Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movie Review: Shut In

I need to take full responsibility for watching this movie. I’m going to start off right at the Hina test. This movie failed. It failed so miserably I can’t even give it half a point for having Naomi Watts being a pretty together person. As you may recall, the Hina test defines the use of strong female characters and diverse representation. This movie had none of these things. You might say, but Hina, there was a lead woman in the role. Yeah, there was. That was the one, ONE, thing the movie might have done right. And this is barring the absolutely predictable, tired plot.

Let’s go back half a click. This was a horror movie. The mom (Naomi Watts) is sending her troubled step-son (somewhere) and the son and father don’t both make it as the kid (Jonathan from Stranger Things) pulls the car into traffic. He goes into a vegetative state while the mom stays at home, working from a home office as a therapist or something for kids. While seeing one patient, she fights with a social worker to let him stay with her (which is, of course, ridiculous, you can’t just ‘keep’ kids – who did the research on this?). This is when the boy goes missing after showing up randomly at her house and wackiness ensues. When I say wackiness, I mean, it had a few jump scares and then the ending happened and I was like, that was a waste of an hour and a half. 

The story revolves around the son, the white kid who is basically a vegetable for the majority of the movie. Turns out, hold onto your pants, he wasn’t a veggie at all, but was just faking and didn’t want the kid to stay, so has been trying to capture him. The son had also been drugging the mom so she didn’t know which way was up. The mom has a doctor friend who happens to see some movement after she leaves a video chat and rushes off to save her. What the movie amounts to is a bunch of white guys either loving Watts or trying to save her while she flails helplessly through a nonsensical story. The one minority comes in to take her blood for three seconds. This movie was so beyond a waste of time. I’m sorry I wasted time seeing it over Arrival, over Madea at this point.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Following in Father’s Footsteps

It was cool and yet the sweat was dripping between his shoulder blades and down his back.  Just a few more miles, he kept telling himself.  The cargo was less agreeable.  Another few minutes and the break would have to be over.   
“Let’s go,” he said, his voice rough, breaking through the silence. The air was dry, making it hard for him to speak or even swallow.
A pair of light eyes looked up at him.  “Already?”
“I was sure you’d fallen asleep,” he said, offering her a hand.
“I wanted to sleep,” she said, brushing her jeans off.  Her hand touched her shin and she winced.  “I just couldn’t get comfortable.” 
There was a hole in the leg of her pants, the blood still wet.  Each time he caught sight of the cut he looked away.  The last stop shouldn’t have been so close, but it was impossible to gauge these things.  It was his sixth trip this year, and yet the nature of the work made it unpredictable. 
“I couldn’t sleep either,” he said, staying close to her, his voice low.  “Know anything about that Emanuel guy?”
“No, but he gave me a weird vibe,” she said, lowering her voice.
It was the same conclusion he had come to.  Most people were quiet, uncertain, scared.  Emanuel was none of those things.  If anything, he was calm and confident.  Someone with too much confidence might lead to a mistake or worse.
“How much further, sir?” a small boy said, his white shirt now brown from the dirt they’d lain in.
“Not too far, kiddo,” he said.  “I need you to stay close to your mom and sister.  Remember, you’re my deputy.”
“I know,” the boy said, beaming.  “I’m doing a good job, right?”
“Great,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow.  “I know I can count on you.”
The boy smiled and hurried back to his mother.  The small family was laden with bags.  Even the boy carried a satchel across his back that seemed too big for him.  Everyone in the group was carrying as much of their belongings as they could, hoping to build a better life across the border.
“Hey,” the girl said as she looked up into his face.  “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Let’s go.”
With one look back, making sure the group was following, he started forward.  The standing rule was to move as he moved, avoid the roving lights, be quiet, and if you get separated, enjoy the trip back home.  The route they’d taken to escape at the last stop had forced him to use a less familiar path.  The stars were guiding him now.  Though he thought of them as cargo, they were still lives, his responsibility.  It was something his father had instilled in him, one of the only things.
An hour passed and the group was moving slower.  There was no point in trying to speed up the pace, they couldn’t keep up.  Everyone was tired and hot, exhausted from days of walking and camping in the wilderness.  His eyes scanned the people as they passed him.  First was the girl with the cut on her shin.  Then there was the mother with her young son and daughter.  The daughter was only two.  At that age, there was a good chance she wouldn’t remember any of this once they settled down.  Behind her was a pair of lovers, a year older than he was, engrossed in each other.  If anyone was going to get caught, they’d be the first.  The lovers seemed too engrossed in each other to notice anything dangerous, or anything at all.
After the lovesick couple was his least favorite member of the group, Emanuel.  The man had a rat-like appearance.  His clothes were all black and he was carrying a weapon of some sort.  This was not permitted, but there was no way of enforcing that rule. A fifteen-year-old boy standing up to a grown man would never work.  The last thing he needed was to get killed over a hunch. 
Behind Emanuel was a group of people all wearing dull-colored ponchos.  It looked like they were already dressed to assimilate.  Each of them carried two bags hidden under the loose fabric.  Any of them could have been mistaken for natives, ready to pick fruit as soon as they arrived.  The wages were abysmal, not enough to live off of, even if there were eight of them. 
The last of the group was the most unpredictable.  Parents often sent their children unaccompanied when they couldn’t afford to go with them, and he found himself looking into the eyes of former classmates.  None of them could go back to school, back to their old neighborhood.  The gangs had taken over and if not the gangs, the draft.  There was always someone needing bodies, in whatever shape they were in. 
These weren’t his friends.  But it was hard not to feel bad for them, even if they’d bullied him when they were ten.  At the time, their families had been affluent and well-to-do.  Now that affluence couldn’t buy a loaf of bread or a pint of gas.  There were more than twenty people in his group, all with the same grim, dire expression.  The rich kids passed him and he stared forward as they did so.
The sound of something in the distance caught his ear and he turned, tilting his head.  A moment passed.  The sound drew closer.  In a flash, he raced past the long line, saying in a hoarse whisper, “Down.  Everyone get down.”
Like dominoes, the group fell, heedless of the broken objects that were strewn across their path.  The ponchos served well to camouflage those that wore them, and it crossed his mind to consider requiring all cargo to wear them in the future. 
Breathless as he reached the front of the queue, he hid behind a broken-down truck, next to the girl.  “You hear that?”
“A plane?” she said.
The sound drew closer and they looked skyward, seeing searchlights long before the aircraft came into view.  It was a helicopter, military by the look of it.  The lights streamed down in all directions and everyone did their best to be still.  This wasn’t the first airborne transport they’d seen.  The signs on the side were that of the border patrol.  That was far more troubling.
The first time Rob had seen the sign he had been with his father.  It was his first smuggling job.  The metal sign hung from the building with a large black border and red background with the number three in white on it.  The paint had faded since the last time he’d seen it.  The smell of death was all around the place.  Many people went in, few came out looking the same, if they came out at all.  There were always trucks and buses bustling out, people with forlorn, desperate looks on their faces staring out the windows.
The sound receded and she nudged him.  “Is it safe?”
“Let’s give it a few more minutes,” he said, knowing the group could use the rest to slow their racing hearts after another near-miss.
If the air was being watched, the road would be guarded as well, more so as they got closer.  It wouldn’t be long now.  Another few minutes and he turned, giving the sign to get moving.  The group moved at his command and another hour slid by.  The pace was much faster now, as everyone wanted to get off of the road, get to their destination, their salvation, as soon as possible.
It would be a long trek back home and he didn’t want to think of the constant questions from his mother.  At home, things were different.  His family didn’t struggle as others did.  His father had done everything possible to protect them and he now continued that tradition.
The sky was beginning to lighten.  The sun would be out soon, making it impossible to go any further.  The border should be less than a half hour away.  Time was running out.
“We’re almost there,” he said.  “Come on, everyone.”
All who passed him smiled, relieved that the ordeal was almost over, except Emanuel.  The man looked more foreboding than before.  “How far?”
“A half hour,” he said, running a hand through his slick hair, hoping to avoid a confrontation.  “I think we are just a couple miles away.”
“I hope you’re right,” Emanuel said, poking the younger man twice in the chest.
Now was not that time to fight back.  His gun was at his back, hidden under his long, tattered raincoat.  One quick shot and Emanuel wouldn’t be a problem anymore.  A smile crossed his face.  The money in his bank account slowed his trigger finger.
Fifteen minutes of walking and the border was just ahead.  There wasn’t a hint of anyone nearby.  Another easy transport.  Everyone rejoiced in their own ways, the pace increasing. 
One of his former classmates stopped, putting a hand out.  “I didn’t think you were worth the dirt you lived under, but I guess you’re alright.”
“How the mighty have fallen,” he said, shaking his hand.
“I’ll rebuild,” he said, tightening his grip.  “I’m going to crush you in the next life.”
“Good luck with that.”
The girl hovered behind him, not saying anything at first.  Once the guys had passed, it was the mother and her family who stopped.  “Thank you.”
“Be safe,” he said, patting her on the back, glancing at the boy.  “Be good, kiddo.”
The boy grinned, following close behind his mother.  The lovers passed without a word.  Emanuel hung back, watching from a distance. 
“You…thank you,” the girl said.  “For everything.”
“It…you were a lot of help,” he said, trying to smile.  “All the best.  I hope you can get your family over.”
“I hope they can find someone as good as you.”
“I’m not sure I’ll keep this up…it’s a tad dangerous, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“I might have,” she said with a laugh.  “But…thank you…again.”
It was an awkward moment, one he hated.  A hug would be too forward.  Two days in close proximity and he couldn’t say he knew her at all.  With the number of people he ferried, the faces all blended together.  It was critical to remain detached.  Perhaps she knew that.   The moment passed and she gave him a small smile, and turned to join the rest of the group.
Emanuel came up behind him, giving him a nudge.  “That was your one chance, virgin.”
“I’m not…shut up.”
“She’s sweet on you,” Emanuel said with a deep, throaty laugh.
“I…get moving, man,” he said, feeling uncomfortable.
Emanuel nodded, offering a hand.  “You did alright, kid.”
“I tried,” he said, shaking his hand.  “I…thanks for not shooting me.”
Emanuel furrowed his brow and cocked his head.  “I wasn’t armed.”
“That’s not a sniper rifle across your back?”
“Okay, man, whatever,” he said, putting his hands up.  “I need to get clear, too.”
“I know,” Emanuel said, glaring at the ground.  “You…you’re the rats, you know.”
“Excuse me?”
“Spreading this disease of people…and for what?”
“Money — that’s what the world runs on.”
“And what happens to those places?  The people there don’t want to have more people…and what about the country they’re escaping?  What about them?”
“What do you care?”
“I care…because it isn’t legal.”
“Be cool, man.”  Now he knew the feeling he’d had about Emanuel all along.
“I can’t,” Emanuel said.  “I…I need to…fix this.”
“Let it go,” he said, trying to guess whether Emanuel was going to kill everyone or just him.
“I…” Emanuel turned, staring at the retreating group, his hands limp at his side.
This was his chance and he took it, pulling the gun out, pressing it to the back of Emanuel’s head.  “Enough…once they’re clear…you’re done.”
“I’m…I’m not what you think,” Emanuel said, not moving.
“I’ve heard it all. It’s always the same.  Some relative you have to avenge, some injustice no one cares about but you…I don’t care.  You end, here and now.”
“You’re making a mistake…a big mistake.”
“Yeah…my mistake was taking your money,” he said, grabbing Emanuel’s collar.  “On your hands and knees.”
“Don’t do this,” Emanuel said, falling forward.
“I can’t have you jeopardizing this.”
“Your illegal livelihood?”
“We all need to make money,” he said, shoving Emanuel again.  “I bet you didn’t get your gear for free.”
“I paid a high price.”
“I could have used these hours ago,” he said as he pulled the night-vision goggles off of Emanuel’s head.
The sun was now reaching across the horizon.  The refugees were almost there.  A few more steps and his job would be complete.  The moment was always one he loved.  The smell of freedom as they crossed into Mexico, out of the remnants of the United States.  Each person had paid half a million pesos to cross over.  The dollar was worth next to nothing. 
Floodlights sprung forth, trucks circling as the refugees were spotted and caught.  The pleas and cries could be heard from where he and Emanuel waited.  There would be a bonus for getting them this far without being spotted by the government first.  The money for providing new “inventory” for terrorist groups was high and this one paid the most.  There were many buyers to choose from. 
The two young women would be sold into slaving.  The young men would be put into hard labor.  The poncho group and small family might be able to get away.  None had anything of value and might have contacts on the other side.  A smirk crossed his face as he thought of the people who’d trusted him.  Each one, save for the girl, was being delivered in near-mint condition.  It was unfortunate he couldn’t see what would happen to his old bullies.  Anything was too good for them and now he had a hostage to deal with. 
“Any last words?” he said, pressing the gun into Emanuel’s head.
“I’m with the office of the president.”
“I’ve heard that one before,” he said with a laugh.  “Let me guess, you’re the president in disguise.”
“Seriously, kid…you’re…murder is a…”
“Wouldn’t be my first.”
“In my back pocket…my clearance card…just…look.”
“Mr. Smith?” he said as he pulled the ID out.  “This is so fake.  Who are you fooling?”
“Kid…it’s a codename, listen…this…the government wanted to know how everyone was getting out…I’ve been…recording everything…they…they already know who you are…”
“I let my hand off this trigger and I know you’ll kill me.”
“I won’t.”
“How stupid do you think I am?”
“Very,” Emanuel said.  “And…did…did you just send those people to their deaths?”
“Not necessarily.”
“How…how can you? And me?”
“You? No…” It was more fun to make him wait.  The gun was tight in his hand as he heard footsteps approach 
“Que paso, Roberto?”
“Quién es?”
The armed guerilla moved around him.  The militia wasn’t far behind.  A few more captured refugees and he would be promoted from guide to assassin.  The man grinned at seeing Emanuel.  The ID was taken, the smile growing wider.
“Good work, my young friend,” the guerilla said with a thick accent, pulling Emanuel to his feet.   “Mr. Smith…we go to Washington with some demands, including a mighty gift for the resistance in America.”
“You can’t,” Emanuel said, struggling, doubling over with a grunt as a punch landed in his midsection.  “We’re just trying to find a solution.”
“No one wants your solutions,” the young man said, smiling.  “Can I get a ride back?”
“Of course,” the guerilla said.  “We give you a new gun, too.  Does that one even work?”
Emanuel glared.  “You can’t do this…I’m an official of the United States…protected by—”
Another punch to the gut and the armed guerilla leaned in.  “There is no United States.  The country was too worried about looking outside to see what was happening inside.  The terrorists were always here, right under your noses.  Now the help you refrained from giving others has bitten you.  You are alone and you will be sold to the highest bidder.  Thank you for helping us get a new tank…I wanted one with a really, really big turret.”
Emanuel looked at him, a cold hard stare, before a bag was pulled over his head.  The guerilla nodded at the nearby jeep.  “How is your mother?”
“Good,” he said.  “She misses my dad.”
“Ah, that is to be expected…does she know?”
“Best not to tell her.”
“Ah, what can she do?” he shrugged. “She’d still have to keep me around…”
“When a woman finds her lover’s killer, no matter the relation, she will react with vengeance…best not to mention it, Roberto.  You are too good at what you do.”
“My dad taught me everything I know.”

**I wrote this short story years ago - my vision of Trump's America**

Friday, November 4, 2016

Movie Review: Ouija: The Origin of Evil

I know, suspend your disbelief, even though this movie came out weeks ago, I really wanted to see it, so I did. The original was, not good, to say the least. The idea that a Ouija board is dangerous is nothing new. If you’re like me, and you love watching those TV shows about people being haunted (my fave is A/The Haunting on Destination America), then you are familiar with the idea that a spirit board is a way to talk to those on ‘the other side’ – the other side being people who are dead who haven’t passed on. This movie takes that idea and turns it into something that should be terrifying. People use these things as toys, but caution should be exercised because one has no idea who is using the spirit board. In other words, you don’t know who is talking. In the movies, they always make it seem like someone is just messing around. Truthfully, we just don’t know. It could be a spirit, it could be a mystery breeze, it could be someone passing gas, who knows. If you don’t believe in that sort of thing, this movie will just be ridiculous. If you do believe, then go ahead and keep reading and maybe go see the movie.

The movie begins with a séance. The woman running the séance looked strangely familiar (turns out it was Esme from the Twilight movies). The story centers around a single mother who makes a living, seemingly, by scamming people out of their money by pretending to reach out to their recently deceased. (The opening sequence had Bernard (from Lost) in it. When she asked for his wife’s name, I inadvertently said ‘Rose’ aloud.) The family is struggling with money and when one of the girls (the older one) goes out one night, playing with an Ouija board with her friends, she suggests the idea to her mother. For whatever reason, the mother decides that pretending to be a psychic is more valuable than getting a real job, but that isn’t really relevant to the story. Once the Ouija board becomes part of the act, the youngest kid takes a turn at it, getting the triangle thing to move without touching it. What should be alarming to her mother is treated as wonderful. This should be a sign to the viewer that the movie won’t improve in content from here.

An Ouija board is not a toy. That is the main lesson of this movie. In many ways, this is good life advice. Talking to ghosts or entities that aren’t there is never a good idea. Needless to say, the movie doesn’t end well for basically everyone, except maybe Bernard. There were a ton of jump scares. I spent a good amount of the movie with my eyes covered. With respect to my Hina test, this movie didn’t do all that well. I will have to fail it. There were no people other than white people in this movie. The female characters were central to the story, but none of them were really strong. The mom almost was, but then, until the priest (because, of course there’s a priest in a horror movie) comes along, she’s not sure what to do. Thank goodness a single white man came along to save her and her family. The movie did reflect the late 1960’s accurately with the lack of diversity and women in power, but otherwise, this was a fail on all fronts. The story was entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised at how scary the movie was.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

This book was read during our book club. For whatever reason, perhaps I was gun shy after reading Gone Girl and hating it, I skipped. If you didn’t read the book, I don’t think you’re missing too much, however you won’t get all the nuances of the characters. In a way, this story is about a reformed drunk, but that’s cutting a lot of other stuff out. If you did read the book, I’m told the story mostly sticks to what happens, yet leaves a lot of details out, as per usual. This could devolve into a rant about how Hollywood ruins everything it touches, but that would require more than one blog post.

The movie begins with Emily Blunt riding the train to and from NYC (the book was set in London, but they moved it because: Hollywood knows best). Rachel (Blunt’s character) sees this girl out the window of the train and her imagination runs wild, concocting a story for her that is based partially on a reality that for reasons we sort of learn later, she can’t remember. The girl goes missing and Rachel creates an entire narrative about what might have happened. Her drunkenness creates obvious issues and the cops begin to think she’s involved.

Part of the frustration of this movie, and Gone Girl, is that it uses the unreliable narrator. We, as the audience, can’t trust the narrative perspective to be accurate or truthful. I’ve read books that execute this well, in a movie format, I’m not sure I like the effect. There are a lot of scenes that are disjointed or hazy, with Blunt stumbling through dialogue with other characters as if it is the first time they’ve spoken about a particular topic. I know I’m not distilling this very well, but that is a direct reflection of the movie, which was executed somewhat poorly.

Emily Blunt is a great actress. There is little she can’t do well, but if the direction and story are so consumed with holding onto a surprise ending, then that becomes the focus, as it did in this movie. This isn’t a horror movie, it is a mystery. Yes, at one point we do wonder if Blunt killed the girl, but that becomes less and less likely. The twists and turns felt more annoying than intriguing. I don’t know if I just found everyone unlikeable, but the movie was meh, at best. I saw it for $6 and I wouldn’t do that again. As for my Hina test: there were only white people in this movie. Even though the movie centered around a woman, she was a bedraggled, weak character throughout. In no way did this movie represent diversity or women in a positive or fair way.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Movie Review: The Blair Witch

Come on, if you didn’t see this coming, you must be very new to this blog. If there’s a horror movie out, no matter how bad it might be, I will watch it. I still remember seeing the first movie and not understanding what had happened until we see those fatal, final shots. I went into this movie with pretty high expectations. I should have reset that to something far more realistic. The original movie was made with practically no script and a shoe-string budget. This movie had way more hype and funding and yet it still was basically the same movie.

In case you’ve never heard of the original, The Blair Witch Project, the movie centers around a found-footage premise where three filmmakers go out to investigate the folk lore about the Blair Witch and never return. The movie itself was quite revolutionary at the time. The found-footage genre was barren and the idea of having the actors double as cameramen saved majorly on the budget. The three filmmakers decide to camp in the woods, which are purported to be haunted, and terrifying things begin to happen. The map is the first thing to get lost (long before GPS) and the group walk in circles for days. One member goes missing and then the last two members end up at an abandoned house, never to leave it. The movie ends on that note. A sequel was made, but I never subjected myself to it, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s about.

Fast forward about fourteen years and the audience meets James, the then four-year old brother of Heather, the only woman in the first movie. James stumbles upon some guy uploading a video to YouTube with a clip that may, or may not, be his sister. The footage was supposedly found near where she disappeared. James’ friend, Lisa is making a movie for school and decides to make James’ search for his sister the subject. The two are joined by James’ childhood friend Paul and his girlfriend Ashely (both are African American). The four set out to meet the guy who found the footage. The audience meets Lane and Talia. These two are characterized as the usual small town hicks. They insist on going out with the friends and this creates some tension, as Lane has a Confederate flag prominently displayed in his house.

Without divulging too many SPOILERS the movie follows very closely to the original. The African American characters are the first ones to be attacked or go missing, fulfilling the usual horror trope. The antics that plagued the first film crew repeat, though with some added assistance from Lane and Talia, who plant some evidence, only to be proven to have planted the items in the first place. It is at this point that the group disbands. Lane and Talia are sent away and the other four friends try to make their way out of the forest, only to get hopelessly lost. The rest of the story devolves further into the original, instead of really introducing anything new except the idea that you shouldn’t look the witch in the eye.

And this is the point where I was more frustrated than anything. This was the chance for the filmmakers, real ones, not the ones in the movie, to add to the lore, to enhance what has been said about the Blair Witch. I think of the infinite possibilities. It almost cheapened the movie to have her on-screen, however grainy that might have been. The concept of ‘time travel’ through the movie was also mind numbing. Lane and Talia are lost for a week, but James and Co (the characters being followed) are lost for a half a day. This is never fully explained. There were so many places where the story could have improved upon what was a pretty strong base, but it just fell flat and wasn’t scary at all. For my new-found Hina test, this did pass, but barely. There were three female characters, all strong in their own right. There were two minorities in the movie, one making it almost to the end of the movie. None seemed forced into the story. I have to give this a pass on the Hina test.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Bechdel Test: The Hina Test

I have a tendency to rate movies based on a variety of measures. There is the generic good vs. bad, as in, did I enjoy it or was it just boring? I also look at the execution of the cast to the story that is being told. By no means am I an expert. I wouldn’t call myself a critic, per say, but just a person who would like to see certain things in movies: like strong female characters and a diversity of casting. In fairness, this isn’t something that can easily be applied, like the aforementioned Bechdel test, which just requires to female characters to have a conversation that doesn’t just center around a man. In, what I am calling the Hina test, the viewer would really have to assess, on his or her own, whether the two needs are met. I’m going to make this as simple as I can.

The first question of the test: Are there strong female characters in the movie? The definition of this is a woman that doesn’t require a man to save her. That should be simple enough. For example, the Avengers movies would meet this as Scarlet Witch doesn’t need anyone’s help. In a more recent movie, Morgan actually meets this. The main character, played by Kate Mara was a badass, she was self-sufficient.

The second question: Is there diversity in the casting? The definition of this is that the cast is not entirely one color. I don’t know how to say that any other way. I recently watched The Host (which was a Korean horror movie) – that movie would fail because all of the characters except one was Korean. Again, Morgan would pass this test, as the cast was well represented. There is a careful line that needs to be drawn around having diversity and those people not being integral to the plot. This also includes diversity with sexuality, as a sworn #Clexa fan I would be doing a disservice to the cause by not addressing the Bury Your Gays issue that pervades Hollywood. I think that might be harder to assess, but should be taken into consideration when watching movies/TV.

I’m curious what, if anyone, will say to this new test I’ve developed. I think I’ve seen enough movies that these are the two things that are often glaringly missing. Comments or thoughts are always appreciated.

Movie Review: The Disappointments Room

Wow, where to begin on this one? It has been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that held my interest so little and had zero, if any, payoff. For the hour and a half you sit there, the ending makes really no sense, but that is par for the course as the entire movie almost seems like a slapdash plot tied together with Kate Beckinsale’s terrible American accent. On a side discussion, is it really that hard for Brits to do American accents? Emma Watson has also struggled with this in the past (Bling Ring, Perks of Being a Wallflower). 

Back to the movie. From the beginning, you should know that there isn’t much substance to the movie, the trailers were only sort of interesting, but I still though, the idea is cool. The story revolves around a family, mom, dad and kid who are moving from the big city to the country (New York). The mom is an architect and the dad doesn’t seem to have a discernible job. The kid is your typical moderately annoying child in a movie, but for some reason, horror movies seem to have an abundance of these. On the flip side, Stranger Things on Netflix had lots of kids, not one of them were annoying.

The family moves in and the house is a wreck. The mom hires a really cute guy to help her fix it and he makes overt implications to have an affair. The house has a secret room in the attic and when the mom and dad finally get in, there’s no handle on the inside and Beckinsale’s character thinks she’s trapped in there. If this is as disjointed as it sounds, this is how the plot was running. The mom is clearly suffering from a psychotic break and we later learn that she suffocated her baby by falling asleep on it. Dear lord, who thought that would be a good scene to put into this movie? Friends from the city, or somewhere come visit, one of them was Angela from Bones, so that was fun, and she gets drunk and almost kills her kid. The family just up and move out, end of movie.

Yeah, the movie made the story, which was supposed to center around these rooms built back in the ‘old’ days called Disappointments Rooms. When people had children that didn’t look normal, they’d build a room, lock the child in and wait for the inevitable end. Sounds like a solid premise for a movie, something along the lines of The Orphanage. The execution could not have been worse. The movie instead centered around the really uninteresting story of why they mom was kinda crazy and could have played that against the room if there had been some backstory to tie the two together. There was not. I'm developing a new test, like the Bechdel test, to gauge whether there are any strong female/minority characters. This movie failed on all fronts at this. Don’t waste your time and money on this movie. It was a literal disappointment, but I guess I should have known given the name.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Movie Review: Morgan

Once again, I’d like to state my protest that a movie entitled ‘Morgan’ that doesn’t have Morgan Freeman in it is inherently false advertising. The man is in practically everything. That notwithstanding, a new movie came out, could be placed in the horror genre, so, I saw it. I know, cover your shocked face. Unlike last week’s surprisingly white and disturbing Don’t Breathe, there was a tad more diversity in this movie, but the story wasn’t nearly as griping as it could or should have been.

There was a great article last week from The New Yorker about women in movies being personified as these perfect beings, created by man. This is no exception. Morgan is a test tube experiment. A five year old experiment that looks to be a teenager. An incident occurs and someone has to come in to assess whether the experiment is viable (can live) or must be ended (terminated). The agent, played by Kate Mara, is also working with, so to speak, a psychologist, played by Paul Giamatti. From the moment Kate Mara’s Lee Weathers graces the screen, something seems off about her. There are subtle places where she just seems more awkward than usual, but as a viewer, you brush it off, at first. It isn’t too far into the movie where I suspected what turned out to be true.

There may be SPOILERS ahead. Morgan is your typical teenager. There is clearly something wrong with her. The first scene she’s in, she stabs someone in the eye and doesn’t seem quite bothered by it. Her answers to Weathers, at first, seem coached, like she knows she needs to respond a certain way. There is a small element of clairvoyance being employed, but it isn’t enough for her to see that her rash anger bout will cost her everything. The cast of characters around them fits pretty every much avenue one might imagine for a cast of about ten. There’s the smart Asian, the organized African American project manager, the white guy chef who hits on everyone, the inter-racial couple (white man, black woman) and the obligatory Lebanese woman. The diversity can’t be complained about, suffice it to say, the first person to be killed is a white man, so that almost made me feel better about the representation, until Morgan goes on a killing spree leaving, surprise, the white chef and Lee Weathers (of course) alive, while taking the Lebanese woman hostage. Basically, the whites make it to the race.

What isn’t apparent, but sort of is, is that Morgan is a newer model of what Lee Weathers is. As the movie closes, the voice over, of three white men in business suits, are deciding that all genetic engineering will continue to pace with the Weathers version of the model. The larger debate the movie should be making is about white men, once again, controlling everything in the world, using women to their own ends. What I would have liked to see is Weathers destroying them, as a true kiss off to trying to control others. The movie sort of fell flat as it went on. There wasn’t a lack of action, but there was a lack of heart. Weathers was quite bland and that made for a  great science experiment, once the audience was given that peak behind the curtain, but it made for most of the story being blah. For $6, I’d see it, but that’s the best I can offer.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: The Girls

Rarely if ever do I find a novel winning me over not just in a few pages, but still holding me rapt and fascinated by the last pages. I am the hardest member of the book club to appease. This novel was hyped beyond belief. This was a first novel for Emma Cline and I should only hope that even one sentence of a book I write would be a fraction as good as her work. While the biggest detraction I can speak of for Ms. Cline is that her writing is so hypnotizing that you almost forget the story. The descriptions are utterly effortless. The main character isn’t instantly likable, but I was drawn to her just the same.

The novel follows, through time, the travails of Evie, a young girl who somehow gets caught up in a cult in an act of defiance to her estranged parents. That brief sentence doesn’t do justice to the journey that the reader and Evie take as she meets a trio of wayward girls, then a cult leader. Evie portrays the poor little rich girl with ease, yet you soon discover she is not nearly as content as she could be. Her life is anything but a fairytale and when she catches sight of a striking young woman, everything changes. The author turns the crush of Evie for another woman seem like it is perfectly natural. The attraction wasn’t evident from the beginning, but as the closing pages come, it is clear that Evie is still enamored with the aloof Suzanne, even after all the tragedy that surrounded them.

I would hate to spoil what was a not entirely surprising, but very well written story. In some cases, books are written beautifully, but the stories aren’t always enthralling. In this instance, Ms. Cline wrote a terrifyingly beautiful book from beginning to end. I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote a book I really enjoyed. The prose was masterful. Every word was chosen with care and it shows. I have never given a book five stars, but this one was an easy choice to give that honor to. This book may not be for everyone, based on the content, but you’d be depriving yourself of one of the best written books from a modern author.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Don’t Breathe

Has it really been a month since I went to the movies last? I almost did a double feature yesterday. I wanted to see Hell or High Water, but after running/jogging 11 miles at 5.30 yesterday morning, I needed some nap time, which the Washington Nationals provided with a lackluster performance against the Colorado Rockies. Yes, this is my life and this is also a judgement free zone, because I said so.

I was genuinely surprised when I saw this movie took the box office this weekend. I was in a mostly empty theatre, less than a hundred people in a pretty big space, one that probably fits closer to 250-300. The commercials were fairly accurate in portraying how haunting the film would be. The circumstances of all the characters made the ending conflicting for me.

The movie is set in Detroit. The opening scenes pan through the remnants of what was once a prosperous area of the country. Now the roads are pitted with potholes, the houses empty, covered in graffiti, people downtrodden, finding no place to work. The sad setting blends into an opening scene with the audience meeting the three main characters, petty thieves who have keys to different places because one of the character’s father is a security guard. To make money, the group steal from these homes, keeping the costs below a certain amount so it won’t be considered grand larceny. I don’t know the specifics of the law, so I took the information at face value. This attention to detail comes up when they decide on their next target.

Rocky, the female protagonist, is living with her mother and a small child who I’m still unclear as to whether this was her child or her little sister. The reason Rocky and her friends, Alex and Money, because they are trying to make enough cash to leave Detroit. This goal doesn’t justify their actions, but it does reinforce the circumstances that have befallen them and the US economy.

When Money fences the items they stole at the beginning of the money, he gets a paltry amount for it. The man who he sold the stuff to gives him a location of a man who lives in an abandoned neighborhood of Detroit who has a lot of cash, or so they think. The three case the man’s home, seeing that he doesn’t go out much, has a vicious dog and is blind. The last part makes them think twice, but Money counters with the oddly true statement that ‘the man is no saint.’ 

The group set out for the house and when they try to break in, realize there are four locks on the door whereas they only have one key. This forces them to use a window to climb through in the second floor to get in. Rocky is the smallest and climbs through, letting the other two in. Money sets of some sort of chloroform like bomb in the room with the blind man, but unbeknownst to our so-called heroes, he isn’t asleep. There is nothing to be found in most of the house, save for a locked door leading into the basement. Money shoots the lock off, which causes Alex, the ‘smart’ one, to want to leave, because having a weapon during a crime makes the stakes increase exponentially. He heads for the door, putting his shoes back on. Money shoots the lock of and the blind guy isn’t so asleep, killing him right before Rocky. The title of the movie very much comes into play as the rest of the movie turns into a big game of cat and mouse. The story takes a vicious turn when Alex and Rocky end up in the basement, finding a women imprisoned below.

The rest of the story continues to be jarring. For once, I didn’t have reasonable alternatives to what the protagonists should have been doing. I won’t SPOIL the entirety of the movie, but it doesn’t go well for at least half of the people involved. Much like Purge Election Year, this movie had more that it was saying than just the usual horror fare. The necessity to rob makes the protagonists ones you want to cheer for. When you first meet the blind man, a veteran, you feel badly for him. The two sides, kids who need money, and a guy who has money but will miss it, are two groups that should be clear cut. The movie throws in the tragedy of the man’s daughter being killed and the killer going free, until we find her in the basement. The blind man has captured her (how a blind man accomplished this without anyone knowing seems like a story by itself). The story devolves further and the blind man is turned into a straight villain, one that has a secret he needs to protect, so the one person who does survive can escape without retribution, or so the audience is led to hope.

Again, I’m not sure I’d recommend this movie. There were absolutely no minorities represented, and for a movie set in Detroit, it seemed mystifying that no African Americans existed. There is at least one scene that is downright cringe-worthy, and not for the horror element. The acting was solid, the story kept me engaged and the atmosphere was near perfect for a horror movie.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Movie Review: Lights Out

Like a moth to a flame, I saw a new horror movie being released and I had to get to my local AMC and see what all the buzz was about. The early hype set this horror movie as something new and terrifying. After having seen it, I’d liken it to Silent Hill, but not nearly as terrifying. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had my eyes covered within the first five minutes. After that, I was curious enough to look a few times.

The story starts off with Bella Swann’s dad, Billy Burke, working in a textile company that has mannequins in it. Faceless, expressionless plastic people are terrifying. The cleaning lady (see token Hispanic woman) sees something scary, gets away and warns Burke. He shrugs it off, until it comes after him. He immediately notices it doesn’t like light, but this does him little good as ‘it’ gets him and the audience is shown a mangled corpse of what once was Bella Swann’s father.

The movie picks up with a young boy (God, could I watch one horror movie without children in it?) and he hears his mom (Maria Bello) speaking to someone, though no one is home. When he goes to investigate, his mother is talking to a darkened doorway into what I assume is either her bathroom or closet. There is no one there. He creeps back to his bed, but there is a distinct scraping noise that’s happening and he doesn’t sleep. At school, he keeps falling asleep. His mother is called, but she doesn’t come get him. Enter the hot older sister with the adorable boyfriend. The two take him home, but mom is all out of sorts (crazy). The daughter takes the brother back to her place and the weird scratching happens at her apartment, the lights from the ‘tattoo’ sign casting an eerie red glow, the only thing that saves the girl. The next morning, social services (token African American) comes to take the boy back, as what the sister did was akin to kidnapping.

This lights a fire under older sister and she begins an exhaustive investigation to see what is causing all of this mayhem. I would have to SPOIL the movie further. What follows, in the movie, is a sort of convoluted path to a revealing ending that is foreshadowed about halfway through the movie. The evil thing is a girl who is presumed to be downright evil. One could argue that being isolated from everyone due to an allergy to light would make anyone a little twisted.

The story has wonderfully vivid characters: the mentally unstable mother, the troubled sister, the annoying brother and the endearing boyfriend. There are hardly any minorities to speak of, so if you like movies with just white people in them, this is for you. Two minorities do get killed towards the end, but thankfully, most of the white people are unharmed. Despite the complete lack of substantive diversity, the movie is helmed by a young (white) woman and the chief antagonist is also a young (presumed to be white) woman. After seeing Ghostbusters, I suppose more women heading movies is a good thing. Even though reviewers felt like the story came together, and while it was left open for a sequel, it just never resonated with me. The scares were mostly of the scare variety and the twisted end was grossly foreshadowed. I would be intrigued to see an attempt at a sequel. Maybe have one of the kids carry the memory and let the evil return? It could prove quite interesting. Overall, for $6, it was okay.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Movie Review: Colonia

I don’t normally do reviews for movies I see on Netflix or Amazon Prime. In this case, I was really more intrigued than anything that this movie (helmed by Emma Watson) basically went straight to video/on-demand. This is the second movie of Ms. Watson’s I’ve stumbled onto on-demand, the other being Regression (which had an interesting concept, but that’s pretty much the only interesting thing about it).

The movie is billed as a woman joining a cult for the man she loves. This doesn’t quite explain everything, as I soon found out. Lena (played by Ms. Watson) works for Lufthansa in 1973 and surprises her boyfriend, Daniel (played by Daniel Bruhl) who lives in Chile, during a time of unrest. Daniel is an artist and is part of the revolution. He gets caught up with police rounding people up and ends up getting beaten and taken to a cult/camp. Lena goes to his revolutionary friends, but they’re too scared to help. She decides (for reasons that I’m still not sure about) that she’ll go save him by joining said cult. What transpires over the next hour plus is about what you’d expect in a cult. The leader is a would-be mouthpiece of God and he is helped by those that have been brainwashed by his blather. There is a wonderfully evil matron-type that goes to great lengths to mess with everyone, and I did quite enjoy watching Lena bash her in the face with a 2x4 towards the end of the movie.

While this movie won’t wow you into submission by the acting or the set pieces, considering it is free, and helmed by some weighted stars, I’m still trying to figure out how I never got the chance to see this in the theatre, because I would have. It was nice having it on demand, as I could fast forward over the beatings in the beginning. I was quite surprised by Ms. Watson’s range in this movie. In the recent past, most of the movies she’s been in post-Potter have been supporting roles. In this movie, she is the central character, a strong, determined young woman. It is almost a perfect fit to the message she’s sending through her HeforShe campaign. If you have about two hours to kill, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

While I’m endangering my privacy by dating myself, I remember when the first Ghostbusters movie came out and it was too scary for me to see, but by early 1990, I was brave enough to watch it and the sequel. The cartoon (The Real Ghostbusters, which I bought the box set for years ago) was well ahead of its time, paving the way, I’d argue, for shows like Batman to be both for kids and for adults. Why a third Ghostbusters movie was never made is a debate that could rage on. Sadly, Harold Ramis passed away before getting the chance to glimpse at what was being done with his beloved franchise.

I could sit here and argue the pros and cons of rebooting yet another storied Hollywood franchise (this topic will be rehashed next spring with Beauty and the Beast), but what’s the point? The movie has been made and I tried to see it as soon as it was released. Be warned, I may give some SPOILERS away, so if you don’t want to read further, know that I gave the movie 4.5 out of 5 stars on Rotten Tomatoes.

There are parallels to the original movie and yet the movie felt utterly new. The movie opens with a haunting in a museum and ends much like the opening sequence to the 1984 movie, with someone getting slimed/haunted. The movie picks up with Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is something akin to Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman. Unlike Venkman, she is about to get tenure at Columbia (I think) and someone representing the haunted house from the beginning finds her. In an effort to quiet anyone know she once investigated the paranormal, she seeks out her former best friend, Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates. At a younger age, the two published a paranormal book and someone had stumbled across it. Gilbert goes to Yates’ place and finds the place not nearly as impressive as she thought (not dissimilar to the university that Ray and Peter occupy in the beginning of the first Ghostbusters movie). Within the research area is Yates’ new collogue, Jillian Holtzman.

As you might expect, Gilbert gets dragged to the haunting and gets sucked back into the Ghostbusting life. I don’t want to give away too many plot points, mostly because they are really fun as you stumble across them. What proceeds is about two hours of tightly packed scenes with pretty impressive acting and special effects. Leslie Jones as Patty really stole quite a few scenes and Chris Hemsworth was quite the perfect incompetent secretary. The villain was almost a side-note, and I can’t quite come up with an argument to the derision about this point from the Entertainment Weekly review. At the same time, the Avengers movies are just as spotty. I’m still not clear what Daniel Bruhl was hoping to accomplish with such a lackluster plan in Captain America Civil War. I hardly think an entire movie should be criticized for one plot point, when most of the other ones come together (except how the group can afford to do anything if they’re not getting paid).

One of my cousins pointed out that here at OrangeyRamblings, I do tend towards giving higher marks to movies that are diverse or feature women prominently. This is no exception. I understand why a bunch of lonely white guys living in their parents’ basements might be upset to see their beloved movie turned into a woman-focused movie, but I wonder where those some detractors are when other reboots are going on and are a thousand times worse (really, do I need to list them?). This movie gave a new voice to a concept that isn’t owned by men. Were all the original movies/cartoons men focused? Yes. Does that mean that we can’t try something new? The cast was stupendous. The story kept me engaged throughout. The cameos from times past were all perfectly timed and utterly unexpected. Is this movie perfect? Of course not. Will every single thing in it be exactly what you want? Probably not. Did it entertain me and keep me guessing after the movie? Yes. Did it make me anxious for a sequel? Yes. Just go see it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Movie Review: Purge Election Year

I struggle to find horror movies I don’t want to see. The idea of being scared or having your ideas shaken is well worth $6. In the case of the Purge movies, I’d argue they’ve done more with less than any other series (barring the Paranormal Activity movies) than most. The concept from the first movie was an introduction, a primer, to what was to come. With a star cast, the first movie followed Ethan Hawke as a home security sales person as he and his family fend off their neighbors during the annual purge, where American citizens are given the right to kill anyone for 12 hours. Sounds ridiculously crazy, right? Well, let me warn you now, if you’re of the conservative bent, you might want to just stop reading. The Purge movies have moved on to something far less subtle than expected, but something that is desperately needed in this day and age.

In the second Purge movie, Anarchy, the movie follows a cop (or former cop) who decides to kill someone who killed his son in a drive-by. Instead of getting to do that, he ends up intervening and saving some lives and ends up not killing the man who killed his child. This act ends up saving him. In the third movie, Election Year, the story follows this same man as he is the primary security detail for a Senator (played by Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell). At a younger age, the senator watched her family get killed on Purge night and has now decided to run for President and oppose this barbaric tradition.

In a beautifully overhanded way, the story places Mitchell’s senator against the clear conservative, right, white-majority (basically all Republicans). The movie even cites the NRA as a clear sponsor for the Purge, which, in hindsight makes perfect sense. The movie continues with the villains being the white majority, the ones who have everything. At one point, one of the character states that the Purge benefits the rich by reducing the number of people that need benefits or ‘handouts’ from the government. Looking at the political climate now, I’d argue that these are similar tenants to what the Republican party is preaching now. Many of the ‘poor’ in this scenario think the Republicans are looking out for their best interest, when in actuality, they are lining their own pockets, as evidenced throughout the movie, but also in real life. The current Republican candidate has made money on the backs of those that have actual done the work, and the Purge shines a bright light upon this.

After leaving the movie theatre, I felt quite emboldened. How is it that the rich, white majority gets to dictate everything in this world? How is it possible that there is such a large minority (that comprises a majority if they vote together) is on the short end of the stick 99% of the time because a small group that used to profit of off slaves. This point was actually brought up to me recently and it resonated, more than I liked. The rich, primarily white, have always profited off of not paying people fair wages. Those groups want that era to return. By allowing the Republicans to continue to steer the discussion to things that are irrelevant, they are neglecting the ability for people to get a fair chance at success. Isn’t that one of the main ideas behind the Constitution? Everyone should have a fair chance at having a good life? If you listen to Mr. Trump, unless you’re white and rich, you don’t have a right to anything. This movie embodies much of this concept and if you’re young, liberal and educated, you might find it over-the-top, but also just right to angry up the blood.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Movie Review: The Shallows

If there’s a shark movie out there, there’s a 99% chance I’m going to see it. In this instance, I wasn’t really all that excited about seeing this one. All I know about Blake Lively is that I think she’s married to Ryan Reynolds. The cousin who wanted to see this movie told me she was on Gossip Girl. That doesn’t make me feel better about the movie choice, but truth be told, I don’t think Gossip Girl was a show made with me as an audience member in mind.

There isn’t much to this movie, to be honest. The trailer pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Despite that, the movie still keeps everything tense and Lively, playing a med student, finds ways to both elude the shark and confound the audience for a solid hour and a half. Lively’s character decides to visit a beach her mother had been at a long time ago (the mother died of cancer years ago) and she needs to go to this place, and really without telling her father. Surfing might be dangerous without sharks involved, but of course, Lively stays out longer than she should, investigates a dead whale carcass and the chase, so to speak, is on.

This movie lacks in any subtext. A Vox review was on point when it stated the movie is: what you see is what you get. There is no big reveal or twist. The movie is just Blake Lively trying not to be eaten by the shark. Her survival skills are solid, her decision making and remembering warnings from others is far more questionable. Like any horror movie, Lively makes lots of costly mistakes and truthfully, she should have died, but thankfully, only brown people are eaten by the shark (locals to the area) – she is saved by another local, one who the audience meets in the first part of the movie. There is a lot of stunning visuals, the shark is fairly realistic. My favorite was Steven Seagull (get it?), who was quite apt at being a foil for Lively. Overall, this was a moderately entertaining movie. I did consume a massive amount of popcorn, and that’s always some sort of feat, right?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory

This sequel was a long time coming and it was worth the wait, to some degree. I should really start off on high note and let the cards tumble after that. The rich palette of colors alone makes this movie eye-catching. I wasn’t particularly overjoyed by the pre-movie short, Piper, but it was cute. The movie centers around the concept of Dory trying to find her family. Unlike Finding Nemo, the stakes aren’t nearly as high and this makes the story seem less compelling. Dory is amusing and frustrating all in one breadth. Having a main character whose memory issues delay the story instead of moving it forward is tough for the audience hold onto. At varying points during the movie, the plot meandered, matching pace with Dory. The characters were much more developed in the second movie and it was fun seeing some of the ‘bit’ characters getting a larger role, like the students in Nemo’s class. My nephew (almost 3) and niece (5) couldn’t pay attention for the duration, but two teenagers sitting next to me couldn’t stop crying or making ridiculously stupid remarks. The theatre was packed.

I won’t say the movie wasn’t entertaining, it absolutely was. In this day and age, and I used to focus on this more, it is important to look at diversity and female roles. In an animated movie with animals, this was hardly relevant, save for the fact that the main cast was predominately white. While the characters are hidden behind a mask, this is still quite apparent. With the main character being a woman, and the story certainly passing the Bechdel test, the plot can’t be faulted greatly.

In what turned out to be an uncertain turn of events, I both lauded and was appalled by the way Pixar approached mental illness. Dory has a learning disability. Everyone around her tries to compensate for this. At an early (and adorable) age, she is taught to keep telling people about her disability. It is used to great comic effect. Imagine if someone tried to do this in real life, would we all respond so kindly? While Nemo highlights that her memory issue is an asset, making her fearless, it could also be construed as highly dangerous. Though she manages to avoid catastrophe, these are used as punchlines. Great for kids with issues, but if they tried to replicate Dory’s behavior, they’d be dead. However strange this might seem, the sea lions ruined this movie for me. They were so mean to the clearly differently abled sea lion, Gerald. I actually already foundarticles about this online, so I’m not alone. Is it right to mock and make fun of someone who is autistic? That is what it looks like in the movie. It was quite a letdown for such a fun movie. It was unnecessary. The other two sea lions were basically bullies.

On the one hand, it seemed like everyone in the movie had some weird deficiency, like the whale who thought his echolocation was broken and too afraid to use it. While it is great to have comedy, what lesson is it teaching? This is a movie you should watch, but this discussion might take some of the fun out of it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

The second half of my double feature was a James Wan production, which means solid jump scares and solid characters to latch onto. In this second installment of the series, so to speak (as Annabelle was part of this series too, just without the Warrens), the story follows Ed and Lorraine Warren as they start to embark on far more notoriety than anticipated after their investigation into the Amityville deaths. Not long into the movie, the scene shifts to London to what is purported to be one of the most investigated hauntings. To me, the best part of this movie was that there was some credence given to the events perhaps being faked. In most horror movies, the sceptic is the first to die, but not in this case.

Back in America, in the beginning of the movie, Lorraine is haunted by what looks like a nun, purporting Ed’s imminent death, after which, she begs Ed to no longer take any news cases. Not long after, the couple are confronted with a tape from the Enfield haunting and go, on behalf of the church, just to see what is going on. The couple arrive and are pretty quickly confronted by things they can’t explain. Lorraine, the psychic, doesn’t feel anything at all, making her more skeptical than Ed. They witness quite a few events, but once a news crew captures one of the children in the house throwing things, and not an entity, the entire incident seems to be debunked. The Warrens realise their mistake and hurry back to the house in time to save the girl and her family.

What this new edition lacks in believability, it makes up for with plenty of jump scares and terrifying sequences. When the hauntings first begin, things are downright eerie. The girl who is being haunted seems to transport around the house, waking up in a room that isn’t her bedroom more than once. The idea of this haunting might be just as terrifying as the others mentioned, but it didn’t come off nearly as scary. Also, if you’re a fan of Orphan Black, Mrs. S, Siobhan, is the neighbor to the haunted family.

For a horror movie helmed by James Wan, this was about the median production. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are great together. Some may forget, but Patrick Wilson was in the film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera and we get to hear him sing an Elvis song in this movie, well worth the $6 right there. The effects were not overbearing, but just enough to make everything just a touch scarier. I did wonder if there would be more to the debunking when the movie ended, but there wasn’t. I do hope Wan picks a less well known haunting should there be a Conjuring 3.

Movie Review: The Darkness

It isn’t even horror movie season and I’ve been overloading on the stuff. I decided to take in a double feature this weekend, perfect timing at AMC between The Darkness and Conjuring 2. For a blisteringly hot Sunday, this was an excellent use of my time.

The Darkness starts out slow and builds like a wooden roller coaster. Two families take a trip to the Grand Canyon area. Of the three kids, only one is quite young and he is a little off. It isn’t until almost halfway through the movie that the parents state that he is autistic. I thought that slow burn was well worth the wait, and the child was played by a familiar face, David Mazouz, Bruce Wayne from Fox’s Gotham. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why I recognized him. He has a Shia LaBeouf sort of look to him, but let’s hope he doesn’t have the same dark turn ahead of him.

Back to the movie, the family, helmed by Kevin Bacon and always impressive Radha Mitchell (see Silent Hill), the family try to ease back into normal life. The father is an architect, the wife a photographer. Considering their occupations, I was impressed that the drove a Porsche (the small SUV, Cayenne) and lived in a pretty expensive neighborhood. You know the movie isn’t keeping my interest if I can see these sorts of details. While on vacation, the youngest of the family, Mazouz’ Michael has brought something home with them and things start to get kind of crazy before culminating in an ending that could have been played far better, but still had the presumed effect.

There are two sort of distinct, main storylines in the movie. One is the obvious supernatural one. The second one, that could have been brought more to the forefront, but was still blaringly effective, was the effect that an autistic child’s needs might be on a family. At one point, we learn the father had an affair, the daughter is bulimic. It isn’t enough that the family is feeling the effects of the supernatural that before any of it started, at one point or another, everyone indulged in self-harm. Even the mother at one points turns back to alcohol for comfort. Is the movie saying that having an autistic child too much to bear? In the end, of course, it is because the child is autistic that he is able to save the day, so to speak.

I won’t spoil the end, though I sort of did that already, the movie is solid in the story it tells. Is it a story that you would want to see? I wonder. The movie somehow managed to stay in the theatre for almost 4 weeks, which to me, is pretty impressive. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but it certainly made me reflect on autism and why horror movies haven’t ventured down this path before.