Double Feature: Wait Till Helen Comes (2016) & Final Girl (2015)

Another double feature has arrived.

We have a mix of horror and thriller (?). The first one is one that I rented on Google Play store and the other was on Netflix, a new addition of sorts. Two more obscure titles, I would imagine. And no, this is Final Girl and not Final Girls.

Lets check it out!

Wait Till Helen Comes (2016)

Wait Till Helen Comes

Director: Dominic James

Cast: Sophie Nelisse, Maria Bello, Isabelle Nelisse, Callum Keith Rennie, Abigail Pniowsky, William Dickinson

When a reconstructed family moves to a converted church in the country, 14-year-old Molly, must save her new troubled step-sister from a dangerous relationship with the desperate ghost of a young girl. –IMDB

Wait Till Helen Comes is an indie horror. There are quite a few charms to it such as some scenes are directed really well and the set was suitable and worked to give an isolated/secluded perhaps abandoned area. That is always good for horror. Moving to a new home and families coming together also gives a lot of mystery to the characters and gives them a chance to develop. In concept, Wait Till Helen Comes has all the typical ingredients to make it work fine as a horror however perhaps because it uses such normally seen pieces that it becomes slightly more predictable. For the record, this is based on a novel however I have not read it so for myself this is a standalone piece with nothing to compare to.

Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes has some decent performances. Maria Bello is there as the mother and an artist. Her character works hard to create a balance in the new family put together because of her marriage. In many ways, she fits a mold also because while she starts off thinking her daughter is making up things and suspecting she went off her medication, she does come around. As for her teenage daughter Molly, a young actress Sophie Nelisse, does a convincing job of learning how to be a bigger sister. Although subtle, the change in her character happens gradually throughout the story as she tries to protect (in her own way) her younger sister Heather , who is the daughter of her stepfather recently picked up from a home to hopefully rehabilitate her after her mother’s death. Heather, played by Isabelle Nelisse, is rather unsettling to watch as well.

While the story does have a decent turn of events in the final act and some well-executed scenes to build up the atmosphere, it is hard to not completely feel involved because it lacks a bit of originality as it falls into a lot of horror troupes from moving into a run-down home to a rather typical ghost story. However, this one is still alright.

Final Girl (2015)

Final Girl

Director: Tyler Shields

Cast: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright, Alexander Ludwig, Reece Thompson

A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins. – IMDB

I like Abigail Breslin a lot. I probably talked about it when I wrote up my TV Binge for Scream Queens Season 1 and probably for The Call recently. I love a ton of her movies when she was younger: Nim’s Island, Zombieland, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. Then she makes these really odd choices in movies now. Final Girl is a thriller that falls apart so fast that it never really creates any fun. Its tacky and pretty stupid. It tries really hard to be stylish with these cool scenes as they present each of the guys in the rich kids that have secret killing fetish in the woods to hunt down defenseless girls, particularly blondes. Abigail Breslin for some odd reason is trained as a child by a man who lost his daughter tragically on a journey to revenge. What does these two things have in common: nothing much from what I saw. I can’t say that the performances are bad because I feel that the story is the main problem. Its just so poorly constructed. Its disjointed and pointless and in the end, we really don’t care too much about any of these characters.

There’s some stylish shots and perhaps in a biased way, Abigail Breslin does okay. But seriously, nothing saves a movie with a story that takes itself far too seriously in light of some bad dialogue and poor story. Unfortunately, this one didn’t have any thrills.

This wraps up the Double Feature!
Have you seen these two movies? What did you think of them?

Fantasia Festival 2016: Lights Out (2016)

The next movie in the Fantasia Festival Line-up before almost a week off before the next one is Lights Out. I haven’t been able to finish the trailer on this one and it hits a lot of my fears such as darkness. Its one I am excited, skeptical and incredibly nervous and frightened to go see. Lights Out is presented as a Montreal Special Screening and was a sold out show. It also presented me with one of the most engaging film watching experience. Please note the film watching and not film. It seemed to need that clarification on Twitter. Everyone screamed and laughed and emoted together. Maybe it will disturb a normal theatre experience but Fantasia is a different vibe because a ton of people there are film buffs if not horror film buffs which adds on to the fun.

Lights Out (2016) 

Lights Out

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Andi Osho, Alicia Vela-Bailey

When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.-IMDB

Lights Out’s premise started with the director David F. Sandberg’s short film that is available on Vimeo that was submitted for a short film under three minutes. It is an atmospheric horror film that is short but introduces us to the concept of his spirit that dwells in the darkness. It appears as a shadow with elongated sharp fingers when the lights are out and disappears when the lights are on. Changing the setting but using the same actress as in his short film, this is how Sandberg chooses to start his full feature, Lights Out. However this time, the backstory is different. It highlights why this spirit follows this family as it breaks it up over and over again whether its driving the the mom to a deeper depression to the daughter moving out to the son not being able to sleep. Why is it here? What does it want? All these questions cast over Lights Out as it pans through its tight-knit and quick eight-one minutes run time.

Lights Out

 Lights Out is Sandberg’s debut full feature film. With the help of James Wan in the producer seat (among the many), there is a certain potential connected to it. However, if the Lights Out short was any indication, Sandberg is fully capable of crafting an effective horror and he does. Lights Out makes a lot of great moves. It builds a haunting atmosphere playing on the audience’s fear of the darkness. He is smart and utilises all sorts of different lighting whether they are on, off or flickering. The music sits in the background with only moments where it teases us. While it does suffer from some horror movie troupes like the usage of the scary basement or predictably expecting what to happen next, it never lingers on those moments but uses it to create the atmosphere from an initial jump scare to create uneasiness to make the next unexpected move a little more effective.  Part of this effectiveness does contribute with knowing how to keep the audience wondering about the spirit entity even if the atmosphere does build but it becomes rather overused in the short run time especially the first two-thirds of the movie before heading into the wildly intense final third. Not to mention whatever is haunting everyone is designed extremely well but you can see it in the trailer if that interests you or just go into this one fresh.

Lights Out

Lights Out is not perfect however. It is weighed down by a rather generic back story and some dialogue that felt laughably (sometimes awkwardly) out of place. It lingered between cringe-worthy, eye-rolling and laughing territory (and the Fantasia audience laughed a lot). Part of it makes us wonder if it was done deliberately to create a relaxed moment before amping up the intensity ten times more. Or it could most probably be lack of a better screenplay writer. Most of these dialogues are between our main character Rebecca (played by Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend (played by Alexander DiPersia). Thankfully, there isn’t enough of these dialogues to make it unbearable to watch. It keeps the agenda of a horror thriller in the front and remembers to focus on finding the root of the problem.

Lights Out

 The cast here deserves some mention. They are convincingly good at their roles. Its not saying that they were in anything bad before. Teresa Palmer has Warm Blood and Maria Bello has more than we can count (most recently Prisoners). Before we talk about the main roles here, its good to address some of the smaller cameo roles starting from the opening scene, Lotta Losten which almost replays the original short but in a new setting. In that opening scene, Billy Burke also makes an appearance playing the father of the family we will learn about soon. This opening scene last for a good five minutes probably and sets up what to expect for the rest of Lights Out. Here’s where we get to see a distant daughter, Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer who does a stand-up job and is a very brave character. Playing her boyfriend is Alexander DiPersia as Bret (as mentioned before) who is an adorable and fun character to add to the mix but also breaks out from the norm impressively. Its rare to call a horror movie boyfriend adorable but he has this incredibly likeable character with some really great scenes. However, the movie is raised above by the mom Sophie played by Maria Bello. She is able to highlight the breakdown and being teared apart by depression and of being mentally weakened.

Overall, Lights Out creates a great horror atmosphere. Sandberg does a lot right in creating this horror thriller with a great premise that plays on fear of darkness mixed with effects of depression. His creature and the design is done really well and manages to keep the audience guessing. The cast also delivers some good performances however the dialogue does hit some awkward and laughably out of place moments forcing in a generic back story. There are some tropes too but they are delivered effectively. Between a mixed bag of jump scares and atmospheric build-up in the feeling of dread, Lights Out delivers a solid horror performance that might leave you keeping your lights on for a while.

Netflix A-Z: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

Next up on the Valentine’s Marathon and the Netflix A-Z selection, we’re at J! Honestly, I and J had such limited selections especially when focused on one genre, that the choice was easy.  This week, we’re going for The Jane Austen Book Club.  What’s a little Valentine’s Marathon without some form of Jane Austen, right? I didn’t think the movie was almost 10 years ago but the cast looks really good and the idea of our life and romances relating to Jane Austen novels is good one since most of Jane Austen’s novels are not just romance but a social commentary also.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

The Jane Austen Book Club

Director: Robin Swicord

Cast: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Hugh Dancy, Kevin Zegers, Marc Blucas

Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships — both old and new — begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.-IMDB

 Its hard to dislike any movie that uses Jane Austen and her works as the foundation of their story.  The Jane Austen Book Club is really the same thing.  The film isn’t particularly long but to also have to highlight the six characters relationships and the parallels to Jane Austen’s stories is a challenge in itself.  I think that Jane Austen Book Club might at times feel like its not taking enough time for the characters but it does a decent job for us to understand what each one is thinking.  What really takes it above is that the group itself is a variety of people that reflect kind of the different values that any group would have from liking being alone to recently divorced; younger college age versus older; and finally trying to spark a marriage while resisting temptation. Everyone comes down to the question: What would Jane do?

The Jane Austen Book Club

In their turmoil and dilemmas, Jane Austen’s stories give them light and a group of friends. There are moments that might seem a little overly sentimental or even quite predictable, except the cast itself does a fantastic job of carrying each of their characters and it makes for an entertaining film. What is even better is that everyone knows a different depth of Austen novels and with one being a complete newbie, it never loses its viewers in the context (hopefully because I am recently reading Jane Austen Classics so I may be biased).  As a Austen fan or simply an avid reader, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to relate to people who find themselves through books.  That is exactly what these ladies are.  Sure, its about Austen and their lives relating to the stories but it also teaches them something different in each one and to make choices for themselves.

Jane Austen Book Club

The characters that had the most screen time definitely went to Maria Bello and Hugh Dancy who was the main characters who struggled to be together.  On one hand, it was a story of Maria Bello’s character, Jocelyn being somewhat like a modern day Emma who drags a guy Grigg (played by Hugh Dancy) in hoping to match him up with a recently divorced best friend, Sylvia (played by Amy Brenneman).  Except in reality, she tries to push away those feelings that she has for him.  While that is central to the story, it leads us to see the other stories as well.  We get Sylvia’s story as reading Austen’s actually lets her realize how to be independent as a divorced woman.  On the other hand, her daughter Allegra joins and gives a different younger perspective of the story.  Grigg is definitely the male voice in their analysis.  Another character worth mentioning is Prudie, played by Emily Blunt, and her heavy morals on self-control.  Maybe she falls into the Sense and Sensibility story as she tries to resist the seduction of a student (played by Kevin Zegers) but also wanting to rekindle her own marriage. There is a lot going on and the parallels are even harder to figure out if one story relates to an Austen novel/character or if it  just blurs together eventually. They definitely all have the contrasting personalities to show has a different interpretation of a situation and how to face it. Just look at the cast though, it is amazing and they absolutely deliver great performances.

Jane Austen Book Club

I think that is what is so good about Jane Austen Book Club.  Despite the dramatic moments, there is still a level of feel-good moments.  Everyone embodies a bit of Austen’s characters and without realizing it makes decision similar to those in her novels.  The storyline goes from month to month division where we see the book they are reading right before they jump into the meeting itself with just a little bit of events in between to give some context.  Maybe there are too many characters for its own good but it does keep a decent balance.

Overall, The Jane Austen Book Club is a fine little romantic drama-comedy.  It has a widespan of characters and tries its best to keep the Austen stories and context understandable even to those who don’t know much about it.  They divide the stories well enough to make us understand what (some of) the characters are going through.  The cast really takes the script and makes it their own and that is definitely the highlight.  While the story is a little predictable and maybe gets sentimental at other bits, there is still a feel-good factor.  The reader in me approves this movie very much. 🙂

Have you seen The Jane Austen Book Club? What did you think of it?

We will be taking a little Netflix A-Z break starting next week!
Ultimate 80s Blogathon starts on Feb 15th and that will be the main focus.
However, before that, Valentine’s Marathon ends with the two Nicholas Sparks movies I haven’t reviewed yet.
Lets hope its not too cringe-worthy! 😉

Netflix A-Z: Coyote Ugly (2000)

Wow! Netflix A-Z is on fire! Its actually becoming quite a motivating force for me.

This next movie, Coyote Ugly, has been sitting in my list for a long time. I keep eyeing it and then brushing it off.  That actually is part of the point of this Netflix A-Z and thats to get to those movies I keep pushing away for unknown reasons.

Its interesting that I say 2000s and all the guesses of female lead movies, which is incredibly close. Good job!

Without further ado, lets get right to it! 🙂

Coyote Ugly (2000)

coyote ugly

Director: David McNally

Cast: Piper Perabo, Adam Garcia, John Goodman, Maria Bello, Izabella Miko, Tyra Banks, Bridget Moynahan, Melanie Lynskey

Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo) is an aspiring songwriter from a small town in New Jersey who decides to head out to New York City in hopes of getting her big break.  There she realizes that the big city is lot more complicated and a ton of bad news.  On top of that, to become a songwriter, she needs to conquer her stage fright and perform her own songs.  In the meantime, she ends up finding a job at a bar called Coyote Ugly.  This place is run by Lil (Maria Bello) who hires girls to be her Coyotes that tease their (primarily) male customers, hoping for them to order more drinks and get drunk while enjoying a good show/time.

coyote ugly

I’m not going to lie, when Coyote Ugly started, I had scenes of Burlesque, Flashdance and Magic Mike pop up in my head. Small town girl, aspring musical artist and lots of dancing and drinking.  Lets get the crap out of the way okay.  Coyote Ugly isn’t impressive.  I sat around and finished it because I didn’t really want to waste another evening watching it or it wasn’t such a long movie that deserved to be cut in two.  Whatever it was, I finished it. The story is as cliche and predictable as it gets.  There wasn’t much to figure out and the dialogue was equally foreseeable.  Small town girl meets random struggling dude, works at sexy job to pay the bills, hard-ass boss, gets robbed and doors slammed in their face, family problems/disagreements, overcomes fears and happily ever after.  You’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all. But then, that’s never stopped me from rewatching Burlesque or any of the Step Up movies or whatever else.

Coyote Ugly

Cliche stories just create a little indifference which is where I’m at with Coyote Ugly.  For one, I’d much rather sit through this one than Flashdance.  I haven’t reviewed that one even though I saw it within this past year.  It just got lost in the backlog but I hated the lady in that one.  She was annoying.  At least Piper Perabo playing Violet Sanford was good.  The highlight for this obviously goes to John Goodman playing her father and her boss Lil, played by Maria Bello.  Their roles were dynamic and they had some good fun dialogue.  The guy, Kevin played by Adam Garcia was decent.  He had a good boy next door charm that worked really well and they had decent chemistry to make their relationship believable even if it did proceed pretty quickly (but its a movie so I’m willing to suspend my belief). The other girls said weird things but they were really there for the fun and sexy parts and they did that very well.

coyote ugly

Leading on that point, the dancing, sexy moves and music was really fun.  There were some nice moments.  Talking about that, one of the really fun ones was when this happened.  It was a little weird at parts but still a guilty pleasure moment 😉 Plus, there’s so many ladies up there that its nice to add a little balance, right?

coyote ugly

I don’t really have much to say about Coyote Ugly.  Its an average drama-comedy music-related flick.  There’s a lot of guilty pleasure value to it whether its for the lovely ladies or for the music or that whole moment with Adam Garcia’s Kevin stripping and dancing awkwardly. Its a fun movie even if the story is nothing special.  Go in there solely to see some pretty ladies and some fun and you’ll be having yourself a nice time! 🙂

Have you seen Coyote Ugly? What did you think?

The next one with movie starting with D will be a special double feature.  One is an incredibly meaningless movie (its just here because I  and the other is a horror/sci-fi thriller that I have no idea what to expect. Any guesses?