Hellions – Review

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Few people watch movies to be preached to, though that’s not to imply that they can’t be a place to learn lessons of a moral nature.

And if that’s your goal, it helps immensely to have an engaging story and fully-realized characters.

Though what also as equally important is to not bludgeon viewers into submission with your ideas, as opposed to going on a journey with them.

And while there’s no guarantee either approach will work, the latter at least makes it more likely that viewers will stick around to watch.

Which brings me to Bruce McDonald’s Hellions, which has a  really fascinating story to tell.  The movie stars Chloe Rose as Dora Vogel, who learns she’s pregnant right before Halloween.

When All Hallow’s Eve rolls around, she’s dressed as an angel and is about to leave for a party, when there’s a nock on her door. She opens it to find a little boy, dressed like a creepier version of the Scarecrow from Batman Begins.

This is also when the movie begins to fall apart, as subtle scares are replaced by those of A Nightmare On Elm Street variety.

And that’s a pity because for awhile I though that I was watching what could be a horror classic.  Instead, what I got was an ultimately disposable movie with some interesting ideas, but not interesting enough to to make warrant a repeat viewing.

Hellions is currently on Netflix; and while Halloween may be many months distant, be careful when you open the door because the streets the children travel echo with the footsteps and furtive cries of the wicked.

Fantastic Four – Review

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I have to say that I didn’t hate this movie.  It’s not the Fantastic Four movie I would have made if given the chance, but it’s not terrible; though it is needlessly grim–pardon the pun–but that’s not necessarily the same thing as bad.

And you might also be wondering what took me so long to actually see it, and I’d answer that Josh Trank’s movie was one of the worse reviewed movies of last year, so I wasn’t in any particular hurry to catch it.

The fact that I rented it via iTunes for $5.99–as opposed to $10 or more for a movie ticket–may have a little to do with my feelings as well.  (What also might is that Josh Trank was demonized in various media ways few people who haven’t been accused of either peodphilia or poisoning the water of their constituents have been).

Dr. Allen (Tim Blake Nelson) is the goverment man who intends to use the intrepid team as weapons, though the thing is, he makes a lot of sense.  Not only is the government financing the Baxter Institute, but he had the audacity to suggest that NASA be brought in to explore the new world the transporter opens up. 

The thing is, that’s what NASA does!  Yet because of a little Dutch courage, our four intrepid voyagers decide to journey into mystery.  

The movie makes little sense, in that why would the inventors of a teleportation device, knowing that it opens a door into an alternate world–the word ‘dimension’ isn’t interchangeable with ‘world’–even want to be the first humans to use it?

That’s like the people who invented the first atomic bomb actually flew aboard the planes that dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is dumb for all sorts of reasons. 

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The Veil – Review

“Some Shrouds Obscure The End Of The World. “

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Phil Joanou’s The Veil isn’t a particularly good movie, though it’s least interesting (and before I begin in earnest I have to mention the cinematography of Steeven Petitteville–according to IMDB and the movie’s credits that’s how his–I assume he’s a he–name is spelled–does great lighting.  His work is naturalistic, with lots of contrast between light and shadow, which complements the movie’s bleached-out color palate) and in its own way, quite ambitious–particularly when things go pseudo-Lovecraft.

Both Ti West’s The Sacrament (2013) and The Veil are at heart retellings of the  Jonestown massacre, where 909 Americans killed themselves, led by the Rev. Jim Jones (Thomas Jane, in The Veil plays Jim Jacobs–clearly a play on ‘Jim Jones’–like a fanatical Jim Morrison).

The difference being, while West essentially retells the story of the original massacre in the–at the time–present day, Phil Joanou introduces a supernatural element that at least serves to differentiate it from the horrific event that inspired it.  And while Robert Ben Garant’s screenplay is a bit dopey, it’s at least novel (and you can’t fault it for a lack of ambition).

As I wrote earlier, the movie itself is interesting, until it falls too deeply into the gyre of horror movie cliches (when things start going to shite people who should know better decide to stick around, as opposed to hightailing it out of there) and people start doing things because the screenplay says that they should, as opposed to any sort of human process of reasoning.

The Veil comes courtesy Blumhouse Tilt, though be careful, because some shrouds obscure the end of the world.

The Revenant – Review

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“”The Revenant” is perhaps one of the most harrowing adventure movies that I have ever seen.”

When l learned that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant was nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio on top of ten other categories, my interest in seeing the movie began to ebb because if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the mysterious cabal that chooses which movies are worthy of a nomination are a bunch of pretentious sods that seemingly care less about whether or not a movie is actually entertaining.

That, combined with the dreaded ‘Inspired By True Events’ label, which typically is a guarantee that everything that you see on screen is barely even a close approximation of what actually happened, you’d think that The Revenant would be doomed.

So, going into the movie expecting an overpriced, pretentious art film, imagine my surprise to learn that it’s really entertaining–despite DiCaprio not being raped by a bear.

What González Iñárritu has done is make perhaps one of the most realistic adventure films that I have ever seen, in that he–as well as his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki–have created a beautiful as well as expansive world that despite being in 2D is remarkably immersive.

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We Need To Talk About Kevin – Review

Screenshot 2016-01-11 20.47.33.pngNow this is a horror movie (in perhaps the truest sense of the term).

Lynn Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin isn’t necessarily a scary film, though don’t let the seemingly placid facade fool you, because here lie monsters.  Though, unlike in most horror movies, these creatures don’t wear hockey masks or look like an experiment in acupuncture gone awry.

Instead they look like you and me, and by the time they reveal their true nature, it’s too late.

Tilda Swinton is Eva Khatchadourian, and you can tell by the way people react to her that she’s was somehow involved with something really terrible.

(The movie doesn’t for most of its running time let on why it is that she’s so reviled by most people in her community, though it becomes abundantly clear soon enough).

The movie flashes forward and backward in time, and it’s apparent that Eva was in a much better place in the past and the movie navigates an uncharted middle ground.

In that perhaps idealized place we meet her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), her son Kevin (Rock Duer, as a toddler; Jasper Newell, from 6-8 years old and Ezra Miller, as a teenager) and daughter Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich).

From the outside looking in Eva’s family probably seemed an ideal one, though under closer scrutiny you could see faults undermining their supposedly happy lives.

Though there’s something about Kevin that’s a bit off, and the challenge is to see if you can spot where he goes off the rails.

And that moment never quite arrives, though the movie doesn’t spend too much time speculating as to why Kevin does what he does, but when he cries for attention, he makes sure that everyone pays attention.

And We Need To Talk About Kevin will do the same to you.

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin is currently on Netflix,

 

Goodnight Mommy – Review

Screenshot 2016-01-09 23.55.39.pngGoodnight Mommy won the award for European Cinematographer in 2015 at the 28th annual European Film Awards and is also Austria’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.

The only problem with that whole Academy Award thing is Serverin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s film is a horror movie, and when do horror movies win Academy Awards?

(The answer is actually ten, which I found pleasantly surprising)

It’s also entirely possible that  Goodnight Mommy could win another cinematography award, because it’s gorgeous and evocative of movies like The Shining, with lots of angles, empty spaces and spooky ambiance.

And twins.  Let’s not forget twins (who are always sort of creepy).

As a horror movie, it chugs along promisingly as twins Lukas and Elias (played by actual twins, Lukas and Elias Schwarz)’s mother returns from plastic surgery, and they’re almost immediately suspicious of who she is, and where their real mother is.

And there are some very valid reasons for the twins to be suspicious, and if the movie had continued along that track, it would have been really awesome.

Instead, about midway I began to wonder if Severin Fiala and Veronica Franz was a pseudonym for M. Night Shyamalan because there’s an entirely unnecessary twist thrown in that–while it doesn’t ruin the movie–does undermine a lot that came before (also because it’s something you’re going to at least suspect early on, and seen done much better).

 

Colony, Ep. 1 – Review

Screenshot 2015-12-23 21.34.30.pngWhen we first meet Will Bowman (Josh Halloway) he’s preparing breakfast–or at least attempting to–for his family, that consists of his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, most recently of The Walking Dead) and three children, before he heads out to work.

Though one of his sons is missing, and Will is doing all he can to put on a brave face for his family.

The feeling that things aren’t quite right not only with the Bowman family, but the world they live in, permeates Colony.  People barter for the most basic goods and Los Angeles is under martial law, and is surrounded by a huge wall evocative of John Carpenter’s underrated Escape From L.A.

And if that weren’t bad enough, order is maintained by a mysterious black-suited military force of unknown origin.

The how’s and why’s are revealed grudgingly so, while there isn’t yet enough information to understand what’s happened and why things are as they are, it adds an extra level of interest beyond people making do the  best they can in what amounts to a police state.

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Carlton Cuse, the prolific producer of The Strain and Lost, has created a future that visually resembles our own (though the technology in some instances is a bit more advanced) but with the addition of an unknown threat that has turned the place where dreams are made into a nightmare.

Colony premiers January 14 on USA.