Afflicted

This is a fun handheld camera horror film. It’s a horror and actually a vampire themed one at that. The title and posters misled me. I thought it was a body horror/gore film. While there are elements of that, the vampire concept emerges soon and envelops the film throughout. It is a different way of looking at vampirism for sure.

There are times in this films when it resembles a game screen. It’s a low budget film and the directors make the most of the location they are shooting in. I applaud the stuf they found to film. The bedrooms look like set pieces from architectural digest. They’ve performed quite a feat here and it works well.

1922

This was a nice hour and a half story in the cornfields with a chauvanist and murderous father and his highly impressionable teenage son. It has the signature Americana and horror of Stephen King in the way we are more or less used to.


1922 (2017) on IMDb

The film starts with a beleaguered looking father/farmer sitting at an antique century desk writing a “letter of confession.” That’s a great intro because we know right away something bad probably went down. We don’t know how bad or minor it was and you get that as the film progresses. Thomas Jane plays the farmer and I think he did an excellent job in this role. I joked with my wife a couple times about how he looked so much like Tom Hardy. That’s a compliment because he’s a great actor. He brings a lot of presence to the role and it’s enjoyable to watch as he descends into his own brand of madness.

His son is in love. The farmer uses this get him to do the unimaginable. The mother is played by an amazing actress, Molly Parker from Deadwood and The Road with Viggo Mortenson. Her part in this is well played even though it is indeed tragic.

I almost fully recommend this film. Netflix does it again! My only criticism would be they save the horror until the very end. I would have like to have seen it woven more throughout. It could have served a dual purpose in explaining to us the plot more as well.

8.5/10

Creep 2

This film came out earlier than I was expecting. I saw Mark Duplass’ tweet on my phone and rushed on home to see it.

I really enjoyed it. You can hear my visceral reaction on my podcast The DRP. For here, I’ll just say that Duplass did it again. The foreboding sense of creepiness in the original is carried on in this one. There is a woman in this one, a video “artist” who has a Youtube show where she answers want ads. Anyone see the connection?

Duplass is chilled out a lot more in this one which makes it even more scary. He offers the woman a videographer job to film his “documentary” as he discusses his life as a serial killer. This really raises the tension. You’ll have to see what happens as I am not here to spoil it for you. We see “peach fuzz” again which is highly cool in my opinion. That was one of the elements of the first one that really shocked.

This film could have just sucked but it doesn’t. It makes the most of “found footage” as a genre and Duplass’ character is highly creepy, more than ever while maintaining the similar horror vibe of the original. I can’t think of how to make it better for what it aims to be.

10/10

Winter’s Bone

I know people living in poverty. Their income status never prevents them from doing things like picking up a banjo or making sweet tea with family. Human charms like these transcend socio-economic levels as the independent film “Winter’s Bone” reminds us. It also reminds us that rural poverty is such a sad sad thing. “Winter’s Bone” is set in the backlands of the Ozarks. It centers around 17-year-old Ree Dolly, played by then newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. She is a pretty, determined girl whose journey threatens thorny characters driven only by self-preservation. As is true of most independent films, most the actors are no-namers (though Lawrence has of course become famous in her own right since this movie). “Winter’s Bone” was directed by Debra Granik.

Ree’s mother is mentally challenged and incapacitated. This was likely brought on by a lifestyle of methamphetamine abuse. In other words, it is important to the story that we see Ree has not raised herself alone. There were at one point “greener pastures.” At one point, one of the most powerful scenes in the movies, Ree begs her mother in tears to “just this once” tell her what to do. Sadly, mother can not.

Ree has to take care of her mother along with her two siblings who seem to live in ignorance of their blight. They play and smile and jump on their trampoline with the images of abject poverty all around. Their house is a shack, but a profanely beautiful one. In the early scenes, Ree has to make do just to feed the dog with rotten leftovers in Tupperware containers. At one point, they shoot and skin squirrel. The children are priceless characters and they give the impending dark plot a sense of light relief throughout. The scenes where they play and talk with Ree are heartwarming and remind us of our humanity. Whenever Ree has to leave them, you feel tension.

Ree’s father has jumped bail. He had a long history of “cooking” meth and after a somewhat fuzzy telling of his involvement in a larger ring, we find out he is sought by the bondsman. Ree is told by him she’ll lose the house unless she produces her father, dead or alive. “I’ll find him,” is Ree’s resolute response which sets her on a mythic journey through the Ozark backlands and through her shady and fascinating relatives. She’s seeking her father to save their house.

“Winter’s Bone” is a wonderful piece of “film as literature.” It uses clever camera angles and cinematography akin to Thomas Kinkade paintings or Ansel Adams photos. It makes you feel like you are part of a family reunion and that makes you feel warm inside. Of course, at family reunions, you sometimes get an earful of shady stuff you’d rather not know. You get some of that in “Winter’s Bone”. I took it all in, the beauty along with the profane scenes.

For an excellent script, convincing characters that move you, and cinematography that will take your breath away, I recommend this movie. In fact, I agree with Roger Ebert that this is one of the best movies of 2010.

Daddy’s Home

“Daddy’s Home” is a raunchy comedy focused on divorce and step parenting. It was directed by Sean Anders, known as director for “We’re the Millers and “Sex Drive” and co-writer for “Hot Tub Time Machine.” The plot and subject matter are not far afield from previous projects of his. For a film in the same vein as these it stands up respectfully. One wouldn’t think a movie about the psychology of step-parenting could be this funny but the director achieves it, mostly.

While there is a “two men comparing things” scene that belies its PG-13 rating, I’m revealing a little cross-transference because I took my young daughters and son to see it, there isn’t a comparable amount of raunchy material. For example, it’s not nearly as bad as say “Hot Tub Time Machine.” It’s different from the director’s previous work in that it takes on real emotions.

Despite the often off color humor, there is a lot of stone cold truth in this comedy and I enjoyed that. Let’s be clear, I loved these two main actors work in “The Other Guys” and whenever they’ve done comedy, I’ve been front row center doing a fist pump. Still, when you’re treating a subject like this on screen, a little more realism and heart can make it funnier. That’s my opinion.

The simplified story is this: Brad Whitaker, played by Will Farrell, is a calm, cool, collected and safe newlywed who is seeking to gain the trust and love of his new step-children: Megan, played by Scarlett Estevez a cute youngster known for tv shorts and likely to be a big child star, and her onscreen brother, played by Owen Vaccaro also a cute kid not known for much to speak of yet. From the get go, the kids give their step-dad a really hard time, I’m not exaggerating that. One example is they draw pictures of him with “homeless man shit” on his head and put them on the fridge. All Brad wants is to be a good dad, and it’s an unreal road he has to travel down to get there! To wrap the synopsis, Their bio dad shows up, played by Mark Wahlberg, and some major power battles ensue. If you’re familiar with the movies mentioned above, you can imagine what might ensue.

My final thought on this film is that I liked it a little and identified very little with it the first 20 and last 20 minutes. The time in between was a bore.  That’s too bad because a more realistic treatment of this topic could have been funnier and also could have given people like me a reason to hug their step kids instead of hiding their eyes in the daddy compares his ___ with Brad’s scenes. It’s not all bad though if you don’t mind raunch and I guess worth a ticket for a few laughs. It could have been a whole lot better.

Win Win

“Win Win” was released in 2012. The film was directed by Thomas McCarthy (known for: 2012 and Meet the Parents). It is about a man who learns that using people to get money is a lose-lose. The acting is excellent and the script first rate. It’s about the choices we make regarding the people we let into our lives.

The story begins as a struggling lawyer, Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), takes over guardianship of his client, Leo Poplar (Burt Young). At first it seems to make sense to make money off Leo. After all, Mike is almost broke and has a family to feed. It appears to be a “win” for Mike for a little while. Unfortunately though, the situation soon goes bad. Leo’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up one day looking for his grandpa. Kyle has run away from his mother Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) who is a drug addict and Kyle needs refuge from her.

Mike takes him into his own home and finds out that Kyle is a star wrestler. He has a chance to be a real champion, which Mike uses again for personal gain. Things go along pretty smoothly for a while until Kyle’s mother shows up with an attorney, Mike sternly realizes he will gain nothing through taking care of Leo and Kyle. He has to make a moral decision at that point which makes the title Win Win indeed an ironic one.

This is a heart warming story. The characters are real, like the ones on an ordinary suburban street. Are people more important than profits? That’s the basic question Win Win raises. There are slow moments but it’s an entertaining vignette of Mike and the choices he makes.

Spotlight

spotlight

“Spotlight” is

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

imdb.com

Spotlight is incredibly entertaining and extremely well made.

Check out some of the cast! This powerful ensemble is one reason why it’s so amazing:

Mark Ruffalo
Michael Keaton
Rachel McAdams
Liev Schreiber
Stanley Tucci
Billy Crudup
-Many more

There are many more A-listers in this film. One can’t help but wonder if they wanted to lend their names to decry something this big and this powerful about the church.

My conclusion:

We have a system of law that is faulty. We also have a system of the free press which is flawed. Put them together and you have a flawed but highly capable system, more so than any other I know of in the world.

This movie is about the free speech/reporting side. We see reporters acting as humanitarian heroes. For so long, no one said anything about this perversion of the church. These reporters get more and more to the core of reporting it, they just can’t stop. It is exciting to watch and feel a part of in real time. Another film that could easily be the film of the year. If you’re a human who feels things, go see it!

The Eyes of My Mother

The cover image connotes horror and discontent. I asked myself, “was it through her eyes or her mother’s.” And then of course, there was the more literal interpretation and someone’s eyes are involved here. The latter haunted me so I went and watched the movie.

[JSON_ERROR_SYNTAX]

[imdblive:title_nolink]

“[imdblive:plot]” -IMDB

Cast

[imdblive:cast]

Directed by

[imdblive:directors_nolink]

Written by

[imdblive:writers_nolink]

Other Info

[imdblive:genres]
[imdblive:certificate]
[imdblive:date]
[imdblive:runtime]min
IMDB Rating: [imdblive:rating]

This isn’t a bad movie but it won’t appeal to all horror fans. Beyond that circle, it really won’t appeal. It’s the story of a young girl who’s grown up on a creepy farm, the movie is in black and white and the images are very creepy. She is secluded from friends and family apart from her elderly mother and father. It’s never addressed why they are such old parents. There are many possibilities there.

There is a tragedy that occurs and then many aspects of oddities play out. The film is very slow going and tries to give insight as to how people can be nurtured to be killers. Still, the nature/nurture question weaves throughout. A couple of the characters who did bad things appeared to me to be mentally challenged. I saw that as a major flaw in the script. People who murder must do so of their own sane conviction to deserve revenge. There were sometimes rhyme and reason to this and other times not. It’s easier to get into revenge movies when the antagonists “have it coming.” This film tried more to show how depraved a mind can become when bereft of attention and love. As the little girl grows up, we become psychologists, invited to draw conclusions about the girl. I prefer to be shown or told what the characters are. They left way too many questions unanswered for the revenge parts to resonate with me. I can’t recommend this film. The black and white creepy cinematography is pretty cool but other than that, I think they missed the boat with this one.

The Transfiguration

Troubled teen Milo is training himself to be a better predator. He also has a fixation on Vampire lore. A young lady is about to come into his world who just might take it all to the next level. It’s a film about desperate people in lifeless situations. How do these kids deal with it? Through fantasy and other means.

Not Rated | 1h 37min | Drama, Horror | 21 April 2017 (UK)

When troubled teen Milo, who has a fascination with vampire lore, meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to blur Milo’s fantasy into reality.
Director: Michael O’Shea
Writer: Michael O’Shea
Stars: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Jelly Bean

We’ve had a trend of superheroes in the real world type films. Now we have one in the vampire theme. Milo tries to be a vampire in secret. It’s his way of coping with a very bad family situation being raised by his dope addict brother. His therapist at school can’t see what he’s up to though she does ask him about harming animals. We watch him sink deeper and deeper into his fantasy. When Sophie enters his life, a bad situation becomes worse and Milo slips out of control into his delusion.

The director is Michael O’Shea and he does an amazing job with dark lighting and sound. This film is very entrancing because of his talents. I’ll be looking for more from him in the future. All horror films need to see this film, it’s very good in my opinion. If you can handle the vampire and blood content, it’s also a good drama. There is much here to be analyzed over coffee and I love that about this film.

Bridge of Spies

“Bridge of Spies” is a film directed by Steven Spielberg. For some these days, that may not be persuasive enough to buy a ticket so let me say it is crafted to make a historical event come alive on screen. It stars Tom Hanks but doesn’t rely on his huge appeal. Hanks lets the story play out on its own without grandstanding with his character. There’s an excellent cast with him and they all work together to make this film amazing.

There is so much to enjoy here. It’s first of all interesting because it is a true story. Second, it heralds the accused’s right to a solid defense. There is much here about negotiations in and out of country. It’s also a period piece replete with authentic props and there is a remarkable conclusion one may or may not expect.

“Bridge of Spies” is top notch storytelling about an event that should be remembered from the cold war. A couple questions are addressed:

How can people thought of as evil make grand gestures of humanity? Why should we put effort into defending the rights of those such as a foreign spy?

There are parts of those questions that require a long telling so the length of the movie may put off some. I was bored at times but I kept regaining interest. If one can keep ones attention span alive between the slower scenes, “Bridge of Spies” has many engaging moments and a most intriguing payoff. This is yet another in the sequence of movies I’ve been reviewing lately that definitely could win movie of the year. It is a story told by Spielberg worth watching.