Life has a way of springing things on you without warning. Life is kinda rude like that. Such an occurrence happened recently causing my absence last week and resulting in this week being comprised only of the short and sweet reviews normally found at the bottom of my posts. Hey, I have a quota to fill.
Midnight Special – A young boy with strange powers is worshiped by a cult, hunted by the government, and all his parents want to do is what’s best for him. We’re dropped into the middle of this mystery while the boy and his father are on the run across the country. This metaphor for sacrificing so that your child can have a better future has some good sci-fi moments but is ultimately a little too light on pay off for me. The roadtrip hiding from the government to save a child was giving me flashbacks to the 1985 movie D.A.R.Y.L. Anyone else see that one? Only me? Ok.
Catfish – A “documentary” of questionable validity detailing a young man’s internet relationship with a girl who uses photos of others and entire dummy accounts to hide her true identity. This may have been more novel in 2010 when it was released but concept that people on the internet are not who they claim to be is, or should be, pretty well accepted nowadays. The only really affecting moments come late in the film when there is a bittersweet twinge as the real person behind the fake accounts expresses the idea that she just wanted to reach out and be connected but chose to do it in an inappropriate way. People are weird.
Batkid Begins – A chronicle of all the effort that went into make young boy’s wish come true. A young leukemia patient wanted to be Batman. The Make A Wish Foundation turned the city into Gotham for a day and with an army of volunteers, actors, organizers, and audience members, allowed the boy to defeat villains and save the city. A fun watch if you want your heart warmed by seeing so many people rally behind a cause.
The Lion in Winter (1968) – King Henry II, his estranged wife Eleanor, and their three sons plot and scheme at a holiday gathering to decide who will inherit the throne. Overall a little to dry for my tastes, partially due simply to the times in which it was made, this movie does feature some strong performances. With the likes of Peter O’Toole. Katharine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins, I appreciate the moments of engaging drama and acting even if the whole is overall a bit dull.
Suspiria – A ballet school holds dark secrets in this Italian horror movie from Dario Argento. Very mixed feelings about this one. The music is strange to the point of being distracting, the lighting choices are almost abstract and interesting, and the camera work expertly creates tension and dread. The plot is perfunctory and I was checking out whenever we were focused on it. The movie shines in the third act when the focus is really on the scares.
Invaders from Mars (1986) – Sci-fi horror for kids! When UFO lands near a young boy’s home all the adults start being taken over by alien hosts and the boy, with the military, must fight back against the alien invaders. I probably would have really enjoyed this one back in the early 90’s because it is aimed squarely at the ten year old crowd. As an adult I think the puppets and creature effects by Stan Winston are super cool and I can recognize horror tropes sanitized for a younger audience, but the style of acting and writing is most definitely for children only.
The Woman in Black –
Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe Finds himself working in an old abandoned estate in a quiet English town just after the turn of the 20th century. There he is haunted by an angry spirit that demands the lives of children. Usually hurting children is a taboo in movies, so if you’re not prepared to see some frightening images of children committing suicide, better skip this one. Radcliffe gives a good albeit one note performance. The true stand out of this spooky film are it’s settings and visuals. From the musty mansion to the oppressive fog the movie conveys the skin crawling fear of be alone in the dark only achieved by the best ghost stories. Add on a quality ending and you have something worth seeing.
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death – A woman and a group of children take refuge in the haunted mansion during the bombings of London during WWII. There the titular spirit continues to claim the lives of the children. This forced sequel’s attempt to introduce new “rules” for how the ghost operates only muddies things. This time around we still have a good haunting atmosphere but care less for the characters ultimately making it feel hollow. Like a carnival’s haunted house, there may be a good scare occasionally but if look closer there’s nothing much behind the scenes.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – Instead of a frat moving in next door to Seth Rogen it’s a sorority lead by Chloë Grace Moretz. Lather, rinse, repeat. This movie suffers from the common problem many sequels do, especially comedies. The first time around the situation was comedic style was novel. This time it’s a retread and that lowers the laugh count. That said, this one is still pretty funny, Zac Efron is a hilarious caricature, Moretz is good as always, and there is a halfway decent feminist message behind all the weed jokes.
Space Camp – A group of kids at and their instructor at space camp are accidentally launched into space and must work together to get back home safe. Gravity this is not. This isn’t even the DVD box to Gravity. Each character has their one trait that will be important, the acting is broader than that side of a barn nobody can hit, and the whole problem starts when a friendly robot talking to the NASA computer literally requests “put Max in space.” To its credit there are some decent space visuals and those might really capture a child’s imagination, but the adults in the room are in for a snooze fest.
Lazer Team – In this feature length film from Rooster Teeth, the creators of Red vs. Blue, a group of below average joes stumble across alien technology that forces them into being the champions of Earth in defense against an incoming threat. I wanted to like this movie as I’m big fan of Rooster Teeth, but I think these guys work better in short form sketches and episodic content. When their comedy and style was stretched over an entire movie it felt awfully thin. This crowd funded film was made cheaply and that low budget can be felt in nearly every frame from costumes to effects to sets. Rooster Teeth as made some great stuff, but this isn’t among it.
The 5th Wave – Chloë Grace Moretz must find her little brother in a post apocalyptic fight for survival when an alien invasion wipes out much of the population including her parents. What’s worse, that aliens can infect human hosts creating paranoia. It’s easier to spot infected children than it is infected adults though, creating deep distrust of any adult you see. That’s when I realized this was based on a YA novel and it goes on to hit well worn tropes. All the important characters are young adults, the established authority is evil, there is a conspiracy, love conquers all, and the end promises more conflict to come. It’s not a bad movie, it’s fine, it’s just very much by the numbers.