell). After a few beers, the office workers decide to kill off their bosses and turn to a murder consultant. Think Strangers on a Train meets Throw Mama from the Train with some Tarantino thrown in for good measure.
The Execution: It's Jennifer Aniston who's the scary girl here. Her character is a dentist with wonton sexual desires that she's not above satisfying in the office. This is a crude comedy, but not a dumb one. The jokes concern bodily functions and sexual escapades, true. But director Seth Gordon throws in enough snarky, smartass attitude that the film manages to rise above its limited dialogue. There are some belly laughs, and some plot twists (especially why the much-abused trio don't just quit their jobs), and a cameo by comedian Bob Newhart.
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