Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash-Movie-Poster-2

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Production Companies: Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way Films
Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Genre: Drama

What It’s About: A first-year student at a prestigious music school struggles to meet his full potential while under the guidance of an overly demanding mentor.

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

Thoughts: Andrew (Teller) is a drummer, but being any drummer just won’t do. He wants to be one of the greats–he wants to be the next Buddy Rich. He thinks that he’ll stop at nothing…and then he meets Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher has a unique way of pushing someone past their limits to help them achieve greatness. The question is: where do you draw the line?

Wow. Ya know…there’s really not a lot to this story if you think about it. A fresh-blooded freshman pushes himself to achieve the unreachable, and then a hard-ass mentor comes in and takes him to limits that he never knew existed before. That’s really the core of it. There’s lots of music, and the practicing of music, and some slight views of backstory…but holy fucking hell does this movie keep you glued to the screen. This isn’t someone trying to learn “Wipeout”, so hold on to your butts.

Or your surfboard. Whichever.

Or your surfboard. Whichever.

The title of the film is attributed to a jazz piece played by the Studio Band in the film, but it references so much more than that. The way the film was directed and shot, makes you feel as though you’re being whip-lashed yourself. While sometimes, the camera work was actually jerking back and forth to create this feel, the performances are what really makes you feel it. J.K. Simmons’ constant state of being positive, and then negative, leave you in a constant state of disquiet. I think my neck may actually hurt a little bit, but in a good way.

Alright. Acting.
HOLY FUCKING J.K. SIMMONS. I know he won the Academy Award for best supporting actor, and that man deserved it and so much more. I’ve been a fan of J.K. for a while now, but he’s always sort of been a “that guy” in films…never really someone at the forefront. His performance was top-fucking-notch. I could honestly not read his character from one minute to the next. I felt as though I was being harassed just as much as Andrew while watching. On the surface, he plays uppity-music-know-it-all-asshole extremely well. He’s never satisfied and is always looking for more, and he demands that his students keep up or get left behind. But what really sold me on his portrayal of Fletcher was how well he walked the fine line of showing that he cared. He cares more about these kids and about the music than anyone else–he may be hesitant to show it–but it bleeds through every once in a while. The scene where he’s telling his band about the former student who had passed away almost killed me. Ugh. Ku-dos, Mr. Simmons.

I’ve had high hopes for Miles Teller ever since I saw him in the film adaptation of the David Lindsay-Abaire play Rabbit Hole. He’s a brilliant young actor, and I look forward to him taking on more dramatic roles like this one. I’m not sure how much actually drumming he had to learn for this role, but he managed to sell it even if he wasn’t actually doing all of the performing. And I don’t mean to judge, but he does have quite the “drummer face”, but that’s good–makes it seem more realistic. There were some scenes in this movie (which I’ll save for spoilers) that I just wanted to give this guy a hug. There was so much passion and determination in his performance, and I bought every second of it.

Let’s talk soundtrack for a minute. The title song “Whiplash” was composed by Hank Levy. I’m not going to pretend to be some sort of scholar when it comes to Jazz music, but there are some pretty great tunes on this soundtrack. A few of the tracks were classics gathered for the film, while others were composed by heavyweight Tim Simonec, who’s had his hands in several film scores. Justin Hurwitz contributed quite a bit as well, but he appears to be fairly new to the game…his only other credits are for writing some TV episodes including an episode for The Simpsons and several for The League. Hmm. Weird.

My Rating: Huzzah!!
Such a brilliantly acted and directed film. I think my brain hurts a bit from the whiplash-like motion of the story, but it was totally worth it.

Where Can I Watch It?: Rent it on Amazon or iTunes, or stop by a local rental store or library.

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Ajxg8CeZ567_zA_B-afl2B2Gzos

Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman
Production Companies: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, LStar Capital, Screen Gems
Stars: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Joel McHale, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris
Genre: Horror/Detective Movie

What It’s About: Supposedly inspired from the journals of NY Police Sergeant, Ralph Sarchie. Soldiers in Iraq bring home some sort of evil to the states, and Sergeant Sarchie and his counterparts team up to fight it.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Gloomy afternoon.

Thoughts: **Definitely spoilers**
We start out with a flashback to Iraq in 2010.  U.S. Soldiers end up down in some sort of cave–we switch to one of their helmet cams (found footage style) and there’s a bunch of screaming and things go black.  Well, alrighty.

Then, we flash forward to 2013 in the Bronx. Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Bana) is crying over a dead dumpster baby in an alley. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this scene was, other than to give the character “depth”.  Then he gets all angry and walks away….and I’m not entirely sure why, but a weird shaky filming technique was used at that point…with some intense music.  Almost like as he’s stomping away, he’s making mini earthquakes or something.  I see that it was to show the anger….buuuuutttt that wasn’t used ANYWHERE else in the film. Seemed sort of misplaced to me.

Then Sarchie and his partner Butler (McHale) are out on patrol.  Seeing Joel McHale threw me off for a bit.  I’m so used to him being just an over-the-top goofball, I wasn’t sure how well he’d fit into the setting of this movie.  No worries, though.  He turns out to be the smartass “funnyman” sidekick to the Sergeant. He gets to kick a little bit of ass, though.

tumblr_m7x9yxwXI41qi25h6o1_500

Anyway. They answer a domestic disturbance call because Sarchie just gets a sense that they should….Butler calls this his “radar”.  Meh.  It’s just a cop thing.  Right? They get there, and the husband is one of the Marines that we saw in the opening. He fights back, slicing open Sarchie’s arm, then he makes a break for it and runs out into the neighborhood. They catch him and take him in.

Later on, they get a call about a woman at a zoo who threw her 2-year-old son into the moat of the lion’s den. The boy survived, but the woman went crazy and ran off somewhere on the zoo grounds…and apparently when this happened all of the electricity in the zoo went out. The duo search the grounds using night vision and heat sensing equipment. Sarchie finds her and she’s bein’ all crazy and clawing at the ground.  She keeps mumbling lyrics from a song by The Doors. Sarchie spots a hooded figure (Harris) who appears to be painting. When he approaches to ask him questions, he runs. Sarchie has to enter the Lion’s sanctuary to chase him…and guess what?  Lions are free.  He barley makes it to the gate to escape death as lion chow. No geese on the weird painter.

They take the woman in, and eventually a priest (Ramirez) who has apparently being helping this woman, comes in and takes her to a mental institution.

Then they’re answering more calls that all seem to be connected with each other in a weird way.  Painters and possessed houses, corpses full of bugs.  Eventually they deduce that the hooded man was also one of the Marines from the opening scene.  When they watch the footage from the zoo, he approaches the woman, Jane, and she seems to become possessed just before she throws her son into the water.

There are also weird markings on the wall and…ya know what?  I’m getting sick of explaining this.  There are wayyyyy to many details to this story.  Basically, the Marines brought back evil with them. They were possessed by strange markings in that cave in Iraq. The same markings continue to show up throughout the movie, because it’s apparently a doorway for demons.

Sarchie’s “radar” is apparently some special ability that allows him to hear things others can’t. This basically means that he hears a lot of static, and children giggling, and….music by The Doors.  Weird. I mean, I won’t complain about having a kickass soundtrack full of their music, but still. Apparently that music is used….because they’re called The Doors..and it’s…a doorway for evil….

Yeah. Okay.

Blah blah blah. They catch the hooded Marine and perform an exorcism on him because he’s possessed by some demon named….Junglar?  Doesn’t sound very demonic…but I didn’t write it.  But yeah.  Everyone’s safe (except for Butler….he dies….spoilers).  And we’re told that several months later, Sarchie retires and continues to fight evil with the priest.

There are some decent effects in this movie, but there are also some cheesy ones that kind of take me out of it. Most of the effects were CGI, but some of the makeup effects were alright.  Pretty creepy.

Eric Bana did a pretty solid job. I got really tired of his back-story, though.  If you’ll notice, I barely mentioned it in my synopsis…because I don’t care.  XD

My Rating: Meh.

I didn’t hate it, but I found myself getting pretty bored. The story gets really involved and intertwines too much, to the point of almost being confusing. If nothing else, I enjoyed the chemistry between Bana and McHale–I’m always a fan of buddy cop dramas.

Where Can I Watch It?: Available on Amazon and iTunes.  I rented it from the local Family Video.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

purge_anarchy_xlg

Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Production Companies: Blumhouse Productions, Platinum Dunes, Universal Pictures, Why Not Productions
Stars:  Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Soul, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Jack Conley, Michael Keneth Williams
Genre: Horror

What It’s About: Sequel to The Purge (2013). This time we view the annual Purge from within the city limits as opposed to a single household. 3 stories become intertwined as a group of people struggle to survive the night.

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

Thoughts: **Spoilers Be Damned**
When the first movie came out last year, I was so excited about the concept. One night a year when you could get away with anything…even murder. I mean…come on. That’s a pretty terrifying thought. The first movie was setup as more of a home invasion, where an upper class family settled in for the night in their barricaded home, only to be terrorized by a group of people from the outside.  I left that film fairly pleased. I enjoyed it…but the more I thought about it, I decided what I really enjoyed was the idea of it.

Now THIS movie was more what I was wanting to see. I’m a middle class citizen. I know that there is no way I would be able to afford all the fancy-schmancy barricades. This film takes on the journey of three separate groups of middle/lower class people that become intertwined as they try to survive in the city.

The 3 stories:
1) Eva and Cali: Eva (Ejoga) and daughter Cali (Soul) are gonna wait out the night in their humble apartment. With them, they also have their sickly father/grandfather. After The Purge commences, they realize that he has gone off to become a “martyr” for a rich family. Basically…he’s sacrificed himself to let some rich dicks murder him in the safety of their home, with the guarantee that his family will get a hefty payday. As they realize this, a man from their building breaks in and plans to take out his frustrations on them. Before he can, men in heavily armored get-ups bust in and kill him. They drag Eva and Cali out into the street to the back of a large semi, where a man (Conley) with a large Gatling Gun is waiting. They call him Big Daddy. It doesn’t look good for these two….until….[ENTER SERGEANT]

2) Sergeant: Sergeant (Grillo) AKA Mr. BAMF is out for vengeance. When we first see him, he’s getting geared up to go out into The Purge. He’s got fairly heavy artillery and he’s taken it upon himself to put armor all over his car. We don’t really learn much about his story, but we can tell that he’s got a singular target, and that he’s determined.  When he rolls into town, he sees Eva and Cali being manhandled by the men outside. Reluctantly, he decides to help them.  He just rolls up and shoots all of them down. Bad. Ass. And instead of leaving them to fend for themselves, he takes them along with him. At least we know he’s a good guy, right? They head back to his car….and in the back seat are….

3) Shane and Liz: Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez) are a separated married couple. They were on their way home before The Purge started. They stopped at a convenience store, and while they were there, a group of kids in creepy masks cut some lines in their car. So….they make it a few miles down the road before their car stalls and they’re stranded…just minutes before the night commences. The creeps with masks and dirt bikes are hot on their trail. They make a run for it into the city. They come across Sergeant’s car while he’s helping Eva and Cali, and decide to crawl in the back. Before Sergeant has time to argue, Big Daddy gets up and starts shooting. They take off–all 5 in tow. Too bad that the gun was loaded with armor-piercing bullets…because now Sarge’s car is toast.

The five of them run around the city for a while, dodging attacks along the way. The destination is Eva’s friend’s place. Sergeant wants her car so he can continue on. Along the way, they run into more of the semi trucks with armed forces. Those trucks have a lot of high-tech equipment that appears to be linked to the city’s street cameras. It’s pretty easy to see where that one’s going…dun dun DUUUUNNNN: The Government. They make it to the friend’s house…and bitches go crazy and start shooting up their own family….so the 5 decide to get the fuck outta dodge.

When they escape there, they’re captured by the creepers that were chasing Shane and Liz at the beginning. However, instead of killing them, they take them and sell them to a group of rich people. These fuckers are making a night of it. They’re basically having an auction and a show. At 200K a head, the bidders can partake in a hunting session….with a bunch of humans as the prey. Anyone who didn’t bid, gets to enjoy the festivities behind bulletproof glass. Fucked. Up. Instead of what you might expect, they fight back and take charge. The rich send in reinforcements, and Shane gets shot dead. Just when you think it’s over…in rolls the anarchist group.

This movie is chalk-full of social commentary.  It has a very 99% vs. the 1% vibe. Early in the movie, we see some videos put up by an anarchist group which is led by Carmelo Johns (Williams). This group is against The Purge and the NFAA (the group in charge). They see the annual event as a ploy by the rich to reduce the population below the poverty line. We see other hints of them throughout the movie, but this is the point where they come out, guns blaring. They bust down the doors and take out all of the rich fuckers…but of course not until after Mr. Carmelo gives a speech.

Honestly, anytime I see Michael K. Williams, I just wanna call him Omar.

Ya know...from The Wire?

Ya know…from The Wire?

Anyway, Liz is pissed that they killed Shane, so she stays behind to purge with them. The other 3 leave, steal a car, and Sergeant heads to his final destination.

It’s finally revealed to us that he wants to kill the man who killed his son the year before in a drunk driving accident. He breaks in, and it looks like he’s done the deed. He goes to leave the house….and BAM. Someone shoots at him. Guess who? Big Daddy. He was pretty pissed that he shot him earlier. He reveals to us that he works for the government. Apparently the good people of America weren’t getting out there and killing each other enough, so the government decided to even the playing field a bit. He reveals all of the secrets, and it looks like Sarge is done for….and BAM! MORE SHOOTING. The man who Sergeant went there to kill is alive takes mercy on him and shoots Big Daddy right in the noggin. Seeeee?  Sarge is a good guy! He didn’t do it!

Then the sirens sound. The Purge is over. The man, Cali and Eva rush Sergeant to the hospital. FIN.

Honestly, my only complaint was that the lens flares from the flashlights when they’re down in the subway seemed fake. Meh.

My Rating: Huzzah!!

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Well placed twists and turns, high adrenaline, great action–a truly intense ride. Terrifying.

Where Can I Watch It?: Available on Amazon and iTunes. I rented it from the local Family Video.

 

Annabelle (2014)

a3TV3i4wfvEQenCbHhOhs7j7zis

Director: John R. Leonetti
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Production Companies: New Line Cinema, Evergreen Media Group, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Safran Company
Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard
Genre: Horror

What It’s About: After their home is invaded by satanic cult members, a new family begins to experience strange phenomena that seem to surround an antique doll in their possession. This movie precedes the events in The Conjuring.

How I Watched It: In the theater. Evening. With friends.

Thoughts: **Some Spoilers**
We kick things off with the same group of kids that appeared in the Annabelle segment of The Conjuring.  They’re telling the story of how they came to own the doll and some of the crazy things that have been happening since.

Then we delve into the history of the creeptastic doll. We have this happy little couple, Mia (Wallis) and John (Horton), with the missus knocked up. The couple has recently relocated to a new house, thanks to John’s new position at a local hospital. Mia is a doll collector, and had been searching for a doll like Annabelle for a long time.  John finds one, and gifts it to her one night.

That same night, crazed cult members (1 man, 1 woman) murder their next-door neighbors and come a-knockin’ at their house. An intense fight happens, ending with the two cult members dead. The woman is found in the nursery where the doll collection is on display–she’s holding Annabelle after committing suicide.

Welllllll, guess what?  The doll starts making weird shit happen to them. Sewing machines running by themselves, doors opening and closing, spontaneous fires….and unlike most ignorant families in the horror genre, the Gordon’s decide to throw out the creepy doll and GTFO. Hooray!  Huzzah! Good for them! Too bad the shit just followed them.

Let me just start by saying: I. Hate. Dolls.  Ever since growing up being scared senseless by movies like the Puppetmaster series and the Child’s Play series, I just…..NOPE.  I don’t know what it is about this particular horror subgenre that gets under my skin.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia–the thought of those beloved children’s toys coming to get you. Or maybe it’s because of that one TERRIFYING old doll that my Grandma has sitting in her spare room–the one with one wonky eye. Could be both.

Scary-doll1

I’m cool…I’m cool…..BAH. GET OUT OF IT.

Now, one thing I will say for Annabelle, is that I think they tried TOO hard to make the doll creepy. The dolls appearance slowly degrades and becomes more dirty/scraped up as time passes. I know that’s sort of the norm, but I think it takes away something for me. Something about that pristine little doll staring into space all empty-eyed is much more terrifying that some banged up old P.O.S.

Curse_Of_Chucky_Banner_3_7_8_13

Someone get me some sunglasses.

I dunno.  Dolls are just…intrinsically creepy. Some hit a little closer to home than others, though. That’s for sure.  As far as Annabelle is concerned…yeah.  The doll’s pretty unsettling, but I found myself being scared more by the things surrounding the doll.  You don’t really get a lot of doll-on-human evil action….well…because the doll’s not actually physically possessed. **COUGH**SPOILER**

I think the main character, Mia, does a fantastic job in this movie. Strange coincidence that her real name is Annabelle…..

Insert “Twilight Zone” music.

I really loved the character of Evelyn (Woodard). She quickly became that character that you just weren’t too sure about. She seemed so nice at first…but she gave off this air of uncertainty. That fine line was ridden very well. I love the role that she comes to play toward the end of the film.

My Rating: Huzzah!

I definitely enjoyed myself when I watched this. This one wasn’t directed by James Wan, but it definitely had the same feel. If you love/hate creepy doll movies, you should enjoy this one.

Where Can I Watch It?: This one’s still on the theater circuit!  Catch it while you can, or wait a few months until it comes to video. This one would be perfect to go see tonight on Halloween night!  🙂

 

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Amazing-Spider-Man-Poster

Director: Marc Webb
Writers: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner
Production Companies: Marvel Enterprises, Avi Arad Productions, Columbia Pictures, Matt Tolmach Productions
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Super-Hero

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

What It’s About: Spider-Man continues to battle super-villains and save the city.

Thoughts: Yeah….there are gonna be spoilers.

Well, at the beginning, we get more of a glimpse into what happened to Peter’s parents after they leave him at his Aunt and Uncle’s house.  It’s still fairly cryptic, but it’s revealed that they were definitely running from someone and attempting to hide something. Then we come back to present day and of course Spider-Man’s (Garfield) on the job. Some henchmen are trying to rob an OSCORP armored truck of some radioactive material. Wait…is that…Paul Giamatti?  With…a barbwire tattoo on his forehead? Alright. I can dig it. Oh!…and he’s Russian?!  Nice!  Peter ends up saving the day (duh) and manages to make it to his high school graduation just in the nick of time.

We run into Gwen Stacy (Stone) again. She’s so damn adorable. I wish I could hate her, but I can’t. Anyway, we get more of Peter and Gwen’s amazing on-screen chemistry (go figure since they’re a real-life couple).  Here’s a new thing: now Peter sees Gwen’s dead father (Denis Leary) all the time!  Creepy.  He’s not a zombie or anything….more of a…guilt ghost.  If you remember from the last film, he promised her father that he would stay away from her so that she would be safe.  He obviously broke that promise.
So, broken promise = Guilt Ghost Dad.

Ghost Dad

Guilt-Free Ghost Dad

Then of course, we have to have a villain. While Spidey is out stopping Paul Giamatti from stealing plutonium, he happens to save this dorky analyst-lookin’ fella who’s running around with blueprints.  This guy’s name is Max Dillon (Fox), and guess what you guys? Can you guess who the villain’s gonna be?  THIS GUY.  It’s not hard to figure out, but still fun nonetheless.  This fella works for OSCORP in the electrical engineering department. After Ryan from The Office….er…B.J. Novak is a complete dick to him, he goes and tries to fix some…electrical things all by his lonesome.  Well…we can see where this is going. He ends up getting electrocuted.  But to be fair, he then gets dropped into a vat of electric eels. I can safely say that I didn’t anticipate that.  He is then transformed into Electro. He’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

You know what’s better than the actual villain, though? HIS MUSIC. Oh. My. Glob.  Let me just gush about this soundtrack for a second. The music in this film is done by Hans Zimmer…BRILLIANT GENIUS AWESOME PERSON.  However…this time around, he had assistance from a group that came to call themselves The Magnificent Six (which is a Transformers reference. I didn’t know that off-hand, because I’m not that cool….but ya know…trivia). This group consists of Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr (of The Smiths, Modest Mouse), Michael Einziger (of Incubus), Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaroritten. Ummmmm….YES. These guys make a sandwich of Hans Zimmer’s amazing orchestrations and badass electro music.  It. Is. Perfect.  The music throughout the rest of the film is amazing too, but man…those scenes with Electro just really stand out. So good. Okay. Done gushing.

There’s also a running story line with Harry Osborn (DeHaan). Harry is Peter’s best friend, even though they’re somewhat estranged. Peter comes to his aid when Harry’s father, Norman, passes away. Harry has discovered that he has the same genetic disorder as his father, and that he is slowly dying.  So, OF COURSE HE BECOMES A VILLAIN. We know that Norman was previously known as the Green Goblin….so guess what? Harry’s taking over the reigns, baby! The Green Goblin isn’t introduced into the story until much later in the movie, so I believe that he’ll play some sort of a role in the third installment of the series.  This Green Goblin, though.  I really like the look of him. He looks green with illness, but it works. I really look forward to seeing more of Dane DeHaan as this villain–kid’s got talent.

ULTIMATE SPOILER ALERT: Peter defeats Electro with the help of Gwen…and just when you think it’s over…Green Goblin flies right into the fight. He is bound and determined to hurt Peter in whatever way he can, so of course he swoops of Gwen and drops her from the sky. Peter snags her with his web, but in his continuing battle with Green Goblin, his web gets cut and she falls. Then we get this super slow-motion moment when Peter trying to reach through all of these falling gears with his web to reach her and save her from falling to her death.  AND HE GETS HER…or….wait.  Gwen? …… Gwennnnn?  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Apparently he stops her just shy of her splatting into a goopy mess…but she still hit her head or something.  It’s not terribly clear…but we know that she’s dead. 😥

I really loved Stone in that character, and I’m so sad to see her go….but…I appreciate that fact that they let a main character go. I’m a realist, I suppose. I always thought it was sort of silly that one man could save EVERY PERSON. There has to be collateral damage, but we just aren’t seing it. They show it to us in full-force. Annnnnd it’s depressing. Andrew Garfield breaks my heart when he’s sad. At least he didn’t go into full-out Emo-Spidey Mode.

No offense, Sam Raimi. I'll always love you.

No offense, Sam Raimi. I’ll always love you.

Then at the end of the film, we see Harry Osborn in Ravencroft Mental Institution, talking to someone named Mr. Fierce? I haven’t read the comics, so I’m not “in the know” on that one. DON’T TELL ME. Anyway, this mysterious guy is “getting a team” together for Harry. The first of which, is…Paul Giamatti!  Hey!  That came full circle!  He’s Rhino…so…he’s basically a mecha-Rhino with machine guns. Alright. He draws Spider-Man back out after he’d been on a bit of a hiatus since Gwen’s death. There’s this really adorable moment where a kid in a Spider-Man costume walks out there like Tank Man.

Tank Man

Tank Man

Annnnd we end in the midst of that fight.

My Rating: Huzzah!

I thought this movie was a blast. It may have a running time of almost two and a half hours, but it just flew by. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?  Not sure why this was received with such poor reviews. Y’all can suck it.

Where Can I Watch It?: You can catch this one on Amazon Instant or go pick up a copy at your favorite rental place.

Oculus (2013)

OculusNewPoster

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.

The Guilt Trip (2012)

guilt_trip_xlg

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