Review: Halloween (2018)

What are we going to do, cancel Halloween?

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has never recovered from the killing spree Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) went on back in 1978. It's ruined her relationship with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) while her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) makes more of an effort to see her. Michael has been institutionalized since then, and when he's being transferred to a new facility, his bus crashes and he returns to Haddonfield for Laurie. Only this time she's ready.

You can't really blame Michael for wanting to go back to Haddonfield. The police department is dumb as hell and don't even alert the public that he's on the lose. So he's free to kill twice as many people as he did in the first film before he finally finds someone in Laurie's family. 

I love the Halloween movies. I think it's kind of a shame they chose to retcon 4 and 5 because I actually liked Jamie but I can't complain when they made a film this solid. This is easily one of the best of the series. Sure, some disbelief must be suspended but it's creepy, the music is outstanding, and they pay homage to the older films without being in your face about it. 

Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing as always. No one goes through what Laurie does without some trauma and turning her into a reclusive badass was an interesting choice. I'm always a fan of Judy Greer and I'm glad she actually got something to do here. Matichak is also a nice addition. Jibrail Nantambu who plays Julian, a child Allyson's friend is babysitting also needs a shout out because he was hilarious during his short amount of screen time.

If you're a Halloween fan, or a horror fan, this is a must see. It's not as scary as the original was but it's great fun.  

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "No make Dave go first!" - Julian (Jibrail Nantambu)

Indie Gems: Marrowbone

Secrets

After their mother dies, four siblings, Jack (George MacKay) Billy (Charlie Heaton) Jane (Mia Goth) and Sam (Matthew Stagg) hide that fact from anyone in fear of getting split up. All they need to do is wait for Jack to turn 21 in six months. But the reason for these kids living in this particular house is quite sinister, and now something may be haunting them.

My immediate thought after finishing this was that whoever wrote it had to have balls the size of church bells to pass something like this off. Then I saw it was Sergio G. S├ínchez, the same guy who wrote The Orphanage and I realized that made sense. 

Marrowbone builds dread very well. It reminded me a bit of The Conjuring in a sense. You're on the edge of your seat as Sam goes into a room that's off limits or as tension builds during a game. It get the creep factor down. Unfortunately this film has a lot going on. In a way it's a damn mess....but it works? Something awful happened to these children at one point, but the film goes about revealing this in the most convoluted way possible. It ended up being a really interesting concept, but I think they could've went about it a different way. 

The actors in this film are wonderful. MacKay, Heaton, Goth, and Anya Taylor-Joy who plays their friend Allie I was all familiar with and they didn't disappoint. MacKay does a lot of the heavy lifting here.

This film is far from prefect. It throws too many things at you but it made for a good evening watch on a chilly October night.

Grade: B-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "She loves him, she'll understand." - Jane (Mia Goth)

Indie Gems: Leave No Trace

Into the wild.

Will (Ben Foster) is a war veteran who is living off the grid in a national park with his young daughter, Tom. (Thomasin McKenzie) When they're found by social services and placed into a home, Will struggles with being a part of society whereas Tom gets a taste of something she's missing.

I hate that I missed this in theaters. My city was one of the lucky 361 theaters this was released in, and they got rid of it after about a week and a half. It was easily worth my money.

You all know how much I love Ben Foster. He's an incredible actor and it's no surprise that he's amazing here too. We don't learn much about Will and what happened to him in the past, but his face says it all. It's not pretty, he needs help, but doesn't want it. Even if it's effecting his daughter. It's McKenzie that carries this movie. Tom loves her father but she's so curious about everything around her. Like Foster, she gives a very quiet performance. (And I never would've guessed she was a native of New Zealand, her American accent is flawless)

Like the performances, this is a quiet film in general but it's tonally perfect. A film like this doesn't need a lot of dialogue. Our character's actions say it all. Because of that, the film does feel a little longer than it really is, but it's never boring and always beautiful.

Grade: B+

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable quote: "What's wrong with you isn't what's wrong with me." - Tom (Thomasin McKenzie)

Review: Apostle

Have faith.

Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) disguises himself to get to a remote island currently inhabited by a religious cult. Their leader, Malcolm (Michael Sheen) has taken Thomas' sister Jennifer (Elen Rhys) and he's determined to rescue her.

I knew nothing about this film before watching it. I just happened to be on my lap top on a Sunday afternoon when Sati recommended it to me, so I just opened up Netflix and hit play. Going full Jon Snow on this film was a good choice.

Dan Stevens is an underrated actor. He's doing some of the most amazing work on TV right on on FX's Legion, but it's such a niche show that he gets zero recognition for it anywhere else. He's great here too, he easily wins the most determined brother award because he goes through a lot for his beloved sister. You can feel the pain in his eyes long before he physically gets a reason to feel it. Michael Sheen's cult leader is quite different than I'm used to seeing in film, mostly because he doesn't feel like he buys his own story. Lucy Boynton (Sing Street) plays his daughter, who also forms a friendship with Thomas and she's equally as wonderful 

This film is gory as hell and goes in a direction that I did not expect at all. While the script is a little weak in places, the actors and the atmosphere make up for it.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B 

Memorable Quote: "Pray for me" - Thomas (Dan Stevens) 

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: The Weird

We're wrapping up Halloween Month over at Wandering Through The Shelves. I'm not ready to be done with Halloween season yet. In our TV picks, we're talking about the weird. There's plenty of that to go around. Here's what I came up with.

1) Castle Rock

The town in this show is almost a character itself. Calling it weird is an understatement. I liked the little Easter eggs they threw in. Like Shawshank prison playing a huge part, and Jackie being the niece of good ol' Jack Torrence from The Shining. When I initially wrote this post, I was only half way through Castle Rock and I said it was "fun." While the acting is great, I don't think I could ever fully recommend this to anyone because they answered NONE of the questions they asked, then had the balls to tease a second season.

2) Stranger Things

Of course a show called Stranger Things would be in this category. I'm quite over 80's films/TV shows but I love it in this. These kids are incredible actors. It's a shame only Millie Bobby Brown ever gets recognition. 

3) The Alienist 

A psychologist in the early 1900's helps a police secretary and an illustrator solve a murder. I loved this mini series. It had great atmosphere and of course, was pretty weird.  

Review: The Sisters Brothers

Brothers by blood, Sisters by name.

Eli and Charlie Sisters (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) are hired assassins who are currently hunting down Hermann Kermit Warm. (Riz Ahmed) What was supposed to be an easy job turns harder when the man that was tasked with holding Warm until the Sisters Brothers got there, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) decides he's going to help Warm instead. 

There's something about Westerns that just puts me to sleep. It's pretty telling that the only ones I like are the 3:10 to Yuma remake and Hell or High Water if we're really stretching it. But this one was pitched as a semi comedy and the four men cast are some of my favorite working actors right now.

Damn, this was long. This film has a run time of two hours and one minute and it felt like nearly three. There's two stories going on here, and one of those wraps up about halfway through the film (or at least that's how it felt) and I was sitting there going "wait...really? There's more?" The pacing is just horrendous.

The chemistry between Reilly and Phoenix is fantastic. I loved their banter even if the film was moving at a snails pace. Ahmed and Gyllenhaal played off each other well too but not to the level of our leads. There's not a lot of back story here, which is fine. The last thing this movie needed was an excuse for a longer run time but they make do with what they have.

I'm torn. Although it may sound like it, I didn't hate this movie. It's actually one of the better Westerns I've sat through. I just didn't love it. I imagine if you really like Westerns or don't have a strong aversion to them as I do, you'll probably really dig this. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Whens the last time someone tried to kill us?" - Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly)

Review: The Hate U Give

Khalil lived.

Starr (Amandla Stenberg) has two versions of her self. Starr 1 lives in a poor neighborhood with her parents, Maverick and Lisa (Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall) and her two brothers, Seven, (Lamar Johnson) and Sekani (TJ Wright) Starr 2 attends a predominantly white private school where she, in her own words "gives no one a reason to call her ghetto." One night at a party, she ends up being the lone witness to the fatal shooting of her friend, Khalil (Algee Smith) after a white police officer pulls them over and mistake his hair brush for a weapon. Now Starr is torn between these two versions. Keeping her head down, and not bringing any heat on her loved ones, or speaking up for her friend who can no longer speak for himself. 

I haven't read the popular YA novel on which this is based, so I can't compare how well it was adapted, but director George Tillman Jr. did make an excellent film here. In a world where an alarming amount of people still don't understand what Black Lives Matter is about, I hope they watch this. The Hate U Give isn't here to sugar coat anything, although it does fall victim to having some supporting players come off as caricatures.

And that's another depressing part. I want to write off Starr's ignorant white classmate, Hailey as a caricature, but there are girls everywhere just like her. Just like there are cops who make the same excuses Starr's policeman Uncle does.

I cried over Amandla Stenberg as Rue in the Hunger Games, and now she made me cry five more times in this movie alone. She's wonderful and she carries this film with such grace. She masters flipping back and forth into her versions, her smile is infectious during the scenes where we get to see Starr happy and you can feel hear rage and fear when she's finally had enough. Russell Hornsby also gives a great performance as her father. A man that wants to do right by his kids and make sure they don't fall into the same drug dealing life he did. I loved Starr's entire family. She at one point refers to her parents as her OTP and I don't blame her. I love seeing a dynamic like that. 

I think The Hate U Give may have an uphill battle at the box office. (Though my theater was full) Plenty of ignorant movie goers are going to write this off as a cop hating movie and I truly hope they don't. I hope they see it and listen. Listen and understand.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "You're the worst person to watch Harry Potter with; you say it's about gang theory." - Starr (Amandla Stenberg)

Review: First Man

One small step.

First Man follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as prepares for his life changing mission of being the first man to walk on the moon. We see his work life with several colleagues/friends and his home life with wife Janet.(Claire Foy) The film follows him between 1961-1969.

I had really low expectations. Despite adoring director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash and La La Land, it wasn't until everyone started raving about Claire Foy that I even considered seeing this. 

In terms of story, it really surprised me. First Man is a very interesting film that takes space travel and what NASA did very, very seriously. They don't sugar coat a thing. They show the dangers of space travel, one could argue that this film as a whole is more about how you deal with death than anything else. It also manages to put you on the edge of your seat even though you know the outcome. I always appreciate when a film based on a true story can do that. But there is one thing that's working against this movie...

It's director Damien Chazelle.

The way he shot this film is atrocious. And it's 100% on him, cinematographer Linus Sandgren hasn't abused this technique before. The majority of this film is shot up close. He was like Tom Hooper shooting Les Miserables on steroids. Had it not been for a few sequences beautifully blended with music, I never would've guessed Chazelle was behind this. It was awful. I don't even buy the excuse of the director wanting you to feel like you're there. No one gets this close to people on a day to day basis. I was sitting in the last row of the theater and I wished I could've stood back further. The best shots of the film are when they do take a step back, but that happens a total of three or four times.

And it's a shame Chazelle chose this method of shooting, because his cast are giving excellent performances. Foy is as good as everyone is saying, though I expected her character to have a bit more to do. Gosling as always is very good. Jason Clarke is another who gives a very strong performance, and they deserved a director who didn't turn his camera into a stage five clinger.

I'll be shocked if this film doesn't take home the sound Oscars. It's incredible, sound mixing and editing isn't something I always notice right away but this one I didn't instantly.

A couple asides - Why does NASA have the shittiest bathrooms ever? And is it just me or is the Armstrong's youngest child treated as an afterthought? Especially when Neil is on the moon thinking about his past? 

Recommended: Yes 

Grade: C+ (this would've been higher minus the directing)

Memorable Quote: "You're going to do that. Not me. I'm done." - Janet (Claire Foy)

Thursday Movie Picks: Technology

This week's Halloween theme at Wandering Through the Shelves is technology. If this were a TV week, I'd be talking about Black Mirror. But alas, we're here for films. This was kind of tough so I stretched it a bit. Here's three films that are somewhat scary and somewhat about technology

1) Red State

What's the tech? The internet of course. Three young men get an offer for sex online and instead of the orgy they thought they were heading to, they end up drugged in the middle of nowhere being held captive by religious fundamentalists who want to kill them. Kevin Smith goes way outside of his comfort zone at the time to direct this and I think he did a good job. 

2) Deathgasm

What's the tech? Electric guitar and various instruments and speakers. This band of bored New Zealand kids play a dark piece of music and summon an evil spirit back to their world. It's very campy and slightly gory. Someone even gets beat to death with a dildo. 

3) Videodrome

What's the tech? TV/VCRs. While Deathgasm goes the fun weird route, Videodrome just sticks with flat out weird. This was on my Blind Spot list last year and calling it "out there" doesn't do it justice. It's very sleazy but the atmosphere it sets is perfect. 

Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

He's all kinds of bad.

The El Royale is a hotel along the California/Nevada boarder. Tonight, several strangers meet for the first time. A vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm) a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo) a priest (Jeff Bridges) and a woman who signs the ledger with a polite "fuck you." (Dakota Johnson) Everyone there has a secret that's not going to stay hidden for much longer.

Anything written/directed by Drew Goddard is an easy sell for me. I loved his script for The Martian and what he's done with the Daredevil TV series. Not to mention The Cabin in the Woods, which he directed is one of my all time favorite horror films. He takes on a lot with El Royale

This film would've been much better suited as an eight episode or so mini series. There is so much stuffed into this movie that you feel every minute of its 2 hour and 21 minute run time. You get quick back stories of each character, but it's not enough, and yet too much at the same time. By the time we flashed back to the final too, I was almost impatient, even though you absolutely 
needed to see both of them. Had this been an episodic series, each character could've gotten the history they deserve and it wouldn't fee like too much because you would only be getting an hour at a time. The two strangers that have the most potential back story wise are killed off pretty quickly after they're introduced. 

Cynthia Erivo is the star of this film. Darlene is absolutely stunning and she also felt the most fleshed out since her reason for being at the hotel was pretty straight forward. While the rest of the film likely won't make an appearance, I hope her name does come Oscar season. All of the other actors do a good job as well. All those reviewers that called Hemsworth "Dangerously sexy" were spot on.

Even though it has its issues, I still enjoyed the hell out of watching it. It's shot beautifully and has a catchy sound track. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "If you find him, let me speak with him first." - Miles (Lewis Pullman)


2018 Blind Spot Series: The Birds


What I knew going in: Quite a bit about the story, and all the behind the scenes drama between Hitchcock and Hedren.

After an encounter in a pet shop, socialite Melanie (Tippi Hedren) follows Mitch (Rod Taylor) to the quiet town he retreats to every weekend. Upon her arrivle, the birds in the town start to behave erratically and things drastically escalate.

Hitch apparently terrorizing Hedren during this film is pretty well known, and now I believe it even more because no director that has your best interests in mind directs you into this performance. 

This movie is glorious in how bad it is. I'm sure in theory this film isn't as incompetently directed as it seems, there are some nice shots here and there, but the fact that it's about killer birds in a time when special effects were so limited pretty much gives it zero leeway. I mean, they did this...


Did this movie actually scare people back then? It couldn't possibly have, right? Nothing about this film looked natural. Not the birds, not the back drops, definitely not the performances. The only actor that I thought showed some emotional range was Veronica Cartwright, who played young Cathy. She genuinely looked terrified throughout, even with the clunky editing. 

I found this entire film unintentionally hilarious and that alone makes me so glad I watched it. It's just so spectacularly bad on every level. It's like it was the inspiration for all campy 80's horror movies. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "She pushed me inside!" - Cathy (Veronica Cartwright)


Thursday Movie Picks: The Dark/Night

They mostly come at night. Mostly. This week over at Wandering Through The Shelves we're focusing on movies where the night time and/or dark plays a key role. There's so much to choose from this week, here's what I came up with.

1) Maniac

Elijah Wood plays a mannequin owner who moonlights as a serial killer. I know this is a remake of an 80's film, but this one was so gory and out there that I couldn't help but love it. 

2) I Saw The Devil

When a serial killer murders his fiance one night, a man decides to take justice into his own hands. Only instead of murdering the killer himself, he tracks him and continuously beats him down, lets him live, then waits for him to try to kill again so he can rinse and repeat. It's a commentary on who's becoming a monster. It's hard to watch but fascinating.  

3) 30 Days of Night

When a town in Alaska enters their yearly month with no sunlight, a group of vampires take the opportunity to wreak havoc on them. I read the graphic novel as well and I enjoyed this film. It's beautifully shot and you can never go wrong with Ben Foster. 

Review: A Star Is Born

We're far from the shallow now.

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a popular musician going from gig to gig with a bottle of whiskey in hand. After a show, desperate for a drink, he wanders into a drag bar and sees Ally (Lady Gaga) perform a beautiful rendition of La Vie En Rose. Smitten with her voice, he pushes her to sing her own songs, to get up on stage with him, and eventually turns her into a super star. 

We all knew Bradley Cooper was a solid actor. Turns out he's a solid singer and director too. At this point I'm not sure there's anything he can't do. Jackson is a very showy role for him and it really feels like he's really stepping out of his comfort zone. Lady Gaga is also great here. She was the biggest question mark for me. Obviously I knew she'd be dynamite the minute she started singing and she was, but the acting I wasn't sold on. She struggles here and there with the more dramatic bits, but this is her 3rd acting role. It's to be expected. 

I think this film is fine. There are parts that work well. When Ally and Jack sing "The Shallow" together for the first time, and every time Ally is behind a piano singing her songs after that, those moments are beautiful. The rest is typical melodrama with some Sam Elliott platitudes but it's never once bad or boring. But there's one thing that really bothered me that stopped me from going - for lack of a better word - gaga over this. 

Ally and Jackson's relationship has a power imbalance that made me uncomfortable. He's not abusive and Ally is not completely without agency, but it's always Jackson pushing her to do something. Yes, he gets her on stage for the first time and makes her realize her dream. That's fine, but it's the little things that follow. Like passing out drunk after a show, then waking her up for sex on his time. Like smearing cake over her face that is then played as something cute. To proposing after a fight - then getting married all in the span of about two hours. The most egregious parts happen in the last 20 minutes or so of the film, and those I won't spoil. I felt like Jackson didn't give her any choices. He makes every one for her. I know the film is supposed to be a meditation on fame, and how as Ally's star grows she gets less and less control, but I didn't think that was supposed to happen with the relationship they're choosing to sell this movie on as well. It just rubbed me the wrong way. 

I might be alone in that complaint, but this film is good and the soundtrack is extremely catchy.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "There should be a whole billboard of your fucking nose" - Jackson (Bradley Cooper)

DVD Review: The Seagull

It's not about the money or the praise.

Konstantin (Billy Howle) is an aspiring writer who cannot please his actress mother, Irina. (Annette Bening) They're visiting his uncle, Sorin (Brian Dennehy) in his country side home in early 20th century Russia. Konstantin attempts to impress Nina (Saoirse Ronan) but she finds herself infatuated with Irina's boyfriend, Boris. (Corey Stall) Meanwhile Masha (Elisabeth Moss) pines for Konstantin while ignoring Mikhail (Michael Zegan) who is obviously in love with her.

This film commits the same crime as Valkyrie in which it has characters living in Europe but speaking with American accents. That's such an awful choice. If you're not going to have your actors speak with the actual accent, at least let them use one from the same continent. Billy Howle's English accent is already bleeding through his performance anyways. 

Unfortunately it's all downhill from there. Despite a talented bunch of actors the film is directed very poorly. If you thought Tom Hooper used too many close up shots in Les Miserables, wait until you see what director Michael Mayer does here. He gets so close to Corey Stoll's face at one point I actually leaned back. Ronan, Bening, and Moss are all very good, but unfortunately they lack chemistry with the men they're playing opposite against. Our lead, Howle is also very clearly more of a stage actor and even though this is based on a play it doesn't translate well to screen.

While there's some solid performances, a nice score and beautiful costumes and sets, everything else is so amateurishly thrown together it brings it all down. I've never read Anton Chekov's play this is based on. I'm not sure how it compares. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "I still love him." - Nina (Saoirse Ronan)

Thursday Movie Picks: Home Invasions

It's October so that means it's officially Halloween month over at Wandering Through The Shelves. As you can probably tell, I love Halloween. But Wanderer's first theme is one that I'm actually not crazy about: home invasions. They just make me a bit too uncomfortable for my viewing pleasure. Luckily, there have been a few over the past few years that I've really enjoyed. 

1) Hush

This straight to Netflix horror film changes the home invasion mold slightly by having our protagonist be deaf, and by having our intruder take off his mask and quite literally be like "Oops you saw me, now I have to kill you." It's very twisted and well played. 

2) Don't Breathe

A few misfits make the biggest mistake of their lives when they break into a blind man's house. This film gets serious props for introducing a twist late in the game that shouldn't have worked but just made everything even more fucked up. 

3) Them (Ils)

In all fairness, I haven't seen this movie in years. Them was loosely remade as The Strangers in the U.S but the thing that made this the most disturbing is when they revealed who the killers and their motives really were. I'd like to watch this again. 

DVD Review: Disobedience

A walk down bad memory lane.

Ronit (Rachel Weisz) is a photographer in New York who returns to her Orthodox Jewish community in England for her father's funeral. She was shunned years before after being caught in a tryst with her friend, Esti. (Rachel McAdams) Esti seems to have been forgiven and is now married to their childhood friend, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) who is also going to be the successor to Ronit's father at their temple, but Ronit being back brings up a lot of old memories.

My theater had this for a bit, but I skipped it. The reviews were lukewarm, and I wasn't sure if it was a theater watch for me. It would've been, I enjoyed this quite a bit.

At first I was slightly confused on where this community was supposed to be. I know England has a lot of different accents but this one I hadn't heard before. At first listen, it sounded like a bunch of Americans trying to do an English accent, but even Weisz spoke that way. I don't know how well it's done not being familiar with it, but that took a bit of getting used to. 

Weisz, McAdams, and Nivola are wonderful in these roles. McAdams was the standout because this is so different from what she normally does. She plays someone who is kind of shell shocked and going through the motions very well. Nivola is an actor who I'd seen in bit parts before but never with enough material as he got here. I liked that the film tackled how being born into these ultra religious communities can really affect people if their minds wander outside of it. All three characters represent different parts. Ronit who got out, Esti who dreams of it, and Dovid who has accepted it. Of course, it's easier for him as a man.

I wish at times we would've gotten a bit more information at times. I feel the film barely scratched the surface with some of the character's back stories but overall this was an enjoyable watch.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Give me my freedom." - Esti (Rachel McAdams)