Slender Man (2018)

Slender Man

Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) is one of many haunted by the Slender Man

 

 

I truly have awesome friends. I am not talking about the type of friend who would watch a video online that may be dangerous. No, I mean the type of friend who (along with his two sons who like horror films) would be willing to pay for me to see a movie like Slender Man. Okay, not pay so much as throw the money on the ground and trample it. Basically the same thing.

Over the last couple years, I have seen a lot of promise of the horror genre (The Witch, Get Out, Hereditary), yet with every good movie must be a bunch of crappy ones. Well, to call Slender Man crap may insult the uses of what can be used as potential fertilizer. It is truly one plot hole short of becoming a sponge. Basically, four friends Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) watch a weird video that says if they see the Slender Man, they will all vanish. They watch it, and stuff begins to happen that neither looks scary, cool, plausible, or interesting.

I admit to feeling very sorry for the actors (not the characters). All are talented  but are in a script that straight up wreaks of something that smells very unpleasant. I expect that the director Sylvain White has some form of talent, but it seems put to little use here (by which I mean no use).

Parents, there is a lot of dark matter and material and stuff, so I guess I should say High School and above.

So yeah, this movie is bad. I would say more, but the horse is dead already.

 

Overall: 1/2 Star  */2

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Toni Colette’ Annie is having a few issues…

Not knowing anything about a movie before you see it can be rewarding, and the most recent prime example is Hereditary. Having not seen the trailer till after I saw the film (which is rather spoiler free), my only knowledge was that it starred Toni Colette.

With vibes of 2016’s hidden gem The Witch (both films have the same producers), Hereditary starts with an opening shot that will be dissected by film buffs for years to come. What a hook from the get go. Annie (Colette, who does ravishing work) is on the way to her mother’s funeral with her family. We learn their relationship was rocky, to say the absolute least. The person her mother favored was Annie’s daughter Charlie (striking newcomer Milly Shapiro). Charlie has a peanut allergy, which I mention because that is far from her worst issues. There is also Peter (Alex Wolff), Annie’s older teenage son. While kind-hearted, he is not one to shy away from smoking weed after school. Finally, there is Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), who I am still not sure about. Is he a dullard or just fed up with the issues in his family? I am still on the fence.

The movie plays like a crescendo of horror, in that it does not just spurt out random scenes of “gotcha” moments so much as add more and more tension. You know a movie is doing something right when you realize you have not considered containing so much tension before.

The imagery of Hereditary is strikingly effective in a haunting way. The house in which the family lives should have star credit on its own. It is as neatly polished as the small figures and sets that Annie works on. The musical score only adds to the horror we feel (as all scary movies should).

Yet Hereditary is not completely a horror so much as it also becomes some bit of a thriller. Mixing those two genres may seem easy, but not all the time. Director Ari Aster (who also wrote the script) handles the balance of horror and sadness so well that the feeling you leave with is bound to stay with you for weeks.

Parents, this is in no way a movie for children. There is mild nudity (nothing sexual) that is a little easy to miss, but the horror aspect is sure to frighten anyone under the age of…actually, any age. High School and above.

I went to this movie with a close friend of mine. I have known him for a while, and have not seen him as shaken up as he was. After the film, I mentioned we would probably need to watch five to ten Disney movies (maybe more) to brighten us up again. I even mentioned to other friends to give him a hug just in case.

Consider that a warning. Well, a positive warning.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Top Ten Movies of 2016

2016

To be honest, it took me sometime to realize that there were actually some really good movies to be released in 2016. So much so that the pictures you see above of movies like Sully, Hacksaw Ridge, Captain America: Civil WarMoana, Jackie, and Zootopia were not able to crack my top ten list.

Again, I don’t see every movie that was released (how I wish I could!), so please comment if I am missing one you liked.

A friend of mine said he does not like making lists like this, as they get harder to do every year. I am starting to get the idea of that more and more as the years go by. Some of the movies on my top ten edged each other out by the narrowest of margins.

If you must blink, do it now…

 

Wild Card

10-hell-or-high-water

Playing like a modernized version of an old western, Hell or High Water is refreshing in how original the concept is. Two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), desperate to keep their farm, resort to stealing from banks. Hot on their trail is the local nearly retired police sheriff Marcus Hamilton (a wonderful Jeff Bridges), who we don’t always root for when we see what the brothers (mainly the Chris Pine character) are going through.

 

10.9-arrival

Sorry fans of Rogue One, but the title of best sci-fi movie of the year belongs to Arrival. Clearly inspired from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, the movie  depicts how being approached by beings outside of earth would not always immediately mean war fare. The movie takes time to show that we as humans need to reason before pulling a trigger. All the cast is wonderful, but the key performance is the one of Amy Adams, showing once again how versatile an actress she is. Director Denis Villeneuve gives us some stunning images as well.

 

9.

8-the-vvitch

 

It is rare for a horror film to actually scare you these days, especially if it comes out very early in the year (which is when most of the forgettable movies are sadly released.) That is not all the case for The Witch. While witches are now nearly forever associated with the world created by J.K. Rowling, this horror classic reminds us that, when witchcraft was feared in the 1600s, it was truly feared. The images and gorgeous cinematography reflect that, making us fear as the characters do. The film is directed by Robert Eggers. Remember the name.

 

8.7-moonlight

A movie sure to be up for many Oscar nominations, Moonlight tells a simple story of a man growing up in slums of Miami. To say it is more than that is a gross understatement. Told in three acts, I am still finding it hard to believe that the main character, Chiron, was played by three different actors (the same can also be said of his friend Kevin). It was almost like they filmed the same actor years apart like Boyhood. The stand outs are Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, sure to be nominees in February (alongside director Barry Jenkins).

7.

6-manchester-by-the-sea

While some movies feel like a punch in the gut, Manchester by the Sea feels like (as Rick Blaine from Casablanca would say) your “insides have been kicked out.” Casey Affleck gives a mesmerizing performance as a janitor who is sent back to his hometown after his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies to take care of his nephew (an equally stunning Lucas Hedges) while face the demons of his past, including his ex-wife (the always reliable Michelle Williams). How often does a drama of this magnitude also produce laughs equivalent to a comedy? Kudos to the writer and director, Kenneth Lonergan.

6.

5-fences

It has been a while since I have seen a great film where the lead actor also directs himself in a performance for the ages. Yet that is what Denzel Washington does in Fences, based off the play by August Wilson. Casey Affleck may be the front-runner for Best Actor, but Denzel is clearly hot on his heels. However, no one will be catching up with Viola Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her performance as Washington’s wife is sure to give Davis her Oscar she deserves.

5.

4-silence

Moving from an actor/director to arguably one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, Martin Scorsese’s Silence just squeaked in at the end of 2016, meaning it was not screened in time for award consideration for the Golden Globes or SAGs. A shame, because it deserved to be. The film stars Andrew Garfield (who was also brilliant in Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren) as priests trying to find their mentor (Liam Neeson) in 1630s Japan. The movie is hard to watch, yet you still can’t take your eyes from the screen. It is rare for a movie to be so difficult to observe you may not want to watch it again, yet at the same time filled with unanswered questions that multiple viewings are needed.

4.

3-life-animated

As someone who has (mild) autism, I can safely say I have not seen many films that approached the subject as well as the documentary Life, Animated. It tells the story of Owen Suskind, an autistic man who learned to communicate through his true love, animated Disney movies. Very few movies this year have touched me more on a personal level.

3.

SingStreetRunning.0.0

This entry was actually inserted much later, which is something I don’t do long after the year is over. Still, I cannot say enough about the wonder that is Sing Street. After classic hits like Once (2007) and Begin Again (2014), director John Carney strikes musical gold again with this coming of age tale of growing up in 1980s dublin. Like his previous films, it did not take me long to buy the soundtrack.

2.

2-la-la-land

 

If you have not heard of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land by now, well, it will be surely mentioned when the Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday, for I feel it is the clear front-runner for Best Picture (it already set the record at the Golden Globes for winning all of it’s seven nominations). It is more than a love letter to Hollywood, or even to musicals of the past. It is a modernized musical as well, with glamorous performances by Ryan Gosling and (in particular) Emma Stone (her solo song at the end about her aunt is the best acting I have seen all year). I have no shame at all in declaring I bought the soundtrack the day after I saw this film. It made me proud to be one of the ones who dream.

 

1.1-kubo

At the end of the day, movies are stories, as told by many story tellers. When I first saw Kubo and the Two Strings, I was clearly affected by it, but did not know at the time that I would be selecting it as my favorite movie of 2016. Only months later, when I got on Blu-Ray was when I realized it more and more as a masterpiece. Of course, the animation is gorgeous, but what impressed me the most was the story. Laika (whose movies I still have to see) does not have the history and resume of Disney or Pixar, but it has more nerve. I found myself hoping Kubo would not end the way the audience would have wanted, and it didn’t. It ended the way the audience needed it to. Towards the end, Kubo gives a speech to his grandfather while in the cemetery. If you think of it, that speech is one to bring hope to those who may not have had the best 2016 they would have wished for.

 

 

2016 Half Time Report

Ok, so the first half of any year is really never  better than the second half when it comes to movies. Still, these are the best (and worst) at the half way point (of the ones I have seen)…

The Best

 

5. Zootopia

Even if the funniest part of the film was in the original trailer, it is still a great family film.

4. The Jungle Book

Entertaining, thrilling, and very realistic, it stands alone from the great animated film as it’s own great film.

3. Hail, Caesar!

The Coens do it again, with another stellar cast that tells a story of fiction that seems like it really did happen. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Then again, it is the Coens. A great movie about making movies.

2. Captain America: Civil War

I had no idea I would like it as much as I did. It is one of the most fun I have had at a superhero film in some time.

1. The Witch

It is rare for me to like a current horror film, so it is near unimaginable that I would call a horror film the best film of the year so far. Then again, that is what The Witch is: Rare, and unimaginable. And Scary.

 

The Worst

 

3. Race

Another biographical sports flick, it is not the movie that should have been made about Jesse Owens. It barely gets close to the bronze.

 

2. Me before you

I was so wanting to like this movie. It looked like it had potential. Then I saw it…(sigh)…

 

1. Independence Day: Resurgence

It took me a few days after I saw it to come up with a new name for it: ReTURDgence. Trademarked.

 

The second half of 2016 is upon us…movie wise…

 

 

The VVitch (2016)

the vvitch

A loving 17th Century family is about to be “Witch”ed

I am not really a fan of horror films, because most of them are aimed to gross us out instead of scare us (how movies like The Human Centipede get made is beyond me, thankfully I won’t see them).

Then comes along a film like The VVitch, a film that should not be as good as it really is when you think about it (the title is too simple, despite the fact that it reminds us that two “V”s look like one “W”.) Still, while I have not seen every film of the new year, this one has made its way towards the top of my list so far.

The movie is set in New England during the 1630s. We meet a family lead by the husband William (Raoph Ineson). He is a hard working, God fearing man, who has just been thrown out of the local villiage. He takes his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson, respecfully), and baby Samuel to start anew.

Of course, bad things start to happen, and I won’t ruin them for you. I will say that the director, Robert Eggers, has made a fantastic debut film. You will find it hard going back and forth between what you admire more: the simple story, the stellar cinematography by Jarin Blaschke, the music by Mark Korven which is almost unwordly (it reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey), or the acting. Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw are names you will want to put in your memory banks, because they have bright futures ahead.

Parents, it is safe to say this film deserves its R rating. It is not just because of the violence (which is there, but not gallons and gallons of it), but there is also some nudity (especially at the beginning and the end). Follow the rating this time: Only 17 and above.

Like The Babadook, The VVitch is a film that reminds us horror films are able to be watchable and entertaining when done right. The bad ones are ones we are lucky if we can forget them. The good ones are the ones we are lucky if we remember them, though we don’t want to at times.

Overall: Four Stars ****