Friday, May 26, 2017

Unforgettable (2017)








DIRECTOR: Denise Di Novi

WRITER: Christina Hodson

CAST:

Rosario Dawson
Katherine Heigl
Geoff Stults
Isabella Kai Rice
Cheryl Ladd
Alex Quijano
Sarah Burns
Whitney Cummings
Robert Wisdom

PLOT:

Julia Banks has had a bad run of things. Her previous boyfriend was abusive and she managed to escape with her life. She is now off of all social media and keeping low in hopes that she is never found by her ex-boyfriend. Julia is also in a new relationship. She believes that she has met the man of her dreams and plans on marrying her new boyfriend David. There is only one problem, he has a daughter with his ex-wife Tessa. Tessa is still not over David and plans on ruining Julia's life in hopes that she can win David back and have their family reconnected.







It's been established that I have a thing for thrillers that deal with obsession. I don't care if it's a crazy ex-boyfriend or a one night stand gone wrong. I really just revel in the uncomfortableness of watching someone being watched and stalked, having their entire life turned upside down and then that inevitable final showdown. These movies really do follow a pretty tired formula that I've seen a million times already but I can't help myself, I still enjoy watching these obsession based thrillers.

Going into Unforgettable, I was well aware of what to expect from this movie. Here I was hoping that having Rosario Dawson in the lead and Katherine Heigl as the villain that I'd get to witness some campy enjoyment from the two actresses. At least one or two glaring bitchy stares and a nice violent showdown at the end. For the most part, we get exactly that. But Unforgettable plays like a Lifetime television movie and not a film that feels very cinematic.

What Unforgettable does right is that it gets to the uncomfortable stuff pretty quickly. This movie wastes no time in building up characters or giving us much backstory for the two ladies. We are dropped right into the middle of their drama. We can see that Rosario Dawson is covered in bruises, blood, and scratches. We quickly learn that she has apparently been sending provocative photos to her abusive ex-boyfriend. Right away, we know that Katherine Heigl is really messing with Rosario and we haven't even been introduced to her yet.

The movie takes us back into the past. I assume it's a few months at most. We see that Katherine Heigl is immediately unhappy that her ex-husband has found love with another woman. We see that her character Tessa is very elegant, dresses well, and is also very strict and controlling. She puts up a front that shows she is very strong. She has a dark side though. We watch as she quickly tries to destroy Julia. Creating her a Facebook profile, stealing her mobile, sending photos to an abusive ex-boyfriend, and even undermining Julia at every step of the way when she is around Tessa's daughter. This all happens very quickly.

The best element of the movie is that it never really stops or slows down. The entire movie feels very brisk in terms of these two women coming to blows. In saying that, though. The movie rarely gives us anything new or surprising. If you've watched any movie that deals with obsession, you have seen this film beat for beat. It builds up to the final showdown and while we get one of those, it all feels very quickly resolved. It is over and done with as soon as it starts. The final showdown is all of two minutes of these two woman meeting one last time. It's all very anticlimactic.

The biggest upset in this movie, that will likely anger a lot of viewers is probably the ending. The film has a child in the middle of these two warring women. The ending is one that leaves a daughter without a mother but she now has a stepmother. We are meant to take away that because one woman was strict and wanted to see her young daughter succeed that her death was easier to forget? It ends abruptly and we are all meant to assume this young girl is okay with not having her real mother because she was tough on her. This didn't sit right with me. They quickly try to build that Julia the stepmother is nicer so all is forgotten. Not buying it.

When it comes to being a thriller, Unforgettable is not very thrilling. The film is barren when it comes to suspense and tension. While briskly paced, which is a plus, the film is not at all great as a thriller. There never feels like any danger. There isn't any real shocks or surprises. Minus the ending, this feels very light. For a theatrical release, I am surprised they didn't take this into a darker territory or give us something more bloody. This would have been perfect for Lifetime. Any soap actress could have done this film and tackled these underwritten characters.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Rosario Dawson is a solid actress. You can witness that from dozens of movies in her career. Her she is upstaged by a darker Katherine Heigl. This is her show. If you've ever read the press and how they love to slander Katherine Heigl and label her a bitch. She is giving it to them here in her role as Tessa. She was the most enjoyable element of this movie. Cheryl Ladd is sadly underused here and Geoff Stults is given nothing to do here. He is probably the weakest character in the film. He's pretty but given nothing to do in the movie.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is seen with bruises and scratches all over her face.
- A woman pulls herself onto a knife.
- A woman is punched in the face.
- A woman has her face smashed into a glass picture.
- A man is stabbed in the leg and heart.
- A man is hit in the head with a fire poker.







Unforgettable joins the long line of 'obsession' based thrillers. Sadly, it offers nothing new to the subgenre. Minus a questionable ending that is sure to upset some mothers out there. This is all pretty straightforward when it comes to its premise. If you have ever seen one of these types of films, you will know what's coming beat for beat. The standout in the film here is Katherine Heigl who seems to be relishing her chance to deliver a darker role and move away from those cheesy romantic comedies she has been now associated with. Only watch if you enjoy obsession movies like I do and make up your own mind about it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Phoenix Forgotten (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Justin Barber

WRITERS:

T.S. Nowlin
Justin Barber

CAST:

Florence Hartigan
Chelsea Lopez
Luke Spencer Roberts
Justin Matthews
Clint Jordan
Cyd Strittmatter
Jeanine Jackon
Matt Biedel
Ana Dela Cruz

PLOT:

When some mysterious glowing lights appear and disappear over Phoenix, Arizona. It happens only once in which they are never seen again. The US government also tries to cover up the lights by calling them a hoax. When a teenage boy who witnesses the event becomes obsessed with it. He and two friends head out with their cameras and into the desert to see if they can document the lights and see if aliens really do exist.







I'm someone that believes in the supernatural. I also believe that it is pretty ignorant to think that we are the only people or life in the vast reaches of space. With so many stars and planets out there in the solar system. I really do believe that we aren't the only ones. I have also always been very intrigued and fascinated with the notion that our government does have secret bases that are there to try and cover up alien life and sightings. They are there to keep it secret so we don't have mass panic.

Going into Phoenix Forgotten, what initially caught my eye about the film was the fact that Ridley Scott was a producer on this film. I thought with his involvement, we may actually get a really solid take on the alien abduction movie. If his trust was placed in filmmaker, Justin Barber to give us something special. All my trust was in Ridley Scott being on board this film. His name alone sold me on checking this one out. We know his record with alien cinema.

Over the last few years, I have grown really tired of this whole found footage genre. Some are over zombies, some were over the whole American adaptations of Japanese supernatural films. For me, it's the found footage movie. We have had a few excellent films that have come out that use the technique but a vast majority of the movies in which I've seen have been less than stellar. Sadly, Phoenix Forgotten hasn't changed my opinion in regards to how I currently feel about this subgenre of film.

The film feels like it can be broken up into three acts. The first act is the Phoenix light incident. We see our two main characters of the sister and brother as children. I really enjoyed the setup. I liked the whole lights over Phoenix scene at the family barbeque. I thought it was creepy enough. I'm well aware of the original footage of the event. I find it inherently eerie that it's never been explained. This opening created a sense of foreboding dread and for that, I think the movie deserves a couple of points.

The second act of the film is where it drags. We follow the now older sister. It sets up the two-time lines for the movie. The present and the past. We learn that her brother and two of his friends had headed out into the desert to find answers but they never returned. The second act is the sister interviewing people and trying to find answers to what happened that night and to her brother. It actually killed the vibe of the film. It feels like it's added to stretch out the running time for the movie. Without it, this would've been a much tighter short film. The second and third act almost feels beat for beat like The Blair Witch Project.

The third act is where the film picks up the pace and we find evidence that there are indeed aliens out there. We see what happens to the three teenagers. I found that I enjoyed the build-up to the alien abduction scene. I thought they managed to ramp up the tension. Where it felt like it loses steam is the final few minutes. I felt like I'd seen this type of ending a dozen times in these found footage films. It feels like they added nothing new here in that final few minutes. It moves from point A to point B which is fine but there are no subverting expectations here. There are no shock or surprises to be found in the movie.

When it comes to the alien action in the film. We get all of two minutes. If you go in hoping to see any alien lifeforms, you'll be sorely disappointed. It's all erratic camera footage, screaming and running through the darkness. While we see bright lights and people being sucked up into the sky, we don't see any aliens here. It all sort of feels like a very long-winded way to get to two minutes of action. The final shot of the film where the camera falls back to Earth was a nice touch though. I can't fault that final visual in the movie.

Lastly, we have the performances. The standouts in Phoenix Forgotten are the three teenagers. We spend most of our time with them. They are given the most to do. The sister character played by Florence Hartigan who gets the entire second act, plays a tough and resilient woman who is trying to get to the bottom of her younger brother's disappearance. While she is fine, here part of the film is what feels like filler. It's the three actors playing the teenagers that are standout here. So I can't fault Chelsea Lopez, Luke Spencer Roberts, and Justin Matthews.







DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A lot of dead rotting foxes are shown in the desert.
- A guy is seen getting sucked up into the sky.
- A girl is sucked up into the air by an alien ship.
- A woman starts bleeding from her nose.
- A guy disappears after blood starts pouring out of her nose.







Going into Phoenix Forgotten, I was pretty excited. I've been aware of the lights over Phoenix incident since it first happened back in 1997. I've always been fascinated with alien films and the whole government conspiracy side of things. So when it was announced, I was excited to see what Ridley Scott and Co. would deliver. Sadly, this feels like a missed opportunity. A found footage movie that doesn't take any risks and follows The Blair Witch Project formula pretty closely. While we get a few moments and tension and a committed younger cast. This feels like a case of seen it all before.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Berlin Syndrome (2017)








DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland

WRITER: Shaun Grant

CAST:

Teresa Palmer
Max Riemelt
Matthias Habich
Emma Bading
Lucie Aron
Christoph Frankin
Elmira Bahrami

PLOT:

Clare is an Australian Photojournalist who is holidaying in Berlin. One day while out exploring the city, Clare meets Andi. He's good looking and charismatic local. After a night of partying, they end up going back to his place and sleeping together. When Andi goes to work in the morning. Clare tries to leave his apartment and realises he may have accidentally locked her in. Clare will soon discover that she was locked in the apartment on purpose and has no intention of letting her leave ever again.








As someone who has an insatiable appetite for traveling the world. The plot for Berlin Syndrome is a scary one for me. It hits me on an emotional and personal level. While I never went through what Clare does in the film. I've felt the isolation and fear. While traveling through Greece. I was drugged while out on a night of clubbing, then driven to a deserted location, attacked and left with nothing but my shirt, undies, and high-tops. My passport with my new UK Visa in it, mobile phone and wallet were stolen. To come to it in the dark, while in a foreign country. It was terrifying.

I went into Berlin Syndrome completely blind. I hadn't seen any promotional material for this one at all before going into it. But just going off the title alone. I had gathered that this movie would be about someone who falls in love with their kidnapper. Berlin was going to be the location and this title was clearly a play on the whole Stockholm Syndrome condition. I wasn't sure what route this movie would take but I got a pretty good idea of what this would be like on a tonal level. But boy was I very wrong.

I'm a fan of the film's director, Cate Shortland. I'm pretty familiar with her work being that she's an Australian filmmaker. I was a massive fan of her first movie Somersault. It was a very dark drama that showed a sixteen-year-old girl who runs away from her home and starts up a relationship with an older guy. It dealt heavily with her sexual awakening. It was also the first time I witnessed the brilliant Abbie Cornish outside of a comedic role and where I first took notice of Sam Worthington. So I had faith Cate Shortland could give us something special again.

Berlin Syndrome is a movie that was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I quite liked this movie, it's hard to say that this is a story that a lot of people will walk out of and love. Berlin Syndrome is one dark and unpleasant little movie. This is not a very nice experience. While the first fifteen minutes of the movie provides the audience with a sense of wanderlust and hope. That is quickly dashed when we start to get a sense that our lead character may have gotten herself into something that she can't get out of. The next hour and a half, while not harrowing is still uncomfortable to watch.

For most of this movie. We witness a woman who is confined to an apartment, which appears to be in an abandoned building and she is emotionally and physically abused. Her identification and her passport are taken off her and she is left to basically suffer with a man she trusted. What I think the film gets right is the tone and atmosphere. Being that we are stuck with her as the outside world moves on, I felt they captured the isolation well. I sat there wondering will her parents back in Australia try and find her? Will they call the authorities? But we never see that happen.

Another element of the film that I really enjoyed was the cinematography and visual aesthetic. For a film that is so dark in tone and themes. I thought that Cate Shortland and her crew brought a very dream-like quality to it. Just like Somersault, there was still beauty to be found in such darkness and brutality. There is a scene towards the end of the film where Andi and Clare are in walking in the forest and it was gorgeous. The seasons of Berlin are captured so beautifully. The visual works as a way to tell how long she has been left in this apartment.

The acting is also top-notch in Berlin Syndrome. Teresa Palmer is an actress that I've been watching for years. I think this may be her most brave role yet. Not only is she completely open when it comes to the sexuality side of the film, she is also brave as some of the things she goes through are pretty horrific. Max Riemelt is also great in the movie. Probably the darkest character that I've seen him tackle. I really grew to hate his character. They both do their respected roles justice. It was great to see both delve into such dark characters.

Where I think Berlin Syndrome goes wrong for me is that the movie suffers from so many stupid character decisions. I can totally believe that after spending a night with a guy, he locks you in his apartment and you think nothing of it. There is a sense of trust there. Even on the second day, I would start to panic and realise something isn't right. After that, I'd spend the entire day trying to escape while he's at work teaching. She had and wasted so many opportunities to escape while he was gone for days on end and she just didn't try hard enough. This becomes seriously frustrating to watch as an audience member. It happens over and over again.

The movie also has a ton of things that made me really annoyed. There is one scene where she has her mobile early on and there is no SIM. I'm under the understanding that most if not all mobile phones now have the ability to call emergency numbers even without a SIM or no signal. The entire apartment looks made up to not allow women to escape like bulletproof glass or doors that are locked and reinforced. With eight hours to spare, she could have escaped over and over. I keep coming back to the point because I really felt they didn't show her trying enough. After three days she just gave up and subjected herself to his abuse.

Lastly, we have several subplots that end up going nowhere like one that involves a previous victim that doesn't get resolved or have much light shed on it. I thought the ending of the film while a happy one, felt like it just ended. After sitting through close to two hours of such darkness, I'd have liked a more well-written ending and another one involving Andi and his father. I know it's meant to lead Andi and tip him over the edge on making a decision that he was not sure about but it felt like a lot of that stuff could've been left out and it wouldn't have hurt the film.
 







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is held captive.
- A woman is dragged along the floor by her hair.
- A man's head is bashed in with a crowbar.
- A little boy is shown with a bloody leg.
- An old man dies of natural causes.
- A woman is hit in the face.
- A woman's fingers are broken when slammed in a door.
- A woman stabs a man in the hand with a screwdriver.
- A woman is seen covered in bruises.







Berlin Syndrome started out giving me a sense of wanderlust. It actually made me miss traveling. This film quickly becomes a dark and at times unpleasant experience. It's not an easy movie to watch but I think it has enough positive elements to get it over the line. Solid performances, some really beautiful cinematography and a few really nasty moments should keep genre fans happy. Where the movie loses points is unresolved subplots, silly character decisions, and an unsatisfying ending loses the film points. I think this film will alienate and leave a lot of viewers cold but I think it's still worth a watch.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Black Butterfly (2017)








DIRECTOR: Brian Goodman

WRITERS:

Marc Frydman
Justin Stanley

CAST:

Antonio Banderas
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Piper Perabo
Abel Ferrara
Nicholas Aaron
Vincent Riotta
Randall Paul
Katie McGovern

PLOT:

While a small mountain town is grappling with a series of abductions and murders. Paul is a reclusive writer and recovering alcoholic. After the death of his wife, he is holding up in this rural cabin in hopes of writing a screenplay that will put his career back on track. When a drifter helps him during an altercation at a roadside diner, he offers to give him a place to stay and help around the cabin. Soon things start getting strange when the drifter shows signs of paranoia.







I went into Black Butterfly completely blind. The only thing about the movie that had caught my eye was the poster art for the film. Going off the poster, I was aware that Antonio Banderas was headlining the film and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also starring in the movie. The poster also felt very reminiscent of Mike Flanagan's moody, familial, supernatural fable, Before I Wake. The use of the entire butterfly motif and the blood had me very intrigued to give this one a watch.

After watching Black Butterfly, I was torn on my viewing experience. I waited almost a week to write my review for the film because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Right after the movie had wrapped up, I was on the fence still. As the week had gone on, I decided an above average review for the film felt acceptable. While this movie has its fair share of problems. I think the third acts first twist alone, pushes it just over the line and into positive territory.

Early on in Black Butterfly, I thought I was pretty on the ball with where this movie was heading. While watching the movie, I even had one of those moments where I shouted at the television and stated that I knew exactly what the twist was going to be in the movie. It turns out that I was actually right for once. I did end up guessing exactly what the twist was going to be. But here is where I have to give the movie a few points. I had guessed the third of three reveals in the final act.

The movie contains a really solid second reveal that completely blindsided me. I was so wrapped up in what would come to be the third twist that I didn't see the second one coming. It's a twist that I don't ever remember seeing in another movie. Here it felt entirely fresh and original. While the most solid twist in the film is book-ended by two twists that have been done before. I was still completely blown away by it. This for me was enough to win me over after sitting on the film for a week.

The rest of Black Butterfly sits somewhere between a hostage/captive film and a slow burn psychological thriller. The movie doesn't really start to pick up the pace until we see Jonathan Rhys Meyers character start to descend into this paranoid drifter who I believed may be responsible for all the abductions and murders. Once we get to his character starting to show signs of a darker nature, this is where I thought the movie really picked up speed. The first act of the film is rather slow. Once we get past the earlier scenes, the film is pretty fun.

The entire time that I was watching this movie. I kept thinking to myself how closely this resembled the Stephen King film adaptation Secret Window. A lot of the stuff in this movie felt very similar to that film. Sadly, just not as well acted as that movie. I thought the rural cabin, the reclusive writer who is trying to write his next novel or screenplay. Even one of the twists here felt very similar to Secret Window. It's also the twist that sort of diminishes the impact of the first and second twist in the film. It's a case of seen it all before.

When it comes to the thrills in this movie. I didn't find Black Butterfly all that thrilling. A lot of times in the movie when they try to build suspense. It feels like they go and ruin it with lots of silly character decisions. This clearly falls back on the screenplay. It just seems redundant to build up the suspense and throw in characters being run off the road or tripping over while they are trying to make an escape. They kill it as fast as they try to build it. Doing this also seems to hurt the final twist which makes me wonder how bad of a writer Antonio Banderas character is in the film.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Antonio Banderas is fine in his role. He does losing his mind well enough. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is his usual self. The guy always looks really creepy in movies. He has a habit of not blinking and it works for his character in Black Butterfly. Piper Perabo is completely wasted in this film. She is barely in it. She comes back towards the third act but I felt she was underused here. This is the Antonio and Jonathan show so it's understandable but I'd have like to see more of her as she's a pretty fun actress to watch.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is taken and presumed murders while on a picnic.
- A man is smacked in the face with a rifle handle.
- A man is stabbed in the back with scissors.
- A woman is seen lying on the floor while bleeding from her head.







Black Butterfly all hangs on the three twists and for me, it worked well enough. The second of three twists knocked me for a six. I didn't see it coming at all and for that, I think it deserves several points. While not thrilling or psychologically damaging, I still think once we start to see cracks in Jonathan Rhys Meyers drifter, it's where the movie picks up the pace. The acting, for the most part, is solid and while similar to Secret Window, I think this movie is worth a once off watch.

Monday, May 22, 2017

IT (2017)








DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti

WRITERS:

Chase Palmer
Cary Fukunaga
Gary Dauberman

CAST:

Jaeden Lieberher
Finn Wolfhard
Jeremy Ray Taylor
Sophia Lillis
Jack Dylan Grazer
Chosen Jacobs
Wyatt Oleff
Bill Skarsgård
Nicholas Hamilton
Owen Teague
Jackson Robert Scott

PLOT:

In the Town of Derry, Maine. Local children from the area have been disappearing one by one. When a group of seven misfit and bullied locals band together, they form The Losers Club. They must try and put a stop to a horrifying monster that takes the form of a clown. The monster is known as Pennywise and he feeds on the fears of children. They must try and stop him before they too go missing and put an end to his horrific reign for another twenty-seven years.







I remember being roughly six years of age and seeing the iconic image of Tim Curry as Pennywise on TV one night. Holding balloons and standing in the middle of a lake. With an evil laugh and the point of a finger, I was immediately terrified. It wouldn't be until ten or so years later that I sat down to watch the miniseries of IT. As a teenager, it had sort of lost all that scariness that I had built up in my mind from seeing him as a kid. While I enjoyed the miniseries, it sort of fell short at that time due to the hype that I built in my head from when I was a kid.

When it was first announced that they'd be doing a big screen adaptation of Stephen King's much beloved and terrifying novel. I was pretty damn excited. I loved the idea that they were planning for two chapters. The first would handle The Losers Club and then the second chapter would detail them as adults. Just like the miniseries but with a break in between. The announcement of Cary Fukunaga as director was the icing on the cake. When he dropped out and Andy Muschietti took over the helm, I was a little concerned. Not because I disliked him as a filmmaker, but I was worried about trouble behind the scenes.

With Cary Fukunaga now replaced as the director. I was still excited to see how Andy Muschietti would tackle the source material. I remember reading a few articles stating that Cary wanted his vision for IT to be darker and more disturbing. While I would like to one day see just how dark his screenplay would have been. After seeing the new IT film adaptation. The movie is an almost perfect film for me. I couldn't think how much more Cary Fukunaga would improve on this film. After a year and a half of waiting, all that hype had paid off.

As someone who hasn't read the original source material. I can't compare this movie to Stephen King's novel. I don't know how close this movie follows the novel. Going off the movie alone, this is one of the most enjoyable experiences that I've had in a cinema in years. Not since Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World have I felt so alive during a screening. Weird to say as all three movies are so wildly different and it feels odd to mention IT as an enjoyable experience due to everything being so dark within the film but that's how I felt during this story. At two hours, it never felt long for me.

IT not only works as a scary horror movie but also an excellent coming of age story. As a huge fan of another of Stephen King's movie adaptations Stand By Me. Not since that film have I been so moved by a group of kids onscreen. The entire experience of being a kid trying to make it through school, being bullied, finding your voice and also finding that group of friends that you feel like you could pass the days and weekends with, is all over this film. The movie being set in the eighties, Andy Muschietti really does capture the innocence and that time. This is filled with nostalgia.

When it comes to being a scary horror movie. For the most part, IT worked very well. Bill 
Skarsgård as Pennywise had big shoes to fill by following in Tim Curry's footsteps but here he has successfully done the character of Pennywise justice. I think here he's even better and surpasses Tim Curry. He has created a horror icon for an entirely new generation. It feels like he was completely consumed by the role. The film has really solid moments where the tension and suspense are built up to the breaking point. I thought the building of tension here was a lot more successful than the scenes that feature quick and loud jump scares.

The only problems that I had with IT revolved around some of the Pennywise scenes. For the most part, he is terrifying. There are a couple of scenes in the movie that are played straight that fall into almost unintentionally hilarious territory. A scene where Pennywise bursts out of a projector screen and five times his regular size and a scene where he is seen dancing drew laughs from the crowd. I think a couple of the issues that I found fall back on some less than stellar CGI. But I've been wrong before and it may have all been practical. I just felt on first viewing, these moments took me out of those scenes.

When it comes to the violence. IT will not disappoint. Gorehounds will be happy with the violence and gore on display here. Not only is this movie extremely gruesome but most of the violence that takes place is against children. I'm still shocked that a large studio didn't shy away from a lot of the carnage here. Children are shot in the head, dismembered, slashed, and beaten. There is one scene involving a sink and a geyser of blood that was the highlight here. Not since the original, A Nightmare On Elm Street has there been a blood fountain like the one in IT. Bloody goodness.

Another element of IT that I'm shocked to see tackled in a big budget studio horror film are the scenes of Beverly Marsh and her father. While never shown, the hints that her father is molesting her had me so uncomfortable. I was actually squirming in my seat during a few of their encounters. The packed audience that I saw this with was also extremely uncomfortable as you could hear people being grossed out all through the rows. I loved that this film seemed to show the entire adult population of Derry to be really unsavory characters. This felt like it only strengthened the bond between The Losers Club.

Lastly, the acting in IT is standout. I'm not going to list all the actors but all seven of The Losers Club are fantastic. I haven't seen performances from a group of young actors this fantastic since I watched Let The Right One In and its remake Let Me In. The actors playing Bowers and his group of bullies are played perfectly. I hated them as they tortured and abused The Losers Club. I've already said how much Bill 
owns his role as Pennywise. The entire cast of this movie will have long careers if they choose to stay this path. They are all fantastic.







DEATH TOLL: 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Pennywise is seen holding a severed child's arm.
- A headless and charred child chases a kid through a basement.
- Someone is stabbed in the throat with a pocket knife.
- A child's arm is bitten off.
- A child is shot in the head with a captive bolt pistol.
- Pennywise is stabbed in the face with a metal pole.
- A young girl is drenched in blood when it bursts out of her sink.
- A teenager carves the letter H into a child's stomach.
- Lot's of rotting and dead children are seen.
- A father attacks and attempts to molest his own daughter.
- A kid is repeatedly punched in the face.
- A teenager is hit in the face and head with rocks.
- A teenager is pushed down a well to his death.
- Pennywise attacks and mauls a teenager.
- A child's arm is broken when he falls through a floor.
- Pennywise bites down on a child's face, drawing lots of blood.
- A man is smacked in the head with toilet tank lid.
- A door opens to reveal a child chained up and split in half.
- A child is chased by a leper.
- A child is slashed across the stomach with a piece of metal.








You can all rest easy knowing that the new IT has lived up to the hype. Not just a beautifully made horror film but an extremely emotional coming of age story. Filled with a fantastic young cast and a career catapulting performance from Bill Skarsg
ård who owns his role as Pennywise the Clown. You won't be disappointed. Minus a few unintentionally silly moments of CGI that took me out of the scenes. This is pretty much close to perfect. This will go down as one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date. Can't wait for Chapter 2.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Killer's Delight (1978)








DIRECTOR: Jeremy Hoenack

WRITER: Maralyn Thoma

CAST:

James Luisi
Susan Sullivan
John Karlen
Martin Speer
Sandy Alan
Hilarie Thompson
Cynthia Nigh
Keli Sils
Al Dunlap
George Flower

PLOT:

A detective is tracking down a serial killer who is murdering women in San Francisco.








Killer's Delight which is also known as The Dark Ride and The Sports Killer is a movie that was inspired by the murders of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. I've mentioned in many of my previous reviews that I've always been extremely fascinated by serial killers and the psychology behind them and the crimes. So when I learned that this movie was inspired by Ted Bundy. You can bet that I was pretty excited to see what they would do with the story.

The film opens with a pretty arresting scene. We see a van in broad daylight, driving up the windy roads towards a cliff edge. You can see the beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. A man removes a naked woman's body from the back of the van and proceeds to throw her lifeless body over the edge. The creepiest thing about this moment is that it happens in the day time and for such a well-known and iconic location. It seems pretty confident but reckless on the killers part.

After this pretty great opening scene. We are immediately shown the next victim who is about to be brutally murdered. Her body is soon found by a young child while he is out playing. At this pacing and with two murders in a matter of minutes. I expected a movie with a high body-count and an intense police procedural mashed together with the hunt for a serial killer. Sadly, this is where the movie sort of stops, slows down the pace and we get a very mixed little serial killer flick.

When it comes to Killer's Delight and the whole Ted Bundy connection. While this may be inspired by the murders, this is only very loosely based on his story. The only time that this film is even close to the real crimes is that a man picks up women in his van (not a car) and kills them. That's where this film ends with the connection to the real story. The way they handle him luring women into his van isn't even close to how the real Ted Bundy used an arm-cast and sympathy to get a woman to help him. All the women here, just jump on in and end up tortured or dead.

For the next hour, Killer's Delight gives the audience some really questionable stuff. A killer who picks up women and dumps their bodies in the same location yet the police don't think to try and capture him or use a female officer as bait. Eventually, they use this tactic. Instead, they do it in the woman's own apartment. The killer is smart and comes back later to finish the job in the final moments. The woman even leaves her front door unlocked with no police around to jump on him when he enters her home. It's a moment of true stupidity.

Another problem that this movie faces is that there are several victims who we never come back to or find out what happens to them. Several women are tortured during the film. He breaks their arms and stabs them. He ties them to trees. We see him do this during the middle of the film but we never find out if they survived their ordeal. Their bodies are never found or seen again. We see them alive while he's doing these things to them but there is no resolution. Not even a news report to say their bodies have been discovered. Going off the tagline for the film, are we meant to assume that this is the answer to the mystery?

The performances are probably the most noteworthy element in the film. James Luisi as our main man and detective on the hunt for the killer is great. He plays the ladies man but during the more heavy stuff, he was a great lead. Susan Sullivan was decent in her role as Dr. Carol Thompson. Her character is one of the only characters that I felt sorry for by the films final few moments. John Karlen as our killer is alright in the role but I felt like he wasn't menacing enough. I think that his charcter isn't given enough to do and that could fall back on the screenplay.

Lastly, Killer's Delight isn't very heavy on the tension or suspense. What I did enjoy in the movie was the violence. While not very explicit, the film does deliver some pretty nasty stuff. We have a killer that enjoys not just torturing women but making others watch. The arm breaking stuff here isn't gruesome by any means but the aftermath shots look quite realistic. Some of the photos of the dead victims also appear as if they are real. So at least it has that going for it. Just don't go expecting any scares.







DEATH TOLL: 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's body is thrown off a cliff near the Golden Gate Bridge.
- A woman's body is found with a broken neck and wrists.
- A woman is shown tied up with a knife in her leg.
- A man pulls a woman by the hair and breaks her neck.
- A man is shot in the stomach.
- A man is strangled with a cord.
- A woman is found by the side of the road with a broken neck.
- A woman's fingers and arm are broken by the killer.







Killer's Delight is loosely based on serial killer Ted Bundy. The perfect opportunity to give us a dark serial killer movie is sadly wasted here. While containing a few solid scenes, some decent lead performances, and some nasty violence and torture, they can't save this from being a pretty routine slasher. Characters disappear and they are never heard from again, at times the movie feels off on a tonal level and the pacing at times feels like a slog. Had they stuck closer to the real crimes, this may have had a much better outcome.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Eat Locals (2017)








DIRECTOR: Jason Flemyng

WRITER: Danny King

CAST:

Charlie Cox
Freema Agyeman
Tony Curran
Mackenzie Crook
Eve Myles
Dexter Fletcher
Vincent Regan
Nick Moran
Ruth Jones
Annette Crosbie
Billy Cook

PLOT:

When eight vampires who rule over eight districts meet up at an old rural farmhouse for their semi-centennial meeting. They are meeting up as one of the eight vampires has been feeding on children and must be sentenced to death for his crimes. At this same time, one of the vampires has brought along a human to initiate into the group as they always need eight. Little do the group of vampires realise that they are being watched by a group of soldiers. By dawn, there will be a lot of dead bodies.







Over the last several months, I had been hearing rumblings of a vampire movie called Eat Locals. The film had screened at several horror movie festivals and received some solid word of mouth coming out most of the showings. Over the years, we have had a lot of vampire movies coming down the pipeline. Some were much better than others in terms of quality. I was hoping that Eat Locals would join the long list of impressive takes on the vampire mythology.

The thing that really caught my eye with Eat Locals was the poster. I love the use of the fork which is also a metaphor for vampire fangs. Just looking at the poster while never seeing the actual trailer for the movie. I got a very 'They're Watching' type of vibe from the poster. I was actually expecting some Eastern European vampire horror comedy. That's how similar I thought the poster was for this film. The only difference here is that I enjoyed Eat Locals a lot more than They're Watching.

First things first. What Eat Locals gets right is that this film feels pretty original when it comes to its concept. Gone are the gun-totting, leather-glad wearing vampires. You won't find any shimmering vampires in sunlight. Hell, Eat Locals isn't even really that dark. So don't go in expecting some primeval type of blood-sucker. What we have is a group of vampires who are living out their days, watching over their own designated districts. They meet up every hundred years or so during troubled times to discuss tactics. They feel very classy.

While this movie is dialogue heavy at the beginning. It's them introducing us to this group of vampires and a way to reveal that they require a new replacement. One of the eight has secretly been eating children to feed and curb his hunger. This is very much against the vampire rules. So they need to initiate a human into the vamp clan by all agreeing and turning him into a creature of the night. I enjoyed watching these eight different vamps bicker and argue. It was a lot of personality clashing that gave this film a very heavy dose of comedy. For me, the dynamic is what made this film so enjoyable. The banter is the highlight.

As the movie makes its way into its second act. Eat Locals turns from a witty vampire tale into Dog Soldiers with Vampires. Only this time around the army are the villains and we are on the side of the vampires. A rural farmhouse where soldiers descend on a group of blood-suckers. This is where the movie ramps up the action and gore. We get some pretty low-key action set-pieces but for me, I found that while the film was still fun, I much preferred the dialogue heavy scenes as it gave us a chance to really revel in the ins and outs of centuries old vampires.

Where Eat Locals goes wrong for me is that the movie builds and ramps up the action but as we get towards the third act of the film, it sort of loses steam. While both sides are dodging bullets, it sort of just spirals out of control and I stopped caring. A lot of the characters that I had come to enjoy here are killed off. Most of these characters aren't even given a decent send off either. It feels like the third act was extremely rushed. It felt like they didn't know what to do with the ending so they decided a body count was the best measure.

We also have one or two subplots that aren't really fleshed out or seen through to completion which is a disappointment. There is a reveal in the second act that Ruth Jones and Dexter Fletcher who own the farmhouse may actually be serial killers. We get a fridge full of body parts and that's about it. We see Dexter Fletcher's character start butchering people alongside all the vampires and suddenly his character is killed off. We don't get much of a resolution here. It comes back to the story and script not being very tidy and polished.

Lastly, I think this is an extremely talented cast. It was great to see Charlie Cox look like he's having some fun in a role. I love him in Netflix's Daredevil but that's a dark role for him. Freema Agyeman is also another actress who I've seen in a lot and looks like she is having a blast here. Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones are hilarious in smaller roles. Eve Myles is quite alluring as a vampire and Tony Curran is owning his role. So many great actors in this film. It looks like they all had a lot of fun with their roles and it shows onscreen.







DEATH TOLL: 30 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A vampire is shot and staked.
- A vampire is penetrated through the chest with a piece of broken wood.
- Groups of soldiers are stabbed to death.
- A soldier is stabbed in the throat.
- Soldiers are shot to death.
- A vampire is burnt to death at dawn.
- A serial killer is killed by a vampire.
- A group of soldiers is killed by vampires.
- A vampire is dusted.
- A vampire is drained of blood.
- A vampire is repeatedly shot.
- Soldiers have their necks snapped.
- A vampire feeds on a dead soldier.








Eat Locals is quite an enjoyable little vampire romp. This feels like Dog Soldiers with Vampires. I thought the dialogue and banter were great, the cast looks like they are having a ball in their roles and I thought the first act showed the cast having a great dynamic. The movie has problems. The third act is a little rushed, we have a couple of subplots that don't get a resolution and some may find the tone a little off-putting. I think when it comes to vampire films, there is a lot worse than Eat Locals out there. Sit back with a pint and enjoy.


Friday, May 19, 2017

A Terrible Night (1896)








DIRECTOR: Georges Méliès

CAST:

Georges Méliès

PLOT:

A man trying to get some sleep is disturbed by a giant spider on his bed.







Being that I was born and raised in Australia. The amount of times that I have woken up in the middle of the night to feel a spider crawling on me while I was trying to get some sleep is somewhere in the double digits. Growing up in a country where most of the insects and creatures can kill or wound you, it's really not that creepy to me. This is the life of an Australian. It's just a common, everyday occurrence for us here in the land down under. Be thankful you get spiders in your bed and not a snake.

Going into my second Georges Méliès short film. I was sure that I would be getting a short film that was filled with fantasy and wonder. A short film that wasn't horror per se but touched on a simple fear of human beings and given the breath of life by one of cinemas earliest visual masters. I was sure there would also be a comedic side to his short and after watching A Terrible Night, it was exactly what I expected and for that, I had fun, once again.

A Terrible Night clocks in at just over one minute. A lot shorter than his first short film The House Of The Devil. This feels like a more contained short film. More simplistic. I thought that House Of The Devil was him just going all out on the props and tricks. It was Georges 
Méliès showing us what he could do with a film camera and a set in his backyard. I think A Terrible Night shows him reeling it in and giving us a simple story of one man and a spider.

The only thing in A Terrible Night that feels like a visual trick in this short film is the giant spider. Instead of using an actual puppet, they've just used a pasteboard prop of a spider and used wire to move the spider around the bed. For using wires and a prop, I thought the spider looked great. You can clearly tell that they've used a prop but I thought the visual side of it really worked. I'd say that it looks more believable than most crap that comes out on the Syfy network. A feat for being made in the late eighteen hundreds.

The performance by Georges 
Méliès is one of theatre. This is now the second time that I've seen him in a short film and he looks like a kid in a candy store on screen. He looks like he is having so much fun on screen even if we can't hear his voice or listen to any dialogue. He is so animated in his performance that it really does shine through. I'm excited to see what he does as the decades go on. I can't wait to see him actually star in something and hear him speak. I'm holding off though as I want to be surprised.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

No blood or gore found in this short film.








A Terrible Night could really be the first short film based on the saying 'don't let the bed bugs bite'. At just one minute, seven seconds, this is now my second 
short film and again, I enjoyed myself. What he does well is that he gives us an early piece of cinema that shows the wonder of what cinema has to offer and what it will eventually become. I thought A Terrible Night was a lot of fun and deserves to be seen.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Circle (2017)








DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt

WRITERS:

James Ponsoldt
Dave Eggers

CAST:

Emma Watson
Tom Hanks
Ellar Coltrane
Karen Gillan
John Boyega
Bill Paxton
Glenne Headly
Nate Corddry
Patton Oswalt
Ellen Wong

PLOT:

Mae manages to secure an interview at the largest and most powerful tech company in the world called The Circle. They specialize in Social Media and are on the brink of going global with their latest video surveillance experiment. As Mae begins to rise up through the ranks of the corporation, she soon realises that this new experiment may breach the boundaries of ethics and privacy. She will also sacrifice her own personal freedom in the process.







When I originally watched the trailer for The Circle, I remember being excited about this movie. The movie has a great cast, a solid director at the helm and the premise seemed rather interesting. The movie came into theatres and went without making much of a splash. I sort of forgot about the film altogether. It wasn't until recently while making my way through my list of current movies to watch and review that I came across The Circle again.

Before diving into the movie, I decided to watch the trailer for the film to make sure that it was indeed a thriller and it fits in with the genres that I watch and review on the blog. As I sat and watched the trailer. It slowly builds the suspense and all comes crashing together with Emma Watson letting out a pretty horrific scream. I was all but convinced that I'd be watching a thriller about how far a corporation will go to spy on its staff and keep those from spilling their sinister secrets. This sounded up my alley.

Looking at the critic and audience reviews for The Circle, it would be enough to scare anyone off. The movie currently holds a very rotten 17% on the website. I decided to still go into this with an open mind and hope that this was another case of the critics being wrong, which most of the time they are. My taste seems to be very different to a lot of people and I find that I enjoy a lot of the films that they don't seem to enjoy. I went in and hoped that my love of the actors in this film would give me something special. I sadly found this to be disappointing.

Anyone that goes into The Circle expecting a dark thriller with something to say about how far the company is willing to go to and spy on the world and their employees will need to look elsewhere. The Circle has a very intriguing story at its core but it's sadly not utilized. While the film does try and touch on the aspect of a company having the ability to watch every corner of the globe and to track down killers and terrorists. It does feel like they don't take that plot point all the way. It felt like they were heading in that direction only to abandon it after one failure.

For a company like The Circle to have such a charismatic and well-liked CEO as Tom Hanks's Bailey. I thought we were going to witness a much darker Tom Hanks here. I thought we may have seen him tackle a sinister villain but instead, his role feels very limited and underused here. The focus while being on Emma Watson's Mae, I wanted her to challenge Bailey and while she does towards the end of the film, it still felt like they spent so much time showing her moving up the ranks of the company to give us just one minute of confrontation. There was no threat.

Another problem that I think audiences will have with The Circle is with the writing of our main character. The movie sets out to build up Mae as this person who we can all relate to and when she starts to believe that the company is crossing that inevitable line. They go and suddenly abandon that and turn her into everything that she was against and stood for as a human. She becomes someone who turns her back on all those closest to her and it feels like they completely alienate the audience. It's only made worse when they writers try and give us another turn for the good towards the end credits only for it to feel a little bit too late.

With a movie that is labelled as a thriller. The Circle is neither suspenseful or thrilling. This movie starts to build and I started to feel like the movie might head into darker territory but it never does. The movie also just suddenly ends. It leaves us with more questions than it answers. There is a lot going on in this film with additional subplots that never really get resolved. I haven't read the source material so I can't compare the film to the book but this feels almost unfinished or like they may have planned on a sequel. So many loose ends not tied up.

What The Circle does right is that this is a visually impressive film. I thought the film looked great for the most part. The entire company base of The Circle was fantastic. The entire time that I was watching the film, I was jealous that I wasn't working for the company or at this site. I thought the movie had an almost futuristic and science fiction type of feel to it. The only moments that I was let down by the visuals were a couple of poorly constructed CGI shots involving a drone and a car crash. Other than those two moments, the film looked great.

Lastly, the acting, for the most part, is solid. I thought Emma Watson did a good job in her role even if her character is unlikeable. I think that falls back on the screenplay, though. I think Tom Hanks is underused. I would have loved to see him play someone dark and sinister but sadly, he's regular Tom Hanks here. Patton Oswalt is also great as another higher-up in The Circle. The stand out for me is Karen Gillan who seems to get the most to do with her acting range. I felt so sorry for her character in the film. Like Tom Hanks, John Boyega and Ellar Coltrane are underused.







DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A drone collides with a car windshield sending it over a bridge.

There is no blood or gore in this film.








The Circle is a missed opportunity. It's made only worse that the film actually has a pretty interesting story at its core yet doesn't utilize any of it. With a chance to delve deeper into the world of social media and a sinister corporation who plans to unleash an experiment that has the ability to spy on the entire population on a global scale is sadly never realised here. The movie lacks thrills and suspense and half the talented cast is underused. While visually impressive and watchable, this really isn't a movie that I'd see returning to more than once.