This Movie’s Quality Is Not Invisible

The Invisible Man Poster

 

When it comes to Thriller, and not the Michael Jackson song mind you, these films can hold a wide range of quality from boring and lame, to the most engaging film of the year.  As such, I could not help but hold skepticism when I saw the massive amounts of advertising for tonight’s film.  A film about the infamous monster movie, this Dark Universe turned stand-alone film looked to have potential, especially given the lead actress.  Yet, Blumhouse studio’s last film did not quite succeed like it wanted and once again returned to the theater to see if this film has the pizazz the hype is being granted.  Check in folks as I review:

 

Film: The Invisible Man (2020)

 

Director:

Leigh Whannell

Writers:

Leigh Whannell (screenplay by), Leigh Whannell (story by)

Stars:

Elisabeth MossOliver Jackson-CohenHarriet Dyer

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Realism
  • Suspenseful
  • Great Pace
  • Great Camerawork
  • Creative Tactics
  • Use Of Good Sound Effects/Editing
  • The Climax Is Great
  • The Emotional Connection To the Main Character
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • No Backstory/Rich Background
  • A Little Fake Looking At Times
  • Trailers Have Shown Lots Of Things, while Still holding More
  • Predictable for me
  • An Angle That Does Not Make Sense

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

The movie is taking a monster movie concept and bending the tale to become a much more dramatic thriller.  Like a great mini-series, Invisible Man manages to take the movie magic of the original tale and add a little more realism to it to help group more people in.  And it is that realism that makes so much of the rest of my likes really pop out for this movie.  A major selling point of the film is the suspense, and boy does it deliver on this aspect through the use of so many thing.  Whannell and her crew create a very tense atmosphere from the start of the movie to the end, never letting up on trying to keep you at the edge of the seat.  My friend and I agreed the pace was great, a constant moving ride of one woman contesting her sanity with the supposed reality, and never stopping in its quest to keep you engaged.  Very good camerawork helps amplify the feelings of a stalker in the midst and fighting the feeling of being alone despite the safety of the light.  Using other creative tactics such as varying environments, the illusion of safety, and other coy maneuvers to bring the manipulation of the invisible man to full light.  Throw in the use of fantastic sound editing, or in this case absence of sound editing and you fully get caught up in the atmosphere of fighting the paranoia and chaos of the real world.  Once the Climax hits, the movie only further amplifies all these maneuvers, yet moves the tale to several new acts that keeps the story entertaining and interesting, yet rounding the tale to completion.  And through it all, the main character is surprisingly amazing to latch on to, the emotional investment granting you empathy and rooting for her to find a break in the case.  Much of this has to do with the acting of the cast, Moss once again unleashing her amazing potential in this character.  She has these roles down pat, from the borderline sanity and screaming, to the strong woman ready to take charge.  The character design, alongside her performance succeeds in making a strong, central pillar to which much of the movie weighs on.  The rest of the crew does their job right of course, but I need to move on to the dislikes.

 

My friend and I both agreed that the movie’s simplistic backstory is a little disappointing, especially in terms of the secondary characters.  While it was certainly for time purposes, I believe some extra time to background build up only would have further strengthened the character and helped get the rest of the cast involved more thoroughly in the film.  Past this point though, the movie’s component that is a minor flaw is the fake looking effects that sometimes arise.  Understanding, it is not the main theme, the movie does sometimes draw into the fake looking special effects, that still fit for the film, but not the smoothest at times.  Past that minor flaw, the movie’s next component that got me was the predictability of the film.  Now for me, I’ve had plenty of experience to see foreshadowing and allusion to what is coming next, so using that and much of what the trailers have revealed I got most of the twists of this movie.  My friend though stated not remembering most of the trailers and did not pick up on some of the predictable parts, and stated that if you have not been bombarded by the trailers you should have no problem dodging much of the predictability.  As for me though, I had most of the suspenseful moments toned down because I had a good guess of what was coming next.  Yet, the part that got me near the end though was a concept the movie takes to geniously start the next bout of thrills and get the excitement turned up.  Yet, that concept should have been consistent and if you review the scenes and realize Cecelia’s advantage should have remained said advantage, but then gets warped in a nonsensical way was a little irritating for me.  Lost in the moment and seeing the next approach to threatening, it helps soften the blow, but the logic does not have to drop for the sake of keeping the thrills. 

 

The VERDICT:

            In all honesty, the movie was awesome on so many levels.  An engaging character leads this thrilling, fast paced adventure, where a realistic approach helps to give this monster flick a much deserved repaint.  Using fantastic camera and sound editing, alongside creative approaches to keeping the thrills coming only further amplifies this film’s successful goal of entertaining, with plenty of rewatchability for this reviewer.  And throw in the amazing character and acting to bring her to life and you will find the movie succeed on many levels to bring life into this genre.  However, the lack of backstory is something I really longed for to help give more layers to a few of the characters, and the computer graphics to help show the threat could have sued some touching up.  Alongside the predictability and inconsistent advantage twist, these two components were the weakest aspect of the movie, and for once I would have loved some extra time to iron things out and make it perfect.  Overall though, this movie is a fantastic flick with rewatchability and definitely worth a trip to the theater with a group or by yourself. 

 

My scores for the film are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

This Boy is Growing Up? A New Direction For This Horror Film

Brahms: The Boy II Poster

 

The age of sequels continues to surprise me in the extent they will go to make a dollar.  Tonight, the movie that I saw came out of left field, especially in given how they ended and took the first film.  Yet, seeing an opportunity to make a buck, the movie has arisen to once more extend the series into a potential continued franchise in hopes of being the next Marvel like entity.  Well, despite the years between, I’m willing to give it a shot in hopes of some creative potential showing up to brighten the series and try to wow the crew.  Will it work?  I don’t know, but here are my thoughts on the latest horror film:

 

 

Movie: Brahms: The Boy II

 

Director:

William Brent Bell

Writer:

Stacey Menear

Stars:

Katie HolmesOwain YeomanChristopher Convery

 

 

LIKES:

  • Some nods to the Original Tale
  • Moves At A Decent Pace
  • The Creepy Atmosphere And Look Of Brahms
  • A Solid Opening To A Franchise
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Not Scary
  • The Lackluster Suspense
  • Stories That Have Little Details
  • Mediocre Character Development
  • Trying to Retcon Part Of The Story
  • The Set Up Of the Franchise Focus

 

SUMMARY

 

I guess if trying to establish a franchise, it’s important to have nods back to the original, and in this film’s case it does so.  Enough to pay homage to the origins of Brahms last adventure, the Boy II fills in the pieces of how the two movies are connected to help ease you into the new direction it takes.  It does this well enough without detracting from the tale of this film, and fortunately the movie continues at a decent pace to keep you from being too bored given this is not the most exciting horror tale to come to mind.  Using the new and old stories together, this potential launch into a new franchise at least holds potential to have some further mystery to it, which is probably the biggest selling point of the story.  In regards to scares, Brahms’ tale is another example where creepy is the primary source of fear.  Using a realistic environment, creepy shadows, and the slight movements and off camera work, the imagination leaves an unsettling taste in your stomach.  Brahms’ soulless gaze and porcelain face always seems to stare into you and leave me with crawling skin.  You know something is up with the doll, especially in this new direction, but that mystery of what lies in the antique dolls eyes.  It’s that source that is the true horror element in this film and goes with the slower movies scares this film thrives in.  As for the acting, solid performance by all involved, with Katie Holmes reappearance a balanced and believable film of terror, love, and bravery all mixed into one.  Young actor Convery executes the role well, surprisingly making a part with few lines have some layers to it and tell the tale through his facial expressions than actual lines.  The rest of the cast accomplishes their roles, though the dad could have used some more involvement, but otherwise a great family dynamic.

 

Yet the movie falters in a few other things that take away the magic horror movies try to accomplish again.  For one thing, much of the film is predictable given all the foreshadowing done at the beginning, with lines designed to lead you into the plot.  There are a few changes in the later acts to help give you some “surprise” as it leads to the next direction of the film, but for the most part you know what is coming by about midpoint of the movie.  Scare wise, the movies unsettling nature is the main source, but in regards to other tactics it does not work and did not leave me feeling too uneasy when leaving the theater.  Lackluster scares faded into little suspense, which unfortunately led to boring action and drive, another staple of the horror film.  As such, you will need to enjoy the calmer scare tactics to enjoy this film.  If looking for more of the story element well you again find some lacking moments to this film as well.  The story tries to take some side tales to help add more complexity and mystery, but upon revelation are nothing more than quick detours that do little on their drive back up the main story.  The same goes for the character development, small tales that lead to some scars on our characters psyche, only to be grated down to passing comments and unmeaningful solutions that again lost the potential.  Given the focus on the doll, I guess other characters had to struggle in the character department.  An even bigger mess is trying to forget, or at least underplay, the ending events of the first film. Thus when the original writers come up with a rewrite that is not a reboot, I would say, but more of retconning to make the new direction work.  It’s sad to see the integrity dropped for the focus on the franchise and I believe that is the source of much of the trouble of this film.  By not focusing on continuing the tale, or more so focusing on the film by itself, the movie suffers from cutting corners and new gimmicks, thus overall decreasing the quality.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Brahms’ second installment proves that money talks, and this film is a set up for a new face in horror in the near future.  This story thrives on the creeps, acting, and franchise frenzy, hoping you’ll ignore the previous installment and welcome the new direction.  Some of these things work well, but overall the movie suffers from focusing on potential franchise and skimping on the stories and development other movies have succeed in.  Throw in that the scare factor and the suspense are very lacking and you are once again bored in this tale that held potential and dropped it again.  The Boy legacy continues to dance around maximizing scares and hybridizing other franchises to craft a haunting legacy that can leave more of a print.  Yet, the movie will continue to be mediocre movie productions without tightening up the story and injecting a little originality and development into it.  As such, this film would best be left to the Netflix viewing, rather than hitting the theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller:  5.5

Movie Overall:  4.5

 

Is This Island A Fantasy Worth The Price?

 

Fantasy Island Poster

            It was an interesting television show back in the day, an island that can grant you any desire you want, though at a price.  Welcome to Fantasy Island and the second review of the day is all about the wonderful world of Blumhouse modernizing the classic plot.  Robbie K is back with another look at the silver screen wonders to determine is this trip to paradise worth the scares or not to dare as he reviews:

 

Movie: Fantasy Island (2020)

 

Director:

Jeff Wadlow

Writers:

Jillian JacobsChristopher Roach

Stars:

Lucy HaleMaggie QPortia Doubleday

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Pace
  • Nods To References
  • The Satisfying Visual Appeal
  • Funny At Times
  • Better Character Development Than Expected
  • Some Twists
  • Michael Pena

 

DISLIKES

  • Most Characters Still shallow
  • Plot Twist is Okay
  • How Random The Island’s Gimmicks Are
  • The Sudden Change Of Plot
  • How Forced The Comedy Is At Times
  • The Rushed Ending
  • Not Scary

 

Blumhouse knows how to churn out the horror movies like a gumball machine, where they come out a quarter a ball and sometimes have no flavor at all.  Fortunately a recurring theme that I like to see is that the movies do go at a decent pace, entertaining and fun to capture a variety of attention spans.  Fantasy Island is a quick paced adventures that tries to juggle “original” stories while still keeping to the feel of the original series.  I appreciated the nods to the references in this movie, some very well integrated, others forced and not as satisfying.  One thing I think many people agreed was that the film immerses itself in the superficial pleasures movies have taken on, mainly in the form of bikini clad hot people, handsome perfect matches, and those oh so satisfying horror elements that etch in our minds.  It’s all about the Pleasure Island effect and for the younger generation it works.  This is also true with the comedy, a movie that does little to integrate wit and wonder, instead going into those reality TV tropes that MTV made famous and latching on to them.  It was funny for me at times, but overall a bit stale and forced.

Yet I’ll give them props that they managed to defy my expectations and give better insight into characters than I anticipated, primarily in three characters whose stories ran a bit deeper than the G-strings the extras wore.  I tried to grapple on to these characters for the most part and figure out if there was a deeper connection to the story over all.  This does not happen that often either, but the movie got me with a few twists and while not my favorite, I have to give them points for surprising me.  My favorite thing would have to be Michael Pena though.  While not the best acting job he has done, I think he inherited the island’s owner role well, and makes for an interesting piece in what could be a series.  I’m not sure where they will take him, but he has that cool, collected charm that is both comforting and deadly at the same time.  He makes for a complex character, who holds many secrets that unfortunately were not fully delivered on for me.

 

Now in terms of what is decreasing scores, that comes in the form of the incomplete and sort of left wing twist they pulled into this film.  First of all, despite trying to develop the characters, they did not quite deliver the full force of development that I think they were going for.  Most of the characters start to represent certain character paradigms, but these political charged issues get swept under the rug for more superficial fun and “horror”.  Even the ones with a deeper well of development sort of become flaky figures whose indecisiveness is more annoying than fresh for this reviewer.  As they try to resolve their character flaws, the after school special approach kicks in to not give a satisfying finish, but instead just bluntly finish the film.  Forced humor does not help make things better, with so many tropes from two of the characters becoming annoying as they fall into the new generational tool bag approach that somehow keeps selling.  The comedy to relieve the “tension” of the film does not work for me and felt unnecessary at times.

Much of this has to do with that plot twist, a curveball that was thrown to offset the stagnant pond, only to cause ripples in wrong way.  It’s a forced introduction to justify the interconnected stories and sort of becomes an eye rolling experience when everything is explained.  It’s because of this twist that the plot of the movie changes, going from horror mystery to action mystery that does little to embrace the alluring wonders this island might have.  Even the plan to handle the island changes three to four times, showing potential indecisiveness or panic at trying to force this twist into the film.  And because of the change in the horror approach, the island’s gimmicks, the things the trailer was using to rope you in, start to become cheesy pieces/obstacles who only serve to push the characters to make bad decisions rather than become the character developing pieces they want.  It’s almost like watching someone cheat on a video game, where the goal is not so much to win, but to survive until the movie’s time runs out.  This lazy finish to a buildup that seemed interesting and further dilutes both the story and scares.

This brings me to the last two points.  First the ending of the film feels very rushed. The twist getting forced at the end sort of discombobulates the pace of the plot and as the waves are settling, the directors seemed to want to quickly tie it up to not go past two hours.  The piece meal finish is not very suspenseful and the quick wrap up only has some relief from the heart string pulling shot that comes in the final moments of the film.  Yet the biggest thing is, the scares of the movie are rather null and void.  Fantasy Island has little in terms of bone chilling terror or mentally scarring moments, again forced to dilute these components to keep the PG-13 rating.  It’s this lack of scares that sort of makes the movie boring and thus, I had wished they had gotten a little more creative with their gimmicks the way Scary Stories did back in August. 

 

The VERDICT: 

            Is this movie as bad as a 22 on Metacritic?  I don’t really think so.  Fantasy Island falls into the trend of making a superficial movie that has all the gleam to attract you with little sustenance to keep you nourished.  It’s a great opening horror movie for the younger generation to wet their feet, as it attempts to get some relatable issues on the table, add a small amount of character depth, and still give the “thrill” of the chase.  Yet where the movie falters is in its ability to really tie this adventure together, managing to put a twist into the film, but not in the artful form to pull everything together.  Even worse, the movie’s rushed ending and lack of scares just makes this an MTV television series with a more bloated budget.  While the performances do their best to handle the characters, there is not enough meat to this islands presentation to say it’s the best horror movie, but there are enough special effects gimmicks that can make a night out with friends worth the theater visit. Otherwise hit this one up later on down the road when it hits streaming.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Horror:   5.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

 

Does This Film Have Rhythm

The Rhythm Section Poster

 

The history of spy thrillers is much like the characters we have come to know and love, filled with various identities that range in quality.  Depending on the type of edge and style that is mixed with the thriller though (deep seated espionage and character development vs. gun slinging escapades) the fan base is very mixed on the quality of the film.  Tonight, one such movie tries to take a shot at it in hopes of being a memorable addition to the movie.  With a trailer that looked slow and gritty, I can’t say I was looking forward to it, but several movies have surprised me in the recent months.  Robbie K here ready to share his thoughts, as we look at:

 

Movie:  The Rhythm Section (2020)

 

Director:

Reed Morano

Writers:

Mark Burnell (screenplay by), Mark Burnell

Stars:

Blake LivelyJude LawSterling K. Brown

 

 

LIKES:

  • A Different Character Development
  • A Decent Mystery Component
  • More Focused Spy Thriller
  • Good Performances Given Limited Range
  • A Decent Look At the Morals That Come With Revenge

 

DISLiKES:

 

  • The Lack Of Major Interaction With Family
  • Time Warp Skip
  • Convenient Forgetting Of Skills
  • A Little Drawn Out
  • Action Scenes A Little Too Plain
  • Some Shaky Camera Scenes
  • Jude Laws Mixed Involvement
  • Some Rather Intense Torture Moments

 

 

SUMMARY

 

There are a lot of nuances about this film that are difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best.  The film focuses a lot more on character development than action (as expected from the film), but the movie takes a different seat in developing not so much the back story, but the dive into the new life that Lively’s character takes.  It’s a dive into the darker aspects and morals that come with a revenge tale and while a bit cliché I give the director props for his choices in diving into that dark place.  The constant turmoil of decisions, the reflection of the lives she holds in her hands, and the ever-driving fuel of revenge are all balanced in a manner that is quite gripping for those that like being into the mind of the protagonist.  Yet, as the psyche of the character begins to develop, the story also starts to develop a few other components spy movies are notorious for portraying.  For one thing, there is a decent mystery component in discovering the identity of the person behind the whole ordeal and who is friend vs. foe.  I nearly had the twist, so it hopefully it will give you a mind teaser to drive your interest into the film.  As you can guess, the focus of this film is all about the espionage component, using more tricks of the trade and seduction than actual gun play and combat.  Fight scenes are realistic to support it and again, the movie has realistic flavor to it and should please those type of fans.  It’s all brought to life by a decent spectrum of acting.  Law comes out sort of an edgier version of his character from Captain Marvel, whose dialogue and opening moments work very well for me.  Brown’s character has a more cornerstone moment, and utilizes the drama repertoire from his television days to good use.  No surprise, it’s Lively who sells much of the movie, with a character that has stacked components to it and shows her ability to handle a darker, somber roles.  There are times where it’s a little cheesy and drawn out, but overall I liked her skills.

 

Now onto some of the things I wasn’t a big fan of, for there were several in this movie.  For one thing the whole story is based on her love of the family driving her actions, but this film did not do the backstory well.  Dropped to lots of repetitive shots of silently interacting with her family, the interaction with the family is more repetition and tearing up from Lively than sustenance acting, a shame given the potential I had hoped to see.  Still, the thirst for revenge seems to be able to get someone trained super-fast, because without the dialogue cue I would not have much knowledge of the time span of this film.  The realistic nature of the film drops out at this quick pace of progression to develop skills that supposedly take years to master.  It is funny, because those skills are surprisingly dropped at convenient times to help make the plot work, something that made me roll my eyes a bit given how much they bragged about it. This is something that I don’t quite think is the right component for a spy skill feature.  You can probably guess this as well, but the lack of major action or even moving plot with a super villain made this movie feel a little slow for me too, and the gritty nature of the film did not help to add energy to the movie.

This takes me to the next point the action scenes themselves.  Given this is no James Bond, the Rhythm Section’s action is again more realistic, where injury and blows leave debilitating marks instead of just some boo boos.  While this is nice to see, it leads to these moments being a little too plain for me, with clichéd chases, less suspense and only a little bit of excitement added to it.  Part of this had to do with the shaky camera work, which while not the worst, really was not needed to help add to the suspense ,when that money could have gone to better coordination.  In addition, the man who trained her and seems to be going to the depths of hell with her in the trailer, is really not used that much either.  While Jude Law maximizes his scenes, I was disappointed in the way they handled the character and relationship of the two at times, which again was disappointing given the start the film had.  Finally, those with weak constitutions need to skip out on this film, because the fights and training may be a bit too close to traumatic experiences to be enjoyed. 

 

The VERDICT:

            The Rhythm Section is not going to be the film for everyone, because it’s a slower, drier spy thriller that really focuses on the espionage and not the action.  Lively leads the film with a good performance, diving into the madness of revenge while helping figure out the true evil that caused her such grief.  If that’s the kind of spy thriller you desire this movie is going to be for you.  However, if you are like me, this appreciation of the spy class needs a little tweaking with a better pace, less convenient dropping of skills, a time lapse that is not to be believed, and better use of Law were all needed to take this film to its true potential.  While not awful, the movie still did not meet the surprise I really wanted leading to this movie being mediocre for this reviewer.  I believe, the movie is best left to a home view to maximize your potential, unless you really are a big Blake Lively fan, then you can knock yourself out. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Drama/Mystery:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Taking a Turn On The Busy Side

The Turning Poster

 

As the hourglass turns, so too does another movie to join the prize machine of movies that may or may not be worth the coin.  Welcome to Robbie’s reviews and tonight we dive into another horror movie that is going to try and shock us into a new realm of nightmares.  After much advertising, tonight’s film is hoping to turn a few hairs grey and maybe have us scratch our heads in confusion.  Will it work though?  I’ll share my thoughts down below as we get set for another review of:

 

Movie:  The Turning (2020)

 

Director:

Floria Sigismondi

Writers:

Carey W. Hayes (as Carey Hayes), Chad Hayes

Stars:

Mackenzie DavisFinn WolfhardBrooklynn Prince

 

 

LIKES:

  • Creepy Setting
  • Good Acting
  • On 90 minutes
  • Definitely More Unique
  • A More Realistic Tension Bringer

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • So Much To Keep Up With
  • Not the Scariest
  • The Weird Ending At the End
  • The Slow pace
  • Trailer Has Given Much A Way
  • The Lack Of Unique Creature

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Horror movies are coming out super frequent now, and the tactics to scare one are starting to grow stale because of exposure and desensitization, at least to me.  However, The Turning succeeds in that creep factor by helping grant the audience access to the a freaky board that is this bizarre chess game.  In the walls and halls of the mansion are plenty of dark shadows, settling boards, and other tricks to help set the mood.  It’s fantastic use of simplistic sounds and should help get the tension going.  A solid acting set by Davis leads the tale as she balances all set on her shoulders, going from aspiring nanny, to scared sleuth in the short run time.  Wolfhard and Prince as the young wards under Davis’ care, each bringing their own brands of creeps from the sinister smile and delivery of Wolfhard’s character, while Prince has that innocent yet mysterious nature in that angelic smile.  All of these performances work so well to mix with the setting to draw out the true, devious nature of the beast.  Yet, to add more fuel to the fire of likes, the movie also accomplishes something else to help it stand out from other films of this genre.  One is that it’s got a more unique approach to storytelling, which may not be apparent at first, but come the last twenty minutes or so, you’ll start to get another appreciation for the movie that some may like and others will despise.  Looking for realism?  Well, this movie succeeds again with sticking much closer to the realm of truth then the realm of fiction, at least for much of the film, and that component will help ground you to the artistic nature that this film tries to take.  If you like those psychological pushers, then this should be a selling point for you.  As for the best part, it’s all done in ninety minutes, showing that some of these artistic directions can indeed be shown in a reasonable time, take a note of this Oscar films.

 

Yet the film’s direction and unique styles may also be the downfall for the horror buffs and fans who like a little more tradition to their approaches.  First of all, there is a lot to keep up with in this film, as a hodge podge of films from the genre blend together to make a very busy film.  It’s almost like each inspirational film had an impact on the story, which pulled the story all over the place and make it busier than it needed.  As such, the movie starts suffering in turns of clarity and even scare tactics.  Thank goodness for the creepiness, because for me the scare factor was actually a little low, lost to mediocre jump scares, foreshadowing taken a little too far, and the trailers giving too much a way to those with a decent memory or have seen it enough.  It resulted in a feeling of the movie dragging a little longer than it needed, which meant it was a little boring, with only the artistic nature of the movie keeping my interest held.  As you can guess from the trailers, a unique explanation or curse is going to be a bit of long drive and as such you might disappointed with lies in the shadows of the halls.  Finally, the ending itself is not for everyone.  While I give it points for originality, the sudden finale makes for one of those endings that usually rubs me the wrong way, because it’s interesting but also a bit too unique and I’ll leave it at that.  It’s the result of the busy story, and the presentation may mislead you enough to be a surprise, but also potentially tick you off with this direction.  It’s going to really depend on what approach you like, from linear tricks and treats, or unique artistic decisions that are from left field.

 

The VERDICT:

            The trailers did the film a lot of credit at painting a dark, twisted picture that is all about the creep factor.  A film like the Turning is sure to turn a few thoughts towards having more food for thought, and depending on what type of horror fan you are, will determine if you like it.  Points for this reviewer are a fantastic setting established for creepiness and realistic flow.  A good acting cast further brings the horror factor out and a more unique approach gets points in my book given how tough it is in this day and age.  However, this new approach is also potentially a downfall for some as the movie gets really busy, with so much though and direction that you have to figure out if you like keeping track of everything.  Scares took a hit for me in this film, and the slow pace itself leads to potentially a film that will not be the modern preference.  Still, if you are looking for a thought-provoking movie, this piece should give you something to talk about and the theater can help elevate the ambience for sound, though I think the true terror will come from watching it at home. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

A Grudge That Needs To Settle And Reset

 

The Grudge Poster

  It’s January, and that means it’s time for testing for things that may or may not work this year.  One genre that seems to love creeping in this time of year is the horror genre, in hopes of getting the fanbase flocking in.  Yet, the horror genre always fluctuates depending on the imagination, the risks, and the vision of those who helm the creative wheel of design.  This weekend, the solo film releasing this weekend is based on the popular series that has been retired in the America’s, in terms of mainstream, for some time.  I’m talking about the Grudge and today I review to determine if the latest malicious spirit adventure can reclaim its hold over the modern generation. Robbie K back with a look at:

 

Film: The Grudge (2019)

 

Director:

Nicolas Pesce

Writers:

Nicolas Pesce (screenplay by), Nicolas Pesce (story by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Tara WestwoodJunko BaileyDavid Lawrence Brown

 

 

LIKES:

  • Short Run Time
  • Good Use Of Visuals
  • Creepy Aesthetic
  • Lin Shaye’s Acting
  • A Unique Presentation Style

 

DISLIKES:

  • Complicated Story Telling
  • Predictable Story Telling
  • Not Scary
  • Vicious Deaths
  • Boring
  • Not Quite Unique Enough

 

SUMMARY:

 

It’s not a good start when the first thing I mention is the short run time, but in this case it works to be at the 90-minute mark for the run time.  Grudge is all about visuals and the art of trying to scare you, and I was able to see a heavy focus on those superficial features instead of the movie’s presentation as a whole.  The Grudge’s visuals rock in terms of establishing the spooky atmosphere, with shadows, low lighting, and spooky sound effects to make the creepy aesthetic as life like as possible.  I felt the haunting atmosphere leave with me, the lack of safety in my home or with lights on as the curse goes wherever it chooses.  That creepy nature itself is the true scare factor of the movie, always keeping you wondering what disturbing visual is coming next in the hallowed halls of the home.  As for the cast who has to act in the setting, Tara Westwood was a fantastic actress to take point in the progressing role.  Not quite the most unique role, but it works given the direction this film took.  Yet, the leading lady of horror Lin Shaye still shows off her trade for the occult captivating the insanity, looming nature of the spirits around her, and the feisty bouts of dramatic flair that fits perfectly in this world. In terms of my final positive, well the story is told in a nontraditional manner, and for that originality gets points in the eyes of this reviewer, especially given the attempt at trying to establish a mystery at the same time.

 

Then come the things that took away from the experience from me.  Though original, the story telling is complicated, a piece meal of flashbacks that like a mosaic seem to fit together, but more so in a fractured manner that is a bit too artistic given what I go to these movies for.  The mystery that was trying to be put in did not pan out for me, because of how predictable the story was, and in the short run time, all the clues were laid out for you miles in advance that it was underwhelming to say the least.  Despite, the attempt at making a creepy atmosphere, the scares themselves are very lackluster, a similar tactic of trying to throw something in every corner to scare.  Sadly, the techniques don’t change much and by the third jump out, the technique is so stale you turn it into a game of counting how many attempts in 90 minutes.  Even more so, it was more about gruesome deaths than actual scaring, the unrelenting depictions of blood and maiming actions await those giving this movie a change.  Not scary again, just there to feed the beast of darker picture lovers.  All of these should be no surprise in the Grudge series, I get it, but in the past the newness of it allowed these components to be more enjoyable, while the constant storytelling and linear progression helped balance all the chaos.  In this unique telling though, the constant back and forth, cheap scares, and predictable ending just makes this film boring, missing any sense of danger, challenge, or even gripping action.  The film as a result feels rather bland, missing the same oomph that we always love to see in this genre.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            The Grudge will always hold its unique nature and destructive force in the world of cinema.  However, this installment does not quite reach the goals set out by the series and directors long ago.  While unique story telling style and creepy aesthetic win in this movie, alongside some decent acting, the movie just is a bit too convoluted and boring to say it was the ride I was looking for.  Fans of the series are going to be the target audience, or for those just wanting complex tie ins of dark demises.  As for the rest, hold out until the streaming services pick it up, and event then it’s limited.  Instead, I encourage to try out some other films instead from the holiday season. 

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery:  5.5

Movie Overall:  4.5

Black Christmas I Gave You My Hopes, But The Twitter Ranting Just Gave It Away

Black Christmas Poster

 

A common trend I keep seeing these days is that remakes continue to be a popular option.  Hollywood’s struggle for originality and desire to turn a profit continues to pump reimaginations of classic tales, in hopes of attracting a younger audience.  Sometimes these spins turn out to be incredible, while other times the product is cringe worthy mashups that leave scars in our memories.  Tonight, a second remake of a beloved “cult” classic tries to spice up the holiday with scary slasher tactics.  The commercials are painting this one to potentially be cheesy, but nevertheless we dove into the trenches to give it a shot.  My review today is on:

 

Film: Black Christmas (2019)

Director:

Sophia Takal

LIKES:

 

  • Moves Quickly
  • Has Some Funny Moments
  • A Few Likeable Characters
  • Relevant Topics

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not Really Scary/Horror
  • Paper Thin Plot
  • Rushed
  • One-Dimensional Characters
  • Antagonists That Are Limited
  • Much Ruined In Trailers
  • Fight Scenes Very Limited
  • Predictable Twists That Are Lack Luster
  • Cheesy Writing and Dialogue
  • Poster Politics That Are in your Face

 

SUMMARY:

 

When doing a remake, the challenge is to find a way to gives nods to the original, but still make it your own and Black Christmas tries very hard to do this.  My buddy and I agreed that it moves at a brisk pace, not taking long to get into the slasher antics and what are femme fatales will be up against.  A few likeable characters await those willing to give this a shot, with the main character and maybe two others standing out as somewhat balanced people with a consciousness and open mind.  Not sounding too good huh?  Well, I’ll report that there are some funny moments in the film, both intentional and unintentional that I think will tickle people’s fancy, but compared to others, it lacks a lot of cleverness that we’ve seen.  Finally, there are some very relevant topics that have some good portrayal in it, though this also comes with a warning as some scenes may strike up PTSD if it happened to you. 

 

That’s about all the likes I had for the film and now onto the limitations this installment had, at least from my perspective.  Let’s get it out there and say that though classified as a horror/thriller, it is merely a mask to what the film was presented as to meBlack Christmas is not scary, though the slasher/thriller aspect is still there and works for the bloodbath to come.   Some of this diluted horror comes from the paper-thin plot, as this retelling turns into a rushed, predictable tale that forgoes any build-up, development or even organization capable of crafting an engaging tale that balances plot points.  Though there are some likeable characters, this lackluster tale is plagued with one-dimensional players who are close-minded, extreme approach, flawed personas that hold little potential to change and will be engaged to those who find their interests matching the characters.  Even the antagonists (you know the killers that are part of the appeal of a horror) are super shallow, falling into their lanes with little evolution, threat, or creativity.  These run of the mill characters just aren’t interesting, and it’s difficult to invest any time to rooting for them given how fast this film moved and how little they developed it.  If this sounds harsh, I do apologize, and perhaps a better critique is that the film has already given a lot of the goods away in the trailers, with only a few editing tricks coming in to conceal the truth behind the hoods.  If you thought the fight scenes looked a little limited, hoping it was just a segment or hint at what was to come, well… you might be disappointed in this as well.  Black Christmas does not get an award for best fights, traps, or struggles, again being very simplistic bouts that might be going down the realistic approach.  While relevant to some topics, again these struggles are rather boring, and don’t quite leave the memorable finishes that this genre puts into our brains.

   All these though are minor compared to what I believe the real limitation is for this remake… the writing.  Black Christmas this year has fallen victim to the poster political trend to take topics, put an extreme approach to it, and then rub it in your face.  It starts with cheesy writing and dialogues that offer little outside what one can find in a social media or Reddit debate, with characters falling onto one side of the spectrum or the other.  With little in terms of plot development, most of the things that come out of our characters mouths are just sniping comments and forced speeches trying to show us some persons views on these issues.  While I’ll acknowledge my friend and I agreed with the viewpoints they shared, and found validity in their opinion, using the movie as merely a big budget  visualization of social media debates was not the right focus or means to do it (hence the number of weaknesses most are reporting).  So much was sacrificed to rub it in my face about these topics that I found myself more irritated than moved, especially for one that always knows these lesson, and the retribution to come back to storytelling, or even fun slashing was lost.   Yet, like Charlie’s Angles, the film found its rabbit hole and dove as deep down as it could go, and did not look back up, which will appeal to the targeted audience and small cult followers that love these types of movies.

 

The VERDICT:

Black Christmas’ trailer painted an interesting picture to say the least, as the film could have gone either way.  Sadly, the direction they chose was one that was not the best for me.  My friend said it best as, “A Twitter Post turned into a movie”, this horror/thriller will not offer scares, thrills, or even a semi-engaging story for those who are fans of the genre.  This new take is much more political and has sacrificed so much to cram the beliefs of the production heads of this movie in that it was more infuriating than enjoyable.  Again, the issues are not the problem, it’s the presentation, and we’ve seen plenty of popular culture films handle political issues with much more class.  After reviewing everything, this movie is not meant for the theater unless you are all about in your face popular event topics with a Halloween mask to get you into the film.  I’d say this film is best left to accidental stumbling upon and would look to other options instead.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  4.0

Movie Overall:  3.0

 

Unsheathing the Comedy And Drama, Knives Out’s Tale Is Sharp!

Knives Out Poster

Mystery movies can certainly be fun, but the refined art of mapping out a crime can be a challenge in this world with ever shrinking attention spans.  However, there are still writers and directors out there ready to give it a try in hopes of bringing thought out plots back into the popular trend.  Tonight’s review holds such a promise and even more so it holds another redeeming trial for a director whose involvement in Star Wars was not the best received.  With lots of advertising, I’m sure you have seen the trailers so let’s get going as I review:

 

Film: Knives Out (2019)

 

Director:

Rian Johnson

Writer:

Rian Johnson

Stars:

Daniel CraigChris EvansAna de Armas

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • The Cinematography
  • The Plot Is A Good Mystery
  • Better Twists Than Anticipated
  • Involvement With Most Of The Cast
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • Some rather worthless characters
  • The Run Time
  • The Pace
  • Perhaps A Little More Murder

 

The VERDICT:

With an assembled cast such as this, you can best bet the acting will be at least moderate, and for me it was a fantastic display of work.  All parties assembled really play the dysfunctional role well, portraying the motive filled shouts and complaints to an art that did not annoy or go overboard.  Too many names to place, I’ll say that Craig was entertaining in his role of Colonel Saunders (a running joke) meeting James Bond as the detective, primarily in his interactions with Marta.  Ana de Armas was the star for me not only because of her character, but more so in the way she played the levels of emotion perfectly and interacted with the squad the most to balance this art.  Past the acting, the movie really picks up in terms of the visual presentation, feeling much like a detective movie from the 50s-80s, but modernizing it to the present day.  It should captivate many mystery lovers, but more so generic fans who can point out a lot of devices and nods to famous detective sagas.  However, the movie’s main selling point is the presentation of the story that let’s face it has been told time and time again in a Hallmark like fashion.  Johnson, for me, accomplished the role of bringing out a good mystery, not only in the classic hunt for clues and mapping out suspects, but adding some nice twists to the mix.  If you are paying attention to time and some info, you’ll start getting an idea, but this film’s twists (no matter how convoluted) do manage to spruce up the dusty manor of detective works.  An even better angle for me, is the character utilization, while not perfect, every character has a purpose in some form or angle, with few sitting off to the sides as just mere bodies to fill a convenient hole or bridge.  If not for the sake of the plot, then the character was used for comedy and that may be my favorite part of this movie.  Knives Out manages to be very humorous in the regards of the comedy aspect, with well written dialogue, delivery of those lines, and timing wrapping up nicely to leave many laughing during my showing.  That I feel will be a pull for many audience members, though don’t expect usual slapstick, banter, and ridiculous, logic defying stunts to be pulled here, or you’ll be disappointed.

 

For such an artistic film though, there are still a few things I would have liked tightened up.  Though all characters were utilized in some form, I can’t lie at least three could have had more involvement than what they did.  Hinting at being a part of the plot, these characters were left to the passing comments or joke props until that one moment a clue contributed.  That family engagement they sold in the trailers, needed some more development for me to keep everyone entangled in the mess as opposed to on the side.  In addition, the plot could have used a little more murder and threats to help spice up the drama/mystery, as I am partial to the deadly games of hunting in my movies, than anything else.  For a movie selling that murder, I had kind of expected something else, but it’s a mere trinket.  I can say the thing I had the hardest time with was the run time and the pace.  Knowing it’s a Johnson movie, I expect it to be long, and for the most part the movie ran at a good enough pace that it did not feel super long, but other times did show the dragging I dreaded.  I can say that there were parts that could have been cut out to shorten the length, or at least rewritten to include the character interaction I mentioned above.

 

So in conclusion, what are the thoughts on this controversial movie/tale.  To be honest, I do think it is a reimagining of Clue, and took a step into the modern world to help reach out to the new audiences.  It’s got the presentation of a mystery, with twists to help bring our well-acted characters together and entertain us with their drama. Comedy is also pulled out of the sheath and I think these two elements are the biggest selling factors to brave the nearly 2.5 hour run time Johnson has put forth.  As such, I feel this movie is worth a shot at hitting the theaters for those looking for a drama/mystery/comedy, while others will most likely enjoy from the comfort of their homes.

 

My scores for Knives Out are:

 

Comedy/Crime/Drama:   9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

Book To Movie: Where Did The Rest Of The Cast And Story Go?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Poster

 

Another day, another time to review movies and weeks two of the 5 movie reviews a week continues.  Hi Robbie K here, and today we will be looking at yet another book turned movie, as pop culture icons and interesting concepts are interpreted for the silver screen.  Now you know the usual sayings, movie versions are often not as good as the literature counterparts, but that does not mean it’s not worth a chance to see the visual interpretation unfold.  Well, once again yours truly is back in the artificially lit trenches to determine if this is a movie worth your time.  Let’s get started:

 

Movie: Where’d you Go Bernadette (2019)

 

Director:

Richard Linklater

Writers:

Richard Linklater (screenplay by), Holly Gent (screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Cate BlanchettJudy GreerKristen Wiig

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Acting
  • Nice Portrayal Of Mental Illness
  • Cute
  • Good Morals
  • Fairly Good Pace
  • Cyndi Lauper Tribute

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • A Little Melodramatic
  • Dryer Comedy
  • Some rather useless characters/Plots
  • A Little More Connecting
  • No Mystery Whatsoever
  • The Abrupt End

 

Summary:

 

The movie in a way feels much like a book performance or big budget play.  Blanchett in particular does a lot of heavy lifting with the grandiose character of Bernadette and is truly the person to captivate you in this story.  Sure the other supporting actors hit their marks, the confused husband of Billy Crudup, the controlling neighbor played by Kristen Wiignot too much from the Bridesmaid character, and wise friendship of Laurence Fishburneare all good, with really the daughter Becky being the next outstanding performance of the bunch (Troian Bellisario) who is integrated into the films.  Yet, it’s really the focus on Cate managing to portray that storm that is mental illness that impressed this writer, not only in physical mannerisms, but even the pressured speech, the inconsistency, and more so the denial of handling the problems that gave me respect for the role.  Past the pillar of performances, the movie is a cute film that captures the spirit of the book (or what I have read of it) taking good morals about creativity, finding one self, love, and understanding and managing to smoosh it together into a rather audience friendly form that groups can enjoy.  It’s pace is okay, I think perfect for the key audience members, to really get the snapshots of Bernadette’s journey without being dragged into the detailed pits of despair that sometimes are seen in these profile movies.  Yet it is missing something that some book movies achieve so well.  And of course, who would not like to see some fun tributes and use of icon legend Cyndi Lauper come into play that’s a hoot right?

 

While the portrayals and the performances are nice though there is something about this movie that is a little too bookish for me. I love reading, but books give you that ability to spread the journey across time while movies are not quite that luxury and this movie emphasizes the point for me.  The melodramatic components of this film make for a great performance, but overshadow a lot of other features of this film, almost taking the Lifetime approach without the pregnancy, murder, or adultery.  For a comedy, the movie did not quite have the balance of laughs I know Cate can pull off, relying a little too much on the dryer sarcasm than anything else, which I think only hits a finite audience.  Yet the things about this book that get me are more so the inclusion of the other characters.  For a movie about essentially about reconnecting, to the world, the inclusion of the cast is not as good as I expected.  Despite decent performances, characters are limited to small bouts of banter with the main character, or merely just making appearances in shots in a hasty attempt to concise the healing process.  Other plot points including rivalries, cleaning up her mistakes, and even a particular gossip rival are swept to the sidelines to keep the focus on the journey to beautiful shots galore of the Antarctic peninsula. As such, I would have liked better connections than what I got.  However, for a title and trailer that suggest mystery, this tale has practically no mystery whatsoever.  In an attempt to either parody or touch Gone Girl, Bernadette’s journey offers no real challenge to the audience or the characters about where the titular character has gone.  You know every step of the journey and thus that aspect is essentially lost to the attempts to do the character connection mentioned earlier.  Finally, the ending, when all is said and done, and the “mystery” is concluding, the film sort of truncates the potential for an emotionally powerful finish and leaves you with a montage that while interesting is not the ending I had expected.  If this is how the book does, I might have taken another 15 minutes of creative liberty to give a fitting end, but hey that’s just me.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Truth be told, this movie is a stunning example of how performances can sometimes do a lot of heavy lifting and while not my favorite role, Cate really leads the charge in this near one woman show.  The movie again feels like a book, managing to keep a finger on the pulse of reality/book, and fill it with the cute, heartwarming, moral-filled lessons we love.  Yet, the flair for the dramatic components, alongside a disjointed attempt at deep character connections/development just did not have that story push I love.  Too much happening in too short of a time and a mystery that was ironically missing, the visual tribute to Bernadette’s story is not one of the best adaptations for most audiences looking for this type of movie.  As such, I think this movie is reserved to theater visits for a small few, and would have been better on the Lifetime channel, or OWN as a made for TV movie.  My scores for this film are:

 

Comedy/Drama/Mystery: 6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Scary Stories To See In The Theater

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Poster

 

Growing up in the 90s, there were plenty of tales designed for kids to try and scare us without crossing the line.  Are you Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps, Tales from the Crypt (both cartoon and regular), and even the Sci-Fi Channel held their own in bringing the horror to the modern-day audience.  As such, a good scary story in any form can really leave an impact that stays with someone for much of their lives.  Enter today’s review, where the theme is the impact that stories can have on us and a little extreme case involving bringing your darkest nightmares to life. Robbie K is back with the third review of the week and we bring you a look at:

 

Movie: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

 

Director:

André Øvredal

Writers:

Dan Hageman (screenplay by), Kevin Hageman(screenplay by)

Stars:

Zoe Margaret CollettiMichael GarzaGabriel Rush

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Pace

The Comedy

The Creature Design

The Suspense At Times

The Acting

The Narrative Approach

 

DISLIKES:

Not Scary

Predictable

The Disturbing Moments At Times

Throw Away Characters

 

 

SUMMARY

 

With the flood of horror movies that come into the theaters, sometimes you find pacing and content issues replaced with gimmicks. Scary stories manages to take the anthology book and bind them together into a decent film, with a pace that feels very much like the classic shows that is fun, adventurous, and semi-engaging to craft a decent film.  It comes from a better balance, finding ways to integrate multiple entertainment qualities while always keeping its finger on the pulse of horror.  The comedy is corny, but natural, as it relieves some of the tension that is building up primarily from the character Chuck (Austin Zajur).  In regards to creature design, Scary Tales again adds some variety to their mix, picking new media to torture our main characters, which adds variety and doesn’t over utilize a gimmick (like the original Alien did).  Suspense is well placed in the movie, managing to make peaks and valleys of excitement the way an exercise program works.  By taking this approach it avoids the burnout some of these horror movies experience and manages to miss the mark of hasty finishes these films sometimes take.  As for the acting, well I’m good with it too. The kids do just fine playing scared students stumbling in to a new world and facing the consequences.  Like a weirder version of Stranger Things, the portrayal of weird, concern, and scared/terrified is a well-balanced performance that did not quite annoy me as some of them do.  Overall, these elements point to one thing, a narrative approach that feels like those kids books I loved, creepy and shocking, but never sacrificing the connecting spine to link all the sequences and creeps together.

 

Yet the movies does suffer a few things for this reviewer, but remember the volume of horror movies I see had desensitized me so I’ll do my best to factor that in.  First of all, the Scary Stories do not quite fit the originality bill in terms of story overall.  Originality is tough, but the movies formulaic approach and obvious foreshadowing would have been nice to break given the other walls it broke to focusing on plot then just gimmicks.  A second factor would have been to put more scare factor into it, treading closer to the R line could have brought the PG-13 film to the next level had they managed to craft some scarier moments.  The disturbing, creepy atmosphere and moments help, but they got lost to small gimmicks and cheesy CGI at times that diluted the scare factors. A few of my friends found the scare factor to be a little more than I did, so if you aren’t desensitized like me, you may find this dislike not the same.  Finally, a few characters held much potential, but many of them were throw away characters, merely sacrificial pawns to be sacrificed to the curse of horror movies.  Build up at the beginning held promise, but I would have liked to see these characters developed and battling a little more to actually care and connect instead of being left unfazed.  In addition, the story tie in could again have been developed more, primarily for the ghost they are chasing and the weird approach they took to tell her story, but hey more on that for the potential sequel to come.

 

Let’s finish this up.  Summarizing the review, Scary Stories certainly is a tale to tell in the dark, or the theater in this case.  It’s a good tale that tributes back to the 90s horror decade, with a narrative that binds so many things together to make you laugh and potentially jump.  I liked the balance a lot and the diversity of the creatures and means to which our “heroes” are trying to solve the legendary mystery.  Yet, the film still does not have quite the bite and scare factor for this reviewer (remember desensitized) and I would have liked a little more of it and the narrative put in and finding a way to break the mold on the predictability. Nevertheless, this is one of the better horror tales that I have seen in a long time, and as I said give it a shot in the theater.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5