[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 18 – The Perfection (2018)

Director: Richard Shepard

Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman

Screenplay: Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder

90 mins. Rated TV-MA.

 

I had virtually no knowledge of the plot of The Perfection before viewing it. It was a benefit, so I’m going to be very surface-level in my description.

The Perfection revolves around famed cellist Charlotte (Allison Williams, Get Out, TV’s Girls), who has taken some time away from her talent to care for her dying mother, as she goes to Shanghai to see the charismatic and gifted music teacher Anton (Steven Weber, The Shining, TV’s 13 Reasons Why). There, she meets Lizzie (Logan Browning, Bratz, TV’s Dear White People) and the two end up having sex in Lizzie’s hotel room. The next day, Charlotte joins Lizzie on a vacation through China but as they begin their journey, it seems that things are not as they appear, and Charlotte and Lizzie find everything they know falling off the rails in a series of escalating horrors. I’ll leave it at that.

This movie is bonkers in all the right ways. My best advice is to not try to pick it apart and guess where it’s going because I don’t think you’ll be able to. It’s best just to take the mental mind fuck and roll with it. Director Richard Shepard (The Matador, Don Hemingway) crafts a tightly-packed and constantly evolving horror/thriller that kept me guessing the whole time. This film, like any good film or onion, has a lot of layers, and peeling them away was a great movie experience.

Allison Williams and Logan Browning are both great in the movie. Williams is more the lead than Browning but each is given plenty of opportunity to shine. Their performances as each layer is peeled away in the narrative was exhilarating to watch, and their chemistry was sizzling. Both actresses are steamy as hell whenever they appear onscreen together, my TV practically fogged up.

Not all the surprises worked as well as I’d have liked, but they were definitely unexpected and made me want to watch the film again, and though it doesn’t have the same level of interest on the second viewing, it’s still a damn fine mystery for the viewers.

The Perfection is an arty horror/thriller with plenty of surprises in store as long as you’re paying close enough attention. I really liked it on first viewing but it isn’t, for me, as strong once you know the whole mystery. Led by two amazing actresses and anchored by another standout supporting role from the criminally underrated Steven Weber, The Perfection is damn fun and damn shocking. Not a perfect film (almost no film is, right), but good enough to warrant your attention.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 16 – The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

Director: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnierzka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes

Cast: Birgit Minichmayr, Claude Duhamel, Jilon VanOver, Fatma Mohamed, Niharika Singh

Screenplay: Roberto Bolesto, Elif Domanic, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes, Silvia Wolkan

117 mins. Rated R for disturbing and violent content, bloody images, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language.

 

I’m seriously not doing this on purpose, but today we’re talking about yet another horror anthology film.

The Field Guide to Evil features eight stories from nine directors from different parts of the world. The Sinful Women of Hollfall is about monsters born of a strong guilt. Haunted by Al Karisi, the Childbirth Djinn tells the story of a demon that steals children and takes on the form of animals and old women. The Kindler and the Virgin is about a man who consumes human hearts to gain knowledge. Beware the Melonheads features violent cannibals reminiscent of The Hills Have Eyes. What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan? is a Christmas reversal about a demon taken captive. Palace of Horrors features a story of a man searching for curiosities to serve in a circus. A Nocturnal Breath is another spiritual possession tale. The Cobblers’ Lot is an adaptation of a classic story of two brothers competing for a woman’s love.

So let’s be clear here. These are all quite well made technically. I just didn’t like any of them. There’s not a single one that I think is great or even rewatchable. The best one, to me, is Palace of Horrors because it feels like it is heading somewhere magnificent before heading off the rails. My biggest qualm of each of these stories is relatively the same. Each story seemingly sets itself up well, they all look terrific, and then each one feels like it’s heading somewhere cool, and then they all fail to end on a high note. Each ending sours the entire story.

Unfortunately, The Field Guide to Evil is a complete flop, and I really wanted to love this one. I love the worldwide flavor that an anthology gives, but this one doesn’t do it for me. I really wanted it to be good. I really hoped it would be, but it doesn’t work.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

The Biggest Little Farm (2018)

Director: John Chester

Cast: John Chester, Molly Chester

Screenplay: John Chester, Mark Monroe

91 mins. Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

 

The Biggest Little Farm is a documentary about John and Molly Chester, husband and wife who, along with their dog Todd, move onto 200 acres with an attempt to create a farm that is completely self-sufficient. The film is a moving tapestry on the collective complexity and balance of the nature all around us as John, Molly, and Todd try to overcome the numerous obstacles surrounding their endeavor.

If you have seen The Biggest Little Farm’s trailer, then you will know what the movie is like. The trailer sells it quite well. The documentary is a tough but informative viewpoint of a very difficult journey. I saw this family come to their breaking points in the search to be self-sufficient. I learned a lot about waste and the farm life and the difficulties of providing for oneself. It’s a powerful look at this lifestyle, seen on the grandest of scales.

It’s also the story of a family and their dog. Todd is integral to the film, and he is the emotional backbone driving the story. The way John and Molly view their pet as a child that they are unwilling to part with (the driving force of starting a farm is their neighbor’s complaints about barking) drives the central narrative forward with heart.

It’s also maybe a little too unremarkable from a filmmaking standpoint. The animation used to string the film together is rather dull, and the plot does get rather monotonous as problems stack up and solutions are troublingly tough to find. I guess that’s the point, but the film does feel about 20 minutes too long by the end of it.

The Biggest Little Farm is not the most impressive documentary ever made from a technical standpoint, but it also doesn’t really need to be as it tackles an important issue and an interesting story. I love when docs can pull me into a world I know nothing about and teach me without making me feel like I’m being taught. This was a sweet story that may be a little too long but is still quite worth it.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Gloria Bell (2018)

Director: Sebastían Lelio

Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Caren Pistorius, Brad Garrett, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Holland Taylor, Chris Mulkey

Screenplay: Alice Johnson Boher, Sebastían Lelio

102 mins. Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use.

 

Gloria Bell isn’t exactly a movie for me, but I found the trailer quite intriguing. I adore Julianne Moore (The Hours, Bel Canto), but part of me will always assume a movie about aging will be terrible. After all, so many of them are, and it wouldn’t have shocked me if Gloria Bell had taken a similar track. Thank God that didn’t happen.

Gloria Bell (Moore) is an divorcee in LA who spends many a night out at the nightclubs for older ladies and gentlemen, clubs that play songs from a more youthful time in Gloria’s life. Gloria seems very unsure of herself when she meets another divorcee, Arnold (John Turturro, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski), and is quite taken with him. As the two form a budding and affectionate relationship, though, Gloria starts to learn some strange pieces of information about Arnold and she wonders if the two have as close a connection as she is hoping for.

The film is, at its core, an emotionally powerful character piece about a woman searching for love of herself again and love for life. As I watched her in the nightclub scenes early in the film, you can see she is feeling herself in the music but not really letting loose or freeing herself up to it. She knows she loves it, and she loves a great deal of life, but after becoming single again and losing her children to their own respective journeys, Gloria is merely asking an important question: is there a point in starting over now?

This emotionally arresting character arc is made by Julianne Moore’s award-worthy portrayal. For someone like me, who may not truly understand this part of her journey as I haven’t had to experience it, I was taken in by her subtle and nuanced performance. There are layers to the way Gloria uses her line of sight in the film. I kept following Moore’s eyes as she examined the world around her, and I was enthralled by it.

The film, directed by Sebastían Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience), remade from an earlier film of his, is a little by-the-numbers, and without a strong central cast, it may not have worked as well, but Lelio is very collaborative with his performers, and that may stand as to why the movie works. He has a vision that is palatable across languages and cultures, and he understands character, and that’s what makes Gloria Bell such an interesting character.

Gloria Bell works because of a director who lets his performers perform and doesn’t offer a ton of flair and a central performance that should not be underestimated. While the story is less memorable that it should be, it’s the journey of its lead that carries the audience, supported by a truly incredible cast that help Moore shine. This is worth checking out if you missed it and need a little self-love.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff? (2018)

Director: Kief Davidson

Cast: Bob Marley

57 mins. Not Rated.

 

ReMastered is a monthly music-themed docuseries on Netflix. The first of these documentaries, directed by Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game, Bending the Arc), examines the mysterious shooting of Bob Marley and the possible CIA connection.

For me, Who Shot the Sheriff? doesn’t really scratch the surface of this mystery. They make some interesting claims, but I didn’t feel like they got anywhere deeper than surface-level assumptions based around conspiracy theory without any real discoveries. That’s the real failure of the documentary. I was very interested in the portions of Bob Marley’s life from a purely biographical aspect, but the mystery of the shooting is essentially a non-story based on the doc.

The doc should have focused more on the power of Marley’s music and the effect he had on so many. It spends some time on this portion in the doc but not enough. The power and effect of his music and presence is where the documentary is at its absolute best.

Who Shot the Sheriff? is a so-so documentary. I don’t think the film really knows what it wants to do. It plays itself as a mystery, but it never really delves any deeper into it. This one isn’t worth it for anyone outside of Marley super-fans.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Greta (2018)

Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Screenplay: Ray Wright, Neil Jordan

98 mins. Rated R for some violence and disturbing images.

 

I was told by a pretty reputable colleague who had caught Greta at TIFF last year that I needed to see it when it hit theaters, and earlier this week, I was given that opportunity. I didn’t realize that the film was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) until the credits started to roll, which raised my expectations considerably, but I did not expect the seasoned director to turn in something quite like Greta.

When Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, Suspiria) finds a purse left behind on the subway, she makes a point to do the right thing and drop it off with its owner, a woman named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Eva). Upon meeting the older widow, Frances begins a friendship with her until she discovers that Greta has a number of secrets. She’s a very lonely woman and Frances isn’t able to cut ties with her very easily. As the cat-and-mouse game spirals out of control, Frances finds that Greta isn’t ready to let go.

Let me be clear: Greta is a little cheesy. There are elements of it that fall into cliché. After leaving the film, I began to think more about the nature of the characters and I found a couple of plot holes I couldn’t wrap my head around. But all that didn’t really matter to me. The film sets out to tell a creepy stalker thriller, and it succeeds.

Director Jordan propels himself out of these problems by keeping the runtime as tight as possible. There’s only a moment or two toward the end of the film where the pacing struggles, but there’s no time to think as he rockets the narrative forward.

He’s also placed confidence in his leads. Moretz and Huppert are on fire as they match wits onscreen. Huppert’s Greta turns from a sweet older woman into a mild annoyance before evolving into a menacing terror. Seriously, I had my hands shaking during some of the more intense and tightly plotted scenes. Jordan’s film oozes with tension in large part to Huppert’s performance.

Greta’s filled out nicely with solid performances from Maika Monroe (It Follows, Tau) as Frances’s friend Erica, a woman who is a bit more focused on fun than fear, Colm Feore (Chicago, TV’s The Umbrella Academy) as Frances’s father, who is attempting to rebuild a relationship with his daughter after the loss of his wife, and especially the terrific turn from Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, Black ’47) as the private investigator who is hired to find out more. It’s amazing how much Rea can do with so little screentime.

Greta is pure cheese at times, but I didn’t mind it because I was so entranced and tense during my experience in the theater. The trailers give away a bit too much but overall, this is a very fun and creepy stalker thriller that kept my nerves tight the entire time. I highly recommend seeing this one in the theater this weekend.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, click here.

[#2019oscardeathrace] Free Solo (2018)

Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Cast: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin, Sanni McCandless

100 mins. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Documentary Feature [Pending]

 

I’ll be honest. I had no idea what the term Free Solo meant before I saw this movie.

Free Solo is the documentary covering Alex Honnold’s unprecedented climb of El Capitan Wall in Yosemite. The climb, over 3,000 feet high, was completed without ropes or any safety gear at all, hence the term Free Solo. That means is Alex were to slip or fall, he’s a dead man. A documentary crew followed him on this incredible trek, a dangerous idea adding more stress to the climb.

I’ll put it as simply as I can: Free Solo is one of the most intense and exhilarating experiences I have had in the theater in quite some time. Everything leading up to the big event is shown with such gorgeously captivating cinematography. There were times I felt a little light-headed because you feel like you are up there with Alex. That’s the magic of this cinematic experience. Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Meru) depict this insane sport and the toll it has on those around the climbers. They took me on the climb with them. I felt like a fly on the wall.

I really liked what time they spent diving into Alex’s childhood leading to his decision to become a climber and, eventually, a free solo climber, but I do wish we got some more of that in the film. It’s my one nitpick because I really wanted to study the mind of these daredevils and what makes them do what they do. The surface is merely scratched in the film, and I would have liked more.

The most centralized relationship in the film is between Alex and girlfriend Sanni, and it’s really nicely detailed. I felt for her as she tried to reach him and make him understand what this sport was doing to her, and it’s a great emotional argument of the film.

Free Solo’s striking visuals and its intense personal story is a powerful combination, making it one of the strongest documentary features of the year. I feel bad for you if you missed this one in IMAX, but seek it out when you can and experience this incredible feat for yourself.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Death of Superman (2018)

Director: Jake Castorena, Sam Liu

Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Rocky Carroll, Patrick Fabian

Screenplay: Peter Tomasi

81 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.

 

I remember seeing Superman: Doomsday when I was younger. The animated movie sounded incredibly exciting to me, even though I had not read The Death of Superman, the comic it was based on. It was, to me, probably the most famous Superman run that I could remember, and it was incredibly intriguing as an idea. The animated film version wasn’t very good. I remember finding it slugglishly boring, and that was that. Probably wouldn’t see another version of that story play out, especially with the reception of the most-recent live-action Superman film, Superman Returns. I just figured that was the end of it. To my surprise, DC’s animated films have decided to play this out again, and this new incarnation, The Death of Superman, is thankfully much better.

Clark Kent (Jerry O’Connell, Stand by Me, Boy Band) is struggling internally to tell the love of his life, Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn, X-Men, TV’s The Librarians) his biggest secret: that he is really Superman. He can see that his secrecy about his past is straining things in their relationship, and if he plans to move forward with their courtship, he needs to figure out how to deal with his identity. He sees fellow Justice League members Batman (Jason O’Mara, The Siege of Jadotville, TV’s The Man in the High Castle) and The Flash (Christopher Gorham, The Other Side of Heaven, TV’s Insatiable) moving forward with their real lives and he wants the same thing. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts led by Hank Henshaw (Patrick Fabian, The Last Exorcism, TV’s Better Call Saul), on a mission aboard the Excalibur space shuttle, witness a boom tube opening and unleashing a meteorite toward Earth. When it crashes, a giant creature is released from the wreckage, and it has a trajectory for Metropolis.

I like the voice cast for The Death of Superman. I feel as though the star players involved really understand their characters and I like how they brought them to life. I also wouldn’t have been able to peg a lot of these performers without having looked at the cast to write this review. The only true standout is Rainn Wilson (The Meg, TV’s The Office), who is woefully miscast as Lex Luthor.

The action is much better in The Death of Superman because it takes the time early on to establish its characters and their motivations. Superman spends the whole of the film fighting with himself to open up and be a normal human. Even The Flash describing his normal life makes Clark pine for one of his own, and yet he is the only meta-human capable to taking down the creature, Doomsday. It’s his internal conflict that makes the external conflict so intriguing.

There’s still some pacing issues in the film, especially with the large-scale fight with Doomsday. It is broken up quite nicely but the narrative does tire out earlier than it should. It’s the same problem that Man of Steel had. Superman is such a powerful guy that the stakes don’t feel like they are there, even knowing how this one is going to end, and perhaps that’s part of it. This is very clearly The Death of Superman, and perhaps it would be a stronger outing to focus on the fact that this is the first part of a two-part story or even just smash it all in one film, a bit of a lengthy film, but perhaps one that doesn’t sputter so close to the finish line.

Overall, though, The Death of Superman is a strong DC Animated film. It stumbles a bit as it builds momentum, but for fans of these animated superhero tales, I think there’s a lot to like on display here. It definitely sets up the sequel really nicely and made me all the more excited to see the conclusion. This is a Superman film for Superman fans.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Screenplay: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon

112 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor.

 

I was not the biggest fan of Wreck-It Ralph. I had a number of different reasons for my opinion, but I will also say that, at the time, I was carrying a bias about Disney films. After all, Disney is a machine, and like any machine, it has to function similarly at all times. I found the first film to be overly reliant upon video game and arcade nostalgia that bogged it down. I was also much more interested in Ralph’s (John C. Reilly, Chicago, Holmes & Watson) journey and felt it was less interesting when he got involved with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, Battle of the Sexes, TV’s The Sarah Silverman Program). Wreck-It Ralph was a hit, though (everyone I knew loved it), and while it took six years for a sequel, I was still excited for the wild ride that is Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Ralph and Vanellope are celebrating six awesome years as best friends, and while Ralph is fine with the way his days go, Vanellope wants more. She is tired of the predictability of her game, so Ralph sets out to help her. When his plan fails spectacularly, causing Sugar Rush to break down, it seems like as though Ralph may have inadvertently doomed Vanellope. Fortunately, they find that the replacement part for Sugar Rush is available on the internet, and the two set out to bring it back. Through their adventure, Ralph is forced to face his greatest fear: change.

There’s good and bad to the direction of this Wreck-It Ralph follow-up. It’s similar at times to the story of the first film with video game nostalgia traded out for social media addiction. That being said, the way the social media and internet references work in the film is to force Ralph and Vanellope to examine their lives and change, for good or bad. I think the sequel is more successful in creating real relationships amongst these arcade characters. There’s also a tendency to fall back on Disney properties in the film, a decision opposite to Spielberg’s choice in Ready Player One to seemingly eliminate as many references as possible to his films. Again, though, the Disney Princess scene is absolutely worth the price of admission. As I said, good and bad to these creative choices.

Ralph is a more interesting character this time out. His internal conflict with himself and Vanellope’s choices are so strong and real and accessible. It’s really powerful character direction, something for its viewers to register with as they grow older. I also like how Vanellope is struggling in the sequel, knowing she has a good life but wanting more than that. It makes her more than a cutesy sidekick.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a good outing from Disney, though not their best. I think it’s a better film than Wreck-It Ralph, and I think the conflict in the film resonates rather nicely. The film falls back on Disney wanting to sell toys, but there’s some good in there too made by strong characters and a strong story arc. It just gets muddled sometimes.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rich Moore, Byron Howard, and Jared Bush’s Zootopia, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑