Tag Archives: Samantha Isler

Dig Two Graves (2014) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

Dig Two Graves

Director: Hunter Adams
Writers: Hunter Adams (story), Hunter Adams
Stars: Ted Levine, Samantha Isler, Danny Goldring

Plot: After her brother’s tragic death a young girl meets three men who claim they can bring her brother back to life.
IMDB Score: 5.7

Why I Watched it: This is another one I found on Netflix, trailer looked not bad and I’m a huge fan of Ted Levine so I gave it a go.

Random Thoughts: This film looked and sounded like it was going to be either a knock off of Pet Cemetery or maybe even Pumpkinhead, even the plot makes it sounds like the whole film is bringing someone back from the dead and it’s not.  The other big thing is even though on Netflix it’s in the horror section it’s not a horror film by any means, it’s a thriller for sure but has a lot of drama to it.  This is not a gore fest or about people coming back from the dead.

What I Liked: This one is going to be tricky to review cause I don’t want to give too much away, this film really surprised me cause it wasn’t what I expected this is a very deep and thoughtful film.  The other thing to bring up it’s a period piece in away as it’s set in the 70′s which really doesn’t do much to the story but there’s no cell phones or internet to check things out.  The film setting is rural out in the back woods.  The film starts out with a brother and sister going to jump from a mountain, the sister doesn’t jump the brother does and his body isn’t found.  Now that’s not a spoiler it’s at the beginning and the film’s plot states it.  Oddly it’s not what the film is about that act sets up the film but the film is a lot deeper and I’ll say this much, there is revenge but this is about sins from the past.

The film kind of reveals itself cause we don’t know what’s really going on and really we don’t know what this film is yet. We get a flashback at the beginning setting up what two characters did in the past but at first there’s no connection to the brother dying, but slowly the film reveals what it’s really about and we learn this through flashbacks. The standout for me is Ted Levine, he’s very good here and really carries the film, he’s a very complex character but at his centre a man who’s gone through a lot and is trying to do the right thing and has come to terms with life being grey and not black and white.  The relationship he has with his granddaughter is very sweet and loving and something we don’t see a lot in films, well except kid films.  Samantha Isler is also good as the granddaughter, both are very likeable. I won’t go into spoilers but be warned this is a very dark and really at the end a sad film.

What I didn’t like: This is a small budget film and it shows at times, the film is under 90 minutes and yes I know I always complain about long films but this film needed about ten minutes more as we get some cuts from scene to scene that feels like something’s missing, there’s a couple of things we needed to learn more about to help elevate the story.  I wouldn’t call them plot holes but there’s a least two main points that we have to guess on. Also this film has been said to have supernatural elements, I would argue against that, there are gypsies in the film and they do a couple of things that might be supernatural and might not.  This isn’t a witch movie I’ll say that. The plot does get a few bit muddled and again if the film was longer we might have learned more one way of another.

Final Thoughts: This is a hidden gem for me, I really enjoyed it, it’s a small film but I thought the story is well told and it does have weight to it and it’s about something.  It’s not a mindless horror film for sure.

Rating: 7/10

Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Director: Matt Ross
Writer: Matt Ross
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler

Matt Ross has created something quite special in what is just his fourth film in the directors chair. The film follows the eccentric Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his young children as they live their uniquely regimented, back to basics, life of solitude in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Ben is soon forced to re-enter the wider world with his group of ragtag, commando rug-rats when a personal tragedy befalls them.

The film opens to the idyllic, beautiful, lush environments of the aforementioned wooded region and focuses in on a deer being closely tracked by the Cash clan. The animal is soon taken down in brutally impressive fashion by Bodevan ‘Bo’ Cash (George McKay); the oldest son of six children. A proud Ben makes his way across the stream to his son, declaring that “today the boy is dead, and in his place is a man”. This early scene and also the accompanying little, quick fire, montage showing the children doing their chores, some of which includes; deboning the deer carcass, fetching water and lighting a fire in the more traditional manner, perfectly illustrates the array of survivalist skills that’s been drummed into them and the off the grid, Lord of the Flies style existence they live.

Ben and his wife Leslie had decided to remove themselves and their growing young family from the increasingly chaotic, capitalist obsessed modern society, spurning the conventional education system for a home schooled program and passing on their strong humanitarian centred and socialist beliefs. They even celebrate everybody’s favourite humanitarian Noam Chomsky (I hadn’t heard of him before this if I’m honest) instead of Christmas. Despite some his parental faults of which there is more than a few, you certainly can’t argue with Ben’s teaching skills or the education his children have. He’s clearly a well educated man and even his youngest kids are able to eloquently discuss politics, which at times includes the intricacies of Fascism and Marxism, the human anatomy and various languages. Their fitness too is incredible, as the early part of the film goes out its way to highlight, with the family going for long runs, crazy burpee heavy, calisthenic exercises and a rock climbing session, the day after the kids learn their mother has died, up a sheer cliff face which nearly ends in disaster for Rellian.

Whilst Ben is clearly at home in this lifestyle, it’s pretty clear that some of his kids yearn for the outside world, particularly Bo and Rellian. This small chink of discontent is further exacerbated when Ben receives some heartbreaking news about Leslie, whilst in the middle of a trip into town. Having been away from her family for a number of months, battling bi-polar depression, she takes her own life in somewhat brutal circumstances, slitting her wrists. This moment provides the catalyst for the films story and after some dithering following a cold and threatening call with Jack, his father-in-law, both he and the children decide to go on a road trip come ‘mission’ down to New Mexico to attend their mothers funeral and also attempt to put the breaks on her burial. Leslie, you see, had left a will stating that as a believer in the Buddhist philosophy, she wanted to be cremated and that her ashes be flushed down a toilet.

The road trip portion of this film is perhaps my favourite part. There’s just so many genuinely funny, quotable moments and a fair share of poignant, emotional ones flung in for good measure. Matt Ross’ rather unsubtle attempts at social commentary, particularly prevalent at the beginning of the trip, when the kids who’re not used to the outside world, find themselves questioning the strange, new sights around them was pretty well implemented. It also provided much some decent laughs as the dumbfounded children asked their father if everyone was ill and why they were so “fat like hippos”. There was also a truly hilarious moment where Ben, always open, honest and forthright with his children, explained the meaning of rape, sexual intercourse and why a man would put his penis into a vagina to his 7 year old son after a series of quick-fire questions from the ever inquisitive young chap. But my personal favourites for sheer awkwardness and humour were Bo’s interaction with the young woman at the trailer park and Ben’s highly contrasting parenting style with his sister-in-law causing an argument over dinner.

I now understand why Viggo Mortensen got his Oscar nomination for best leading actor. He is phenomenally good in this film. He perfectly encapsulates all the little eccentric, oddities of Ben Cash’s personality, adds healthy dashes of sarcasm and humour to the character and puts in a fabulous performance. I think I could fill a review with his lines in this alone. “It’s just a penis, every man has one” is in the top three though. George McKay is a close second as the socially awkward, but academically gifted, Bodevan. There’s some fantastic moments with his character as he torments himself with the desire to leave and the plethora of acceptance letters to most of the US top colleges. He too has a standout line, where he passionately berates his dads parenting style. The rest of the actors and actresses that portrayed the children were all fantastic too. Their relationships and interactions were extremely well written and felt genuine.  If I was to pick the best of the rest then I’d have to go with a two way tie between Samantha Isler and Nicholas Hamilton as Kielyr and Rellian respectively.

The funeral doesn’t go quite to plan when Ben who’s wearing his old, painfully dated, red wedding suit, gatecrashes what is in his mind a ‘farce’, reading out Leslie’s will with an air of nonchalance and offending his father-in-law to the extent that he is removed. Ben then goes through an emotional rollercoaster almost losing his daughter, Vespyr after she falls from her grandparents roof in a reckless attempt, instigated by him, to ‘rescue’ Rellian. This causes him to have something of an epiphany, leading with him deciding to leave the children with their grandparents after earlier being threatened with losing custody and child abuse charges by Jack. He soon departs on his own after an emotional farewell, before shaving, sitting at a campfire alone, and then in a mini twist, discovering the children have snuck on board and decided to stick by him. They all decide to fulfill their mothers dying wishes and so they dig up her newly filled grave, take her away and finally lay her to rest in a traditional pyre. These final moments are particularly poignant as the children who’d been used a pawns up until that point are finally reunited with their mother.

This is honestly one of the better films I’ve seen in the last year and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it. The story is simplistic at heart, it’s essentially a fattened up road trip film, but Matt Ross ekes out some brilliant acting performances from a majority young cast, allied with great writing and dialogue, all of which is framed with some lovely visuals and a soaring, at times emotionally on point score. The cool little song sessions the family sparked into on two occasions and the way it blended into the score was quite neatly done too. It’s also has some great social commentary on the ills of today’s consumerist obsessed society and even now I’m not truly sure whether Ben Cash is the best parent in the world or committing borderline child abuse. Overall though, just a damn good film.