Category Archives: Entertainment

Goosebumps (2015): The Revenge of Slappy – Review

Jack Black is R L Stine in Goosebumps

With music by Danny Elfman, directed by Rob Letterman  (from a screenplay by Daniel Lemke based on a story by Scott Alexander and  Larry Kraszewski  influenced by  R L Stine’s books) ‘Goosebumps’ is great fun and a lovely homage to the man who has spellbound kids for years.  It is interesting to note that Tim Burton was originally slated to direct the film and one wonders how different his ode to Stine would have been. Darker most definitely and more black comedy along with a few legitimate scares.

It could have been nice.

This version, starring Jack BlackDylan MinnetteOdeya RushRyan LeeAmy Ryan and Jillian Bell is played strictly for laughs, self-referential gags and has been aimed at a younger audience. All these things together do not ruin the film’s amusement factor but the lack of any uneasiness or scares leaves out the impact of  even the television series. 

Released in the 1990s (The show ran from 1995 through 1998 and was a favorite of my daughter and me “back in the day.”) The series was based upon the stories of Stine and he was the creator.  There were episodes that were terrifying, funny, odd, and one was a grim black comedy that left the viewer uneasy for days after. (These were done so well that even adults – as I can attest – were instantly hooked.)

This 2015 film is more a funny, and loving, homage to the prolific author. Black is Stine a recluse who shuns his neighbors in Madison, Delaware and lives with his daughter Hannah (Rush) who is homeschooled. Zach (Minnette) and his mother Gale (Ryan) move in next door and Stine’s daughter is immediately attracted to the new guy in the neighborhood.

Stine warns Zach off and threatens dire things will happen if the boy does not leave them alone. Things escalate when Zach hears Hannah scream and calls the police. Stine convinces them everything is fine and later Zach talks Champ (Lee) into breaking into the house.

Once inside they inadvertently release a monster who creates havoc on the entire town. The kids decide they have to stop it. Unfortunately, even though they are successful another monster, Slappy the ventriloquist dummy,  is out and he wants revenge for being locked up.

The film follows Stine and the kids as they team up to defeat Slappy and his legion of monsters that he keeps releasing. (Black does the voice of the dummy.)

‘Goosebumps’ entertains and there are splendid moments. The scene with the garden gnomes in the kitchen is a brilliant nod to Black’s 2010 film ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ Lee’s character can scream like a pre-teen girl and it is truly hysterical.   The ferris wheel stunt was a nod to the 1979 film ‘1941’, or not but that was where I first saw the gag.

Unfortunately there are things that clang.

The two police officers felt as though they had walked onto the wrong filmset.  A far too juvenile piece of comedy that felt flat and damned annoying. (Perhaps they were put in for the younger audience members?)

There were no scares at all, everything was set up for the laugh or the giggle. While Stine must have loved it, he did, after all, begin by writing jokes, it was a major disappointment that they did not put at least one uneasy moment in the film.

A final note of complaint is this (without giving anything away) Hannah was not a monster. (Watch the film and this will make sense. If you still do not get it email the site we will explain it to you.)

Overall, despite the small disappointment factors, ‘Goosebumps’ was a fun film to watch.  All that was missing was the popcorn and the fizzy. Slappy does come close to making the viewer uneasy but never quite makes it, he is villain and not a monster.

‘Goosebumps’ is a 4.5 out of 5 stars. This would have gotten a full five if it had just one good scare.  It is on Netflix at the moment and well worth the 103 minutes spent watching it.

Inspired (2015): Love Letter to an Inspiration – (Review)

Title Card for Inspired

Written and directed by Maggie Kaszuba, ‘Inspired’ is a 2015 student thesis film that hit the festival circuit and is a “love letter” to a real-life inspiration.  Starring Tyler Kipp as Sam and Ariane M. Reinhart as Coach Stafford, the film follows the interaction between a student and her basketball coach. 

Sam Higgins (Kipp) has time keeping issues and is a lonely teenager with with an uncommunicative family environment. Coach Stafford is a gruff woman who tries to drum into the young women the importance of respecting her teammates and herself.  The two are at loggerheads for most of the film.

Higgins is on some sort of medication quite possibly anti-depressants although it is never specified what the bottle of pills are that she looks at in her bedroom.  The type of medication is not important. What is worth noting is the longing way Sam looks at the stuff.

An unhappy young lady, she tells the coach that basketball is the only thing she loves. Despite this she continues to shamble through her days and to falter on the commitment to both game and coach. During a practice Higgins cannot concentrate and is pulled out of the exercise. The assistant coach has a word with the girl.

Sam is late one too many times and Stafford (Reinhart) confronts  the student and the teenager leaves angrily. When her coach goes after her the two get into an argument. Both are upset after their verbal altercation and later Stafford goes to see Higgins.

This visit becomes a turning point, in more ways than one.

At just over 20 minutes long, this first time effort by Kaszuba manages to say a lot and cover many bases. Life, death,  the agony of being a teenager and our own mortality are all looked at. It also salutes   those people who inspire us to do better or to keep reaching for that dream.

Kaszuba and her cast pull the heart strings with a capability that is impressive.  Anyone watching this film who does not reach for the tissue box at least once must have a heart of stone.   Kipp and Reinhart are very good as the main protagonists and Chris Viemeister is perfect as the caring assistant coach who tries to make the teenager see that her “hard-arse” coach means only the best. 

At the end of the film is a dedication to Kathy Snyder, the individual the film is a love letter to. An woman  who obviously  inspired the filmmaker in many ways and Kaszuba  says so on the film’s Facebook page.

This is a subtle film without all the flashy drama could have taken the project into “After School Special” territory. Whatever issues Sam has are hinted at and the big reveal later about the coach is also only alluded to early on. It is done very effectively.

‘Inspired’ will leave the viewer with a lump in their throat and maybe even a tear or two, but the overall feeling will be one of inspiration and a sort of peripheral gratitude for those people in our own lives who have given us the right sort of guidance.

A 3.5 out of 5 stars for an impressive start out the gate with a film that does not use OTT dramatics to tell its story.  Watch this one and then watch for Maggie Kaszuba.

Poster for Inspired

 

 

Jennifer Lawrence to Join the Reboot Train: Oceans 11

Jennifer Lawrence on Graham Norton
On the  day where Jennifer Lawrence regaling the  Graham Norton audience with tales of being blanked by Harrison Ford and shot with a B.B. gun while peeing aired on Youtube, the news of an ‘Oceans 11’ reboot a’la ‘Ghostbusters’ was announced.  Initial reports indicate that Lawrence will be working with Sondra Bullock in this reboot of a remake.

IGN reported that Gary Ross (Hunger Games) will be heading up the project based on a script written by Olivia Milch(Dude). Apparently, Bullock is portraying the Danny Ocean role, although according to Indiewire the “real” Danny, George Clooney will be making cameo as Ocean in the film.

There have been “dream” cast lists and much speculation on what route this film reboot will take, other’s have complained that this last bastion of all “male” fantasy action and comedy should be left alone.

Quite possibly the same group who complained that the original Rat Pack film, made on location in Las Vegas while Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford were performing in the town. The movie was a lark, a way to capitalize on the swinging hipsters, in their mid-40s, who were pulling the crowds in at the casinos.

The film was rat pack gold despite having a thin plot and more holes than a backstreet in in small-town USA. It also featured the then hotter than hot Angie Dickinson as Frankie’s ex.

Years later a new “rat pack” was made with Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts as Clooney’s former squeeze.  Gone was the slick patter of yesteryear but it was replaced with wry humor and the essence that was Clooney, Pitt and a pretty comic turn by Matt Damon.

There is no comparison between the 1960 “made for a quick buck” film and the newer 2001 film that spawned a brief run of sequels that ended in 2007.  Different decades and players yielded a different movie both in storyline and feel.  (For one thing the new version did not feature the smooth crooning version of Dean’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.”)

Now the newest iteration of the film (listed  only as “Untitled Ocean’s Eleven Project” on IMDb) has Sondra Bullock penciled in on the Pro portion of the website and now has Jennifer Lawrence “attached” to the project.

Lawrence, who makes her last run as Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse 27 May this year is also listed as being in an “Untitled Darren Aronofsky Project” in 2017. Neither Jennifer nor her camp have commented on this rumor while she continues on the publicity train for her last X-Men.

She does, however, talk about being embarrassed at the Star Wars guys not recognizing her, although Ford did immediately know James McAvoy.  She also tells about the X-Men guys pelting her naked hide with B.B.s while trying to pee. Lawrence explained to the audience and Graham that it was distracting as the whole process of urinating in her Mystique outfit was quite scientific.

If Lawrence is cast in the new ‘Oceans 11′ reboot, of a remake, Harrison may well recognize America’s sweetheart the next time she dances up to his and J.J. Abrams’ table.

Perez Hilton Talks ‘Most Likely to Die’ and Horror

Perez Hilton
Prior to the film ‘Most Likely to Die’ being released on on Friday the 13th (of May) Mike’s Film Talk spoke with Perez Hilton, who plays Freddie in the “throwback” slasher film. As we set up the interview, the celebrity blogger/columnist producer and actor spoke of his excitement over the film finally being released.

It should be pointed out that despite what must have been a hectic blitzkrieg press schedule, Hilton was not only gracious but fun to speak with. His enthusiasm for the project and his joy at being reunited with the film’s star Heather Morris (from ‘Glee’) was evident from the moment we started talking.

Perez: Hi Michael! How are you?

MFT: I’m fine. How are you?

Perez: I’m very excited that fans of horror films and slasher pictures are finally going to see this film.

MFT: I loved the film and watched it three times..

Perez: You watched it three times?!

MFT: Yes. I kept thinking that it was a throwback to films like ‘I Know What You did Last Summer’ and really enjoyed the feeling of nostalgia.

Perez: You know, I think it may have been written in the ’90s. I could be wrong, but I think it was. I believe it was written in the 1990s and not produced until 20 years later. Which is kind of awesome as it’s like a time capsule, almost. Written so long ago and produced in the 2000s. In the teens.

MFT: I’ve got to admit to being a fan, of your blog and I thought after seeing that film that you just killed it as Freddie. So, lets talk ‘Most Likely to Die’ and what drew you to the project.

Perez: Well, the honest answer is that I’m excited, and hungry, to do more acting work. The reason for that is twofold: A) I love acting and B) it gives people a chance to see me in a different way. And if you want to have longevity in Entertainment, you have to keep re-inventing yourself.

In my case, it’s not even a re-invention. It is a return to myself, a reconnection with my roots. This is what I went to school for. I studied acting in college and that was what I wanted to do when I left high school and came out to Los Angeles. Life sidetracked me though; wonderfully, I love my day job  and I love getting to do cool things like this.

I’m a true horror fan and love the genre. I was also pleased to work again with Heather Morris, I worked with her on ‘Glee’ and there were so many things that appealed to me about the project.

MFT: Wow, you are almost the perfect interview. You answered about three questions before I could get to them. One thing you mentioned was Heather. How pleased were you to work with her again?

Perez: (laughing) Very pleased she is such a great actor. AND a great dancer as well…its not fair. (laughing again)

MFT: Did you get a chance to do anything with Jake Busey?

Perez: No. He shot all his scenes before I even started.

MFT: Congratulations on those screams your character came out with. You are apparently a master at what I call the “Tom and Jerry Scream.”

Perez: (Laughs.)

MFT: Are you looking to do more horror?

Perez: I would love to. If I’m going to spend more time doing movies, I want to have fun and horror films are so fun. I’m very honest, realistic and objective; I’m not a super-star by any means. I’m not even that famous or anything. I”m known by people but there are not people banging down my door saying, “Work with me!”

But, if I have a choice of spending a few weeks of my life working on an Indie drama or an Indie horror film? I’d rather do the horror film:  A) Because it is more fun and B) Fans of the genre are so passionate. The business is such a crap shoot. You may love working in Indie drama but no may ever see it. But with horror, there are those loyal fans who will see almost every horror film that’s out there.

MFT: Very true.

Perez: Like this film for instance. There is a certain novelty factor in it;  “Oh Perez Hilton is in this” and “Look, it’s Heather Morris from Glee.” Apart from that though I would love to do more because I am truly a fan of the genre. I would love to do a big budget horror film that became a franchise. That would be rad but to be honest I just want to keep working. That is the goal of any entertainer. I want to keep entertaining people for as long as possible.

MFT: Well, watching the film it seems there is room for a sequel, is that something that, you would be interested in?

Perez: Really? A sequel? Listen, I had so much fun working that if my character lives in the film, I’d love to!

MFT: Moving away from “Most Likely to Die” it looks like you are very busy at the moment. Working on ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie‘ and a couple of other projects. How did the AbFab film go?

Perez: I don’t have a huge role in that, it’s a cameo, but I am such a huge fan of AbFab. In the ’90s I was all about horror movies, talkshows, Madonna, ‘Sex in the City’ and ‘Absolutely Fabulous.’ So even if they cut my screen time down to 5 seconds I’ll still be happy.

MFT: Back to ‘Most Likely to Die,’ I’ve got to ask this; I’ve never gone to any of mine, have you attended any of your class reunions?

Perez: Oh my God, it is so funny that you’re asking me that. Because my 20th [class reunion] is happening this year, in September…And I don’t want to go. I’m not going and instead I’m planning my own. I’ve sent out an email thread and invited anybody who wants to go to meet me in Vegas instead of Miami. A few people have already taken me up on the offer.

It really is much better to meet up in neutral territory and at least in Vegas I can be guaranteed to have a good time. So I’m doing that.

MFT: So, have you got any upcoming projects?

Perez: Well, I’ve got the “AbFab” movie and I’m also in two sitcoms where I have cameos but they have not been announced yet, so I can’t say which two. But be on the lookout. I’m so grateful, thankful and lucky to have been able to do so much more acting lately.

MFT: Well, that’s our high sign to stop. So, thank you Perez  for taking time to speak with us today.

Perez: Thank you!

Perez Hilton is impressively natural in  ‘Most Likely to Die’ and he as well as the rest of the cast make this nostalgic gem well worth watching. The film premieres on Friday the 13th this month via a limited theatrical release and on VoD.

Mr. Hilton is re-visitng his roots and will be doing a lot more acting, in several other projects. Check out his work in this slasher film and see just how good he is.

Most Likely to Die poster
‘Most Likely to Die’ May 13, 2016 premiere

Most Likely to Die (2015): Slasher Nostalgia on Friday the 13th (Review)

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Written by Laura Brennan and directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Last Shift, Dread) ‘Most Likely to Die’  could be seen as a “#FlashbackFriday” slasher film. A nostalgic look at a genre that has sliced and diced countless teens and 20 somethings since the 1980s. The film will be released on Friday the 13th in a limited theatrical release and on demand. 

The cast includes: former ‘Glee’ regular Heather Morris as Gaby, the world class professional poker player, celebrity blogger/columnist Perez Hilton as filmmaker wannabe Freddie (who spoke with Mike’s Film Talk about being in the film) Jake Busey as Tarkin, the caretaker (in a blink and you will definitely miss him cameo).

‘Most Likely to Die’ also has  Chad Addison, Tess Christiansen, Tatum Miranda,  Ryan Doom,  Johnny Ramey, Marci Miller,  and Jason Tobias as the rest of the former classmates who face the wrath of a former student bent on deadly revenge.

The plot deals with a group of friends who get together for a “pre-party” just prior to their 10 year reunion. As they start bonding, while wondering where two of the group are, they remember a classmate they bullied who is not there.

All are in danger as a madman, or woman, hunts each reunion guest down and kills them in the manner of their senior yearbook predictions, “most likely to…” and Gaby teams up with her  friends to fight the killer.

‘Most Likely to Die’ is a fond look back at the slasher format. It is reminiscent of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ ‘Friday the 13th’ and so on.  There are a number of deaths which are impressive in their execution and at least one is pretty unique (it involves a head-butt with a hat).

Busey’s presence is possibly a nod to his status on the El Rey! network horror series From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, and most likely the reason his character is on screen such a short time,  it would have been brilliant to have a bit more Busey though.

Morris proves that she does not need Ryan Murphy or ‘Glee’ to perform. The actress has got chops to spare and shines in this interesting little walk  down memory lane.  All of the cast do well and the big surprise is Perez as Freddie.

As Hilton pointed out in his interview, he started out with plans to work as an actor and now is getting back to it.  Watching him in this film it is apparent that the man has the ability and believability to continue.

Not only does the man have some impressive chops in the film, but, he manages to do a great “Tom and Jerry” type scream of horror not once, but twice.  Ripping out these screams is not easy and Mr. Hilton does so almost effortlessly.

There is not an overabundance of gore in the film, although the FX are impressive and pretty realistic in most cases. (There is one boo-boo with a broken hockey stick though…) Timothy A. Burton does a cracking job on the cinematography and DiBlasi also does a brilliant job eating the film.

By the end of the film, the killer has worked busily through the group and there is room for a sequel, or two, if the film does well.  ‘Most Likely to Die’ has a message, “Do not bully children because one day a bad man/woman will come back for revenge.”

There is a rumor that the filmmakers wanted a YouTube personality in the film, something quite popular at the moment (See Bad Night for an example of the type film that features YouTube stars in leading roles.)

The film premieres via a limited theatrical release and on VoD on May, Friday the 13th.  Until then have a look at the trailer and see what you think, whether it is worth a look at the cinema or watch on VoD. either way, give it a look. Perez and Morris kill it. A 3.5 star film out of 5, just for those Tom and Jerry screams alone.

Final Girl (2015): Abigail Breslin Death in a Red Dress (Review)

Abigail Breslin in Final Girl

Directed  by Tyler Shields (his first time in the driver’s seat) and  based on a screenplay by Adam Prince ‘Final Girl’ is an odd sort of horror film. Starring Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley (in what can only be described as an extended cameo) it follows Breslin’s character learning how to kill from an early age. 

The film opens with Bentley’s character  William “interviewing” the young Breslin character, Veronica.   Years pass and Veronica is now a young woman that  William uses as a weapon.

There are group of young men who hunt and kill young women for sport and it is this quartet of killers that William aims Veronica at. The story was obviously heavily influenced by real life “woman hunter” Alaskan businessman Robert Hansen.  In the film there are four young men who dress in tuxedos and chase down female victims in the woods.

It is never really explained why William trains Veronica to become a living weapon.   The two have an odd relationship. The man has “raised” and trained her from childhood, yet at one point she asks him to “teach her” about sex, first hand. William refuses.

The four men take Veronica out in the woods and she turns the tables on the would-be murderers.

‘Final Girl” has moments that work extremely well. However, there are just as many that miss the mark. At the start of the film Veronica fights with William and the choreography is off.  Three clear misses from Breslin’s character still results in her sparring partner going down.

Reviewers have complained that the actress was miscast in the film but the very fact that Breslin does not look like a trained killer makes the storyline work.  She looks more victim than saviour and this lends itself to the plot.

Alexander Ludwig  plays the leader of the group and Logan HuffmanCameron Bright and Reece Thompson make up the members of the serial killer club. Francesca Eastwood plays the girlfriend of one of the group.

The film ends just as oddly as it starts.  Shields does a good job putting his cast through their paces. Cinematographer Gregory Middleton does a splendid job shooting the forest scenes and the each frame is lit well enough that everything that needs to be seen is.

While not overly impressive the film features solid performances by all the cast making the movie an entertaining experience.

‘Final Girl’ is a 3.5 stars out of 5 and well worth watching. Head on over to US Netflix and check it out.

Poster for Final Girl

 

Hot Pursuit: I Love Lucy in The Gauntlet (Review)

Sofia Vergara, Reece Witherspoon

The 2015 comedy ‘Hot Pursuit’ is streaming on Hulu  at the moment and while it was hammered by critics when it hit theatres last year, the ‘I Love Lucy’ Meets ‘The Gauntlet’ film is not that bad. There are bits where the stars, Reece Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara absolutely kill it in terms of  comedy.  Unfortunately there  are also  things about the film that do not work.

The movie, directed by  Anne Fletcher  (‘The Proposal,’ ‘The Guilt Trip’) and written by David Feeney and John Quaintance, does feel a little like a “made for TV film” or at the very least those “TV Movie of the Week” offerings of yesteryear.  It suffers from a limited budget, that cheaper film stock that one associates with television, and a lack of reality in some scenes.

For example: Witherspoon’s character, Rose Cooper is punched in the face by Sophia Vergara’s character Mrs. Riva.  The blow is hard enough that it actually knocks Cooper out, for a split second, yet leaves no mark.   Earlier, in the Indian Casino scenes, Cooper’s new guy pal, played by Brit actor Robert Kazinsky,  a criminal who is “on tag,” repeatedly punches Detective Hauser (Matthew Del Negro). A short time later the cop, and his partner, appear in an unmarked car and chase the bus. Hauser’s face is clear of anything remotely resembling bruising, nor is it even red. 

The bits that do work, do so because of the talents of Witherspoon and Vergara in spite of a  film that ignores facts to gloss over what could be termed an over-long ‘I Love Lucy’  episode with a modern take on  Ethel and Lucy.

‘Hot Pursuit’ follows Rose Cooper as she goes out on her first real assignment since she “Coopered” the Mayor’s kid (She set the teen on fire with a taser.). She is partnered with Marshall Jackson (the superb Robert T. Jones who still laughs exactly as he did in the 1997 horror film ‘Event Horizon‘) and the two arrive at the Riva’s house to pick up the star witness and his wife Daniella (Vergara).

They are attacked by two pairs of men who begin shooting at each other while shooting at the Rivas. Cooper saves Daniella and the film follows her journey to get the remaining witness to the courthouse.

Vergara is loud, obnoxious and fun. Witherspoon is a combination of the Warner Bros speed-talking mouse “Sniffles” (‘Hush My Mouse’) and Hammy the Squirrel from ‘Over the Hedge.’  The scene where she talks non-stop, and very fast, to the truck driver who gives them a lift, after she inadvertently snorts a copious amount of cocaine,  is tear-inducingly funny.

(All Witherspoon needed to do was start burping  her ABCs and this viewer would have gone into uncontrollable gales of laughter.)

There are a number of reviewers  who described  the tiny cop as “intense” which is as good a term as any for a “cartoon” type character that is so “in your face.”  The film makes great use of Witherspoon’s five-feet one inch height compared to the high-heel wearing five foot seven inch Sofia.  With those overlong heels, Riva looks about seven feet tall as she towers over the smaller cop.  A long running gag throughout the film has the press making Cooper shorter and Riva older with each progressive news report.

Apart from the ‘I Love Lucy’ feel, ‘Hot Pursuit’ also feels a little like the 1977 film ‘The Gauntlet’ (Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke) where Eastwood’s shambolic, and alcoholic, cop is “set up” by having him escort a doomed witness, prostitute Locke.  While there are not an over abundance of similarities there is  a “getaway” on a bus, albeit without all the McGyver-ish reinforcement of the vehicle as in the  1977 film.

There is also a lot more comedy.

Reese Witherspoon proves that she still has those massive comedy chops. There is a  sequence at the birthday party towards the end of the film that is deliciously laugh inducing. It is not just the male outfit and wig that Witherspoon is sporting it is her “intense” expression that makes this so funny.

Hulu is perhaps the best place for this film. While it is fun and funny in many places, ‘Hot Pursuit’ feels like a TV film. Little in the way of bloodshed and miles from the nearest squinty laconic delivery of Eastwood’s cop who make a comeback, the film is fun if not a bit “shrill.”

The Oscar winning actress (who got the little gold chap for her portrayal of June Carter-Cash in the biopic ‘Walk the Line’) still has that comedy touch of gold that first made itself known in ‘Legally Blonde.’  The partnering of Reese and the divine Sera Vergara was a brilliant idea and while the film could have been that little bit better, it still serves up a nice laugh filled journey.

‘Hot Pursuit’ is a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It would have gotten four had it not been for the lapses of reality (bruises and their nonexistence) and the coke scene where Witherspoon is covered in the white stuff and Sofia has a smudge or two. At 87 minutes, the time spent watching this comedy is well worth it.

It may take the viewer that long to decide who is Ethel and who is Lucy, or conversely whether or not the ‘Wild’ star  is a suitable Clint Eastwood to Sofia Vergara’s Sandra Locke.

Hot Pursuit film poster

 

Babysitter (2015): Growing Pains (Review)

MarVista Entertainment

Written and directed by Morgan Krantz “Babysitter” follows the story of two lost teens and their growing pains. Ray Longway (Max Burkholder) and Anjelika Dey (Danièle Watts) cross paths because of Ray’s mother Hailey Longway (Valerie Azlynn). Hailey is getting a divorce from her Hollywood director husband and he is fighting dirty.  Needing help with her kids, Ray and Stella (Gracie Ray Loveland), Hailey is talked into hiring  Anjelika whose pop star mother died some years perviously. 

The film is full of unpleasant characters that are difficult to connect with. Out of the entire cast only Anjelika is close to endearing. Having lost her “crack-head” pop star mother the 18 year-old turns to Wicca and casting spells.  Not long after taking over as Hailey’s babysitter and maid, the teen puts a talisman into Ray’s closet.

Hailey is self centered and just as guilty of playing around as her soon-to-be ex but she was not caught.  Stella is spoiled rotten and Ray has issues on top of the teenage boy problems of hormones, attitude and testosterone.  The first day Anjelika arrives, Ray goes through her backpack and takes a gold lighter.

He also pushes Anjelika to buy pot for him which he then sells at school.  Later in the film, after Anjelika becomes part of the family, Hailey’s family arrive and she not only turfs the babysitter out of the house but asks her to wear a housekeeper outfit.

Ray falls first in lust and then in love with the babysitter but the two have a major falling out later in the film.

Lesley Ann Warren has a “blink and you’ll miss her” cameo as Hailey’s mother and in terms of casting, it is spot on. Both women look enough alike to really be mother and daughter.

It is hard to have any sort of empathy for any of the characters, apart from Anjelika.  Hailey is at turns unpleasant and over-powering and her parents may not be racist per se, but they definitely think they are better than “the help.”

Part of the problem may well be that the Longways are an upper middle class family whose divorce will cost more than some third world countries have for their national budget.  Ray himself has a sense of entitlement that is annoying, but then too  does his mother and younger sister.

Krantz choosing to follow the issues of people connected to the film industry takes away from the empathy we are meant to feel for these, mostly, unpleasant people.  Ray tells the audience at the start of the film about seeing his mother eaten by a werewolf in a film she worked on Initially it frightened him. Later, Ray says,  he watched it for fun.

The film is, rather surprisingly, labeled a comedy on IMDb.  Having watched  the film twice it is easy to say that there is nothing remotely amusing about the plot or any of the characters.  So  of all the things “Babysitter”  could be, funny is not one of them.

It is interesting and, despite the puzzling relationship between Ray and Anjelika, a compelling film to watch.  Regardless of the fact that Ray seems to vacillate between being snotty, annoyed and annoying, in equal measure, we do still feel the need to see where his relationship  with Dey is headed.

Burkholder does a more than capable job of portraying his “rich kid” with angst and Watts completely owns her character. Sadly there was not enough Lesley Ann Warren. That said, what there of the award winning actress, captivates.

There are parts that could be construed as funny but these moments never really gel and the overall unpleasantness of the film’s characters sucks any tiny bits of humor right out of the film. “Babysitter”  may not be a comedy but it is s a solid 3.5 stars of of  five as a quirky drama.

“Babysitter” premieres May 3 via Digital HD and On Demand. Worth a gander if only to see the growing pains of the almost rich and vacuous.

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LADYGREY: Melancholia in South Africa (Review)

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Apartheid may be over, but the events of a small South African village still resonate with its inhabitants in “LADYGREY.” Directed and co-written by Alain Choquart the melancholia of a community forced to continue a tense and uneven existence is, despite the bleakness of its characters, a beautiful experience. 

Starring Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunningham, Peter Sarsgaard and Jérémie Renier,  LadyGrey is the name of a school, and of the village,  where 11 black children were gunned down by whites during the apartheid years. The bodies were never found and two French nurses were murdered in retribution, one of these women was Sarsgaard’s wife. 

The film follows Samuel (Sarsgaard), who aspires to be a horticulturist cultivating and selling roses, and his son who spends his days making a tunnel through the cane to the river; the same one his mother disappeared in years before. Argus (Cunningham) and his new city wife Olive (Mortimer) as well as Mattis (Renier), a lad who is “slow” and an odd assortment of characters are all seen going through their everyday lives.

“LADYGREY” looks gorgeous and is shot beautifully.  The main problem with the film is its downbeat air and the characters who all seem to have much more in common with Mattis than with Argus or Olive. Samuel obsesses over his roses yet when Waldo (Jude Foley) shows them off to the bossman (Argus) he dismisses them as weeds. 

A cast of “simple” yet dispassionate characters fill the film.  Mattis’ sister, a mixed race prostitute who  gets one of her customers to sort out her brother’s custody, is the preferred sex partner of Argus and the man is so cold to his “city wife” Olive one wonders why he married her.

There is a simmering discord between the races in this multilingual film. French, Afrikaans and English are spoken throughout and the connecting factor in this  drama are the French characters. Left over from the days when the village housed a mission, these people could be seen as the conscience of the village, or at the very least its chroniclers.

The eagle, that Mattis so yearns for seems to represent a type of freedom while the doomed sheep the repressed people murdered by the white farmers, the jackals.  Samuel has a barely hidden contempt for his black neighbors

Choquart’s film is peopled with bleak and cold characters. The only one who has any passion is Mortimer’s Olive.  This is fitting as the nurse is not from the village and therefore not scarred by its horrific events in the recent past.

The day after she discovers her husband has been sleeping with a client, skeletal remains are found  in a drainage ditch.  As a memorial service is held Olive is given Samuel’s dead wife’s wedding band.

A sense of foreboding permeates every single frame of this film, leaving the viewer tense and waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop.   Despite this, the music and the landscape of South Africa make this French, Belgian and South African film a feast for the eyes.

It captures the feeling and the essence of a country that is steeped in bloodshed and a violent history that still resonates today against a stunning canvas of natural beauty.

Performances are of the highest quality and Renier plays the mentally challenged Mattis with a mixture of angst, slow-wittedness and over-excitement. “LadyGrey” is not a film to be viewed repeatedly; it is too downbeat and depressing for that. It is however a lovely film to look at and as such worth at least one viewing.

“LADYGREY” was released on April 26 via Digital HD and On Demand.  This is a solid 3 star film for the performances alone and worthy of a look by those who appreciate cinematic beauty.

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Most Likely to Die (2016): A Killer Reunion (Trailer)

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MarVista studios brings “Most Likely to Die” out in theaters on May 13th (Friday the 13th).  Starring Jake Busey (“From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series“), Heather Morris (“Glee”) and Perez Hilton, the film follows Gaby (Morris) at her high school reunion and it turns out to be a real killer event with her former school friends dropping like mangled flies.

Written by Laura Brennan and directed by Anthony DiBlasi  the film features an alumnus who is  holding on to an old grudge .The victims are all being murdered in the manner of their yearbook descriptions, only now they all seem to share the same one, “Most Likely to Die.”

Texas Hold ‘Em Champ Gaby realizes that the only way to survive this reunion is to find the killer herself. With a list of suspects that includes the Class President, the Jock and Class Clown, Gaby must find out who is killing off her classmates or die trying.

Check out the trailer: