Blog Tour Spotlight: Subject A36 by Teri Polen (Excerpt/Giveaway)

Tour Banner (7)

Welcome to the blog tour for Teri Polen’s upcoming release, Subject A36, the first book in a brand new series called The Colony!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a signed or digital copy of the book!

SUBJECT A36 (THE COLONY #1)
BY: TERI POLEN

Subject A36

Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Expected Publication Date: February 13, 2020

SYNOPSIS

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

ADD TO GOODREADS

EXCERPT

“Asher!” Mom gripped the porch railing and called for me. Her voice cracked and was laced with tears. Dad vaulted over the porch railing, landed solidly on the grass, and frantically scanned our expansive yard.

My stomach clenched. Something was very wrong. “Over here!”

Dad’s gaze locked on mine. “Code Exodus! Now, Asher. Run!”

Was this another drill? We’d practiced twice a week, the times always unexpected, without fail for as long as I could remember. Drills were a regular part of our life, like eating, sleeping, and homework. Protocol was pounded into our brains. There could be no hesitation.

But this felt different. Dad’s expression was tight and urgent. Tears streamed down Mom’s face, and I knew. This was no drill. It was real this time. We’d been found. Code Tribe—we leave together. Code Exodus—we leave without our parents.

Code Exodus rules.

Grab the backpack.

Leave immediately.

Don’t stop for anything or anyone.

Run to the Wallaces.

When my sisters could no longer keep up, hide them and keep running.

Pre-order Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Polen

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Visit her online at http://www.teripolen.com

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Bookbub

GIVEAWAY

You can either win a signed copy of the book (US only) or a digital copy (International)! Click the link below to enter!

Enter here

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

February 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com
Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com
My Bookish Blitz (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

February 11th

Lunarian Press (Spotlight) https://www.lunarianpress.com/
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
James J. Cudney (Review) https://thisismytruthnow.com/

February 12th

The Bookworm Drinketh (Spotlight) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/
Didi Oviatt (Spotlights) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Life’s a Novelty (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/

February 13th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
Rea’s Reads (Review) https://reasreads.wordpress.com/
On the Shelf Reviews (Spotlight) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

February 14th

Reads & Reels (Review) http://readsandreels.com
Port Jerricho (Spotlight) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com
Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Spotlight) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales
Jaunts & Haunts (Review) https://jonathanpongratz.com/
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Blog Tour Organized by:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

Double Feature: Mean Girls 2 (2011) & Geostorm (2017)

Welcome to Double Feature #2 of 2020. I’m going to stop counting at a certain point (probably the next one). This pairing is probably the two least liked movie that I’ll put together but hey, why not, right? The first is the (not so) long-awaited sequel to Mean Girls, a whole 7 years after the original. The second is a disaster film which I watched on New Year’s with Gerard Butler in the name of Geostorm which I remember bombed pretty hard at theatrical release.

Let’s check it out!

Mean Girls 2 (2011)

Mean Girls 2

Director: Melanie Mayron

Cast: Meaghan Martin, Linden Ashby, Donn Lamkin, Claire Holt, Diego Boneta, Patrick Johnson, Maiara Walsh, Nicole Gale Anderson, Jennifer Stone, Bethany Anne Lind, Tim Meadows

The Plastics are back in the long-awaited follow-up to the smash hit Mean Girls – and now the clique is more fashionable, funny, and ferocious than ever. – IMDB

Its a fairly certain statement here that no one particularly wanted a sequel for Mean Girls especially when the entire cast had changed. Plus, the Mean Girls thing isn’t exactly something that can merit a sequel. Apparently, my non-creative mind was right because Mean Girls 2 was incredibly predictable and while it changed its characters and the lingo, it was pretty much the same kind of story as Mean Girls but just more mild in its bad deeds. The Mean Girl wasn’t threatening, the new girl that turns bad with power also isn’t all the innocent or whatnot. The whole scheming with friends plot line is all been there done that.

There’s a lot of unnecessary sequels out there and Mean Girls 2 definitely fits into that category. Mean Girls was great the way it was with its one movie as it covered what it wanted to express properly. There’s nothing new that they can add to the content in its original, making Mean Girls 2 quite less impressive especially if its the same structure, showing the same issues that occur in a different decade in the tough high school environment. I can be forgiving about the cast here as I think they did what they could with their flat characters, its really more the mentality that I don’t support that everything at some point or another needs a sequel. Sometimes, you can just leave things alone.

Geostorm (2017)

Geostorm

Director (and writer): Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Andy  Garcia, Ed Harris, Robert Sheehan

When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock for its creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone. – IMDB

Disaster films are never really meant to be some award-winning masterpiece. Its just a fun little romp with a lot of explosions and illogical concepts and some overdone action pieces. Geostorm got a lot of crap and lost a lot of money for the studios and its pretty understandable. I mean, Gerard Butler projects haven’t really been all that great in its last few offerings so for myself, it was like I was expecting it to be really good. Perhaps its the low expectations going in or the New Year’s alcohol hasn’t left my system but Geostorm wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Geostorm tries really hard to add suspense and also tries really hard to be different. Where it misses its mark is in a lot of the overuse of drama and the whole brothers story that gets dragged into the mix. Gerard Butler is Gerard Butler which is pretty decent as he has some alright moments. The story itself has some issues here and there. I’m not a very knowledgeable science person so I don’t go and question too much about the whole technology they are talking about and whether it makes sense because it probably doesn’t if you dissect it.

Honestly, I’m not trying to defend Geostorm. Its just an average disaster movie. There are some funny moments here and then some moments that really stretched the imagination which they chalked it up to the family communication code or whatever. But hey, I always kind of like the charisma that Gerard Butler brings to movies (even the bad ones) and then we get a short role from Daniel Wu and Hong Kong scenes and I have a soft spot for that. The mystery of it all was pretty obvious where they would place the twist. Like I said, nothing too special here. Its just pretty average and I can see how some would think its below-average even. Like I said in the beginning, I’m pretty forgiving for disaster movies but if you aren’t, then just skip this one.

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

Double Feature: Pet Sematary (2019) & Snowpiercer (2013)

As we put the holidays behind us, the normal double feature is back in action. This time, we’re catching up with some 2010s movie. The first film is this year’s Pet Sematary remake of the adaptation. The second is 2013’s Snowpiercer which has been on my to-watch list for much longer than I had intended. Let’s check it out!

Pet Sematary (2019)

Pet Sematary 2019

Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.  – IMDB

I’ve never read the source material or seen the 1989 Pet Sematary adaptation so I am basing this review solely on my feeling towards the story interpreted here and how it was executed.

Pet Sematary is an interesting one to talk about. On one hand, Stephen King stories are always quite an intriguing entry to discover as his storytelling skills are quite extraordinary especially with the execution of a story to its characters to the premise. This one is about bringing back the dead and how it all starts with a Pet Sematary and the burial of a cat. The story itself is a lot of fun and remains in that dark and creepy phase because any horror watcher, even the not so seasoned, knows that black cats are bad and bringing back the dead is not a good thing. There’s a lot of playing with bad omens in this story and yet the characters go right ahead to take its viewers into this creepy place as the neighbor takes a new resident of the city deep in the forest. At the same time, simply the different rituals of pet burials at the beginning are enough to bring a little chill down the spine with some creepy kids and scary masks.

While Pet Sematary does build a decent horror atmosphere, it isn’t doing a lot of difference. There are some rather predictable scares, jumpscares and whatnot. Its more expected to happen. At the same time, other than a rather convincing John Lithgow playing the neighbor and the daughter working out rather well, I’m not a huge fan of any of the other cast as Jason Clarke doesn’t stand out of a first choice for this role. He isn’t bad but then, its the normal horror film acting here.

Horror movies are so overused in all its genres that sometimes its hard to find that place of being unique. There’s a good story here and I would assume that it all goes to the strength of the source material and an alright execution. It’d be interesting to hear what others would think of this one: those who can compare to the source material or the first film adaptation.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer

Director (and co-screenplay): Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ko Asung, Ewen Bremner, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Vlad Ivanov

In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges. – IMDB

Snowpiercer sets its story in a future where the world has frozen over and the only survivors live on the train. As the lowest class tries to break forward to the leader at the front of the train, the different sections that the group pass through has its somewhat subtle hints on classes and are a big highlight in this story. I’m not sure why South Koreans seem to thrive on movies set in fighting through enclosed spaces especially on trains (like Train to Busan), but its definitely a great setting. Snowpiercer isn’t just a great setting in its claustrophobic and tight spaces where it does all its action, but its also a story packed with a lot of twist whether its group of characters or its plot twists and the different surprises that it delivers. Its visually very nice as each shot is framed very well, using all its elements and different areas having their different colors and such. Whether its pacing and execution, Snowpiercer does a fabulous job at delivering a good deal of drama, action and thrills.

Any good script also needs a great cast to deliver those great performances. In this case, the casting is right on point. With Chris Evans as the main character Curtis who leads the operation but doesn’t want to be considered a leader to his right hand man Edgar (Jamie Bell) and the no-nonsense mom who wants to find her son back, Tanya (Octavia Spencer) with a powerful presence of a disabled man, Gilliam (John Hurt). Along the way, they pick up the security mastermind of the train to help them escape, Namgong Minsoo (Kang ho Song) and daughter with some odd powers Yona (Ko Asung). As I mention Kang-ho Song which is a fave of this director specifically, Song is a great actor who has a huge range of acting capabilities as seen in another South Korean film I had seen previously called A Taxi Driver (review) The dynamic of this group brings a lot to the table as their personality does contrast each other and adds to their characters. Each having their own depth and further character development as the story moves along.

On the other side, the villainous side are a lot of lesser known group of characters or perhaps well reflected in the whole concept of the top tier always being less people with just more resources. In the forefront, defending the leader of this train is Mason, played spectacularly by Tilda Swinton. Along the way, they have a little cameo performance from a school teacher on the train by Alison Pill which doesn’t do a lot but has its moment. Finally, at the front of the train comes the leader Wilford who is played by Ed Harris. The band of villains might seem small but there are some great ones mentioned here and then there is the more assassin type who just never dies. I think if anything, the unrelenting bad guys or even sidekick always seems to be the most annoying to watch, probably, my only minor issue with this movie.

That’s it for this Double Feature!
Have you seen 2019’s Pet Sematary and/or Snowpiercer? Thoughts?

FNC 2019: Color Out of Space (2019)

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space

Director (and screenplay): Richard Stanley

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Q’orianka Kilcher, Joely Richardson, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hillard, Madeleine Arthur

A town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic. – IMDB

SpectreVision has produced some fantastic movies in the last few years. Following the success of Mandy, Nicolas Cage joins this cast of characters of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short story of the same name’s adaptation where the little county of Arkham is hit with meteorite which lands on drops onto his character Nathan’s front yard and ends up having an effect on his family. Color Out of Space has everything that you’d expect from a SpectreVision production whether its trippy twists and visually appealing scenes and designs and creativity that explodes onto the scene. Right from the eerie start of the film, narrating through a dark forest and the secluded nature and raindrops on water, the tone of the film was set right away. Its a bit loopy and leaves a few unanswered questions at the end but that’s half of the fun of odd storylines and where it leaves some talking points. 

Color Out of Space still builds its atmosphere well and gives it a mysterious thriller that gives out a lot of questions that slowly unveils itself. While the answers are never clear and this outer space influence on the family and those in close vicinity never fully explained and understood, it leaves the space for our imagination to fill in those gaps and what gives it the subtle horror. The horror is built upon gradually whether in its subtle presence or unclear motives to how its absorption into the farmland affects every living thing there. It creates some visually stunning moments and beautiful elements (yet again like the previous FNC film Little Joe) through mysterious appearances of red flowers gradually covering the land and its unknown pinkish swirling lights while creating destruction from the inside as well as the disturbing effects. Being able to execute an unknown and unclear dangerous force sometimes makes for something much more unsettling.

Its taken a long time to get Nicolas Cage back to full form and while there is still a level of suitable overacting in Color Out of Space as the father of the house, Nathan Gardner, he still manages to carry the movie a lot as his character slowly infected by this outer space force and making his “crazy” somehow very acceptable and adds to the films most of the time. At the same time, much more grounded in her role and adds in the oddities is Madeleine Arthur (previously in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) who plays Lavinia Gardner, the daughter who wants to escape this remote farmstead. Her role is done really well and has some true development as she struggles with this force and what it has done to her family. While young actor playing the youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard previously in The Haunting of Hill House) adds in the child element which has some rather unsettling moments. The careful way of how the characters spiral as an aftereffect at different paces and different ways is also what builds the movie and gives credit to how the movie itself is executed very well.

To say that Color Out of Space is perfect would be stretching it a little though. Running at 111 minutes, it does feel, despite its suitably sensually overwhelming and fantastically psychedelic end in sound and visuals, that the film was one or two scenes (if not more) too long. There was a bit of overacting that does pull out from the story a little in parts. Despite its flaws, there is still a lot to like here. As you let the movie sink in a little more, the mysteries the story leaves behind and how director Richard Stanley frames his scenes and how the script builds up is all executed very well at creating this psychedelic terrorizing film.

Color Out of Space has one more screening at Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 19th at 8:15pm at Cinema du Parc. You can find the info HERE.

Twisted Pines by Lane Baker

TWISTED PINES
By: Lane Baker

Twisted Pines

Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pines, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish—only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.

When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature might be responsible for the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with a camera, a journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery hidden among Mendocino’s Twisted Pines. – Goodreads

*Received in exchange for an honest review*

There is an obvious fascination of Lane Baker with science fiction and aliens in particular. Following the previous story Slippery Things (review), this new story is also along the same lines. This time around, the main character is a young adult Abe who takes up a summer job as camp counselor when weird things happen and he discovers what is the cause. As the story unravels about this mysterious lurker, the motives come together.

There are few things done well here. The first is execution. It has something of a novella length which gives it space to develop a story but also a quick pace for events to happen without things lingering and dragging therefore making it a nice little page turner, more and more so as the story pulls together and the heart of the situation and the two central characters start interacting.

Another element done really well here is characters. There are quite a few because of the setting in the summer camp with counselor names bouncing around the pages and young campers being caught up in the mystery. However, there is a definite focus on Abe as the main character and a lot of this going from his perspective. Telling a story from a perspective always works well to still create mystery out of what is unknown to the character. The two sided (both good and bad depending on the part of the story) is that while the humanoid does have some character development and as gaps of mystery behind him because of taking Abe’s perspective, it also has the issue that the character doesn’t have quite the depth and is more of a supporting sort of deal. At times, it works and at times, it doesn’t.

Overall, Twisted Pines is a well-paced YA sci-fi novel. There’s an obvious improvement in dialogue here (in comparison to the previous story).  A lot of Twisted Pines is well-written, whether its building up the suspense or how the chapters are structured and the progression of the Abe’s character and his discoveries, especially on how it starts and ends. I can’t say that Abe, as well done of the character as it is, is too memorable but feels suitable in this story. There’s a lot more that can be explored with this story especially in terms of the humanoid however, its a simple page-turner story that keeps things straight forward and because of that, it also manages to keep it intriguing enough to keep want to know more about what happens next. This one is well worth the read.

Book Review: Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1)
by: Jay Kristoff

Lifelike

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past. Even if those secrets were better off staying buried. – Goodreads

Post-apocalypse, YA, Androids: it seems like a rising theme in the next phase of science-fiction fantasy novels. Its not a bad thing to say the least. After the success of The Illuminae Trilogy, its hard to not give some regard to what comes up next for the two authors. While I have yet to look into Amie Kaufman’s solo novels, I’ve been stocking up on Jay Kristoff’s (coming soon is reading Nevernight). Since I’ve been on this sci-fi roll, I decided to give Lifelike a go, the first novel in a currently ongoing series where the second book has been released recently.

While the end game of the story, the twist and such wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, what works a lot here is the execution of the story. Lifelike introduces its characters very well. It also keeps a decent limit to how many characters are in focus while being able to make sure that all the characters serve their purpose in their existence in the story itself. The world itself gives it a lot more to think about because the main girls are Eve and her best friend Lemon Fresh who end up with their robot dog of sorts Cricket while finding a lifelike android which is referred as the almost-boy Ezekiel who starts waking up the memory of Eve throughout their journey to save Eve’s grandfather from the evil androids. There are relationships and conflicts and dilemmas as more secrets get dug up and remembered. Lemon and Eve’s friendship/sisterhood doesn’t get enough depth, but builds a general foundation, while Eve and Ezekiel end up having a lot of the drama involved.

While there isn’t anything particularly issues with the story, its a pity that the world doesn’t have more focus (although I’m sure as the story moves along in the sequels that it will). The future and the technology and the android lifelikes and such in this mass world feels very intriguing to discover and yet, its more focused on the people in the story than using it to build up. While I can’t say that I liked Lifelike quite as much as say the entirety of the Illuminae Files, even at its lowest point (which was very rare because that trilogy ranks very high on my favorites), Lifel1k3 as the first book does a good build for the foundation and has a decent reveal in establishing its characters. While there is some drag at a little part, it does do itself justice in the big finale and reveal.

Goodreads Score: 4/5

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Incredible Shrinking WKND (2019)

The Incredible Shrinking WKND (El Incredible Finde Menguante, 2019)

Incredible Shrinking WKND

Director (and writer): Jon Mikel Caballero

Cast: Iria del Rio, Adam Quintero, Nadia de Santiago, Adrian Exposito,  Jimmy Castro, Irene Ruiz, Luis Tosar

The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is a 2019 drama about a girl going on a reunion weekend away at a cabin who ends up getting stuck in a time loop that decreases in time with each reset.

The incredible Shrinking WKND opens to a group of six friends who are having a reunion at the cabin. As they learn about each other’s current state and about their future plans, Alba (Iria del Rio) and Pablo (Adam Quintero) seem to be the couple who seem to be fine on the surface but after dinner, Pablo suggests to break up. As she goes for a hike the next day, she goes into the old weapons factory area, a point of interest for the group and ends up triggering a time loop where time freezes and she wakes up again on the car ride to the cabin. As Alba wakes up each time, she starts from enjoying what feels like an infinite time loop to realizing that it shrinks by the hour with every reset. What starts as a fun little time loop that she can be in control soon becomes a journey of self-discovery and  at 30, a late growing up to adulthood as she embraces her feelings, her friends and her love.

Let’s face it, time loop stories are tricky. They can get repetitive and they can get lost. Its hard to say that WKND doesn’t  get repetitive but the script remembers to always make each time a little different, especially in the first few loops and as Alba transitions in her different revelations from denial to finally wanting to make amends. It works through some of this by doing speed cuts of the crucial parts, putting more focus on the changes and the meaningful parts to see new discoveries and the character development for Alba. While the middle section does feel like it dwells a little too long and then picks some sections to focus on over and over again, it does try to put together the pieces at the end.

WKND is heavily focused on one character. While the other 4 friends and her boyfriend are very much present here and there in each loop in different ways, they all have their own new bits of information that gets revealed , Alba is the main focus. Iria del Rio is compelling in this role. Every reaction as she breaks down to her enthusiasm to her revelation and uncertainty of what will happen and trying to figure out how to escape the time loop becomes a journey that is satisfying because she becomes a character who grows and one that is worth fighting for as she strives to improve. Its a change from the girl that started this movie who didn’t seem to care about anyone, was insensitive, irresponsible and had no direction.

At the end of the day, WKND is a time loop movie with depth. It dials down to a good execution of the content and a close look at one character’s growth. However, all this is small compared to what makes this Spanish indie unique and that is its choice of how it presents the film. The constant narrowing screen is gradual and at first, might not even be noticeable. All the effect of time urgency as well as packing in the crucial details of the shot closer together gives it a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. Its a big question of what happens after, when there is no more hours of the same day to take away and how Alba will use that final hour. This final element makes cinematography stand out and is the truly unique element of this film experience.

The Incredible Shrinking WKND has an encore screening at Fantasia International Film Festival on July 22 at 4:35pm at the Hall Auditorium.

 

Fantasia Festival 2019: Paradise Hills (2019)

Paradise Hills (2019)

Paradise Hills

Director: Alice Waddington

Cast: Emma Roberts, Eiza Gonzalez, Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine

Paradise Hills is a 2019 American-Spanish science fiction fantasy film about girls put in a mysterious boarding school located on an island to be reformed into the women that others surrounding them want them to be.

Set in a dystopian future with flying cars and higher and lower society mentality, Paradise Hills is deeply grounded in its fantasy roots. The reform island that Uma (Emma Roberts) ends up is one that is a culmination of fairy tales. Apart from the room where she wakes up which is dark and fake, her first walk through the grounds is one that is full of pastel colors and resembles an Alice in Wonderland parallel, especially as the darker themes and there is a deeper knowledge of surrounding and different areas. Every new territory she discovers is both fantastical and mysterious. Filmed in Spain and Canary Islands, the location itself is captivating as a backdrop.

As she forms her sisterhood bonds with Amarna (Eiza Gonzalez), Chloe (Danielle Macdonald) and Yu (Awkwafina), Uma’s two week stay starts to settle in easier, even if she is still resistant to be changed into the girl that is desired by others. While Uma is a main character here and she has done similar roles like this in other indie films before, this one feels very complete. It also has to do with the actresses around her, Eiza Gonazalez, Danielle Macdonald and Awkwafina all portray different types of girls who live around people with different expectations and a varying level of accepting the situation that they are in despite the fact they can be seen as the rebels.

When faced with a passive-aggressive “headmistress”, The Duchess (Milla Jovovich), the conflicts between her and the four girls create tension and friction. Milla Jovovich has played a few roles of strong women and while a lot of her movies, such as Resident Evil has its cult following, The Duchess is one that shows off a lot of depth in the character. She commands each scene as The Duchess. Her costumes and her character design as a whole portray a powerful woman while her dialogue gives her a lot of manipulative and coersive nature, emphasizing her place. Her character is mysterious and cryptic at times but it all adds layers.

Adapted from the screen story by the director Alice Waddington herself and the script co-written by Nacho Vigalondo, who also wrote Colossal, Paradise Hills is one that executes the story it tells very well. It has a surface layer that is enjoyable to watch, especially in its visuals: costume, camera angles and the ambiance.  It never rushes to reveal too much too quickly and only hints and builds up its tension both as the characters discover more mysteries and search for their answers and the urgency to escape their uneasy situation. At the same time, it gives enough detail to keep the final act a lot of surprises, truly succeeding at making this an impressive thriller especially in the hands of a debut director.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium (2019)

Vivarium

Director (and co-writer): Lorcan Finnegan

Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Eanna Hardwicke, Senan Jennings

Vivarium is a 2019 science fiction thriller about a house-hunting couple ends up being shown to a home located in a labyrinth of a cookie cutter neighborhood and abandoned by the real estate agent with no way out.

Choosing to start the film on the note of baby birds being knocked out of their nests by a cuckoo bird trying to take over is an odd way and sets the tone for Vivarium and even the story concept. With only a general knowledge of the couple, Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg), mainly their careers and an idea of their compatibility together as two weirdos (as they call it), they set off to find their perfect home which leads them to discover the office of Yonder run by Martin (Jonathan Aris) who awkwardly gets the couple to go visit one of the houses. As they drive into the rows of green tinted houses, identical to each other, they get to number 9, not a starter house which includes a baby’s room. Not long after, Martin disappears and they can’t find their way out and a box arrives full of necessities and then another box arrives with a baby. Their task is to raise the baby and get released.

Vivarium is a slow-burn movie. Its weird and bizarre, making the couple who considered themselves weirdoes initially to really be the normal ones thrust into this deserted suburbia. If we look at it in three acts, the movie sets up its scenario fairly quickly. For that, it deserves credit for giving it that dark humor and a dose of oddness, furthered by the feeling of hopelessness. However, the movie might be using uniformity as the creepy environment factor however the only creepy thing about the second act is the timeline of the child they need the raise, which gives an idea of how long they’ve been trapped there as well as this child who has a creepy voice and likes to imitate them. That one tone of life and the routine lifestyle might instill fear for some but mostly, it felt a tad repetitive and dragged the story out longer than it needed to and only dropping little hints of change to sustain interest on the mystery of why they are there and who is this child. What does make it for a lot of the slowness in the second act is the final act that turns up the story quite a bit as things start unveiling and the one reveal is the most thrilling part of the movie as a whole.

The technicalities of this film is what makes it stand it. First, the most notable is the color palette and the location of having these identical houses paired with a quiet background, that emphasizes on the sounds. The green of the houses to the blue skies with the cloud-like clouds  makes it feel like a story book fantasy and in turn gives it a fake-ness. This makes it feel an obvious distance and abandonment and with that loneliness. At the same time, the emptiness of the location is further emphasized with the cinematography and how some shots are shown. There are some captivating shots looking down as they drive around this labyrinth of  houses, trying but not finding their way out. Then there are shots of pulling way to show distance and shots where the character is centered to show probably the control of the situation. There are lot of deeper messages being conveyed here. It gives the story its depth and its creepy moments. Its leaves a lot for interpretation on the fears of life, uniformity, the routine, homeownership, the family model, the concept of work and having the need to find purpose and something to do everyday.

Vivarium has a lot to thank for its small cast and both Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, especially the latter, that carries this film forward. Imogen Poots takes on the role of Gemma and she does it with so much heart. Even in some of the slow moments, the camera gives a lot of context on her emotions from her reactions to her facial expressions as she interacts with the boy and Tom. While Jesse Eisenberg has a less role as his character has some truly powerful moments and yet, the rest of the time, his character is affected a lot more by the situation that he is in. Especially worth a mention is the almost cameo role of Martin, played by Jonathan Aris which excels in its dark humor execution.

There’s a lot to appreciate in the craft of Vivarium. However, its not a film for everyone. It takes starts off very strong, lags in the center and then amps up in the final act with a lot of style. Its mostly of movie of moments and probably one that needs a few more viewings to capture its true depth and meanings.

After Hours: Europa Report

The next After Hours episode for Movies and Tea is here. This time, its my pick for Europa Report, a found footage sci-fi of sorts.

Head over to check it out and tell us if you’ve seen this one (or even heard of it)!

Movies and Tea

On this episode we check out the indie sci-fi found footage movie “Europa Report” which recounts the fictional story of the first crewed mission to   Europa, one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter.

We question if sci-fi can effectively be done on a budget as well as the effectiveness of the found footage genre plus more.

Further Viewing

Life
The Martian
Moon
Event Horizon
Gravity

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Bear Mccreary – Theme from Europa Report

Listen to the Show

Anchor
Itunes
Spotify
Podomatic 

View original post