Book Review: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor
By: Terry Tyler

Genre: Mystery/Post-Apocalyptic

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list… – Goodreads

Having read two books before by Terry Tyler, The Visitor continues on being able to showcase her ability to craft engaging murder mystery thrillers. The Visitor’s plot benefits from our current pandemic situation as it sets itself in the future after another pandemic has struck the world which is 100% lethal and much more brutal but sets it in a little village where another threat has hit them simultaneously in the form of a murderer which causes the fear to grow in its inhabitants. The backdrop is one that feels almost like it could happen in our current landscape with variants popping up in our current landscape, making it hit home a little more.

There’s a lot to love about The Visitor other than its familiar backdrop. One of them is a familiar form in Terry Tyler’s books which focuses around the point of view from a few of its core characters. In this one, its from the view of the few inhabitants living in the cottage and bunker who ends up there through some connection whether it is the leftover family and companions of friends that had gotten the invitation. As they gather in the bunker and keep it secret, they observe the people around them and get to know the different members of the village. As they each struggle with their own loss and current situation, they each have their own speculations. The benefit of jumping between characters is that it leaves some blind spots and blank spaces giving the unknown to spark. At the same time, who actually knows the depths of someone’s mind although the killer’s perspective usually does draw certain clues from one chapter to the next and slowly does give an idea of who is behind it by the end.

The Visitor also crafts really good characters. The group in the bunker themselves having their own differences and backgrounds and how they get there is one that definitely sets their own character as much as what they do after the settle into the village and each having their own pursuits and responsibilities. Two of them being best friends but also old flames, one of them being a survivalist (but also could be viewed as selfish), one dealing with her massive loss but navigating through being more of a loner: add in their own sort of purpose and personality that grows throughout the story as they get more involved into the village’s affairs and the villagers themselves, human nature is a tricky thing to say the very least.

The great part is how the focus of the novel smoothly shifts from its beginning of the big threat with this mystery virus which takes the front seat and determines their own means to survive and the desperation of the whole situation due to its lethal nature. However, subtly the story shifts to the murder and slowly the routine of surviving through this “post -apocalyptical” world becomes secondary as the murders become more frequent. It almost blends the two together so well that the story and character plot shift is done incredibly well.

Overall, The Visitor is a fantastic murder mystery. Not only does it have well-developed characters but it also builds a great post-apocalyptic world that is not only relatable in the current age but also pushes it further. Perhaps at times it feels a little bit too soon to be already diving into it but it also adds to the unsettling and uneasiness. Smooth plot transition and executed well, The Visitor is a well-paced and engaging thriller to dive into.

Double Feature: The Land of Steady Habits (2018) & Edge of Fear (2018)

Its been a while since the last double feature! I do apologize for the tardiness. Writing time has been limited but I do have a lot of double features backlogged that will be going up soon. The first two is Netflix drama film The Land of Steady Habits and a home invasion thriller Edge of Fear.

Let’s check it out!

The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Elizabeth Marvel, Connie Britton, Bill Camp, Charlie Tahan, Edie Falco, Thomas Mann

After leaving his wife and his job to find happiness, Anders befriends a drug-addicted teen, sending him down a path of reckless and shameful behavior. – IMDB

The Land of Steady Habits is a film about a man struggling with the new norms after retirement. Anders is by far an character that is very unlikable, by his own self-destructive nature and the way that he doesn’t hold by what he says. From the the start, its a character that is meant to be flawed and feeling more realistic and closer as a regular person and its because of Ben Mendohlsohn’s portrayal of this character that truly gives this story a lot of depth into this man’s change from the old ways: divorce, moving to a new home, early retirement and yet giving up all the things of old hasn’t really brought him a lot of joy as he tries to find companionship in sleeping with strangers but having issues there as well. Because of the character almost unable to find happiness in this new norm and yet constantly barging unreasonably into his old life aka his wife’s house, it almost gives this character a lot of deeper moments about the dilemma he is in.

The father-son relationship that portrays as well as the “friendship” that he has with the family friend’s seemingly delinquent kid ends up being a big focal as it portrays a growth of a man to slowly become more responsible especially in the face of what happens at the end. It helps question the character about who he is both as a parent and as a person in reflection of his choices.

Overall, The Land of Steady Habits feels a lot like a trip down a complex character study. Its a bit out of my league as its far from where I am in life. However, the character’s development and depth is rather depressing at parts especially on the twist of situations. Plus, as with movies with this, its rather quiet and subtle especially how the movie starts following through this routine of this man. It probably isn’t for everybody but as a drama film, it definitely does deliver on some levels especially in this flawed character.

Edge of Fear (2018)

Director: Bobby Roth

Cast: Rockmond Dunbar, Zhu Zhu, Shen Lin, Robert Knepper, Dean Cudworth, Robert Crayton, Robert Patrick, Amaury Nolasco, Andy Mackenzie, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe

After being stabbed in the heart by ruthless home invaders, a man is left for dead. Now weak, outnumbered, and knife sticking from his chest, he attempts to do the impossible: save his wife from these murderers before he bleeds to death. – IMDB

I think I watched Edge of Fear because it was going to leave Netflix or maybe I just did because it seemed like a movie that was good as background noise. In some ways, Edge of Fear has a good idea with its setting in the middle of the woods isolated and with no form of transportation to exit if anything happens. Not sure why anyone does that, but sure, I can buy that since no one expects to have their home invaded by criminals. Part mystery, part thriller and kind of an home invasion film, Edge of Fear lacks a lot of each of those things. The main reason being that its all very generic from the characters to the crew that takes over the cabin to the turn of events. Nothing is very unpredictable. Plus, the dialogue itself leaves a lot of space to be elevated.

In reality, the characters here aren’t too bad. The main characters going to the victims who are the Chinese doctors who were invited out. The fight to survive is definitely there except they are also faced with a bunch of fairly all brute and no brains (or at least it feels that way) minions who are doing the wrong things at the wrong times. Leading these two is the character portrayed by Robert Patrick who is obviously the better actor of the cast especially since he seems to really be great at these darker characters and can be rather menacing. The other would be the man that this crew helped escape from prison played by Robert Knepper who had an interesting sort of character design which all comes into play for the big finale.

Overall, Edge of Fear is a rather lackluster film. I didn’t have particularly high expectations for it seeing as I went into this film not knowing much about it.

That’s it for this double feature!

TV Binge: Detective Chinatown (唐人街探案, 2020)

Detective Chinatown (唐人街探案, 2020)

Director: Sam Quah & Dai Mo

Cast: Roy Chiu, Janine Chang, Zhe Yuan Chen, Yi Shang Sha, Xiao Cheng, Victor Ma, Ming Shuai Shi

Strange crimes occur in Thailand as the ranking for the world’s best detective sees a shift. New detectives come into the picture to tackle three difficult cases. Lin Mo is the student of Chinatown’s number one detective. Lin Mo pursues two cases: Four-Faced Buddha and Name of the Rose that not only takes place in Bangkok but also in Kaoshiung. The third case about the Ghost’s Invitation takes the story back to Bangkok and then to Tokyo. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: iQiYi

Detective Chinatown is adapted from the Detective Chinatown movies (which I have yet to see). However, this series is really three cases wrapped up as a series. Each case being 4 episodes. The first two revolving the detective Lin Mo played by Roy Chiu and directed by Sam Quah who also directs Sheep Without a Shepherd (review). I mention this because he uses a few cast members that make up the cast from that movie. The third case goes off in a completely different direction: set on an island in the middle of the ocean, about e-sports competition and starring a five person team lead by Noda Koji, played by Zheyuan Chen.

In many ways, Detective Chinatown should be seen as three separate stories as the timeline becomes a little fuzzy. The first case feels the most recent as Roy Chiu’s detective and high school substitute teacher character Lin Mo takes on almost this modern day Sherlock Holmes sort of role cooperating with policewoman Sa Sha (Yi Shang Zhang). There’s a level of quirkiness that makes him rather charming to watch. The first case, Four-Faced Buddha is rather intriguing as it investigates a group of girls after one of their friends commit suicide. The case gets quite a bit of twist and turns and gives Lin Mo a fun look at how he is plus there’s a decent amount of comedy with the other inspectors in the police HQ getting involved. Its probably my favorite of the three. The second dives back in the timeline before Lin Mo is part of the Detective Chinatown agency and first encounters the police woman in the first case Sa Sha but actually tells the story of his connection with this mystery assassin group that wants to kill him for some reason and he gets entangled with this flower shop owner Ivy (Janine Zhang).

Where the series feels the most disjointed is the third case where Lin Mo is not part of the story and it switches over to an esports tournament and five people team who gets lured to the island for this tournament as a final battle before this online game shuts down the server but becomes a rouse for a disappeared legendary player setting up an elaborate game. As an individual case, its pretty decent but just doesn’t seem to correlate well with the first 8 episodes. It feels like a completely different world with just a hint of connection at the beginning when Sa Sha is sent to handle this case. It definitely feels like an attempt to promote a new direction for this franchise, maybe a second season especially since the five people team includes a few up and coming celebrities like Arthur Ma and Xiao Cheng along with Zheyuan Chen. These young cast lack the acting experience so they don’t reflect as well especially since Arthur Ma and Xiao Cheng gained popularity through music and the third story has a lot of characters and a lot of the supporting cast are much more seasoned actors.

Overall, running at 12 episodes, Detective Chinatown is very bingeworthy. The three separate stories is a good way to execute this series and the pacing is pretty good. Sure, the third case is a little odd and its a bit overacted but the set up and case development is pretty good. Roy Chiu is honestly fantastic as Lin Mo and well worth a watch just for his performance. Plus, the first 8 episodes are directed by Sam Quah who has a great eye for capturing the atmosphere and how some of the shots are done are very well-executed. Its rare that I watch series like this which is focused on investigation and twisty cases that its a breath of fresh air.

FNC 2020: The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor

Director (and writer): Balaji Vembu Chelli

Cast: Rajeev Anand, Semmalar Annam, Sasikumar Sivalingam

Following a tip-off, a rookie photojournalist sets off to report on a destructive earthquake but soon finds himself on a mysterious journey that questions the line between fact, myth, and sensationalism. – IMDB

The Tremor is one of those movies that is very hard to sell. The plot of it (just like described above) is rather intriguing but the execution is one that is going to test a lot of the viewer’s patience. The Tremor follows an unnamed photojournalist who spends most of his film driving in his car through mountain paths. The movie starts with scenes of the aftermath of an earthquake in first person as it sees trees fallen down and people being carried out in stretchers and there’s this brewing sound effects in the background that gets louder and louder and yet, back on the road, the movie spends a lot of time with a GoPro or dashcam bouncing around in first person of the mountainous roads that he drives on or close-up of his face whether trying to figure out where to go next or smoking.

The few encounters he has turns out to be fairly cryptic with different information being shared about whether an earthquake did happen and where it is exactly. That is where the suspense lies: in the unknown and whether this did happen and whether the tip-off was a real thing because it starts feeling a lot like its misinformation at a certain point. Its what keeps the plot going and the intrigue of following this man drive around the movie and visit different places and climb through mountainous locations and these little villages along the way looking and questioning the people that want to talk to him. Its these little conversations that much like him, the viewers are learning about the location and what happened or has happened.

In reality, what does give The Tremor the most style is the setting. The mountainous roads and the forest along with a deep fog that creeps in from the valley that starts covering up what is going on. It seems to come in slowly and unexpectedly, following him around. The isolated roads and the vast mountain range and valleys and just the emptiness of the whole location gives it so much suspense. As the past is revealed and almost always constant denial, much like the main character, its easy to wonder what is real or myth. If it wasn’t for the mountainous roads that feel like they loop (or maybe they do) and the unknowing direction of just moving forward and keep hitting figurative dead ends of this situation either having never been heard or the connection of a past earthquake that has been lingering in the village’s memory, it all gets a little uncertain and unclear.

In some ways, The Tremor really is quite an outstanding movie. The cinematography, the setting, the soundtrack all give it the suspense and mystery to keep the viewer intrigue. But at the same time, its a grueling experience where it ends and its a wonder how it was one to get into because in reality, its the most basic elements of watching one man drive through a mountain constantly going forward with almost always fruitless effort and it lies on whether the endgame is one that is satisfying enough. For myself, its a little half and half.

*The Tremor is currently playing virtually for Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*

Fantasia Festival 2020: Perdida (2019)

Perdida (2019)

Director: Jorge Michel Grau

Cast: José Maria de Tavira, Cristina Rodlo, Paulina Davila, Juan Carlos Colombo, Sonia Franco, Paulette Hernandez, Luis Fernando Pena

Shattered by the unexpected news of their irreversible break-up, an aspiring orchestra conductor is puzzled by his girlfriend’s mysterious and seemingly inexplicable case of disappearance. But, can he look beyond the facts? – IMDB

Perdida is the 2019 remake of the 2011 Columbian thriller called La Cara Oculta aka The Hidden Face (review). The source material itself is an outstanding piece of psychological horror thriller kind of deal with great execution and a stellar twist. It comes as a surprise after some research for this film that there was a remake before this one which was Bollywood film Murder 3. Its always been somewhat of a mystery in my mind whether knowing the twist of this plot would change its value in a second viewing and its probably one of the reasons that I haven’t revisited the original since I saw it years ago in the early days of the blog. Its also a movie that is very rarely talked about and it makes me wonder whether people actually have seen the original. Putting all that aside, Perdida was one that had a lot to live up to and one that is hard to not at least compare it to its original a little especially since movies that live in my brain years after its viewing is a rarity.

For the most part, Perdida stick fairly close to the source material especially in structure. Its atmosphere and the characters all come together quite well. Its interpretation of the suspense and the thriller also works well. What it does really well is the cinematography as it creates all the tension with ambiance as well as making some visually appealing scenes using the dim lighting and shadows. There are some passionate sex scenes and then the music score is probably what blends the best with the film which pulls together the orchestra conductor profession of Eric. The score builds up a lot of the scenes. At the same time, the contrast of subtlety in sound also crafts the suspenseful side of the story.

Where Perdida might not quite work so well is that the characters feel a little empty. The main leads between Eric, Fabiana and Carolina do a good job as their dynamic and the scenes sees the shift in those relationships. However, the need to cast suspicion on the husband being responsible isn’t as prominent and that has to do with a lack of the police officers presence in the story. There’s a bigger focus on the passionate love between Eric and Fabiana, a little bit of Eric’s obsession for this conducting career and a bit of his darker character perhaps, while Carolina is a someone who seems very resourceful but also having some extremes in her character.

Overall, Perdida on its own is a decent thriller. It follows the source material a lot and that originally had a very good story to begin with. The three main leads as Eric, Fabiana and Carolina all do a decent job while the other elements also come together fairly well. They also make the new home as a setting some kind of life as well with the little things that happen. In case anyone hasn’t seen The Hidden Face or Perdida, I’m going to avoid talking about the twist here which is executed fairly well. However, on a personal level, Perdida didn’t quite live up as a remake of La Cara Oculta since in my memory, the original still seemed to have a better control of a lot of these elements but that’s all comparison which if you haven’t seen it, Perdida is done pretty well overall.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Bring Me Home (2019)

Bring Me Home (2019)

Bring Me Home

Director (and writer): Seung-woo Kim

Cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Jae-myung Yoo, Jin-hee Baek, Hae-Joon Park, Hae-Jin Yoo, Ae-ri Jung, Hyun-woo Seo

A dedicated mother in search of her missing son follows a tip that leads her to a fishing village where corrupt police officers might have the answers to her mystery. – IMDB

Bring Me Home is a rather clearcut sort of thriller. Its a story about a mother looking for her missing especially harder after she gets an anonymous tip following her husband’s death. On one hand, she remembers and imagines life with her husband and son which gives her strength when she starts discovering the fishy clues of the people at the fishing spot of a boy that they hide from her in fear that it is her son.

Its not hard to get into the emotioms that Bring Me Home wants the audience to feel especially since the straightforward plot gives a clearcut line of good and evil. The mom is the sad person who is desperately looking for her son even through all uncertainty she feels like Min-su is her Yoon-su so things get crazy as she puts herself into one after another dangerous situation to find the clues amd prove her point and take back her child. On the other side is the evil people of the fishing village which we soon learn is full of ex-cons and lead by the corrupted cop Hong. The whole group is full of selfishness, molestation, misogyny and so much more. With a crew like that, everything they do is either overdramatic or overreaction making them more suspicious or how they treat Min-su in general. Its hard to not side with the mom’s side in a story like this and the finale is some sweet, sweet justice. Well, its a Korean film so there’s always some bitterness to it or else it wouldn’t be a thriller, right?

Bring Me Home

Lady Vengeance (review) herself, Yeong-ae Lee plays the mother here which means that subtle acting is really on point and well, the acting in general. Just like police corporal Hong played by Jae-myung Yoo which also does a fantastic job since it was so easy to hate this character and that hatred built throughout the film. Like I said, sweet sweet justice. Of course, these are the main characters and the two strongest opposing sides of the equation that really stood out. There are some supporting characters that really do add quite a bit to the story with the roles of Flounder (I think that’s the name) and Mr. Choi who both aren’t explored too much but at the same time, add to the story in their own ways, mostly in the dislike department.

With that said, Bring Me Home is an alright drama thriller. The story itself is fairly clear cut but they do have a little bit of the reveals in some of the subtle details from camera pans to using the flashlight in dark scenes. There is some disturbing scenes and unpleasant characters to deal with. I’m starting to notice films that deliberately use content that’s a little emotionally manipulating. This one does hit that territory a little. However, the fishing spot setting is used well and the whole thriller does get fairly tense. There’s a lot of subtle visual cues to bring some clues to light and give these band of kidnappers some depth. Without hitting too many spoilers, another element that was a bit lacking was its unsatisfying ending. Overall, Bring Me Home is alright with some good and some bad point but it has to thank its engagement really in its casting choice of its two main leads, Young-ae Lee and Jae-myung Yoo because they really delivered stellar performances.

Blog Tour: Crackle and Fire by Russ Colchamiro (Review/Giveaway)

Check out the upcoming release from Russ Colchamiro! Crackle and Fire is the first installment of a brand new genre-blurring series!

Crackle and Fire: An Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery (Book One)
By: Russ Colchamiro

Expected Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery/ Fantasy

Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye.

She’s a PI from Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and maintenance of the Universe.

When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he wants.

In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her soul.

“Crackle and Fire elegantly combines PI noir with science fiction and fantasy.” — John L. French, author of The Magic of Simon Tombs

“Angela Hardwicke is one of the most memorable characters in detective fiction.” — Sawney Hatton, author of Everyone is a Moon

BONUS STORY INCLUDED! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery, “The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

Crackle and Fire is the first book in an upcoming series featuring a female private investigator called Angela Hardwicke. Set in a sci-fi galactic universe, the world itself is very intriguing to discover. The first book gives a good vibe of both the character of Angela Hardwicke as well as her network of friends and helpers that assist her in solving her cases. At the same time, this mystery and first case that she takes gives a foundation to the status of the world that it takes place in. There’s a lot of focus on style, the noir-esque crime and the underworld, the connection of this galactic settting and its connection to Earth.

The mystery itself also is executed rather well. There are layers to the story as it unfolds where this case feels a little like a case in a case as Angela Hardwicke starts connecting the dots. In a case that can easily step on some sensitive toes, there is a whole world that unveils in the process. There’s enough intrigue to want to know more and figure out those many questions and mysteries set out in the beginning and enough answers to unlock a few more elements. Adding in the science fiction elements to expand the location a little more and the technology also gives it a lot of character.

Overall, as a first book, Crackle and First is a good debut for the series. Its sets up a good foundation. There is enough set up for Angela Hardwicke’s character, giving her enough backstory to understand her more while seeing her true abilities. At the same time, she is a flawed character with a little mysterious vibe behind her that lingers in the background. There were some vibes of the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton that I’m a big fan of with how the mystery is constructed as well as the general concept of the female character design (although they do have their differences and has its own respective setting and expertise). To be comparable to that series is a compliment on my part. It’ll be interesting to see where this story takes Angela Hardwicke in the future books of the series. We already get a little idea as this book ended with a little bonus story.

Score: 4/5

Pre-Order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Website
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GIVEAWAY

(International) digital copy of Crackle and Fire & a $5 Amazon
Enter HERE

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

August 24th
Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com
Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

August 25th
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/
Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

August 26th
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

August 27th
Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/
I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com
PoptheButterfly Reads (Spotlight) https://popthebutterfly.wordpress.com

August 28th
Mind of Luxe (Review) http://mindofluxe.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Blog Tour Organized by:

R&R Book Tours

TV Binge: Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

unsolved mysteries

Immersive, character-driven stories are rooted in the experiences of ordinary people who have lived the unthinkable. Families, detectives and journalists hope viewers hold the clues to solving these mysteries. – IMDB

Some revivals are incredibly welcome! Unsolved Mysteries is definitely one of those. Netflix has picked up a true gem with this one. Whether people are watching this because of nostalgia of the original show and looking forward to see what they do now or just finding out about it with this show because its on Netflix, anyone who enjoys this type of cold case will be intrigued by all the six cases presented in Season 1.

There’s a good variety in its case selections. There is an international case, a more familiar mystery like UFO and then a few different intriguing cases of missing people whether its the situation or the suspect. The setup of each one goes into detail from the witnesses to the family and friends involved. Each case is pieced together in the form of a timeline after a general introduction of the case at hand which feels thorough investigation and research has been done. There’s a lot of re-evaluation from the current information, knowledge, deduction at the time. Whether its missing pieces of the puzzle to figure out what actually happened  to missing key pieces of evidence that could lead to the suspected killers, each unsolved mystery has its own element of suspense. Its one thing to watch thrillers, suspense and mystery in a movie but Unsolved Mysteries brings up the fact of all these real life mysteries that hasn’t been solved which is a rather chilling feeling.

I don’t want to put any spoilers here so I’m going to avoid going into too much detail. While all the cases have incredible discussion value and for some, its initiated its reopening of cases and a lot of tips sent in online as well as forums where people are sharing their theories and investigations online which is a great way of motivating the general public to join into this. Its a very Zodiac sort of deal where sometimes the people outside of the case might have their own views and understandings. Whether the cases eventually get cracked or not, its definitely brought a few of these into a different light. When talking about specific cases, the one that was interesting to watch but not exactly a lot of further discussion value (for myself) would be the Berkshires UFO episode. The one that definitely got me the most was the first one, Mystery on the Rooftop for its cryptic evidence and the sheer amount of unanswered questions. The international case, The House of Terror has its value and shows the power of Netflix, diving into the international content and expanding its areas of investigation. Other than these ones, its seriously a lot of mind-boggling cases that stirs up a lot of deeper thinking of its possibilities that make Unsolved Mysteries so intriguing.

There’s so much to love about the revival of Unsolved Mysteries. Its executed well and Netflix has the international streaming platform and reach that can expand the possibilities and variety of cold case to investigate. I’m definitely looking forward to another season.

 

Double Feature: Charlie’s Angels (2019) & Doctor Sleep (2019)

Clearing the last two rentals for now before we resume the alphabet Double Feature! These two are both 2019 titles that I’ve finally gotten a chance to catch up with. Let’s check it out!

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

charlie's angels

Director (and screenplay): Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Elena Houghlin, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Noah Centineo

When a young systems engineer blows the whistle on a dangerous technology, Charlie’s Angels are called into action, putting their lives on the line to protect us all. – IMDB

I’m going to confess right now that I wasn’t a big fan of Charlie’s Angels in the 90s. In fact, I probably don’t remember too much of other than the three Angels back then and then didn’t even realize there was a sequel. The reason that I watched Charlie’s Angels (other than it being a cheap rental) is the fact that I’ve been constantly realizing that Kristen Stewart is a really talented actress and Twilight was definitely her low point (in my opinion, of course. If you like Twilight, that’s perfectly fine with me). I went into this one completely blind. I didn’t realize it was meant to be a sequel and in turn the third movie of this franchise and didn’t realize who was the director or any other the other supporting cast. However, Charlie’s Angels does refer to its previous movies in context but it does standalone on its own, which is important since its been over 15 years since its predecessor.

Charlie’s Angels isn’t a masterpiece cinema and has some flaws but it also was incredibly entertaining. In many ways, it shows off the directing style of Elizabeth Banks that wasn’t too obvious until you can really see her influence in the entire film if you’ve seen Pitch Perfect 2 before. I’m a fan of Pitch Perfect as a whole and enjoyed the second film and the comedy element and you can see some of that sort of comedy in this Charlie’s Angels as well as the female character designs whether its the contrast of the three Angels as well as her own role as Boz. Elizabeth Banks shows off how talented she is in all the hats that she wears in making this movie. Of course, we can’t neglect the three Angels played by Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott. Its all about training the new trio as its really the new team of two formed by the former two as Sabina and Jane that are sent in to help Elena as she tries to get back a technology that could cause a lot of damage. Elena’s character especially gets a lot of development as she becomes more and more courageous through everything she goes through and has the smarts to compensate for her lack of experience. The dynamic of Sabina and Jane is also a evolving friendship which has a bit of the female version of “buddy cop movies” except this obviously isn’t a buddy cop film.

Thing is, Charlie’s Angels in term of depth might be similar to one-liner action movies (The Expendables or Crank, perhaps) and its more about the entertainment and action-packed sequences which may work for some and not so much for others. For myself, it achieved exactly what I was looking for and actually exceed my expectations in the enjoyment factor. Running at almost 2 hours, it had some pacing issues. However, credit where its due, the three leading ladies were very good. There’s some nice action sequences and the comedy mostly does land well. The cast bounces off each other’s role fairly well. There is some formulaic elements like its bad guy design and its easy to see where the twist is at a certain point. However, it does also have a great supporting cast like Patrick Stewart, a reintroduction of the agency and its structure at the beginning to see its progress of the decade between the previous movie until now and manages to keep it standalone. All things that I appreciate and like about this film.

Doctor Sleep (2019)

doctor sleep

Director (and screenplay): Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind

Years following the events of The Shining (1980), a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal. – IMDB

*Originally posted for Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea HERE*

Being the sequel of The ShiningDoctor Sleep is based on the 2013 book of the same name by Stephen King, which takes place decades after the events at the Overlook Hotel. At the helm of this film is Mike Flanagan which takes the director’s seat as well as the screenplay writer which aims to pull together the elements of the source material of The Shining as well as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining while adapting Doctor Sleep to its sequel. In many ways, for someone like myself that hasn’t read any of the source material, Doctor Sleep takes a step into something more than just a crazy Jack Torrance from the first movie and gives it a much more ominous and supernatural angle to these characters with certain powers especially in the now adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) who embraces it after the trauma left behind from his childhood at the Hotel and has to face them while trying to protect a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) with similar powers against a cult called The True Knot.

Mike Flanagan has truly grown over the years from the days of his independent horror films like Absentia  and moving forward a little more mainstream especially in the successful The Haunting of Hill House series on Netflix. There’s a specific charm to how he handles every element in his horror films to create the dark atmosphere, build up on the characters and have this underlying sense of lingering fear that tests the boundaries of when to expect a scare and when it will actually happen. With him in the director’s seat, Flanagan adds his flair to Doctor Sleep and works wonders on creating a visually appealing horror experience especially with suitable camera rotations, how it’s all set up and having a level of subtlety that fits the film.

Doctor Sleep runs at a whopping 2 and a half hours which is pretty much a lengthy film. However, what is great is that it never feels like it’s that long as the story keeps moving forward. At the same time, the characters are focused enough on the few prominent ones like Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of adult Dan Torrance and a quick span of his growing up process, particularly psychologically and the nightmares that accompany him after surviving the childhood events. It manages to give a link to The Shining before moving forward, which is a good approach. One of the standout performances do go out to the young girl Abra, portrayed by Kyliegh Curran. The cast for Doctor Sleep in general all do a great job from the leader of The True Knot played by Rebecca Ferguson in a charming outfit and character to Cliff Curtis who plays Dan Torrance’s friend that helps and believes him through his unbelievable story.

There’s so much to love about Doctor Sleep and while I haven’t read the source material, it works well on its own as it does call back to the film adaptation of The Shining at a various points but the story behind the film itself is much more fleshed out and takes a different direction than The Shining that its a different experience altogether and one well worth checking out.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these 2019 films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Black Mountain Side (2014) & Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Time for the next Double Feature! We’re moving right along with the B selections. The first is a Shudder pick, Black Mountain Side and the second is a movie currently on Netflix called Berlin Syndrome! Let’s check it out!

Black Mountain Side (2014)

Black Mountain Side

Director (and writer): Nick Szostakiwskyj

Cast: Shane Twerdun, Michael Dickson, Carl Toftfelt, Marc Anthony Williams, Andrew Moxham, Timothy Lyle, Steve Bradley

At a cold, desolate, northmost outpost in Canada, an archaeological discovery is made. A specialist arrives Nov. 1. Strange things happen. All contact with the outside world is down. – IMDB

Black Mountain Side is a slow burn indie horror film. I think its important to grasp all those elements because the first half is one that is slow and quiet. The setting itself in the Canadian North makes it a unique setting to say the least. The first part does a good job and laying out the land of how communication and its cast of characters are all there and their purpose in this archaeological dig site and the outpost itself. Paced by its calendar execution in chronological order of what happens on what day and how much time has past is a decent way to give a sense of progress.

At the same time, the lay of the land itself and the things that happen does get intriguing once actual things start snowballing and the pacing picks up a little more. Thing is, it does feel like there’s not enough that happens in the first half to have the second half make up for it. Its not only that issue but also the fact that it doesn’t use its isolated landscape or give each of  the character’s dig site as a decent area to create more suspense. The suspense is mostly in the unknown. While that does create a lot of questions, its ending relates heavily to a better executed film recently with a similar premise, The Ritual.

That’s not to the say, the premise here doesn’t have potential. Its mostly execution issues that becomes most of its downfall. Its a very slow-burn film overall, and takes patience to get through the first part without a lot of things happening and just building up foundation and setting up the scene to have a better quarter and the ending is also not exactly one that I’m quite fond of (although I won’t talk about it too much to avoid spoilers). Its sad because the Canada’s Great North has a lot to offer as a setting and its a shame that its not used more.

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Berlin Syndrome

Director: Cate Shortland

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich, Emma Bading, Elmira Bahrami, Christoph Franken

A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. – IMDB

While Berlin Syndrome’s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking, what it does is execute a good abduction thriller. Berlin Syndrome tells the cautionary tale of an Australian young woman who travels to Berlin and ends up having a holiday romance with a young man who ends up abducting her and trapping her in his apartment to keep her by his side. It manages to balance a good level of obsessive romance, fear and danger as well as dependence and some deeper psychological thriller elements.

One of the best elements in Berlin Syndrome is in its characters and of course, the two leads that take on the respective roles. Teresa Palmer takes on a great role as the female lead and possibly the first time that I’ve seen her act in her native accent and not an American accent. Its rather refreshing plus, her character as Clare is not a damsel in distress but full of survival. Even when it feels like she is stepping down from conflict in the situation, she is always quietly looking for the next step and adapting to her situation. Her character has a bit of complexity. Just like Max Riemelt as Andi who plays the abductor and obsessive lover who wants to keep her there and yet his character is full of psychological elements to consider as more is revealed, there is a depth to his character and why he does it as well as his dependence on the relationship even with his priorities in life outside of his secret life of having an abducted girl at his home which shows the different sides of him with family and his job and the mental struggles he may be having to keep his life in control.

Berlin Syndrome is a pleasant surprise. Its always great to find movies like this kind of hidden gem that gets tucked away. It was packed a good balance from great execution to the rather one location element and the abduction as well as the relationship dynamic and changes from the start to finish between Clare and Andi as well as the characters development. All done really well and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet.

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