Double Feature: A Quiet Place (2018) & Bird Box (2018)

This double feature is incredibly late. I saw these quite early this year. I always meant to pair these two together. While A Quiet Place and Birdbox are quite different, they both rely on honing into one sense and that is a fantastic angle that had me intrigued right from the moment I first saw any trailers for it, plus they both have leading ladies that I liked a lot as well.

Let’s check it out!

A Quiet Place (2018)

a quiet place

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. – IMDB

A Quiet Place is one those movies that are incredibly interesting in terms of the premise. Its an intense thriller because of the use of the silence and the meticulousness of the little details of how this family lives. The strength of the film has a lot to do with the quiet and the mysterious control of the monsters here. It also has to do with the script and the characters and how they each grow throughout the film to see what place they each have. There is no doubt that Emily Blunt and John Krasinski bring a lot to the film however, who does stand out is Millicent Simmonds and the emphasis on the relationship of her with her parents especially the journey she has as she lives with this guilt and these abilities. The best parts are the hunt and the genuine feeling of survival and the stakes in play.

However, there is one thing  that I can’t get past for this film. It has to do with the basis of this film of how the situation managed to get to the dangerous state that it is and that is Emily Blunt’s character’s pregnant state. Very different from it being a situation that happened before the danger arrived, this happened while knowing the risks of it. With that said, this doesn’t align with the whole mentality of what this family we see has tried to achieve the entire time. That is a plot hole in my opinion and something that feels contrived. Aside from that though, because as the movie intensifies, its easy to ignore and accept the situation at hand and it delivers on a lot of levels. Seeing as this is John Krasinski’s debut directorial effort, this is a solid piece.

The only thing that I’ve had on my mind (which still I wonder on) is that while the movie relies on silence, there is a prominent soundtrack that sometimes is less than subtle. It makes me wonder whether it would have achieved more with less soundtrack and more focus on the quiet. Its something that bothered me also when I saw The VVitch (review).

Bird Box (2018)

bird box

Director: Susanne Bier

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Vivien Lyra Blair, Julian Edwards, Sarah Paulson, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Danielle Macdonald, BD Wong

Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety. – IMDB

Bird Box is a really nice example of how the big Hollywood can take in a sophisticated filmmaking efforts that Netflix has to offer. There are things that don’t always make sense and it has its moments that aren’t quite as refined but this post-apocalyptic world and the world-building and the survival and character developing is all such a huge part of what makes Bird Box shine above all those imperfections. In some ways, there are  a lot of parallels to A Quiet Place but somehow Bird Box works better in that aspect because it starts in a situation that was made out of necessity. The structure of how the story is told makes a contribution to its success and effectiveness. All the way from why Sandra Bullock’s character changes over the course and seeing the need to find salvation to her two kids who she calls Girl and Boy and remains nameless throughout the film. The history of it makes it work because it helps build up the different elements of the invisible danger outside.

Sandra Bullock is an awesome actress and she takes on this role so well. A lot of credit has to go with the character being written really well. There’s a lot of great actors in here which creates a lot of layers to the story itself, making it a more psychological experience and a human nature sort of deal. There’s a more self-preserved character that is more grounded to the reality of the post-apocalypse played brilliantly by John Malkovich and a fairly shorter role of BD Wong and then, a great performance playing opposite Sandra Bullock by Trevante Rhodes that we first saw in Moonlight (review).

Bird Box stands out to me the most because of its tension. Its psychological aspects especially because the whole nature of the villain or outside factor that attacks civilization is about that as well. There are a lot of little details and reveals in the story that make it work. In some ways, there are elements that remind me of 28 Days Later and having the sense of hearing becoming a central sense works here also.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen A Quiet Place & Bird Box?

Advertisements

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: The Twins Effect (2003) – Asian Cinema Film Club [Podcast]

Kicking off Week 3 of Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is the Asian Cinema Film Club hosted by Elwood and Stephen. AC Film Club is a monthly podcast that takes a look at  different Asian films ranging from Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other films. It doesn’t stop there as you can follow their blog to see monthly mixtapes for a variety of Asian music as well as reviews and essays, etc. You should give them a follow and join them as they are about to pass their 25th episode milestone. For their choice for the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon, they are sharing their podcast of 2003’s Hong Kong vampire action horror film, The Twins Effect.


The Twins Effect

The Twins Effect (2003)

Elwood and Stephen kick off 2019 looking at “The Twins Effect” a wonderfully random mash up of vampires, romantic comedy and special friendly appearances?
On this episode, they dive into this star-studded movie vehicle for Cantopop duo “Twins” while also looking at the many scandals which rocked the various cast members.
Stephen has another tale from the dark side of Asian cinema, this time looking at the actress Bai Jing, plus podcast recommendations, 2019 releases much more!!

Further Viewing

Mr. Vampire
Rigor Mortis
Diary
Beyond Our Ken

Shoutouts

The Feminine Critique
Cinema Recall
Forgotten Filmcast
Exploding Helicopter
Simplistic reviews
French Toast Sunday
Blade Licking Thieves
That’s Weird
Debatable

Listen To The Show

Itunes
Podomatic
Spotify
That Moment In


Thanks to Asian Cinema Film Club for joining us with this fun choice! Be sure to check out their podcast every month to see which films they choose to review and expand your knowledge of Asian Cinema! Remember to give them a follow and check out their other episodes

To see the full list of blogathon entries, you can find it HERE.

Double Feature: Anaconda (1997) & American Ultra (2015)

Welcome to this week’s double feature for a double Netflix A movie, Anaconda and American Ultra!

I’m back to my alphabet thing which I never tend to finish because I always start it at the beginning of the year and then Valentine’s marathon and the Ultimate Decades blogathon cuts in between and then I lose track. I’m hoping it will be more organized this year and things will work out. However, I do have some other double features lingering on the background so at least I’ll keep up with a weekly thing, right? 😉

Let’s check out these two!

Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda

Director: Luis Llosa

Cast:  Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos

A “National Geographic” film crew is taken hostage by an insane hunter, who forces them along on his quest to capture the world’s largest – and deadliest – snake. – IMDB

I’m a huge fan of creature features. While I’ve been working hard to catch up on some of the older ones, Anaconda has been one that I haven’t caught up with until the last few months. To be honest, it was quite a disappointing experience. Perhaps its because it is awfully dated and the Anaconda doesn’t look too believable or the execution was paced fairly slow. However, if we put aside those little things it still works as a concept. There are other movies in the same subgenres who execute creature features in the same way and it still work. What works for it is the setting itself where this group is on the water in a boat going through unknown waterways and it works with the jungle environment and all the unknowns that pair with it. That is one of the few things that I liked.

My biggest issue with Anaconda is the cast. Put aside the other people who were tolerable, Jennifer Lopez is an actress that I’ve never found a movie where I liked and yet she constantly gets cast into films over and over again. It is mind-boggling to me but I’m sure there are others who appreciate her. However, her acting didn’t quite work for me here and it became very irritating to watch. The second performance who I, at times, do enjoy is Jon Voight who does an over the top villain sort of role who also gets very ridiculous at points. Just these two weaknesses and their frequency and importance in the film made this one really hard to enjoy for myself.

In fact, Anaconda isn’t a really lengthy film and yet it took me about 3 sittings to finish, which says a lot about how I feel about going back to visit this one again.

American Ultra (2015)

american ultra

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman

A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle. – IMDB

American Ultra is a fun little action crime adventure. Its comedic and pretty well-paced, packed with lots of action and schemes. Its straight forward and just a lot of crazy. I think what makes this movie work is Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Jesse Eisenberg has his roles that don’t work (aka Lex Luthor) and then he has roles that works for him (like Zombieland and Now You See Me) and this definitely fits in the latter category. The premise is a bit far-fetched but in this absurd way that kind of works. I can see how it could be irritating to watch but then, there is this desperate connection between him and Kristen Stewart that works well. Talking about Kristen Stewart, I can’t help to feel that her lowpoint is definitely Twilight and everything else that I see her in generally works from good to great. This one works so well for her character. She keeps the film pulled together just like some of the other supporting characters does also.

On that note, John Leguizamo’s role was  meant to be absurd and it was so absurd that it was really annoying to watch (I guess they succeeded?). In my mind though, its sad to see me get annoyed by John Leguizamo who I like a lot and feel that he is unique in his interpretation of roles. I’m starting to realize that Topher Grace also ends up taking up roles that I truly dislike. Seeing as he is the “enemy” in this case, it felt like its good to hate him but he is so hard to like. I feel like whenever I see him in a movie always dislike his bits and this one is no different. Its the fact that I can’t quite to decide whether his roles are meant to be dark humor or if we are meant to take him seriously. Either way, those two are the lowpoints for me in this film that felt slightly annoying and disappointing.

However, the lowpoints here are not enough to forget about the sum of all the positives here. I can’t help to like a film that is so fun. It does have its dramatic moments but the film that I could compare this film to would be Mr. Right and they have the same vibe and tone that I like a lot.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two A selections? Thoughts?

 

Blood in the Snow Festival: The Whistler (Short, 2018)

The Whistler (2018)

The Whistler

Director (and writer): Jennifer Nicole Stang

Cast: Karis Cameron, Baya Ipatowicz, Nelson Leis, Alison Wandzura, John Emmet Tracy

Lindsey is forced to babysit her sister, Becky, one night, when, after innocently falling asleep, wakes up to find her sister gone. Someone has taken Becky and could be after her as well. – Blood in the Snow Festival

The Whistler is a short film that definitely feels very polished from the acting to the setting to the screenplay itself. While it only runs 11 minutes, the short film takes on quite a few memorable bits. One of the fun parts is its playful mentions of various iconic horror movies, for example a clever mention of Crystal Lake. The other one is having The Whistler start as a fairy tale or lore of sorts and build it from there, making us wonder on not only whether it is real or not but also how it ends.

As the movie brings in those elements of the fairy tale becoming a reality, the pieces fall into place and it all comes down to Lindsey who witnesses it all. The atmosphere and the music and sound effects here play a big part in making it all bring in a lot of the sinister feeling. Adding in some of the effects like how the eyes change and whatnot in the film that work just well enough for its purpose. At the same time, there keeps a creepy feeling that keeps us on the edge. At the same time, the cast of young actresses here do a great job in each of their roles.

There is still a sense of The Whistler being an indie film. However, whether we are talking about the acting and the cast or the story and the execution and all the effects, there is a lot to love here. It builds a nice atmosphere and its a fun little movie to watch. There is a nice twist of whether this is a fairy tale or the reality and the ending also brings in a bit of a question which can be interpreted from what was talked about previously in the film. Some of the bits here are slightly predictable but the sum of its parts definitely makes this one a short that I’d recommend.

The Whistler was a part of the Bloody Bits Showcase Part 2 at the Blood in the Snow Festival 2018.

BITS 2018: The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard

Directors (and co-writers): Jesse Thomas Cook & Matt Wiele

Cast: Lisa Solberg, Tony Burgess, Barry More, Ry Barrett, Elma Begovic, Marcus Ludlow, Justin Darmanin, Charles Ivey, Jesse Thomas Cook

THE HOARD is a comedy/horror mockumentary that chronicles the unravelling of a production team who are attempting to produce the ultimate reality TV show pilot ‘Extremely Haunted Hoarders’. – IMDB

Mockumentaries are a tough subgenre to crack. They have to carry a certain comedic value to them as they go and mock a certain style. In this case, The Hoard tackles mocking reality TV in the likes of ghost hunting combined with house flipping shows. The movie is a comedy for the most part but takes a turn for something more in the horror area near the end as the plot takes a sudden turn. The main hurdle for The Hoard is honestly on how much its viewers enjoy mockumentaries in general. It embraces what it is trying to achieve fully both with its ragtag team of “experts” with each of their specialities and the way the entire movie is executed.

The Hoard

Looking at the characters, they are the heart of The Hoard. The most comedic being that of the pompous Dr. Ebe (Tony Burgess) who takes his role as the resident psychiatrist to solve this hoarding habit of their subject to another level with both impractical and ridiculous ways. Another highlight is the divorced paranormal experts Chloe (Emma Begovic) and Caleb Black (Ry Barrett) who have their incredibly hilarious interpretation of ghost hunters both making fun of the scenario in an indirect way in an over the top manner that offers lots of entertainment and plenty of laughs. It is quite a treat to see Emma Begovic switch from the really intense main role in Bite to this comedic role which shows her acting chops. The professional organizer, Sheila Smyth (Lisa Solberg) is the leader of the team and while she is simply the glue and grounded person here and the one who goes through a lot more situations and dramatic moments, she somehow doesn’t have quite as much impact as the previously mentioned ones. Same goes for the construction/renovation trio, Duke (Marcus Ludlow), Falcon (Justin Darmanin) and their temp worker Ivey (Charles Ivey). They do cover a bit of the over the top dumb humor which lands less because it sometimes overstays its welcome.

Humor is a subjective thing. It is what makes the mockumentary comedy genre sometimes hard to talk about. What works for me might not tickle your funny bone. In this case, the humor lands enough for this film to work and as a mockumentary, it is done in an entertaining way with enough to keep it intriguing. However, it does feel slightly disjointed at times and some other bits felt not so necessary. It’s a short run time and sometimes it feels like it circles too long in a lot of the same movements before switching the plot up. There are some good and some lacking elements here especially in terms of the horror coming a little too late. For those who do appreciate mockumentaries, this one is worth a shot.

Side note: I can appreciate what it does here but I’m not the audience for this one so I can see that it does a good job but I didn’t quite get as involved as other who enjoy mockumentaries would.

BITS 2018: Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight

Director: Jesse Thomas Cook

Cast: Liv Collins (co-writer), Adam Seybold, Ry Barrett

A man with partial blindness and a young pregnant police officer must work together to escape from a deadly virus that has spread across Grey County. – IMDB

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen these days. So many of them pop up and disappear but then every once in a while, we see some that add their own twist either with their characters or their plot. Deadsight takes the route of having two rather weaker protagonists who end up meeting and fighting for survival together. Its a refreshing idea  not only for choosing not really less competent characters but characters both with physical weaknesses or hindrances to their health temporarily to have to fight together but also the fact that the reason behind why all this happened and how this deadly virus has caused this zombie apocalypse of sorts.

Deadsight

With that said, its important to take a look at these two main characters. Ben (Adam Seybold) who is partially blind gives the fear because the audience can see his attackers before he can, creating a lot of fast-paced tense moments. On the other hand, Mara (Liv Collins) who is pregnant has the obvious disadvantage of having less physical capacity as she obviously has because she is a police officer and that makes her a strong character because she is quite resourceful. As much as these two have their weaknesses, they also never dwell on them and because stronger and more capable roles because of it. Another nice part here that cuts out a lot of any drama is making these two strictly staying in line with surviving, and what makes this executed well is that while we never learn too much about these character’s backgrounds, it is their actions during this situation they are thrown in and crafts their true nature and personality and makes us want them to make it out of this ordeal alive.

Deadsight

Aside from well-crafted characters, Deadsight also is well-paced. That is linked to a previous comment about keeping it less about drama and more about survival which a lot of horror films forget about. At the same time, there might not be a whole lot of dialogue between the characters but there is a decent bit of zombie attacks, escapes and encounters to make it an intense and fast-paced work. A part of this has to do with the camera work and how it delivers each of these scenes and the other part has to do with having an impressive soundtrack that is subtle but also creates the proper atmosphere. Not to mention the zombies are also designed really well.

Deadsight

If there is one little thing to criticize about Deadsight, it would have to be that all the characters have this incredible desire to throw out their weapons after one use. That doesn’t mean guns but rather axes or things that can be used over and over again. However, that can be overlooked since many films do happen to do that. One thing that lift this film is its camaraderie between the characters despite being strangers, especially in the final at when they complement each other’s weaknesses  to be a stronger team. The whole movie is done well but the final act has some great elements as it works itself to end on an intense note. Deadsight is a well-executed zombie film that you should watch.

Deadsight is screening its world premiere on November 25th at 4:30pm at The Royal Cinema for Blood in the Snow Festival. 

BITS 2018: Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End

Directors: Remi Fréchette, Priscilla Piccoli, Quentin Lecocq, Emilie Gauthier, Loic Surprenant, David Emond-Ferrat, Eve Dufaud, Frederick Neegan Trudel, Mickael N’Dour, Julie De LaFreniere, Catherine Villleminot, Tiphaine Dereyer, Hugo Belhassen, Audric Cussigh, Gaelle Quemener, Mara Joly, Charles Massicote, Jimmy Pettigrew

Montreal Dead End is a 15 part horror anthology set while “a supernatural mist is seeping through the cracks of the city, causing various evil enchantments related to the neighborhood from which it escapes, waking up a dark spirit here, a vengeful ghost there, releasing a plethora of terrifying creatures, possessing numerous citizens and even turning some of them into zombies, or entities from the beyond. The key to this paranormal chaos lies within a First Nations legend, a shamanic amulet and a guardian (Marco Collin) in search of a book of prophecies and premonitions which only he can decipher.  The quest takes us from one part of the city to another, crossing paths with unexpected events and multiple creatures along the way. ” [BITS 2018]

A fifteen part horror anthology that runs over less than an hour and a half is a marathon in itself. Some of these are barely snippets and is truly a short film in itself set in the different boroughs of the city. Between these films is one part of the anthology called The Guardian (“Le Gardien”) directed by Remi Fréchette that is the key behind all this chaos. It is intertwined between all these different stories and brings the entire story together. The beauty of Montreal Dead End is that it acts as a tour of the island of Montreal. Its panning scenes taken by drone takes a lot of aerial landscapes of this city, at the same time also showing off its many touristic areas. Being knowledgable of Montreal probably adds to the enjoyment of the city because of the familiarities and the preconceptions of each neighborhood.

Montreal Dead End

To call this anthology a beauty is not accurate because it is better described as a quirky movie experience. Many of the stories grow from some very odd ideas, for example “Part 10: Who Listens to Celine Anyways?” where anyone who listens to Celine Dion music will automatically be possessed and some can see some indirect influence from other films like “Part 13: Folie Legumineuse” that feels a bit like the gingerbread man scene in Krampus. There isn’t any story in particular that is extremely horrific however. It acts more of a horror comedy with perhaps a few slight exceptions. A lot of the merit of these stories are in its creative ideas even though some of the execution is overly obvious.

This anthology’s heavily lies on the main plot that runs throughout with the guardian played by Marco Collin as he goes in search for the book of prophecies that only he can control. It is well-timed each time the appearance of these small snippets appear from one location to the next just like a treasure hunt as it also helps gain a better understanding of what is going on. After the resolution of it all seems a little hasty. 

Montreal Dead End

A movie anthology like this has its charms. To be fair, any anthology has its great, good and lackluster bits. With one with so many different parts, it is hard to escape that fate. With that said, Montreal Dead End won’t be for anyone. Maybe one story or another will please someone but this one has some very odd ideas that might just seem off putting for many.  You can’t fault any of these directors for not putting their twist and being incredibly creative with their ideas. Its going to appeal to a specific audience who will appreciate what its trying to do here.

Montreal Dead End is showing on November 24, 2018 at 9pm at The Royal Cinema for BITS Festival.