Double Feature: The Marshes (2018) & Short Term 12 (2013)

Time for the next double feature! This time, its somewhat of an odd pairing as we quickly catch up on some movies

The Marshes (2018)

The Marshes

Director (and writer): Roger Scott

Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Matthew Cooper, Eddie Baroo

Deep in a remote marshland, three young biologists conduct research but when they encounter evil, science ends and survival begins. – IMDB

Australian horror films have definitely been more abundant in the last few years. The Marshes is an alright look into the survival horror in a remote area as it creates something of a legend that wanders this land that these three take as a campfire story in the first part as they stay longer in this area to conduct the research. However, there seems to be a lot of fluff in the beginning between the three at the start before any of the horror starts that makes it a little harder to first get into. However, once the horror does start, the setting allows for a good atmosphere to build. 

The wilderness, isolation and the outdoors marshlands is where The Marshes is at its most unique and most effective horror parts. It creates a lot of thrills as the cannibalistic threat hunts down the three biologists. There is a good amount of stealth and hiding and makes for some tension. Visually, the setting also is appealing along with some of the more gruesome death scenes are well executed as well. However, the characters themselves and the flow of events are fairly predictable. It lacks a bit of surprise and the characters and situation always feel slightly underdeveloped that its hard to truly care of the three characters as well. 

The Marshes is an okay horror thriller. It has its gruesome scenes and creates a human/monstrous threat which has its creepy elements. However, a lot of it feels like it falls flat whether because it follows some expected motions in horror films or simply that it takes a little long to introduce its threat and start the hiding. If anything, The Marshes does prove that marshlands are a great horror setting perhaps with a slightly better script. 

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director (and writer): Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore, LaKeith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever

A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. – IMDB

Short Term 12 is a little indie hidden gem that shines out because of its cast of characters. While its central focal point is between two of the supervising staff members Grace and Mason, played by Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr respectively, as they embrace the next step in their life, the past troubles for Grace and her inability to talk about them ends up creating a wall in their relationship especially as her troubled past reveals itself slowly as she deals with a new teenager that lives at the facility, Jayden played by Kaitlyn Dever. 

There’s so much to love as Short Term 12 remembers to keep its story focused on its characters. While it can’t give stories for all its youths, it focuses on a few. As for the supervisors, it also gives a few characters that make for a fresh pair of eyes especially as Rami Malek is the new supervisor that enters this residential treatment facility and learns how to maneuver and find his purpose here. On the other hand, the more interesting story is the next youth that is getting ready to be released from the facility and transition back to the real world Marcus, played incredibly well by LaKeith Stanfield. Marcus might be somewhat of a supporting story here for the youths facing transition while on the other hand, another youth looks at his dependence on his objects that is taken away suddenly. 

Each of the stories for its youth as well as the connections to the supervisors shows both sides of the characters in this facility called Short Term 12. Adapted from a short film of the same name, this indie film definitely tells a great story with a good deal of character depth and development. Plus, a handful of the cast has gone a long way since their roles here: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Rami Malek. Short Term is a fantastic movie and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. 

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films?

Halloween Double Feature: Blue My Mind (2017) & Boar (2017)

DOUBLEFEATURE (71)

Things are not easy for this Halloween marathon because a lot of the films that I’ve chosen seem to have not quite turned out to be conventional horror which is the risk of trying to go into a movie blind. The first choice here, Blue My Mind is definitely not in the conventional horror and is the one that I debated to swap out but there was a certain level of “horror” here that I’ll talk about more (its really categorized as drama-fantasy but Wikipedia calls it a coming of age/horror, so you decide). Second film here is Boar. A last minute change to the original pairing so that we can get some creature feature going on in this marathon as well as some definite horror film.

Let’s check it out!

Blue My Mind (2017)

blue my mind

Director (and co-writer): Lisa Bruhlmann

Cast: Luna Wedler, Zoe Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller, Georg Scharegg, Lou Haltinner, Yael Meier, David Oberholzer

A seemingly normal teenage girl faces overwhelming body transformations that put her existence into question. – IMDB

Final decision to add Blue My Mind in went into the complete belief that the transformation/body horror elements of Blue My Mind and even the coming of age realization and unknown transformation in this character for Mia is a horrific one. Sure, its more along the fantasy drama category for a lot of people but there were definitely levels of the fear of the unknown going on here. A lot of the unknowns here from why this happens to Mia remains mostly a question throughout. While there are lot of unanswered questions, the focus of the situation is honestly watching Mia transform all starting from the very scary first period that takes her onto a journey of trying to numb her pain by drugs and alcohol and then slowly coming to accept it.

Blue My Mind is odd and sometimes the teenage angst gets really annoying. The film is a rather slow burn as well so the first part takes it rather easy and gives time for Mia to change and try to make friends with the popular trouble-making students. There’s a lot of silly teenage decisions and the transformation to fit in this new environment as well as all the rebellious things she does at home along with the inner change all blends together. It really starts getting under the skin as the movie goes further along because her character is developed so well. The theme of body transformation and mermaids and such are so underused that this movie is a rare one to see. It might be able to be executed better with less of the teen angst and rebellion but overall, its one that does make us think.

Boar (2017)

Boar

Director (& writer): Chris Sun

Cast: Bill Moseley, Nathan Jones, John Jaratt, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Hugh Sheridan, Chris Haywood, Simone Buchanan

In the harsh, yet beautiful Australian outback lives a beast, an animal of staggering size, with a ruthless, driving need for blood and destruction. It cares for none, defends its territory with brutal force, and kills with a raw, animalistic savagery unlike any have seen before. – IMDB

Nothing says horror like a creature feature which usually has a good dose of cheese as well as a lot of horrified chases and screaming. I’ve never watched a boar be the center of a creature feature so figured it would be a nice one to add to this horror marathon line-up. While there were some issues here and there with acting and some computer effects as well as some other parts that didn’t quite make sense or just felt very been there done that with bad decision making and such, Boar actually was a fun time and it had a lot to do with making a decent second half of the film that went to quite a fun ending sequence.

Boar is pretty much about a giant rhino-sized (as they described in the movie) killer boar that terrorizes the Australian outback town full of farmers and workers. Its goes around hitting farms and then campers and moving right along to eventually go up against a family coming out to visit the brother, Bernie (Nathan Jones). While his acting isn’t anything to call home about or maybe it is because its overacting that kind of works for this role and is expected, he does have quite the hulking presence here making him the rock that stands between the boar and his family. At the same time, bar owner Sasha (Melissa Tkautz) who goes out looking for his father who has gone missing is quite the tough lady here as well.

Which brings in an issue with the film being that every mainstream character from Bernie’s family (sister, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend) are really hard to watch because its so cringeworthy. Then you have these bad dialogues all around. When its just the boar doing its thing, its actually quite good especially in the beginning as it only reveals part of this boar or from a distance and then shows all the different ways it is offing its victims and the rampage it goes on. It gets pretty intense even if the boar has some fairly cheesy shots, as it gets further on and some of these deaths are pretty gory and disgusting. There are some really crazy bits here as it gets closer and closer to the end or I guess you can call it the final showdown.

Boar isn’t great. The beginning takes a little long dealing with this cringey characters in their crappy dialogue but it has some redeeming points when it works through the creature feature bits, which is really what matters, right? There’s not a lot of Boar creature features so this point alone is worth a watch. Not to mention a death scene here that reminds me so much of Deep Blue Sea and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters death scene. Love it!

That’s it for this Halloween double feature #3!
Have you seen either of these films? If so, thoughts? If not, are they on your radar?

Fantasia Festival 2019: Little Monsters (2019)

Little Monsters (2019)

little monsters

Director (and writer): Abe Forsythe

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Josh Gad, Diesel La Torraca, Ava Caryofyllis, Kat Stewart, Marshall Napier, Charlie Whitley

Little Monsters is a 2019 Australian horror comedy-thriller that tells the story of a washed-up musician who ends up chaperoning his nephew’s class field trip in the heart to win the heart of the teacher however little do they know that, they end up driving into the heart of a zombie outbreak.

Between a lot of Taylor Swift‘s Shake It Off and a balance between humor and horror, Little Monsters is a horror comedy that does a lot right. It has to do with well-timed laughs and cleverly maneuvering its script between separating the reality into make believe where the kids are involved. Because the scope is fairly narrow and set mostly in one location, the Pleasant Valley Farm and despite the class of kindergarten children, the film focuses on a fairly small cast and all these elements do it a huge favor. It magnifies each character during the film to give it more space to develop and connect with. Every zombie movie gives its unique twist on the zombie trait (at least it tries), in order to make it stand out in a sea of endless zombie films and here, the reveal comes fairly late and yet, has so much charm to it.

A lot of Little Monsters is pulled together by the humor and how the characters deliver it. The definite star here is Lupita Nyong’o who is fabulously hilarious as a school teacher, Miss Caroline straddling the line between being a caring school teacher as she is sweet and gentle with her class of 5 year-olds no matter how docile or annoying they can be, but so fierce when things start to endanger them, best shown with one of the best scenes between her and Josh Gad‘s character, Teddy McGiggle. To the 5 year olds, this is all a pretense of a game in action and yet, the few children that have their focus all have the unique traits of different types of children in these situations which surprisingly, adds to the humor as the adults try to make sure that little make-believe stays alive.

Looking at the other roles, both Alexander England who plays Dave, the wash-up musician and nephew and Josh Gad’s role of Teddy McGiggle, a famous kid TV celebrity follow a very familiar character trajectory. Teddy McGiggle is a kid TV celebrity and with any rich celebrity is the human villain because of his selfishness and it becomes obvious where this arc will finally lead. As the other comedic role here that mostly delivers, there is one or two moments that the humor he delivers goes a little over the top (but humor is subjective so it may change to the viewer and how you accept Josh Gad’s humor in the first place). Dave is also quite comedic however, his story is more on the touching side. There are some slower moments that might feel a little misplaced and achieve the one goal to pull Dave and Miss Caroline. While unnecessary, it does help to give the character some depth.

Overall, Little Monsters is a great horror comedy. Its funny with some tense moments. There are some flaws but its easy to overlook them because of the overall film’s charm. Lupita Nyong’o’s character gives it a lot of life as she shines being both fierce and caring to spin a tale for her class. The script is well-written and pulls all the elements together with clever writing using music as a fantastic medium of diversion. The three adult characters also creates a balance for where they stand on the zombie outbreak spectrum. As the audience, the movie as a whole allows us to see things that the main characters don’t see especially the outside dangers from worried parents to how the army plans on attacking the situation, making it feel more urgent than the characters feel for the unknown impending danger. Its hard to call a zombie film, even one structured as a horror comedy, touching but somehow, Little Monsters subconsciously does all that.

TV Binge: Zumbo’s Just Desserts (Season 1, 2016)

The Super Bowl weekend just ended and this has been in queue to be written for a while so I figured that we’re in Valentine’s marathon time and desserts are a staple here. I’m not sure I’ll get any desserts done as work has been hectic but I’ve been getting lots of baking ideas and techniques I want to learn from watching this reality competitive Australian baking show called Zumbo’s Just Desserts, hosted by Adriano Zumbo and Rachel Khoo. At this point, I put it on in the background a lot just to keep myself motivated so I’ve watched it a few times to say the very least. With that said, you probably already know how I feel about it.

Let’s check it out!

Zumbo’s Just Desserts (Season 1, 2016)

Zumbo's Just Desserts

Judges: Adriano Zumbo, Rachel Khoo

Assistant: Gigi Falanga

A competitive baking show? Count me in! Despite my many unsuccessful scheduling to get back to baking, it is still an immense passion of mine. I honestly don’t know fancy bakers around the world so it was the first time that I even heard about Adriano Zumbo. He is paired up with Rachel Khoo who is seemingly not only as knowledgeable about dessert flavors but also quite charismatic to watch as a team. However, their 12 competitors are the real stars here because they are all different in personality and while most have likeable traits and great aspirations and fantastic talent, they also have somewhat of a villainous competitor here who helps balance out the show and really give it some human drama on who to root for.

Zumbo's Just Desserts

The show breaks down into 12 episodes which sees the contestant with the lowest score be eliminated from the show in each episode. Each episode consists of two rounds. The first is called a Sweet Sensations task which runs along the theme of a day. There were color coordinated fresh fruits, magic, fire, kids birthday cake just to name a few. The two with lowest scores go into the second round head to head to fight for survival in a Zumbo Test. If you didn’t know Adriano Zumbo before, well, his Zumbo Creations are jaw-dropping awesome. Complex but awesome. And this probably will give a great idea of his dessert creator abilities. In the Zumbo Test, the two have to recreate his dessert in the allotted time. The various themes and absolutely Zumbo’s creations are the highlights here. The struggles and the successes make this show really fun to watch. Its always down to the wire and its really exciting to watch because the skills and ideas are really fantastic and watching them being executed is a lot of fun.

Zumbo's Just Desserts

What I did like a lot for the show, even if it felt a little showy and over the top was the location and set design. It had these colorful tones and felt like walking into Willy Wonka factory. Its pretty fascinating and emphasizes on the wonderful world of baking. Well, its wonderful because I love baking. If you put aside the setting, something else I really like is how they introduce each of the plates that the competitors conceptualize in this sketch like below. I think its really neat because you get to see whether the end results actually happens. Let’s face it, the best part of reality TV is that things happen out of their control and its those struggles and how they push through it that make it fun to watch.

Zumbo's Just Desserts

Overall, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is a really great show. Its fun and cool and very exciting to watch. There’s a nice balance in the competitors on their different styles and strengths. Zumbo and Rachel Khoo are a nice team together. The setting emphasizes on the enchanting world they want to have here. Zumbo Creations are just from another world and makes me want to work hard to bake better and learn different techniques (although the hard part is everything I do has to have a somewhat vegan twist). I have a few criticisms of the show but nothing that has stopped me from binging it 3 times already on Netflix. I would have loved to see them actually talk out how they determined the scores though as sometimes their criticism seem to not exactly match the scores they give. I’m honestly just hoping there will be a Season 2 soon.