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)

Liam Cunningham in LadyGrey

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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Wynonna Earp: Digging Up Bones – Stone Witch (Review)

Wynonna Earp - Season 1

“Wynonna Earp”  (Digging up Bones)  finally introduces the Stone Witch. It is also revealed that there are revenants in some surprising places and there is a reason that Bobo Del Rey is the leader of the demons that are infesting Purgatory.  Doc and Wynonna finally connect, in the woods; in broad daylight; in a frenzy.

The episode starts with Wynonna (Melanie Scrofano) dreaming of sister Willa and Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley). Levi crops up again, after being dragged out of the triangle and placed in a permanent living hell.  The remnant chews off his own foot in order to escape back into the safety of the triangle.

Dolls sets up an appointment to see the local Judge.

Judge Cryderman (David LeReaney) grants Dolls a search warrant for Bobo Del Rey’s bus and insults Wynonna. Another day in Purgatory for the Earp heir and a chance for Dolls to be reminded that his assistant is not well thought of in the town. 

A new revenant is in town, a gay demon called Fish who wants to find his lover before being dispatched by Earp back to Hell. The love of Fish’s life turns out to be the tormented Levi.

Wynonna learns that Doc put Levi out of the Triangle at the orders of Del Rey and is not impressed, although this argument leads to the “sex in the forest” event.

Before the visit to Cryderman’s office and the request for the search warrant, Dolls is exercising in the black badge office. Shirtless and covered in sweat (the furnace will not shut off in the building) Earp is distracted:

“I brought you a shirt, put your coffee back on…You know what I mean.”

The U.S. Marshall tries  to force Wynonna to exercise restraint as they search Bobo’s bus and Waverly takes photos from the periphery of the camp. The elder Earp loses patience and ends up kicking revenant a** and arresting Del Rey. The demon leader knows that Waverly is taking pictures and looks right at her.

Wynonna Earp - Season 1
Bobo Del Rey (Michael Eklund)

Del Rey is arrested and Wynonna points out the overall lack of revenants at the camp and that the leader was obviously warned.  Waverly visits Bobo, her child-hood “friend,” and ask why he picked her to set up her family. Wynonna also stops in the interrogation cell to see Del Rey.

Bobo proves his strength as the demon leader when he spirits the Peacemaker from Wynonna’s hand and can hold the weapon despite the burning of his hand.  Del Rey is released from the jail and Wynonna gets kidnapped by another revenant, Fish.

Doc gets his wish and meets up with the Stone Witch, aka Constance Clootie (Rayisa Kondracki). This does not end quite the way that Holiday intends however  leaving his thirst for vengeance unsatisfied. 

The Stone Witch has power over Bobo and he has to find bones for her to rebuild two skeletons, “her boys” and although she is powerful, she loses some of her hold on Del Rey when he learns that she is terrified of Doc Holliday.

Wynonna agrees to help Fish find his lover in exchange for a picture showing the seven revenants who killed Willa  and she  goes to see Vinnie the Vulture who taunts her by talking like Ward Earp.  She gets the information she needs and sends the demon back to Hell.

Fish tells Earp  that to get the picture they need to break into the basement at the police station.  Grabbing boxes of photographic negatives, after sending Doc in to distract the female workers, Wynonna agrees to take Fish to find Levi as Dolls talks with the Stone Witch and Cryderman whom he accuses of child abuse.

Doc helps Wynonna find Levi and before she sends the two revenants back to the underworld she experiences compassion for the two demons, something that has never happened before. Shortly after she returns to the office and Dolls, her boss realizes he has seen the picture Fish delivered before.

It is hanging in the judge’s office.

Waverly still has a connection to Bobo who claims that she is strong and filled with anger.  This is the second time the younger  Earp woman has been accused of this.  While it may well be Wynonna who wields the gun it is Waverly who stayed behind and lived in a town that hates the Earp’s. Cue a lot of resentment and repressed rage.

Wynonna Earp - Season 1
Wynonna and Dolls

The Stone Witch appearing could be a game changer for the Earp clan but the most interesting thing here is the fear she has of Doc. While his first encounter, in the black badge office, did not end overly well, he apparently has some sort of power over the witch. Whether he can figure this out remains to be seen.

Officer Haught was nowhere to be seen in this episode, nor was Waverly’s boyfriend so the younger Earp sister had no-one vying for her affections. The new twist of Wynonna and Doc getting up close and personal in the wild may prove interesting since she also seems to be rather interested in Dolls.

“Wynonna Earp” airs Fridays on SyFy.

 

Penny Dreadful: Showtime Classic Victoriana Returns

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For those who have watched the first two seasons of “Penny Dreadful” on Showtime it is now a time of celebration as the show that delivers classic victoriana weekly, with a dose of horror icons, has returned.  The first episode, airing free on Hulu at the moment, is titled “The Day Tennyson Died” and it has a melancholic air despite lapses into wholesale violence across the globe.

The series stars a veritable who’s who from the world of British film and television.  Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear and even Billie Piper play characters from the world of horror fiction of the time. American actors Josh Hartnett and Wes Studi round out the familiar faces to be found in this splendid reimagining of iconic figures in the genre. 

In this season, along with Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, the wolf man and Dorian Grey, Dracula makes an appearance. The vampiric count is joined by Renfield, who is Dr. Seward’s secretary, and it appears the vampire has zeroed in on Vanessa Ives (Green.)

After season two, Ives is suffering from crushing depression, or ennui as her friend Ferdinand Lyle says, and goes to see Dr. Seward (Patti LuPone) based upon his recommendation.  Chandler (Hartnett) has been extradited to New Mexico in America and Murray (Dalton) is in Africa.

The explorer is disillusioned after having buried Sembene (Danny Sapani) and after being jumped in an alley outside the bar where he has been drinking, he meets Kaetenay, (Studi) who already knows who the explorer is and steps in to save the man from being murdered by a definite criminal element. 

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Josh Hartnett

Chandler is “rescued” from his legal journey by train and it appears that Murray and Kaetenay will be traveling to the American west to save the sharpshooting wolf man.

Dracula makes an off camera appearance as he forces Renfield to provide him with information about Ives.

John Clare (Kinnear) leaves the icebound ship to return home after having a few flashbacks to his old life and breaking a child’s neck.

“Penny Dreadful”l looks like a sumptuous feast of celluloid film posing as television.  The sets are glorious recreations of global areas. A bar in Africa, a steam train in New Mexico, the ship frozen in the ice in the Arctic, and of course Victorian London.

While the series is based, in part, upon the sensationalist “pulp” novels of the day, the series has the feel of a “live” graphic novel. The hues and textures along with the lighting resembles a glossy page rather than a TV screen.  This sells the morbid and melancholy nature of the horror series brilliantly.

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Timothy Dalton

The atmosphere is brilliantly gloomy,  foreboding and dark, even when in the desert wastelands of New Mexico.  Perhaps the only note of dissent for this splendid series is its attempt to turn the Jekyll/Hyde mythos  into some sort of Victorian Incredible Hulk.

It may have made sense to turn the medical boogeyman into a chap who has anger management issues a’la Bruce Banner for those not familiar with the Robert Louis Stevenson creation. One can only hope that they do not also have him “hulk out” and change color.

This is wonderfully bleak and twisted television, bringing back the favorite monsters of literature and introducing a few more. The next episode of “Penny Dreadful” airs in July.

 

 

The Catch: The Benefactor – Triangles (Review)

SONYA WALGER, PETER KRA-- USE, SHIVANI GHAI, JOHN SIMM

In “The Catch” this week Margot’s brother shows up and it turns out he is “The Benefactor.” Rhys calls the shots and is the head of the “firm,” something that Margot expected to be when their father died.  Her brother is also even deadlier than she is. It appears that the siblings have more in common than the family business  they are involved in a triangle and this episode if full of them.

Alice Vaughn and her company Anderson Vaughn  take on a job for the first female Army Ranger, Nia (played by “Orange is the New Black” actress Samira Wiley) who is getting death threats.  This storyline follows the peripheral storyline of a budding office “triangle” between Sophie (Elvy Yost), Danny Yoon (Jay Hayden) and Agent Shawn (Caleb Smith). Shawn recommends that Nia use the P.I. company.

The main story is the arrival of Rhys (played by the superb Leeds actor John Simm: “Life on Mars,” “The Village”) who demands the necklace that the team stole last week.

Felicity (Shivani Ghai) is revealed to play for both sides when Margot and Ben catch her in bed with Rhys. Agent Dao stops by Alice’s office to apologize for bugging her house and as a piece offering he shows her pictures from the party where the bracelet was stolen. This photographic evidence proves Christopher was there during the theft.

Margot asks Felicity to help her get one over on Rhys and more is revealed about another triangle, Benji (Peter Krause), Margot (Sonya Walger) and Rhys, the “benefactor. “While this latter triangle has nothing to do with sex it does deal with relationships.

SAMIRA WILEY
Samira Wiley

Yet another triangle exists between Alice (Enos), Agent Dao (Jacky Ido) and Benji/Christopher.  One could even say that there is even a three way split between Valerie Anderson (Rose Rollins), Alice and Dao.  Later Valerie and Dao end up connecting and the FBI agents asks “how do I know you’re not just using  me?” Valerie responds that she is. 

Apart from triangles and relationships, and the con, the storyline is all about how deadly Rhys is and how much he missed Benji.  Most important is that despite his “devil may care” attitude, Rhys is very murderously inclined.

By the end of the episode Rhys the benefactor has a body count of two; Mickey Shive and, somewhat shockingly, Felicity.

Before that, Ben and Rhys tend to  Mickey in order to retrieve the necklace while dressed as the local police . Ben is shocked when Rhys kills Shive in cold blood.

Dao, who believes that “Christopher Hall” (Benji) killed Mickey and the woman in Paris, as the ballistics proof the same gun was used on both victims. Alice is angry with Christopher, as she is now an accessory to murder but agrees to help him to retrieve the bracelet.

“The Catch” is all about “the con” and this episode has several cons occurring, on top of the triangles, romantic and otherwise. Alice teams with Benji/Christopher to retrieve the real necklace and she leaves a fake one with the unconscious “victim” for Dao to find.

Margot renegotiates with her brother to have the debt written off and Rhys decides to stay in Los Angeles.  He then  gets a lead from Felicity, who gives up Alice Vaughn, and Rhys kills Felicity  as he  searches for and finds Alice on the Internet.

Before Felicity is despatched by bullet, the end of the episode features a lot of sex, Dao and  Valerie, Felicity and Margot and Alice and Benji/Christopher.  Of course after leaving Margot’s bed things end badly for Felicity. The other two couples may not end up dead, but one does get the impression that this whole thing will end in tears.

JOHN SIMM
John Simm

Simm is brilliant as the charming psychopath and will, hopefully, become a fixture as the series really needs some charisma, even if it is of the murderous variety.

“The Catch” airs Thursdays on ABC. This really does feel like an updated reimagining of “It Takes a Thief” but despite this it is quite enjoyable. Tune in and see what you think.