In the Tall Grass (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

 

In The Tall Grass Review

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writers: Vincenzo Natali, Stephen King (based on the novella by)
Stars: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson

As much as I love and appreciate time loop films, In the Tall Grass really fails to deliver anything new. When pregnant Becky (Oliveira) and  her brother Cal (Whitted) pull over during a road trip, they hear a young boys (Bruie) cry for help inside a field of tall grass. Naturally,  they enter the field in search of the child only to soon realise something is very wrong with time itself.

As the 2 search for and soon find the child, the plot then starts to unravel and though it gets good it never really gets great.  The limbo is fine but more would have been welcomed.  There are some notable moments and a few dropped balls.

Patrick Wilson has a supporting role and is quite excellent.  The rest of the cast is engaging, could both be dialled up or down a tad.

In short, if you like Time loop films, this is a solid enough thriller to sit and enjoy one time.  Not a must-see but worth the time. Enjoy

Rattlesnake (2019) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

 

Rattlesnake Review

Director: Zak Hilditch
Writer: Zak Hilditch
Stars: Carmen Ejogo, Theo Rossi, Emma Greenwell

During a road trip,  Katrina (Ejogo) and ger daughter Clara (Pratt) end up in the middle of nowhere with a flat.  As Katrina attempts to put on the spare, her daughter is bitten by a rattlesnake while playing in the open field.  Frantically searching for assistance she spots a nearby trailer.  Inside, a woman calmly assures that she can save the child…but at a price.

One is willing to bet this looked really good on paper but just didn’t fully translate. Even after all is said and done,  Rattlesnake probably would have served best as like a 45min short.  It’s a good story, the characters all could use a bit of grit and depth but for what it’s worth, its merely a decent low-budget time killer and although the word may not be great, the story itself could easily warrant new tales.

Take some time or don’t, Rattlesnake is ok but underwhelming

Grade: B-

Before I Wake (2016) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Before I Wake Review

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Stars: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay

Jessie (Bosworth) and Mark (Jane) have decided to foster a child after the unfortunate death of their son Sean.  They take in a young boy by the name of Cody (Tremblay) who is as seemingly normal as a child may seem.  They quickly learn he’s far from average as it turns out when Cody dreams, all his visions take true form in the real world.

After one incident spring’s to life an image of their deceased son, Jessie momentarily obsesses with seeing her child again and again.   Unfortunately, with any good comes the bad and with sweet dreams come nightmares.  Beautiful displays of butterflies are a telling sign that Cody is asleep, black moths fill the void once the nightmare has set.

Of course there’s a backstory and its well worth the mystery of unfolding.  There are a few moments where you may wish they went for more during scenes but overall what was delivered came off well.  The horror element in what is labeled as a fantasy/drama takes centre stage but never to a point where one would seem it a horror tale.  BEFORE I WAKE is exciting, sad, mysterious and well worth the bowl of popcorn.

Take some time to enjoy this title.

Grade: A-

Joker (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Joker

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz

“I just hope my death makes more sense than my life.”

Weltschmerz. Despair. Grief. Desperation. Those are the keywords that came to mind after watching this movie. If you are a superhero film fan and you expect heroic confrontations between this crazy clown and our bats-related superhero in a tight latex suit, you can safely turn around and skip this film. The interpretation of “The Joker” by Jack Nicholson was masterful. He played a mean Joker who was obsessed with money and power. But without a doubt, Heath Ledger’s interpretation is the most legendary. He played Joker’s insanity and psychopathic behaviour in an unparalleled way. An outstanding acting performance. What Joaquin Phoenix does in this film, however, is breathtaking and brilliant at the same time. After “You were never really here” I thought Phoenix belonged to the leading group of excellent actors. After “Joker“, for me anyway, he’s already the front-runner in that group.

I am not easily impressed by a movie. But “Joker” made an immense impression on me. And not because of the violence. By the way, I found the reports of people leaving the cinema prematurely, because it became too intense, grossly exaggerated. Every average action movie today is filled with aggressive scenes full of senseless violence. I was more overwhelmed by a constant uncomfortable feeling while watching this film. A feeling of pity and vicarious shame. For Arthur Fleck, as well as for the fellow citizens he meets in his daily life. For me, the saddest scene was the stand-up comedy moment. You know Arthur’s performance will be completely ridiculous and that his would-be funny performance will backfire in his face. The most significant scene was the one with the over-concerned mother in the subway who shouts at Arthur and tells him to stop intimidating her child. After his hysterical laughing, she turns her back on him anxiously. Pitiful. Confronting. Enough incentive to derail the psyche of this disturbed soul.

Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal. Not only is he extremely psychologically vulnerable. Also physically he looks emaciated and fragile. Little more than skin and bone. It looked as if his rib cage would burst out of his body. And his shoulder blades could be ripping through his skin at any time. Skin like yellow parchment full of cracks. Just like his by antidepressants ravaged morbid mind. Antidepressants that are needed to control his uncontrollable laughter and help him through his measly existence. A hopeless life without understanding and loving feelings. Except toward his mother (Frances Conroy). An old woman who sits all day in her seat. Demented. Fading away. With a daily routine of writing letters to Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), father of Bruce Wayne and future mayor of Gotham, asking if he could help them.

“Joker” is not a relaxing film. It’s depressing to see how such an individual is harassed and spit out by society. Not a day goes by without being scorned, physically abused or treated as a leprosy patient. This downward spiral he’s getting into creates an explosive moment in which he takes matters into his own hands, resulting in a disastrous outcome. The discharge that follows afterward, has been portrayed both frighteningly and magically. That unreal and silly dance in the public toilet is probably a moment of realization that his life is at a tipping point. And without realizing it, he becomes the symbolic force behind a movement against injustices in society. A sort of evil, insane Katniss Everdeen for the outcasts. And although many don’t like to hear this, the number of similarities with our current society is alarmingly high.

Yes, “Joker” is a sort of origin story of Batman’s most infamous archenemy. On the other hand, this could be the portrait of so many others as well. Everyday people who struggle with their personality and fall through the cracks and out of the system at all levels. Individuals who are often driven into a corner and cultivate a destructive hatred toward everything and everyone. And then there’s a day their fuse blows and they resort to actions that aren’t tolerated by modern society. Not that I approve of these actions but I think it’s kind of logical consequence. “Joker” is not part of a superhero universe. This film is more realistic than any psycho-dramatic film. A film that shows how an underdog grows into a monstrous tormentor who preaches chaos and destruction. A numb, sick mind that doesn’t care. The harder you pound him, the louder his laugh. The movie “Joker” helped me understand who that figure is and where he comes from. For me the most impressive film out of the superheroes potpourri that we’ve seen these few last years. And for my part, a well-deserved Oscar statuette for Joaquin Phoenix. He’ll certainly be laughing about it uncontrollably the evening of the award ceremony.

 

Brightburn (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Brightburn Review

Director: David Yarovesky
Writers: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn

“Take.. The.. World. Take the world.”

Superhero-movie-haters unite. Run to a nearby movie theatre to see this movie. Because “Brightburn” is the ultimate anti-superhero-film of all time. The moment I realised which direction it was going, I cursed myself because after seeing “Avengers: Endgame” I’d decided to have a little sabbatical. I was going to avoid movies with characters in tightly fitting latex suits and superhuman powers. But as it became clear that it wasn’t what I expected, my enthusiasm grew all the more. My enthusiasm for films such as “Deadpool” and “Ant-Man” (because of a touch of whimsy and the originality) was effortlessly overtaken by this highly original anti-superhero film. And if one also mixes the superhero genre (of which they are continuously producing sequels and prequels) with my all-time favourite genre horror, it simply can’t go wrong. I am indeed enthusiastic, yes. Extremely enthusiastic!

It all starts as a sort of Superman parody or reboot (another favorite Hollywood term these days). Here too, we meet a young couple who have been trying to have a child for years. Even spicy lingerie doesn’t do wonders because farmer Kyle Bryer (David Denman) (and yes, the location is again a big farm) is rather clumsy, which means that his watch always gets stuck in his wife’s hair. BANG! Before they realise it, some object out of space crashes nearby. Right in their back yard. And as if it’s the most normal thing, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) finds an innocent, sweet little guy in this comet or spacecraft. They adopt him instantly and call him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). All peace and light, you think. Until the boy realises that something is wrong. Especially when he tries to start the lawnmower and suddenly the thing ends up at the neighbours. A few meadows further.

With the well-known figure Superman, the parents didn’t waste any time and told young Superman to keep his growing powers under control and only use it to help humans. In the 70s this fact was acceptable. But after the trillionth superhero movie, that concept really starts to sound boring. And that’s where “Brightburn” starts to deviate substantially. As soon as it seems as if puberty hits Brandon, and no it’s not about hair growth and other side-effects, and he wanders around the farm at night looking for something that seems to call him, it becomes clear that a constructive parent-child conversation is not really useful. When Brandon feels disadvantaged, it’s best to stay away from him. The consequences of a tantrum can be disastrous. You could end up flying into a closet or have a crushed hand as a result. So they are stuck with a teenage son with issues who has superpowers. A “Dennis the Menace” with an attitude. You don’t have to be smart to know what’s going to happen next.

Let’s talk about the horror part. For those who are only used to super-hero films, it will be a shock. For a seasoned horror fanatic, it’s all just ordinary. It’s not terrifying or too bloody. There are some excellent gore effects in it, though. I personally found it simply exciting at certain moments. Exciting as in how the story will continue and end. And they even tried to tackle that part in an original and quirky way. The majority of blockbusters always have such a predictable outcome. In a western, the bad guys always eat dust in the end. A romcom has a happy ending in most cases. And even superheroes on the verge of despair will eventually prevail (such as The Avengers, for example). If you expect this to happen here as well, you’re absolutely wrong. But there’s one thing I’m sure of. The marketing department of Marvel already smells money. I bet they are planning a sequel already with The Avengers trying to beat the unstoppable Brandon.

About the acting, I can be brief and concise. Simply excellent. Especially the mother and son bonding was worked out and portrayed in a proper way. The desperation and motherly love that Elizabeth Banks radiates is simply wonderful to see. And even though Brandon seems incomparably innocent at times, the moment his evil ego pops up, he can conjure up a frightening and impressive facial expression. It’s just a shame he didn’t focus his anger on the annoying class bully as well.

“Brightburn” definitely will end up in my top list this year. The only downside was the duration. Far too short of course. But otherwise, this superhero parody, peppered with SF and horror elements, is simply sublime. The fact this film has a go-against-the-rules attitude and the idea of a superhero who doesn’t care about humanity is a pleasant and refreshing change compared to the commercial one-size-fits-all releases nowadays. Just something as simple as Brandon’s costume. Has anyone ever wondered who actually made the Spiderman suit? Or did Peter Park have a Sewing and knitting diploma? Brandon uses a piece of woolen textile and a bedspread as equipment. Ingenious anyway. As brilliant as the film itself. I keep repeating it. It is hoped that it will stay with this unique film and that they won’t come up with a miserable number of sequels.

The Outsider (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

The Outsider Review

Director: Martin Zandvliet
Writer: Andrew Baldwin
Stars: Jared Leto, Tadanobu Asano, Kippei Shîna

“When you dishonor your boss and you want to show remorse, you give your finger. It’s called otoshimae. I see you’ve got all your fingers.”

Even though I don’t have any affinity with Japanese culture as such and mostly ignore Asian films, I couldn’t resist giving “The Outsider” a chance. Not only because of the fact that Jared Leto is playing in it (a colorful actor who reminds me of Johnny Depp and because of his role as The Joker in “Suicide Squad” can join the club of quirky Hollywood actors), but also because of the central theme of the Yakuza families. I wondered if this could be another successful Netflix original.

I don’t know much about Japanese culture. Only the term Yakuza is known to me. You can see it as the Japanese version of the Italian Mafia. The only difference with their Italian counterparts is that the Yakuza members are an epitome of inner calmness and adopt an intimidating attitude by using ice-cold, angry looks and a threatening, non-loud tone during their conversations. Quite different from the Italian mafia members, who usually want to make an impression by shouting and intense gesticulating while making their point, after which a rival gets a concrete pedestal and they dump him in some Italian river. So I prepared myself for a Japanese-colored “Godfather“-like movie.

The first thing you could criticize is the pace of the film. “The Outsider” is extremely slow at times, indeed. But doesn’t that suite the entire Japan concept? After all, members of the Yakuza families themselves use a certain pace in their conversations by using impressive silences between sentences. On the one hand to show respect. On the other hand maybe also to increase the impact of used words. Have you ever seen a Geisha passing by? They aren’t exactly a paragon of speed. And to be honest, if this movie had lasted an extra hour, I wouldn’t have minded that either. And that’s because of the other positivities you can find in “The Outsider”.

First of all, I thought the acting of the entire cast was marvelous on all fronts. The mix of authentic Japanese who speak their own language for most of the film instead of constantly using broken, bad-sounding English and the acting of Jared Leto was simply stunning. How Nick Lowell ended up in an Osaka prison, remained a mystery to me. He’s the only English-speaking prisoner and is surrounded by mainly Yakuza gang members. Rescuing the Yakuza Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano) from a perilous, life-threatening situation gives him a ticket to freedom. And that’s when he chooses to gradually integrate into the Yakuza family. Not an easy task since the members of this Yakuza family aren’t really hospitable and are rather resentful towards white strangers (a Gaijin). However, I wonder if, in reality, a Westerner would get a chance to be included in such a Yakuza-family. I doubt it.

The used cinematography in “The Outsider” was also generally sublime. Maybe a little too dark at certain moments, such as the prison scenes, for example. But in general, the setting in this post-war Japan is really impressive. A mysterious metropolis with dark, narrow alleys, clubs where Sumo wrestlers compete and smoky night clubs. The only thing that tries to break through this darkness is the sometimes bright neon lights.

Expect some violent scenes too. You can’t do without it in a gangster movie, I guess. There are quite a few victims. Lots of gunshots and knives carving around. Even a self-mutilation scene where a few fingers are sacrificed isn’t missing.

My limited knowledge of Asian film material and Japanese customs made sure everything came across as fairly authentic to me. Others, who immersed themselves in this matter, may have noticed imperfections. And perhaps the content has all been done before. I even read somewhere that there was a lot of fuss about casting Jared Leto. And the term “whitewashing” came up. Didn’t we have the same discussion about Matt Damon’s contribution to “The Great Wall“? By the way, I thought Jared Leto was suitable for this role as the silent (probably because he doesn’t speak the language), cold-blooded and emotionless Nick. He reminded me a bit of Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin“. Only the speed with which he was accepted in the Shiromatsu Yakuza clan, seemed greatly exaggerated. And the emotional relationship between Nick and Miyu (Shioli Kutsuna) felt like a mandatory item.

But just as I scoured the internet for information about “The Zodiac Killer” after watching the movie “Zodiac,” I couldn’t resist consulting Wikipedia about the Yakuza phenomenon. That means this film also left an impression. If slow crime movies about the Mafia interest you, and this in a Japanese environment, then I can definitely recommend this movie to you.

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