The Haunting of Hill House

Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel are the super horror couple behind this Netflix series. They worked together on “Hush” and “Oculus” and they share a house in real life: they’re a couple. Together they have put together this tv series and I am so glad to have 9 more episodes to watch.

The Haunting of Hill House
TV-MA | 50min | Drama , Horror , Mystery | TV Series (2018– )
Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.
Creator: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Mckenna Grace, Carla Gugino, Michiel Huisman

The last thing I saw by director Mike Flanagan was “Gerald’s Game.” It was quite good and the “wrists like gloves” parts were my least favorite and most favorite horrors. Flanagan has established himself as a horror master and he is proving that all over again in the pilot to this series.

It watches a lot like a Stephen King novel. You have the American trappings and tropes. Timothy Hutton shows up as the modern dad and Henry Thomas as well (remember Elliot from ET?). There are some truly great actors, including Kate Siegel. I will say that this first episode requires some patience but the payoff is worth anything you might mis-perceive as boredom. 9/10

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

All star casts are interesting. I think they do them for different reasons. Jack Black and Roomey Mara have tiny roles and rarely intersect with the protagonist. Jonah Hill has a great role but, again, he isn’t seen as much. It felt like the story was too weak to not sell the film on an ensemble, but maybe that’s just me.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018) R | 1h 54min | Biography , Comedy , Drama | 4 April 2018 (France) Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot Poster On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. Director: Gus Van Sant Writers: John Callahan (based on the book by), John Callahan (story by) | 4 more credits » Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara

Director of: Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk, Elephant, Psycho, Finding Forrester. Need I say more?

It’s a good film, not a great one. Most the time you are caught up in the life and close up front face of an alcoholic, you can almost smell the booze. His cartooning was interesting but took way too long to get integrated into the plot. It felt like it was trying to recapture the magic of “American Spelndor.” Harvey Pekar was a similar character I think, minus the booze and the crippling accident. I think John Callahan’s life and art deserved more in a film presentation.  6/10.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Ok, let’s dispense with logic for a moment and look at the pathos of this poster. You have creatures and freaky looking Halloween people coming out of a book. Try to tell me you don’t want to see those creatures? The CGI in this film is top notch. In fact, it’s a work of Sony Animation who are the geniuses behind the upcoming animated “Grinch” film, it looks amazing.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) PG | 1h 30min | Adventure , Comedy , Family | 12 October 2018 (USA) Two young friends find a magic book that brings a ventriloquist’s dummy to life. Director: Ari Sandel Writers: Rob Lieber (screenplay by), Rob Lieber (story by) | 2 more credits » Stars: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor

Our director here is Ari Sandel. He is known for several movies but the one that sticks out the most is “The Duff.” He did a great job on this film but the reputation of Goosebumps precedes him.

This film will get you and your kids into the Halloween spirit. It’s well crafted and brilliantly acted. It’s not terribly original but that’s expected of a Goosebumps film. There is an interesting entrance by a familiar face at the end so wait for it! This is simple, yet pure, Halloween fun at the movies. I give it a 7/10.

Apostle

“The Witch” by Gareth Evans was understated. It was more a tale about family response to an inhuman religion tearing fathers and families against their daughters. This is what produced the Salem witch trials. Here we see another religious based horror in that same pattern but this time it’s an avowed cult and NOTHING here is understated.

Apostle (2018)
2h 10min | Horror , Mystery , Thriller | 12 October 2018 (USA)
In 1905, a drifter on a dangerous mission to rescue his kidnapped sister tangles with a sinister religious cult on an isolated island.
Director: Gareth Evans
Writer: Gareth Evans
Stars: Dan Stevens, Kristine Froseth, Lucy Boynton

Could Gareth Evans, our writer/director here be getting a style and theme? I wonder how many more the public will welcome? Maybe many. Period pieces thrive on Netflix and all streaming networks. Horror has a big draw as well. This isn’t a jump-scare variety though. This is the kind where you squirm at the thought of “what-if?”

Lucy Boynton shines once again in this, as she has in everything she’s done. I’ll never forget the first time she turned heads in “Sing Street.” Dan Stevens, from so many things but most memorable on a grand scale as “Beast” in “The Beauty and the Beast.” There are other stars in this as well. It has become just as prestigious I think to be in Netflix film as to be in feature film of the cinema.

I liked the period piece part of it. The costumes and building props were remarkable, making me feel as if I were transported back in time. I must say however that a similar and more effective message about cults has already been said in “The Village.” Look it up, it’s one of my all-time favorite psychological horrors. The best thing about it? The realism and presentation to show it COULD actually happen. That is missing in “Apostle.”

Comparing this to that, I felt this dragged on a bit long before moving into its complete BONKERS stage of the plot. It’s a fun ride from then on out but charm flies out the window. 7/10.

Hearts Beat Loud

After so many Music/Drama genre combos having come down the pike this past decade, you’d think there’d be a formula for them: an 11 song album of a pretend Irish band on itunes, the remaking of classic hits from a band like ABBA by movie stars like Meryl Streep, etc. I guess I was skeptical and waiting to see what this one would do. There were only 4 original songs in it. The title-sake song is amazing, the other three are more or less throwaways. Still, the usage and placement of these songs is highly effective and the film’s plot is written quite well also.

Hearts Beat Loud (2018) PG-13 | 1h 37min | Drama , Music | 8 June 2018 (USA) A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college. Director: Brett Haley Writers: Brett Haley, Marc Basch Stars: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Blythe Danner

The director is known for “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (2015) and “The Hero” (2017). He’s clearly “in the pocket” creating a film a year or thereabouts. This is a touching film about a father and adult daughter going to college trying to start a band together. I thought the writing was excellent and the director was also the writer.

Middle-aged dads should see it. I’ll leave that there. Beyond that, it’s great for anyone looking for a relationship film (It’s quite touching) with some really grooving music. While speaking of the music, there is a long list in the credits of alt rock music used in the film. I will be seeking out that playlist and/or making one! Small budget films that focus on people are what it’s all about for me, I see nothing to criticize about this one. 10/10.

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.

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.