Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Visit (2015)
M. Night Shyamalan attempts a comeback after four consecutive box-office flops.
Well, that was weird.
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamaian initially made impressive films, "The Sixth Sense" (1999) being his most successful. His following films "Unbreakable" (2000), "Signs" (2002) and "The Village" (2004), also got a bang for their buck. The following four films he directed after "The Village" bombed both with his fans and at the box office, with "The Happening" (2008) barely making back it's money. Many entertainment pundits predicted this was the end of his film career.
Now Mr. Shyamalan is trying to make himself relevant to Hollywood again. His latest film, "The Visit," isn't his best film, but it's also not so bad either. It's also his cheapest film to date, not counting the first two films he directed before "The Sixth Sense," made for a mere five million bucks. Hopefully this will leave him more room to at least break even, unlike his more expensive flops.
The film consists of a documentary two children, a 15-year-old girl and an 13-year-old boy, decide to make of their visit to their grandparents and the premise is that we're watching their product, similar to the "Paranormal Activity" franchise, which, by the way, is produced by the same production company, Blumhouse Productions. It starts with a single mother in her mid-30s (Kathryn Hahn) who reveals to her daughter filming her that she ran away from home fifteen years earlier after a falling-out with her parents and that she cut off all communication with them. She doesn't say what led to her leaving them, but also tells her that her parents looked her up on the Internet and have invited their grandchildren to come spend a week with them at their Pennsylvania farmhouse. Reluctantly, the mother sends her two kids off hoping to build bridges with her estranged family.
The children consist of teen daughter Becca and her younger brother Tyler, played respectively by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, both fresh out of Australia. Becca is a high-school freshman and Tyler is an aspiring rapper. Both are greeted warmly by their grandparents who meet them at the train station. Their grandfather is referred to as PopPop (Scotland's Peter McRobbie) and their grandmother as Nana (Deanna Dunagan). Upon their arrival the children bring their own DSLR cameras to continue their documentary, as well as their laptop, which they use to keep in contact with their mother via Skype. The grandparents appear to come off as nice, but also require the grandchildren to observe one ground rule: they need to be in bed by 9:30pm. A minor inconvenience, but the children grudgingly agree.
On their first night, strange things already start to happen. Becca wakes up to go down to the kitchen to get something to eat. She brings her laptop equipped with a camera hoping to document more useful things for their film, only to find Nana walking across the hallway and throwing up on the floor. That's the first of many strange things surrounding their grandmother. Their grandfather isn't any better. One time he takes his grandkids to their mother's childhood school, only to confront an innocent passer-by across the street whom he wrongly accuses of spying on them. Both grandparents gradually engage in behaviors that come off as very strange and worrisome to the grandkids at first, but then become more menacing and threatening. There are plenty of "what the hell" moments, as well as moments that will have you shaking your head, one of them being when Nana puts Becca in an awkward situation by requiring her to climb into an oven to clean it. And of course, what's a horror film without a few cliché jump scares? The film also has it's funny moments, Tyler especially is a riot. At times when Becca tries to include Nana in their documentary, she tries to find out from her what happened that lead to their mother leaving them, only for Nana to go into a conniption fit, prompting Becca to cut the interview short. Unbeknownst to the children, the grandparents have a story that will eventually lead to them fighting to survive their weeklong stay.
While I've seen better films made by Mr. Shyamalan, "The Visit" is a fairly good effort for him seeking redemption from people who have all but written him off. There might be some hard-core fans that may be disappointed in the sense that this film is not like any of his earlier more successful work. Some may be disappointed that this is just another "found footage" film. This is a movie with a twist that will catch you off guard.
One thing is certain. After watching "The Visit," you'll never feel the same way about the board game Yahtzee again.
December 25 (2012)
You only need 60 seconds to make your point!
Saw "December 25" at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival as part of the "Femme Factor" shorts program. If only making a short like this was that easy!
The premise of "December 25" consists of words being typed on a computer screen and nothing else. It is of sentences being typed, then the cursor erases it and corrects the sentences. It's a Christmas letter being typed by a daughter addressed to her father. The letter starts out funny and heartwarming, but then has a shocking ending.
Although "December 25" is only a minute long, the message from this short was very strong and powerful. This short will leave lots of audiences thinking and will probably stir debate over how much of a message can you really deliver in only a minute.
If a shorts program at your local film festival is playing this film, I strongly urge you to see it.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Elizabeth Olsen gives Oscar-worthy performance about life after living with a cult.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is a story about a young woman named Martha (played beautifully by Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the Olsen Twins) who tries to readjust to life after spending two years with a cult. She decides to flee after witnessing a horrible incident. She reluctantly contacts her older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) 300 miles away for her to pick her up despite not being in contact with her all this time. Lucy, who is newly married and is planning on raising a family, decides to take her under her wing, much to the dismay of her new husband Ted (Hugh Dancy).
Throughout the film, Martha goes through flashbacks of her time with the cult which gives us viewers exactly what her experience was like starting with the cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) giving her the name "Marcy May". During her time she works in the kitchen, does housework and takes part in activities such as skinny dipping with her fellow cult members in a nearby waterfall. She also (and many other female members as well) is subjected to sexual abuse and brainwashing. When food or money gets short, they also engage in home invasions. At one point when she takes a call for the cult, she gives her name as "Marlene".
Her attempt to adjust to living a normal life while living with Lucy and Ted does not go well. Still brainwashed, Martha refuses to tell her sister where she's been when asked and engages in bizarre behaviors upsetting the couple. Tensions between Martha and the couple are raised when it doesn't look like she has any intentions of moving out and supporting herself anytime soon.
Elizabeth Olsen gives a performance as Martha/Marcy May so well she is worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Not bad, but doesn't look anything like 1988.
Saw "Paranormal Activity 3" at a special Hollywood premiere at the ArcLight. I also had the honor of seeing Katie Featherston signing autographs for us fans waiting patiently to see it. Unfortunately, I left my Droid smart phone in the car because it was my understanding we would be wanded for recording devices. That didn't happen and many people had their camera phones with them. I would have loved to get my pic taken with Katie. Oh well.
Anyway, back to the movie. "Paranormal Activity 3" is a prequel to the first two movies. The movie starts in 2005 with Katie getting together with her younger sister Kristi at her house and both come across some old VHS tapes of them taken in 1988 when they were children left behind by their deceased grandmother. They watch a tape and that is the premise of the film.
The overriding glaring error in this film is that the entire 1988 portion of the film was shot in HD in 1:85:1 or 16 x 8 ratio which caused me to ask the question "oh really?" If my memory is correct, HD video in that ratio did not exist. The film would have been more realistic had the picture quality looked more like VHS with the ratio in 1:33:1 or 4x3. The father, Dennis, works as a wedding videographer and he has a linear editing system consisting of two 4x3 monitors and VHS tape similar to the editing system I used when I took video production classes in college in the early 1990s so the film gets kudos for that.
The film starts with young Katie celebrating her birthday with her little sister Kristi looking on. As the story progresses, we discover that Kristi has an imaginary friend named Toby. When it's time for the girls to go to bed, Kristi gets up, walks toward the camera (yes, just like the first two movies, this family has camcorders set up around the house recording their life) and starts talking to her imaginary friend. Meanwhile, Dennis and his wife Julie decide to make love while the camera is rolling. Just as things start to get hot, an earthquake strikes. As Dennis and Julie run out of their room to check on the kids, crushed pieces of plaster fall from the ceiling. When the plaster lands, it appears to hit something invisible, the first sign that there is a spirit in their midst. Throughout the film, things escalate as Kristi's imaginary friend starts taking things to higher levels causing her older sister Katie great worry and concerning Dennis as the paranormal happenings are all caught on tape.
The first "Paranormal Activity" film had a great premise in which a couple liked to record their life on tape. Problem with making sequels with a story like this is you get every family recording their lives on tape and so you start to wonder why is it that every generation of this family likes documenting every move they make? Another thing I found tedious is that like the first two movies (and practically most clichéd horror films), this film contained quite a bit of "scare scenes" that makes you jump. This film had a few legitimate scares but had one that was so predictable, I didn't even budge in my seat when it happened.
With every subsequent sequel having more or less the same premise, you start to wonder when this story is getting old.
The Woman (2011)
Could have been good, but very misogynist.
Saw a special showing of this film at the Laemmle Sunset 5 theater in West Hollywood with the film's cast and crew. This could have been a good movie except the film's misogyny was too much of a distraction for me to enjoy it.
The movie is about a lawyer who comes across a savage woman during a hunting trip who apparently has been living in the wild for who knows how long. During his second outing, he decides to capture her and tie her up in the cellar at his home in an attempt to "civilize" her. The film does not focus on her too much but instead focuses on the creepy lawyer who is also a husband and father with a wife, two daughters and an equally creepy teen son. The wife and two daughters are not at all happy about the husband/father's experiment. The husband is also physically and emotionally abusive with his wife whenever she protests what he's doing. Both the lawyer and his son also go as far as to take indecent liberties with the captured woman and all this eventually comes to a head. The older daughter's geometry teacher suspects there is something wrong as the older daughter has been missing classes and extracurricular practices.
There were a couple of characters that were not done any justice by this film and the ending was such that I would not recommend it. Plus I also would not recommend this film to anybody who has been a victim of domestic violence as the sick husband is very brutal to his wife.
Bad Santa (2003)
Lots of laughs, not for everyone especially children.
"Bad Santa" consisted of an alcoholic, foul-mouthed, middle-aged con man playing Santa at shopping malls during the holidays (and other holiday characters year-round, like the Easter Bunny). He is also partnered with a dwarf who plays his elf (have no idea what his partner does during Easter).
When they are off the clock at night, both men rob whatever store they work at blind and take off looking for the next store/victim.
At one point during their shenanigans, "Santa" runs into an introverted eight-year-old boy who eventually teaches "Santa" the true meaning of Christmas.
The film does have tons of funny moments, the audience I was with seemed to like it, as they and myself laughed many times. Although this film was released in time for the holidays, this film is not for children. "Bad Santa" only appeals to those (myself included) who have no use for Christmas. Not everyone will appreciate the film, as some might consider scenes where a drunken Santa collapses on the job in front of children or one scene where Santa is cursing out a kid and his mother offensive.
If you can put aside the digs this film takes at the holiday season, you'll love "Bad Santa"
Right at Your Door (2006)
A preview of what could happen when the unthinkable occurs.
Saw this film at the L.A. Film Festival in Westwood.
Ever since 9/11, the threat of a possible dirty bomb attack is all too real. One reason some people are not worried about that is that it hasn't happened - yet. "Right At Your Door" shows what could happen should such an attack occur in Los Angeles.
The film focused on an married couple named Lexi (Mary McCormack) and Brad (Rory Cochrane). Lexi heads off to work downtown while Brad takes care of the house. As he is brushing his teeth, the first news reports of dirty bomb explosions in downtown L.A. are announced on the radio. Brad realizes that Lexi was headed downtown and heads out in his SUV in an unsuccessful attempt to find her. After being confronted by a slew of police road blocks, Brad gives up and returns home. Realizing the danger of the chemical attack, Brad reluctantly duct tapes his house in an effort to keep the radiation out. Shortly after sealing the last door, Lexi shows up, obviously contaminated by the chemical attack, putting Brad in the heartbreaking situation of not letting her in out of fear of bringing radiation in the house. Brad and Lexi wait in the hopes that someone with medicine would arrive, but help seems not to be on its way.
"Right At Your Door" graphically demonstrates one likely reaction and result of a dirty bomb attack and the limits government can do in aiding masses of people sick or dying in the event of such an attack. The story also tests the love between the couple and leaves questions as to whether anything you hear from your radio or your government can even be trusted in a time of crisis.
After the film, Writer/Director Chris Gorak took questions from the audience and even Mary McCormack herself made a surprise appearance! She took questions as well. According to Mr. Gorak, "Right At Your Door" was made for "far less than a million dollars" and it showed as 99% of the film was shot inside a house, but it in no way diminished the film's strong message.
Although Lions Gate has paid $3 million for distribution rights, no one asked when the film will be in wide release.
Kicks butt for a million bucks!
Saw this film at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Festival in Tempe, Arizona last night. This is the first film that I have seen from the "Project Greenlight" series. Since the film was made for only a million bucks, I expected "Feast" to be loaded with lots of things that would show that it was shot on a low budget. Well, there wasn't any CGI special effects and 99% of this film was shot inside the bar, but other than that, I didn't feel anything else was compromised that would affect the quality of the film. In fact, this film kicks more butt than most multi-million dollar horror and sci-fi flicks! "Feast" takes place inside a bar in the middle of the California desert. At one moment, a bloodied man shows up with a dead creature in his hand. He says there are four of them, he doesn't know what they are or where they came from, except that they devour and kill anybody they see. Within minutes, the creatures suddenly show up, the carnage begins and all hell breaks loose.
What I liked most about this film was the comical intros for all the lead characters: "hero", "loser", "expects nothing in life" etc.
Director John Gulager and one of the writers, Marcus Dunstan, chatted with the audience after the screening. According to John, the film was scheduled for a January 2006 release. Unfortunately, the turmoil at the film's distributors has put "Feast" on the shelf at least for now. Hopefully, something could be done to get this film out to the public, word of mouth is already out and "Feast" stands to make millions at the box office.
The Dark Hours (2005)
Lead protagonist hard to emphasize with.
Saw this film at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Festival in Tempe, Arizona over the weekend. This film is about an angry Nurse Ratched-like psychiatrist in which she and her husband and younger sister are taken hostage at gunpoint at their winter cottage by one of her former patients in which he accuses her of conducting unethical experiments on him. The family is put through physical and psychological abuse by the captor and his young inferior follower. However, not everything is as it seems ...
The film follows the tradition of Roman Polanski psychological horror. It is also an indictment against corrupt professionals in the mental health field, as the psychiatrist is not a sympathetic character, which led this viewer to take sides with the hostage takers. Since the former patient is clearly the real victim here, it was impossible to feel any empathy for both the psychiatrist and her family.
The performances, especially by Aiden Devine as the patient, were excellent, however don't see this film with the expectation that you'll be rooting for the good guys.
The Cave (2005)
Standard Hollywood cliché horror.
Thank heaven I only saw it as a free preview, I would have been plenty angry if I had paid to see it. This film was a waste of time, a rip-off of "Alien", "Mimic" and "The Relic". The mini-subplot where Tyler is hitting on Catherine early in the film right there was a sign that I would be better off if I had walked out of the theater at that point. The characters were such jerks that even if something bad happened to them, I wouldn't feel any pity. The action sequences were so fast and the cinematography was so dark, it was impossible to see what was happening. The film insults us at the end by suggesting that a sequel is in the works. Save your money and don't contribute to that possibility.