The Addams Family (2019)

Director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Cast: Oscar Issac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Allison Janney

Screenplay: Matt Lieberman, Pamela Pettler, Erica Rivinoja

86 mins. Rated PG for macabre and suggestive humor, and some action.

 

I never really liked the idea of an animated version of The Addams Family. I just always felt like The Addams Family always looked better and worked better as a live-action film, especially when you high-calibre talent like Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Charlize Theron (Monster, Atomic Blonde), who could both look and embody the characters of Gomez and Morticia Addams. But I nevertheless went into this new Addams Family with an open-mind because I love the franchise and characters.

The Addams family are not, by definition, normal, but that doesn’t stop the from living life their own special way. As Gomez (Isaac) preps his son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard, It, TV’s Carmen Sandiego) for the Addams rite of passage, the Mazurka, Morticia (Theron) tries to connect more with daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, Greta) as she feeds her curiosity surrounding the town in which they reside, especially the local school. All the while, local celebrity Margaux Needler (Allison Janney, The Help, Ma) is determined to rid town of the Addams family so that she can keep the town bright, shiny, and unchanged.

First of all, there’s too much going on in a film that’s as short as this one. I didn’t care about the Gomez/Pugsley/Mazurka storyline, and the Morticia/Wednesday plot has been done better. I also felt like the Margaux Needler storyline doesn’t really go anywhere interesting nor does it really end in a satisfying way. There’s just problems abound in this film.

The voice cast is all fantastic except for Nick Kroll (Sing, TV’s Big Mouth) as Uncle Fester. His is a situation of being poorly miscast.He’s a fine and funny voice actor, but I don’t think he worked well for this character.

The screenplay is the biggest fault of the film in that it doesn’t really do anything unique that makes this film memorable. For a movie like The Addams Family, it’s so forgettable.Outside of one sequence involving Wednesday in school doing frog dissection, the movie has no truly interesting scenes. It’s just a mixture of plot points that have been done in better adaptations. There is no new ground covered in this movie.

The Addams Family is a very poor first outing for this new incarnation of the beloved characters. It made enough money for a sequel, so here’s hoping they learn some new lessons here because this first installment is forgettable and very paint-by-numbers. Skip and just watch the old show or Barry Sonnenfeld films.

 

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.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 18 – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde

Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

100 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.

 

Many people know the love I have for the novel Carrie. There have been three adaptations of the classic novel (the original film even had a sequel), most recently in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss). That’s the one we are talking about today.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, November Criminals) is a troubled girl with a difficult life at home. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, The Hours, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) is a religious fanatic who believes the very birth of her daughter to be one of the most sinful acts in her life. At school, Carrie is not popular. When she experiences her first period, she is tortured and ridiculed by her female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt, TV’s Mr. Robot). Many of the girls later feel terrible about their actions, including Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers, TV’s Poldark), who devises a plan to make things right with Carrie. Chris, though, devises a plan of her own, that will push Carrie to the breaking point. What the girls don’t know is that Carrie White has an amazing gift, one that she cannot control. This gift has incredible and horrifying potential that will forever alter all their lives.

This is a film that brings to life a classic argument among film criticism. The crew, including director Peirce, claim that this incarnation of Carrie is a re-imaging of the classic Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, this film is very little more than a scene-by-scene remake of the original film. It even uses the original screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with added updates and a few tweaks by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa. It just feels hollowly made. It’s difficult to blame the studio for interfering (the film was notoriously heavily re-edited after poor test screenings, cutting somewhere around 45 minutes from the finished product) because of just how much the movie feels like a retread of the original.

Moretz and Moore are terrifically cast as daughter and mother White. Peirce fills the rest of her cast with the hottest young stars of 2013, including Ansel Elgort in his first film roll as Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend. Elgort does a pretty nice job as Ross as well.

The film is well shot and features some truly impressive camerawork. What muddles the final product is the atrocious CGI (it didn’t look very good in 2013 either). Some of it is truly cheap-looking. The movie didn’t need some of the more stylish CGI, so I don’t understand the need to use it, especially in the last third of the film.

Carrie is fine, but it beckons to be compared to Brian De Palma’s superior film from decades back. It features some fine performance work but there are some technical issues with marr the film’s watchability. It’s too bad, because there are shades of incredible here, but it just feels too similar, and in that way, unnecessary.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

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Director: Isao Takahata

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Darren Criss, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen

Screenplay: Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi

137 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent action and partial nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

In the latest release from Studio Ghibli, an elderly Bamboo Cutter (James Caan, The Godfather, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) finds a small girl inside a bamboo shoot. He and his wife (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III, Last Vegas) name the girl Princess (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass, The Equalizer) and care for her as their own. As Princess Kaguya entices everyone around her, she comes closer and closer to paying for an indiscretion she doesn’t remember making.

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Based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, this Studio Ghibli film continues the tradition of excellent looking animation that pushes the boundaries of hand-drawn, even today. But for all the visual delight of the film, it still lacks a punch in its bulky slow new addition. This film drags on much longer than it needs to. Pushing the two-and-a-half-hour mark, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya showcases some great voice work, but just can’t get over its pace. Other than that, the film is stunningly beautiful.

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya isn’t the worst of the Studio Ghibli films, but it is far away from being the best. It’s English voice cast it great and it boasts some of the most interesting and challenging animation being used today, but it just doesn’t end, and sadly, that is its downfall.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Equalizer (2014)

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Screenplay: Richard Wenk

132 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.

 

I recently got into The Equalizer, a classic television series, after seeing it referenced in The Wolf of Wall Street. Good show, interesting structure and grit.

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When I heard that the series was getting the big-screen treatment in the form of a Denzel Washington (American Gangster, 2 Guns) vehicle from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen), I was intrigued, but I felt like it wouldn’t get the attention it deserved because of the many revenge vigilante franchises abound today. As it turns out, I was right.

Robert McCall (Washington) works at Home Mart, and has a pretty simple life. Work followed by a nice calm read at a local diner where he usually sees Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass, If I Stay), a young prostitute. After Teri is brutally beaten by her pimp, McCall goes on the offensive, searching for vengeance against those responsible. Once he is involved, a Russian Mafia enforcer named Teddy (Marton Csokas, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For) hunts McCall, beginning a battle neither wants to lose.

I felt like the basic problem of The Equalizer is a simple one: oversaturation of the market. Too many other similar and better films exist and have been ingrained in popular culture. The Equalizer just isn’t as unique as it thinks it is.

Denzel does fine work, but the script feels lazy and Antione Fuqua’s style comes off as a ripped-off amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and The Bourne Identity. The film loses all traction the moment that Teri is removed from the story as she is tragically forgotten about thirty minutes in.

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If you want to see a movie like The Equalizer, you can definitely save money by picking up a better film with a similar story elsewhere. One can only hope that Washington can pick himself up from this recent tread of lackluster films. Hope.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 19 – Dark Shadows (2012)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote

Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith

113 mins. Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.

 

For horror fans, the 1966 television series Dark Shadows is a pretty big deal. For soap opera fans, it is also a big deal. A dark brooding and eventually supernatural based soap opera, Dark Shadows was so far ahead of its time that it didn’t really take off during its initial run. It didn’t really take off during its revival either. In 2012, director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie) brought a reimagining to the big screen from a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith (TV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). It, too, did not take off. So how does a movie with this much going for it, a new and promising screenwriter, a talented director behind the camera, and explosive leading man Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Into the Woods) as a lead, fail so much? Truth be told, I rather enjoyed it for all the reasons you should.

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Depp portrays Barnabus Collins, a privileged man who took too much for granted. He loved and left women like the voluptuous Angelique (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale), and he paid dearly for it, for unbeknownst to Collins, Angelique was a witch who cursed his beloved Josette (Bella Heathcote, In Time, Not Fade Away) to walk off a cliff and turned Barnabus himself into a vampire and had him buried for all eternity. Around 200 years later, Barnabus is awakened by random happenstance and returns to his beloved home of Collinwood Manor to find distant relative Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface, The Family) and her family residing. Collins’ family name has been tarnished by the still living Angelique who has taken the town of Collinsport for herself. As Barnabus tries to put the pieces of his afterlife in order and bring his family back to their stance in the community, he is bewitched by the Collins’ new family tutor and caregiver Victoria, who bares a striking resemblance to Josette.

This movie succeeds at what it is trying to be. Much like the adaptation of Rock of Ages from a few years ago, this film is not rounding the bases to Oscar glory. All it wants is to remind you of cheese from which the original Dark Shadows bore and is what it is so beloved for today. Dark Shadows was not a great television series ever, but we love it. Why? Because it is so much fun. Exactly. Not because it was filled with nuanced performances, but because it was filled with such lovable (or unlovable) characters. I think people didn’t do their research for this film (surprise, surprise, those same people didn’t expect Sweeney Todd to be a musical) and they expected something dark and brooding, perhaps for akin to Edward Scissorhands or Sleepy Hollow, when really this is more attuned to Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, being dark comedies with dark undertones.

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Now the film is far from perfect. Some of the performances are wooden, while others come off as over goofy. The cinematography is nothing particularly special. The music and visual effects are rather fun, but the film isn’t going to be remembered or rediscovered as perfect, but it is just a good time. This is a movie I should have expected to fail, but I had faith in moviegoers. If you saw this during its initial release, I advise you to give it another go, because it wasn’t all that bad. It is, ironically, rather lively.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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