Movie review: The Boy (2016)

Synopsis: An American nanny is hired to take care of a young boy, the only problem is, the ‘boy’ is made of porcelain. Violating the strict rules his parents said she must follow, she begins to sense the boy is alive, and may want more than just a nanny to care for him

Director: William Brent Bell

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle

Review: I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this movie. It started with the typical ‘girl takes a job despite it having a dodgy job description to escape her ex’. The family she works for are very odd and their unease, portrayed excellently by Norton and Hardcastle. They ask Cohan to look after their ‘son’ a porcelain doll which is more than a little creepy, and they have a number of rules which must be followed to ensure his care.

Cohan will be known to viewers of ‘The Walking Dead’. The naiveté and winning smile she brings to Maggie Green in her battle against zombies on the show is also evident here (I’ll admit, we’re VERY behind with The Walking Dead so I’m not sure if she’s still smiling) as she plays a fairly likeable character, but it’s not soon before she’s left on her own and ignoring the rules for caring for the Boy. What happens next made me think we were on for a supernatural twist and Cohen plays it well, with a mixture of excitement and unease at caring for a ‘ghost’. Obviously, this idea is boosted by Evans telling her about Norton and Hardcastle’s son who was an odd child and died in mysterious circumstances.

The ending was a cliched surprise. By that I mean, the movie didn’t go in the direction I expected, but as soon as it did, there wasn’t anything new to add, although there were a few jumps. I suppose for me, part of the issue was that, as lovely as Cohan is her, I wasn’t really that engaged with her or any of the other characters. There was also no satisfactory explanation as to why the Boy’s parents had set up such an elaborate ruse. The direction was good in that it’s claustrophobic and made you feel as if there’s something unsettling in the house but at times was a little too light and breezy to maintain the suspense.

The Boy is a good Friday night movie: it doesn’t demand too much and delivers a few spooks and scares, but it needs to grow up a lot before it joins the big boys of horror.

A Father’s Love

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On a rare ‘date night’ (that’s two sleepy parents who’ve managed to get the toddler to bed at a decent time) hubby and I watched the latest Beauty & the Beast. It’s been a looooong time since I saw the original animation (in the cinema, with my BFF, Karen something) and I was amazed that I remembered all the songs. When it was announced, I’d had mixed feelings about making a live-action of Beauty and the Beast, I mean, what could it add to the original, which won Academy Awards, Grammy’s and Golden Globes? However, I was pleasantly surprised by it’s quality and I really enjoyed the small changes Emma Watson brought to ‘Belle’. For those who’ve seen it, I’m sure you’ll agree that Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou completely steal the show but the other thing which struck me was the relationship between Belle’s father.

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People will argue that the Beast, or even Belle herself, is the hero of this movie (certainly in the updated version, Belle is more than capable of handling herself) but I have to argue that the unacknowledged hero of both movies is actually Maurice, Belle’s father. I thought on Father’s Day it seemed apt to look at this Daddy’s Girl and what a Daddy’s love for his daughter.

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*SPOILERS AHEAD*

One of the main differences between the animated and live action movies is that Belle is the inventor, not Maurice, who is an artist. This obviously plays out later, to explain why Belle’s such an outcast and Maurice is considered ‘unusual’, but whether she’s reading a book, inventing a washing machine or generally discussing what she wants to do with her life, Maurice supports her. He agrees, it’s HER life to do with as she chooses. beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps-com-910.jpg

I suppose having a daughter myself now, and seeing the encouragement my husband gives her daily (if there’s a higher branch to climb, he’ll tell her to do it, but always makes sure she knows he’s there if she falls) this really struck me. In how many other Disney movies, or movies in general, does the father give unconditional encouragement to his daughter’s dreams and ideas, especially when they run so contrary to the expectations of society. There are not that many which spring to mind.

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Maurice loves his daughter, that’s obvious but for me it’s shown in the number of sacrifices he’s willing to make for her. In the live action movie, there’s a scene explaining what happened to Belle’s mother and how Maurice was forced to leave Paris for his daughter’s safety during a plague outbreak, choosing to settle in the country to ensure her health. He had to leave his beloved wife behind, to die alone and this is played with nuance by Kevin Kline. So there’s poor Maurice, having to care for an infant whilst also grieving for his wife and his life in Paris, whilst settling in a village with locals who consider him more than a little strange and are not the most welcoming.


However, the ultimate sacrifice Maurice makes is when Gaston asks, then demands, Belle’s hand in marriage. Each time Maurice says no, even though he knows it may cost him his freedom, even his life. He loves his daughter so much, her safety and happiness is paramount to him, and he does what’s best for her without a second though as to what it will cost him. Can you imagine a greater love? It’s one thing to sacrifice your life, and certainly that’s been portrayed numerous times in films (think the mum in Findig Nemo), but to allow yourself to in institutionalised whilst sane and worrying about your daughters safety, that’s a fathers love. He’s the ultimate, unsung (I think he really is, as he’s about the only one without a theme) hero of the story.


So, what’s th e post of this slightly rambling post? Well, it’s a Fathers Dat, a day to acknowledge all the sacrifices, both little and big that our father’s make for us – be it working a job they hate in order to pay for things for their children, sharing their cake after a little one drops theirs, even getting up early to take the children downstairs so us mums can have a much-needed lay in. I watch my husband with our daughter – he’s constantly striving to be a better dad, to push her to be the best she can and ignore anyone who tells her what she can’t do.  He’s as fierce a feminist as I am. He has a level of patience I envy and loves getting stuck in with the toddlers latest game, be it a tea party for her imaginary friends or going on a bear hunt, he’s by her side and she adores him for it. He gets up in the night to chase away monsters and as soon as he gets home is dragged into games which he throws itself into without a thought of how exhausted he as. His only reward is a cheeky smile, raspberry blown at him & the ultimate ‘love you, daddy!’ As the toddler flings her arms around his neck. He’s mostly definitely hers, mine & the pups hero. 

How are you celebrating Father’s Day? 

Movie review: Below (2002)

Synopsis: An American submarine stops to rescue survivors of a sunken ship but as soon as they are on board, strange happenings start to occur in this claustrophobic supernatural thriller.

Director: David Twohy

Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Dexter Fletcher, Matthew Davis and Olivia Williams

Review: I normally avoid war movies but I was drawn to this one due to its supernatural twist and also Dexter Fletcher – who doesn’t love him? Plus, ghost stories set at sea? I’ve not seen or heard one I didn’t love.

Anyway the pretence is that an American submarine undertakes a routine rescue mission, saving Williams and Fletcher. There’s plenty of misgivings about having a woman on board the submarine, not helped by things going bump in the depths.

Due to the setting of the film, it’s very claustrophobic which helps to build tension but it’s also well acted with even the minor characters putting in a good performance. Williams plays her usual ‘too cool British character’ we’ve seen in other films and shows such as Dollhouse but she does bring a certain depth to her character. Fletcher is typical Fletcher and plays his character well, while Davis as the first officer struggling to follow the commands of a rapidly unravelling Greenwood is excellent. However, it is Greenwood who steals the show as the war-hardened captain with a big secret.

I’ve mentioned the claustrophobia caused by the set but the director makes best use of the space and you get a feel for what life in a submarine must be like. The creaks and groans as the sub descends also adds to the unease felt by the crew and the fact that you know there is no escape when things start to go wrong builds tension and you’ll find yourself wishing the crew weren’t so far under water when ghostly happenings start to occur.

This was no jump-out-of-your-chair horror but a well crafted and thoughtful supernatural thriller which kept me entertained from beginning to end. I think it’s a shame that it’s not been more widely viewed and for those of you with Netflix it’s a great Friday night movie.

Movie Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Synopsis: A couple going through a break up decide to erase each other from their minds. However, it’s only as they start to forget each other that they remember what they have to lose.

Director: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst

Review: Whilst not an official ‘horror movie’ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind does raise some interesting questions: would you erase the painful memories from your past? Let’s be honest, we all want to forget something, but would you do it if you just didn’t want to remember a painful breakup, an argument, loss of a loved one?

There’s a really strong cast here, with Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson to name a few and they all turn in an excellent performance.

Following their breakup, Joel (Jim Carrey) undergoes a procedure to remove all memories of his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). However, whilst he’s having the procedure, he realises that perhaps some things are better remembered and his mind rebels, trying to find a place to ‘hide’ his memories of the love he shared with Clementine, so we get to see their relationship, its highs and lows and the ultimate cause of their breakup.

I think this movie raises a number of questions about morality, control and our right to remember and act as individuals, something explored further in Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse’, but covered here in the arc of Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and her employer Dr Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Are these procedures done with the full consent and understanding of the patient? And what if the patient doesn’t fully understand or agree with the end results of the procedure? Or what happens if the Doctor becomes a little to omnipotent? It’s a topic touched upon in the movie and leaves the audience with some troubling thoughts once it’s finished.

I love the chemistry between Winslet and Carrey, both of whom alternate between very intense drama and lighter scenes where Carrey is chasing her through his mind. The cinematography and use of colours is great so you clearly know ‘where’ you are, either in reality or not. It’s a movie about ‘real’ people, dealing (or trying to avoid) their pain in whatever means they can, be it through getting drunk, or making poor relationship choices.  Each of these characters displays great levels of self awareness but none seem to know the best ways to manage their demons, thereby making poor choices. Winslet’s character in particular is very open about her mental health issues, making it highly relevant. Given it’s Mental Health Awareness week, I can’t help but feel that the message of this movie, about talking about your problems and facing them with help from others is very important.

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Movie review: Seconds Apart (2011)

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Synopsis: Twins Seth and Jonah share a dangerous ability, telepathy. Using their powers they can get people to do things which they later regret

Director: Antonio Negret

Starring: Edmund Entin, Gary Entin and Orlando Jones

Review: Detective Lampkin (Jones) is called in to investigate a series of deaths which seem to always have twins Seth (G Entin) and Jonah (E Entin) at the centre. The twins have a telepathic ability which can force people to do things against their will and causes a number of deaths. It seems as if the twins will continue on their evil path when Jonah meets ‘Eve’ and romance blossoms, although I have to question her movies: he’s a strange outsider while she’s a normal girl who could be part of the popular group. It’s not a normal relationship but then none of the relationships in this film could be deemed normal.

The twins are creepy throughout the movie and their actions go from squirm-worthy to downright evil very quickly. There’s no doubt from the beginning that these are two very disturbed young men with a certain ‘Damien from Omen’ quality about them – they believe it’s their right to act as they do because they have been given a ‘gift’. They act as if there are no consequences and even their teachers and parents are scared of them. For most of the movie you believe their powers to be equal but towards the middle of the film you see imbalances and begin to wonder if these boys could live apart from each other or who would be the first to demise if they were separated. Who holds the power in this relationship? It’s a question which continues to be asked right until the very last scene.

The storyline involving Lampkin seems forced and contrived and frankly the film could have down without dumping ‘issues’ on one of the characters. Contrived personal trauma does not a back story make! In fact it was one thing which annoyed me about the movie and slowed the pacing down as I drifted off when Jones was on screen. Jones is not a charismatic actor and the film would have worked without his story arc. In fact, I think it would have been a stronger film if they had eliminated his character entirely and focussed more on the relationship between the twins and Eve.

The direction is good and shows the different aspects of the twins lives and actions with a good, clean ending. As I’ve said, the acting can be a little uneven and the script is ropy in places but given that this is a good indie movie with an unusual pretence, go check it out!

Movie review: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

 

Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009).jpgSynopsis: Two friends head out to the wilds of Essex for a walking holiday but they meet a bunch of women with an appetite for more than fun.

Director: Phil Claydon

Starring: James Cordon, Matthew Horne, Paul McGann and MyAnna Buring

Review: Apparently writers Stewert Williams and Paul Hupfield did as writers have done for years, they selected random words (and in this case possibly the most click-worthy words) and decided to use them for the basis for a movie.

I won’t lie to you, it’s not in the same league as Hitchcock, but does offer more than a passing nod to the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead trilogy and the Scary Movie franchise. There are a lot of cliches, from the nearly naked, incredibly beautiful foreign students on a field trip to the gormless hero with an unknown legacy, a knight with flashing mobile phone and of course the comic relief provided by Cordon. The scenes are fairly well directed and for a low budget, the scenery and costumes are good. However, there’s lots of choppy editing which can be jarring but given the comedy value, it’s forgiven. For a cast of relative unknowns, everyone puts in a solid performance, although for some, it’s not much of a stretch (I always enjoy Corden but see below).

It would be easy to dismiss this movie but that would be doing it a disservice. Cordon plays the same character he has played in Gavin and Stacy, the beer drinking side-kick with limited brain capacity, Paul McGann hams it up like the best Peter Cushing style as the vicar trying to save his daughter from turning into a vampire. There’s the Buffy-esque ‘Lotte’ played by MyAnna Buring who’s the obligatory virgin/know all who our hero must rescue. And finally Matthew Horne as the likeable, but unlikely hero (again, see his character in Gavin and Stacy).

A quick pointer for any would-be vampires or foreign exchange students deciding to visit the UK: it gets VERY cold here. Short skirts which don’t cover your bum and little bits of flimsy, fluttering material will not keep you warm in the wilds or villages. You may be undead but cover up or you’ll freeze!

It feels like a lot of mates for together to make a film and you’re drawn into the fun the whole cast must have had making this. It’s crude, lewd and very rude but there’s more than a few laughs which make this movie worth watching.

Movie review: My Bloody Valentine (2009)

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Synopsis: A mining community is rocked when a mine collapses and in order to save himself, one of the miners kills six other miners. He wakes up from a coma on Valentine’s Day and the town discovers that he now has a taste for murder as he goes on a killing spree, with one of the only survivors being Tom (Jensen Ackles) the son of the owner of the mine. Ten years after the killings Tom returns to town and reopens the mystery of who the murderer was. Who will survive the swing of the miners pickaxe as the rampage starts again?

Director: Patrick Lussier

Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King & Kerr Smith

Review: I’ll be honest, I only watched this movie because I have a crush on Jensen Ackles (yep, I’m a super Supernatural fan!) but I wasn’t disappointed. The premise of a masked serial killer stalking screaming teens has been done to death (excuse the pun) by a multitude of other and better movies but

However, I think the problem with the movie is that you don’t care for any of the characters. There’s more tell than show as the actions moves along quickly and I really don’t like being told how I’m supposed to feel about the characters or forced attempts at making us care with ham-fisted ‘she’s a mother, love her’ or bad guys suddenly attempting to be good because he’s realised how much he loves his wife. It’s handled poorly by the director but the actors try their best with an uneven script.

The other gripe I have with the movie is that it’s blatantly been made for 3D audiences, with pickaxes flying at the audience. I’m not a huge fan of 3D in movies like this: it doesn’t add anything to the story and when the action is determined by where the blood will spray, I think it loses a certain credibility (see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter where all the action is directed for 3D which makes much of it insensible on a 2D screen).

However, for a fan of Ackles, there’s plenty of they cheeky pout and the ending is well done, if not really a surprise.