They Remain (2018)

*Screener*

They Remain (2018)

They Remain

Director: Philip Gelatt

Cast: William Jackson Harper, Rebecca Henderson

Based on the 2010 short story, 30- by award-winning author Laird Barron, They Remain follows two scientists, Keith (William Jackson Harper) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson) who are sent out by a huge corporation  to investigate abnormal animal behaviors occurring in a previous remote area that had some horrible killings happen in the past. Their mission has a month in duration and they are offered high tech surveillance material and a lab to research initial findings. With Keith as their boy scout who goes on according to schedule every day in different districts they’ve established to observe and Jessica to stay back at the camp to do any analysis, the dynamic and relationship of these two people start to evolve over the next days we follow their progress.

they remain

They Remain starts off the story on the right foot. All the right elements are placed into action, just like Keith’s surveillance system and schedule. Things work well in the “no news is good news” sort of deal. We literally watch a lot of walking around and checking surveillance cameras and replacing some gadget in it and Jessica moving around in the lab working on this and that and they talk about trust and human relationships and leak information about what happened in this area years ago and what this mission means for each of them. Quite like a normal indie film, the scale is small so we get to learn about Keith and Jessica as they are primarily the only two people in this film with a small cameo by one other person. There is nothing wrong with this angle actually it is a smart move. William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson both do a great job in  delivering a very good performance with what they are given here.

Much like any recent indie films, They Remain is a slow paced film which starts off with the very mysterious location with a history set in the vast and mysterious open nature. It gives us time to know their two leads and their relationship while sprinkling some findings throughout related to animal behavior such as a dog which seems made a reference to a wolf at one point and abnormal wasps and ant activities. They make great use of this material and setting and have visually appealing shots and cinematography. All of the beautiful visuals are paired up with an off putting and creepy background score that creates an eerie and mysterious atmosphere. There are horror imagery such as red skies and expected jumpscares that always deliver and a mystery cloaked man. These all help build the suspense and atmosphere.

they remain

There is a lot of potential to be a fantastic horror thriller here but where it falls apart is in its script or perhaps the execution of the script. Many adaptations have the same issue of not correctly interpreting what the source material wants to portray well enough. I haven’t read the source material so there is no comparison so I can only give it the benefit of the doubt. They Remain does a lot of atmosphere building but essentially always delivers on its jumpscares rendering it predictable. The first few times the score gives it a boost and some scare factor but as the film goes on, the slow paced paired with predictable jumpscares and an expected development for Keith and Jessica’s relationship all make for a fairly flat experience. What does try to make it more suspenseful is the distortion of reality and illusion that lies in the central question of what is going on here. Keith will keep seeing these different sequences that amp up in intensity and then get cut back to what we would expect is reality and it brings in the question of whether it is actually real or are they merely nightmares. The suspense is present but sadly, there never seems to be a great payoff for all this build-up but rather a not so surprising twist for the ending.

Overall, They Remain delivers on many of the aspects, whether its characters, visuals, setting and music and does it very well but matched up with the pacing and the execution of the script, it just seems to be lacking and not worth all the build-up in the grand finale.

Available On Demand and Special Edition Blu-ray Tuesday, May 29 (US & CANADA)

On all major VOD platforms including: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox/ Microsoft Store, PlayStation, Vimeo, Vudu, Fandango Now, Kanopy. Also on Movies onDemand via Comcast, Spectrum, Cox and other cable operators

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Double Feature: Mayhem (2017) & Newness (2017)

Double feature time!

Can I just say how excited I am to talk about these two movies? By far, the most excited I’ve felt in a while. I might actually discuss Newness and films of that sort in a video, once that initial video gets edited…

Let’s just get right to it then!

Mayhem (2017)

Mayhem

Director: Joe Lynch

Cast: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts, Mark Frost, André Eriksen

A virus spreads through an office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses. – IMDB

Over the top violence is what Mayhem is all about. Its extreme and over the top and every bit of it is just all kinds of fun. It goes way out of control. Its makes us wonder how much people repress their feelings at work and just how a virus like this would just be absolutely nuts. For what the film wants to achieve, it definitely seems like they got there.

mayhem 2017

Their two leads played by Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are incredibly awesome. Just because they each had their own objective and eventually also grew to trust each other despite the virus in their systems. Plus to find their emotions amplified without any barriers gave them their own credibility. The best comparison I had when I was watching this captivated was the movie was structured like The Raid, where they started at the bottom floor and worked their way to the protected yet infected shareholders at the top to get what they deserved. Except this was much more comedic. This gave them the opportunity to defeat one person or barrier after the next and many times it was playing on events that happened at the beginning of the movie before everyone’s virus started kicking in. Mayhem may have its predictable bits that a story like usually has but the non stop action and crazy spiral of events makes it hard to turn away from. Its entertainment at its very best.

Overall, Mayhem is a definite worthy watch if you are into this type of bloody and violent horror comedy. Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are great as the leads but that doesn’t take away from the myriad of supporting character they need to get through that represent the exaggerated roles in the company as they move up the corporate ladder.

Newness (2017)

Newness

Director: Drake Doremus

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston, Courtney Eaton, Matthew Gray Gubler, Pom Klementieff

In contemporary Los Angeles, two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries. – IMDB

I love movies like these ones and Drake Doremus seems to have hit a winner with this one, especially when compared to the previous movie of his that I reviewed called Equals (review). With Newness, it takes us on a journey through the relationship of millenials trapped in the world of online dating. Perhaps this story might not hit the chords for a lot of people on every level but at some level, it will highlight its rawness and realness of relationships whether it be the struggle to communicate and be open about their feelings or whether its about knowing whether you have crossed the line from liking to loving someone and perhaps for some, its learning when you are willing to settle down instead of always searching for what this movie is called, Newness. I personally have a soft spot for this type of movie topic, especially when it rides the border of being in the steamy romance category while still delivering a deeper message.

newness

While I do enjoy a lot of the films that Nicholas Hoult has been a part of, I can’t say I’m a big fan of his acting. However, in Newness, it feels like he grasped the role in such a believable way. In fact, I’d go to the extent to say to date, its my favorite role of his. It helps in romance movies that the actress is also doing a fantastic job in portraying her role. Laia Costa literally stole the show. She felt real and we watched Marty and Gabi grow on screen and find ways for their relationship to work and create a balance for their desires and struggles but still remain together. Their characters weren’t perfect. They made mistakes and had to get through it together. Fact is, it made them real and genuine. They were also paired up with some great supporting roles. Gabi meets this rich divorced man called Larry, played by Danny Huston who wakes her up a little on his perspective of relationships. While Marty has talks with his best friend, Paul who shares a lot of insight on his thoughts on relationships. Different characters at different stages in life giving their own perspective on relationships as these two tried to work out their own was what it needed.

Newness probably isn’t for everybody. It deserves a bit of an open mind on this subject and probably a more forgiving view on the trial and errors of the path the two main characters take. Romance films have been pretty lackluster of late but Newness is definitely one of my new favorites. In my mind, Newness is about the bumpy road in relationships and finding the same pacing as your other half until you reach the same page. People change as they go through the different things in their own lives and the people they meet and we don’t all have a defined road map of how to navigate relationships, love and all the feelings that go in between. Newness may be about millenials (which I apparently am considered) but it delivers a much deeper aspect of relationships, much less about the events but what these decisions did for the characters to allow them to develop. I love a great story with fantastic character development and Newness had all of that.

On a side note: Its peaked my interest on Drake Doremus’ directorial efforts to take a look as it seems on a quick glance that he has a love for making romantic films of all kinds.

Poor Agnes (2017)

Poor Agnes (2017)

poor agnes

Director: Navin Ramaswaran

Cast: Lora Burkes, Robert Notman, Will Conlon

A serial killer and her next victim form an unexpected relationship. – IMDB

First Official Trailer

Slow-burn, psychological and wildly violent, Poor Agnes captures its audience by allowing us into the world of a psychopath and serial killer Agnes who lures her victims into her carefully laid plans until she invites a private investigator, Mike posing as a journalist who is looking into her ex-boyfriend’s mysterious disappearance years ago and ends up capturing him. There is so much to love about Poor Agnes in some of the most unsettling ways. This has a lot to do with its small cast particularly Lora Burkes, who plays this mysterious woman, Agnes who is the focal point of the entire movie.

Perhaps playing the role of Agnes for Lora Burke may have more guideline, however for the audience, the appeal of Agnes was wondering why she did all this. Was it something in her past that caused her to become like this? However, the audience soon learns that it isn’t important why she does this but rather the concern is in how she treats Mike in both a manipulating and ruthless way while oddly creating a bond with him. As the movie goes along, its disturbing to realize that she has these narcissistic and godly beliefs about herself and her mission in life. In fact some scenes and dialogue might remind you of a female version of American Psycho. However, Mike seems to be caught however as the audience, we also see both sides and how her plans also seem to be changing as she grasps to keep it in line with what she wants to achieve but also be influenced by this bond. Ironically, Agnes isn’t “poor” at all. She isn’t looking for sympathy or pity and probably doesn’t deserve it. This movie is a slice of her life and a snippet of who she is. Why and how she became this way and what influenced her to believe in what she believes is the right thing and justifies her action doesn’t really matter that much at the end. Probably if you watch this enough times and analyze her monologues throughout, which are also quite profound, there might be a tie somewhere. Poor Agnes will make you think and its because of the complex characters that we don’t know everything about that makes it a great psychological thriller.

Poor Agnes is an unsettling little indie film and achieves a lot. It is a character study of Agnes who is a character that is concerned about looking good, staying healthy and keeping true to her psychopathic nature. She’s a complex character and what she believes about her role in the world is crazy but the outstanding performance from Lora Burke will make you believe Agnes. While this movie is a slow-burn experience, it is also one that will quietly make you hold onto your seats as you watch her unlikely relationship and bond with Mike also unfold. Its unpredictable just like Agnes’ personality. This is one that I highly recommend: this is a truly thrilling psychological thriller.

Short Film: Morning After (2017)

Morning After (2017)

Morning After

Director: Patricia Chica

Cast: Thomas Vallieres, Kristian Hodko, Jordana Lajoie, Joey Scarpellino, Zoe De Grand Maison

Michael is faced with a dilemma, when a night of drinking with friends, turns into a sensual exploration of sexual identity. – IMDB

Morning After is the prequel for a full length feature film that is currently in the works. In the fifteen minutes runtime of Morning After, there is so much to love. The shots are framed well and being from the beautiful city of Montreal, it makes for a great setting for the story it wants to tell as well. As for the story, Morning After aims to tell one that evolves into a sexual fluidity and have the freedom from having labels. Its quite an accomplishment to achieve that simply from a short film but this short film does it very well especially when centering around a friendly gathering that takes a turn for a much more sensual and eye-opening experience.

Morning After

I love watching films that explore these open-minded relationships. There is something about watching someone grow from learning/embrace their nature and their sexuality that is very intriguing. The best example is Spanish romance drama, The Sex of the Angels (review here) which takes a similar approach to the characters embracing or accepting a functional relationship with more than two people. We watch films to not only entertain but broaden our views of the world around us and films that break away from the norm offer unique feelings and angles to the traditional romance.

With that said, Morning After is a short film that carries its message very well. Other than some awkward monologues, the film itself shows off a liberating feeling. Perhaps a little simple in the sense of just friends talking and then it starts raining and they all dance in the rain but standing in the rain is a cooling experience and one that works well when people enjoy nature. An example from Morning After of how it does a truly liberating feeling. Its a journey for the main character here in this short film to acknowledge this new view and mindset. It will be interesting to see what the full feature will offer and the story they choose to tell.

Daguerrotype (2016)

Daguerrotype (2016)

Daguerrotype

(original title: Le secret de la chambre noire)

Director (and screenplay): Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet

When an assistant to a daguerreotypy photographer falls in love with the latter’s daughter the relationship mirrors the art form as love and pain combine. – IMDB

Even though I have only seen Pulse from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, its safe to say that he is a director who takes his time to build atmosphere. Daguerrotype takes on quite the same style as Pulse to be honest which is a good thing. For his first film outside of Japan, Daguerrotype is safe as it plays with a ghost story, slow pacing and builds on the atmosphere to create an uneasiness in this fantasy drama with horror elements. As an indie film, it does a lot of things right especially using a classic photography theme as its main focus. Some cultures believe that photography snaps away your soul and it uses this point as a centre of making his subject immortal, (at least that is what I make of it). Perhaps that is where the inspiration comes from. Classic photography and building the big contraption is definitely the eerier parts of Daguerrotype and adds this older style and mystery.

daguerrotype
The outstanding elements of Daguerrotype is its atmosphere and the setting. It uses a dark and gloomy setting. This matches well with its characters which seem torn in their will to each break free in their own way. The camera does a great job at panning out and zooming in whenever necessary to capture and reveal what it wants to show. There was especially one part where it follows a character that is particularly immersive. It uses lighting very well to create the uneasy moments. The soundtrack is used appropriately  with a beautiful orchestral piece in various parts however still uses a mix of subtle and abrupt sounds to immerse its viewers during quieter scenes. While it may seem a little cliche and overdone, Daguerrotype uses the classic creaky doors opening slowly to create uneasy moments.

daguerrotype
Daguerrotype also has a pretty decent cast. Tahar Rahim plays Jean, the young man here who gets the job as a photographer assistant because of his inexperience and a general interest for photography. He is the main character and the script writes him quite in depth as we see many personality qualities of his. The story only does have about six roles aside from the small cameos roles with three being the leads. Playing opposite Jean is his photography obsessed boss, Stephane who has an unusual love for Daguerrotype photography which requires its models to stand for a long time motionless and uses a contraption to aid them. Stephane is played by Olivier Gourmet and he does a great job at capturing the grumpy perfection seeking artist with his own secrets. Stephane’s only perfect subject is his daughter Marie, played by Constance Rouseeau, who is a shy and quiet girl with a love for botany and struggles between going to pursue her dreams or staying to accompany her father and being his model.

The bottomline is that Daguerrotype does many things right however it is for the most patient of viewers. At over two hours run time, the story moves very slowly and sometimes might feel like the plot is lost in the little details and sidetracks making it feel fragmented and doesn’t come together however, it is also these fragments that may give this story something to think about after its finished. For horror fans, this might not fit the bill as it doesn’t have a lot of scares but more uneasy atmospheres and is more of a fantasy drama. However, Kurosawa’s skills of atmosphere, setting and tone along with the decent cast here that carries their role well are all good reasons to give Daguerrotype a watch.

Opening on VOD Nationwide on Tuesday, November 7 on all major platforms including iTunes, Sony, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft, Vudu, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Vimeo, and various other cable operators.

Double Feature: Embers (2015) & Free Birds (2013)

Next up in the double feature quite a mix. First is a 2015 independent drama called Embers, which I’ve heard nothing about before but post-apocalyptic sort of stories appeal to me so I wanted to check it out out of curiosity. Second is probably one I should’ve watched in October for Canadian Thanksgiving however, what the heck, right? We have 2013 animated film, Free Birds.

Let’s go!

Embers (2015)

Embers

Director and co-writer: Claire Carré

Cast: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Silvan Friedman

After a global neurological epidemic, those who remain search for meaning and connection in a world without memory. – IMDB

Its hard to pinpoint where Embers falls. In one sense, it talks about a world that actually would be pretty scary and it looks at both spectrums of living in a post-apocalyptic world where you create new memories every single day or even more frequent than that and really not knowing anything. Isn’t that what some of us would hope for? Complete bliss from all knowledge? You wouldn’t remember your problems a few hours later but then you also wouldn’t have that long lasting human relationship because you wouldn’t even be able to build or think about those fleeting moments, let alone remember them. Is it emptiness or bliss in that case? However, on the other side of the spectrum is the quarantined who do remember but they don’t have the freedom to live outside the routine. They have memories but they are merely surviving and not really living.

Embers

 

Embers takes on various perspectives from its scattered characters in this area. There’s a young child wandering aimlessly, a teacher who is researching something endlessly, these two meet and they form a bond as one of the endearing moments is him teaching the child how to ride a bike. There is a couple who is together but then their lack of retaining memories separates them. There is an angry rebellious young guy who runs around wreaking havoc to be caught up in something more but not retaining that memory helps him to not even know what happened just moments or hours ago.

With that said, Embers has some decent performances and some nice moments and the shots and setting are filmed very nicely, however, the story itself is disjointed. Is it to match the world that they have created or maybe the story just skims the surface too much to have a resounding feeling? There is some thought-provoking depth that you can see but it never feels enough to feel immersed into the movie.

Free Birds (2013)

Free Birds

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson, Dan Fogler, Amy Poehler, George Takei, Keith David

Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the holiday menu for good. – IMDB

Free Birds is the perfect example of how some movies just don’t work and have no humor because its not my thing. However, according to the 17% Rotten Tomatoes score, I’m actually not the only one. First off, the voice acting here is fine as expected with Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler at the helms. Its really the content of what this is and the jokes and dialogue that doesn’t work for me. In many levels, it was just really dumb. I have a peculiar humor so sometimes things like this just aren’t my cup of tea. I turned on Free Birds has background while I was working on something and its all so weird and feels rather unoriginal.

 

Turkeys going back in time to stop turkeys from turning into a tradition for Thanksgiving dinner seems a little odd. There might be some chuckles here and there but for the most part, I spent a lot of time just hoping it would end because it felt really boring and uninspired. I’m going to keep this short. It didn’t grab my attention all that much and the premise isn’t all that interesting to me. Its rare I feel so indifferent about animated films. I guess it was bound to happen eventually, right?

Have you seen Embers and/or Free Birds?
What are you thoughts?

Fantasia Festival is Here!

Fantasia International Film Festival is in town (aka Montreal)!

Fantasia Festival started today in the evening, opening with Korean film, The Villainess. It runs for the next three weeks! It runs from July 13 to August 2.

Luckily, I’ll be covering it this year, like past years! This year, I did think ahead and tried to get myself media accreditation and it happened! That is awesome and I’m really excited. I’ve generally gotten my calendar set on what movies to fit in and I’m being a little pickier with times and what movies I see. The first review goes up tomorrow afternoon as I ponder over a documentary and how to word it properly in a review, as you all know that I don’t review documentaries a lot.

No double features on this one. Fantasia Festival will be getting all full reviews and I’ll hop back to double features after the festival is over.

With that said, I’ll try to keep variety here, however, excuse me if the festival gets on and I don’t have as much time or energy to think in advance for it. Between balancing actual work, Fantasia Festival and Game Warp, its going to be a intense scheduling and efficiency practice on my part. And no, this festival has jumped back to its roots a little more and dives into a lot of foreign films as well as straying a little more away from horror this year. Its a nice change although I do potentially have some in my schedule. I won’t bore you with the technicalities of having the press pass, because honestly, I’m feeling incredibly grateful to even have it so I’ll be working extra hard.

With that said, every year I talk about hte movies that I’ll be going to see. I feel like I can’t promise anything this year as it can change anytime so instead, I’ll talk about the movies I plan on seeing and the movies that are in my maybes and has me intrigued:

  • Abu: Father (2017)
  • Tilt (2017)
  • A Ghost Story (2017)
  • Vampire Clean-Up Department (2017)
  • Savage Dog (2017)
  • Replace (2017)
  • Radius (2017)
  • Origami (2017)
  • Most Beautiful Island (2017)
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (2017)
  • Friendly Beast (2016)
  • Better Watch Out (2016)
  • Overdrive (2017)
  • Fashionista (2016)
  • Bushwick (2017)

Movies I considered but can’t seem to fit into the schedule (or trying to):

  • Shockwave (2017)
  • Mohawk (2017)
  • Senior Class (2016)
  • Bad Genius (2017)
  • Rage (2016)
  • 68 Kill (2017)
  • Napping Princess
  • Bitch (2017)
  • Boyka: Undisputed (2016)
  • Dead Shack (2017)

Looking at the listings, there are over 200 films, both shorts and full lengths and an awesome lists of guests that will be hosting their films from directors to writers to cast members and even crew members. Looking at the calendar and blog archives, I’ve been covering Fantasia unofficially for the last 3 years (maybe 4 but first year, I only saw 2 movies), and the Festival has grown so much over these years and the movie choices have been incredible. Its always a positive experience going and if you are in Montreal, I urge you to go check it out!

If you do, give me a shout! Maybe we can hang out and talk movies! It’ll be fun…if time matches up, of course 🙂

Have you heard or seen any of these movies?
The full list of films can be found HERE
What movies peaked your interest?