Don’t Blink – Review

Don't Blink movie poster

“”Don’t Blink” is a pretty interesting twist on an alien invasion story.”

Travis OatesDon’t Blink could have been one of the better horror films to come along in quite awhile, if not for one pretty significant problem, which I will go into in a moment.

Though the issue isn’t that it’s a bit of a slow burn, and takes its time getting to where it’s trying to go.  It’s worth mentioning that there’s little in the way of gore, though that means that the story has to hold up even more than is traditionally the case, because there little to distract you from what’s going on.

What helps immensely is that Don’t Blink is a good looking movie.  Too many lower budget movies–I don’t know how much it cost, but it couldn’t be that expensive–often look like they save money by skimping on things like lighting, which is never a good move.  Luckily that’s not the path taken in this instance, because the cinematography by Jayson Crothers is really good and makes things look more expensive and rich than they probably are.

Which leads to that problem that I alluded to earlier, which unfortunately is related to the story.  I don’t mean that it’s not well-written, though it does feel underwritten, and the characters being little more than sketches, as opposed to fully fleshed-out.

Remember that I mentioned that Don’t Blink was an alien invasion movie?  I honestly think it is, but you’re given so little information–other than people vanishing mysteriously and unexpectedly–that you have no idea why anything is happening.

For awhile it’s interesting to watch as things unfold, but soon you’re left wondering what’s the point and begin to come up with theories of your own, such as maybe it’s a people-eating house in the vein of Burnt Offerings?  Or maybe it’s like Poltergeist, and restless spirits are running amok?  That being said, it’s probably aliens, which I am reasonably sure of because of a cameo by a certain Doctor who goes all MIB on us (which he’s actually listed as in the credits).  The thing is, should anyone have to wait till the last five or ten minutes of a movie to hopefully learn what’s been driving the action for the past hour or so?

I don’t think so.  This lack of information doesn’t ruin the movie though in hindsight it bothers me a bit that the filmmakers didn’t seem to buy into their own central conceit.

Don’t Blink is currently on Netflix, by way of IFC Midnight (where some pretty interesting horror is coming from, it’s worth mentioning).

‘Antboy’ Review

Antsy movie poster

“Entertaining for children, and (probably) mildly interesting for adults.”

Antboy, a film by Danish director Ask Hasselbalch, is a decent enough movie about a little boy named Pelie (Oscar Dietz) who’s bitten by an scientifically-enhanced ant, and gains certain insect-like abilities, like climbing walls, enhanced strength and acidic urine (?).

The synopsis above probably sounds a bit familiar–except the acidic urine; I have no idea where they got that from–because it’s essentially the story of Spider-Man, though luckily the movie plays more as a love letter to superhero movies than any sort of (blatantly obvious) attempt at perjury.

In fact, when the movie is caught in the trappings of genre it’s at its most interesting, though there’s a fly in the ointment (see what I did there?).

And that’s that the movie is dubbed into English (from Dutch).  The dubbing isn’t terribly done, which ironically makes it worse because when characters talk, it’s sort of, but not quite, in sync with the way their lips move.

It’s oddly distracting and took me out of the movie virtually anytime someone spoke, which was quite often.  In fact, if it were released in Dutch with English subtitles I suspect that it would have been a much more enjoyable experience (you can opt-in for subtitles on Netflix, though I don’t know if that means subtitles with an English or Dutch vocal).

Though if such things don’t bother you, then check out Antboy.  It’s a cute movie with a few moral lessons that it doesn’t hammer you over the head with, and should definitely appeal to younger children.

Antboy is currently on Netflix.

Comforting Skin – Review

Comforting Skin poster

“”Comforting Skin” is a decent movie, yet why do I feel gyped?”

Derek Franson‘s Comforting Skin is actually a pretty decent thriller, though its biggest problem is that it advertises itself as one thing, when in actuality it’s something else.

If you look at the trailer, it feels to me like a horror movie in the vein of Psycho or Magic (or some other movie where someone loses their mind, and goes on a killing spree).  As if that weren’t interesting enough, her tattoo talks to her (voiced by Victoria Bidewell, who also plays ‘Koffie’).

In theory it sounds like a great movie, that is till you actually see it, when it becomes fairly obvious that Comforting Skin, while a thriller, isn’t a horror movie.  Horror-adjacent maybe, but a horror movie?  Not at all.

Koffie is a single woman who who lives with a friend, Nathan (Tygh Runyan) whom she appears attracted to, though she doesn’t let on.  Nathan is an actor, which is fitting because his hair looked like he was in an Off-Broadway production of Streets Of Fire (which is a bit unfair though it was distracting as hell).

Bidewell is a pretty actress, though not incredibly so.  She makes up for being somewhat conventionally attractive by being very bold, and unafraid of nudity in service of the story.  It was refreshing to see, especially for a woman that has a few curves and doesn’t look anorexic.

Koffie was feeling a bit insecure, after going to clubs night after night, yet having no one to show for her efforts.  Seeking to shake things up, she gets a tattoo and hopes that it’s the beginning of a change.

And it is, though not of the sort she expected; which leads to the biggest problem with Comfortable Skin–besides not being a horror film, despite coming off as one in the trailer and the poster–namely that the whole tattoo subplot is unnecessary to the movie.  You could excise it like an unwanted growth, and things would unfold pretty much the same.

Which is a pity because the last thing that I recall seeing about tattoos that drove people to murder was the X-Files episode, Never Again.

So if want to see some killer tattoos, I guess I’ll have to watch it again.

 

 

Comfortable Skin is currently on Netflix.

‘Mine Games’ Review

Mine Games movie poster

“”Mine Games” Is A Well-Done Thriller That Doesn’t Overstay It’s Welcome.”

Mind Games is a pretty savory bit of murder and seemingly random violence that from the start drops hints designed to lead you in one direction, while the narrative heads in another.

It’s a pretty clever movie in other ways as well.  For instance, one character is a apparently grabbed by someone in an abandoned mine, or was she?  Whomever it was left bloody fingernails across her ankle, seemingly no one else can see them.

The weird happenings continue to pile up one one after another, till there can be only one answer, no matter how unlikely or impossible that answer happens to be.

If I were to compare Mind Games to any other film it would be Cabin In The Woods, though I am not implying that that it’s as entertaining as that film, because it isn’t.  It’s not nearly as fantastical, though it has a few surprises up its sleeve.  It’s also well-cast, and like that film, revolves around a group of young people that are visiting a cabin in the woods that belongs to one of their relatives.

Though the characters don’t feel disposable, they’re also not quite as fleshed out as I would have liked because I have seen the movie twice, but I still can’t tell you anyone’s names, though to be fair that may have more to do with most of the actors being unfamiliar to me than anything else.

Though I recognized one–he wasn’t a big name, but at least was visually familiar; while another was a dead ringer for Shawn Ashmore, though I am pretty sure it wasn’t him.

As I said, it’s not quite the thrill ride that Cabin In The Woods is, but it’s also not as self aware as that movie was as well, which is a good thing.

Mine Games is currently showing on Netflix.

‘Pride’ Review

Pride movie poster

“”Pride” Is A Prime Example Of Why The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) Has Outgrew Its Usefulness.”

It’s normal, as humans, to try to define the world around us in as concise a manner as possible.  And it makes sense because when we were evolving as a species there were probably many instances where there just wasn’t time to go into a 50-word description about how that other tribe of proto-humans from the far side of the mountain were somehow different than we were.

That being said, a problem simplification brings is that it sacrifices nuance at the altar of  efficiency, often doing a disservice to whatever it is that that’s being described.  I mention this because Matthew Warchus’ Pride will probably be labeled as a gay movie–and while that’s not exactly inaccurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story, because in many ways the movie is about all of us, no matter how we define ourselves sexually.

It revolves around a gay rights organization headed by Mark (Ben Schnetzer) who decides to raise funds to support striking coalminers in Wales.  Both groups are vilified, and despite the miners virtually starving they were at first reluctant to accept support from a group that was openly gay.

So there’s the conflict between those that hold more traditional beliefs, versus those that were more progressive though what the movie didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring the fact that events were unfolding just when AIDS was just beginning to cut a devastating swath through the Gay community; yet Mark’s organization still chose to assist the mineworkers.

It may not have been as clear-cut as that, but the movie does create that impression.

Pride is also very monochromatic, though it’s hard to tell if that’s an accurate reflection of the history, or just the tendency of filmmakers to exclude people of color.  That being said, some do appear in crowd, club and parade scenes, and that’s about it.

Overall, Pride is an entertaining, and at times inspirational, movie that should be seen by as many people as possible because it’s less about sexuality than being true to yourself and people helping people, very often those on the face of it you hold nothing in common, other than a shared humanity.

And if that’s not something to be celebrated, then nothing is.

By the way, I just learned that Pride is rated R, which leaves me a bit baffled.   It’s a relatively tame movie–and while I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s been “Disneyfied“–there’s cursing, and suggestions of some Gay subcultures–there’s nothing that would offend anyone that’s the least bit respectful of the right of other people to live as they choose.

I also may be ranting a bit here, but Pride is based on the lives of real people, so why it is IMDB and CBS Films (one of the companies that produced the film) failed to include the last names of the characters is a bit beyond understanding.

‘Annabelle’ Review

Annabelle movie poster

“”Annabelle” has so much potential, most of which it doesn’t live up to.”

I have seen some God-awful, cringe-worthy movies, which John Leonetti‘s Annabelle thankfully isn’t; though it is in a way worse because it had the potential to be so much more than it ended up being, which is a passable horror movie; a trifle that you almost instantly forget upon learning the theater (which is mainly due to the movie’s tendency to play it safe, when daring was called for).

Annabelle is a prequel to The Conjuring, and you can see and feel that movie’s DNA all over the place, like a violent crime scene minutes before the arrival of a forensics team.  It’s not a bad thing, though it may have something to do with Annabelle never really feeling like its own movie, instead seemingly content to exist in the shadow of the latter.

Which is a pity because there’s a scene toward the end of the movie–if it had been allowed to play out–would have been like a punch to the solar plexus, and resulted in significantly elevating the material.

Though instead we get an ending that some might consider a bit of a cop-out, where a character sacrifices themselves for people they barely knew (which could have worked if the character in question were better fleshed out).

Another problem was that atmosphere was sacrificed at the altar of the  jump scare, which killed any change the movie had at building terror on the slow burn; the best kind.

Another smaller issue was that the doll was ghastly looking long before any demonic possession took place, which made it an odd choice for the film makers to use.  The possessed doll was supposed to have been a Raggedy Ann, which I think theatrically would have worked better just because it looks innocent and generic, as opposed to a toy that could have been assembled by the Devil himself.

I mentioned earlier that the movie relied on jump scares, which movies tend to do when they don’t have enough atmosphere to hold them together.  It’s a pity because there’s a terrifying movie somewhere in Annabelle waiting to get out.

I know this because you can see hints of its presence all over the place, just before they’re snuffed out, stillborn.

 

‘The Equalizer’ Review

The Equalizer movie poster

“Having OCD Was Probably Never So Awesome.”

Boyhood ran for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and after awhile it felt as if Richard Linklater had it in for me because what started out as an interesting theatrical experiment devolved into a bizarre and inhumane form of punishment.

By way of comparison, Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer ran for an hour and half, yet felt significantly shorter.

Now, to be fair, no people are killed in Boyhood–though there should have been at least one death, especially during what I like to call the ‘chainsaw blade scene’–but the violence in The Equalizer more often than not happened to people that deserved it, so it came off as cathartic, as opposed to gratuitous (which isn’t to say that there wasn’t a lot of it).

In fact, it’s odd to see a movie where the audience is actively rooting for someone to kill someone else, which wasn’t uncommon (at least at the showing I caught).

Part of what made Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Robert McCall so interesting is that the character has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which means that he’s developed quite a few repetitive behaviors and rituals, the point being that his condition was what made him such an efficient killer.

I have read reviews that compared this tendency to that of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbach) in the BBC’s Sherlock, though it’s not a valid comparison because in the case of Sherlock you’re watching a representation of a mental process Holmes is going through to arrive at a certain conclusion, while in the case of McCall you’re looking at him plot the motion of what physical action he’s about to commit to.

The Equalizer, based upon a CBS television series that aired in 1985, starring Edward Woodward, moves briskly and almost feels like a guilty pleasure of sorts, which isn’t a bad thing.