The Dark (2005)

Welsh legends and ghost sightings permeate this film. Is the daughter really dead? That is the question. Sean Bean’s character as her father seems to be the stoic sensible one while her mother Maria Bello’s is more desperate to believe anything. Was anyone duped? That’s what we waited to see through the running time of this film.

The Dark (2005)
R | 1h 33min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 26 January 2006 (Germany)

In mourning over the tragic drowning of their daughter Sarah, James and Adèle are visited by Ebrill, a young girl who claims she died 60 years ago – and bears a startling resemblance to Sarah.
Director: John Fawcett
Writers: Simon Maginn (novel), Stephen Massicotte (screenplay)
Stars: Sean Bean, Maria Bello, Sophie Stuckey

The director John Fawcett is also a producer, known for Ginger Snaps (2000), and Orphan Black (2013). Ginger Snaps has achieved cult status and is always a hoot to watch for it’s horror and teen ridiculous nature. Orphan Black is a tv show I really enjoyed, mostly due to the lead actress. Both of these works took enormous chances in doing something different. That’s probably why both were so successful.

Sean Bean and Maria Bello do a good job but since Sean Bean is so eponymous with The Lord Of The Rings, I couldn’t help but expect him to pick up a sword or slay and Orc. He wants his ex to accept their daughter is dead because he is rational, not unfeeling. Bello will not accept this and that’s what takes us into the supernatural portion of this film.

I’d have to say this one is a lot more predictable than Fawcett’s other two works I have mentioned. For that reason, I would recommend it as a light mystery/horror but not one you would clear your schedule to see. It does drag on a bit and doesn’t keep you guessing much with it’s simple story line. Add it to your Amazon Prime “worth watching” list, but maybe not your “must see” one.

6/10

Okja (2017)

Very weird but very sad film about pigs, well something they call pigs but are much larger and have a different snout. It’s also about the food industry, GMO, and the evils food corporations do to livestock.

Okja (2017)
TV-MA | 2h | Action, Adventure, Drama | 28 June 2017 (USA)

Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a fascinating animal named Okja.
Director: Joon-ho Bong (as Bong Joon Ho)
Writers: Joon-ho Bong (screenplay) (as Bong Joon Ho), Jon Ronson (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn

The fact that this is a Netflix movie belies the amazing cgi of Okja. He resembles a baby elephant in his skin and size. The interaction he has with the little girl is mesmerizing. 

My favorite performance is from Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays a tv cooking show personality who the leader of the company (Tilda Swinton) tries to put on tv to make him the “face of the company.” 

You have a little chasing, a lot of jokes, some touching moments and plan on feeling some outrage when you see the way we do things in the food industry. At times it suffers from going too fast and not slowing down to develop characters enough but I ser very little to criticize about this film.

For an incredible movie experience, check this one out on Netflix streaming.

9/10

Colossal (2016)

Codependency in relationships, jealousy from childhood friends, the empowerment of women, alcoholism, and Japanese monster movies, these are what the film Colossal works with as its palette. It is definitely a unique way of presenting these tried and true, effective themes in a movie. The writer/director relates them all together to make his statement in a convincing and effective way.

Colossal (2016)
R | 1h 49min | Action, Comedy, Drama | 21 April 2017 (Canada)

Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City, and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell

Writing and directing here is Nacho Vigalondo. He is a Spanish actor/director/writer born in 1977 with 21 directing credits to his name. The only really large scale American film is this one but he did direct a V / H / S sequel (oh my). At any rate, I get the feeling he may be better at the feel of Spanish culture movie than an American one. There are times the bar seems unreal and non-relatable. Beyond that, you have the two themes of Japanese monster movie culture and a city park in America at play and I’m not sure if he was mimicking rather than calling upon first-hand experiences. I will be looking for something more amazing from him in the future because I like horror and I like quirky yet visionary story-lines like this one.

Anne Hathaway does a pretty good job in this, though I found her at times to be “playing” an alcoholic rather than being damaged as one in real life. Maybe a grittier actress would have worked better. She does a good job however as a voice for women who are abused emotionally and physically in relationships which helps the strange metaphor of this film across to make a statement. I like her in everything she does, I just question the megastar being cast in a film such as this. She seems to pampered and that gets in the way for the message here I think. Jason Sudeikis is truly scary in this which is weird. He’s always such a buffoon. I think his childhood role and the adult bar owner role fit together seamlessly. It was interesting seeing him in a serious role and he worked with the story.

The story here is that a woman, recently out of an abusive relationship, winds up somehow back in her small hometown where she discovers an old friend and some strange happenings. Namely, when she drinks heavily and blacks out, her actions seem to be in exact parallel to a real life Godzilla-type monster in Seoul Korea. She sees the damage on CNN. Through trial and error she finds ways to avoid innocent bloodshed but her bar owning lifelong friend wants to show that he is pretty colossal as well and gets access to the same power.Like many metaphorical films, it ends open. We must decide for ourselves what really happened here. That left me feeling a bot cheated but also challenged to come up with my own meanings and conclusions which I think is the director’s intent. If you want a simple, thinking movie to talk about afterward with a good friend, this one’s for you. It isn’t horror or monster though, be forewarned. More of a drama about the abuse women suffer from men an how alcoholism is used as a crutch to avoid making something out of your life. Don’t expect monsters but rather an artsy, interesting film.

8/10

You can rent or buy this title now streaming on Amazon Video.

Silver Bullet (1985)

This was a post I did for Darren and Movierob‘s blogathon a couple years ago. You might say it was when I started getting serious about reviewing films on my blog.

People in their teens and twenties might find it hard to believe that there were werewolf movies prior to “Twilight.” Probably the most outlandish of which is “An American Werewolf in London.”

This post was my entry to a Halloween “Kingathon” blog challenge, published first there.

If you’re a horror fan who hasn’t seen it yet, you should. It’s comedic irony in a horror film like no other film. “Silver Bullet” is another werewolf film that has been lost on a new generation. I was 10 in 1980 and watched whatever I could of Stephen king movies all through the decade. “Silver Bullet” is horror with an Americana feel to it. King created a solid story here that has stood the test of time for me. Watching it 30 years later, I still hid my eyes a few times, remember terrified sleepovers of my youth in front of the tv.

The plot is fairly simple but that works well for the film. A werewolf brings terror down on a smalltown American city. The protagonist is Marty, a paralyzed boy confined to a wheelchair. The other two main characters beside Marty are his sister and uncle. They don’t believe what he is telling them about the horror he sees. Along the way you get smalltown diners, 80’s decorated homes, picnics, and scary legends coming to life before your eyes. All people around my age must remember the motorcycle wheelchair. Yes, that was something to behold! Most all of King’s movies have somewhat of a sing song vibe to them, “The Shining” being an exception. I remember reading “The Stand” and “Firestarter” in high school and there were pages devoted to oldies tunes. King has a talent for making singsong wholesome images terrifying. Silver Bullet follows right along in that style of his.

A character worth noting is Marty’s uncle, played by the indefatigable Gary Busey. He is pure fun to watch on screen. When I see him in movies like this or “the Buddy Holly Story” I can’t help but wonder if the character was written just for him. He has an attitude in real life that shows through in most of his characters. When facing a werewolf, you definitely want Busey with you. In the interest of preventing spoilers I won’t go into too much plot detail. Suffice it to say, “Silver Bullet” is a well-crafted movie adapted from an amazing story by an established and world famous horror writer. It reminds me of the 80’s in its purity and innocence. Even though it is a bit singsong at times with its focus on an American town, it pulls no punches for being a frightening movie including clever effects. Every time I watch it I see something more. The werewolf movie genre may have evolved since the 80’s but we can always travel back and get a glimpse of what it was with “Silver Bullet.”

Ant-Man (2015)

Paul Rudd’s personality works great here in his interpretation of the ant sized superhero. There’s a great villain and the story is both exciting and a science field trip through the atom and back. In short, it works!

Ant-Man (2015)
PG-13 | 1h 57min | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 17 July 2015 (USA)

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Edgar Wright (screenplay), Joe Cornish (screenplay) | 7 more credits »
Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll

In 2015, humor was lacking in some Marvel films. Ant-Man stands out that way. Written by Baby Driver’s creator Edgar Wright It’s a different perspective for sure on what is cool and humorous. One of the best things about this film is it keeps us wondering what the world looks like from another point of view. In this case, it’s quite the small one, smaller in fact than an ant. There’s a love interest and a villain, a few other token aspects of a superhero film. But all that is pale in comparison to this, well, small feature of the film.

The suit is the property of an inventor who can no longer use it. (Michael Douglas) The inventor’s daughter, played by Evangeline Lily, is working with her father to get Paul Rudd to use the suit and further the dream of an Ant Man.

There’s a lot being said here about how big we think we are. Maybe if we see ourselves as so big, we can be foiled by an ant sized creature. It gets you thinking about the power of small things. For a lot of fun, big and small, check this one out. I recommend it to superhero fans.

9/10

Top Ten Summer 2015 Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews are tough to write when you’re enjoying a Summer off from teaching. They take a bit of effort and extra thought so I don’t review every movie I’ve seen. Still, if I think it makes a nice entry I might refer to in the future or if I want to send my thoughts about a movie to several people, a blog post works nicely and I will take the time to do it. In the spirit of #TopTenTuesday here are the last ten movies I reviewed over this Summer Season.

Dunkirk (2017)

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” -Winston Churchill

Listen to me read this post at my podcast The DRP.

Dunkirk (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 46min | Action, Drama, History | 21 July 2017 (USA)

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard

This film shines a light on the bravery and brotherhood of England through the plight of the evacuation of the beach at Dunkirk. 400,000 troops were stranded on that beach and the country’s civilian boatsmen and other resources came together to get them home. There is a strong sense of partiotism on the part of the British, as an American, I found myself proud to know some Brits. The film doesn’t attempt to bring in other countries in its intended patriotism because it’s British history plain and simple. I for one enjoyed the story but I can see how some may be put off by it, especially any French in the audience. The French character is not held in high esteem. This IS offset a bit at the end when Kenneth Branagh’s character, a British general, says he will stay until the French are safely evacuated.

Director Christopher Nolan has carved his name in Hollywood with films like The Dark Knight and Inception. I don’t feel the need to list all twenty something of his films here, they are likely to be common knowledge with a movie reviewing audience. He has set himself apart as a master of visuals. I have not found his characters to equal that. The reason that’s okay is because of the type of films he makes. They are not developed with colorful and/or deep characters. He tells a story through visuals and effects. His camera angles and panoramas are also second to none. He is often compared to Stanley Kubrick this way. I would agree but in the same breath I would say that Dunkirk is not the film that stands as his “Magnum Opus” as many reviewers are saying. It has very little depth in the way of character development. It’s like a game board in the game of war and the pieces are shown up close. Unfortunately we don’t ever get to see what they are thinking on that war board. Visually, this work is stunning, as a universal window into what happened to those men, it comes up short. I imagine Brits will argue it’s simply a snapshot of an event and because they are proud of it, it is done well. On the other hand, I feel it could have been done better if we had a lens character like Schindler or Private Ryan that helped us interpret what was happening then mentally and in the personal relationships.

There isn’t much to note in the cast. It is a cast of thousands though, I will say that. It has a lot of recognizable superstar faces. Unfortunately, none of those it greatly developed. I do like the Tom Hardy sub-plot, there is some development there. Mark Rylance also delivers a stunning performance as one of the boater rescuers. Personally, I would have liked a few side stories and people in them to be developed more. I think that would have helped me on the “ride” that is this film. We are set among the soldiers in graphic and breathtaking ways but we seldom get inside their heads and hearts which I think is the key to telling a difficult and graphic story. I think some people will find the movie boring because it looks like really cool plane fights and such but is without identification with the human struggle here. The teenage and early 20-somethings are buying tickets to see Harry Stiles, the former One Direction boy band singer. He’s had plenty of success since the boy band and now he can add being in a successful Christopher Nolan film. I’m curious what those young people actually thought of the film. Stiles himself has more lines than most. One I recall vividly was when he exits the rescue boat and says, “That man didn’t even look us in the eye.” When in fact, they man was blind. I didn’t really understand the significance of this except to show the ornery youthful attitude of characters in the war like Stiles was portraying. There are no long lines. In fact, I think the Churchill quote at the top of my review is the longest running set of sentences in the film. I do question why it was directed that way. I wanted more human connection, more of a script. Again, the visuals were incredible but I wanted to get at the heart of what was happening.

It is non-linear in its telling, which I hate. I don’t like it in novels and certainly not in films. I like things explained with subtitles like: “2 days earlier.” We are not given those so it is a bit of a chore figuring out which ship is sinking and is it that ship that is now sailing with the oily chaps aboard, clean? This is a personal preference. If you like war movies, this is a must see. I recently saw Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan which is very graphic and I can say this one is not as bad at that but the excitement and tender human parts are similar. They both demonstrate the good humans can do even in the throes of evil war. I was a bit underwhelmed here. For fans of Nolan’s work, I recommend it of course, his camera work is incredible. You’ll never see a better war visually on screen. It’s a generally good story, based on true events which I know audiences tend to enjoy so I give it a good recommendation to you. More memorable characters and the development of those characters would have made it much better for me. People with British patriotism and a true affinity for Nolan’s work will not be disappointed. My hope is for a better one from Nolan in his next film.

7/10

Brick (2005)

Brick is an exciting noir film about an innocent guy who falls into the drug culture in the suburbs, by the sea no less. It is shot entirely in San Clemente, California and really provides an experience of how the area looks and feels. I know because, just like director Roan Johnson, I grew up there! This is my contribution to MovieRob‘s Genre Grandeur topic of Film Noir Movies chosen by Ghezal of Ghezal Plus Movies.

Brick (2005)
R | 1h 50min | Action, Crime, Drama | 14 April 2006 (USA)

A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin

Joseph Gordon Levitt is Brendan, a half-wit drug dealer who when we start isn’t dealing but later reveals he was. Because of his history, he is a narc for the “AP” (Richard Roundtree) who seems to enjoy threatening high school students to get information though he never takes any action with that information. Brendan is seeking vengeance against the murderous kid(s) who killed his girlfriend and dumped her body in a creek. He discovers a crime ring of heroin and seeks to continue his search working with them. He finds out her druggie boyfriend was going to be with her even though she was already pregnant and the inference is that the baby is Brendan’s. There is a new girl that comes into the picture and a lot of punches in the face, cars threatening to hit Brendan and at the last-minute swerving.

I think to see the novelty of this film, you need to realize that these kids are far too organized for high school students. We can piece together here and there why each does what he/she does but there isn’t much help from the film. From what I’ve read, Brick has become almost cult status. I have to respect that but for me, it was a “made by kids” film. Kids can do a lot but when they grow up they make films like Looper, also by Rian, that blow grownups away. I loved Looper and plan to review it in the next couple of days since I watched it for the podcast. I applaud Rian for what he’s done but most of all for getting a career such as his in movies after getting out of the maelstrom of growing up “rich” in Orange County. Some do not make it out alive. Brick is a fun piece of film Noir. I’m glad it catapulted Rian Johnson as far as it has. I recommend this one as a sleepy noir serious film with some comedy.

7/10

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Classic Paul Rudd here similar to the one was see in I Love You Man. In this case however, Rudd’s character is a caretaker looking after a real pill of a teen with 7 or 8 months to live. Has he met his match of wits?

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
TV-MA | 1h 37min | Comedy, Drama | 24 June 2016 (USA)

A man suffering an incredible amount of loss enrolls in a class about care-giving that changes his perspective on life.
Director: Rob Burnett
Writers: Rob Burnett (screenplay), Jonathan Evison (novel)
Stars: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez

I’m going to go out on a limb here and recognize Netflix for making some great original “movies.” These are films you can leave the room to get your laundry, come back and you haven’t lost the whole thrust of the show. Would they work in a theater? Hmmm, not sure, probably not as well. This is a dramedy (more drama) that makes you feel good a little but kind of rattles your nerves a bit as well. I like those types. It’s good writing too. There’s a part when the youth really challenges Rudd’s character and his words handle it perfectly.

Craig Roberts plays the invalid being cared for. He decides to trick his caretaker into taking him on a road trip and there is the meat of the film really. On the road they meet and pick up the Selena Gomez character. His wildfire hormones have a chance to offer some unholy commentary there. This is a simple but funny and touching film. It’s good for anyone but I imagine people in the caring profession would closely relate. Some may find the simpleness disappointing but I think it works well as a whole.

8/10

Deathgasm (2015)

This is a joke movie that’s fun to watch at times. Some may look at the profane title and rote satanic artwork ad be put off but really, it’s just a bloody incarnation of a teenage film like Bill and Ted’s Great Adventure. It works on many levels and fans of the genre will love the splattering blood, electric guitars, and chainsaws.

Deathgasm (2015)
Not Rated | 1h 26min | Comedy, Horror, Music | 2 October 2015 (USA)

Two teenage boys unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One by delving into black magic while trying to escape their mundane lives.
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Writers: Jason Lei Howden, Sarah Howden (script consultant)
Stars: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman

You watch a film like this to see how outrageous it can be. I would criticize it for not being realistic enough but it never claimed to be. Wayne’s World also comes to mind as an obvious comparison. Normally I like music based films and also horror/gore type films. Unfortunately, this one didn’t deliver for me in either department. If you want to get into the jokes of young men, secluded in their basement trying to start a band, this could be for you. Add a lot of blood guts and the evil one himself and you might ave a laugh with a couple of friends over some beers. The visual effects are incredible and certainly worth mentioning, created by director Jason Lei Howden (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

4/10

At time of writing this it was streaming on Amazon Prime.