Tag Archives: mother

The Others: A Childhood Nightmare

I have a great respect for Spanish directors and their films. J.A. Bayona and The Orphanage, Guillermo del Toro and Pan’s Labryinth, Jaume Balaguero/Paco Plaza and REC (U.S. version – Quarantine). And now I can say Alejandro Amenabar and The Others. This film has a chilling take on demons/poltergeists/ghosts and the like. Set back in a time period where ghosts would have been an issue (WWII), this movie artfully uses fog as an extension of ghosts and beings that are not of this world. Transported through this fog, we find an ethereal feel and place where ghosts would most likely dwell.

But I was afraid to watch this movie for a long time. Do you wanna know why?

That is exactly why. The last few seconds of that trailer frightened me back when I was 11. And I know I was a young ‘un, but this movie chilled me somehow. I hadn’t seen that many horror movies and I was naive in the horror department in general. That young girl’s voice and ancient figure beneath the veil haunted my dreams for years. And now, I sat down and forced myself to watch it. Conquering fears and writing blogs. I should mark that off my bucket list.

The Others is a story about a secluded English family and their hardships without a father figure during the end of WWII. Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a strict and God fearing mother who feels it is necessary for her children to strictly follow the word of God. But there’s a problem. Her children cannot be exposed to natural light. (If that’s a real disease… didn’t check.) Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) are

They’re like cute vampires. They can’t see light.

two sick children who have no hopes of seeing the outside world. But the otherworld has come to them. In the form of haunting ghosts.

With a new cleaning and housekeeping staff hired, Grace hopes to make things easier on the children with such a trying lifestyle. Bertha Mills (Fionnulla Flanagan) runs the house with her mute charge, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and the elderly garden keeper, Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes). With strange occurrences and Anne constantly seeing a young boy and old woman, Grace fears for her own children and wishes her husband were back and knew what to do.

A desperate mother.

What I found interesting that characterizes this movie is a sense/loss of innocence. The children are quite ignorant and innocent in their knowledge of the outside world, especially during a time of war. Their mother’s faith doesn’t waiver while their own teachings are questioned by themselves at all times. This movie seems to question God at the same time that it affirms ghosts and another plane of existence. The whole movie itself is an early 2000’s examination of religion and whether or not it is a viable means of explanation. It prodded it (to an exhausted point I found to be too overzealous) and wouldn’t leave it alone, even at the end.

Nicole Kidman gives a very mean and zealous performance as the mother in this film, a character who would do anything to protect her children from a heathen and sinful world. She escalates at quite a nice and even pace into hysteria (as I’m sure was intended) and leaves you questioning her merit and faith by the end. I also enjoyed Christopher Eccleston (the crazed military leader in 28 Days Later) and his role as the crestfallen husband returned from war. His haunting performance toned the film in a very depressing way that

Haunts. My. Dreams.

characterized a lot of soldier’s feelings after WWII. He wasn’t in it for much, but it was just enough. And Fionnula Flanagan was a fantastic caring/aloof housekeeper who comes off as creepy and nurturing at the same time.

I know you’re there…

After all was said and done in the film, and a lot was, I was overall impressed with the movie. It was done in a very minimal way with one location and a very haunting house. Old style houses like the one in the film from the early 1900’s (or earlier, I wasn’t sure) give me the creeps. The old pictures, the old furniture and dusty feel always have given me the creeps, just knowing someone had to have died in the house. That’s another thing. I really enjoyed the mention of photographing the dead and how that used to be a common practice in order to capture the soul of the person so they may live on. The overall old feel and simplistic nature of horror in the film came from a very human place. Dying and the afterlife, ghosts and hauntings in old houses in something we all are unsure about. And something we can’t explain. Very well done for a Spanish film with no Spanish spoken. 7.7 out of 10.

Jesus is always over your shoulder.

 

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Black Swan: I Kinda Laughed.

People may get pissed off at me for this one. I… laughed quite a bit at Black Swan. It wasn’t a bad movie overall, but the things I found strange or wrong with this movie made me laugh out loud, kinda like watching a dark comedy. Although this movie wasn’t a comedy. Oh well, it can’t be helped. I hope Natalie Portman never sees this post and hates me for the rest of eternity if some infinitesimal chance allows me to meet her. Let’s just keep this post a secret.

What a beautiful pout. Still in love with her since I was 9.

So this is a movie about the ballet Swan Lake. The twist? The ballet she is performing is Swan Lake and she is living out the events of Swan Lake. Oh the twist! Other than the WTF middle section of the film, yeah, it follows it pretty closely. Prince has party, Prince meets White Swan, fall in love, Black Swan tricks Prince, Prince and White Swan commit suicide for love. The end. I think it’s the liberties that Darren Aronofsky took at assuming ballet is synonymous with sex. I would sayyyyyyy… No. That is an artistic leap and assumption I wouldn’t necessarily associate.

So… plot now. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is an up and coming ballerina at her dance studio. She’s nice and quiet and just hopes to make a bigger name for herself. And then her dance director Mr. French McCreepy Bastard, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) announces they’ll be having a Swan Lake run at their production company. He, like every other pompous director who thinks they’re a visionary, says they’ll be doing it differently than ever before. I guess he was going for more rape and sexy. Alright there Leroy, that’s your own choice.

Ah yes, the creepy mother.

Nina begs for the position and gets mouth fondled by Cassel, because for some reason in 2011, it’s still shocking for a director/boss to take advantage of his cast/employees. With all that said and done, Nina takes on the lead role of the White and Black Swan. From this point on comes some “messed up” and thriller like elements that push the boundaries of what’s real and what’s not. The arty version of The Matrix, if you will. And don’t call me sexist or naive or ignorant at this point. People can have their opinions about a film, negative or not. I can say these ignorant things because from what I’ve seen of the hundreds of movies I’ve seen before, this movie isn’t necessarily anything impressive in the way of

Vincent Cassel, crossing toolish lines since… this movie.

groundbreaking. It seems more important for me, at this point, to say how disappointed I was with this film. Because, as serious and mentally disturbing as it was supposed to be, I still laughed.

Should I talk about my problems with this film? Let’s go. I knew there was going to be a conflict when Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) flips out. She’s bought Nina this nice big cake for getting the part and Nina simply says no, I can’t eat right now, my stomache is upset. Reasonable reason right? “Well that’s fine, don’t have any.” The music becomes serious and tension filled, she heads towards the can with the cake. A simple pleading no from Nina and you see the smile instantly and bizarrely  return to her face. I laughed. Hard. Yes, this was supposed to point out the stressed and overprotective relationship that sparks Nina’s problems in the film. But it was campishly delivered and I enjoyed it. For any Tim and Eric fans out there, this scene may tickle your fancy.

I wanted to put this next to the word “lesbian”.

All the lesbian/finger banging scenes in this film feel out of place. That’s probably because I don’t make an automatic connection in my mind between ballet and sex. For me, ballet in particular, is a purist sport. It has a set amount of moves that allow you to express a gamut of emotions. Other forms of dance, sure, why not? There’s sex everywhere at a high school dance. Just not with ballet. Nina is exploring her sexuality and, for the whole film, until she said it, I thought she was 18, maybe 21 at most. Living with her mother threw off my radar on her age and calling her Mommy (with her room and clothing choices) I assumed 18. Why would a 28 year old dancer be attempting to get big in dance? Her prime is gone. Error right there.

I disliked Vincent Cassel in this movie. I think you’re supposed to. To the extent I did, maybe was a bit extreme. Not death threat level, I’m talking more ruined any scene he was in for me. As a sex icon in the movie? Didn’t really believe it. Mila Kunis though? She was her normal, old relaxed That 70’s Show self in this one. Typical Mila out for a good time, who just happens to be a diabolical dancer. I did love

You made this movie better Winona.

Natalie Portman’s performance in the film. She did have to do a lot of things you never typically see her do in this film. And I was IN LOVE with Winona Ryder’s performance in this film. The fallen dancer and raging spurned lover? That was a convincing and devastating performance for her.

Let the weird begin.

Other than that, I don’t really wanna shit on this movie too much. I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I do see how this movie didn’t beat The King’s Speech for best film. It was too edgy for the Oscar community. But it was a well done film itself. The cinematography was jarring and uncommon, something I just can’t stand. Watch this movie again and see if the still shots outweigh the fluid and nauseating moving shots. You’d be surprised. The acting for the most part is what you would expect from a movie with Oscar buzz and all that good stuff. Just not my film. And because I’m the one rating for my own interest, I have to give this movie a 4 out of 10.


Child’s Play: The Movie that has Haunted My Dreams

Frightening as always.

Chucky and the Child’s Play series has haunted my dreams ever since I was 8 years old. And, watching this movie again, it still sent chills down my spine. Leave it to movies of years past to make me want to piss myself when newer films today with all their special effects can’t do crap. What a cruel world. For those of you who don’t know, Child’s play is the story of a young boy who just wants a doll for a friend. Lo and behold, his mother comes through and finds him just the doll he wants. And he’ll regret that decision for the next two movies.

So the movie starts out like this. Old Wormtongue AKA Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is running from his ultimate

Say hello, Andy.

nemesis cop, Prince Humperdink AKA Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). The final face-off takes place in a toy store in some bad part of town and Chucky takes his voodoo training and places his soul in the body of a doll until he can later reclaim his life. And, a few weeks after, we find little Andy (Alex Vincent) watching his favorite cartoon, the Good Guy dolls. Pleading with his mother who busts tooth and nail to scrape through life for her son, Mrs. Barclay (Catherine Hicks) finds one from a sketchy drifter and his cart of goodies.

The events of the movie are amazingly supplemented by a big buildup to the point where you finally see Chucky’s true face. What I found more frightening was Chucky imitating the Good Guy doll he is inhabiting. “Hi I’m Chucky, wanna play?” in that sing-song voice of a demonic child haunts my dreams frequently. His eyes opening and closing reminds me of why I fear the technology known as animatronics. (Forget ever going on the

I can feel the poop in the pants already…

It’s a Small World After All ride ever again.) His blinks and innocent movements feign away from the evil animatronic face that hides beneath the facade. But when Catherine Hicks, mother of 7th Heaven swears her head off, you can bet Brad Dourif won’t let that bitch talk to him that way.

The movie turns into a wild goose chase of little Andy accompanying Chucky around the beaten streets of Chicago in search of a way to return to a human form. When it’s revealed that the worst must be done, it all comes crashing down for Andy. It’s a race against the clock for Mrs Barclay and Detective Norris

Your fate is sealed, in 7th Heaven, Catherine Hicks.

when they learn that Andy wasn’t lying, ever. As the tagline says, “You’ll Wish it was Only Make-Believe”, I’ve wished that for so long.

And not to mention the doll that Chucky is based on. Don Mancini must have drawn on some evil inspiration that graced his mind when he found Robert the Doll. Considered one of the evilest dolls on the face of the North American continent, Robert the Doll haunted Key West painter Robert Eugene Otto for his entire life. Talking to it and finding himself scared to death, Otto never left Robert’s side. Attempting to kill and curse anyone around him and even moving on his own, Robert the Doll to this day, being his old 104 year old self, will change his face to a mortifying, contortion of a grin. I was impressed with Tom Holland, slasher director extraordinaire, use of P.O.V. and a creepy sense of crawling around on the floor. The use of doll doubles mixed with actual animatronics has frightened me and will continue to do so as long as dolls exist in this world.

With this success this cult horror classic has created, there’s no wonder there are another 4 films after this one, and talk of a remake. Brad Dourif does a wonderful job of giving off a gruff thuggish voice and continues to do so. This movie went above and beyond the PG-13 rating and decided some F-bombs would be appropriate to show the extent of Chucky’s evil. This movie may be one of those B-rated horror films, but it broke ground for a kind of horror that freaks a lot of people out, dummies and dolls. If it frightens you, it’s done its job. And Child’s Play sure does that for me. Just for the poop in the pants, 7.4 out of 10.

And here’s the original trailer to set your bones on ice.


Tokyo Godfathers

What is there to say about this strange Christmas timey (?) film? This movie reminded me of a combination Eight Crazy Nights with Cromartie High School (check out the review further back). I had no idea what I was in store for and it slightly touched my heart. Although the animation took me slightly aback, I was okay by the end with the characters and the conclusion this animated film comes to.

So Satoshi Kon and Shogo Furuya present a film that tackles some big issues while at the same time speaking to the humanity in all of us that we try to show around the holidays.  Coming from a team that has done such films as Paprika (again, check the

Some strange hobos...

review earlier on in my list) and the animation on Spirited Away, comes something strange and yet strikingly familiar in its theme. Three hobos, one by choice, one by circumstance, and one by bad luck, come together in order to, in the spirit of ole Saint Nick, bring a child left in a dumpster back to its parents. Simple plot aside, a lot of weird, crazy shit goes down in Tokyo town. And I wasn’t ready for a thing.

Such good emotional scenes.

Coming from the same creators of Wolf’s Rain (Strayyyy) and just countless award worthy things, I was hard pressed at first to find the credibility in this film. I found it though. The characters. Every last one of them, despite being given the stigma of homeless loser, is a worthwhile and redeemable person. Proven by their words and actions in the film, Gin finds his home, Hana becomes the “mother” he always wanted to be, and Miyuki can finally go home and not feel scared about her actions. This combined with a twist with the baby’s parents that leaves them out to dry, this film really makes you wonder whether the bums on the street have better hearts than you do.

And I do love the message. Nice things done on Christmas? Always a winner in my book. Christmas coming from a perspective I’ve never seen before in a

Come on, could be cuter...

culture I’ve yet to experience for myself? Eye opening. I really don’t know what more to say about this film. The comedy shines through, there’s quite a few tear jerking scenes, and the baby, although I wish it was cuter, is still okay. The voice acting is good and, as expected from award winning creators, the story is solid and animation is unique in every respect. I give this classic a 6.8 out of 10.


Cromartie High School: Not Your Typical High School

So I had watched this anime a while ago in my Anime Club. I instantly fell in love with it. Sadly, after only 6 episodes, our club decided to drop the anime due to its wild and erratic nature. The absurd comedy and spontaneous content appeared to be stupid and pointless to most. But I found the silver lining. More like gold mine. More than a year later, I sat down and watched the 26 episode, ten minutes per episode anime. In one day. And I loved every second of it.

Cromartie High School is the story of a bunch of badasses. These badass delinquents constantly fight for dominance as to who

Check out this group of badasses.

the true boss of all badasses is. And it’s a fight that’s never resolved. You can choose your own champion, but it’ll get you nowhere. These guys are stupid, impulsive, and nonsensical. They have no idea of the concept of normal or logical. And this is quite an endearing quality if I do say so myself. (Not in reality, mind you.) So this show comes down to a bunch of instances in the first year of a group of idiotic boys attending an unsupervised high school.

According to the anime, Takashi Kamiyama is the main character. After transferring to Cromartie, Takashi befriends Shinjiro Hayashida, a purple mohawk wearing badass. With this friendship, Takashi encounters the badasses around his school and embarks on a series of hijinks. And that’s not even the best part! Takashi isn’t even the main character! Some episodes don’t even include him. With a multitude of lowlifes and delinquents, this show has some interesting characters.

Is that? Yep. That's Freddy... Mercury?

Akira Maeda, a fellow member of Cromartie, constantly has his home invaded by his so called friends and other badasses from Cromartie. His hurt feelings and trashed house means nothing to anyone but he and his mother who appears to look exactly like him. Shinichi Mechazawa, a robot appearing robot, known as the biggest badass of Cromartie, refuses to fight and refuses to believe that he is a robot. The entity known as Freddie, is another badass, but more for his mute behaviors and the ability to ride a bucking bronco. With his strange resemblance to Freddie Mercury, this delinquent shouldn’t even be in school. But he makes up for it with his suspenders and bare chest. Gorilla, the gorilla. Anything else I should say about that? Yutaka Takenouchi, the leader of the Cromartie High School badasses, has motion sickness. Despite his attempts to keep his bossish facade in the forefront, his constant use of transportation threatens his credibility. Also making appearances are Takeshi Hokuto and his reluctant lackey known only as Hokuto’s Lackey, due to the fact that no one will allow him the time to tell them his name. Add rival schools with amazingly comedic leaders like Noboru Yamaguchi, the afro haired appreciator of true comedy, and you have one amazing show.

What makes this show even greater? The animation. There is next to none of it. Besides the traditional lip-flaps, characters rarely move. Cromartie High School

What.

Did I mention there was a live action movie?!?!?

consists of head shots mixed with color shooting star background indicating intense emotion and actions. The comedy comes entirely from what the characters say and the tiny absurd actions that occur in the background. It’s almost worth another watch because of all the hilarious things going on in the background.

What more is there to say about Cromartie High School? The content, the dialogue, the characters. It all adds up to comedic genius of the most absurd kind. This show isn’t really meant for everyone, so I wouldn’t highly recommend it. To the few who would appreciate a really weird, yet funny sort of comedy, then watch this for sure. 9.3 out of 10.


Creation: The “A Beautiful Mind” of the 1800’s

So I just finished this movie and, I have to say, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m pretty sure this movie had about 5 shooting locations, and this simplicity alone was touching and dramatic. This film about the entity that is Charles Darwin and the theory that changed the world through conflict, was one of anguish, inner turmoil, and alienation. This movie may have been pure speculation about the life of Darwin and his quest to write “Origin of the Species,” but it is rare to encounter a film that makes you believe that the actor who is Darwin must have known Darwin. Must have been Darwin.

I had heard about this movie a year or so ago and have always had an affinity for Paul Bettany. All of his

Paul Bettany as Darwin with his Wife Jennifer Connelly as, well, his wife.

work is top shelf stuff. And Creation is no exception. Another amazing piece from across the sea, and it kept me entranced in Bettany and those around Darwin. The 1850’s was a time of religious dominance and this film portrayed that quite clearly. It is this conflict between science and religion (still ongoing) that frames the film. It is not all encompassing of the purpose, but gives substance to the interactions between work, family, and the past.

Martha West as Emma Darwin. What a relationship they had.

There are two amazing relationships that also frame this movie. The first is between Darwin and his daughter Annie (Martha West). The conflict between the live Annie and the memory of her past self haunts Darwin throughout the film. Annie loves her father and his dedication and fervor for life. And at the same time, she loves her mother and the devotion she shows to her religion. As Bettany says ever so touchingly, “I thought we were making the perfect child.” But it is this child that causes the loss of faith as well as the devotion to his soon to be world changing book. And, with every painful interaction, Darwin is forced to face the demons of his past and the issue that this creates with his family, most importantly his wife. And therein lies the second best relationship portrayed in the film. Between Darwin and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), there is an ocean. Emma’s religion and Darwin’s science seem to be the issue at the heart of the problem, but in a surprising and touching twist, it is the daughter that causes the rift. And the resolution is worth the watch in itself. It is rare in films that a leading man and lady would be married in real life. This is one of them. And I give that credit to whoever cast a married couple in a role like this. It’s absolutely amazing to watch two people with chemistry that is based in life to interact on film. Every scene with their interaction is so fluid and natural that I was blown away by how wonderful it must be to be those two in love. Quite literally the best part of the film.

Quite similar.

And there are a few notable mentions to make about minor acting parts. Freya Parks does a great job as Etta, the oldest of Darwin’s children, fighting for the attention of her father who is perpetually focused on the memory of his dead daughter. Her scenes are touching and tragic in the way that she tries and seems to flounder without any affection from her father. The last scene, something to see. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s current Sherlock) gave a great minor performance as Mr. Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes and emotional support in his hour of need when it comes to writing his book. And Martha West, bless her heart, gave it her all as Annie, the focus of Darwin’s obsession and past regrets. Having to play a protagonist and antagonist simultaneously must be quite hard for a child, and she pulls it off with aplomb.

You may have noticed the title of this blog. And I would have to say this plot reminds me of A Beautiful Mind, the great Ron Howard award winning story of another theorist who could see figments of his imagination, John Nash. All of the dramatic elements are there and its done with the same grace. I gotta give credit to Jon Amiel, a director who I’ve not seen do anything like this before, directing with all he has. Throw in some scenes straight out of The Fall with their exotic nature, and you have a recipe for a great movie. 9.5 out of 10.