Netflix A-Z: The Spectacular Now (2013)

We’re at the S selection for Netflix! Movie reviews craze going on over here, right? I’ve been wanting to watch The Spectacular Now since this movie released back in 2013 but somehow never got around to it. It could be that last year, I took a long drama movie break. There was a few indie S selections that I wanted to watch but The Spectacular Now was one I didn’t want to wait anymore.

Let’s check it out!

The Spectacular Now (2013)

The Spectacular Now

Director: James Ponsoldt

Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brie Larson, Mary  Elizabeth Winstead

A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.” – IMDB

 The first thing to really catch my eye watching The Spectacular Now at this moment is the brilliant cast they have here. I haven’t really seen a ton of Miles Teller so I don’t have much to compare him to (yes, I haven’t seen Whiplash yet) and I’ve only seen Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars and I wasn’t a fan of that one. Nothing to do with her, just the story was my issue. Aside from our main characters played by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, there is a supporting roles by Brie Larson (who went on to play her fantastic role in Room), Jennifer Jason Leigh (who I saw in The Hateful Eight) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (in  this year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane) for starters. The Spectacular Now is a coming of age story that delivers something a little different. Sutter is our main guy here and in many ways, I feel like it wasn’t even meeting Aimee that changed him but just that Aimee was the girl that gave him a different perspective on the future and growing up. The power of youth and relationships, right? In all reality, Sutter is afraid of growing up and its why he doesn’t embrace his the concept of living for the future but rather for the now moment. There’s a really honest and relatable coming of age story in between the charming romance drama going on here.

The Spectacular Now

I have a feeling a ton of people are going to be disappointed when I say this. Miles Teller is an odd choice as Sutter. Maybe its because this movie is meant to be odd but I’ve never been able to see Miles Teller as a very good actor. Maybe its the lack of movies that I’ve seen of his. It took me a while to really connect with Sutter’s character but in a rather unexpected and subtle way, he did grow on me, especially because we could see the script giving him and Aimee a very cute young love growth in a way that they influenced each other and gave each other courage to do the things they were previously afraid to face.

With that said, I liked Shailene Woodley a lot. As the nice girl, she portrayed it on point. It was believable in her most innocent ways. She truly loved Sutter and saw the good in him even when sometimes, he wasn’t all that great. The fascination of a relationship is finding the balance of having something in common but enough not to learn something new from each other and Sutter and Aimee had that. Their relationship was a highlight of this coming of age story even if I don’t believe it would be what really changed Sutter because the powerful scene with him and his mother played by Jennifer Jason Leigh was the one that stole the show.

The Spectacular Now

Other than the wonderfully sweet moments between Aimee and Sutter crafted beautifully, the drama truly comes in in a strong scene when Sutter finally meets his father again. It proves that the innocent memory he had for his father was actually very much an illusion. He starts noticing all the bad his father truly is even when he tries to brush it away and in many ways, can see the hints of him really starting to see how ignorant his father is and how he somewhat sees the disappointing similarities and how he could potentially be a lot of bad. It shows a little of the nature vs. nurture influence right there in my opinion.

The Spectacular Now

 Overall, The Spectacular Now is a really good coming of age story. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are great as Sutter and Aimee. The character development for both of the characters carry a lot more than just romance but also what growing up is about. Other than romantic themes, it also has a strong family relationship concept here. The Spectacular Now tells a great story with a compelling message. While I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the way they ended it because a ton of movies are doing that also, the journey of Sutter and his coming of age story is an intriguing one to say the least.

Have you seen The Spectacular Now? What coming of age movies do you like?

Netflix A-Z Double Feature: The Pill & Quartet

I know double features are a rarity in Netflix A-Z with the exception of Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 ( review HERE). However, the season has been rather busy and I’ve been more obsessed with watching Gilmore Girls than actually watching movies. In fact, this one has a little cheating to it because the Q selection in general on Netflix is so tiny and I only wanted to watch something fun during the holiday season that I just decided to bring back the Q Selection.

Let’s start this.

The Pill (2011)

The Pill

Director and writer: J.C. Khoury

Cast: Noah Bean, Rachel Boston, Anna Chlumsky, Jean Brassard, Al Thompson, Dreama Walker

Worried that he has gotten the free-spirited Mindy pregnant after an unprotected one-night stand, Fred feigns romantic interest and sticks by her side for twelve hours to make sure she takes both doses of the morning-after pill. – IMDB

Its hard to pinpoint how I feel about The Pill. Its something I’ve been saying recently. Its more of an indifferent feeling that I have after watching it. While The Pill has a few rather nice moments, there is also something that lacks believability in it. Let’s break it down a little. For starters, Rachel Boston is fantastic as always as the free-spirited Mindy. Mindy is an intriguing character mostly because there’s a lot of color to her life as we learn about her during the day that she has to take her morning after pills in the company of Fred, played by Noah Bean. On the other hand, the issue I had more was that I didn’t think that Fred was a likable character. In fact, I wanted Mindy to see through his lies especially as he manipulated his way into staying with her during the day while the audience could easily see his intentions was only for his own protection to not have to deal with consequences. However, the story is more about him and his growth and recognition of what to do and what he wanted more than it was about Mindy. Perhaps this is where I think that the way it ended wasn’t necessary because it made the story feel much more generic than it may have been without that ending.

The Pill

There isn’t really much to talk about for The Pill. Its a rather straight forward story and somewhat predictable where its a boy meets girl, one night stand, a day together to get to know each other (probably more than expected from family party, etc.) and then he falls for her, she realizes what he’s been doing and he leaves and realizes how much of it was a mistake. A story like this can only be powered by charming characters and in reality, other than Mindy and at the start, the character felt a little off, Fred and especially his actual girlfriend Nelly was a little unbearable to watch. It helped as the movie went along that we saw Fred and his personality but it was hard to be sympathetic for him or feel like cheering him on. For me, The Pill just didn’t connect the way that it was intended.

Quartet (2012)

Quartet

Director: Dustin Hoffman

Cast: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins

At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents. – IMDB

[Excerpts from review that I wrote in 2015. Full review HERE]

Quartet is a feel good movie under its little bits of drama, its mostly a comedy with some romantic nuances in it as well.  The older cast and location gives this a lovely little twist.  The setting itself is pretty nice.  This retirement home is located in a big elegant house and its interior design is really nice.  Its outside is surrounded by large green fields and forests. All this is paired with some dashing pieces of upbeat opera segments and orchestral music.  Its done with so much heart and charm that its hard to no like this even a little. Sure, its a little predictable.  I mean, it is a romantic comedy sort of thing but its a different feeling from what it usually is.

Quartet

The main cast here is with some rather colorful characters.  We have the two men: Reggie (played by Tom Courtenay) who has this silent gentlemanly charm to him while Billy Connolly’s character Wilf, is more open and straightforward with his words and actions.  At the same time, we have a lovable and forgetful Cissy, played by Pauline Collins, who can’t help but just make us laugh a little.  While Jean, is played by the remarkable Maggie Smith.  I loved her  in the Harry Potter movies and in Downton Abbey.  She always has to lovely little sarcasm and then a little elegance and in the most unexpected way a sweet and funny way at times.  She’s absolutely fantastic.  Here is no different.  In the retirement home, she breaks out of her little world that she’s used to and she sees these old folks, like Cissy learning these salsa dances which to her is completely crazy.  At the same time, this movie reminds us that love really has no age limit.  She acts exactly like a first date or feeling nervous about meeting an old love that we’ve never let go of.  But its about putting the past behind us and sometimes, stepping up and being more proud of who we are and embracing the person we’ve become. I think that is the main message here.

Holiday Marathon/Netflix A-Z: Once Upon a Holiday (2015)

Okay…I’m cheating a little but its the holidays and I really wanted to wrap up Netflix A-Z and get holiday movies in so I put in this Hallmark movie called Once Upon a Holiday! I’ve been watching a lot of these Hallmark/TV movies and they have just been a pretty enjoyable feel-good experience. The point of these movies are to be heartwarming so as long as it does that, I think I’m pretty cool with it, especially since its the end of the year and all I really want is to relax in all the preparation and craziness.

Let’s check it out!

Once Upon a Holiday (2015)

Once Upon a Holiday

Director: James Head

Cast: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell, Greg Evigan, Tony Alcantar, Jay Brazeau, Beverley Elliott, Casey Manderson, Jacqueline Samuda, Tara Wilson

When a princess escapes her entourage to explore New York over Christmas, she meets a young man who shows the beautiful stranger his side of the city.-IMDB

Once Upon A Holiday is a fun little Hallmark movie based similarly to Roman Holiday. Along with its familiar modern day revamp, we also have some familiar faces. The first would be our princess in disguise played by Briana Evigan who is in two Step Up movies. Next would be her real life father who plays as her uncle in this one who had a long filmography with some notable titles. Tara Wilson maybe ring a bell as well as Jay Brazeau and definitely Beverley Elliott who plays Granny on TV series Once Upon a Time. Roman Holiday is a classic lead by some great talents and memorable characters. It would be unfair to hope that a modern day revamp could possibly live up to even Audrey Hepburn’s performance alone, however, Once Upon a Holiday has a rather heartwarming take to this romance drama with a lot of festive moments set in the bustling New York City.

Once Upon a Holiday

Roman Holiday is a high bar to aim for but the performances here are nothing short of fun. In fact, I’d go straight to say that the performances are what brings a lot of charm to Once Upon a Holiday. Throwing the physical attractions aside, Once Upon a Holiday takes on a more chemistry that grows between Briana Evigan’s Princess Katarina (aka Katie) and real estate agent turned renovation business owner, Jack. Briana Evigan brings an innocence and naivety to Katie’s character, very much like a princess sheltered from the world would. While bad things do happen to her and we as the more street saavy audience knows even more than she does, its also that characteristic that makes her more open-minded to accept the people she meets while still trying to dodge cleverly the familiar security detail tracking her down.

On the other hand, Paul Campbell does a great job at being Jack. He is quite the introvert but while being mesmerized and confused by this girl that appears in front of him, seemingly oblivious to everything around her and just learning about something as simple as eating hot dogs, he also reaches out to try and help her. Jack is a good-hearted man who has been tainted by love. There’s something incredibly genuine about Paul Campbell’s role as Jack that makes him believable.

Its not to mention that Paul Campbell and Briana Evigan emit such attractive chemistry between them and the script brings out well a lot of their feelings and thoughts to help us connect to them on a more personal level. Not many can relate to a princess but we can relate to wanting to be in control of our own life and having the power to make our decisions and choices. On the other hand, we can also love the feeling of family and simplicity. Sure, its a little far-fetched in a story to have a love like this one in just a few days time but that is the power of movies and even the romantic in me who doesn’t quite buy the love at first sight thing can fall for.

Once upon a Holiday

Perhaps what makes Once Upon a Holiday a lot more fun is its colorful supporting characters. Jay Brazeau and Beverley Elliott play an ex-magician, Harry that owns a magic store and his ex-assistant, Dixie. Along with them is a scene where they join into a Santa Claus party. On the other hand, there is also Jack’s sister Emily played by Tara Wilson who is charming to watch in a loving and supportive way. By her side is Emily’s small-time reporter Ross, who seems quite stupid and ridiculous as he hopes to find his big break into the big leagues of reporting and turns out to be, very predictably, the guy who ends up following the story of the missing princess and goes on his own wild goose chase.

To be honest, its hard to critique a lot on these heartwarming movies. I’ve said it frequently in the last few reviews. There’s something touching and heartwarming and feel good about them that its okay to accept them for exactly what they are. As predictable and formulaic or even ambitious as they are, these movies are harmless and fun. Not everything is going to be Oscars standards but at least these movies are far far away from being horrible. Perhaps, its the holiday that makes me less cranky about these movies or I’m just a big softie (as Jay says, which I definitely am). Once Upon a Holiday might not be perfect (and I’m aware of that and acknowledge it), but the performances themselves made me love the characters probably far more than I probably should admit. I’ve always been honest about liking movies that a lot of other people would criticize heavily, why stop being myself now, right? 😉

Netflix A-Z: Night Owls (2015)

Sorry for the later post than usual. Who knew a random day off from work would make things be more behind than I’d expect!

We are resuming our sprint to finish up Netflix A-Z before 2017 and we are at the letter N with the indie comedy drama called Night Owls. I’ve always been a sucker for movies that focus around two people in a specific length of time. When done right, it becomes somewhat of a nice and profound character study. I haven’t heard of Night Owls until it landed on Netflix so let’s jump right in!

Night Owls (2015)

Night Owls

Director (and co-writer): Charles Hood

Cast: Adam Pally, Rosa Salazar, Rob Huebel, Tony Hale, Peter Krause

After workaholic Kevin has a drunken one night stand with the beautiful train-wreck Madeline, he’s horrified to discover that she’s actually his boss’ jilted ex-mistress. When she takes a bottle of sleeping pills, Kevin is forced to keep her awake… – IMDB

Night Owls is a quiet little indie film about two people pulled together “accidentally” however they are forced to spend the rest of the night. As I mentioned before, there is so much appeal for me when its a focus on two people and usually two people who are put together unwillingly because it has a certain level of character development. The charm in Night Owls is one that I didn’t quite figure out how I felt until around the mid-point because of the characters which I will talk about in the next part. However, I do want to point out that while Night Owls doesn’t particularly have an idea that breaks any particular barriers and the ending is rather predictable, it does have some great character development, dialogue and interaction and gradual build of chemistry between our two characters, Kevin and Madeline.

Night Owls

Opposites attract. Its one of the best formulas in romantic films. It creates friction and conflict, debate and challenge to each of the characters. That is exactly what Kevin, played by Adam Pally and Madeline, played by Rosa Salazar does. Aside from having a refreshing script with some great dialogue, the interaction, connection and chemistry between them and the great performances they deliver is what drives Night Owls home. Adam Pally plays Kevin who is a guy with a dream. He is working towards his ultimate dream to be a coach as he is mentored by one of his idols. He is rather weak-minded and easily manipulated and pretty naive as well. There’s a protective barrier around him that he sets up and a side of him isn’t really the appealing guy that most women would be attracted to and it is further implied by Madeline’s character when she sleeps with him to get to his boss/mentor/idol who is her ex-lover, Will (Kevin’s boss).

In fact, this is where Madeline’s character contrasts. In many ways, Madeline’s much more exposed life to facing the real world makes her see the true nature of who she is with. However, it also leads her to making bad choices and not always picking the best options but also not quite having the self-esteem or courage to follow her dreams and see who she is and in Will, she gets that but she also sees Will’s flaws and these are all the things that is the dirty laundry no one gets to see and as the night goes on, she reveals them to Kevin one thing at a time.

The beginning of Night Owls and the reason why I couldn’t quite decide early on whether I enjoyed this one or not was because it took a while to actually connect with Kevin and/or Madeline and really feel for them. At the start, it was a lot of fuzzy and stupid moments and its a lot of bickering and yelling and angry talk. However, when things cool down a little and they actually sit down or move around the house, picking up pieces of Will and they both share tangents or connected memories, we learn more about these characters at just how they analyze the situation and it makes us wonder two things: whether Kevin will face that his idol maybe isn’t as perfect as he seems and that his goals may be actually not too realistic and not quite as he planned and intended; and whether Madeline still loves Will and why she did if she sees all these flaws. Two pertinent questions but ones that we wonder especially as we see that as Madeline sobers a little from her suicide attempt, their conversations become more and more profound and it turns into a  intriguing look into who these two are and the potential they have to be together and actually be good for each other and possibly what they both need. That is the magic of Kevin and Madeline and the power of great performances matched up with a well thought out script that can turn two people who we probably can’t root for into people that we’d choose to root for.

Night Owls

 While Night Owls is 90% around Kevin and Madeline, there are a few characters that pop up. One more familiar to me Tony Hale who I recently saw (but haven’t reviewed yet) in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. He also has these funny moments in the most serious way and that works for me. Tony Hale plays the secret doctor that gets sent to try to save Madeline from her suicide attempt. The second role is one that we see mostly through a phone conversation until the end from Rob Huebel who plays Peter, somewhat of the guy who keeps up the image for Will and tries to get rid of Madeline from what could potentially be damaging. Peter is the person that we soon learn is pretty manipulative and in fact, has his way most of the time and weaves up the lies to make Kevin follow through the plans further emphasizing how the whole situation was based on a lot of lies to anyone outside of what was happening. Last person who only showed up near the end is Will Campbell played by Peter Krause. In a very short cameo, we can almost see through his character as we’ve already learned so much about him and pieced it together through Kevin and Madeline’s conversation throughout the entire night.

Overall, Night Owls is a well-executed indie film with a pretty charming script and even better performances to deliver it and make it all believable. While I don’t think that the story itself is incredibly based on anything very unique, even the ending itself is rather expected, the journey of watching the development of the characters Kevin and Madeline was a trip that was well worth the time.

Holiday Marathon: A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (2015)

This holiday marathon is going at an exceptionally snail pace but don’t you worry. I am trying to get my Christmas/winter/holidays stuff up here, even if it isn’t holiday movies. To be honest, I kind of just want to go back to the classics and not linger too much on these other movies. However, A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale looks cute to say the least. I mean, pets are always welcome for festival season or any season at that.

A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (2015)

A Dogwalker's Christmas Tale

Director: Letia Clouston

Cast: Lexi Giovagnolia, Jonathan Bennett, Dina Meyer, Patrick Muldoon, Jennifer Joseph, Timeca M. Seretti, Tim Hess

When spoiled, 21-year old college student Luce Lockhart is forced to take a job over the holidays walking a rich developer’s dog, she is thrilled to discover they are going to build a salon and spa over the quaint local dog park nearby. But when Luce meets Dean, an irritating yet handsome dogwalker actively trying to stop them, Luce is forced to question what the park means to her newfound friends, and whether she can put aside her selfish ways to help save the park before Christmas. – IMDB

 I remember the first time seeing A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale pop up on my Netflix page and wondered what would make a movie like this appealing. Sure, there is the above factors I mentioned. Dogs are always a welcoming addition to any movie. Then the second reason popped up and that is Jonathan Bennett, probably most widely known for his role as the boy in Mean Girls. I love Mean Girls and surprisingly, I have seen a few other movies after Mean Girls of Jonathan Bennett. He’s not my favorite actor but I like his roles and his work. There’s a genuine feeling about him, whether it was in Love Wrecked with Amanda Byne (review) or Christmas Crush with Rachel Boston (review). Adding into a simple story in A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale, it all seems to work out. Actually, regardless of how some parts seem rather contrived at parts, there is still a lot of heartwarming and fun moments.

A Dogwalker's Christmas Tale

A lot of the story’s charm goes to Jonathan Bennett playing as Dean and our main character, Luce who we realize has everything and doesn’t quite understand the need of the dog park. As the story continues, we as the experienced viewers already know that she’s going to be the one that will somehow save the dog park, or at least take it upon her to do it and realize the worth of it by the end. However, the merit of this movie that gives it a lot of feel good points is the journey to get there. The interaction and dialogue and chemistry that builds between her and Dean and even her growing love for these furry friends all play into this. Luce is a flawed character but only these characters can grow, regardless of how predictable it is and actually, this movie focuses on how she yearns for “substance” in her personality and we realize that she does have a lot when she doesn’t only care about shopping but puts her traits to good use. Lessons, message, feel-good, heartwarming and a little romance gives this story a nice little boost.

A Dogwalker's Christmas Tale

Of course, we can’t leave this movie without Missy, played by Dina Meyer who is the employer of Luce and her and her husband, played by Patrick Muldoon, plan on building the spa in the dog park area. The friction is here and the dilemma for Luce starts here as she eventually becomes torn on finding the balance between pleasing her employer as they have powerful positions in society and possibly her future and doing the right thing. But we’re here to talk about Missy Paxton and Dina Meyer does a fine job at giving a lot of enthusiasm and charisma to this character.

Overall, A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale really does need to be taken apart. Its supposed to be just watched as a heartwarming little movie with the best intentions. There are some fun performances and some nice interactions and a little chemistry and lots of furry little pets. As predictable as this all is, the feel-good heartwarming element that a Christmas movie needs is exactly what I needed and liked about this one.

Netflix A-Z: Last Weekend (2014)

Continuing on with the Netflix A-Z mad dash to the finish line, I have to say that this choice was made for a few reasons. One of them is trying to find family-based movies. Then there’s Patricia Clarkson and she is always a fantastic actress. That is how Last Weekend ended up in the L selection, pushing the close second Laggies aside. I’ve never heard of it and don’t know what its about but hey, why not, right? The spontaneity is what makes Netflix A-Z so fun to do!

Let’s check it out!

Last Weekend (2014)

Last Weekend

Director: Tom Dolby (writer) & Tom Williams

Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Chris Mulkey, Joseph Cross, Zachary Booth, Rutina Wesley, Fran Kranz, Alexia Rasmussen, Jayma Mays, Devon Graye

When an affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family for a holiday at their Northern California lake house, her carefully constructed weekend begins to come apart at the seams, leading her to question her own role in the family. – IMDB

Last Weekend is full of familiar faces. Perhaps that may be one of the first things you will notice. Leading with Patricia Clarkson, we follow through with smaller supporting roles from Rutina Wesley (also known for her role as Tara in True Blood), and Fran Kranz (known for a ton of stuff including Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods) and then we have Jayma Mays (from Glee) and personally for me, Alexia Rasmussen (from Listen to Your Heart). Lots of talent and potential just looking at the cast. Except, Last Weekend leaves me feeling a little empty. In some ways, I can get what the story is trying to portray except it executes the idea not well enough especially when the ending is rather empty with not a whole lot of resolution. Perhaps that is the depressing point in the finale, that family isn’t clear cut and for many issues, there is no resolution. In my mind, there should be less focus on the kids and what happens to them in this “last weekend” and more on Patricia Clarkson and her husband and her interactions because that would be more to see, except how long would a movie taking that angle take before its audience might find it monotonous. But then, in this case, I don’t agree with putting in scenes that never get addressed ever again, rendering them pointless.

Last Weekend

One of the standout of Last Weekend is Patricia Clarkson and the setting. The house, the decor and the scenery is captivating to look at. Patricia Clarkson’s portrayal of a mother who can’t seem to and doesn’t want to let go of her kids and the fact that they have grown up and has left her care or let go of this last weekend of making a decision of whether she has made the right decision to sell this vacation house and all the things that she has grown attached to. It is a mother’s journey for the most part and Patricia Clarkson does a beautiful job and portraying it and making it believable as we try to understand her character. In many ways, it is the scenes that she is involved that make the movie shine the most, even in its most disjointed moments. One of my favorite ones is the one above when we finally see the connection between her daughter in law Vanessa (played by Alexia Rasmussen) and her, who she doesn’t have much fondness for, finally see something in common and she opens up to her a little more. As the audience, we can actually see the similarities between their personalities and its probably the nuance that her son chose someone similar to his parents.

Last Weekend Probably the hardest thing to like in Last Weekend are the characters as well. Contradicting to the top? Maybe a little. Because the sons here, Roger (played by Joseph Cross) and Theo (played by Zachary Booth) are incredibly annoying characters. In a way, you can see that they don’t want to be under the wings of their parents and they want to show that they have grown up but in many ways, they also lack the sensitivity to try to understand her or remember to check up on her once in a while. It could also be a statement of grown-up kids and the changed dynamic and different point of views from being away. Whatever its trying to say, it seems to start off in some way and never quite gives any resolve or redemption. It feels a little incomplete to me. Granted it is set over a weekend, perhaps it wasn’t mean to have a lot of character development and its more about their mom’s acceptance of the situation. Although, why there was such attention on their relationships baffled me at the end. Maybe it kind of highlights something a bit more favorable about their personality.

last weekend

I feel like I’m being tough on Last Weekend or maybe it just needs a few more viewings or I’m just not the target audience. I somehow don’t quite get what the movie was trying to do. It seems to have a message but it doesn’t seem to execute the idea well enough. While there are some solid performances, there is also a lot of unappealing characters (which is usually normal in dysfunctional family movies) and a lot of disjointed and unresolved moments. Perhaps that is what turns me off more. Plus, it doesn’t help that as I was trying to find meaning in Last Weekend, I ended up seeing it having a pretty negative message and kind of put me in a rather bad mood afterwards. Last Weekend has merit, just not enough to make it worth a second watch, however, maybe you will find something that I didn’t. If you did, please come back and tell me about it. I really wanted to like this one more.

Halloween Marathon Finale: Evil Dead (2013)

Its the Halloween Finale!!! We’ve made it to the end and what else to end it with but the final movie in the featured franchise(s), right? It is time for the 2013 remake of Evil Dead. I’m not sure if we can call it a remake but, I guess its rather a modernized version of it all. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself! I went into this one with a tad bit of fear and rather anticipating it because after seeing Don’t Breathe (review HERE) this past summer at Fantasia Festival, I was having high hopes for Fede Alvarez doing this one and Jane Levy being in this as well. It sure sounds like a good start and I had a warning about it being disgusting at some parts. With all that in mind, its time to jump in!

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead

Director: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore

Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.-IMDB

Some of you lovers of the original Evil Dead are probably going to judge me but I had a lot of fun and fear watching this version of Evil Dead. Maybe I’m just more modernized. It was good that they paid quite a bit of respect to the original by keeping a lot of the iconic scenes and moments. The roles are generally visible in this cast as compared to the original. There are some other different imagery and actually some of the roles seem to be supersized to help solve the mystery a little quicker. What I do like is that it was still a rather quick watch. My guess by memory (which I could be wrong) is that it was about a hundred minutes in length and that is the rare formula but one that works well for film. Much different from the original, this one felt like it built atmosphere better and it had a better backstory than just some friends going out to a secluded cabin for no reason. Kudos for the cabin looking basically exactly the same as the original. It is these key things that should remain intact especially when it doesn’t matter how modernized society gets compared to the wilderness. Back to the reason, they are there to help one of them go cold turkey and get rid of her drug addiction and makes a pact that no matter how much she wants to leave, they have to commit to keeping her there and staying. It also helps that the relationships of the characters are developed here and we can sense a tension between the brother who left a while back and the sister who is the reason they are all here and the backdrop of what they set and the dilemma of the situation as it grows and seeing what decisions they will make.

Evil Dead 2013

After a whole franchise of the three previous movies and reading through the comments of what made this series memorable, it is fairly obvious that this remake might not seem completely holding that same campiness that built its reputation. However, something about this Evil Dead gets part of it right. Most of it I brushed over up there. The main thing is the atmosphere. Fede Alvarez builds a rather good atmosphere. He never rushes the story. Everyone wants to see the remake have similarities to the original and in fact, guilty as charged, when the violence and death started, it was an automatic expression to see if what went down in the woods would happen in this one or whether a Bruce Campbell character would come up and have to take up the courage to cut off their evil hand, especially when we already know that the possessed girl in the basement still pops her head out as the door is chained shut which also is the only scene I knew about before even seeing the original or this one. Maybe they don’t hold the same vibe because this one still is rather serious but rightfully so because the atmosphere in this one is set up differently while keeping the brutal violence and gore paired up with a lot of creepy moments. (That could be because I’m an amateur at horror and I get scared really easily.)

Evil Dead 2013

The cast in this one is actually quite decent as well. I already told you where I saw Jane Levy. She doesn’t disappoint as Mia as she fights the pain of getting rid of the addiction but also brings in the question of making what she sees and experiences a reasonable doubt that her friends and brother has at what she tells them because it could well be a hallucination or a story she concocted to get out of the pain. Her character actually gets quite impressive and wow to the transformation. That really is all I can say. Aside from that, Jessica Lucas is the second familiar face here and that is because she’s been in Melrose Place and Cloverfield and I think, 90210. (Yeah, I watch a lot of teen shows.) I actually like her as an actress so she did alright for her role here. We can’t really get out of talking about characters without looking at the main guy who plays David, Mia’s brother and portrayed by Shiloh Fernandez. Looking at his filmography, the only other place I saw him was in The East (also a film that I love a lot, review HERE). David was a rather tough character and in the end, it is hard to say whether we do root for him. He kind of is the new Bruce Campbell but maybe not. The core of teens in the secluded cabin and horror always builds up these typical groups and to be honest, it wasn’t all the different here. In fact, the characters still make some rather stupid decisions.

Evil Dead 2013

The main discussion of remakes is really what makes it important. For those new to the franchise, this is a fresh start without having to know the past but having the fans appreciate the little bits of detail that give a nod/homage to the original. Evil Dead does well on this front. With fresh eyes, perhaps it is still worth it because it is different. For those who has seen the original, the main thing is whether those changes were really good. As I mentioned countless times, the atmosphere is the winner here whether its the gloomy and creepy woods or the house or even the transformations and how it all went down. The opening helped the story develop before just dropping friends into the scene. It also was good to take into consideration the book deciphering and making it something they could discover and piece together on their own. However, there is an unfair amount of time for these characters. We know who is the main characters here and it makes it effective for us to care about them but with five people in the house and everyone having to eventually be involved (and you know and expect it even before it happens), its hard to care for characters when they aren’t always apparent. The particular person I mean goes mostly to the very disposable character that plays David’s girlfriend who actually in this remake has a pretty brutal outcome and nods to a rather entertaining and important scene from the original trilogy and yet, while it was quite a bit of impact to see that scene happen, it didn’t make us care as much because the character essentially meant less. It is these little things that happen that perhaps may not shine as much for those who liked the original. I’m just guessing here because some of you who read the review of the original Evil Dead know that I wasn’t particularly raving about it. I much preferred Evil Dead 2 and especially Army of Darkness over it. Some of those scenes really just flashed in a thought like that and whether it was as effective as its original moment. I’m guessing the feeling is going to be different for everyone.

Overall, this version of Evil Dead is one I liked quite a bit. It gave me the creeps and it was rather gory at parts. It did a great job at building a ominous atmosphere and the characters and backstory here actually have a little more depth and gives the situation and the characters a little more meat. It doesn’t have the same tone as the original for the most part and focuses a lot on the suspense and gore but the pacing is better here. On top of that, it is respectful to the original by keeping the location and many scenes similar and to the fans, perhaps that might mean something (even if it is a backlash at how it might not be done right). For the most part, Evil Dead was done right and it was a gory, creepy and rather intriguing horror to watch especially how they changed it up or kept it the same. Some of those decisions are good or bad for the movie but in the end, I think it merited more wins than questionable fails. For that, Evil Dead is definitely a win in my book even if its not perfect.

Have you seen Evil Dead? Did you like it? 

This marks the end of the Halloween marathon/month! Thanks so much for dropping by!
To see a full rundown of this month’s marathon reviews, you can find it under Movies on the above menu.

Halloween Marathon: Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Sigh…the first movie to come unexpected in the Halloween line-up. I will tell you a little story about why I was hesitant to actually see this. I actually turned it on in the background one day and didn’t watch much of it but the dialogue itself and just the loud noises bombarding my ears made me cringe so bad and curse in pain respectively. The reason this still ended up being a thing was because I had to get some writing done and the husband decided to play it since I already had an idea of what this movie was about so yeah… low expectations and play!

Let’s check it out!

Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

silent hill revelation

Director and co-writer: Michael J. Bassett

Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Malcolm McDowell, Martin Donovan

When her father disappears, Heather Mason is drawn into a strange and terrifying alternate reality that holds answers to the horrific nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.-IMDB

 Silent Hill is a video game adaptation. At this point, there’s a whole lot of bad feelings towards how they are. In fact, maybe David over at That Moment In has a point when he wrote this piece about how video game adaptations will never quite work HERE. His feelings are really about Lara Croft and perhaps more action-based games, just like how I was picturing how to do Layers of Fear as a movie. My point is that, I haven’t played Silent Hill much but horror games and horror movies are starting to merge in my mind. Why? Because these people are forgetting the key of horror. Sure, jump scares are important but they are only relevant when the atmosphere has helped create it with adding mystery and suspense and getting the audience/player involved. That also affects the effectiveness of well-designed disturbing characters but put them in an unengaging movie. Plus, jump scares are about actually feeling scared, not startled by loud noises bombarding our ear drums. Those are all faults of Silent Hill: Revelation.

Silent Hill Revelation

Silent Hill Revelation provoked a lot of ideas for opinion pieces which I don’t actually do here. Fact is, there is a lot of cliche dialogue here. I can’t say the performances are bad. They did the best with what they had in terms of dialogue. How many times have you heard the answer to “Go to Hell” in some paraphrase form of “You haven’t noticed? We’re already there.” And obviously going where everyone tells you to not go and heading straight for danger. There’s a lot of eye rolling moments like Kit Harington’s character, Vincent who has in reality only known the main character Heather, played by Adelaide Clemens for a grand total of 2 days and has somehow fallen in love or seems to know her super well or like “known you all this time.” When all means a total of 24 hours, you have some problems of convincing me, buddy. But these are all faults of the dialogue. And it continues on to other things just don’t piece the story well enough together.

Silent Hill Revelation Mostly because of the previous point, a lot of what could make this a scary movie turns into one that is quite lackluster. It throws around loud noises to unsettle the audience or utilizes some creepy looking enemies but then particularly the spider-like enemy shows some pretty unrealistic computer graphics and lacks the same level of scares like the blind nurse killers or triangle head. I don’t know the Silent Hill franchise so pardon my lack of knowledge to what these enemies are actually called. With that said, the best part of the movie goes to the triangle head axe-man although I did make fun of him in one part where he operates the horse carousel and you’ll see in the opening moments so not much of a spoiler. Second part is whats below with the blind nurses. The character design and how they move abruptly with sound with their knives or whatever weapons is just so creepy.

Silent Hill Revelation

Overall, Silent Hill Revelation is really hard to love. With badly developed characters and bad dialogue and the overly serious tone and rough CGI, bombarding loud noises to create jump scares, it falls into a lot of bad horror cliches. The story is also not done well to give it some purpose. The only redeeming qualities are for two villains that help give the movie just a tinge of a few better moments. For someone like myself who gets scared incredibly easy, this one didn’t give me any spooks except for two startled jump scare moments.

Have you seen Silent Hill Revelation? Did you like it?

Halloween Marathon: Residue (TV mini-series, 2015)

As a little break in between the two featured franchises, I managed to finally check out TV mini-series Residue. I’ve been meaning to since I saw it on Netflix a few months ago but never actually got around to it. Residue is only 3 episodes long and each episode is about 40-45 minutes long. It is completely doable to do in one sitting. I took it as a movie which is generally the length of any movie now.

Let’s check it out!

Residue (Mini-series, 2015)

Residue

Director: Alex Garcia Lopez

Cast: Natalia Tena, Iwan Rheon, Jamie Draven, Danny Webb, Franz Drameh, Adrian Schiller, Eleanor Matsuura

The government cover-up of the causes behind a massive explosion in a futuristic UK metropolis spur photo journalist Jennifer Preston on to search for the truth and in the process blow open a paranormal phenomenon haunting the city.-IMDB

I’m not one to watch mini series frequently but Residue looks to have a well-crafted atmosphere or the poster shows it like that. On top of that, Residue has Natalia Tena and I absolutely loved her in Harry Potter as Tonks and even more in ….. There is something about her that makes her really fun to watch in her roles. Maybe it is because she shows off characters that are more of a tough and brave girl. Her roles show off a lot of personality and that is always nice to see. That is no differerent for Residue.

Residue

Residue is an incredibly atmospheric mini series. Plus, it has a rather unique take. The production setting itself attributes to it a lot. The mostly evacuated city and the quarantined zone both hold a strong contrast. There is a strewn of characters aside from Jennifer, Natalia Tena’s character, that take us to look at how people from different backgrounds and sectors of this new dystopian future world is reacting and adapting. A lot of the amusement of the series goes to this factor as we see the political side, the underground gang and even the police force and also the unnoticed that sneak around. No one knows everything but everyone seems to know a little as they each seem to be intrigued to find out more. And it is because of these range of characters that make us also want to learn more about what is actually going on after the explosion.

Residue

While Residue has a great production set and story premise and even really great cast in each of the roles, the one thing that lacks a little is the relationships between the characters. It is hard to care too much about a character when we don’t quite understand the importance of their roles to the people they are linked to. The mini series dumps you into the story rather quickly. We know that our main character Jennifer and her boyfriend Jonas are very much in love however we lose a sense of where it all lost track months later and its hard to pinpoint where they are in their relationship anymore. This has a lot to do with the fact that the mini series is only three episodes. If there was more time, probably more care would be place into building the characters more. At the same time, possibly the role that gets the most lost in the equation is the cop Mathis who we know has some sort of addiction or problem and ends up losing his daughter in the explosion. He looks like a rather young character so its hard to imagine that he did lose a daughter and we don’t have any pretext as to what went on and how he turned out to be like that. The devastation is expected but he seems to be the less developed character that may have gotten more especially with his turnout.

Residue

It is hard for me to look at Residue and not question whether it would have been a fantastic full series. There could be so many angles to take this especially with everything in place. At three episodes, there just isn’t enough to justify a lot of what is going on and many times, especially the ending, there is a sinking feeling of wanting it to be more. However, for some, perhaps this is the brilliance as it will leave the audience guessing the outcome in a rather open ending. Honestly, I like Residue a lot despite the minor faults here. In some ways, while I didn’t connect to the characters as much as I’d like to, the atmosphere resounded with me and got me a little creeped out and some genuinely chilling moments. And if this ever did turn into something with more length, I would be totally on board to see it built more. It would be fun creepy ride that just doesn’t seem to be in the TV market right now.

Have you seen Residue? What are some mini series that you like?

Halloween Marathon: Scream 2 (1997)

Next up on the Halloween marathon is Scream 2. Scream was surprisingly fun to watch and the tons it had appealed to me quite a bit. I am hoping for a similar feeling with Scream 2.

Lets check it out!

Scream 2

Scream 2

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jerry O’Donnell, Timothy Olymphant, Liev Schreiber

Two years after the first series of murders, a new psychopath dons the Ghostface costume and a new string of killings begins.-IMDB

Would you look at the cast? Some familiar faces right off the bat. It is always great when sequels get back their characters from the original. There is a sense of continuity to it that makes it more engaging right off the bat. On top of that, Scream 2 keeps generally the same tone as the first. If at all possible, the dialogue for David Arquette is awesomely funny but I am getting ahead of myself.

Scream 2 starts in quite the same way where Ghostface is no longer an unknown serial killer. In fact, two years has passed by and the survivors of that horrible night have tried to move on but the movies has now brought him to life and he did indeed come back. The beginning sequence has a lot of fun with making us remember how the first movie started but also that this killer, because of the media, is able to hide in plain sight even more.

Scream 2

Neve Campbell’s Sidney is back stronger than before. She is older and maybe wiser. Whatever it is, her suspicions are high this time around and almost everyone is a suspect especially her current boyfriend. This is where Scream 2 is done well. We never can quite figure out who is behind it all. We are guessing right along with Sidney. At the same time, Ghostface still has some pretty fantastic sneak attacks. He keeps everyone on alert and for some reason, the movie still has that sly humor from the first one.

Scream 2

When we talk about humor, we cannot forget our stars. Courtney Cox is pretty great in this one. Her character has more substance and we realize that she is kind of a bad-ass herself. However, in almost every scene, David Arquette’s Dewey just cracked me up. He had the funniest dialogue whether it was silly responses or his facial expression when he said it. It was funny and endearing. He quickly became one of my favorites of this franchise.

Scream 2

Overall, Scream 2 feels a lot like the first one which in itself is a compliment. We have a different setting and slightly more mature cast and a copycat killer. The story opens up a few side stories linking to the first movie like Liev Schreiber’s Cotton Weary. The return of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette are great and adds continuity to the sequel. Scream 2 doesn’t forget its success with the first one and manages to keep its tone. Perhaps not as great as the first one but still a lot of fun to watch.

Have you seen Scream 2? What do you think about it?

Scream 3’s review will be next week. Drop by and check it out! 🙂