VOD REVIEW: There’s No Saving ‘Cave Rescue’

It’s probably still in the back of your mind. In June 2018, a children soccer team and their coach were trapped inside a cave in Thailand after monsoon rains flooded the exit. The event mobilized dozens of volunteers, including local and foreign divers, American forces and even Elon Musk (if only to provide an impractical solution and then harass a volunteer). The situation seems ready-made for a feature.

Lo and behold, here it is, less than two years since the rescue effort.

Cave Rescue is the kind of movie produced in a rush to take advantage of recent events while still fresh in people’s minds: Undercooked, underwhelming and with an inflated sense of self.

The film dedicates precious little time to how the kids ended up in the cave and rather focus on the rescue efforts (a mildly competent filmmaker would have spent time establishing the children as characters to raise the stakes. Not the case here). People pop up in and out of screen: American military personnel issuing obvious orders, farmers happy to sacrifice their crops to save the boys, interchangeable divers looking busy and a religious figure embodying the spiritual aspect of the rescue. Why not. Continue reading “VOD REVIEW: There’s No Saving ‘Cave Rescue’”

Vivarium: Quarantine Horror

Embrace your Coronavirus confinement in Vivarium’s surreal suburban nightmare

IT CAME FROM MIDWICH Eisenberg, Poots and their invasive offspring.

Vivarium
VOD/Apple TV

Vivarium is a rare surrealistic horror. More structured than a David Lynch film and darker than something by Terry Gilliam, it takes petite bourgeois goals (own a house, have a kid, become your own boss) and reveals them as nightmares.

Tom and Gemma (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) are a young couple looking for a starter home who are roped into checking out a house just outside the city by a creepy-looking real estate agent. The place is one of dozens of identical green households in a very quiet neighborhood — so quiet, there are no neighbours in sight.

Red flags accumulate and Tom and Gemma make a run for it but fail: the hood is endless and the pair lands in front of the same house time and time again. Out of gas and ideas, they go to bed. The next day there’s a baby on the porch and they’re instructed to raise the child and be liberated.

Suffice it to say, the kid is weird. Friction ensues.

Continue reading “Vivarium: Quarantine Horror”

REVIEW: Portrait of a Lady on Fire Left Me Cold

A minor controversy took place last year when the Centre National de la Cinématographie selected Les Miserables over fan favorite Portrait of a Lady on Fire to represent France in the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Film process (not that either had a shot against Parasite). I’m here to tell you the CNC had it right.

Don’t get me wrong. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a good film, but comes way short from being the transcendental experience that has been advertised.

It’s late in the eighteenth century and like in most of the world, women in France are treated as trade goods, unless independently wealthy. Marianne (the drop dead gorgeo…  super talented Noémie Merlant), a freelance painter, is hired by a countess to make a portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adele Haenel, BPM). The fresco is to be sent to a suitor in Milan with whom Héloïse is to be betrothed. Continue reading “REVIEW: Portrait of a Lady on Fire Left Me Cold”

RAW FEED: The Call of the Wild

A peek inside the mind of a film critic in real time. Warning: It’s disturbing

  • 2oth Century… Pictures. End of an era.
  • Maybe the trailers are misleading, maybe the CGI dog is better in the movie…
  • No, that’s a CGI dog. The eyes are a dead giveaway. Too much white. Where are The Lion King people when you need them.
  • Granted, kids are more forgiving.
  • Wonderful. Bradley Whitford is in this (he’s never to be seen again after two scenes).
  • Jack London’s novel was raw and complex. This version feels soft. Has the dramatic subtlety of Legends of the Fall.
  • I really don’t need the dog to emote AND Harrison Ford to tell me how the dog is getting in touch with his wild side.
  • That said, Ford knows grizzled.
  • So, John Thornton is in the Yukon mid-Gold Rush, but he’s not there for the money. Got it.
  • Whoever thought of pairing Omar Sy with Cara Gee is genius.
  • Gee is the most stylish postman in history. Love the glasses.
  • “We don’t carry mail, we carry love.” I’m going to say this is not verbatim Jack London.
  • Evil CGI husky about to be dethroned… in a PG kind of way.
  • The power of London storytelling breaks through, but barely.
  • Not quite clear why Buck’s spirit animal is a wolf if he is half St. Bernard, half Scotch Collie.
  • Brits carry a gramophone, champagne and fashionable clothes to explore the Klondike. In case you haven’t figure it out they are clueless.
  • Wonderful. Karen Gillan is in this (she’s never to be seen again after two scenes).
  • Kudos to Dan Stevens for making a clueless dandy mildly menacing.
  • The fact Buck is so noticeably CGI deprives the film of actual stakes.
  • The movie avoids the most unsavory passages of the book, which is a disservice to the public. “The Call of the Wild” is a classic because of them. It’s often an introduction to young readers to the darkest corners of the human soul.
  • Then again, the original ending wouldn’t fly in today’s climate.
  • Janusz Kaminski shot this? This is Lost Souls level.
  • Oh, Terry Notary (Planet of the Apes) plays Buck. Nobody better to play a dog. Except an actual dog. Or Andy Serkis. Two prairie dogs.
    The Call of the Wild is now playing, everywhere.

INTERVIEW: Lee Majdoub, Sonic the Hedgehog

Lee Majdoub and Jim Carrey in Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now that Sonic the Hedgehog is a bonafide hit and talks of a sequel are afoot, the focus has shifted from the speedy mammal to the cast. Jim Carrey is back in manic mode as Dr. Robotnik. At his side, a surprisingly competent henchman: Agent Stone. Loyal to a fault, Stone manages to keep a straight face as Robotnik goes unhinged barely two inches away.

The actor behind Agent Stone is Lee Majdoub, a journeyman actor who, after working consistently for over a decade, is getting noticed not only as one of Sonic’s nemeses but as a recurrent character in the CW series The 100. We contacted Majdoub in Burbank, CA. He relates to Agent Stone in two key areas: His work ethic and big heart.

Jim Carrey is constantly in your face in Sonic. What are the challenges of that?

I would have to tell myself “he’s doing such an amazing job, don’t ruin it, don’t you dare laugh right now.” All my scenes were with Jim and I was feeding off what he was doing. He is a very sweet person to work with. Very collaborative.

What was your reaction when you found out Sonic was getting redesigned?

As an actor, you don’t play much of a part in what’s going on behind the scenes. I was more blown away by how many fans were engaged and how much of a response there was to it.

Before the movie, what was your relationship with the game?

The first video game console we had was a Sega Genesis. I spent a lot of time playing Sonic the Hedgehog

Your IMDb page is quite packed. What’s your career plan?

It’s always been about working hard, developing relationships and being a good person. I’ve always tried to help anybody who needs it, give advice when I can, and be prepared. A lot of it has to do with working on myself. If you don’t know who you are, it’s really tough to do a good job on auditions.

Is there any performance of yours you wish more people had seen?

There was a play I did seven, eight years ago. I played five characters who were all suffering loss, a child, their sanity, their home. For a small, ninety-seats theatre, it seemed to have resonated with a lot of people. It wasn’t as much about my performance as much as it was about the story.

At the end of Sonic the Hedgehog, your character is still on the board. Does this mean you’re coming back?

If there’s a sequel and they want me back, I’m going to be very, very happy. Fingers crossed.

Sonic the Hedgehog is now playing, everywhere.

From a Critic’s Notebook: Underwater

K-Stew and Vincent Cassel go Underwater.

Take a peek inside the mind of our film critic, as he watches a film in real time. 

  • This is an expensive movie to open in January.
  • Exposition dump via newspaper clippings. Not the most elegant approach.
  • Love when a movie starts mid-action. The whole underwater structure is collapsing around Kristen Stewart.
  • There’s something very watchable about K-Stew. She’s at her best when you can see her face (looking at you, JT LeRoy. Bad, bad movie.)
  • K-Stew is Norah, a mechanical engineer. I’m sure that will come handy later in the movie…
  • Norah leaves characters behind to save herself and a colleague. I recognize this hero’s journey. I hope I’m wrong.
  • These are not characters, these are types.
  • J.T. Miller… Why isn’t he in movies anymore?
  • Oh, right. Yeah, he’s not coming back.
  • The setting is an oil drilling operation at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The water looks viscous, polluted. Good job, production design department.
  • Vincent Cassel as the captain. Always a smart move to surround yourself with competent actors. Cassel has never been bad.
  • I feel guilty every time I laugh at a J.T. Miller joke.
  • Surprisingly, Cassel is not the villain. There may not be any villains, actually.
  • I spoke too soon.
  • The creatures are humanoid-looking but are not affected by the pressure. Is this feasible? [SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF: ON]
  • The survivors need to go from point A to point B to point C. It’s like 1917 made by Roger Corman.
  • These deaths by water pressure are disturbing.
  • [JUMPS] [SCREAMS] You got lucky, movie.
  • I suspect T.J. Miller ad-libbed all his dialogue and made it better.
  • Cloverfield.
  • Can’t believe I’m having fun.
  • Engineer powers, activate!
  • The cinematography of Underwater is quite solid. Despite the shaky camera, I always know where the characters are.
  • The trailers made this movie no favors.
  • John Gallagher Jr. is the equivalent of the damsel in distress from years ago (a couple). He is like a budget Ben Affleck.
  • Has anybody else noted all monsters are starting to look like [REDACTED]. H.P. [REDACTED] must be smiling from below.
  • This is a little too Sigourney Weaver at the end of Alien. Not the action, the getup.
  • Underwater is a very feminist film. Like, actually feminist.

3/5 prairie dogs. Underwater opens Friday, January 10th, everywhere.

From a Critic’s Notebook: Spies in Disguise

Will Smith as a pigeon and Tom Holland as a science geek in Spies in Disguise.

Take a peek inside the mind of our film critic, as he watches a film in real time. 

  • A Blue Sky production. Surprised they’re sticking around and sharing the same playground as Pixar and Disney Animation.
  • I miss Scrat. As for the rest of Ice Age, I hope they went extinct…
  • Will Smith is Lance, a lone wolf/super spy taking on an army of henchmen. So, a standard Will Smith movie.
  • STOP THE PRESSES!!! Ben Mendelsohn is the bad guy.
  • Mendelsohn is such a compelling presence. It’s unfortunate he’s the pigeonholed (see what I did there) as a villain. Totally writing that.
  • The short this movie is based on, Pigeon: Impossible, is a hoot. So far, the feature version is very standard.
  • In this world, everybody wears skinny jeans…
  • Tom Holland is Walter, the would-be sidekick Lance doesn’t want. Good to know he has a future as a voice actor (he’s also the lead in Pixar’s Onward).
  • Is… this… movie… anti-gun? Bold choice!
  • The Red States won’t like that…
  • I could watch a whole movie about Will Smith freaking out over becoming a pigeon (“I can SEE MY BUTT!!!”)
  • I get it: Mom died in the line of duty, Walter wants to protect everyone with silly inventions. There’s an acronym for that.
  • What is DJ Khaled famous for?
  • The movie reminds us for the twentieth time Lance is not a team player. Street pigeons be like…
  • Animated Venice looks nice. No floods. Oh, wait…
  • Spies in Disguise has a deconstructive vibe: Violence begets more violence. I dig…
  • Writers, you’re killing me, you have a chance to humanize poor Ben Mendelsohn and you pass?!
  • I’ll take Spies in Disguise over any glorification of firearms, especially in movies for children.

3/5 prairie dogs. Spies in Disguise opens Christmas Day, everywhere.

REVIEW: Why Jojo Rabbit Matters

Coming out of a screening of Jojo Rabbit last week (my second), I asked my wife her thoughts on the film. She said she liked it, but didn’t think the message was all that ground-breaking. Fair enough, the notion of “hate” as learned behavior children acquire early on and has long-lasting effects has been dealt with on screen before.

Then I saw a clip on Facebook.

In this video essay, a very angry girl in her early teens argues against the separation of church and state. She believes that if Christianity is kept out of school and government, so it should “liberal ideas” like abortion or transgender rights. Her argument holds no water, but that’s not the point. The rigidness of her reasoning reveals she has never been exposed to a different set of beliefs. The teen is so convinced, she is happy to put it on tape for the world to see. Forever and ever.

Enter Jojo Rabbit. Continue reading “REVIEW: Why Jojo Rabbit Matters”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Psycho

Marion Crane (Vivian Leigh) is in love with Sam Loomis (John Gavin) but Sam won’t marry Marion because of his debts. Marion works in Phoenix Arizona for a real estate company. Just before the weekend a client puts a $40,000 deposit on a property. Marion is tasked with depositing the money at the bank. She decides to steal the money.

Marion leaves town and starts to drive to Fairvale, California where Sam lives. Along the way she arouses the suspicion of a police officer who catches her sleeping in her car. She trades her car in for another and continues on her journey. It’s dark and rainy and she decides to stop at the Bates Motel.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Psycho”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Shining

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) accepts a job to be caretaker at the Overlook Hotel which is isolated in the mountains and cut off on the main roads for the winter months. Jack is recovering alcoholic and struggling writer. He hopes the peace and quiet will help him write. The previous caretaker snapped and murdered his family. The hotel management assume it was from the isolation.

Jack brings his family along to stay at the hotel. Jack’s wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and their young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) are happy to come along although Danny has a psychic power/imaginary friend that he calls Tony who warns him that bad things are going to happen.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Shining”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Autopsy Of Jane Doe

Police find a bizarre crime scene with several people dead and the body of an unknown woman at the scene. One of the cops thinks that the victims were trying to get out of the house.

Tommy and Austin Tilden (Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch) are father and son morticians. The two work out of the old family house. Austin has a date with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond). The sheriff brings in the body of the woman and asks that they try and identify cause of death before the morning. Austin postpones his date to help his dad.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Autopsy Of Jane Doe”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Babadook

If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of … The Babadook

Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) has been raising her son Sam (Noah Wiseman) by herself after her husband was killed in a car accident before their son was born. Sam has been acting out lately and he has been making weapons to fight a monster.

Sam takes one of his weapons to school and Amelia is called in. The teachers believe that Sam has serious mental problems. Later Sam gets Amelia to read him a bedtime popup book called Mr. Babadook. The book is terrifying and Amelia wonders where Sam got it. Sam tells her on the bookshelf.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Babadook”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Us

While on vacation in 1986 in Santa Cruz, young Adelaide Thomas wanders away from her father and into a funhouse. Inside the funhouse is a hall of mirrors where Adelaide is attacked by her doppelganger. When her family finds her Adelaide is unable to speak.

Present day Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is now happily married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and they have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). The family has decided to have a vacation in Santa Cruz in the old family homestead. Adelaide is anxious about going back.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Us”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her paraplegic brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and their friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn) are out traveling across Texas when they decide to visit the old family homestead. They pass by a cemetery where it has been discovered that several graves have been desecrated.

They pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who creeps them out and cuts Franklin before running off. They stop at a gas station but the owner (Jim Siedow) informs them that he’s out of gas. They head to the homestead hoping to get gasoline on the way back. Once they reach the homestead they look around. Kirk and Pam find a neighouring house and decide to see if anyone is home and willing to sell them gas.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Poltergeist

One of the great things about buying a brand new house rather than an older home is that there is less chance for ghosts to be in your home. Nobody has had a chance to die or be murdered and haunt the place.

Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams) live in lovely new neighbourhood in Orange County, California with their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne (Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins and Heather O’Rourke).

Steven is a real estate agent who works for the company that has built the homes in this community. Everything is fine. One night during a storm something seems to have come through the static on the TV. Then strange things begin to happen.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Poltergeist”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Hereditary

Annie Graham (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) attend the funeral of Annie’s mother Ellen. Annie had a very difficult relationship with her mother and is having a hard time dealing with her death.

Annie is a miniature model artist and decides to go to a grief support group to help her deal with her mother’s death. Charlie is a strange 13 year old and was close to her grandmother. Steve receives word that Ellen’s grave has been desecrated.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Hereditary”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Conjuring

Director James Wan had been directing horror movies for quite a few years when he made this movie, the start of his Conjuring universe of movies. Wan had previously directed such movies as Saw and Insidious.

The is very loosely based on real life paranormal investigates Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The movie opens with a very awesome cold opening about a possessed doll named Annabelle. The story very creepy and very well executed.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: The Conjuring”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Seed Of Chucky

There are several long running horror movie franchises. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and of course Child’s Play. But where Child’s Play as franchise takes a turn the other horror franchises didn’t is by the fourth and fifth movies, Don Mancini, the series long running writer decided to that Chucky needed a family.

The fourth movie Bride of Chucky introduced a girlfriend for Chucky called Tiffany, played by Jennifer Tilly. Tiffany brings Chucky back to life, still stuck in the doll body and Chucky in turn kills Tiffany and puts her in a doll’s body too. The two then go on a cross country kill spree. Along the way there was some doll sex and the end saw the birth of their offspring.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Seed Of Chucky”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: It’s Alive

Becoming a new parent is a scary thing. It’s even scarier when you’re worried there might be something wrong with your child. Frank Davis (John Ryan) and his wife Lenore (Sharon Farrell) are expecting their second child. There is only one thing wrong with their new born child. It’s alive.

In the delivery room the newborn baby has been born…..different. He has fangs and claws and proceeds to kill the entire hospital delivery staff. The baby escapes leaving behind bodies and blood.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: It’s Alive”

31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Society

The shunting! The shunting!!

Young Bill Whitney feels out of place with his family. His folks are rich and part of the upper class society. Jim Whitney (Charles Lucia) and his wife Nan (Connie Danese) and their daughter Jenny (Patrice Jennings) are different from Bill. Bill is more down to earth and they enjoy the rich life.

Bill has a therapist, Dr. Cleveland (Ben Slack), who reassures Bill that everything is fine. Jenny’s ex-boyfriend Blanchard (Tim Bartell) plays a tape to Bill where it sounds like his family is having an orgy. When Bill replays the tape for his therapist, it becomes a normal coming out party.
Continue reading “31 Days Of Family Horror Fun: Society”