Oculus (2013)

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Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard, Jeff Seidman
Production Companies: Relativity Media, Intrepid Pictures, MICA Entertainment, WWE Studios, Blumhouse Productions, Lasser Productions
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan
Genre: Horror

What It’s About: A woman sets out to prove that her brother is innocent of his murder charges by proving that a mirror from their past possesses some sort of supernatural power.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Night. Lights out.

Thoughts:

General overview of the beginning without spoiling it:
Okay.  So you’ve got Kaylie (Gillan) and Tim (Thwaites). They’re brother and sister. The entire movie jumps back and forth between present time and their childhood (Basso and Ryan). We only get to see flashes of the past a little at a time, and as the movie continues, the story of their past slowly unravels while you simultaneously see what’s happening in the now.

We start out the movie knowing that Tim has been hospitalized because he was convicted of murdering his father as a young boy. He’s being released on his 21st birthday. Kaylie works at an auction house which has acquired an antique mirror.  But it’s not just any mirror, it’s the same mirror they had in their house when they were growing up. Kaylie’s on a mission to prove that her brother is innocent–to prove that the mirror is possessed or haunted, or in some way did all of those things that her brother was blamed for.

So, they return to their childhood home, and Kaylie sets up this elaborate room full of cameras and sensory equipment and booby traps. Tim, who’s been through years and years of therapy, no longer believes that something supernatural happened.  He believes that everything that happened was just a creation of his subconscious mind.  So, her first challenge is turning the skeptic back into a believer. As the night unravels, shit gets weird.

Enough about the plot. Blah blah blah.  Shit happens.

Okay.  One thing that bothered me right from the get-go (aside from Karen Gillan’s bangs) is that…Tim gets released from psychiatric detention after..what?….10 years? Okay. Good for him.  He can get on with his life. Then comes dear sister Kaylie to throw him RIGHT back into all the shit that he just spent years forgetting. I mean…come on!  I understand that she had to deal with the past on her own whilst jumping through foster care, and I get that she wants to kick this mirror’s ass…but COME ON.  Give the guy a frickin’ break! Maybe let him go get laid or something–I mean, you know he’s a virgin. He’s been locked up since he was a pre-teen. Ugh. But anyway, after I get over hating Kaylie at the beginning, the movie really kicks off.  She’s just fucking demented, but she’s also really fucking determined.  She’s prepared for this for a long time.

Now, the idea of a haunted mirror, doesn’t sound very scary to me.  I mean…to be perfectly honest, it sounds pretty stupid.  BUT, I can tell you that this movie is incredibly unsettling. The constant jumping back and forth between past and present, and sometimes intertwining them kind of makes you feel uneasy.  And this mirror can do a lot of shit, mmmmkay?  Like…it alters your mind if you’re within a certain radius of it.  Shit gets really weird.  They start imagining things, and we go on the ride with them as they try to decipher what is real and what is an illusion. It’s confusing and frustrating….but in a good way.  The way that the story was directed and edited made it highly successful.

Acting.
Karen Gillan.  I was a little worried that I would only be able to see her as Amelia Pond from Doctor Who, but I got over it.  After I got over her fucking bangs. But that’s just me. I can definitely hear her Scottish accent coming through at times—a lot of times.  But once I get over the nitpicking, she did a pretty good job.

Brenton Thwaites. I just feel bad for him the entire time. Poor guy. His life really sucks. The fact that I feel for him, speaks to how well he plays Tim.

Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane. The elusive parents in the childhood segments. Really creepy stuff. I mean, these two basically become bitches to the supernatural forces….so think….DID patients (Dissociative Identiy Disorder AKA Multiple Personality Disorder). Kudos to them because they pull it off really well.

Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan.  The childhood versions of Kaylie and Tim. I was especially impressed with Basso.  She’s a great little actress.  Garrett Ryan was pretty strong, but Annalise just overshadowed him the whole time for me. Look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

My Rating: Huzzah!

I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t sure how successful a horror movie about a haunted mirror would be, but it definitely creeped me out.  If you want to get that weird stomach-churning-unsettling feeling in your gut, I suggest you watch this one. Don’t forget to turn the lights out!  😉

Where Can I Watch It?: I rented it at the local video store, but it looks like you can find it on Amazon Instant and iTunes.

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The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

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Directors: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
Production Company: Netflix
Stars: Kurt Russell, Todd Field, Bing Russell (footage)
Genre: Documentary

What It’s About: The true story of the Portland Mavericks–the only independent baseball team in the country in the 1970s.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.

Thoughts: I randomly came across this movie as I was perusing Reddit.  Someone on the subreddit r/NetflixBestOf suggested this title.  I hadn’t heard about it, but I saw that it was a Netflix original and became intrigued.  Knowing the high quality of original content that Netflix has been cranking out lately, I decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed.

First thing that took me by surprise was seeing Kurt Russell’s face pop up on my screen. This film documents the story of his father, Bing, and how he brought back independent baseball. First we get a rundown of Bing’s history. Bing’s first love was baseball–he grew up on the stuff, and he even played a little too.  After that, he went on to be an actor.  He played in a lot of older westerns–notably The Magnificent Seven–but he was most recognized for his reoccurring role as Clem Foster on the TV show Bonanza.

Once Bonanza was cancelled, Bing goes on to fill his free time with his first love–baseball. Portland’s AAA team, The Beavers, get traded elsewhere and leaves Portland without the American pastime.  Bing comes in and starts stirring up dust.  He wants to fight the institution and bring back independent baseball–like it use to be back in his hay-day.  Just good old-fashioned baseball played for the love of the game.  He starts up a team called the Portland Mavericks and the rest is history.

I’m a sucker for a good sports story, and boy is this a good one.

My Rating: Huzzah!!

I had never heard of the Portland Mavericks before I saw this documentary, but it made me fall in love with them. Just a great down-to-earth story about a bunch of underdogs who came out on top. Wonderful feel-good story.  You don’t have to be a huge sports fan to enjoy this one.

Where Can I Watch It?: This one is a Netflix original, so right now it’s only available through Netflix.

The Guilt Trip (2012)

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Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Production Companies: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions
Stars: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen
Genre: Comedy

What It’s About: A man takes his mother along with him as he travels cross-country trying to pitch his new organic cleaning product, with the hopes of reuniting her with an old love interest.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.

Thoughts: Andy (Rogen) visits his mother while out making a pitch for his new organic cleaning product.  While visiting, Joyce (Streisand) tells Andy all about her first love AKA “the one who got away”.  He comes to find out that he is actually named after this guy. She wanted to name him after someone that she loved so deeply. Shocked and somewhat curious, he tracks this guy down on the internet. Then, Andy plots out a surprise reunion for his mother with her long-lost love by adding a stop on the end of his business trip, and then inviting her along. They set out for a week-long journey with plenty of interesting stops along the way.

Alright. Well, Seth Rogen is adorable as always.  This isn’t his usual obscene and awkward stoner role, but he’s still pretty funny.  After all these years, Streisand’s still got it too.  Pairing these two together was one of the best mother/son pairings I’ve seen on screen in a long time.  They click incredibly well, and look the part too.

This movie is the typical story about an overbearing mother and her kid overcoming their differences and learning to love each other more.  There really weren’t any big surprises along the way.  A few heartfelt moments thrown in, which were nice.  What’s great about these two in these roles, is that they know how to keep it simple.  None of their acting was too in your face–pretty understated comedy.  They act like an actual mother and son would–they don’t get into outlandish situations that seem completely unbelievable.

That being said, the pacing seemed to drag a bit in certain parts of the movie.  I started to lose interest.  I started paying attention when they went to a Texas steakhouse and had her eat a 50 oz. steak, only to earn the affections of the ever-hunky Brett Cullen as Ben. He makes a fine lookin’ cowboy, if I do say so myself.

**SPOILERS**

They have ups, and they have downs. Eventually Joyce finds out that Andy brought her along so that she could reunite with Andrew, and she gets upset because she thought he wanted her there to spend time with her.  But they patch it up REALLY quickly, and head off to see him anyway.  They come to find out that the Andrew Margolis that they tracked down, was actually the son of the man they were searching for.  The real Andrew died several years before.  Upset and shocked they settle in to talk to Andrew.  In walks Andrew’s sister.  Her name is Joyce.  Dawwwwwwwwwww.  **feels**

My Rating:  Meh.

It had its funny moments.  I had its heartfelt moments.  I didn’t hate it, but it’s not something I’ll ever re-visit.  Just a fun, brainless watch to fill up some downtime.

Where Can I Watch It?:  Available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, VUDU, iTunes