Hell Fest

As I walked into this house of horrors, aka the Cinemark theater in Anaheim, I had low expectations. As you may have noticed, I figure metascores into my movie selection these days more than I used to and this has received a 25/100. BUT horror movies always score low. While not perfect and at times derivative, this film surprised me how good it actually was.

Hell Fest (2018)
R | 1h 29min | Horror | 28 September 2018 (USA)
A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show.
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Writers: Seth M. Sherwood (screenplay by), Blair Butler (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards, Amy Forsyth

Our director is Gregory Plotkin known for “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” which I have not seen. Maybe I will now even though I paranormally despise the franchise. He has also been on many catsts and sets of films as famous at “Get Out.” The director stands out here in the choices that had to be made to get this film across. I had a few issues with the inside house stuff. The outside all made sense apart from the mock beheading. I will watch for Plotkin in the future and if I see something is playing with his name as director, I’ll see it. This movie is far from perfect or amazing though. Still, I want more so …

One question for when the Scooby Doo-like crew is in the haunted house: “Where are the other people?” They call it VIP but still, wouldn’t the cast inside the house get stored of waiting hours for just this group to come through? That I had a huge issue with. Other than that, it’s your basic slasher that derives heavily from “Friday the Thirteenth” and “Halloween.” If you go in wanting to have basic horror fun with a lot of merciless jump scares, this is the film for you! You will have fun, I did. For not making logical sense in house, it lost points with me but I will still recommend it with a good score, 7/10.

Three Identical Strangers

There is a certain mystique about twins, especially triplets and quadruplets. When I see them in their crib or playing outside, I always wonder what they know about each other that others don’t. It can be seen as cute or downright creepy to those of us who aren’t twins. After being separated at birth, three triplets are reunited in this documentary.

Three Identical Strangers (2018)
PG-13 | 1h 36min | Documentary | 19 January 2018 (USA)
In 1980 New York, three young men who were all adopted meet each other and find out they’re triplets who were separated at birth. Then they discover why.
Director: Tim Wardle
Stars: Silvi Alzetta-Reali, Eddy Galland, Ron Guttman

This documentary held my interest to the end. Imagine walking down a busy street and seeing YOURSELF walking toward you. How long would it take to start up a conversation? You’d be relatives right away I think! After discovering your own twin and seeing all the things you have in common, how about this: You discover a triplet as well! That’s what happens in essence here in this documentary. It takes you through the reuniting encounter and chronicles all this very famous set of triplets went through in the 80’s. And then, alas, a dark secret that may alter the way these men see the world forever after. This one is a must see, 10/10.

Lars and the Real Girl

I imagine there are people all over the world unable to be intimate with others. Whether it’s a handshake or a back pat, human contact to these people is terrifying. For Lars, there is an option to a human relationship, a doll he bought from the internet.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007) PG-13 | 1h 46min | Comedy , Drama , Romance | 2 November 2007 (USA) A delusional young man strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet. Director: Craig Gillespie Writer: Nancy Oliver Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider

Director Craig Gillespie is also known for “I, Tonya.” That is another film where a person is clearly portrayed who has problems. This film is a brave attempt to show just how messed up Lars really is. Don’t make the mistake of seeing this as a teenage comedy or a slapstick. Far from it. This film takes on the issue of how we can support the messed up individuals in our circle, even when their needs involve a life size doll.

The family and friendships definitely touched me. This town is so accommodating, even to the point of allowing Lars to bring the doll to church and local events. It has its moments and I think it’s Gosling’s best acting ever. Still, it’s a slow burn and I found it a little difficult to sit through toward the end. The writing is to blame. 6/10.

Sommersby

This post civil war tale shows us how tough it was back them to just make a living, much less live well. The central story is about “Sommersby” who returns to his wife and small farming town looking strange, smaller, and different in many ways. It’s a love story in fact about a man and wife who appear to be getting to know each other for the first time.

Sommersby (1993) PG-13 | 1h 54min | Drama , Mystery , Romance | 5 February 1993 (USA) A farmer returns home from the Civil War, but his wife begins to suspect that the man is an impostor. Director: Jon Amiel Writers: Daniel Vigne (film The Return of Martin Guerre), Jean-Claude Carrière (film The Return of Martin Guerre) | 4 more credits » Stars: Richard Gere, Jodie Foster, Lanny Flaherty

Jon Amiel is our director. He has a prolific resume including “Entrapment” and several others still coming out up to the present day.

Upon his return, our hero is able to make friends with a lot in the town, though not everybody. A couple swear he isn’t who he claims to be. He is able to get along and weave back into his community. In a way this is a mystery. We keep wondering who this man really is. The real Sommersby or someone else. It is masterfully crafted, I highly enjoyed this film. I can’t think of any reason to mark it down. 10/10.

Frozen River

No matter how rich or poor we think we are, there is always someone higher and lower than us. BUt then there is that level where you can’t feed your kids. I call that the poverty line for sure. What would you do in this position? We have two mothers who decide smuggling is worth the risk at 1200 dollars a run.

Frozen River (2008)
R | 1h 37min | Crime , Drama | 5 September 2008 (USA)
Takes place in the days before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec. Here, the lure of fast money from smuggling … See full summary »
Director: Courtney Hunt
Writer: Courtney Hunt
Stars: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott

This director puts the viewer among the people in much the same way as Debra Granik does in “Winter’s Bone.” You get the freezing feel of the Indian reservation. When the mother talks to the bill collector ready to pick up the rent to own TV, you get it. You feel everything. Life in a trailer with two young boys becomes an oil painting in the form of a movie. Most of us would never smuggle but after seeing the pain (and feeling it too) we may have more understanding. The acting is not Oscar worthy but it’s not bad either. I Enjoyed the story, it has a shock in the middle. 7/10

Leave No Trace

Choices made between a father and his 14 year old daughter have consequences, namely leaving her socially delayed and he unable to slay his demons.
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Leave No Trace (2018) PG | 1h 49min | Drama | 29 June 2018 (UK) A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever. Director: Debra Granik Writers: Debra Granik (screenplay by), Anne Rosellini (screenplay by) | 1 more credit » Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeffery Rifflard

The director Debra Granik also wrote and directed “Winter’s Bone.” Granik always portrays a story with regional people to give it flair. You get the folk music, the bar be cue and a general feeling of “being there” in her movies. This is a quiet and powerful journey. I found myself identifying with the dad but not too much. Each viewer will have to make up his mind about the dad. Ben Foster is the actor and he does a great whittled down job portraying this melancholy man. All adolescents try to rebel, this one is no different.

Maybe she finds there are good people who will help her if she lets them. Will her dad let the same help him? These are the questions of this very powerful and tear-jerker movie. As a film that leaves it up to you it is perfect. I would have preferred knowing more though, I’m lazy that way. Writers sometimes need to write a bit more. I give it a 8/10.

Who We are Now

I’ll leave it to you to see all the the names of these ensemble cast members appearing on-screen. It’s a lot! Apart from that you have a brilliant lead performance by Julianna Nicholson. This is a very well acted film overall and that’s why I feel very good recommending it. We change through the years, usually for the better, we hope for the best. This film shows a cross-section of lives and how they either have changed or are changing and what that means to their lives. Since I am going through a huge change right not changing jobs, I can fully appreciate the power of this film.

Who We Are Now (2017) 1h 35min | Drama | 25 May 2018 (USA) An ex-con tries to get back custody of her son with the help of an idealistic young public defender and at the same time falls into a romantic fling with a traumatized former US soldier. Director: Matthew Newton Writer: Matthew Newton Stars: Julianne Nicholson, Zachary Quinto, Jess Weixler

The director has no huge titles under his belt but he has a solid 4 film resume. I imagine, based on this ensemble star cast, this film will be what establishes his name. He is better known as an actor, specifically one thing he did was play “Armand: in “Queen of the Damned,” a highly underrated horror. I am impressed at what a good job he did directing the powerful women in this film. I don’t say powerful lightly here. An idealistic young lawyer, a woman who has lost her son … there are amazing characters that touch your heart and stay with you.

The title is exactly what this film is: the here and now of our identity.

An idealistic lawyer and an ex-com lady who has lost custody of her son become unlikely counselor/client connected. For both, change is painful but they learn to move forward and in the process help each other in unlikely ways.

I’d be remiss to not mention Emma Roberts (plays the lawyer/counselor). She’s been making a big name for herself the past few years and she is the niece of Julia Roberts. This is such an enjoyable film that takes you into these people’s lives. I really enjoy films like that from the “drama” genre. Really good ones come along only once in a while and this id definitely one. I have nothing to criticize here. 10/10.

A Simple Favor (2018)

When a film shifts its genre it can be an exciting point in the movie. IN this one it goes from Mommy food blogging to mystery. Unfortunately though, it follows no standard rule for mystery. The audience doesn’t know what to look for because it’s neither Hitchcock style nor Agatha Christie. What you have here is a lumpy mess of dough in a cooking bowl on Youtube that’s just never going to rise.

A Simple Favor (2018)
R | 1h 57min | Comedy , Crime , Drama | 14 September 2018 (USA)
A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Jessica Sharzer (screenplay by), Darcey Bell (based upon the novel by)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

Director Paul Feig did “The Heat.” That film worked 100% because of the comedic talents of Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. I can’t identify much to attribute to the director. In my opinion, this film doesn’t know what it is supposed to be and that’s why it “forfeits” a decent score. The director is supposed to tell us what we are in for and then deliver that. This film is like 3-4 genres in one and none succeeds.

The film is surviving because of a few critics. I think the actors in the film are the real reason it stays afloat. I was highly disappointed. The “twists” at the end (there are about 40) are heinous. They offer no satisfaction to the world’s longest and possibly the most boring film ever made. 4/10.

Smallfoot (2018)

Cute is a great word for animation but does this film hold my attention? Not by being cute. Smallfoot is a fun trip to the snowy mountain top community of the Yetis. We learn their ways that look a lot like “Horton Hears a Who.” We also witness them accidentally encounter humans who they call in their mythology: Smallfoot. It’s a nice story and it certainly holds up with children but I lost interest pretty early on in this simple, retread cartoon.

Smallfoot (2018)
PG | 1h 36min | Animation , Adventure , Comedy | 28 September 2018 (USA)
A Yeti is convinced that the elusive creatures known as “humans” really do exist.
Directors: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig (co-director)
Writers: Karey Kirkpatrick (screenplay by), Clare Sera (screenplay by) | 5 more credits »
Stars: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya

There are a few songs that break up the simple segments of the film. They are are forgettable though. sadly. The first sounds a lot like “You’re Welcome” as sung by Dwayne Johnson in Moana. This film is fine for small children, even up to age 11 or 12 I’d say. The 13 year olds and up will likely find it commonplace animation with a retread story and lose interest. As long as we have a target audience, let’s look at the rating: PG. Something is very wrong there. I can imagine a G rating wouldn’t bring the teen audience whereas the PG would in theory? Just an unschooled assumption. Anyway, it’s not honest to the audience doing that. I honestly have no idea why this was rated PG other than widen the potential audience. It was as vanilla as it comes.

If you’re looking to wow the smaller school kids and younger, this is a good choice to watch. Everyone else can miss it and probably be ok. 7/10 (for kids 5/10 for teens and up.)

Ghost Stories (2017)

I don’t watch horror for the jump scares, there are a few in this film. Instead, I look for an overall creepiness that stays with me. Unfortunately, this one was far too complicated a story to have any creepiness and it never made sense in the end, which made it even less creepy to think about afterward.

Ghost Stories (2017)
Not Rated | 1h 38min | Drama , Horror | 20 April 2018 (USA)
From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video
Skeptical professor Phillip Goodman embarks on a trip to the terrifying after finding a file with details of three unexplained cases of apparitions.
Directors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Writers: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Stars: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse

Why did this film have 2 directors? This could have been part of the issue. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Andy Nyman did a Liam Neeson film, “The Commuter” but I don’t recognize any of the other director’s work. This movie was based on a stage play which I am sure was a lot scarier or a lot funnier. Maybe it had just one director?

This scientist paranormal debunker is out to disprove any ghosts or supernatural things. My first thought was that the film would show scientifically how paranormal things can and do happen. It starts out with very creepy unexplained ghost stories but as Martin Freeman, known for his comedy, enters the film, it just becomes a mess. The plot is convoluted and I had no idea what they were trying to say about the spirit of an unborn baby or the mentally challenged teenager with splotchy hair. It’s like they gave up caring if it made any logical sense whatsoever. This wouldn’t have been so bad had the plot not required the skeptic to demystify the supernatural.

You’ll get the squirms in your seat and the jumps out of your seat with this film. You won’t get much to think about or get creeped out over later. I didn’t really get this horror film so I can’t say that I liked it. It’s not terrible but not my cup of tea. 5/10.