‘Crawl’ REVIEW

I bet I will be the only critic that compares the new creature scares movie Crawl to a good Hallmark movie but that’s just what I’m going to do. I spend many hours watching Hallmark movies for my podcast The Hallmarkies Podcast and I’ve learned that the good ones know what they are and execute it well. They don’t try to be anything other than a sweet romcom, with nice chemistry between the leads, and a warm holiday message.

It’s the same idea in Crawl. It absolutely knows what it is and executes it well. It doesn’t try to be campy or silly. It doesn’t add annoying characters or convoluted subplots. Crawl knows it is a creature scares movie with 2 people dealing with gators and it executes that concept very well. It’s as simple as that.

crawl

Crawl stars Kaya Scodelario who starts out the film trying to rescue her father from the basement crawl space of his Florida home. Unfortunately when she gets there she learns he is stuck with 2 gators in the basement (behind some large pipes). Getting out is then the main plot of the movie. Unfortunately, this task is made more difficult by a huge hurricane that threatens to drown them before the gators can eat them.

crawl3

Director Alexandre Aja does a great job moving the characters around enough within the small space to create different set pieces by which to fight the gators. They also keep the movie a lean 87 minutes so you never have time to get bored. It feels relatively grounded and realistic and for a small budget film the gators/special effects look great.

CRAWL

Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario do great work as a father and daughter and the film gives us just enough of their backstory and relationship to attach us to them without becoming boring. As they are basically the only characters on screen, their chemistry also adds a ton to the film’s success. It kind of reminds me of 10 Cloverfield Lane in that respect. I was rooting for both of them throughout the entire movie which made the scenes with the gators more intense and fun.

crawl5

I suppose if there are negatives to Crawl, there are some moments where we must suspend disbelief. In particular the injuries the 2 lead characters have seem to ebb and flow depending on the needs of the script. However, I was invested enough in the story and characters to not care. There are also definitely side characters introduced to be kill candy for the gators, which gets a little predictable.

All that said, I had a great time watching Crawl. It’d be a wonderful choice to go with all your friends and have a good tense time at the movies. Nobody will be too traumatized, and they will all have fun.

Go see it! It’s a blast

8 out of 10

smile worthy

Advertisements

‘Us’ Review

Anyone who follows my reviews knows I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror movies. I get scared very easily and I particularly hate anything that has exorcisms or involves the rape/murder of women. However, in the last few years I have been trying to expand my pallet so that I am a well-rounded critic. For the most part this has been a great experience and one of the highlights of this journey is Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out. It’s a movie I liked well enough to start but it stayed with me and I kept thinking about new layers beyond the fun scares. In the end, it ended up being one of my favorite movies of 2017.

Naturally I was pretty hyped for Pelle’s follow up film Us (especially after a fantastic trailer!).

So with all that hype what did I think of Us? Well for the most part I really enjoyed it. I also think, like Get Out, the problems I have could become less important upon multiple viewings so take this review with a bit of a grain of salt.

us family

Let’s start with the positives. Us is centered around a family of 4 that goes to the beach for a summer holiday.  Unfortunately their family fun is interrupted by a zombie-like doppelganger family just like them attacks their home. This makes it both a home invasion and zombie horror movie and there are a lot of chilling moments. I was definitely very scared by Us and that’s a fun experience when done well.

I also thought the entire cast did an amazing job playing both normal and zombie versions of their characters. Lupita Nyong’o is especially strong pulling off so many notes in her 2 characters. But everyone was good including all the child performances.

Us also uses music (Michael Abels) very well with a wonderful haunting score and carefully selected soundtrack tunes.

us3

What didn’t work as well for me in Us is the final act where we get a lot of the allegory explained to us but I honestly still didn’t quite get what Peele was trying to say. Perhaps he meant it to be a little ambiguous or maybe I’m just dumb but it didn’t quite make sense. Subsequent viewings may elaborate this for me but for now I don’t really get it.

Also, my audience kept laughing and for the most part I didn’t really understand why? I was scared but never laughed  so who knows? The humor in Get Out wasn’t my favorite so perhaps it’s just my sense of humor doesn’t jive with this style? Who knows?

But overall, Us is a good time at the theaters. It’s scary with great performances and engaging kills/action. It definitely earns its R rating with strong language and violence but if you can stomach that then check it out.

 

7.5/10

smile worthy

Greta Review

More than any other genre I find writing a review for a horror movie to be particularly difficult. With my relative newness to the genre I don’t have the perspective to know what concepts are fresh and what tropes have been done a million times. For example, people complain about jump scares and I suppose I can see a very bad one but for the most part I think they are fun and they make me jump at my silly startled reaction (I’m an easy scare). I say all this to explain why my review for Greta may or may not be different than many others you read (I saw it at an early screening so I do not know what others will think). All I can say is that little old me, the horror amateur, thought it was a great time and very scary!

greta4

It’s a simple story about a girl named Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) living in NYC who one day finds a purse lost on the subway. Trying to be a kind soul she returns the purse to the owner who happens to be a seemingly kind older woman named Greta (the amazing Isabelle Huppert!). She serves her tea and they bond over their mutual loss (Greta a lost daughter, Frances her Mother) and love of music.

This innocent lunch leads to more contact and things seem to be going great but all is not as it seems to be with sweet little Greta…it turns out she’s a crazy person and most of the movie is a game of cat and mouse between Greta and Frances with things getting very desperate for poor Frances!

greta

The thing that makes Greta work so well is it builds tension slowly and it preys on our human desires to trust (especially sweet old ladies) and our fear of loneliness. Moretz does a good job showing the lonely and desperate for attention side of Frances and who can’t relate to that? As a single woman living on my own I certainly can. I’ve always been very scared of movies involving stalking or preyed upon and this certainly fit the bill in that behalf.

greta3

Zawe Ashton plays the more world-weary Alexa and she’s a nice counterpoint to the sweet and innocent Frances. She reminded me a lot of my last roommate who was sassy and quick to come to my defense.

greta2

In many ways Greta is a horror movie made for women. It stars women and it relies on many of the insecurities women feel both in growing old and being young and vulnerable to get scares. A man may never know the fear a woman can have in just walking home or taking a subway ride depending on the situation. We sometimes like to pretend it’s the same for men and women but most women I know have more fears than men. Greta gets that. It also gets away with quite a bit because it is all women but a little bit of crazy makes this kind of horror movie more fun. I like a good table overturned in the fancy restaurant and the stalker acting like a crazy person. I’m in!

Finally Greta is only 98 minutes. It doesn’t outstay its welcome and just gives us a creepy entertaining horror movie that had me engaged from beginning to end. If you can stomach the scares than I highly recommend it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

smile worthy

Blind Spot 34: Scream

As I was planning my blind spot picks for 2018 I wanted to challenge myself with a few picks and step outside my comfort zone. And no pick did that as much as this month’s pick Scream. Directed by Wes Craven, Scream has become an iconic slasher film which went on to inspire 3 sequels and the Scary Movie spoof series.

scream3

One of the interesting things about Scream is it is not just a scary movie but it is a critique of the horror genre. There are many references throughout the movie both visually and in the script to classic horror franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. Unfortunately since I am a newbie to the genre a lot of the references were lost on me, but I can see why many fans really enjoyed them.

The story to Scream is simple. A man in a scream mask (called Ghostface) is calling teens, talking to them in an increasingly chilling manner and then stabbing them with a knife. Most people are probably most alarmed by the killings in the movie, but to me, the phone calls were the creepiest part. It is especially chilling in an opening scene with Drew Barrymore when the caller is giving her movie trivia to keep her and her boyfriend alive. That was pretty scary!

Most of the violence is done with a wink and isn’t especially scary. It’s more meant to be fun and silly. It’s not the kind of thing I am going to get nightmares of because it is very over-the-top.

scream2

Neve Campbell plays a girl named Sidney who is hesitant to give up her virginity because of her Mother being murdered (and raped I think) a year earlier. Her boyfriend Billy struggles with her choice but seems to respect it. There is also a sheriff (David Arquette), a reporter (Courtney Cox), a principal (Henry Winkler) and friends (Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, and more).

The last act of Scream is a bit chaotic for my liking. I prefer the opening scene with Drew Barrymore over the messiness. It’s  much scarier when tension has time to build and bubble up until you can’t help but respond. The never-ending mayhem gets tired even as it is increasing in violence. The only thing that really creeped me out (or grossed me out) in the last part is a death involving a garage door.

scream4

But that said, Scream is an enjoyable film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a winking sensibility to it and while I think I would enjoy it more if I knew what the jokes were referencing it still was a fun enough ride.

Of course, Scream is rated R so it won’t be for everyone but if you are up for a light-hearted slasher movie (such a weird description but it’s true) than this is the movie for you! I’m glad I saw it even if I don’t think I’d ever watch it again. Always good to get out of your comfort zone!

Have any of you seen Scream? What do you think of it and its sequels?

smile worthy

Get Out Review (No Spoilers)

get-out5Today I got the chance to see the new horror film from director Jordan Peele called Get Out. This film has received much praise and currently has a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com, which is very rare. I’m not the biggest horror fan, but I like good movies so I decided to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

get-outGet Out stars Daniel Kaluuya, as a black man named Chris who is dating a white woman (Allison Williams) named Rose. She is taking him to meet her white parents and he is anxious about any prejudices they might have. She reassures him they are progressives who would vote for Obama a third time (as if that means you aren’t racist!) and they head off.

get-out2Once they arrive, her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are liberal yuppies just like she’d described but there’s something strange going on…

get-out3I won’t tell you any more so that you won’t be spoiled. Suffice it to say Get Out does a good job weaving together traditional horror tropes with pointed satire about racism and modern white and black fears of each other. It’s something I will definitely want to see again to pick up on all the clues, messaging and moments I missed the first time (my brother was with me and he noticed a lot more than I did).

I must admit it was refreshing for me as a conservative to finally see the parents weren’t rich Republicans but liberal yuppies. Yep, they can be racist too. It was a nice change of pace, and I think made the satire a bit more subtle and biting than it might have been otherwise.

get-out4That’s not to say Get Out is a masterpiece as a 100% might imply. I found the introduction to be pretty slow going and I was beginning to wonder if this was super over-hyped. Then it picks up and becomes very entertaining.

My only other caveat is it’s not that scary. If you are expecting a horror movie that makes you jump and gives you nightmares this isn’t it. It is pretty bloody but everything that happens is a bit over the top (hence it being a satire). In general, horror movies that are very realistic are the scariest for me. For example, Norman Bates in Psycho feels like a real man who could be working at a dumpy hotel and everything he does is fairly pedestrian like how he kills, buries the car etc .Things that happen in Get Out are not realistic in that way. (I hope that is cryptic enough for you!)

I think there are a couple places they could have made it a little more realistic and not sacrificed humor and made it scarier but it’s nitpicking. You kind of have to go with it and for the most part I did.

As far as content it can be bloody and there is some strong language to be aware of. Probably for mature teens and adults only.

Overall Grade- B+

The Shallows and Cafe Society Reviews

I just thought I would give you guys two quick reviews of films I was able to see this week. Ironically both films star Blake Lively in all her gorgeousness but aside from that they couldn’t be more different.  Today we are looking at The Shallows and Cafe Society. Neither will make my best of the year list but they are both solid entertaining films.

The Shallows-shallows

Those of us who love Jaws were excited to see what  a modern film could do with a killer shark story. In the case of The Shallows we have Jaume Collet-Serra in place of Steven Spielberg and he delivers an entertaining film that isn’t near approaching Jaws but is better than the Jaws sequels so that’s something.

The Shallows stars Blake Lively who looks stunning in her bikini on the beach. She has arrived at a secluded beach in Mexico to swim at her Mother’s favorite spot. It takes a while to get her to the core shark part of the story but since I love the ocean and surfing I didn’t mind that.shallows4

However, it was painfully obvious they pasted Lively’s face on another surfer’s body in the surfing scenes. This brings up my major problem with the movie- the visual effects were uniformly poor.  I mean look at the shark above. Don’t you think it looks like styrofoam?

shallows2When Lively was on the rock and we didn’t know where the shark was then it was tense and exciting (and that’s a lot of the movie) but as soon as they showed the shark it took me out of the film. Collet-Serra should have learned from Spielberg if the shark doesn’t look good don’t show the shark.

shallows3It also gets extremely silly towards the end of the movie with Lively lighting the ocean on fire at one point and her spearing the shark with a buoy like a superhero.

Nevertheless, Lively is really good, the ocean looks gorgeous and the survival scenes when she is caring for her leg and trying to figure out what to do were gripping. There’s enough there to give a mild recommendation.

For me 10 Cloverfield Lane is the better small horror movie of the year but if that is too gory for you The Shallows could be just the thing.

Overall Grade- B-

Cafe Society-

Cafe_SocietyI have to say I had an absolutely terrible theater experience seeing Cafe Society. A group of older women were in front of me being loud and one woman literally looked at her phone the entire time.  So, perhaps it says something that I liked it as much as I did.

Cafe Society is the latest film from Woody Allen and it’s not one of his best but it is an enjoyable little movie. It’s pretty simple story about Bobby played by Jesse Eisenberg who goes to LA to work for his big time Hollywood agent uncle Phil played by Steve Carell.

cafe societyHe meets Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart who is lovely and luminous in the role. People need to let the Twilight movies go and give Stewart a chance to act. She’s proven herself in movies like Still Alice, Into the Wild, and this that she can be a good actress with the right material. In this movie she has to compete with Blake Lively and yet you still understand why Bobby is in love with her.

wasp2015_day_14-0220.CR2Speaking of Blake Lively, man is she beautiful in this movie. It reminded me of Age of Adaline in how well she wears clothes and graces the screen. She is definitely Woody Allen’s shiksa goddess in this film. wasp2015_day_38-0044.CR2I also loved Corey Stoll here. He plays Bobby’s mobster brother and I think I just have a crush on the guy. I like him in everything I’ve seen him in.

As you can probably tell from the photos Cafe Society looks great. The costumes and production design are impeccable and it is a pleasant enjoyable story of old town Hollywood.

That said, certain scenes fall flat like when Bobby hires a Jewish call girl. It’s supposed to be funny but it doesn’t work at all. Also, the whole film feels inconsequential.  There is nothing memorable about it. It feels extremely derivative of 30 other better Woody Allen films.

Allen also does the narration in the film which is distracting and helps remind the viewer of all the other films he’s done that are better.

Still, not a bad watch and I’m glad I saw it even with the stupid moviegoers who were with me.

Overall Grade- B

Do you have a favorite animal horror movie like The Shallows? What about your favorite Woody Allen movie? I’d say Jaws is my favorite animal horror movie and Midnight in Paris is my favorite Woody Allen movie with Annie Hall and Blue Jasmine close behind.