PARANORMAN (2012) review – Halloween Special

Hey there, folks. Due to some personal matters, I’ll likely be taking a break from doing theatrical reviews for awhile. But because I am by my very nature, a writer, I can’t just not write. So in spirit of the encroaching holiday of Halloween, I have opted to use this month to write reviews of my favorite movies to watch this time of year, basically horror films, or Halloween-themed movies. For those of you that don’t know, I generally hate horror as a genre. Far too often the movies follow a very specific formula: stupid character making stupid decisions getting other stupid characters killed. By the day’s end, there’s nothing to invest in. It’s just gratuitous violence, which I’m not a fan of. It’s too cheap and easy. But for this month, I’ll be writing about the ones that I think break that formula and actually look like they gave a hoot about making a good movie, with good characters, good scares, and above all else, a good story. At least, for the horror films. Like I said, I’ll be touching on Halloween-themed films that could be for kids. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my opinions.

PARANORMAN

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE [2016], LET ME IN [2010], THE ROAD [2009], and the upcoming X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018]), Jodelie Ferland (BIGGER FATTER LIAR [2017], THE CABIN IN THE WOODS [2012], and CARRIE [2002]), Tucker Albrizzi (MONSTER TRUCKS [2017] and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED [2011]), and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (TROLLS [2016], PITCH PERFECT [2012], SUPERBAD [2007], and upcoming films THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017] and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 [2019]).

Support: Anna Kendrick (TABLE 19 [2017], THE ACCOUNTANT [2016], INTO THE WOODS [2014], and upcoming films PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017] and NICOLE [2019]), Casey Affleck (A GHOST STORY [2017], GONE BABY GONE [2007], and GOOD WILL HUNTING [1998]), Leslie Mann (THE COMEDIAN [2017], KNOCKED UP [2007], GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE [1997], and the upcoming THE PACT [2018]), John Goodman (VALERIAN [2017], EVAN ALMIGHTY [2007], THE BORROWERS [1997], and upcoming film CAPTIVE STATE [2018] and TV revival ROSANNE [2018]), and Alex Borstein (ANGRY BIRDS [2016], TED [2012], and TV show FAMILY GUY [1998 – ongoing]).

Directors: Christ Butler (directorial debut, and only directed project) and Sam Fell (THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX [2008] and FLUSHED AWAY [2006]). Writer: Chris Butler (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016]). Composer: Jon Brion (WILSON [2017], THE OTHER GUYS [2010], PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE [2002], and the upcoming LADY BIRD [2017]). Cinematographer: Tristan Oliver (LOVING VINCENT [2017], FANTASTIC MR. FOX [2009], CHICKEN RUN [2000], and the upcoming ISLE OF DOGS [2018]).

LAIKA has quickly become a popular name when it comes to animation. While claymation and stop motion similar to NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) aren’t exactly unheard of, they’re also not often done. But LAIKA has certainly made its career on that and they’ve certainly done a memorable job of it. From their debut in CORALINE (2009) and their most recent KUBO, they’ve done a wonderful job in creating worlds that feel surreal, dark, creepy, but overall touching and beautiful.

I actually never saw LAIKA’s second venture, PARANORMAN until later. I have no idea why, but when I finally did see it, it left a pretty decent impact on me. The story is about an eleven-year-old boy named Norman (voiced by Smit-McPhee), who sees dead people, pun intended. Thing is, while these spirits are benevolent, no one else sees them but him, and has a bit of a nasty habit of getting bullied at school and his parents being a little nasty about it. But then one day, his uncle, Mr. Penderghast (voiced by Goodman), is the only one who has the same gift and has spent decades keeping the ancient witch’s curse from wrecking terror on the town. But he dies and tries to convince Norman to take his place. But not given the best information, the witch comes back and wrecks that terror by unleashing her zombie horde.

The opening scene’s twist still takes me by surprise. As well as makes me laugh. The screaming woman and the brain stuck to her foot as she runs away from the zombie attacking her; priceless.

But more than that, this movie could almost be a spiritual successor to THE SIXTH SENSE (1999). What if Cole Sear ended up accepting his gift of seeing dead people and even embraced it? It’s a stretch in logic, sure, but it’s a fun comparison. Norman is a slightly mixed bag for me as a character. On the one hand, he is sympathetic and you feel for him for the way he’s treated. He’s a good kid and means well, doing his best to not make a scene. He’s a kid, so when it’s time for him to do something bigger than life, he’s scared, but he finds courage to do what’s necessary to save everyone, even if it means getting hurt, or worse. But my main issue with him is that he constantly tells people that he sees ghosts. At least, it’s implied that he does. Why does he do that? He’s eleven. He should be old enough by now to understand what adults will believe. At the very least, if they didn’t believe him the first time, he should be smart enough to know it won’t fly if he opens his yammer twice. Maybe if he was a few years younger, his behavior would have been more understandable, but as it is, it’s a little frustrating to watch.

The side characters are about on the same level too. Courtney (voiced by Kendrick) pretty much acts like a standard teenage girl who wants nothing to do with her brother. She does eventually go through a character arch of protecting Norman, but honestly, that arch kind of comes out of nowhere. Even when the zombies are attacking, she still treats Norman like he’s responsible for it. Never mind that zombies exist, which she barely has a reaction to, but she still treats Norman poorly, eventually abandoning him to his plan with dealing with the witch’s curse. It’s only when Norman figures everything out that she stands with him, but it happens pretty suddenly. Thank heavens this character is voiced by Kendrick, as she brings a charming energy to Courtney, otherwise I’d straight up dislike her.

Neil (voiced by Albrizzi) is mostly likable, being the only person that believes in Norman and what he can do, and does his very best to stand by him during the worst that the curse has to offer. My issue with him is that he is kind of a stereotype by constantly showing how obsessed he is with eating. And for every funny joke that he’s a part of, like refusing to leave Norman when the zombies attack in the town hall, but his muscular brother picks him up under his arm, he’s also part of an unfunny joke, like when he’s playing with the ghost of his dog and starts kissing his butt instead of his face. It’s… really strange how this pattern is repeated in the movie with the side characters.

So the characters are hits and misses. What’s legitimately good about the film. Almost exactly where it counts. For one, the animation, like all of LAIKA’s work, is spectacular. From the visuals, to the CG incorporated visuals, it’s all a wonder to behold. Norman’s home town bustles with activity and fills the streets with crowds. The yellow clouds that show glimpses of the witch’s face, those are particularly spooky and threatening and I never get tired of watching it. But above all else, my absolute favorite stuff comes from the witch herself.

***SPOILERS***

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Agatha, or Aggie (voiced by Ferland) brings home the emotional weight. Aggie was once just a little girl, but was accused for being a witch and was killed. But before her death, she placed a curse on the people that did her harm. The way she’s animated in her ghostly form is unbelievably unnerving, and is far more scary than half the things I’ve seen in legitimate horror films. An eerie yellow glow, electricity flying around, and constantly twitching like a glitch in video game graphics. Her face and the way it contorts, it’s all pretty frightening in its own right. But then you see her in her human form and you see a scared little girl who was just being a little girl and murdered for it. She was bullied, and she become angry, vengeful, wanted to hurt those that hurt her just as bad. She’s a victim who doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. You totally understand and empathize with Aggie. She was wronged. No one agrees with her causing chaos and destruction, but anyone can understand why she resorts to these measures. The way that she connects with Norman is the highlight of the film. In many ways, I would actually have preferred to see that she was calmed down and would come back in a possible sequel, but that would leave the ending less powerful and meaningful.

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***END SPOILERS***

This movie is absolutely wonderful to watch around Halloween. Sure, it’s got its flaws in the characters, but it’s got more than enough charm, likability, and great visuals and animation to make it worth a watch. It’s not just good enough for kids, it’s good enough for adults as well. It’s a little scary, but that’s all subjective, isn’t it. Some kids will watch this and be totally fine, others could possibly get nightmares. But as with all horror-type movies for kids, they should know that there is a happy ending and that it’s okay to be afraid. Hence the theme of the movie and the most poignant quote of the film. How did that go again, Grandma (voiced by Stritch): “There’s nothing wrong with being scared, so long as you don’t let it change who you are.”

My honest rating for PARANORMAN (2012): 4/5

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THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) review – Halloween Special

Hey there, folks. Due to some personal matters, I’ll likely be taking a break from doing theatrical reviews for awhile. But because I am by my very nature, a writer, I can’t just not write. So in spirit of the encroaching holiday of Halloween, I have opted to use this month to write reviews of my favorite movies to watch this time of year, basically horror films, or Halloween-themed movies. For those of you that don’t know, I generally hate horror as a genre. Far too often the movies follow a very specific formula: stupid character making stupid decisions getting other stupid characters killed. By the day’s end, there’s nothing to invest in. It’s just violence porn, which I’m not a fan of. It’s too cheap and easy. But for this month, I’ll be writing about the ones that I think break that formula and actually look like they gave a shit about making a good movie, with good characters, good scares, and above all else, a good story. At least, for the horror films. Like I said, I’ll be touching on Halloween-themed films that could be for kids. So sit back, relax, and enjoy my opinions.

CABIN IN THE WOODS:

Starring: Kristen Connolly (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD [2008], and TV shows ZOO [2015 – ongoing] and HOUSE OF CARDS [2013 – ongoing]), Chris Hemsworth (GHOSTBUSTERS [2016], THOR: THE DARK WORLD [2013], STAR TREK [2009], and upcoming films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Fran Kranz (THE DARK TOWER [2017], ORANGE COUNTY [2002], and TV show DOLLHOUSE [2009 – 2010]), Bradley Whitford (MEGAN LEAVEY [2017], THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS [2005], BILLY MADISON [1995], and GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]), and Richard Jenkins (KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017], THE KINGDOM [2007], THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD [1995], and the upcoming THE SHAPE OF THE WATER [2017]).

Support: Anna Hutchison (TV shows ANGER MANAGEMENT [2012 – 2014], SPARTACUS [2010 – 2013], and POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY [2008]), Jesse Williams (BAND AID [2017], THE BUTLER [2013], and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 [2008]), Brian White (12 ROUNDS [2009], BRICK [2005]. and TV show CHICAGO FIRE [2012 – ongoing]), Sigourney Weaver (A MONSTER CALLS [2016], HAPPILY N’EVER AFTER [2006], ALIEN: RESURRECTION [1997], and upcoming films THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES [2017] and AVATAR 2 [2020]), and popular mocap actor/stuntman, Terry Notary (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], THE INCREDIBLE HULK [2008], HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS [2000], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and an untitled Avengers movie [2019]).

Director: Drew Goddard (4 episodes of TV show THE GOOD PLACE [2016 – ongoing] and the upcoming X-FORCE, no release date announced). Writers: Drew Goddard (THE MARTIAN [2015], WORLD WAR Z [2013], CLOVERFIELD [2008], and the upcoming X-FORCE) and Joss Whedon (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [2015], SERENITY [2005], TOY STORY [1995], and upcoming films JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017] and BATGIRL, no release date announced). Composer: David Julyan (THE PRESTIGE [2006], THE DESCENT [2005], and MEMENTO [2000]). Cinematographer: Peter Deming (NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016], THE JACKET [2005], AUSTIN POWERS [1997], and the upcoming THE NEW MUTANTS [2018])

For those not in the know CABIN IN THE WOODS was actually a creation of Joss Whedon. Yes, the same Joss Whedon who gave us TV shows BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997 – 2003), FIREFLY (2002 – 2003), and films THE AVENGERS (2012) and AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON, and briefly took over filming for the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) and is slated to make a Batgirl movie that may or may not have anything to do with the DC Extended Universe. My point is, Whedon is one of the most celebrated names in Hollywood, for his smart stories, brilliant direction, creating some of the most kick-ass women on screen, he’s an all around icon in geek culture.

I bring this up because this is weirdly enough one of his films that got pushed to the wayside. Yeah, though I don’t know the full history, CABIN was originally made years before. Hell, I have a theory that the only reason it was released was because of the success of Marvel’s THOR (2011) and the popularity of Chris Hemsworth, whom is in this film. Kind of funny how things turned out. The common person is probably still looking at this title and wondering why they haven’t heard of it. If it had such big names attached, why aren’t more people talking about it? Well, the sad fact with Whedon is that many of his projects in the past, post-BUFFY and pre-AVENGERS, weren’t always given the best chances, likely due to marketing failure. FIREFLY, for example, is considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi TV shows of all time, but much like CABIN, not many people have heard of it, and seemingly fewer have seen it. So what does that usually mean? Popular, fresh, different, and amazing work that goes completely over mainstream becomes, what else, a cut classic. There’s plenty who talk about these slices of celluloid wonder. You just have to look for them. That was the case for FIREFLY, such is also the case for CABIN.

So what makes CABIN IN THE WOODS so special? Well, take a look at the trailer when this movie first came out.

 

Doesn’t seem too special, right? A generic horror film about a group of teenagers that get out of town to get high, get drunk, have sex, and an all around good time in a cabin in the woods. But then shit starts to get real and they start getting picked off, one by one. Yup, it’s about a generic as it looks, right?

HA!!! Fools, the lot of you!

The film lets you know exactly what kind of movie you’re really in for in its opening sequence, which is what threw off more than a couple people who saw this. It’s a comedy. A horror-comedy, one of my favorite mash-ups when it comes to the horror genre. The very first set of images we get are of ritual sacrifice from ancient civilizations and then cuts to a pair of business suit-wearing men, Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), who talk about their normal everyday lives combined with some ominous talk about something something or other. It’s a lot funnier than I’m making it sound.

Then we get right to the traditions of horror: the five victims of circumstance. Dana (Kristen Connolly), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Holden (Jesse Williams), and Marty (Fran Kranz). Though the difference here is that unlike most horror films, as generic as they appear, there is a likability to each of them. They’re written in such a way that you may not be able to talk about them very much, but they still have some charm to them. Marty is probably my favorite character, being a pothead and a conspiracy theorist, but he’s so damn funny and barely takes what he himself says seriously that I can’t help but laugh my ass off.

On the surface, the film is about a super secret organization that periodically must sacrifice at least four of five victims to giant ancient gods to keep them in their slumber. A slut, an athlete, a scholar, a fool, and the optional virgin. They lead the young people to this cabin in the woods and basically rig this system in a way that these young people choose how they die. How do they do that? By making them curious enough to go into the creepy basement and fiddle with a bunch of knickknacks that will ultimately trigger a horror that ultimately kills them, like, a conch shell will decide on a merman that will kill them, or a creepy journal that if read, will trigger a zombie torture family to kill them. Things like that. What’s hilarious is that the people in suits take bets on what will be the horror that the teens face. At this point, the teens must die in a specific way. The whore dies first, then the others, so long as the virgin is last. There’s also clichés that are played with. You know that age old “let’s split up, we can cover more ground that way” bullshit that even Scooby Doo made a career out of doing that? Well, this is addressed in brilliant way. At first, one of them will say that they should stick together at all costs. But then the guys in suits will release a tiny amount of gas that fucks with their brains and then that same teen will say, “On second thought, let’s split up.”

However, things go wrong when one of the deaths doesn’t happen as intended. Marty, the fool, was originally thought to be killed, but ended up surviving and accidentally stumbled upon an elevator that would them to the underground facility of the people that have been doing this to the teens. It’s here that they discover all sorts of horrors, the list of which is too great to go through. But eagle eyed fans of the video game franchise Left 4 Dead may notice a boomer, a tank, and a witch in the cubes. Upon entering, the organization desperately tries to nullify the situation by sending their own personal SWAT guys after them, but equally desperate to stay alive, Dana and Marty unleash the monsters upon the SWAT guys and it’s a shit load of gory fun, from giant snakes, giant a giant octopus, ghosts, and . They navigate to the heart of this facility and discover where the leader of this crap is, The Director, played amazingly by Sigourney Weaver, and basically reveals everything, only for her to die in a climactic fight and dooming the world to extinction because Marty was unwilling to die for humanity and Dana sorta failed at killing him. The gods rise up and the movie ends. Just like that.

Well, alright, that can sound like a bit of fun, right? But what makes it such a modern classic, aside from the video game and countless pop culture references, like THE EVIL DEAD (1981), which heavily influenced this set-up? Because it’s social commentary, specifically about horror fans who love the formula of bad and repetitive horror films. Really think about it. The Old Gods that are referenced in the movie represent those audiences who need that formula. See what’s happening? When you go to a horror movie like this, you expect the whore to die, you expect the asshole jock to die, and because these movies are bought and paid for so frequently with no wide-spread demand for diversity, these movies become “another day at the office,” getting the same ole routine down to appease you, the audience, that demands this formula, and any deviation or defiance of it results in y’all being angry and shunning it. The perfect example that I read about that the movie uses is in the line, “We haven’t had a glitch since ’98.” If it’s not too far off the mark, this line references the movie THE FACULTY (1998), in which none of the young people die by the end of the movie. And if I’m not mistaken, it wasn’t the best received by viewers.

But the fun-poking doesn’t stop there. I think the corporation represents the producers that finance these movies, as represented by the betting pool of what horror the teens will face and who makes the profit, and the teens represent the minority of audiences that want change, that want an overhaul of the system, but either succumb to the will and demands of those more powerful and in control, or die trying break the mold. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of what people can extrapolate and it’s a load of fun to read other opinions… except from those that didn’t like the film. Fuckin’ old gods. GO BACK TO SLEEP, YOU FORMULA-LOVING BASTARDS!!!

About the closet thing to a problem that I have with the movie is of the playful variety. Like, now that Whedon and Goddard have incepted this into my brain, you know what, you forward-thinking genius bastards, I want to see a merman killing spree! Fuck the sequel that people have been asking for- how would that even work, dumb-asses? – I want a prequel with the merman! If you can find a way to make space cowboys work, the you can make a god damned movie about a killer merman! Get on it, Whedon and Goddard, or I’ll… I’ll… bitch and moan online some more?

Overall, I think this is probably one of the best and most unique films of its class. It’s hilarious, it’s intelligent, it’s a brilliant love-letter and middle finger to the conventional. I say if you haven’t seen this film, you’re doing yourself a grand disservice. This is one of my favorite movies to revisit around Halloween, so get together with some buddies and have a magnificent time with it.

My honest rating for CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011): 5/5

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FRIEND REQUEST review

Ugh… do I have to? No, I actually don’t. But it’s only fitting after seeing two really good horror movies recently, one of them I can’t talk about until 2018, I was bound to get a stupid horror movie in the mix. We can’t go just one year without one, can we?

The movie looks like it’s about this popular girl who accepts a friend request from the school loner out of pity. But when she proves to be too much, miss popular unfriends her and loner girl kills herself on video and begins to haunt miss popular. So… haunted Facebook now. Hey, if we can have killer VHS tapes and a slew of silly Stephen King killing things, like cars and clowns, this doesn’t seem too out there. And wasn’t UNFRIENDED (2015) basically killer Skype? Whatever, it’s going to suck balls.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Alycia Debnam-Carey (INTO THE STORM [2014], and TV shows FEAR THE WALKING DEAD [2015 – ongoing] and THE 100 [2014 – ongoing]) and Liesl Ahlers, making her feature film debut. Congrats, miss. In support, we have William Moseley (CARRIE PILBY [2017], THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN [2008], and NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE [2005]), Connor Paolo (SNOW ANGELS [2007], WORLD TRADE CENTER [2006], and TV show REVENGE [2011 – 2015]), Brit Morgan (BEER FOR MY HORSES [2008], and TV shows SUPERGIRL [2015 – ongoing] and TRUE BLOOD [2008 – 2014]), and Sean Marquette (13 GOING ON 30 [2004], and TV shows THE GOLDBERGS [2013 – ongoing] and FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS [2004 – 2009]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Simon Verhoeven, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the script, and red flagging the film are two more writers: Matthew Ballen, making his feature film debut (Congrats, sir), and Philip Koch, known for unknown stuff. Co-composing the score are Gary Go, known for unknown stuff, and Martin Todsharow, known for German films. Finally, the cinematographer is Jo Heim, known for foreign and unknown stuff, but more or less, this seems to be a reunion for most of the crew.

Overall… no. No, I am not looking forward to this flick.

This is my honest opinion of: FRIEND REQUEST

(SUMMARY)

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular college girl, especially on Facebook. Marina (Liesl Ahlers) is not. But after sending Laura a friend request, Laura attempts to be nice and accepts. But in her attempts in hanging out with the social outcast, Marina becomes a little too attached, eventually causing Laura to delete Marina from her friends list. This doesn’t bode well because Marina, in a fit of rage, commits suicide on her laptop, blaming Laura. But the sad turn of events turns supernatural as something keeps hacking into Laura’s profile, spreading the suicide video. But it doesn’t take long for Laura to figure out that Marina is still around, and when Laura’s friends start dying around her, she fights to find a way to stop Marina from killing anyone else.

(REVIEW)

Ugh… it’s about as bad as I thought. What can you possibly say about a movie like this? It’s killer Facebook. I love the backstory to the making the title of the movie. Originally, the title was supposed to be “Unknown Error,” but was changed to “Friend Request” to avoid confusion with the film, UNFRIENDED (2015). HA! Hell of a backfire on that one, marketing team! I think anyone would actually assume “Friend Request” was a prequel to “Unfriended” considering that a friend request comes before unfriending, so technically, “Unknown Error” would have been a significantly improved and less confusing title.

But hey, what’s in a title so long as the movie is good. After all, what’s a Shawshank and how do you redeem it, right? Well… this movie isn’t good. It’s bad. Like, this should have been released in January, bad. What’s so bad about it? Well, it’s boring! Like, it’s that kind of bad movie. It’s not even entertaining. It takes itself 100 percent seriously and that takes me 100 percent out of it.

So I’m just going to go down my notes and see what I can shovel out.

First off, of course this movie follows a young woman who might as well have a halo over head considering how much of a boring good girl that she is. She almost too perfect and has no flaws in her character, but not in an interesting kind of way. But what makes her character so strange is that she’s surrounded by friends who are downright bitches. They’re judgmental and never pull any punches on saying out loud how much of a “freak” Marina is. And like I said, Perfect Laura is so perfect that she looks at Marina with pity. How does someone like that become friends with people like that. I had friends in the past who made a seriously notorious habit of talking down on other people who weren’t in the same room and didn’t deserve to be talked about that way, so do you think I’m still friends with those people? Hell no! I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life, bro!

The closest thing to a redemption that this movie has, and I’m being unquantifiably generous with that word, when we’re shown Marina’s Facebook page and it’s full of dark and creepy animations. First of all, the layout of the animations is more akin to Myspace rather than Facebook. And second, I think I would rather have watched those animations for ninety minutes than to watch the rest of the movie. I was sure as shit more creeped out by them than anything in this flick.

What’s really apparent about the film is that it doesn’t feature characters. No, “characters” would imply that they have personalities and we, the audience, can find something to identify with to make us not want to see anything bad happen to them. But instead, we’re blessed with… how else would I be able to put it, roles. Just… roles. You need a protagonist to not hate, make her too perfect for no reason. Need bodies to fill a kill count? Throw in some jerk or quirky people; the judgmental friends, of which none are really distinguished in personality, other than, one’s a hot blond, one’s a hot guy, another’s plus sized, one’s a tech nerd, and the other is the fat girl’s boyfriend. Each of them is unlikable, and act more like middle schoolers rather than college kids, so you can already guess who’s going to die and probably not be too far off the money. And because all they ever do is freak out, you never care who gets axed off, so there’s no investment. Maybe if the kills were creative, like a Final Destination movie, or some shit, but no. That’s never the case here. The closest character that gets any real development is Marina, but even her backstory has been done before, so she’s not very memorable either.

But if there’s any character in this bunch that feels even more outlandish than Marina, it would have to be Kobe (Connor Paolo), who somehow figures out that Marina’s supernatural powers are a result of witchcraft. And how does he figure this out? He, “looked it up.” Oh ho! Right, how do you think that series of Google searches went? And how would he think to look up witchcraft in the first place?! Let’s pretend for five seconds that I even believed he simply stumbled upon this information, which the movie seems to imply, Kobe quickly becomes an expert on everything relating to Marina’s abilities. What?! Piss off with that shit! What a contrived way to explain these hauntings to the audience! Nobody cares!

I’m not going to lie, at some point, the movie became so boring that I just became fed up with trying to write notes and decided to just wade on through it and it never really improved.

Now, I do give this movie a slight bit of credit. I can see how a good movie could be made from this. The concept is the ghostly monster is targeting the protagonist, but not to kill her, but rather the people around her. There’s actually something to that idea. More often than not, the final girl is just lucky enough- and by “lucky,” I mean predictably – to have not been killed long enough to manage to figure out how to beat the ghost. There’s is a sense of helplessness that could have been utilized as this young woman watches her family and friends die around her and she can’t do anything to stop it. Yeah, okay, there’s something to all that. But here’s the problem. It’s all a little too millennial about it. If the characters were written to be a little more realistically, like adults rather than teenagers, then I might have been more invested. If the kills were more creative, it might have been more enjoyable. But what we’re given, it’s not executed very well, and I didn’t care for it.

Overall, I can’t say it’s the worst thing ever. I wasn’t offended by anything, it’s just standard bad horror. Tropes all over the place, pointless jump scares, imagery that tries way too hard to be disturbing and only succeeds in being silly, there’s just nothing to the flick. My recommendation, it’s hard pass. I don’t recommend it in theaters, and don’t recommend it as a rental. If you get a friend request from this, reject it like you would a creepy stalker.

My honest rating for FRIEND REQUEST: 2/5

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FLATLINERS (2017) review

This is actually a particularly special review because it’s for a movie that I’m seeing as a early release. No, not like a soft opening on Thursday at seven o’clock PM, but rather a screening not open to the public, possibly to garner some early buzz and get a general opinion of what the movie needs work on, that sort of thing. It’s the first I’m going to without chaperoning a friend. It’s also likely this review will be sitting in my shelf for awhile before I’m allowed to talk about it here, due to nondisclosure agreement I’m sure I’ll be signing, but a free movie is a free movie if you ask me.

This is actually news to me, this movie is a sequel. Yeah, for those like me who don’t know, this is a sequel to a 1990 film also called FLATLINERS, which starred Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon. As I understand it, it wasn’t a great film, but it had some merit to it. Of course, I’ve never heard of it, but depending how this turns out, I might see it online somewhere for shits and giggles.

This movie looks like it’s about this group of young doctors who have found a way to kill themselves for a few minutes, but come back from death as something of a next level thrill for them. As they chance longer sessions with death, weird shit starts happening and is possibly trying to kill them. Maybe it’s just the way that this movie is presenting it, but I’m half expecting the first half of the movie to be about these people having a joyous time with dying and coming back to life and it’ll only be in the second half where the movie takes it’s supposed horror toll. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m getting out of it. I’m not expecting anything amazing, but I do like the cast.

Speaking of which. Starring, we have Ellen Page (MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI [2017], TALLULAH [2016], and JUNO [2007]), James Norton (BELLE [2013], RUSH [2013], and video game DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION [2014]), Nina Dobrev (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE [2017], LET’S BE COPS [2014], and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES [2009 – 2017]), Diego Luna (THE BAD BATCH [2017], ROGUE ONE [2016], and THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014]), and Kiersey Clemons (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING [2016], DOPE [2015], and upcoming DC films JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017] and FLASHPOINT [2020]). In support, we have Kiefer Sutherland (MONSTERS VS. ALIENS [2009], PHONE BOOTH [2002], and STAND BY ME [1986]), Madison Brydges (making her feature film debut; congrats, miss), and Anna Arden (making her feature film debut; congrats, miss).

Now for the crew. Directing is Niels Arden Oplev, known for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) and the pilot episode of UNDER THE DOME (2013 – 2015). Penning the screenplay is Ben Ripley, known for SOURCE CODE (2011), SPECIES: THE AWAKENING (2007), SPECIES III (2004), and the upcoming SOURCE CODE 2, no release date announced. Composing the score is Nathan Barr, known for THE BOY NEXT DOOR (2015), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010), and TV show THE AMERICANS (2013 – ongoing). Finally, the cinematographer is Eric Kress, known for COLOSSAL (2017) and TAKEN 3 (2014).

Overall, I think I’m more excited that this is a private screening and that I’m seeing it a month ahead of schedule. The actual movie itself… eh, I guess I’m about to find out.

This is my honest opinion of: FLATLINERS (2017)

(SUMMARY)

The story follows five young medical students named Courtney (Ellen Page), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Ray (Diego Luna), Jamie (James Norton), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons). One day, Courtney recruits them into an off-the-books experiment that she’s been eager to try. The experiment: map and document what happens in the brain in the final minutes of a person’s death and bring them back, recording what the experience is like. Essentially: kill herself, bring her back, and share. The process is imperfect, but successful and Courtney develops a new love for life, and one by one, the others flatline too in order to know the experience. Unfortunately, strange things begin to happen. They start to see people that aren’t there and as time progresses, the unseen malevolence begins to threaten them more directly.

(REVIEW)

Yeah, this is about what I expected. Not good.

Well, let’s get the positives out of the way. First off, the acting is great. Page is amazing as per usual, Diego and Clemons bring likability to their characters, and Sutherland steals the show in every scene he’s in, it’s all pretty solid in that department. There’s energy to their performances, and you certainly want to like the characters. Despite the few scares this movie brings, some are pretty effective. There’s this scene with Jamie on his boat and he’s scrambling to find the source of the crying baby that he’s hearing. He opens a compartment in one of his seats, or whatever, and there’s a blanket there with some ghostly baby movements. Jamie picks up the blanket in that same shot, but nothing’s under it. It’s pretty well-done effect and leaves a bit of a chill. But then right after, without a sound effect or a “chun” from the score, a dark figure appears in the corner of the screen, staring at Jamie who is unaware of the figure behind him. The moment is refreshingly silent and leaves you with a skin-crawling feeling that I absolutely enjoyed. And there is a bit of well-done tension in the film too, specifically within the moments when they’re trying to resuscitate the flatliner. It’s here where the acting really shines and everyone’s scrambling to figure out what to do, what the proper course of action to take is, and because they’re only students, they’re constantly correcting each other while under serious pressure and time strain. It’s nothing new, of course, but when it’s done right, a hat tilt is necessary.

But the positives end there and I have no idea where to begin with the problems I have with this movie.

First of all, I’m not clear on what genre of horror this is. Is it psychological? Supernatural? Even the movie doesn’t seem to care what it is. If you saw this movie, a majority of it presents itself like a psychological horror. This is fine. Psychological horror films, when done right, can leave a huge impact on movie-goers. But here’s the problem, there’s a couple moments in the film that indicate that it’s a supernatural horror because we’re shown glimpses of a dark figure that stalks the main characters. Already, that ruins the psychological aspects. So, fine, it’s a supernatural horror. This doesn’t make much sense either because the dark entity makes no sense.

In the best monster flicks, even the monsters have some kind of motivation, a purpose to their being there. In a sense, they’re another character to the story, just with malicious actions. Jason Voorhees seeks vengeance for the cruelty wrought upon him when he was a child. Freddy Kruegar wants revenge on the kids whose parents killed him. Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray wants to implant his soul in a child so he doesn’t stay trapped in a doll’s body. The motivations are there. So what’s the story with this entity?

***SPOILERS***

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If “you can’t cheat death” then is this just a Final Destination type thing? If so, I better find originality in the trashcan, and what’s taking it so long to kill these people? It has ample opportunity to kill both Jamie and Marlo, so why doesn’t it?

By the end of the film, we learn that in order to beat this malevolent force, the flatliners have to face the source of their guilt that kills them. Jamie has to apologize to the woman that he abandoned after getting her pregnant and not being by her side at the abortion clinic, Marlo has to accept the ruination of her medical career after being directly responsible for killing a man because of a horrible mistake she made and then falsifying the autopsy report to save her ass, and Sophia needs to apologize to the girl whose phone she hacked and spread around her nude pictures to the class so she could get expelled and she be at the top of her class, quite possibly doing irreparable damage to her future. Okay, there’s potential there. Here’s a list of several problems as to why this doesn’t work. For one thing, they learn how to beat this force because of a deus ex machina: Marlo is about to be consumed by the darkness before the deceased Courtney appears and tells her how to beat it. Okay, we’ve never been privy to the notion that when you die, you can interact with other dead people. But more than that, there has never been any indication to these characters that this is the solution to their problems. Because the movie knows this, a resolution had to be shoehorned in, so this is contrived and loaded with bullshit.

If the dark force is trying to warn them, “Fess up to your crimes, or I’ll kill you,” then, A, why doesn’t it just say that? And B, why is Courtney singled out as the character that must die? I definitely didn’t understand this. The whole point behind these… “hauntings,” or “visions,” whatever they are is to hint at them to face their guilt. Courtney gets a little screwed over and not in a sensible way. How can she apologize for her actions to her kid sister if she’s dead? If everyone else has a chance to set things right, how was she able to do so? And what made Courtney the one that had to die? If anyone deserved to die, it’d be Marlo. She’s the one who is directly responsible for killing a man when she had proper medical training, but screwed up because she was too tired AND THEN LIED about the results in the paperwork, essentially lying to the man’s possible family and friends just to save her career, making her the least likable character in the film. Even if she decided to go to her superiors and confess, the movie basically says that she doesn’t go to jail, but rather just implies that she can’t be a doctor anymore, which is a load of crap compared to everyone else who’s just done shitty things, but are clearly not shitty people, unlike Marlo who is. Courtney looked at her phone while driving. Careless and stupid, absolutely, but she’s not an asshole for her actions.

Speaking of motivations, the characters’ motivations are absolutely boggled too. When we’re introduced to Courtney’s experiment, she claims it’s all in the name of science. While we later learn that she’s trying to make contact with her dead sister… I assume… but when she comes back from the dead, she suddenly starts partying up, getting drunk, dancing, all that shit. Glad to see “making contact with my dead sister for closure” is so high in her list of priorities. What do you think? In the top ten somewhere? Top twenty? They only ever look at the science stuff once. After that, the whole thing is just about the thrill of dying and living life to the fullest before the dangerous shit starts up. Where’s the pursuit of science?! And this is where the movie could have grown a serious brain. Like, what does proof of the afterlife mean for science, for religion, the dangers of sharing this information with the world, this could have been a highly intellectual film, but no, it becomes a borderline college frat party movie.

Even worse, these are probably the dumbest scientists that I’ve seen in a movie in a long time (I know, they’re doctors, but when they conduct experiments that don’t really apply to the field of medical pursuit, they’re scientists, not doctors.). Why? Even a sixth grader would know that any scientist with their tits and balls records everything when conducting experiments. The successes and the failures. The failures are just as important to the pursuit of knowledge as they give you clues to where you went wrong, or what needs to be explored further, or to come to the realization that it’s a dead end and needs to be scrapped. I don’t know, but when you’re conducting experiments on documenting the afterlife, if you start seeing creepy shit and it starts screwing with you, you have to tell your fellow scientists! Because, you know, if they want to try it, the risks need to be made known to them! But no, that’s not what either Courtney or Jaime do for Marlo and Sophia. They just let the supernatural shit happen to them and not tell a single person until everyone’s in deep and their lives are threatened. Great job, you dumb-shits!

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this is a pretty bad flick. It had some serious potential to be much smarter and poignant, but instead it submits to the norm of stupid characters making stupid decisions, giving the audience little to invest in. The acting elevates it from most of the cast, some of the visuals worked in creeping me out, and it was a gripping idea. But the execution is beyond flawed. Unfocused, loaded with tropes, and terrible writing, it’s a mess of a film. I don’t recommend this to anyone, even horror fans. I can’t imagine this legitimately scaring anyone. I don’t even recommend it as a rental. If it comes out on Netflix and there’s nothing else to watch… I don’t know, there’s still better stuff to invest in.

My honest rating for FLATLINERS (2017): a weak 3/5

flatliners-poster

MOTHER! review

I don’t know how I feel about this movie. It looks interesting, but I’m on the fence on whether or not it actually is. I only say this because I’m not entirely sure what this movie’s about. Maybe I’ve only seen one trailer, but it’s not entirely easy to understand.

The story looks like it’s about this married couple and their peaceful, quiet life is suddenly interrupted when some house guests arrive who are shady as hell. I guess they’re there for the husband, but the wife ends up getting attacked or something. I have no idea what’s going on. It looks and feels disturbing, but because I can’t grasp what this is about, I can’t say I’m overly thrilled.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jennifer Lawrence (PASSENGERS [2016], SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK [2012], WINTER’S BONE [2010], and the upcoming X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018]) and Javier Bardem (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES [2017], SKYFALL [2012], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], and the upcoming BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN [2019]). In support, we have Ed Harris (RULES DON’T APPLY [2016], RADIO [2003], THE ROCK [1996], and the upcoming GEOSTORM [2017]), Michelle Pfeiffer (THE FAMILY [2013], STARDUST [2007], BATMAN RETURNS [1992], and upcoming films MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017] and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]), Domhnall Gleeson (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], EX-MACHINA [2015], TRUE GRIT [2010], and upcoming films AMERICAN MADE [2017] and STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017]), Brian Gleeson (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], ASSASSIN’S CREED [2016], and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN [2012]), and Kristen Wiig (DESPICABLE ME 3 [2017], BRIDESMAIDS [2011], KNOCKED UP [2007], and upcoming films HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 [2019] and TONI ERDMANN, no release date announced). Umm… I’m getting the feeling that this is a dark comedy.

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Darren Aronofsky, known for NOAH (2014), THE FOUNTAIN (2006), and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000). Composing the score is… oh, no one. This movie doesn’t have a score. Hmm… news. Then we’ll wrap this up with the cinematographer, who is Matthew Libatique, who is known for THE CIRCLE (2017), IRON MAN (2008), PHONE BOOTH (2002), and the upcoming A STAR IS BORN (2018).

Overall, I’m interested, but not particularly excited. I’m hoping it’ll be a trip.

This is my honest opinion of: MOTHER!

(SUMMARY)

The story follows a husband (Javier Bardem), who is a writer poet amidst a terrible writer’s block, and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence), who is a loving wife. They enjoy their peaceful and quiet life as he struggles to find inspiration to write and she attempts to fix their home after a burning years ago. However, their tranquil life is upended when a strange man, a doctor (Ed Harris), pays them a visit thinking their home was a bed and breakfast. The husband invites him to stay in their home, against his wife’s wishes, but concedes to the hospitality. But before long, more people come into their home and chaos ensues, involving murder, theft, and cults.

(REVIEW)

UUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would honestly have rather watched THE EMOJI MOVIE. Not one shred of that statement was sarcasm. This is one of the worst films I’ve seen all year.

It’s probably best to mention a little something before anyone sees this. Aronofsky has stated that this movie’s story is based on dream logic and has basically admitted that if you try to figure it out, or try to find any explanation, or expect an explanation, then the movie will not be as enjoyable. Here’s the thing about that, though. I doubt a majority of the audiences seeing this movie are doing their homework and are going into this film equipped with that nugget of knowledge. So without truly knowing how to prepare for what they’re in for, then you’ll get someone like me and a majority of the audience I went in with: hating it.

The movie starts off with a confusing first impression, likely trying to forewarn you of how bad it is, by setting itself on fire. I should have ran out of the theater right then and there, but I’ve sat through terrible films before, so I wasn’t about to start.

After the torching scene, it doesn’t start terrible, I guess… unless you realize that Aronofsky has a fetish for Lawrence’s boobs. One of the first shots of her is a painfully obvious “nipple poking through her see-thru top” shot. They hold on this shot too, as if purposely drawing attention to them. But fine, I’m a pig who’s just staring, right? Women don’t need to wear bras in the comfort of their own homes. It just adds to the raw realism of home-life, I guess. But when I’m looking around for someone, I’m not standing awkwardly in the doorway, I’m walking down the halls, physically looking in the rooms. Fine, she does that eventually, but again, all after an obvious shot of her areolas poking through her top. Oh, and you do get a brief glimpse at… everything toward the end. While I know it’s not for titillation or anything, but I couldn’t help but think to myself… Hey, Seth MacFarlane! All you had to do was wait a few years! And I’m not talking about the hacked phone fiasco, so shut up.

But let’s face it, if Lawrence’s boobs were the worst part of this movie, I’d say this was a downright poetic film. Instead, because they’re probably the best part of the movie, that should speak volumes about how bad this movie is because from this point on, the movie is pure frustration. A doctor comes to their home thinking that they’re a bed and breakfast. That’s… a leap because the house looks like a house. An expensive house, sure, but I think you’d have to be a particularly special kind of stupid to think it to be a hotel in the literal middle of nowhere! Fine if you want to invite the man in, I guess there are some people who are that hospitable to let strangers into their homes, but nothing excuses anything from this point on. Bardem invites the doctor to sleep in their home. Yes, a man they’ve know for less than ten minutes is invited to stay in their home. Only Lawrence is befuddled by this and for good fucking reason. Bardem must be on some seriously awesome drugs to be so okay with making decisions without consulting his wife, and to use the excuse, “he has nowhere else to go” is a frustrating excuse. First of all, bullshit. They may be miles away from any city, but any city would have a motel to stay in. Send him on his way, he’ll be fine and Lawrence is just bending over backwards with it. Not once does she speak her mind to Bardem. He completely ignores her, or completely oblivious to her feelings. You tell me which is worse.

The next day, the doctor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears and is suddenly allowed to stay as well. This woman is beyond intrusive, drinking Lawrence’s booze, judging the way she’s fixing up the house, and demanding to see inside Bardem’s private study, where no one is allowed, and even has the audacity to tell her that she should have children. Um… fuck you too, bitch. Of course, at some point, the doctor and his wife go into the study anyway and poke around at his priceless jewelry, which of course is dropped, but the amazing thing is that the wife thinks “I’m sorry” is enough to be forgiven, even as Lawrence is kicking them out of the house. Then the doctor and his wife start to have sex, which… yeah, they’re being kicked out, supposed to be packing their bags, but instead get frisky. Lawrence walks in on that, by the way, and walks away to give them privacy.

That’s all this movie is: people coming into her house unannounced and uninvited. Bardem is happy to have them in for no reason at all, and Lawrence barely does anything to assert herself. She never calls the police, she never argues with her husband, and she never leaves him. Even when she does all these things, it’s never until much later in the film where the actions mean very little, and the lack of success that she has with each of these is remarkably forced in how they don’t work. She calls the police, the phone is ripped off the wall by a crazy person. The situation spirals out of control, culminating in the formation of a cult formed after Bardem wrote a really good poem.

***SPOILERS***

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Now in order to properly complain about this, I have to dive into the deep end of spoiler territory. This is going to hurt me.

We learn that the reason why Bardem has been so open to everyone in to his house is because he “wants to breathe new life into this house.” Um… when was this a thing in his personality? As far as we learned, he was just a writer deep in writer’s block. Nothing about him seemed like he was lonely and just wanted more friends. And even if that was the case, writers are allowed to go into town and find social settings to make new friends in. There’s no reason to invite strangers into the house where your wife is and you’re pretty isolated from society in the off chance that your “friends” turn out to be homicidal crazies. On the flip-side of that coin, if the idea is to have a child, then you’d ought to understand that this is a process that you can’t rush. Can Lawrence even have a child? Are you? Maybe you’ve simply been unlucky up to this point, as we do learn that Lawrence does eventually get pregnant with his child. So hold your damn horses!

See what’s happening? I’m drawing conclusions and trying to figure things out because the movie is offering something that the audience is supposed to figure out. And yet, we’re not supposed to think about it too much, but the movie is giving us something to think about. We’re not supposed to expect an explanation for anything that’s happening, but an explanation is given anyway. You see the problem?!

You know what I think this movie was trying to be? A visual fantasia. What’s that, you may ask? It’s a word I made up, but here’s the context. Disney’s FANTASIA (1940) is where my phrase is derived from. FANTASIA is a collage of short animation films. It’s not a documentary, but it’s not story based in the way that everyone understands it. Some of the shorts have stories, like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and others are just an exercise of beautiful animation mixed with classic music, like “A Night on Bald Mountain.” That’s explained from the very beginning. So when I say something like a “visual fantasia,” I mean that the movie in question exists just to experiment with visuals. It’s not about story. It’s not trying to have a story. It’s ocular appreciation, nothing more.

That’s what I think Aronofsky was trying to go for. He was going for disturbing imagery, and he’s got that in spades here to be sure. Lawrence gives birth to a baby, the baby is given to a cult, the baby’s neck is broken, it’s butchered and eaten, Lawrence is beaten after murdering those responsible and her clothes torn in the process, eventually resulting in her setting the house on fire. But where Aronofsky loses me is when context is given to everything. There’s clearly a story that he wants to tell in addition to the imagery, or maybe he didn’t want to initially and the studio made him include a story so that there’s something commercial about it. I won’t pretend to know, but that’s what I’m taking away from this. Whether or not his vision was tampered with, this movie makes no sense.

And that ending. Lawrence lights herself on fire, having enough of the shit she’s endured, causing the house to explode, Bardem is 100 percent okay, Lawrence is charred extra well done, and Bardem rips out her heart jewel, or whatever the fuck, and then a different actress wakes up, but in the exact same fashion as Lawrence. The exact same movements, lines, turning of the head, I don’t get it! I really fucking don’t! Was all this a DALLAS (1978 – 1991) reference? It was all a dream? Or maybe MEMENTO (2000)? Does Bardem get himself hitched every few years, get himself a baby to sacrifice, and his cult returns to drive his latest squeeze insane to get her heart jewel?! What the fuck?!

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***END SPOILERS

Seriously, what are audiences supposed to take away from this?! Was this supposed to be a trippy ride? It was a trip, but not a pleasant one, or certainly a thought-provoking one. Fine, my brain isn’t calibrated to understanding fucked up shit. If you saw this and took something away that was smart, bold, and forward-thinking, then sweet. Good for you. Enlighten the rest of us, if you don’t mind. In the mean time, save yourself your own psychological meltdown and avoid this movie!

My honest rating for MOTHER!: 1/5

mother!poster

IT (2017) review

Oh wow, two Stephen King stories in the span of a month. When you’ve got popular work, you’ve got popular work.

Outside of Youtube’s Nostalgia Critic and his review of IT (1990), I’ve actually never seen the original. Is there any point in mentioning that I never read the book? I do know that the original movie is considered pretty scary according to many. But from what I saw of Nostalgia Critic’s review, the movie looks incredibly silly and very much not scary. What, a clown with sharp teeth and that immediately equals scary? I don’t think that’s how it works. But fine, I haven’t seen it, what do I know?

The movie looks like it’s about the group of kids who live in a town where there’s been some mysterious deaths of some local kids. One of them was the younger brother of one of the kids. Now, this monster clown that is responsible for those deaths, and now is after these kids who are getting closer to the truth. A while ago, I forget which movie it was playing in front of, but I saw a five minute scene of the movie where Georgie meets Pennywise. I couldn’t take what I was watching seriously. It looked funny and probably not intentionally. At the very least, I wasn’t scared by what I was watching. So, no, I think this movie is going to be loaded with jump scares, but nothing actually scary.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Bill Skarsgård (ATOMIC BLONDE [2017], ALLEGIANT [2016], ANNA KARENINA [2012], and the upcoming ASCENDANT, no release date announced), Jaeden Lieberher (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], MIDNIGHT SPECIAL [2016], and ST. VINCENT [2014]), Jeremy Ray Taylor (upcoming film GEOSTORM [2017]), Sophia Lillis (unknown projects), and Finn Wolfhard (TV show STRANGER THINGS [2016 – ongoing] and the upcoming TV show CARMEN SANDIEGO [2019]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Andy Muschietti, known for MAMA (2013) and the upcoming SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS, no release date announced. Red flag! Three credited writers: Chase Palmer (a couple of short films), Cary Fukunaga (BEASTS OF NO NATION [2015]), and Gary Dauberman (ANNABELLE: CREATION [2017], WOLVES AT THE DOOR [2016], ANNABELLE [2014], and the upcoming THE NUN [2018]). Composing the score is Benjamin Wallfisch, known for ANNABELLE: CREATION, HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), LIGHTS OUT (2016), and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Chung-hoon Chung, known for THE HANDMAIDEN (2016), ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015), and OLDBOY (2003).

Overall, I can’t claim to be excited for this, but early ratings seem to be praising it, so it must be doing something right.

This is my honest opinion of: IT (2017)

(SUMMARY)

Set in Derry, Maine, circa 1989, where the disappearance of kids is becoming normal. The story follows a group of young kids who call themselves “The Losers Club.” Their unofficial leader, the stuttering Bill (Jaeden Leiberher), sent out his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) with a paper boat. Unfortunately, it was too fast and fell down a drain, where Georgie was met with an evil looking clown named Pennywise (Bill Scarsgård), who drags him away. Months go by and though still officially considered missing, Bill’s family thinks him dead. But more disappearances occur and the Losers begin to investigate the supernatural as well as facing their personal fears.

(REVIEW)

I’m not sure if I agree with all the critical praise, but this is one of the better horror films that I’ve seen this year.

Let’s start with the creature IT…self, Pennywise. See what I did there? Laugh, damn it! Unlike one of my friends that I saw this with, I thought this Pennywise was a little more threatening than the Curry version. Don’t get me wrong, Curry is an amazing actor and his turn as Pennywise is no exception. But other than his performance being campy, I appreciated the interpretation here more. In terms of the original, Pennywise seemed like he was an actual guy who turned into a creature. He spoke and acted like a creepy child stalker, which I’m sure was the point. But here, the way he talks, his physicality, the way he looks at things, he seems much more like a creature trying to be a person. Here’s what I mean. When Pennywise first meets Georgie, it almost looks like he’s coming up with his name right there and then. His dialog goes something like, “Who am I? Well I’m… Pennywise. The dancing clown. That’s it.” Imitating the sound of popcorn, you clearly get the sense that he’s not human. With Curry, you know he’s not human, but his initial appearance is very human-like. Maybe this is a ploy to make him more deceiving, so I can understand if the original interpretation is preferable, but I enjoyed the idea that the monster doesn’t know how to be human, it just acts like it does.

But is Pennywise actually scary? Eh, probably not. I think true horror is always going to be psychological, never through jump scares. And while there are plenty of jump scares, Pennywise himself isn’t always scary. Sure, the notion that he can get to them wherever they are in whatever form can be pretty unsettling, but overall, not all that scary. Having said that, there is one form that Pennywise makes that kept from sleeping soundly that night: the distorted woman painting. Anything involving abnormally shaped people will do that to me. Let’s see how long it haunts me. Actually, there’s even a scene where I kind of find Pennywise cool. You’ve likely seen the trailer with the projector projecting images by itself, eventually showing Pennywise, but this scene has him popping out of the screen in a giant form, monstrously trying to attack the kids. I was less intimidated and more thinking to myself where the Power Rangers were.

How about the kids? Well, there’s a few too many to go through, so I’ll just mention a few standouts. Leiberher as Bill is definitely one of my favorites. He has so much more emotion to work with. Wrestling with guilt over not wanting to spend time with his little brother, who ultimately gets killed and could have possibly prevented it. Desperately searching for any sign of his survival, trying to keep the Losers together, his budding feelings for Beverly, I just think the kid runs a serious gauntlet of emotions that ultimately make him the best character and Leiberher does a fantastic job. But if there’s anyone that gave him a run for his money, it was Lillis. Playing a fairly traumatized young girl who has been sexually assaulted by her own father, Lillis is hauntingly amazing as any time she’s around her dad, she is paralyzed with fear. Eyes widened, hell, it barely looks like she’s breathing. So it’s no wonder that she’s taken up smoking and doesn’t argue her slut-shaming reputation at school. She’s also the first to head into danger and the first to lend a helping hand. By all accounts, she might be the best character in the movie. Wolfhard as Richie was also pretty entertaining as the trashtalker. While I do think there’s times where he should have been punched in the face just so the movie would be a little more quiet, he’s still a ray of entertainment. Also, fitting that he’s jump from a Stephen King inspire TV show to a full on Stephen King film. Give the kid some props, he knows how to make an interesting résumé. Everyone else does great too, but it’s a little too much writing for me and I’ve already got a lot to cover.

The best thing that this movie offers, which makes it a good film, is these characters. They’re the heart and soul of the film, which far too many horror flicks forget to include. You care about them and feel for them, their struggles with dealing with Pennywise and effect he has when he comes between them. The best part is, there’s no bad guy in their group. They’re kids. One has a strong sense of right and wrong and wants to help in any way that he can, whereas another will completely refuse to help the missing kids because it’s dangerous and they’re just kids and they want to live. You understand each side, and understand the division in opinion. But no one’s unlikable and when one of their own is in trouble, they will band together to save that person.

It kind of sounds like I have nothing but high praise too, doesn’t it? For the most part, yes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my issues.

Specifically, the movie is sadly kind of laughable in some of its horror. There’s a moment where we see Pennywise shape-shifting, but it’s done in such a way that I didn’t find it disturbing, or scary because he’s gyrating on the ground like a kid pretending to comically dying. But worse, for a movie getting such critical acclaim, I’m going to guess I won’t be reading or watching many reviews of this that will talk about the worst clichés this movie offers: stupid characters. It’s the “Alien effect”: something opens by itself, and the character’s first instinct is to put his face in it. Seriously, what were they expecting to see? Is anyone surprised by the jump scares in this movie?

But all in all, this was very well executed. There’s some creepy imagery, but more importantly, the characters are all likable and you feel for them and their problems. So if you’re a horror fan or not, I do recommend this.

My honest rating for IT (2017): a strong 4/5

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ANNABELLE: CREATION review

Boy, this universe really started building, didn’t it? Kind of one of those unknown crossovers that no one thought were that connected. Or am I only speaking for myself?

For those not in the know, Annabelle is a real thing… kinda. In real life, it’s a Raggedy Ann doll that was supposedly haunted, as examined by famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the very people The Conjuring films are based around. It’s a safe bet that while the supernatural occurrences surrounding the real world doll and it’s alleged cursed-ness are up for a great deal of debate and speculation, I can factually tell you that the creepy-ass doll in the movies is not a Raggedy Ann doll. So if liberties were taken with the doll itself, it’s a pretty damn safe bet that the movies dramatized the events that happened to everyone.

To clarify, I’ve not actually seen the predecessor film ANNABELLE (2014). It was before I saw (almost) everything and I wasn’t hearing good reviews anyway. The closest that I got to seeing it was watching CinemaSins’ “Everything Wrong with ANNABELLE” comments on the film on Youtube. I recommend that watch, it’s quite funny. But I have to admit, I have a passing curiosity to see this film. Why? Because it’s a prequel horror film. You know what the last prequel horror film was? OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016), which was a pretty good film, especially considering it’s predecessor OUIJA (2014) was… not. This is obviously not indicative if this film will be good, but early ratings and reviews seem to have nice things to say. So… yeah, I’m down for a good horror flick.

The story looks like it’s about how Annabelle the doll came to be haunted in the first place with it’s original owners and how it terrorizes them. There seems to be some gripping drama, what with the demon targeting a girl who can barely walk and possesses her sisters. So this could be pretty solid. Fingers crossed!

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we have Stephanie Sigman (007 SPECTRE [2015], and TV show NARCOS [2015- ongoing]), Talitha Bateman (NINE LIVES [2016], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], and the upcoming disaster flick GEOSTORM [2017]), the criminally under-utilized Miranda Otto (I, FRANKENSTEIN [2014], WAR OF THE WORLDS [2005], and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS [2002]), and Lulu Wilson (OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, DELIVER US FROM EVIL [2014], and 23 episodes of TV show THE MILLERS [2014-2015]). Wait… so the joke is… if you want your superhero film to do well, just hire a guy named Chris (Christopher Nolan [The Dark Knight trilogy], Chris Pine [Wonder Woman], Chris Evans [Captain America], and Chris Pratt [Guardians of the Galaxy]), should the new joke be if you want your prequel horror movie to be good, you just need to put young Lulu Wilson in it? Someone laugh!

Now for the crew. Directing, we have David F. Sandberg, known for LIGHTS OUT (2016), and is rumored to direct DC’s upcoming SHAZAM! (2019). Penning the screenplay is Gary Dauberman, known for WOLVES AT THE DOOR (2016), WITHIN (2016), ANNABELLE (2014), and upcoming films IT (2017) and The Conjuring’s THE NUN (2018). Composing the score is Benjamin Wallfisch, known for A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017), HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), LIGHTS OUT, and upcoming films IT, and BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Maxime Alexandre, known for THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016), THE CRAZIES (2010), THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006), and the upcoming THE NUN.

Overall, I’m probably more excited than I need to be, but I can’t help it. This looks like it could be good!

This is my honest opinion of: ANNABELLE: CREATION

(SUMMARY)

An orphanage closes down and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and the girls under her care are accepted into the home of the Mullins, Esther (Miranda Otto) and Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia), who suffered a personal tragedy twelve years ago when their daughter was accidentally struck by a car. Today, Esther hasn’t been seen in years, and Samuel is quiet and grumpy, but accomodating. But before long, the first rule of the house, never going into Annabelle’s old room is broken by Janice (Talitha Bateman), one of the younger orphan girls. She then encounters a creepy looking doll in a closet surrounded by pages from the Bible. Soon, a demonic presence disguised as the ghost of Annabelle trying to possess her.

(REVIEW)

And the odd trend of good horror prequels continues. Ehh… sort of. It’s no OUIJA: ORIGINS OF EVIL, but it’s good enough, I say.

Keeping with the tradition of The Conjuring films, they do a good job creating a connection between the characters, specifically Annabelle and her parents. Even though the crayon notes, “find me” and “found you” are obvious foreshadows, they’re still cute for the context of the scene.

There’s quite a few creepy and disturbing imagery, like when the demon possesses Janice and walks into the shadows, her eyes glow an eerie white and she’s severely mutated unseen and attacks someone. There’s also a quick bit of a corpse with no lower half of its body attacking someone else. Oh, one of my favorite moments is when Janice is in Annabelle’s room, she throws a bed sheet over the doll and moments later, the bed sheet stands up, slowly walks toward her, but you never see what’s under it. Every step pulls the sheet over whatever is under there, but by the time it comes off, the sheet falls limp to the ground. It was ominous as hell and a really well done. And there’s another bit where after Janice is attacked and goes to the hospital and returns in a wheel chair, she’s out in the open in broad daylight and left alone for a moment. Sort of, her fellow orphan girls are playing in the not-too-distant distance. But then suddenly, a nun-like figure grabs Janice’s wheel chair, and rolls her into the nearby shed to get possessed, but you never see the face of the demon doing this. You’re completely blinded by the sun in your eyes, giving a terrifying realization that this monster will attack at any time, day or night.

However, these are also part of the issues that this movie has. First off, what takes it so long to possess anyone? These girls are thoroughly vulnerable in their sleep, so why doesn’t it try to possess anyone then? Is it some unspoken law that people need to be awake to be possessed? It’s kind of lame. Also, if this demon can attack at night and in daylight, why did it need to possess Janice in the shed? Why not right where it clearly got her in the first place? It doesn’t take long for this demon to possess anyone. Just vomit tar into their gobs, like every other demon or ghost. Also, why does it need to possess anyone? Because the demon can go from the house and to the shed, it’s never quite established where the boundaries are for its influence. Plus, it does a good job of having its own physical form. And later on, there’s scenes where the possessed Janice is attacking one set of girls, and another set of girls are being attacked by the demon itself. This is remarkably confusing because now I’m wondering if it’s the same demon, what’s happening to the other girls while it’s causing chaos somewhere else? Why does it change forms? Are there multiple demons in play? Why are they having such a hard time possessing anyone? And what’s the story with the scarecrow? The climax is so confusing, it’s what hurts the movie the most.

Also strange reference… in real life, the Annabelle doll is a Rageddy Anne doll. That same doll is given to Janice at some point, making this doll’s appearance rather confusing because the doll being marketed all over the place and making its way into pop culture horror isn’t a Raggedy Anne doll. I know, I bitched about this in my initial impressions, but it’s a confusing moment to me that the movie points this out in some fashion. I acknowledge it’s more of a tongue-in-cheek Easter egg more than anything, but still.

Overall, it’s still a solid and well-executed film. Yeah, if you think too much about it, the movie’s confusing moments, especially toward the end, cripple the film. But the cast does a terrific job, it’s atmospheric, limited tropes, everything to make it a decent watch. While I like this movie fine, it’d be wise if the story of Annabelle was left alone now. There’s nothing else to be explored anymore with this doll. I recommend it to anyone looking for an improvement over the first flick. I think horror junkies will like it enough, and casual movie-goers may be more impressed with it than they think.

My honest rating for ANNABELLE: CREATION: a strong 3/5

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